Strathclyde Business School Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship

Joyce Onuonga – John White & Son (W.M.) Ltd

Joyce Onuonga is the Director/General Manager of John White & Son (W.M.) Ltd. Established in 1715, John White & Son has continued to embrace developing technology in providing weighing solutions. From being one of the pioneers in electronic weighing in the 1970s, they have continued to develop their technical expertise to meet customer’s needs. The business aims to provide customers with the best products and service. The wide range of products is fully supported by local service nationwide. Joyce had previously undertaken some training from the IoD but felt it didn’t deliver what she was looking for and signed up for the Growth Advantage Programme.

The Impact

From the outset the course surpassed Joyce’s expectations and she began to make changes within the business. 

  • The key change was around value. The course helped Joyce to understand that John White & Son can’t be as big as their competitors but can embrace what they are good at and the value they offer and can communicate it. They are now using existing customers to get into new markets. The business bid for a contract for seven weighbridges which they previously would not have considered and won it.
  • The business has also focussed on driving repeat business. A questionnaire looking at buyer behaviour identified that potential customers were not aware of what they were offering. This led to service engineers being incentivised to focus on the customers’ needs and provide information on products and services.
  • The business changed how they approach customers viewing their engagements as building relationships and adding value. This motivated the sales team and they are receiving less rejections.
  • The business also reintroduced product development which they had not engaged in since the 70s. Joyce recognises that a product will contribute to the brand and that the business is not going to grow internationally providing only service. A product developer has been taken on and is looking to develop something unique in the marketplace.

 Turnover is up 20% as a direct result of the learnings and an additional staff member has been recruited but the aspiration is to grow the turnover to £5 million within three years.

The Team

Joyce spent a day with the team looking at what the values are and what the business stands for. The business agreed on five values which are now prominently displayed.

Joyce also increased the responsibilities of the team to manage their own work processes. This has led to less mundane reporting and a happier team and freed admin staff up to do other things. There has also been a reduction in waste.

The Network

Joyce praised the cohort, who also provided learning and were honest about the similar problems they faced. She is currently working with three of the cohort, one on a CRM, one on a marketing platform and one on succession in a family business. This has created a network for Joyce which she feels she can access at any time. The lecturers have also continued to give ongoing support following the end of the programme.

Personal Development

The course made Joyce question what type of leader she is and using the learnings from the programme she went through an exercise with the senior management team to identify their strengths and weaknesses and what they were adding to the business. The outcome of this exercise was that a succession plan was draw up and the Managing Director stepped down and Joyce has taken that position - a process of getting the right people to help with the growth plan. Joyce feels she is now a different person and approaches the business differently. Her aspirations are big and she can see that there are sources and networks you can use to achieve things you didn’t think were possible. Joyce also admits that she had never thought of building a team around her before.

In Joyce’s words, "This was a life changing experience, both personally and professionally".

- This case study was prepared by Evelyn McDonald, Chief Executive of Scottish EDGE and Small Business Charter assessor.

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