Q&A: John Ball, Brown & Newirth

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The company’s director on turning around business after near closure.

John Ball became director of Brown & Newirth in June 2011, and has since set about re-building relationships after the company found itself in financial difficulties. He has been working hard to bring the wedding jewellery brand up to date, and was named a Business Big Shot in the Professional Jeweller Hot 100 2012, in association with the Company of Master Jewellers.

Professional Jeweller: Did you know how difficult the job would be with Brown & Newirth when you took it?
John Ball: Not at all. The business lacked structure, direction and vision. During my first few weeks I had realised the job in hand having spent time visiting our key retail partners. There is however enormous goodwill and love for Brown & Newirth from our very loyal customer base which gave me the confidence that we could turn the business around.

PJ: What have been the key milestones in the turnaround of B&N?
JB: Firstly, implementing a new business development team has been the most important milestone which has enabled the business to focus and concentrate on what is most important – our customers. Secondly, restructuring the management team and board has enabled us to focus on the core values of our business, quality and service, with Sarah Robison heading production and business output in her role as commercial director and our chairman Simon Ashton’s who, has chaired a number of companies within multi-disciplined industries including automotive, all of which has brought a new expertise to Brown & Newirth. In addition we have re-branded the business, delivered market leading selling/marketing tools and initiatives including POS, plain profile boxes, look books as well as an international honeymoon competition.

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PJ: Can you give us some updated figures about the business growth from the time you took on the role until now?
JB: I would not like to tempt fate but, this year started off better than expected, probably down to some pent up demand as well as great success with new collections being sold in. If we continue to deliver the current run rate, we will recover something in the region of £1 million of lost business from 2011/12.

PJ: What have been your highlights of the year, personal and professional?
JB: My personal highlight was on September 28th when I married Claire, my long term partner. My business highlight was on January 4th when the business development team arrived at HQ for the first time together. I knew on that day that I had found the right team of individuals who were truly customer focused with a commercial understanding.

PJ: How would you describe your approach to work?
JB: A leader and motivator of people by example, determined to succeed and fearful of failure. I have no concept of hours in the day to work and believe that the answer is always yes so, what is the question?

PJ: With you always "on" for Brown & Newirth, working as and when needed, how do you manage your work-life balance?
JB: I have an extremely, and I mean extremely, understanding and supportive wife who manages me and, enables me to give the time and energy needed to the business yet, ensures I find time to be a dad and husband.

PJ: What are your plans for Brown & Newirth for the next year?
JB: To start, I will implement a new design team, incorporating the latest CAD/CAM technology. Then we will deliver a new interactive trade website and will also place investment in the welfare of our team. We also plan to invest in the development of their skill base by implementing PDP’s, outsourced training courses and cross fertilisation using the multi industry network of contacts established by the board.
 

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