GSE Expo Report 2000
Cockerel Crows Once More
By Richard Rowe
Life has been a struggle for ground support multinational Teleflex Lionel Dupont (TLD) in recent years, but a fresh face at the top has helped the company tackle its inner demons. Richard Rowe reports on a remarkable turnaround.
It’s not often that a company’s senior management team disagrees so vehemently with its Chair that many choose to leave the organization rather than follow the lead of the boss, but that’s exactly what happened at Teleflex Lionel Dupont (TLD).
While senior management agreed that TLD should be a global supplier, it disagreed fundamentally with the approach. Dabbling in what was seen by many as non-core activity was unacceptable. So, too, were the centralization of all sales and marketing activities in Paris, rather than the empowering of regional offices so that they could react quickly and efficiently. The resulting decline in sales, and stiff competition from local suppliers, saw management mutiny on a grand scale.
Alain Fribourg must have wondered what he had inherited on arrival as the company’s new Chair in February 1999. "The situation was that we had lost a lot of people because of the problem between the Chairman’s strategy and top management’s opinion of it," explains Fribourg. "Second, we were losing money across all of our U.S. operations."
The feeling of destabilization had been exacerbated by a failed takeover of the company by HEICO in mid-1998. HEICO, of course, has since bought and then sold Trilectron--a competitor to TLD’s ACE equipment--to Hobart. The only good news for TLD at the time was that it had cash in the bank from the sale of its Teleflex-Syneravia/Precilec division to another French group, Intertechnique.
The U.S. part of the business, in particular, was limping badly. Having hit a high of US$25 million in 1997, sales dropped to $20 million in 1998, and $3 million by the first quarter of 1999. Lantis, based in Salinas, California, had some technical issues to overcome which, although minor, did little to boost the credibility of the company’s range of loaders through which it had made its name.
In Europe, the company’s operation was relatively healthy business-wise, but plagued by key departures in personnel. Similarly, the head of the Asian regional operation, Allen Fu, also took his leave, while the economic situation in the region was a cruel blow to TLD’s sales.
Step one for Fribourg was to demonstrate a business strategy that would not only convince departed senior management to return to the fold but also persuade those about to jump ship that there remained an attractive future for them at TLD.
With remarkable vigor, Fribourg spent the first two months of his tenure meeting with all of the people who had left the company during the last two years. "I tried to convince them to come back," he says simply.
One of those who returned to the fold was Antoine Maguin, ex-Chair of TLD Europe (known as AET at the time), who has since taken on the post of CEO of TLD America. The decision was easy, Maguin told GSE Today. "All the [old] top management at TLD loved the company and the business was very interesting," he says. "We really didn’t want to leave. When Alain came to me and said that we would get back to a strategy of product development, customer support and proper product management, I was ready to return."
Fribourg demonstrated a keen desire for open lines of communication, something that was sadly lacking in the previous regime, says Maguin.
Some months before, Allen Fu had also been convinced by Fribourg to return as CEO of TLD Asia based in Hong Kong, while Fribourg himself took on the position of CEO of TLD Europe and Jacques Roux remained responsible for sales. Elsewhere, key sales staff, and others on the point of moving, also stayed.
Since 1972, Trilectron/Air-A-Plane has manufactured a broad line of aircraft ground support equipment for corporate business jets and turboprops to regional and commercial airlines. Trielectron...