Randla Hunt was formed in 2006 by Robert Hunt following a varied career in manufacturing, the Armed Services, Sales and General Managment. Its business focus is UK market entry and growth for overseas manufacturers in the construction industry and provides services on a project, interim, consultancy or non-executive basis.
Typical projects include market assessment, business planning, new company (or branch) formation, staff recruitment, establishment of dealer networks or the creation of distribution hubs, rapid acquisition of market share and handover to inhouse management. We are also able to provide guidance and advice on product or service offer customisation for the UK market as well as navigation through legal and regulatory frameworks.
About the Principle......
About the Principle......
After qualifying in Metallurgy and Engineering at Sheffield Hallam University, Robert went on to become a Senior Metallurgist within the Process Metallurgy (Research) Department at British Steel’s integrated iron and steel works at Scunthorpe. During this time he developed the use of mass spectrometry in controlling the iron-making process and later worked on high speed crack detection in the company’s rolling mills. He had two papers published.
Seeking a more challenging environment, he applied for Army Officer selection and, after training at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, joined his unit – the Second Battalion, the Royal Anglian Regiment – towards the end of a two year tour of the then still divided city of Berlin on a short service commission. They then moved to Londonderry as city battalion as the infamous hunger strikes started and he served as an Infantry Platoon Commander on active service for two years before the Battalion was posted to the Colchester Garrison.
Robert’s first commercial role was in sales with Formwood – a manufacturing company in the Royal Forest of Dean, where he had a series of positions culminating in Group Sales and Marketing Director. Initially a wood processing business, during his time with the company it evolved to become one of Europe’s leading ceiling and lighting producers, growing by acquisition from a single base to six manufacturing centres in the UK, France, the Netherlands and Germany.
His building products experience and German language skills led to Robert being offered the position of General Manager of the UK subsidiary of Fels – a German owned manufacturing group – with the task of turning around its underperforming British business. By changing the sales focus to demand generation, the company started to grow rapidly and, when it was acquired by Franz Haniel some seven years later, he was given the expanded role of heading up the UK and Irish operations for the now rebranded Xella. In the ten years of Robert’s tenure of the combined operations, turnover grew over thirty-fold. The business is now part of James Hardie.
Some of the stuff we've done since............
Following a chance meeting at an exhibition, Randla Hunt was established for a specific project to create a market entry business for an overseas building products manufacturer and since then the company has specialised in not just guiding overseas multination businesses in establishing UK bridgeheads, but turning around underperforming operations. Where appropriate, we use an established network of specialised consultants and businessmen and women to provide a full breadth of services according to client’s needs. Some examples of our work include:
We met the eponymous Chairman of the company in 2006 and, in a relationship spanning seven years helped to establish a group product management function, rationalise its international sales strategy, refocus its sales away from a commodity-led model to a value-added technical service offer and, most significantly, turned a part-share in an underperforming and underinvested manufacturing asset in the British midlands into a market-leading producer of construction accessories supplying products through the industry’s leading distribution chains. We brought in external legal and financial consultants to support the acquisition and post-merger integration of the UK operations during the restructuring. Having helped recruit a new UK MD towards the end of this process, Robert remained as a mentoring Non-Executive Director until 2013.
Introduced to the AIM-listed company’s chairman by a senior NED, we were asked to give the business a health check and guide the board through a restructuring process. The two product divisions sold radically different kit in different markets – an ageing portfolio of educational instrumentation to a declining post-colonial international market and a partially integrated system of access control and time and attendance soft- and hardware through an underperforming UK Value-Added Reseller network. Strengthening the latter through product development and acquisition whilst appointing a new Sales Director designate (who we recruited in conjunction with a specialist HR consultant), together with divestment allowed the business to refocus. A agreed sale to Belgravium Technologies followed shortly afterwards.
We were asked by the MD of this Liechtenstein-headquartered panel manufacturer to conduct an appraisal of the UK opportunities for its products. Having established the potential market scale and opportunity, together with the key players and contacts, Randla Hunt acted as country representative from 2013 to 2016, securing major contracts from UK formwork suppliers.
A world-leading manufacturer of powered attachments for construction plant (excavators), the company engaged Randla Hunt, initially in a consulting capacity and subsequently with Robert Hunt acting as an (investing) MD to establish a UK distribution operation to take advantage of what it perceived was a growing interest in its products. Over a period of five years, the company recruited a full sales and distribution team, quickly building a reputation for the highest levels of service. Despite the late entry into the UK and Irish territories, the company quickly established itself as market leader, being described (by a competitor) as “the best attachment business in the UK”. Robert sold his interest in the business in early 2020.
Hering is a market-leading German manufacturer supplying predominantly the rail infrastructure sector with prefabricated platform systems. The company has successfully placed its products in the UK – not least during the construction of the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) in the east end of London. Robert was asked, through his association with Konduit, to provide technical asssistance to the company in 2022.
What we are currently doing……..
Robert has acted as a charitable trustee with the Wicksteed Trust for over 20 years and, on stepping back from Engcon in 2020, he was asked to become Chairman of its trading subsidiary – Wicksteed Park. Among the oldest leisure parks in Europe, it had invested heavily in recent years to upgrade its infrastructure and when the Pandemic hit, resulting in a total loss of income stream, there were insufficient cash reserves to secure a long-term future. Robert guided the management team through a complicated but succesful pre-pack administration, which involved shedding 90% of the company’s workforce and fundamentally redesigning the business model and changing the company’s culture. The Park is now stable and returned to profitably in its centenary year in 2021. With a radically different business model it has already invested in three major new rides and attractions and has just opened for the 2022 season.
Randla Hunt has in recent times broadened its scope of service offer from buidling products to include construction and agricultural plant markets. As well as acting as a pathfinder for Enterprise Ireland (the Irish overseas trade support body) we are providing direct support to both UK and European clients on a project-led basis, either in specialised areas of construction technology or with more general advice on the changing UK regulations regarding market entry and product accreditation. The challenge to overseas companies wishing to enter the UK in a post-Brexit environment should not be underestimated – not only have UK standards started to diverge from their EU counterparts, but it is now considerably more difficult to get business visas. These are both areas where we are able to provide local, cost-effective support.
Robert also acts as an Associate to Konduit, a multi-disciplinary practice specialising in market entry support to the Automotive, Aerospace, Construction, Infrastructure and Engineering sectors predominantly in the DACH region. He is currently engaged in preliminary studies for an overseas client in the infrastructure sector who is assessing the UK market. The breadth and practical nature of his experience and achievements have allowed Konduit to quickly engage with clients across the construction sector.
In his spare time – such as it is – Robert has restored the oldest surviving Alvis racing car. Built in 1923, it was created to capture the world standing start quarter-mile sprint record. He regularly competes (pandemics permitting) in sprints and hillclimbs around the country and has built a website as homage to this remarkable car, which you can by clicking on the Alvis logo (opens in a new window).