The day after the acquisition of Yarsley by SGS UK was completed, on Friday Nov 30th 1990, I celebrated by crashing my company car! I was very relieved when I was quickly informed by the SGS Company Secretary that he had already completed all the necessary insurance arrangements. This in my view, admittedly from the perspective of the ex-Managing Director of Yarsley, was symptomatic of our new owners – empathetic towards staff and highly organised. This did extend as far as all the staff from Yarsley who transferred to SGS were concerned, in that any shortfall in an individual’s pension entitlement was made up by the company.
After about 4 months a re-structuring was announced by SGS UK, as a part of which I was given expanded responsibilities to include the management of several other SGS laboratory-based sites, as the Manager, Industrial Division. The main and largest one was at Tividale, in the Black Country near Wolverhampton. This entailed spending one or two days each week there. Frequent visits to the SGS Head Office in Geneva were also required, particularly in relation to the development of Yarsley’s certification business Yarsley Quality Assured Firms. SGS Corporate wanted to expand this business world-wide through their affiliates in other countries. This created two problems:
1. A UK one, in that the MD of SGS UK did not want the working efforts of YQAF staff to be diverted away from developing the UK business.
2. A corporate one. This arose because there were certification businesses in other SGS European affiliates who wanted to be involved in the international certification business.
So an interesting baptism to life in a large international company began.
Eventually in 1992 the SGS Corporate established SGS International Services and I was appointed MD. But then a personal disaster struck, or it might have been a blessing in disguise! I had a stroke, proper term cerebal infarction, on the left side of my brain. This resulted in slurred speech and lack of coordination in my right arm, so I could no longer write. Fortunately I was able to make a complete recovery, but this meant being off work for an appreciable length of time.
To cut a long story short the result of this was that I was offered and accepted early retirement. As part of the overall package I received a two year consultancy contract with SGS UK. This commenced in February 1994, after a one month complete severance from the company for reasons associated with TUPE [Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment)] Regulations.
In my new role I was based at the then SGS UK head office in Camberley. Through my ex-Yarsley colleagues now deployed elsewhere in SGS UK I then became involved in the inspection of companies supplying a wide range of products to ASDA. So after several months virtually organising my own workload, I was tasked by the SGS UK MD with returning to my old company at Redhill in Surrey to ensure the smooth termination of the SGS operations there. Some operations were transferred elsewhere, some were terminated.
One of the businesses which SGS wanted to terminate was the old Yarsley Building Services operation. This gave an opportunity for that business to be resurrected by the staff (not quite a management buy-out because SGS did not require any monetary return). I invested in that business with Gary Grewal and after a short period elsewhere in Redhill the equipment and personnel returned to the original site. This company continues to this day as Building Testing & Investigation Services (BITS), although I sold my shareholding after a couple of years.
Having successfully completed the assignment at Redhill I returned to the Camberley office. Almost immediately I was given a new assignment. This was to temporarily manage one of the SGS UK Divisions, the Economic Affairs Division (EAD), and to recommend to the UK MD who amongst the existing staff should be appointed Divisional Manager. EAD was a grand title for a rather simple operation, namely to manage the UK inspection requirements of the contracts negotiated by SGS Corporate with the governments of developing countries around the world. This was, and still is, a bedrock of the SGS business.
Again to cut a long story short, after about 12 months I was asked to manage EAD on a permanent basis, but there were two conditions:
1. That I dispose of my interest in BITS
2. That I rejoin the permanent staff of SGS UK, but on an annual contract.
I have to say that my tenure as EAD Manager was possibly the most enjoyable and rewarding of my whole career. I say this for two reasons:
1. Because of my status on an annual contract I was not concerned about developing my career in the company, therefore I was not concerned in the internal politics of the company. That meant I could devote all my energies to the management of the division.
2. Managing EAD was a job with really only half the responsibilities I had been used to, because I was not responsible for income generation, ie bringing the contracts through the door. The income was generated corporately, so my job was to manage the contracts in the UK as profitably as possible. And at that time first place in the SGS UK profit table vied between EAD and the old YQAF business.
I decided in 1999 not to renew my contract at the end of that year, and finally retired (for the second time) from SGS. And so another chapter in my life began.
FRHG ref: V120