Thirty years ago Andrew Percival left school and started his first job packing electrical components into boxes. Determined to succeed, he went on to steadily work his way from warehouse to boardroom through a variety of roles and was appointed Managing Director of Mayflex in 2000.
Since his appointment he has helped the company develop into a specialist B2B distributor of Converged IP Solutions bringing together best in Infrastructure, Networking and Electronic Security. Based inside a 90,000 sq. ft purpose built distribution centre in Birmingham in the UK, Andrew uses his specialist knowledge and experience to develop key markets for the company including retail, education and SME. Earlier this year he oversaw the acquisition of the business by electrical giant Sonepar and secured Mayflex’s status as the only UK specialist distributor. The French independent family-owned company generated revenue of 17.2 billion euros last year and is represented by 224 distributors worldwide. Today, Andrew spends his time “reviewing the company’s long-term strategies for customer, market and product development in addition to keeping a close eye on customer service quality.”
Iperium caught up with the accomplished high flyer to discuss significant market changes over the last three decades, the next big technology developments and the steps he took when his Sales Director left to start his own business.
IP: Can you tell us more about the products you distribute?
The objective of the systems that we sell is to provide efficient communication within any type of building. Our products allow people to communicate with each other and the outside world and our security systems enable them to work in a safe environment. We distribute wireless networks, access control systems, wi-fi and CCTV. We also sell copper and fibre cabling systems under our brand name of Excel, that are mostly hidden away behind walls, under floors and above ceilings or running large scale, business critical data centres.
IP: Over the last three decades you must you have witnessed major changes within the business?
I joined the company from school thirty years ago when it was more of an electrical wholesaler with around £3 million of revenue. The overriding change I have seen is probably the progression from general distribution to more specialized operation where we are selling more complex products into larger organisations with far more sales-cycle support from pre to post sales.
The key drivers that have kept me continually interested is that we have been able to step-change our business from a market perspective and reinvent ourselves. The company’s business model is still very much the same as it was thirty years ago in that we buy and sell rather than make anything, but what we trade has significantly changed along with our suppliers and customers.
IP: Mayflex was recently acquired by the French company Sonepar. How did you find the process of the merger?
Prior to the sale was painful due the amount of diligence, information and time that we needed to give but since the acquisition it has been very smooth. Sonepar are highly experienced at buying and integrating companies which translated as very minimal change for our staff, customers and suppliers.
IP: Mayflex is also the largest European distributor for US networking vendor Aruba who were recently acquired by Hewlett Packard (HP). What does that mean for the future?
Yes, the acquisition closed in November and their company formed as HP Enterprise. I think it is a very positive move as HP have a large market share of the wired market whereas Aruba are globally recognised as the leaders of innovation in wireless. Those two systems sit hand-in-hand for most IT departments so by bringing those two companies together provides a strong product offering for office, retail, education and hospitality. I think it’s a highly positive move that will give Aruba a lot of scale and reach to new clients.
IP: What do you see as the next development in communication technology?
I think the next change in the way buildings are put together will be around lighting and we will experience a big change in how information is delivered. A new method of delivering data called li-fi which uses the visible spectrum rather than radio waves has been tested in a working office. Being able to transmit and receive data via light could lead to a big change on how people are able to manage investments in buildings through shortening ROI timescales through the multi-functional use of single systems. For example a network connected lighting system will clearly offer light, but also management information such as meeting room utilisation, as well as having the potential to provide the communication infrastructure alongside wired and wireless systems.
IP: We have heard that li-fi can deliver internet access 100 times faster than traditional wi-fi. Will this new technology replace existing networks?
As of yet, it wouldn’t be possible to use li-fi in all environments so it may serve to compliment existing technology.
IP: To help expand the business you recently recruited a new Sales Director, how did you find the process?
Our previous Sales Director decided to start his own business and left in January 2015. We took the decision not to look for a replacement until the Sonepar acquisition had gone through and things had settled down. We had heard good things about Iperium so held an initial meeting with Tim which went very well as he understood the process of the way we work so we decided to engage them on a retained basis to help us find a successor. Next, we had a follow up meeting with the rest of the Iperium team to go through exactly what we were looking for and discussed everything that we didn’t want as well as what we did. We then followed the process that Iperium drove - shortlisting and profiling candidates by phone and email before I was handed CV’s and background information on 10 potential candidates they had identified.
After I had personally conducted some follow up interviews, I met face-to-face with four applicants while being constantly in touch with James at Iperium who was filling in any information gaps. During this process we were also continually working with the company to identify any new candidates and replace any that may have ‘fallen out’ of the process as we were shortening the list. Before long, we arrived at two preferred choices that were interviewed by the board. We decided on one individual with whom we followed up with a written offer.
IP: Were you comfortable with the recruitment process?
Yes, it was very good. The time and attention provided at the beginning of the process around understanding our company and what we were looking for saved us a lot of time. Iperium’s experience in the IT market and knowledge of sales professionals operating in that area meant we were receiving a highly knowledgeable and focused approach rather than a generalist recruiter who perhaps would claim to do the same thing. The company’s attention to detail and knowledge of the market made the process extremely effective from my point of view. Iperium is extremely professional and passionate to do a good job and stand in contrast to lots of recruitment companies we have worked with in the past who were really just looking for the day they can send the invoice rather than put a good person in place. Iperium seemed to focus on what the client wants which was good to see that happening.
IP: What does the future hold for you?
I need to help our new Sales Director get settled into the business so that he can run UK sales before we expand his role to cover the Middle East. For me, that will free up time to look at the strategy of the business in terms of new technology and products while also looking at geography such as North and South America. My time will be spent more in looking at what’s next for our business.
*Successful Iperium retained project