Case Study

Oxford Instruments – Delivering double digit growth

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In Summary

Oxford Instruments is a leading provider of high technology products and services to some of the world’s most innovative industrial companies and scientific research communities. A FTSE 250 company with £350 million turnover, it has a global customer base across its seven distinct business units, all run out of a lean UK headquarters.

The Situation

Oxford Instruments had a flat, lean structure consisting of seven agile businesses that were adept at both operating independently but were also capable of joining forces when the market opportunity presented itself. This setup was considered to be a strength, but it also created challenges when there was a need to fill capability gaps at short notice.

As a result, when vacancies arose, filling them could be hard. This was compounded by the fact that Oxford Instruments was at a point of major transformation. The transformation projects were critical to the future growth of individual businesses going through the transformation and well as a group as a whole.

The Challenge

An example of this was the situation with the group’s Plasma Technology business, a developer of etch and deposition processing equipment and solutions. With 350 people based in Bristol, it had enjoyed rapid growth, led by its managing director. The unit had a clear, ambitious strategy, which could have been thrown into disarray when the MD resigned.

They needed someone with the right mix of industry and functional experience and the ability to run the strategy. There wasn’t a huge pool of candidates, and even with a six-month notice period, they could have been hunting for the right replacement for much longer. For the business, that could have meant setting back the strategy by at least a year while they found a new MD.

The Solution

It was clear that a temporary solution would be needed while a permanent replacement was found, so they asked BIE to support with the hire of an interim MD.

The MD role was not the first interim BIE had placed for Oxford Instruments, having placed an interim HR Director at the company previously. BIE understood not only the industry demands but also the cultural requirements in terms of behaviours and calibre, that the client was looking for.

This was certainly the case for the role at Plasma Technology. The interim MD was able to move Plasma on to the next step, ensuring that not only was the strategy followed, but that it delivered double digit growth over the term of the engagement.

Client's View

“We have a relationship with BIE going back over a decade, and I know whenever I have a brief for Gordon and the team we’re going to get the same service every time. Firstly, there’s a level of understanding that’s unsurpassed. When I’ve got a gap it’s quite a specific shape. There will be an industry demand, but also there are cultural requirements, how they’re going to fit in with the existing team. Whoever I work with at BIE understands that, they take in what we’re looking for in terms of behaviours and calibre, and the candidates we get bear that out.”
Vicki Potter, Group HR and Services Director, Oxford Instruments

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