OPINION: Helen Haddow on her new role as Houlden Jewellers CEO

Stuart Laing and Helen Haddow. The Houlden Group is celebrating the success of its Summer Getaway event in June, which also provided the perfect platform for announcing major changes to the organisation’s board. Helen Haddow was appointed CEO as of January 2016, following a long-standing career with the Group and her appointment to the board in 2012. Elsewhere, Chris Carry of Jamieson & Carry oversees buying, Keith Gill of Robert Gatward takes on membership, Ashley Pugh of W Bruford heads up business development, and Patrick Keane of Keanes Jewellers will be responsible for training.  Stuart Laing will continue to manage marketing for the group in his role of Chairman of the Board, until his retirement.

As of January 1 2016, Helen Haddow began her new role as the chief executive officer of Houlden Jewellers.

Here, Haddow shares her history in the company and vision for the future.

In Haddow’s words…

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2016 is an exciting year for us.  It’s the year where we celebrate our 40th Anniversary and where I begin my journey as chief executive officer.

Being a part of the Houlden family for over 15 years, what I anticipated to be a part time stop gap in my career by helping Houlden assess their controls and install a new computer system, turned into a life changing experience.  Previously spending my years as senior manager in top accountancy firm Ernst & Young, my move into a new sector meant I have had to spend much of my time at Houlden expanding my knowledge on the jewellery and retail industry.  I would not be in this position without having the best teachers, the founding directors Stuart Laing, Peter Lunn and the late Tony Rudell, who guided me through the years to this prestigious position.

As I embark upon the steering ship through my Houlden journey, I must recognise the empire that has been built up by Stuart and the directors; I have a fantastic legacy to carry forward into the future along with the strong desire of keeping the members needs at the core.

Passion for the industry and the company is what has been driving this business forward under Stuart’s direction and the board of directors will continue the same enthusiasm and passion into the future. Stuart will remain with us for the next 18 months to guide and support us through the transition period to ensure that we continue to strive towards excellence in all products and services on offer to the members.

As Stuart always says, Houlden is like a golf-bag full of clubs – the signature services on offer are available for our members to select as they see fit.  Whether they are looking for merchandise, networking, marketing, training or business services, Houlden is there to assist and support.  These key drivers of Houlden will not change; we will build upon this concept.  With a strong partnership of suppliers and members working together, we can ensure that we offer the right balance of suppliers and other services to help drive our members businesses into a successful future.

The core strength of Houlden lies with our members; we have incredible skills and extensive knowledge within the membership which will help to build a successful future.  My job is to fully engage the membership to ensure that everyone is contributing to the organisation.  This is where I have to step away from my natural comfort zone of an accountant where each part adds up to a finite answer, the organisation is bigger than that, the sum of the parts is greater than the individual components!  I no longer see myself as an accountant, but a leader that will gather all the right clubs with the support of fellow directors, members and suppliers to help drive our members business further.

There are exhilarating times ahead for all at Houlden and associates of the business.  We have already embarked on a very exciting initiative Jewellers of Excellence.  This initiative was first proposed around 20 years ago by Stuart showing his future vision for Houlden.  Our members are now ready to get fully behind this and support us through its growth.   It is going to be exciting to develop this concept further and promote the brand Jewellers of Excellence with the consumer to enhance the existing reputations of the Houlden members.  Our members share our ethos of the need for professionalism, integrity and trust to ensure that the consumer’s interests are at the heart of what we do.

Houlden will continue to be more than just a buying group – it is all about the underlying members.  Myself and the other directors will continue Stuarts passion and will steer the Houlden ship into the 5th decade.

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