One year down the line...
East Midlands based Tidyco, a trusted supplier of hydraulic and pneumatic products to the UK rail industry for over 40 years; here talks to Barry Aldridge MCIM about his background, career to date and vision for the future as Head of Marketing for Tidyco and recently elected Director to the Board for Rail Forum East Midlands.
Hi Barry, you’re a marketing specialist. Can you tell us how you first got involved with the profession and your overall career progression to date?
Certainly, the truth is; my career didn’t actually begin in marketing. As a child I was extremely shy and introverted. I used to hide away in my bedroom for hours on end, reading comic books. Action Force, Marvel, DC, Transformers, He-Man as well as 2000AD. Comic books caught my imagination so much that I began to practice drawing and writing so as to somehow mimic what I was reading. I guess that all this sci-fi led me down the line towards my current fascination with near future tech.
Inevitably, I decided to pursue a creative field and in 1995 joined Loughborough College of Art & Design to study towards a BTEC National Diploma in General Art and Design.
Even at a young age, I was focused and driven. I knew that I wanted to combine illustration with the written word and specialised in graphic design.
Upon graduating in 2000 from Loughborough University with a BA (Hons) in Visual Communication, I spent the first five years of my career working as a pure graphic designer for both agency and in-house operations.
Looking back, my final year University project involved creating a corporate identity for an imagined national chain of restaurants. Unique with my concept was the fact that I hand scripted an interactive menu using (then) Macromedia Director. The idea being that patrons would find a table and order everything from a desktop computer. The order would then be brought directly to the table and payment was made via the card device plugged in to the machine.
Worth remembering is that at the time smart devices did not yet exist. Fast forward to today and we can order food to be delivered to our house from an app on our phone. We can pay for the service via our devices. Back in 1999, my idea was scorned. Why would anybody EVER order food from a computer? Quite basic and simple, the additional idea of ordering product from a mobile phone would have felt even more intimidating and alien back then.
I loved graphic design and never wanted to let go of the creativity but was also fortunate enough to be introduced to the field of marketing by the likes of Richard Carvell, Gill Ryan and Julie Warner during my working days at Office Depot. I embraced marketing and instantly understood the profession and decided that this was a career path that I wished to pursue. I valued both the commercial acumen and future career opportunity that the industry displayed.
In 2005, I joined Philadelphia based leading global distributor of HVAC products as marketing assistant and was equally expected to entwine my combined design, PR and IT capabilities within the mix of my marketing job function. I was championed by Gillian Warner; then finance manager for the organisation and was actively encouraged to study towards a Level 6 CIM (Chartered Institute of Marketing) Diploma in marketing, specialising in; Marketing Management, Marketing Research, Marketing Communications and Marketing Planning. At a very young age, I became a strategic marketer whilst utilising my much loved practical graphic design skill. I have Gillian to thank for her support and encouragement. I became a corporate tangible asset.
After nearly five years spent within the HVAC industry, I joined the highly reputable commercial cleaning product distributor Merton Group as marketing manager. This is where I really experienced high level strategic activity. I was hugely successful in winning multiple public sector cleaning product supply contracts.
To this day, I firmly believe that it was this employment that allowed me to bridge the gap between private limited companies and the public sector.
In 2014, I joined ServiceMaster Clean Contract Services as a field based commercial marketing development professional. This was a wonderful experience as UK field based marketing network support was a corporate service provision that had never been done before. I was effectively given a blank canvas to create something quite special. I picked up a set of car keys, company vehicle and off I went!
I designed my field based role from the ground up and am extremely proud of my achievements. I was allowed full autonomy to complete my duties and am appreciative of this. I did not need supervision or guidance as by then I was fully experienced, skilled, driven, motivated and knew exactly what I was doing. I developed interactive workshops as well as made site visits intrinsically practical.
I embraced the national Contract Services network and very quickly became a member of the team. I have very fond memories of spending quality time with CJ Micallef, chatting enthusiastically about technological advancements. CJ was great and understood my desire to fully experience the real world. We frequently attended site visits and had an appreciation that marketers should never be ‘inward facing'.
It was around June 2015 that I began to realise my career belonged elsewhere. By now, I was CIM Level 7 Postgraduate calibre; meeting all necessary credentials to obtain MCIM accreditation and was planning to work towards chartered status. Interestingly, I was yearning to build a marketing team of my own.
I was displaying an extreme interest in emerging technology, IoT, cyber defence and near-future tech. I was also keen to start a new marketing project with a fresh blank canvas and was quickly becoming intrigued by the rail industry.
My commercial network some of whom, were by now very close friends, all understood where I was heading. They probably realised it before I did. More and more I was beginning to discuss subject matters such as Google's involvement with driverless technology. I was passionately conversing about emerging themes based upon big data, cyber crime, digital advancements, social integration and IoE.
Of course, fast forward to today and it is abundantly apparent how excited I am to be able to infuse such ideas within the realms of engineering and rail.
I began talking to people within major global tech firms as well as the DIT (Department for International Trade) and my imagination was completely captivated by the realms of such exciting opportunities! I realised that the world was rapidly getting smaller and that tech was changing at a far greater pace than the first digital wave.
Whilst attending a digital seminar held by the East Midlands Chamber of Commerce in late 2015, I drew great inspiration from Amy Kate Nicholson of Microsoft regarding IoT and was imminently able to apply Amy's teachings within commercial tender proposals requiring digital solutions. People were starting to take great notice of me, too.
Realising that I was going to leave, in January 2016 I designed and delivered a comprehensive Adobe software training course to colleagues who wished to benefit from my technical skill, qualifications and wider industry experience. I made full use of my PTTLS education and the training programme was documented so as to form part of the ISO 9001 quality manual.
In the first quarter of 2016 I also developed and proposed a series of marketing concepts focused upon maximising franchise sales communication as well as penetrating additional markets with franchise opportunities. The idea being that I wanted to leave something positive behind which could benefit the brand that I had worked so closely with even after my departure.
It was whilst I was in Scotland during the second quarter of 2016 that Tidyco made contact. I was participating within a regional strategy meeting having just launched a recently overhauled website to the network when I received a response to a job application. It was all really exciting. I had seen a job advertised for marketing manager at a Derby based company that supplied hydraulic and pneumatic solutions predominantly to the rail industry. I had applied with great enthusiasm as I realised that this was indeed, my next blank canvas.
You see, certain marketers relish the opportunity to grow and develop projects and strategies from scratch. Interestingly, the company also had an HVAC division. I smile as I say this because nowadays, I work closely within a supply chain that I know from years gone by. In fact, some of my suppliers used to be close friends as well as work colleagues!
I did some research. I noticed that Jay Bhundia, finance manager for Tidyco coincidentally lived just around the corner from me, nestled deep within the National Forest. We engaged. I told Jay that I was currently in Scotland and he replied, stating that he was keen to see me as soon as possible. That following Sunday I walked around the corner knocked on the door and introduced myself. It was a gloriously sunny day and we sat together in Jay’s back garden, discussing ideas as how best to grow the business via combined marketing and finance initiatives. Jay confessed that he was also ensuring that I was a real person and not just a LinkedIn avatar!
Of course, I went through a very formal and intensive interview process whilst facing some pretty tough competition and was fortunate enough to be offered the job. I joined Tidyco on the 22nd August 2016 and have never looked back. The company recognised and valued my experience and gave me full autonomy to drive, agitate as well as develop all commercial marketing activity in an independent manner.
So, you joined Tidyco as head of marketing. What came first on your strategic agenda?
Firstly, this was all extremely exciting. I had brand custody over an identity that allowed me to take full ownership management. The logo itself had been wonderfully designed by Bob Wood of Mediatide back in the late 70’s when Tidyco was formed as an equipment hire company. I didn’t want to mess with it because it remains relevant to this very day regarding current organisational involvement within the rail industry. Bob is a coding genius and is a very much valued member of the current Tidyco team without whom, the Cyber Essentials project would never have seen the light of day. However, I was able to design and develop an ‘emotive’ statement which quickly raised external interest.
I had been playing around with an idea for a year or so prior based upon stakeholder engagement points (SEP’s) and was now able to design and practically activate my personally designed marketing model.
I decided that it was very important to give myself three key motivational objectives which would form the core structure of what I was attempting to achieve and as such, developed #Motivational3.
Of course, #Motivational3 went on to become a targeted social media campaign, whereby I designed the logo and activated the idea to Director and senior management level. My personal #Motivational3 objectives are:
1. GROW brand awareness
2. ENGAGE with all stakeholders
3. ENCOURAGE supply chain excellence
Furthermore, I was keen to trade mark the corporate identity for 'glocal' protection, implement a dedicated corporate social responsibility statement of intent, supporting policies and procedures whilst also addressing the topical requirements for data protection and cyber defence so as to ensure that Tidyco as a business was well ahead of the game regarding GDPR.
As a direct result of my efforts, I have been nominated towards a parliamentary award by Amanda Solloway for responsible business champion, accredited with the Government fuelled Cyber Essentials certification as well as reach finalist stage for sales and marketing of the year, small business and marketing campaign of the year award categories through the Derby Telegraph Business Awards 2017 and East Midlands Chamber of Commerce Business Awards 2017.
Couple all of this recognition with recently being elected on to the Board of Directors for Rail Forum East Midlands and I am sure you will agree that my first 12 months working for Tidyco have been extremely successful and productive.
In February 2017, the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) recognised my endeavours and awarded me with MCIM (Member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing) status. This high level of accreditation is testament to my contribution and years of experience at a senior level towards the profession.
More recently, the CIM has sent an invite offering me the opportunity to apply to be a member of the East Midlands Board of Directors as small business ambassador for the region.
2017 so far has been the highlight of my career to date.
It appears that your initial marketing plan was successful, what came next?
Well, I began networking like a little trooper! I was practically implementing trade mark, CSR and IT projects alongside entwining traditional graphic design and current social media trends to drip feed my SEP to a targeted and far reaching audience. But, I realised that I needed to do exactly what I had done in my previous field based role which was introduce myself physically to a network which would engage with what I was doing and support me in my initiatives to grow brand awareness.
Very early on, I invited Derby Telegraph and Marketing Derby to the head office to talk about where the business was going and what we were up to. Similar to my field based days, I think and hope that I portrayed enthusiasm, commitment, experience, skill, determination and passion!
I really do believe in engaging with the local press. Furthermore, the trade press can also be your greatest ally. I am fortunate regarding Tidyco’s HVAC division to have some wonderful friends within the facilities management sector and PFM really have supported communicating my vision.
Hydraulics and Pneumatics magazine has also been instrumental in delivering my message via an additional channel. You need supporters. Brand advocates such as these become more than mere stakeholders, they become close friends and I am appreciative of their involvement within our journey.
Shortly after initial face-to-face engagement, I became heavily involved with the East Midlands Chamber of Commerce and wider D2N2 project. Quite simply, I am everywhere!
Thankfully, marketers nowadays have the power of automation via digital channels!
It was through MD and D2N2 that I was invited to attend the Industrial Strategy conference. Amanda Solloway was present and I received a significant amount of publicity, which was great for Tidyco. Marketing Derby invited me to deliver ‘sound bites’ which were subsequently published by the Cabinet Office through social channels. The Industrial Strategy conference was the physical birth place of some amazing engagement and positive communicative agitation.
My little face was getting highly recognised! During the conference, I was presented with a microphone whereby I was discussing to the larger organisations within the room as how best to bring technology, commercial tender processes as well as SME’s and global organisations together to work in partnership towards the Government plans for Midlands Engine, Industrial Strategy as well as East Midlands Gateway. Whilst talking to the audience, I remember feeling my smart device buzzing away in my pocket. When I had finished talking, I checked my phone to see that Saffron from Marketing Derby had LIVE tweeted my speech! I turned to her, sitting just a few seats away, smiled and gave a 'thumbs up'!
It was during the Industrial Strategy conference that I first met Elaine Clarke from the RFEM. We agreed that we needed to urgently hold a formal meeting and exchanged contact details. I believe that within the next week, Elaine and Sophia came to visit myself and Jay at the Tidyco Head office whereby I remember Elaine asking me exactly what it was that I was attempting to achieve.
I discussed combining forces with other SME’s so as to work towards partnership in tender opportunities to supply the larger rail rolling stock corporations as well as the importance of CSR, tech and overall training. I also talked around my desire to engage with the younger generation so as to make rail exciting. Of course, we need the younger generation in order to ensure industry longevity and progression.
My social media activity ticks so many boxes regarding talking with the future of rail.
Moving forwards, I have engaged with the likes of Catherine Appleby and Lucy Prior of the DIT and Rail Alliance. Fairly young in our relationship, we are making great moves towards joining forces so as to work in partnership towards the bigger picture.
Within your recent two phase marketing plan, what have been the significant wins?
Good question and the simple answer is all of the above. I am a big believer in people and have always adopted the approach of ‘people buy from people’. Of course, this can be true of a transactional nature to grow profit and loss but is also attributable towards a far wider marketing communications and engagement strategy.
The award nominations are all very much gratefully received and shows testament towards my hard work, passion, drive and commitment but also highlights that I must be doing something right… I like to think!
I am really proud of the fact that I have engaged with Swindell & Pearson regarding the on-going trade mark project and am pleased I took the decision to apply for Cyber Essentials certification. Whilst recent global cyber attacks are very sad, it does demonstrate that this particular issue which has been very much at the forefront of my mind over the past three years or so has proven to be both a tangible and very much real threat.
Engaging with wonderful colleagues, friends and industry thought leaders makes me feel extremely accomplished. There is an eclectic mix of respective industry pioneers who really understand my goals and objectives. I can’t thank everybody as there has been so many but; I do acknowledge appreciation whilst sitting down face to face.
So, you are now on to a stage three marketing focus. Where do we see you taking the marketing strategy for Tidyco next?
Jake Tyers has recently joined the team as marketing assistant. Echoing back to my beliefs about encouraging the younger generation within the industry, Jake will be instrumental in doing this.
I plan to provide Jake with all the experience, guidance and practical activity to help shape, develop, nurture and grow his on-going career.
Whilst experience is very much important, I rely heavily on training courses provided by the likes of D2N2, Rail Alliance and RFEM to ensure that I remain on track.
I had a wonderful experience just recently whereby I discovered on a training course that whilst I knew and had previously applied the Porters 5 Forces marketing model, it had been some time ago. CPD helps me to stay refreshed and up to date.
Moving forwards? Well, I begin my Level 7 CIM Marketing Strategy Postgraduate later this year and as such have Jake on board to offer support. I plan to send Jake to absolutely every D2N2 training course available so as to continue CPD for both individuals. Importantly, our combined theoretical learning’s can continue to drive marketing activity in both the traditional transactional sense as well as topical engagement disciplines.
Obviously highly focused, driven and talented, where can we expect to find you another year down the line?
I have great plans for the future of Tidyco as well as the wider rail industry. Interestingly, I am seeking to grow market share within additional sectors. My Postgraduate qualification will support me in achieving these ambitions.
Having a marketing assistant by my side will allow me more time to focus upon my Directorship obligations with the Rail Forum East Midlands.
I am also interested to investigate the next generational communication route to market as it may very well be that social media itself rapidly becomes an out of date channel.
Exciting times ahead…