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Good Succession Planning Comes Into Play as Third Generation Prepares to Lead Andrew Mentis

Leading engineering and manufacturing company Andrew Mentis is successfully navigating its way through a leadership succession from second to third generation family members, following the February 2012 retirement of Roy Mentis, who served as the company’s engineering director.

“Roy was the last of the second generation family members to serve the company in an operational capacity,” Andrew Mentis junior, grandson of founder Andrew Mentis and the company’s deputy managing director, says. “The third generation is now poised to lead the company once the current managing director, Chris Green, retires at the end of 2012.

“Succession planning has been in place for the last 10 years and was instigated as a result of the large number of key family and non-family managers that were due to retire between 2010 and 2012. Several high potential candidates, including myself, have been on carefully formulated development plans. The purpose of these plans has been to assess the candidates’ suitability for senior leadership positions and to grow them into these leadership roles.

“From last year, this next generation of business leaders have been running our own strategy sessions with the assistance of outside facilitators and the input of the current board. During these sessions we’ve completely unpacked the business and tried to analyse every element of the business with a fresh pair of eyes. We’ve determined which elements have been successful in the past and which areas need attention going forward. We’ve also done scenario planning exercises so that we’re not basing our planning on one specific future outcome, but rather on a range of possible outcomes. The sum of all this information has created a blueprint to guide the business in the next two years.

“We know what we do well and why customers keep coming back to us and we want to build on this, with a particular focus on driving up customer service levels.”

The young and vibrant leadership team, supported by the wisdom of the outgoing leaders, has also come up with a ten-year growth strategy addressing all business areas, which has been endorsed by Andrew Mentis’ shareholders.

“In the past most company decision making took place at the shareholder level, but now we’re empowering the executive and management teams to make certain decisions themselves,” says Mentis. “We’re also evaluating the composition of the Board to ensure we have the right level of decision makers. We’re viewing this as a step change since the company’s owners are no longer operationally involved in the business.

“To this end, we’re in the process of drawing up what we’ve called a ‘family constitution’, modelled on that of other leading family businesses, to create a means of regulating the interaction of the family with the businesses within the Mentis Group. The idea behind the constitution is to separate family decisions from business decisions, but still give a forum for family members outside the shareholder structure and the business leadership an opportunity to interact with each other.

“The family’s objective is to leave a legacy from generation to generation. We’re trying to instil a sense, in the family and the business leadership, that each generation is a custodian of this legacy and they have a responsibility to ensure they hand it over to the next generation in an improved state from what they received it in. The plan is to tap into the sound fundamentals of the business to drive our future success and also to learn from other family businesses that have successfully transitioned from second generation to third generation and beyond.”

The key areas the next leadership generation have identified as part of our ten year growth strategy are customer service, human resources, innovation and production efficiencies and global expansion.

The changing of the company guard will include a fresh focus on human resources, in terms of attracting, retaining and motivating a dedicated and loyal talent pool. Mentis says that although the company employs many long-serving employees, there is a need to keep up with the times and ensure a contemporary approach to employment in terms of salaries, incentive schemes and working conditions, if Andrew Mentis is to remain a company of choice for its employees.

“Our competitive edge is another primary focus area, consolidating our dominant position in the local market. The main focus being on improving the service we give to our local customers. In addition we will begin putting energy into marketing, brand awareness and brand penetration in the global arena,” he adds. “We realise that to play in the global space we need to become more dynamic and flexible, without taking our eyes off the ball locally.”

Product development will be approached on the basis of improving production efficiencies and innovating plant and equipment, a process that will be driven by robust R&D.  The latest innovation is new technology introduced into the handrailing and grating departments, which has greatly increased capacities.

Mentis junior, who holds a BBusSc with Honours in Finance and is a qualified chartered accountant, moved back to the family business at the beginning of 2007 after having worked for eight years in the petrochemical sector for BP in London. Mentis is also managing director of Killarney Engineering and is on the board of directors for the other companies in the Mentis Group.

Established in 1950 Andrew Mentis (Pty) Ltd was established in 1950 as a precision engineering works and subsequently went into the development and manufacture of steel grating. In 1959 Gripweld grating was produced in South Africa by Andrew Mentis, followed by the unique Rectagrid grating in 1967. Through ongoing research and development, Andrew Mentis has become a leading manufacturer of grating.

The company has been successful in gaining a share in overseas markets and locally has supplied vast quantities of quality products to all of the major industrial sectors including power generation, mining, petrochemical, motor, construction, food, paper and steel. In addition to grating, the company offers expanded metal, Mentrail (guardrails for roads), industrial handrail systems, Dieline and steel floor tiles.

Andrew Mentis has been located at its current 50 000 m² manufacturing facility in North Reef Road, Elandsfontein on the East Rand for the past 50 years. The company manufactures and distributes all its products.

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