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In a brand-new series we get to know the people behind the winning team at BPE. Here, we speak to Managing Director Mike Brown about his passion for engineering, the people who inspire him and his hopes for the future.
Q: As a child what did you want to be when you grew up?
A: This is tricky – when very young I wanted to drive an asphalt road roller. I knew them at that time as a ‘Steam Roller’ but I’m sure they were diesel even then! I became interested in Chemical Engineering at 16 as it seemed a natural extension of my interests and abilities at that time.
Q: What was your first job?
A: First real job was a Chemical Engineer for BP. And I have stayed in Chemical Engineering all my working career.
Q: What is the best decision you have made in business?
A: There was a moment about 10 years ago when I decided to stop working as a consultant inside the business (BPE) and to commit to working as an executive on the business. It was both scary and exciting to leave my comfort zone and take on new tasks learning new skills on route. I am pleased to say that this led to an expansion in the range and extent of the services offered and in turn financial growth and security.
Q: And what was the worst?
A: Failing to reorganise the board early to respond to a changing business environment and the introduction of a necessary new strategy. On reflection this is an interesting study in human behaviour – ‘to try to protect what you have rather than risking change’. However, I did see the necessity for change in time to do something about it. A new board with fresh impetus and a revitalised business strategy was successfully and seamlessly put in place and became the springboard to securing the company’s present trading security.
Q: Who has most influenced you in business?
A: The present BPE Chairman, Ian Shott. As an engineer I grew up in a teaching environment inside a project Group within BP. There were lots of senior engineers to learn from. But as my business grew, I needed a new set of skills and behaviours to thrive in a business environment. Some of these I was picking up ‘on the job’ but it was only under the tutelage of our present Chairman that my strategic vision and leadership skills matured.
Q: Sandwich at your desk or out to lunch?
A: If there’s time, sandwich at my desk! I can still recall the remark by Michael Douglas in the film Wall Street, ’Lunch is for wimps’! Makes me (as a hard worker) smile but this isn’t wise for good health.
Q: What is the biggest change in your business/industry that you have seen in the course of your working life?
A: A decline in the UK’s manufacturing base and loss of technology leadership/entrepreneurial development. Tragic government indifference in the 1980s in particular.
Q: Where do you see you and BPE in five years?
A: Niche experts, leaders in the field. Me? Probably should have retired years ago but if it stays exciting…. Who knows!