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Strathclyde programme leads to business growth

By Jacqui McLaughlin - Posted on 6 September 2018

Taking part in Strathclyde Business School's Growth Advantage Programme helped Jacqui McLaughlin, Chief Executive of Reactec, open up new opportunities for the business.

I worked in large corporations for a large part of my career before working for a SME company called Reactec, a provider of monitoring and management platforms for exposure to hand arm vibration from power tool use, a cause of a serious industrial disease Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS).

Reactec was a spin-out from Edinburgh University back in 2001 and our principle investor is Archangels who have supported us all the way through. Reactec started as an engineering consultancy specialising in vibration related issues and its effect. Regulations were introduced in 2005 restricting exposure (typically from power tool use) to vibration due to its causing permanent damage to the hands, both to the neurological system and blood vessels. This used to be known as vibration white finger, but is now commonly known as HAVS.

There is no cure for HAVS but it’s entirely preventable and Reactec invests considerable resources to promote the awareness of HAVS. It not only affects people physically but it can also be mentally debilitating causing anxiety, stress and fatigue that, if not dealt with, can remain with sufferers for a lifetime.

Reactec set about developing a technology that would help manage HAVS risk and a product was launched to market in 2008 which was mounted on a tool and which tracked its use. This was well received and the business grew strongly before starting to plateau in 2012. I joined Reactec in 2014 to help stimulate the business into growth again. We looked at the demand – there was legislation requiring employers to assess and restrict the use of vibrating machinery, so why was the technology not being adopted more broadly? We concluded a product was required with a lower price point and which more directly determined the risk to the individual.

We decided to develop a wearable wrist worn monitor which would deliver a more direct assessment of hand arm vibration exposure risk of the tool operator so in 2016 we launched HAVwear, a device that monitors in real time an individual’s exposure to vibration when using power tools. Consequently, since the product's launch, the business has shown strong growth.

Mid-2017 our investors, Archangels, were approached by Strathclyde regarding the Growth Advantage Programme and asked if any of their portfolio of businesses would gain from a programme designed around managing fast growth. I recognised Reactec had the potential to grow extremely quickly and wanted to ensure I had the relevant tool kit to help manage the business through its challenges and saw GAP as a good fit.

I found the GAP programme to be extremely informative, well-delivered and the quality of the learning was excellent. It was also helpful to be in an environment with people in similar circumstances – those with high growth businesses and passionate about their business. There was a wide spectrum of both company offerings, markets and industry sectors which was also valuable.

In anyone’s career, you come from one direction – maybe sales or marketing or a technical background - and you end up in a role as a leader or manager that is by definition generalist. Gaining a broad idea of business management is difficult to capture in one programme but GAP does that very well. It was also appealing in terms of time. The timetable was effective but not overly demanding so you are still able to manage your business and to incorporate the learning as you go. It’s been very well designed for the SME market.

One of the most important things to come out of the programme was the ‘Blue Ocean’ thinking which has led to Reactec introducing a new way of working and a new product offering called the HAVrisk kit. We are now marketing the kit to a parallel sector of new consumers, having re-purposed an existing product - using the same core technology but re-packaged for the risk assessment environment. This new packaged offering has also allowed the HAVrisk Kit to be sold online without the need for sales meetings or demonstration which has also streamlined our sales process and related overheads.

As a business leader, stepping away from an organisation where you are a critical part can be difficult but GAP was an excellent balance of content, and time in between modules allows you to put that learning into immediate use.

Interested in the Growth Advantage Programme? Find out more here



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