The jobs of more than 50 men and women employed in an Oldbury glass making business could rest in the success of the 35-year-old grandson of the man who founded the company more than 70 years ago.
Neil Bradford has agreed to take a non-executive directorship of N J Bradford, of Ashes Road, with the sole objective of bringing his world-wide business experience to a company operating in an industry that has been ravaged by cheap imports from China and more recently, Turkey.
Neil, the first sixth former to leave Edgecliff School in Kinver for a place at Oxford, where he gained a degree in Geography, spent his early career with management consultants McKinsey.
He later co-founded his own UK research company forecasting trends in IT which was bought by the American Forrester Research organisation – that then retained him as president of their North American operations working out of Boston, Massachusetts.
He returned to the UK to found another IT-related business and has recently taken over as chief executive of a London-based company specialising in forecasting trends in the fashion industry.
“I appreciate that none of this experience has any direct connection with glass making, but working on an international basis and having an involvement with some of the world’s largest organisations has given me a tremendous insight into how to run an successful business,” Neil says.
“The biggest challenge facing N J Bradford, founded by my grandfather Norman Bradford in 1937 and taken over by my father Tim 35 years ago, is dealing with the impact of high volume. low priced products from China and Turkey.
“I will be advising the company on new markets to pursue new products to develop and new strategies to adopt.”
He forecasts that while the company will remain in the high volume market, its future lies in the production of quality bespoke products for niche markets, manufactured to high specifications and delivered on a just-in-time, followed by superior after sales service.
“Once the major part of our production was for 10,000 items of this and 15,000 items of that; now we must be able to supply as few as 100 items – and do it profitably,” he said. “We are therefore going to focus on new and established UK markets, but we won’t compete anywhere that we can’t win with our quality and service approach.
“I firmly believe there is a future for the UK glass processing business. The demand is there; it’s a case of meeting the demand in a manner that is not merely price-based. A local provider must have an advantage over a manufacturer the other side of the world when it comes to supply of products on a just in time basis.”
N J Bradford, which has traditionally served the decorative glass and toughened glass markets, now supplies the furniture industry, caravans and mobile homes and lighting projects – it manufactured the toughened glass for the lighting at the new St Pancras Station.
The firm says that opportunities have already been identified in the off-road automotive sector and a massive requirement for glass shelving in retail and showroom fit-outs.
Neil added “We have a ten-year plan in place for a sustainable, profitable company that will rapidly return to the £2 million plus turnover levels it enjoyed a few years ago (2008 is projected at £1.8million) and then move forward. I will do everything I can to make it happen.”
His father, Tim, also said: “I am now at an age when I don’t want to be working five days a week - or more, but I want a secure future for the company founded by my father that has a proud history in the glass industry. I believe that while Neil will be acting as a non executive director he is the future of the business.
“He will be bringing skills and knowledge that will be unique to our company and will transform the manner in which we all operate.”