Milexa managing director Richard Wilde is always looking to the future and has big ambitions for his fast-growing wallpaper and flooring design company. But, like many entrepreneurs, he realised that to successfully scale the business he would need to become less hands-on.
Richard Wilde is a man in a hurry. He set up Milexa, a wallpaper, flooring design and manufacturing company, soon after leaving university ten years ago. Since then, the business has grown 40 per cent year on year. Sales this year are £7m, up from just over £1m three years ago. There are 47 staff and the Liverpool-based company sells its products in 61 different countries.
“We’ve had really good growth the past three years, but we were suffering from growing pains. A bigger business needs more people and processes, and I was finding that what worked well even two years ago had stopped working so well.
“I kept saying to myself ‘I don’t know what to do’ and I realised I needed some help to manage the transition,” he said.
Becoming a “leader of leaders”
“I realised that to take advantage of opportunities and overcome the challenges involved in growing a business, we needed a totally different approach. In essence, that would involve me becoming a ‘leader of leaders’, being less hands-on and delegating responsibility further down the organisation. But I didn’t really know where to start,” Richard said.
Someone from a local business network pointed him in the direction of the Mentoring for Growth scheme. Be the Business matched Richard with Sachin Jogia, general manager for Alexa Smart Home International at Amazon.
“It is obviously a great opportunity to be able to work with someone at that level in such a great company – particularly one that is technology-focused, as we are,” he said.
Aligning aspirations with interests
The pair had an initial call in January. Sachin was all set to visit Milexa in March to meet Richard face-to-face and get a feel for the business.
Lockdown meant that couldn’t happen, but the online relationship has been very productive. This is partly because Sachin, who runs an international team at Amazon, is well-versed in long-distance video calls.
In the first call, Sachin encouraged Richard to reflect on what he most enjoys at work.
“It’s a way of teasing out whether someone’s aspirations are aligned with their interests,” Sachin said.
Richard usually focuses on the future, but this approach has forced him to broaden his mindset.
“I don’t often reflect. I get too involved in the detail. Now I’m aware of that, I can structure things so that I still get to do it, but I can build in safeguards to stop it getting out of control.”
Sharing values with others
One of the biggest safeguards is to imbue others with the values of the business, so that they instinctively behave in a way that is true to the company’s founding principles.
Understanding how to scale the culture as the business grows is one of the most valuable insights Richard has gained from working with Sachin.
“I’ve been working very hard on that for the past few months and it has had a really big effect,” he said.
Milexa has six core values:
- Be sharp
- Support and grow
- Customer focus
- Be a pioneer
- Be remarkable
- Make it happen
Each value is underpinned by tangible actions. Under “Support and grow” for example, there are the following actions:
- Team player
- Helps and grows others
- Makes a positive difference
“People can see exactly how they need to behave to support our values. We have remodelled all our business processes, from planning to execution, to ensure the values are embedded,” Richard said.
This approach is already working. Richard has delegated accountability for planning to those who are closer to the action.
“People have responded very positively – they understand what we’re doing and why. We’ve got more focused plans for next year than we’ve had for the past five years. There’s a real sense of excitement about the future.”
You can see why. His ambition is “to build the world’s leading online brands for responsibly-produced wall and floor design by 2023”. Now, his team knows how to get there.
Looking for advice or business guidance? Learn more about the Mentoring for Growth programme.