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BackgroundRichard Manning joined London Brick in 1971 as a mechanic's assistant and worked his way through a variety of jobs, from forklift driver to plant manager to managing director. In 1995 he was appointed CEO of Hanson Brick Europe, and in 2002, he was named president and CEO of Hanson Brick, Hanson PLC's North American brick and roof tile business, headquartered in Charlotte, N.C. In July 2003, Manning was named president of Hanson Building Products North America, headquartered in Dallas, Texas, and Mike Donahue stepped in as president of Hanson Brick.
Notable AchievementsIn 1999, Hanson Building Materials America, a subsidiary of London-based Hanson PLC, acquired seven major brick companies across North America, including Boren Brick (North Carolina), Richtex Brick (South Carolina), Sipple Brick (Kentucky), Michigan Brick (Michigan), U.S. Brick (Texas), Canada Brick (Ontario) and Briqueterie St. Laurent (Quebec). However, it wasn't until 2003, under Manning's leadership, that the companies were fully integrated as part of Hanson Brick.
"It was a huge challenge to integrate seven companies, 22 plants and 2000 employees who speak in three different languages [English, Spanish and French] and turn them into one team," Manning acknowledged. "But our hard work has paid off with 19% growth in volume this year, and an enhanced ability to serve markets all over the continent."
Under both Manning and Donahue, the company has continued to expand. In May 2003, Hanson Brick launched a newly upgraded 110,000-square-foot plant in Monroe, N.C., and in March 2004, the company acquired Athens Brick with plants in Texas and Louisiana-bringing its total capacity to 1.7 billion brick per year.
The company has also introduced an innovative new marketing strategy with the theme, "fashioning brick," which positions brick as a fashion statement rather than simply a building product.
"There are a lot of people who view brick as a commodity building product," Manning says. "I'm totally at odds with that view. I regard brick as a fashion item. It's sold on aesthetic appeal, color and texture, and when people turn up at the curbside, they're looking at the beauty of the house before them."
Keys to SuccessAccording to Manning, an open management style-one that compels two-way communication and gives all levels of managers a feeling of ownership in the company's success-is the key to running a successful business. "We want everyone to know what's going on," he says. "We try to ensure that everyone has access to the best data about our performance, and we reward people based on their performance. There's no point in giving people responsibility if they're not accountable, and there's no point in holding them accountable if they can't reap the rewards of our success. That's what Mike and the rest of the Hanson Brick team do so well."
Having good people and creating a solid team is crucial, adds Donahue. "We've been fortunate to have our pick of some very good people, from the seven previous companies, from other parts of the Hanson organization around the world and, quite frankly, from competing industries. We've created a team that's enthusiastic, knowledgeable, innovative and open to change. And underpinning that, we have some very solid and strategic market positions. In our people, products, production, we've made the right, but not often easy, choices-as we must continue to do to stay on top," Donahue says.
Future Goals for Hanson BrickStaying on top remains Hanson Brick's main priority going forward. "We have long had the scale and breadth as an organization to be industry leaders. What we're adding to that today is innovation-in our marketing, our products and our service," says Donahue. "Our new marketing campaign is dramatically different [from anything that's been seen before]. We've made decisions around our product offerings to ensure we're always focused on what the consumer wants most, and we remain committed to providing the highest possible level of service. If we can do that consistently, then brick is only the beginning. Builders will come to us for roof tile and for the many other products Hanson has to offer. That's where we want to be-and that's where we will be," Donahue says.
Hanson Brick and Tile can be reached at Suite 555, 15720 John J. Delaney Dr., Charlotte, NC 28277; (704) 341-8750; or http://www.hansonbrick.com .
PerspectivesOn Leadership: Manning: "While work experience and educational credentials are important preparation, I believe it's all meaningless if one's approach to business isn't rooted in strong values like honesty, integrity and a commitment to a team. In this business, you're only as successful as your team allows you to be. You have to build a team that shares-and lives-these values. You also have to be able to communicate at all levels and relate to people in all parts of the business-from those who work in the back office to those on the plant floor. You must be honest with people about their performance while being able to motivate them at the same time. A leader should also have an insatiable appetite for change-not just to accept it, but to drive it. By being proactive in driving change, you can stay ahead of the competition."
On Industry Trends: Manning: "I see a number of emerging trends. First, there will be further consolidation in the industry. Second, there must be-and therefore will be-big advances in energy efficiency, especially as the prices of natural gas and oil continue to rise. Third, you'll see us embrace the ever-increasing use of e-business, for everything from customer orders to inventory management to invoicing to electronic payments. And fourth, you'll see more companies positioning themselves not just as providers of brick, but as providers of a broader range of solutions that address all of a builder's challenges."
Donahue: "Among consumers, the biggest trend we're seeing today is a resurgence in appreciation for products that stand the test of time-in products, like brick and tile, that reflect each consumer's sense of style. There will always be a segment of the market that chooses "faster and cheaper," while compromising on quality and aesthetics, but today's consumers are increasingly focused less on price and more on value for the money. That's what we're doing at Hanson Brick, and that's what all providers of building materials must deliver to stay competitive."