The decision to leap from a role within a giant tyre manufacturer employing 112,000 people worldwide to a family run business with big ambitions was easy.
Our new Marketing Executive, Jenny explains why …
I’ve just started in the role of Marketing Executive at Hydraulics Online and feel like the world is my oyster! The business culture here is very supportive, inspiring and full of innovation. With a portfolio of over 80 leading international hydraulics brands and exports into over 130 countries, each day brings on new challenges and a fair share of testing, tweaking and more testing of chosen marketing applications and programmes.
Over the years I’ve been fortunate to gain experience from a wide range of sectors including: FMCG, computing, logistics and manufacturing and have worked for large corporations, such as: Intel, FedEx, Häagen-Dazs, Fiskars and Michelin Tyre PLC. I must admit, that never once did I ever reflect on the world of hydraulic engineering and the impact it has on our world and different industries. It’s actually quite mind-blowing how we all seem to take Pascal’s Law and fluid power for granted, without actually questioning the enormous impact hydraulics have on the environment around us, industry innovations, research and new economies.
One intriguing aspect of my role is the sheer scope of variation and every day learning. One day I could be researching how a giant, ship-mounted hydraulic lift helps to haul SUV-size great white sharks from waters off Mexico’s Guadalupe Island. The next day I could be planning a 360 marketing campaign in partnership with a hydraulics harbour engineering manufacturer based in Stockholm, or writing a blog post about how a roofing manufacturer on the Caribbean island of Barbados relies on great service from Hydraulics Online. In fact, hydraulics is all about solving a problem and improving a process using fluid power. Every day is like boarding the great Orient Express, curiously anticipating the next stop and new challenges.
So, many factors played a role in my decision to leap from a giant tyre manufacturer to a family run business, but the most important one of them all was Helen Baker – Co-founder and Operations Director. She drew me into the essence of the business, the clear vision and its success from day one.
Helen has an aura of success, the tenacity to never give up and the talent to win the hearts of people and businesses worldwide – and that’s exactly why I joined her team.
Marketing is too important to be left to the marketing people. Everyone in a company is a marketer.
This quote by HP co-founder, David Packard, is one of my all-time favourite quotes on marketing. I firmly believe that the tremendous success and fast growth of Hydraulics Online boils down to teamwork, stellar customer service, technical know-how – nearly 100 years between them to be exact – and the genuine willingness for all the employees to put themselves in the shoes of their customers to fully understand their exacting needs. Just read about the “Concorde Project Salute” here and the inspiring collaboration with Duxford Aviation Society and you will understand exactly the passion, tenacity and commitment that all the staff here at Hydraulics Online devotes to their customers and partners – we’re all marketers!
In previous roles at Finnish-owned Fiskars Corporation I have gained a broad and invaluable experience in e-com merchandising, content writing, CRM, e-marketing, social media and global campaign planning. I’m now in a very fortunate position where I can apply this know-how into Hydraulics Online and our full consumer journey; from brand awareness to building long-term and loyal strategic partnerships and customer advocates.
To be a modern-day marketer in a small business with big ambitions allows you to grow professionally and get involved with the holistic marketing mix and strategy, as well as being a bit of a social butterfly fluttering between different social platforms to listen and engage with our following and aiming to strengthening the brand. Working within a smaller budget also means that you have to learn to prioritise, build solid business cases to evaluate all opportunities and find ways to achieve ‘more’ with ‘less’.
Did I mention IKEA, meatballs and ABBA?
Yes, that’s right… I’m born in the land of the midnight sun, Abba and the Swedish word lagom, (pronounced [ˈlɑ̀ːɡɔm]), meaning “just the right amount”. In a world of contrasts and contradictory advice, lagom hits the middle – allowing people to enjoy themselves, but stay healthy and content at the same time. This is a value that I intend to apply at my work here at Hydraulics Online.
I love working, but with time I have also learnt the value of a work-life balance and the power of mindfulness. Helen and Mark, the founders of Hydraulics Online, very much value flexibility and the fact that there has to be a balance in life, which ultimately breeds happiness and job satisfaction. In my opinion, this is a winning formula, which you simply cannot put a price-tag on in today’s hectic, fast-paced and digitalized era.
So, how do I unwind? Typically, in the company of my family, which includes my husband Dan, children Jakob (17) and Maja (14) and little dachshund Alfie. Sometimes relaxing on a comfortable seat in our own ‘Harper’s Bar’ at the end of our garden with a chilled glass of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and a Swedish crime noir drama by Mari Ljungstedt – a bit beyond lagom, but hey!, I sometimes like to push the boundaries 😊.
Send me your comments at: email@example.com
Jenny, Marketing Executive at Hydraulics Online
It’s official! We’ve got the vision! Hydraulics Online Co-founder, Helen Baker has been shortlisted in the 2018 Enterprise Vision Awards and recognised for her role in leading a company that excels globally in an online marketplace.
Enterprise Vision Awards recognise women in business in the North West of England. Our Co-founder and Operations Director, Helen Baker, has been shortlisted in this year’s awards in the ‘Online Business’ category.
Helen was surprised when she heard back in May that her name had been put forward for the awards by an anonymous nomination. What followed was then an intense submission process in which Helen described the Hydraulics Online back story and achievements to date before sharing her future vision for the business.
Now, Helen has received the wonderful news that the judging panel have recognised her contribution to our growth to date and her future vision for Hydraulics Online.
Helen says, “I’m absolutely delighted to have been nominated for this award and selected as a finalist – it’s not something I would ever have put myself forward for but, having been given the push, I am really excited about the platform this award gives me and all the other nominees and the further recognition it might bring.”
Following the awards that Hydraulics Online picked up at the end of 2017 and earlier in 2018, our Operations Director has already been enjoying some exciting new opportunities.
It began after winning the South Cheshire Chamber of Commerce International Trader of the Year award, judged by a team from Manchester Metropolitan University’s Business School. The judges later asked Helen to speak to their students to share with them details of our global marketing strategy and experience trading in the UK and internationally as a business development case study.
“I’m a huge believer in paying it forward,” says Helen, “and speaking to the students at MMU was a great opportunity to inspire the business women and men of the future – and for them to inspire me and keep me on my toes too!” Since then, Hydraulics Online has opened its door to students to undertake their workplace learning placements with us, with one student – Artur – returning for an extended paid work placement after his studies were finished.
Jane Jones, from MMU’s Centre for Enterprise, met Helen in the first quarter of 2018 when Helen accepted an invitation to take part in MMU’S SMART Cheshire Innovation Programme.
Helen’s participation on the programme didn’t just benefit Hydraulics Online, as Jane was keen to point out, “We work with thousands of SMEs. As such, we have the benefit of experiencing business leads from all shapes sizes of firms. Occasionally we work with someone who really excites us with their vision, energy and strategic clarity. Helen is one of those rare individuals and we have learned so much about what we do from seeing how she applies the techniques we are teaching.”
Winning the title of North West Business Exporter of the Year at the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) in March has opened more doors for Hydraulics Online. Helen already had a close working relationship with the Department for International Trade (DIT) locally, but in April she was invited to participate in a ministerial roundtable lunch with Baroness Fairhead – Minister of State for Trade and Export Promotion at the DIT – ahead of the Heads of Commonwealth Summit; promoting small business engagement with the Government’s Industrial Strategy and discussion on trading in the Commonwealth., as part of the International Business Festival 2018 in Liverpool in June, Helen was asked to deliver a keynote speech on day one of the main festival programme. Helen’s presentation, within the FSB’s “Destination Export – Small Businesses as Strategic Exporters” event, was very warmly received.
In attendance was Russell Towlson from the DIT in Poland, who reached out after the event to say, “Helen, you made a very inspirational presentation to the assembled FSB members and guests. The passion with which you told your story was infectious! Truly great to hear how you challenged the status quo to create a global specialist e-commerce solution provider to a diverse customer base from nowhere. Your mantra of putting the customer first is often heard but clearly you succeeded. Good luck with the bright future you have created for your clients and your company!”
Helen was then back at the International Business Festival in its second week to participate in the “How to do Business with the Commonwealth” panel discussion as part of the Diversity and Inclusion Conference.
She has even found time to inspire the pupils at her local Primary School – taking part in a challenging interview alongside Mark by Seabridge student radio reporters.
Helen says, “It is so exciting to be asked to share the Hydraulics Online story to inspire this and the next generation of business leaders. Our journey from a start-up operating from a spare desk at home to a globally trading business seems to really strike a chord with people, and sharing the lessons that Mark and I have learnt along the way is a great way to put our knowledge to good use. What’s so exciting about the Enterprise Vision Awards is the new platform it will give to share our knowledge and vision and pay it forward even further.”
Find out more about the awards: https://www.enterprisevisionawards.co.uk
Find out more about Helen here.
As their North West Business Exporter of the Year, the Federation of Small Businesses asked Hydraulics Online to speak at the 2018 International Business Festival as an ‘exporting case study’
As part of the communications leading up to the International Business Festival in June 2018, the FSB published their interview with Helen, our co-founde. The interview is reproduced here.
Exporting Insights at IBF 2018: Helen Baker, Hydraulics Online
The FSB’s ‘Destination Export – Small Businesses as Strategic Exporters’ will take place on Tuesday, 12 June at the International Business Festival 2018 in Liverpool.
Aiming to outline exporting opportunities and how small businesses can negotiate challenges to international trade, the event will feature advice and support from expert speakers and panellists, including FSB member Helen Baker, co-founder and director of Hydraulics Online Ltd in Cheshire which recently won the North West Business Exporter Award at FSB’s Celebrating Small Business Awards 2018.
How did Hydraulics Online Ltd start out?
Mark Tonks and I founded Hydraulics Online in 2004 with the ambition of creating a truly customer-centric and independent hydraulics company that could compete with bigger, more established and product-led industry players.
Mark already had more than 13 years within the industry under his belt and was therefore the ‘hydraulics’; with my background in financial services, including eight years managing strategic change projects for Barclays and then Britannic Assurance plc, I was the ‘everything else’.
I can still remember deciding what we were going to call ourselves, registering the company name, buying the domain name and then writing a big list of everything that we needed to do to enable us to compete in a very established global marketplace.
I’m not sure if we were brave or crazy starting out on our own, but we had a clear idea about building a business that put customers, not products, at the heart of everything it did.
Tell us about your first foray into international markets.
Our first international customers came on board not long after we founded the company: only a handful – and some of whom Mark already knew either directly or indirectly through his previous roles – but enough for us to start building our overseas credentials and send out the message that our world, appetite and capabilities went beyond the UK.
We went ‘.com’ in 2013 and that’s when we really saw international interest increase. Back in 2004 we hadn’t been able to buy www.hydraulicsonline.com – the name had already been taken, but never developed, and so we established ourselves on www.hydraulicsonline.co.uk instead.
Eight years later in 2012, Mark discovered that the ‘.com’ URL was up for sale, albeit with a hefty price tag. And so, the negotiations and sleepless nights began… we knew the value of that name to us!
What difficulties did you face initially, and what are the ongoing challenges?
Building our credentials with overseas customers was crucial to gain their trust and level the playing field so that we could compete with their more local suppliers – suppliers speaking their language, in the same time zone, maybe even just down the road.
We often found ourselves, and still do, being asked to complete new vendor questionnaires and initially we couldn’t put a ‘tick’ in the ISO 9001 accreditation box.
After launching www.hydraulicsonline.com in 2013 I decided that we needed to secure ISO 9001 Quality Management accreditation. I chose the British Standards Association – as a world authority on management systems, accredited themselves through the United Kingdom Accreditation Service. We didn’t want to cut corners to get accredited quickly; we genuinely wanted to identify any opportunities to improve as a business. I also loved the very ‘Britishness’ of their brand and could see how they would work for us overseas too.
Having the accreditation now is so much more than a ‘tick in a box’. It reinforces our brand and our whole business culture of continuous improvement. I would urge any business to invest in accreditations that are relevant to them.
Ongoing challenges? I don’t think they are that different to the challenges here in the UK. For us it’s all about being responsive, demonstrating and delivering excellence in what we do, while being competitive and offering the customer good value: making them glad that they’ve found us.
What are the potential opportunities of exporting for small businesses?
They’re huge! Exporting is a growing part of our business; overall one in six of our customers comes from overseas, but in the last twelve months it’s risen to one in three.
We’re so fortunate in the UK: English is so widely spoken (consider that our website visitors use 189 preferred language settings between them), the British ‘brand’ is highly regarded and counts for quality, and Sterling is accepted as an international currency.
Add to that the fact that technology and communications make the world a small place as do the wealth of carrier networks and services that are available. We’ve yet to find anywhere that we can’t deliver to; it’s not always been straight-forward but we’ve exported to 130 countries to date and haven’t been beaten yet – onshore or offshore!
Any top tips for operating successfully overseas? What should businesses prioritise when considering exporting and/or increasing exports?
Our growth has been demand-led and organic – because we’ve got our proposition right, because we’ve put customers at the heart of our business. Genuinely. We’re offering what our customers want and they come to us. We then capture their feedback at every opportunity to make sure we stay in tune with their needs.
Despite being an ‘online’ business we aren’t automated. Our customers cannot ‘click and add to cart’ – we don’t believe in it. Hydraulic engineering is complicated, technical, and a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing or lead to a less than ideal solution. We’re not in the business of price points and ‘shifting boxes’.
Every enquiry we receive is personally handled by a member of our technical team – and from there we start to build a relationship and trust. Even in a business-to-business market, it’s human-to-human relationships at play.
We also work hard on maintaining our online presence – so that we can be found when people are searching for hydraulics – and on creating a strong first impression when visitors click through to our pages. We’re always aware our customers have suppliers much closer to home and we never lose sight of that. Our credentials – including customer testimonials, case studies, award wins, endorsements and ISO 9001 accreditation – all help build trust and reinforce our brand promise.
We then offer our customers real choice in how they can communicate with us – recognising that our customers do not all have English as their first language and live in very different time zones: it’s easy for our customers to deal with us.
What are your future plans?
We have a new website in build at the moment. It’s going to look and feel very different to our current site and enable us to showcase our offering and track record much more effectively than now.
But, crucially, it will be ‘internationalised’ in its architecture, design, content and messaging to enable us to appeal even more strongly to overseas visitors. We’re also going to be focussing on improving our communications with customers in key markets. I don’t want to give too much away, but we’re ready for a change – we’ve grown so much in the last 5 years and outgrown our current site.
Beyond that we will continue to invest in our own learning and development, and we’ll be recruiting as we continue to grow.
You can find the original article here: FSB First Voice
We are looking for a vibrant, experienced and ambitious marketing executive to join our award-winning team, and play a decisive role in the next stage of our growth…
*** UPDATE: 11 JUNE 2018 – POSITION FILLED ***
Somebody who stands out from the crowd, but blends perfectly within our team.
Multi award-winning, ISO 9001 quality management accredited, independent and therefore unbiased. A team with nearly 100 years’ technical experience in ‘innovative’ hydraulics system design and equipment supply. And a thoroughly global reach and outlook.
Hydraulics Online has supplied customers in 130 countries worldwide to date. Yes, 130 countries. We have earned awards, recognition and respect from those inside and outside of our industry for what we do, most notably: the Federation of Small Businesses, the Department for International Trade, Manchester Metropolitan University and the South Cheshire Chamber of Commerce.
That’s because despite being an ‘online’ business we don’t believe in being automated; we’re all about real people, knowledge, relationships, service. Real added value not just product sales.
A new role within our business with no catch
We are now looking for a standout, experienced and ambitious marketing executive to join our award-winning team, and play a decisive role in the next stage of our growth.
This is a new role within our business: a role that can be shaped by the successful candidate with the support of forward-thinking, progressive but pragmatic colleagues.
Whilst office-based in Alsager, the hours and working pattern are negotiable for the successful candidate.
There’s no catch – we just believe flexibility and striking the right home/work balance are crucial to ensure a happy, high-performing team who delight in giving great service delivered by the same shared values.
There’s also no closing date for applications; we’ll keep looking until we strike gold and find the right person.
Marketing Executive – Role Objective:
To support the Marketing Director in continuing to develop and create awareness of the Hydraulics Online brand and proposition worldwide.
Marketing Executive – Key Responsibilities:
- Support the marketing director in the development of marketing plans, initiatives and campaigns
- Communicate with target audiences and build and develop customer relationships
- Create marketing materials and content including blogs, newsletters and other e-material and stationery
- Write and proof-read marketing copy
- Run social media channels (e.g. Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn) to enhance audience engagement
- Evaluate and review marketing campaigns, advertising and SEO to ensure campaigns are effective
- Maintain and update customer databases
- Conduct customer and market research
- Develop relationships with key stakeholders, both internal and external
- Monitor and report on competitor activity
- Review website performance to inform and prioritise ongoing development activity
- Support the marketing director in delivering other agreed activities as required
Marketing Executive – Personal Attributes:
- Professional, honest with personality;
- Excellent, flexible and creative communicator – both written and verbal;
- Enthusiastic, adaptable team player who develops and maintains positive working relationships;
- Ambitious, with strong initiative, a ‘can do’ attitude to research and problem-solving and a keeper of promises;
- Highly effective in gathering and assimilating data;
- Self-motivated with excellent time management and prioritisation skills
As you’d expect, marketing and communications experience are essential, together with excellent ‘Office’ and publishing software skills.
If you think you this is you then, then we’d love to hear from you!
Please email your CV and covering letter explaining why it’s ‘us’ that ‘you’ are looking for, together with your availability and salary expectations to: firstname.lastname@example.org – and we’ll take it from there!
Hydraulics Online founders Mark and Helen recently had one of their most exciting interviews to date – with the radio reporters at Seabridge Primary School in Newcastle-under-Lyme
What a talented, professional bunch the radio team at Seabridge turned out to be. Under the careful guidance of Michelle Greenwell, teaching assistant and Seabridge Radio lead, the budding reporters asked some fantastic questions demonstrating their careful planning and research.
The school radio reporters began by taking it easy on the Hydraulics Online management team, asking about their roles and when they first set up their “wonderful company”. The answer was 2004: quite something to think that Helen and Mark’s interviewers weren’t even born when the business first started trading from a spare desk at home!
The young reporters’ questions soon moved on to more challenging territory discussing: where the company traded, ISO 9001 accreditation, how hydraulics work and are used, social media, marketing and how they might even begin a career in hydraulics. The session then culminated in some very unexpected “would you rather” choices: Helen and Mark both opted for ‘Maths’ over ‘English’ and ‘McDonalds’ over ‘KFC’ (other options weren’t available!).
Mark reflects: “We’ve had such an exciting time over the last few months – winning awards at our local Chamber of Commerce and then again at the Federation of Small Businesses has opened so many new doors for us – but this has been one of the most enjoyable and rewarding doors we’ve jumped through! Considering how young they are, the Seabridge radio children are really confident and professional: we loved being interviewed by them.”
Teaching assistant Michelle Greenwell is equally enthusiastic: “I love this side of my job – the children will leave this radio station remembering the guests they researched and interviewed forever and take away a bank of knowledge. By the time they leave for high school they are fully-fledged radio presenters. How fantastic, at this young age, to have these skills in ICT (information and communication technology), speaking, listening and social skills.”
She continues: “Mark and Helen were exactly what we hoped for – they explained how hydraulics are used in everyday life and offered a great insight into the projects Hydraulics Online are involved in. This gives the children a greater knowledge of the world they live in. Not only that, they may learn about a career that they wish to follow up as an adult, be inspired and follow in their footsteps
A future career
Mark certainly took the opportunity to explain how rewarding a career in the fluid power industry could be. He told the children that engineering is a fantastic career for anyone who likes creating and building things, before explaining that – despite being in the industry for nearly 30 years – he still learns something new every day.
Helen says, “it was great to hear the gasp from the children when they found out that we have sold to customers in 130 countries around the world – it really put what Hydraulics Online has achieved into perspective and made them realise just how widely hydraulics are used. It was fun to challenge them to guess how many different languages that represented – and I was impressed how accurate their answers were. Although I did joke with the children that my favourite question was whether we have won any awards: I think it’s important for them to see that, even as grown-ups, we are continuing to learn and improve ourselves and that hard work really does pay off!”
Hydraulics Online was recently awarded the title of “International Trader of the Year” as well as being declared winner of the “Excellence in Customer Service” award at the South Cheshire Chamber of Commerce and just last month was declared the Federation of Small Businesses’ “North West Business Exporter of the Year”.
To listen to the children’s interview in full CLICK HERE
If you have a story that could inspire Seabridge Radio listeners and reporters, please contact Michelle Greenwell: email@example.com
We did it again! Hydraulics Online is delighted to announce that we have been recognised as the North West Business Exporter of the Year in the 2018 National Federation of Small Businesses Awards
We’d like to extend a big “thank you” to all our team, customers and suppliers who have made it possible for Hydraulics Online to enjoy further award success – this time as the FSB’s North West Business Exporter of the Year.
The FSB’s Celebrating Small Businesses Awards showcase the best small businesses from the length and breadth of the UK, recognising those who have made the biggest impression over the last 12 months in 12 areas across the UK.
As experts in business, the Federation of Small Businesses offers its members a wide range of vital business services including advice, financial expertise, support and a powerful voice in government; their mission is to help smaller businesses achieve their ambitions.
The award was announced on 21st March, 2018 at the Mercure Blackburn Dunkenhalgh Hotel and Spa, Blackburn.
Phil McCabe, Development Manager for West Cheshire and Wigan at the Federation of Small Businesses commented: “It is very pleasing that Hydraulics Online won the export category in our FSB North West Business Awards. The firm offers a truly fantastic range of hydraulics products, making it an essential port of call for companies at home and abroad.
“The fact that it is a quality business is reflected in its continued success and growth, which also makes it a standard bearer in the area of international trade for other small businesses.
“In addition, Helen is a dynamic entrepreneur and a real inspiration. I congratulate her and all the staff who make the company so special.”
Recognition from the UK’s Department for International Trade
The award was also welcomed by Veronica Dawson, International Trade Adviser within the North West International Trade Team at the Department for International Trade. She said: “I have been working with Helen at Hydraulics Online for a few months now, and I am constantly impressed at the level of passion and commitment she continues to show to increasing the company profile both in the domestic and export marketplace.
“I know that Helen is now working with local students at Manchester Metropolitan University, offering essential experience in a work environment and is keen to mentor other SMEs in the region. I can’t think of a better role model – keep up the good work!”
Helen Baker, Operations Director and Co-Founder of Hydraulics Online, expressed her own delight in the company winning this recognition from an important local partner for the business. Helen said: “We’re absolutely thrilled to have won the Business Exporter of the Year award in the North West – especially since it follows on so quickly from the award successes we enjoyed at the end of 2017 at our local chamber awards.
“It is a wonderful recognition of the hard work of all our team and the relationships we’ve built with our suppliers and our customers since first launching Hydraulics Online 14 years ago.
“When we founded the company in 2004, we had little idea of how far we would come – but we have always had the same clear, strong vision for the customer-centric business we wanted to build. It might sound a bit crazy for an ‘online’ business to focus so heavily on customer service – traditionally the online model is associated with efficiency and cost reduction rather than excellence in customer service – but I strongly feel that it is that which has driven our success and these awards are a wonderful endorsement of that.”
2018 International Business Festival
Hydraulics Online has now been invited by the Federation of Small Businesses to attend the International Business Festival 2018 in Liverpool on 12th June as an exporting case study. The International Business Festival 2018 runs from 12 – 28 June at the Exhibition Centre on Liverpool’s Waterfront and is the world’s biggest international business festival.
The event is designed to deliver business growth through the sharing of knowledge, insight and ideas, enabling the creation of new, lucrative connections, with investors, buyers and partners, to secure future business. The Festival attracts more than 30,000 international industry professionals ranging from small SMEs to global market leaders – the people who play a key role in business strategy and success.
“We’re absolutely delighted to be invited to participate at this international biennial event as a speaker and exporting case study,” said Helen Baker of Hydraulics Online. “It’s another example of one of the most exciting aspects of our recent award wins; more doors are opening for us to work with leading local organisations, innovation leaders and our peers. It’s great that we have been given this opportunity to ‘pay it forward’ by sharing some of the lessons we have learnt along the way with other small businesses and start-ups as a business exporter now trading the whole world over.”
Find out more about FSB awards: https://fsbawards.co.uk/
Find out more about the International Business Festival: https://www.internationalbusinessfestival.com
Mark’s entry into the fluid power industry was more than a little by chance but he now finds himself leading a team of ‘go to’ hydraulic consultants for an impressive portfolio of UK and global clients alike
Having studied mechanical engineering at the local technical college in Crewe, Cheshire, he was invited to interview at a local hydraulic component distribution business. “They were looking for someone with mechanical aptitude,” Mark explains, “and within two weeks I had started on the job.”
The position gave Mark a firm grounding in hydraulic engineering. “Pretty much everything I know about the fluid power industry has been learnt from within,” says Mark.
A leap into the unknown
That first job was nearly 30 years ago. And in the years that followed, Mark has built up an extensive network of industry contacts worldwide and worked for just two businesses: his first employer and Hydraulics Online.
“About 14 years ago, the company that I was working for underwent significant restructuring and I could see the writing was on the wall,” says Mark. “Helen and I had only recently found each other again and my main thoughts were about keeping the house, the mortgage and providing for our young family.”
While thoughts of building a globally trading business might have been a long way from Mark’s mind at that time, he did know of half a dozen customers who couldn’t find the hydraulics supply service they needed and who were keen to buy from him.
“So that was it – we decided to go for it and set up Hydraulics Online from a spare desk at home. And not in my wildest dreams did I ever think that one day we would be trading around the world the way we do ,” Mark says. “But we’ve always been geared up to giving good, professional technical advice and getting the customer service right – and, if you do that, people believe in you and come on board. Hydraulics Online has just blossomed… it’s far exceeded any expectations I had.”
When Mark’s previous firm then went into administration, a few year’s after Helen and Mark established Hydraulics Online, Mark was in the privileged position of being able to offer a job to a former colleague whose approach he has always valued.
“Steve was our first member of staff when we recruited him into the technical team,” remembers Mark. “He has been with us for over 8 years now, and I think we have about 60 years of industry experience between us.”
Hydraulic consultants – never just box shifters
Working with the extensive contacts Mark and the team have established across the industry over this time is one of the perks of the job for Mark, while at the same time being one of the value-adds of the Hydraulics Online offer.
The good contacts and substantial experience and know-how of Mark, Steve and the rest of the technical team mean that Hydraulics Online generates real value add as hydraulic consultants to its customers; and has avoided the trap that so many online businesses fall into – of becoming ‘box shifters’.
“Of course we can ship repeat orders or replacement parts rapidly, if that’s what you need,” says Mark, “but we’ll also challenge you to make sure that what you are ordering really is the right part for the right price.
“Because of the preferential pricing we enjoy with the major suppliers and – through our independence – the sheer reach of our product range, many of our customers use us as a single source of supply, consolidating previous relationships from multiple hydraulic suppliers.”
“We offer the complete package,” says Mark, “and as hydraulic consultants that means we get involved with some nice, complicated systems design projects. It’s work that our own suppliers really recognise us for too.”
Hundreds of original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) have taken advantage of this technical expertise over the years, asking for support in bringing all sorts of – sometimes crazy – ideas and innovations to life. “I genuinely can’t think of an industry where we haven’t been asked to work,” says Mark, “But most of these projects are highly confidential: we’re talking new product development – helping our customers to gain competitive advantage and be first to market with their ideas. That means signing non-disclosure agreements, which we are always happy to do, of course.”
Some of the non-confidential projects to which this approach has opened doors include working with Heritage Concorde to bring the iconic aircraft’s droop nose to life again at both the Imperial War Museum, Duxford and Brooklands Museum, Surrey and a unique project with students at the University of Edinburgh.
Hydraulic Consultants for the future
“When we were asked by the HypED team to help them develop the hydraulic systems for their entry in Elon Musk’s Hyperloop challenge, we were just thrilled to be a part of their project as the hydraulic consultants to their team,” remembers Mark. “We needed to get them to the point where they had a fail-safe system, so we compiled a small test rig with our partners at Fluidlink. Getting that system off the drawing board and seeing it perform perfectly the first time we tested it was a brilliant feeling of achievement. Taking something like that one-off design from a design concept on paper into production gives us an indescribable sense of satisfaction when it works.”
“It also evidences that customers value what we are offering. I remember Helen asking the president of HypED why they had chosen to work with Hydraulics Online. And his answer was spot on when he said it was because ‘we are a truly integrated hydraulics supplier – not just the sales extension of a larger company,’ ” said Mark
Today, the technical team has grown to include two more hydraulic experts: Jordan and Ian – bringing the combined technical expertise to nearly 100 years and enabling Mark to concentrate on larger and bespoke projects.
“There’s always something new to design on my desk,” says Mark, “but now I have such a great team with me, I can step out of the engine room every now and again and take a more strategic view of the business alongside Helen.
Federation of Small Businesses Award Finalist: North West Business Exporter of the Year
We rarely take a step back to celebrate our successes and see how far we’ve come. But there is value in doing so. For the Hydraulics Online team, entering our local South Cheshire Chamber of Commerce (SCCCI) awards at the end of 2017 was a fantastic opportunity to gain that perspective and consider how other people view our business.
To be named winner of two awards – for international trade and excellence in customer service – and be highly commended in the Ambassador of the Year category was a wonderful acknowledgement of all our hard work.
The award wins have led to some wonderful opportunities – from working with our local Department of International Trade (DIT) team to developing a strong relationship with Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU), the judges of the SCCCI International Trader of the Year award.
Hydraulics Online Operations Director, Helen Baker, has given a talk to global marketing students at MMU about our international marketing strategies, and we are working with the MMU Business School on their SMART Cheshire Innovation Programme.
We are also supporting two third year MMU Business Management degree students with eight-week work-based learning placements.
FSB Business Exporter of the Year Award
Our strengthening relationship with the DIT led us to enter the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) regional Business Exporter of the Year award at the start of 2018. Veronica Dawson, DIT has been very supportive of our international strategy.
Following the SCCCI award wins she said, “If you have enthusiasm and passion and you combine that with excellent customer services – which Hydraulics Online do – you can succeed in exports.”
“If you have enthusiasm and passion and you combine that with excellent customer services – which Hydraulics Online do – you can succeed in exports.” Veronica Dawson, International Trade Adviser, Department of International Trade
We are now delighted to announce that Hydraulics Online has been named as a finalist for the FSB Business Exporter of the Year in the North West region. It is another important recognition of the hard work of all the Hydraulics Online team and our determination to put South Cheshire firmly on the global hydraulics map.
Despite being more than 4,000 miles away, this roofing and construction manufacturer on the Caribbean island of Barbados relies on great service from Hydraulics Online – because to keep production running, the swift supply of parts is absolutely essential.
From its factory in Barbados, this company manufactures a range of products used in the construction industry, including welded wire mesh for concrete reinforcement, reinforcing steel bars, corrugated roof cladding, gutters and hurricane shutters.
Because most of its products are manufactured on a “to order” basis, if there is a problem on any of the production machines this doesn’t only bring production to a halt – it can cause serious delays for its construction company customers too.
With this in mind, it is important to the firm that replacement parts and machinery arrive quickly when something goes wrong. Production manager, Ricky explains: “We aim to supply our customers in 24 hours, because they need parts quickly. I only have one machine of each type, so when a machine is not working it has a significant impact on our business – the whole production line can be finished. It’s bad news for us and our customers.”
“I don’t think Hydraulics Online has ever refused an order or been unable to source what I needed.” Ricky, Production Manager
The Search for a Reliable Hydraulics Supplier
In the course of ongoing maintenance and repairs, Ricky’s machines can require a variety of components, including hydraulics pumps, cylinders and motors.
Unfortunately, Ricky’s existing hydraulics supplier were not as efficient as he needed them to be – so Ricky needed to look for something better.
“With my old suppliers, there were delays in their response to my enquiry. Then they were slow getting back to me. And the alternatives they suggested were expensive,” Ricky explains.
As a result, Ricky began to look for a new hydraulics supplier that could deliver the service he required. He found Hydraulics Online while searching on the Internet and, in September 2011, placed his first order with Hydraulics Online – a hydraulic motor for an “obsolete” machine.
Ricky says: “From day one, Hydraulics Online has been excellent. They get back to me straight away. They offer extremely competitive pricing. And the delivery is excellent.”
Because some of Ricky’s machines are old, finding the replacement parts he needs isn’t always easy.
Ricky’s first order with Hydraulics Online was for a very old machine for which he had experienced some challenges finding parts. But the Hydraulics Online came back to him with a quote for a suitable replacement part straight away.
Ricky has been very impressed with the speed at which the team at Hydraulics Online can source a suitable part for him. “If they can’t find the exact part,” says Ricky, “they come back to me quickly with suggestions for alternatives. To date, Hydraulics Online has always been able to satisfy every requirement. I don’t think they’ve ever refused an order or been unable to find a part I needed.”
“From day one, Hydraulics Online has been excellent.” Ricky, Production Manager.
Despite being more than 4,000 miles away, the delivery of parts has always been timely, quick and as promised.
With flights running regularly from the UK to Barbados with a variety of operators, the delivery of the parts from Hydraulics Online has been speedy – keeping disruptions to a minimum on the production line and for Ricky’s customers.
“Speed is important to me,” says Ricky, “and if Hydraulics Online can’t find what I need, they find an alternative quickly and arrange shipment very quickly. The service from Hydraulics Online is the best.”
When its local supplier couldn’t provide the hydraulic part Mark Westaway & Son needed for its hay baling machine, it turned to Hydraulics Online for help – and sourced a more robust and suitable part for the job.
Mark Westaway & Son has produced HorseHage, the original dust-free horse forage, from its farmland in Devon since the late 1970s. The innovative horse feed product was created to solve the problem of dust in hay which can result in respiratory problems for some horses.
The company was awarded the Royal Warrant in 1983 after Her Majesty the Queen’s horse, Burmese, was fed HorseHage when suffering from a respiratory problem. It now supplies HorseHage to the Royal Mews at Buckingham Palace and, since the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, has been the official supplier of dust-free forage to The British Equestrian Team.
Since agricultural production is highly seasonal, the company’s maintenance of equipment takes place out of season to maximise productivity. During the summer months, whenever the weather is good, the company’s harvesting and baling machinery will be operating throughout the daylight hours.
“Hydraulics Online impressed with their speed of service and helpful attitude.” Chris Tar, General Manager, Mark Westway & Son
With performance being critical to its prestigious customers, a high-quality product and secure, uninterrupted supply is vital. “You’ve got to get everything ready; you can’t wait ‘til you start work,” explains Chris Tar, Manager and son-in-law of the company’s Founder, Mark Westaway.
It was during an annual maintenance check in 2018 that Chris’s team identified a hydraulic control panel on one of the baling machines that required replacing. Chris’s first response was to reach out to his local supplier, but they weren’t able to help.
“Normally we’d deal with the local supplier but they didn’t have this particular part and they weren’t particularly helpful, so we set about finding it ourselves,” explains Chris.
“One of my team began searching for possible hydraulic suppliers on the internet and we found Hydraulics Online. It was our first time ordering with them and the service was very good.”
Good Supplier Relationships
Hydraulics Online was able to quickly source a suitable replacement part for Mark Westaway & Son. Thanks to its extensive knowledge and experience of hydraulics in agricultural applications, Hydraulics Online was also able to suggest a more robust model that would have a longer life in the field.
Chris was impressed by both the helpfulness and speed of the service: “Agriculture is a fairly tough environment. In the field, there is a lot of vibration, lots of dust, and electronic components don’t last that long.”
“Hydraulics Online helped us get a heavier duty bit of kit.” Chris Tar, General Manager, Mark Westaway & Son
“Hydraulics Online helped us to get a heavier duty bit of kit this time,” says Chris.
The extra longevity built into the equipment will help Chris and his team maximise production hours – and ensure that the company’s high-quality product can reach its customers.
Chris was happy with the delivery. The part arrived in good time and the baling machine is now back to full working order ready for when the busy summer harvesting season starts from May until September. Chris says: “I will be very happy to use Hydraulics Online again.”