Earlier this year there was a change to ReAgent’s board of directors with previous managing director Richard Hudson moving into the role of CEO, and Simon Tasker taking on the managing director role.
Simon talked to us about his first six months in the role, the best advice he’s ever been given, how he got to where he is today, and a very weird thing that he loves.
Hi, Simon. Firstly, tell us a little bit about your background.
Well, I’m a local, having grown up in Cheshire via a brief period in Melbourne, Australia. As a child I was always interested in mechanical design, things like LEGO and Meccano, and then in high school I became more interested in maths, science, and design. I completed a BA in Engineering Studies at Coventry University.
My degree involved engineering project management and I found my strengths in project planning, reporting, data analysis, teamwork, and presenting – basically, the business side of things. This experience made me realise that I really wanted a manufacturing role, something like planning, purchasing or supply chain. University also changed me in a positive way as a person, giving me more confidence and making me stronger and more resilient.
What happened after university and at the start of your career?
After uni, I found it difficult to find a suitable manufacturing role but eventually I got my first manufacturing job for a steel fabrication firm, transferring data from old manufacturing instructions to a new computer system and MRP. It sounds tedious, but it was actually good in that I had to quickly learn and understand each part of the manufacturing process and how to reinput it into the newer, more automated system. It taught me a lot about the production process, and I went on to become a production planner there.
Then I got my first management role as the manufacturing manager for an acoustics manufacturing firm. I was learning the ropes of being a manager on my feet as it was a newly created role – and it was also here that I got the best piece of advice I’ve received, and still abide by to this day. The MD said to me, “you can never expect anyone to do anything that you wouldn’t be willing to do yourself.” I truly believe this.
After the acoustics company was bought out I moved on to a role at the Manufacturing Institute. As a business development executive, I matched support and funding for SME manufacturers to the relevant consultants at the Institute who would support their growth and development. It was here that I gained sales experience – and it was also here that I engaged with ReAgent as one of the SMEs I was working with.
How did you end up working at ReAgent?
I got on well with Rich Hudson, then ReAgent’s MD, while I was working at the Manufacturing Institute. In fact, we’d been to the same school although we were in different years. Rich headhunted me, and I joined ReAgent in 2011 as general manager. ReAgent was (and still is) a massively growing company and they needed more resource at management level to help bridge the gap between what the board wanted to achieve and implementing this vision. To support this, I also completed a part-time MSc in Manufacturing Leadership. ReAgent continued to grow, and in 2015 I became operations director, moving onto the board of directors and being responsible for manufacturing, planning, processes, and the relevant teams.
Following our factory move, which was my biggest project and greatest achievement at ReAgent to date, I was made managing director in January 2019.
How did it feel to become MD?
To be honest, I was completely surprised! I was also elated, and immensely proud – I still am. At board level, nothing has changed too much as it’s always been a real team effort. Day-to-day, I try to make sure I’m much more aware of everything that’s going on across the business, with regular meetings and lots of communication between all departments. We have a great team here and they definitely make my job easier!
I’m also very conscious to keep on learning, so I’m taking courses with the Institute of Directors. I think it’s really important to keep learning because while I’m at the age I am I can’t know everything. I try to surround myself with people who have the knowledge to support me and help me learn in my role.
What’s been the best thing so far?
I’m really proud that recently we’ve had our best ever month in terms of sales, and we also attained 97% on time in full delivery in the same month. But that’s not down to me in particular, it was an amazing effort across all departments. Everyone really pulled together to make it happen.
What are your ambitions for ReAgent?
Overall, it’s to continue on our strong growth trajectory, and we have the expertise, knowledge, and skills to be able to do that. In the short term, I want to continue to deliver on our three-year business plan. In the medium term, we have growth ambitions into other markets that I am very keen to support.
And finally, what’s an unusual habit or a weird thing that you love?
I can’t believe I’m going to admit this, but it’s Peppa Pig. I have two young daughters who over the last five years have forced me to love it. I’ve been to Peppa Pig World three or four times, and it’s just ingrained in me. I understand what the kids love about it, and I appreciate the hidden adult jokes.