Alan Price, Chief Executive of the UK’s leading provider of HR, Health & Safety, Croner, talks to Business News Wales about plans for expansion, business innovation and attracting inward investment to Wales.
Can you give our readers a little background into yourself and your role within Croner?
My role at Croner is Chief Executive Officer. Croner is the UK’s leading provider of HR, Health & Safety, and pay and reward services.
Before Croner, I was one of the youngest judicial appointments at the time when I was 24, and one of the youngest ever employment tribunal lay members in the UK, having held trade union roles in the finance industry.
I actually started out at a competitor of Croner 13 years ago where I provided business and employment law advice.
Aside from Croner, I’m proud to be an elected director and trustee of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, and a Chartered Fellow of the CIPD with more than 15 years’ experience in employee relations.
I also sat for four years as a Board Director on The Chambers of Commerce Ireland, and I am a Lay Member of Employment Tribunals for the UK Ministry of Justice, as well as a Chartered Manager and Fellow of the Chartered Management Institute, and a Fellow of the Australian Human Resources Institute.
What are your plans for the next five years, and where do you see your challenges and opportunities?
Croner has exciting expansion plans for the future, we are investing heavily in sales and marketing and are recruiting 50 new national roles. As well as well as our Hinckley head office we are opening new offices in Glasgow and Manchester. The expansion has been driven by a strong demand for Croner’s services due to a particularly uncertain and turbulent time for employers since the outcome of the EU referendum. Brexit, among other legislation changes, has presented employers with more considerations and challenges than ever before.
A key challenge for all organisations will be creating more fulfilling and decent work in light of the recent scandals over bad working conditions and insecure contracts. At Croner, we are happy to offer good work to all our employees.
It’s crucial for organisations to recognise the talent they have and invest in training and development opportunities. We believe our employees are our biggest asset, which is why we invest in them and work closely with all levels of staff.
Looking back at your career, are there things you would have done differently?
I’m a keen believer in having no regrets and that the worst bad decision you will make is the one that you never made, so I wouldn’t have done anything differently. I really enjoy my role at Croner and love working with such a hardworking set of individuals.
What do you think are the most important qualities for success in business?
To be successful in business, great communication skills are key; no business transaction is a solitary endeavour so a business must be able to communication effectively to both internal and external individuals.
Another important quality is to be unafraid to take risks, to run a business you need an entrepreneurial spirit and you can’t be afraid to take risks to advance the business.
Last, but definitely not least, it is important to be passionate about your business. By being passionate you will pursue each project with great determination and focus on getting the best possible outcome for the business.
What are your top three tips for success?
- Find what you love to do, and do it
- Never give up
- Work hard, stay focused and believe in yourself
Are there any innovations within your sector that you believe should be adopted by the wider Welsh market?
The trouble with employment and safety services is that all too often, employers wait until a problem is at their door to address it, as opposed to adopting a proactive approach.
Too many employers know a friend of a friend who incurred a Health and Safety fine or had a disciplinary procedure unnecessarily escalated, without acknowledging that these situations are very real and very sensitive, and no one is untouchable.
Far from scaremongering, Croner assists employers with people and safety to maximise business outcomes. If the wider Welsh market adopted the mentality of a conscientious employer – not to say that a majority of organisations don’t already – we’d notice more compliance and productivity.
Do you foresee any issues that Welsh business will be facing in the short/medium/long term?
I see a particularly turbulent time for all organisations for the foreseeable future, not just in Wales alone. The ongoing political debates and developments, Brexit, the introduction and changing of existing legislation… I anticipate that all of these events will cause ripples felt by all organisations.
Do you have any predictions with regard to the impact of Brexit on your sector?
I feel that it’s still very early days to be able to have exact or well-informed predictions regarding Brexit. Having said that, I do expect that there will be imminent changes caused by Brexit, especially considering the amount of significant employment law which derives from EU legislation.
As an organisation, Croner has already seen an increase of enquiries geared around Brexit from employers, so we have set up a dedicated advice line for matters relating to the topic. I want to invite any Business News Wales reader to call our employment law team on 0844 728 0127 if you have any queries or concerns.
Other than employment law, I believe that there are two areas which will affect employers in the short-term, which will be employing foreign workers, workplace discussions regarding Brexit, and other government proceedings.
What do you think Wales’ strengths and weaknesses are as a place to do business?
I think that a standout strength that Wales has is the positive trend of job opportunities, which has most recently and notably been illustrated by Sony’s decision to manufacture their “next generation” cameras in Wales, marking the first time they’ve been produced outside of Japan.
I’ve read that Welsh businesses have also seen exports rise over the past 12 months, which presents the ideal opportunity to form an integral role in current times.
The country has an extremely buoyant aviation sector, which it’s great to see is so well supported by the Welsh government. Better trade links will inevitably mean more business opportunities across the economy and the globe, which gives very real benefits and advantages to Wales.
What can Wales do to attract more inward investment?
Since the Brexit vote, I think that Wales has positioned itself as a well-connected, thriving business environment, which is accentuated by the rife export activities.
To continue, and attract more of this, I think that organisations in Wales shouldn’t be restricted by the geographical constraints of the country. Instead, there is a lot to be said for expansion across the UK to build relationships, opportunities and presence.
Wales seems to be attracting a lot of inward investment where manufacturing is concerned, which conveys focus and ongoing development specifically in this sector.
What skills should the education system be promoting to the next generation?
Digital activity very much seems to be monopolising the way that organisations operate today. From emails and online communications, to social media networks, the digital platform never stands still and is rapidly evolving all of the time.
The education system has integrated technology and digital skills to a degree, but this must grow and continue at the same pace as the platform evolves to remain viable.
It’s said that the digital sector is creating twice as many jobs as the non-digital sector, which means that investment in this area and skillset is crucial.
I think back to when I first began my professional career over a decade ago, when I truly recognise just how much digital technology has embedded itself in today’s society. Only over the last few years have the social media platforms really clamped organisations’ attention by offering new ways of networking and selling, which begs the question, how much will have changed in the next 5 or 10 years? Certainly enough to warrant the education sector adopting these skills in their core curriculums.
How important is it for there to be a close relationship between business and higher education in Wales?
It’s fundamentally essential for higher education to maintain a close relationship with organisations in Wales to aid the economy and monitor any existing skill gaps or shortages.
Given that higher education encourages a vast spectrum of skills, it’s important for people who are in education to see that there is a real potential to secure a job they will be qualified for, to avoid any discouragement and prompt a skilled workforce in Wales.
This isn’t, however, to say that a wealth of education is essential for success. Many of my colleagues don’t have a qualification to their name, but instead have accrued a wealth of knowledge and experience via hard work and determination. So I also think there’s a lot to be said for employers to maintain close relationships with neighbour organisations in their industry.