Thursday, May 15, 2014

News: Pyronix founder shares stories of success

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Julie Kenny's journey to becoming the 93% shareholder of a £22m turnover business will one day make an excellent book, but for now, the Sheffield council house girl turned High Sheriff just doesn't have time to sit down and write one.

Julie Kenny CBE DL is chair and chief executive of Rotherham-based Pyronix Limited and recently met with local members from Junior Chamber International (JCI) in Sheffield to talk about her intertwined business and personal life. Covering topics such as mental illness, personal development, boardroom battles and suing competitors, the talk could have lasted many more hours.

"I have so many stories," Kenny told the group of young professionals, "I've thought about writing a book for a while and I approached a very good ghost writer. But he wanted a month of my time and there's no way I can do that."

Based in Hellaby, Pyronix is an award-winning manufacturer with an extensive range of electronic security equipment for intruder alarms. I'll save the majority of the journey for the 56-year-old's forthcoming bestseller, but it involves Julie giving up a legal career to take a risk that ultimately led to the firm becoming the number one volume manufacturer in the UK.

Manufacturing security equipment including control panels, detectors and external sounds, the firm has grown 15% every year since 2010 and is now on course to top £20m of annual sales by the end of 2014, 50% of which is in international markets.

In recent years, Pyronix has managed its growth by bringing back production from China to Yorkshire and, currently, about 60% of manufacturing takes place here in Rotherham.

Kenny said: "Turnover at Pyronix is £22m and we're growing like stink, so watch this space."

Plans have been submitted for a 1,355 sq m extension at Hellaby, providing a clean, modern space for electronics manufacturing as well as improving and extending existing office, product testing and Research & Development facilities.

Innovation continues to play a big part in the growth of the business, as it did during the recession. "We had to remove £1.2m in overheads in a week and it was hard. But we knew that we had to keep the sales staff and keep innovating" said Kenny.

Sales in new products, such as the world-first fully two way wireless alarm system incorporating a transmitter and a receiver in each wireless device, have reached around £12m since the recession.

"The future is about exploitation. We sell around £11m worth of products to the UK market and we have identified new markets such as Italy, Russia and Poland, where we aim to replicate that.

"We are also planning to bring back more of the high end manufacturing from China and I'm involved in succession planning at the business."

That doesn't mean that there are plans for retirement ("I'm planning on living to 100"), and making the difficult move from MD to chair ("I was shocking at letting go"), has seen Julie take on even more roles in the region, a measure of the person and another reason why there's no time to write that book.

The roles range from helping to save Wentworth Woodhouse and chairing the governors at Maltby Academy to her place on the board of the Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership and commissioner with UKCES, the partnership that aims to raise skill levels to help drive enterprise, create more and better jobs and economic growth.

Named Vitalise Business Woman of the Year 2013, Julie carried out over 300 engagements during her term as High Sheriff of South Yorkshire which finished in April 2013. She has been awarded a CBE and an Honorary Doctorate from Sheffield Hallam University in recognition of her "outstanding contribution to industry and to life in the region."

JCI is a member-led organisation that provides development opportunities to help empower young people and improve local communities. With the recent relaunch of JCI Rotherham, the expanding worldwide network now has chambers in Sheffield, Rotherham, Barnsley and Doncaster.

Julie discussed how developing her own set of core values has helped her through the journey - honesty, integrity, doing right by people, determination.

Talking about setting herself 50 things that she wanted to do before she died, Julie said: "I'm a great believer in positivity and positive thinking. Set yourself goals, get involved, take opportunities, read books. But in the end only you can judge your own success."

Pyronix website
JCI website

Images: Pyronix

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