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Having worked at Toshiba and Dyson, Martin McCourt hopes he’ll give Dudson a boost

Martin McCourt has taken on the role of chairman at hospitality tableware provider Dudson and Real Business sought to find out what strategies he's put in place to help the company grow.
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How would you define success? It’s a question CEOs aplenty have answered, with Elon Musk claiming it to be when you change the world and the late Steve Jobs dubbing it “perseverance”. For former Dyson CEO Martin McCourt, recently appointed at Dudson, it’s when the company is taken to the next level through the hard work of its staff.

Giving voice to his definition in a 2016 interview with MyMentor, McCourt suggested it was setting the bar high and achieving that one ultimate goal together. “Because when the bar is set so high that people comment on it, true motivation happens and you can transform any situation,” he said.

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It certainly worked for Dyson – he told MyMentor how this method, among others, helped take the company from a single product, single market producer into one where 80 per cent of the business came from over 60 markets around the world. And he hopes to apply similar tactics to hospitality tableware provider Dudson.

His introduction to the company began when the Business Growth Fund injected £3m into Dudson in 2014, which the company has since used to purchase a production plant and grow its Evolution range.

As part of the fund’s talent network, which supplies investee companies with support, he was appointed chairman of Dudson – and he couldn’t be happier to be on board.

Speaking to Real Business, McCourt explained: “We are so used to hearing of the demise of British manufacturing and here is a company that continues to drive success whilst making its products here and selling them not only in the UK but overseas as well.

“An enterprise that has thrived for 217 years and is now run by the eighth and ninth generation of the Dudson family, it has shown itself to have real quality and staying power. Most impressive!”

Indeed, having operated since 1800, the company has undergone a business turnaround, which saw the divestment of its French manufacturing operation. Owners Max and Mark Dudson are also keen to find new markets for their products.

That’s where McCourt’s track record of expanding British goodies abroad and experience in the manufacturing sphere comes in. He’s held a variety of senior management roles at the likes of Toshiba and Duracell, helped promote Mars confectionary and chaired businesses in sectors such as shipping, education, medicine and financial services.

It’s no surprise then to hear him admit to never having pinned himself down to just one industry. “My specialism is not one of any particular sector, but how businesses work, and how they can be made better,” McCourt declared.

He added: “On that front, I am one of the luckiest business dudes on the planet! I have worked with some amazing companies in extremely diverse sectors and I have learned something from each and every one.

“I believe that we learn as much, sometimes more, by witnessing how not to do things as well as how to do things. If I am right on this then my education has been thorough but not yet complete!”

His first port of call was to tour Dudson’s manufacturing site in Tunstall, Stoke-on-Trent. Here, McCourt suggested, he saw the company’s attentiveness to producing high quality products, as well as the skills of the people working there – solidifying his prophesy of a successful future.

“After all,” he said, “that is where having a successful business can stand or fall. Can they make goods that will delight their customers? Dudson certainly are.”

Of course, he plans to raise the bar high and create a rigorous international growth strategy to capitalise on current demand.

“Dudson has a long history of successful business performance and I would like to see that continue for generations to come,” he said.

“We are good at establishing new market trends with creative new product ranges and we are very focused on delivering excellent quality throughout. That is a good, proven formula for success and our aspiration will be to leverage these strengths to the full, both here and overseas.

“Emulating the success achieved in the home market is always going to be a challenge though. Dudson already has a firm footing in other markets outside the UK, but it has an enormous opportunity to drive this aspect of our business even harder.”

If one thing he’s certain of though is his experience of boosting success in locations other than our island nation. “Building businesses overseas is something I have a great deal of experience of and I know only too well the challenges that it brings – and the potential rewards. So, we will be doing our bit to keep British, quality goods at the forefront of International trade – come what may!”

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Shané Schutte

Shané Schutte is a senior reporter at Real Business, with a particular specialism in employment and business law, human resources, information technology and sales/marketing.

Real Business