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April/May 2017


The Manufacturers GM Business Connect are always supportive of membership organisations, particularly when they support the sharing of best practice among specific sectors. We caught up with Gary Sheader, Founder and Chairman of the Manufacturers Alliance, to find out more about the organisation that is specifically set up to support the Manufacturing sector:

Tell us about your background and why you started the Manufacturers Alliance “I have spent my whole life in manufacturing; I started out as an apprentice at BAE Systems so I had a great start. I’ve worked for some great people and been lucky in the investments they have made in me. “I absolutely love the manufacturing sector and the people in it. Just over 7 years ago I had an ambition to do something different, I wasn’t sure what but I knew I wanted to run my own business, rather than work as an employee. “I set out as a consultant to help improve clients’ efficiency and productivity in manufacturing. This slowly transitioned toward working at a more strategic level with MDs. They


were looking for neutral conversation and this is where the spark came for the Alliance – to connect like-minded people, e.g. where MDs could meet and share their different skills and experience with each other. So the Alliance was formed four years ago.”

“Members are open and share their best practices in all aspects of their business including sales and marketing, as well as the operational How has the Manufacturers Alliance aspects of manufacturing itself. grown? How many are involved? Over time, in sharing best practice, members are pollinating each other’s “We started out as a pilot to test the businesses and we get hybrids, super model (membership with monthly factories. subscriptions). We were a pilot group of 11 North West SME manufacturing “We also dedicate half of the day to businesses stretching from Accrington peer to peer problem solving, where the light bulb moments really happen to Liverpool and as far south as for the members.” Knutsford - and it worked really well. “To grow it into new regions and create new groups I knew I had to find like-minded people with similar values, who wanted to support manufacturing businesses and help me to accelerate the growth of our members. We have 8 chair people now based in the North West, all with manufacturing backgrounds. “Further to the Chairs, we also have an approved list of Speakers and Associates that add value to manufacturing and share new ideas with the members via interactive workshops.” What is the advantage of joining the Manufacturers Alliance?

Gary Sheader, Founder and Chairman, The Manufacturing Alliance

on key areas that are working well for them, and what they see as the ‘blueprints to their success’.

“It is a safe place for senior people in manufacturing to meet each other, share ideas and support each other in solving business growth challenges. As part of the membership, the members get to meet every month for a full day involving informal networking and a factory tour of the hosting member who also drills down

Is there ever any problem with sharing best practices in terms of competition? “All the members are non-competing manufacturing businesses. This is paramount. The criteria is that when people apply to join as members the existing members decide whether or not the people introduced as prospects fit into the group. They should be ambitious people like them and open to sharing and learning with the group.” How do you see the Manufacturers Alliance developing over the next few months/year? “The West and South Manchester groups are almost at capacity, with room for 3 or 4 members in each.

“We are in the process of launching groups in Lancashire and West Yorkshire this year. Our plan is to have 40 ambitious manufacturers within our 4 groups by the end of the year. Beyond 2017 we see more peer groups in the Greater Manchester area, and are keen to meet people who would be interested in exploring this further.” Is there an optimum size of group? If so, why? “We cap the membership at 14 businesses per group. Beyond that, the value would become diluted. We work very intensely with our members and we want them to take great value from the group meetings. “The members also meet outside of the monthly meetings to share more best practice between their varying departments and staff, trying new things and feeding back to us, such as, production teams meetings with production teams, sales teams meeting with sales teams, etc. “There is an opportunity for cross selling, although the main reasons our members join is to meet like-minded people with similar ambitions for themselves and their businesses. They can learn how to be effective as leaders as well as improve the performances of their businesses in this fast changing world which is being labelled the 4th Industrial Revolution.”

To find out more please contact Gary Sheader, Group Chairman on 01204 410062 or email

GM Business Connect April.May 2017  

April/May Edition of Greater Manchester's fastest growing B2B Magazine

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