Chris Oldroyd, managing director of Inprotec, a specialised engineering company servicing metal refineries globally, tells us what defines their way of doing business.
What do you currently do?
I am founder and Managing Director of Inprotec which is a specialised engineering company servicing metal refineries globally. Inprotec is a small company so I am a ‘hands-on’ MD which means I have a technical job role within the organisation as well as the general management of the business. I largely do the sales and marketing of the business, but I also get heavily involved in technical support for existing customers and providing mechanical design solutions to hand on to our Mechanical Design Engineer to develop. Other aspects include usual human resources, finances, legal, compliance and quality management.
What was the inspiration behind your business?
My inspiration for Inprotec Ltd has changed over the years. I took over the business from my father in 2010, so I am a so-called second-generation entrepreneur. My life before that was quite different as I worked in software, but I took over the company as I wanted my father’s legacy to carry on.
The company was small and completely revolved around him, but he had some great designs and great customers, so my inspiration was to make sure that we developed on the designs and increased the customer base, and broke into new global markets.
Inprotec Ltd did that very rapidly, but the world is changing, and social responsibility is something that all business owners now need to hold at the very top of their priority list if we want a sustainable world for the generations that follow us.
My inspiration is now the circular economy, making sure that Inprotec Ltd is positioned as a company that can provide the best solutions for reclaiming valuable and scarce materials, and putting them back into the economy.
What defines your way of doing business?
I have purposefully kept the head count fairly low at Inprotec, and that is because we are specialists at what we do, so we have one of every core skill we need. If we need other expertise, I will use my trusted suppliers. This allows Inprotec to create ‘fly wheel’ between projects and not suffer too much stress in lean times. It is important that the staff know the market we are in, the products intimately, and have a good relationship with customers and suppliers alike.
What do you admire?
I admire any entrepreneur or business leader who knows how to articulate a good idea which is technical in nature to stakeholders, investors or potential customers in a way in which it is crystal clear and makes total sense, both from a technical solution and economic viability perspective. It is a rare skill which I think cannot be taught but can be acquired over many years. Some people are just able to pitch like that from the get-go, for example Elon Musk and Steve Jobs.
Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?
When I first started out, I thought I had to please everyone, and everyone needed to like me personally and like the way I did business, so I tried too hard to be the nice guy. Over time I realised you just need to do what makes sense, and sometimes you please some and sometimes not. Running a business is not a popularity contest.
What advice would you give to someone starting out?
Know your subject matter. People are inspired by those that are expert and confident in their expertise. That doesn’t mean being the technical expert in everything your business does but understand your industry and all the parts that are important to that industry. In this way you will understand the motivations of your customers and be able to react to, and even predict their needs.