Gooch & Housego

Chief Operations Officer

The challenge

Gooch & Housego PLC is an AIM listed photonics technology business headquartered in Ilminster Somerset, UK, with operations in the USA and Europe. A world leader in its field, the company researches, designs, engineers and manufactures advanced photonic systems, components and instrumentation for applications in the Aerospace and Defence, Industrial, Life Sciences and Scientific Research sectors. The company has a turnover of £60 million and around 600 employees.

After a spate of acquisitions over the last decade and a number of senior executives planning to retire from the business, the company was seeking to strengthen the board with a highly experienced COO who would help to consolidate the various acquisitions in the UK and USA and become a potential successor to the CEO over time.

“The feedback from the Nominations Committee was that both candidates were an excellent fit for the role”

After a competitive pitch Warren Partners was awarded the assignment predominantly because of the time we took to really understand the nature of the brief and the company prior to being awarded the work. We did this because it was a particularly challenging brief. COOs of the calibre Gooch & Housego were seeking typically worked for very large, often global businesses. Consequently their career preference would either be to become CEO of the business they were already in or move to become CEO of another business. Making a "sideways move" to a smaller business and only the prospect of becoming CEO in the future was a difficult sell and an opportunity that was only likely to appeal to candidates who took a longer term view and were totally confident in their suitability for the COO role now and the CEO role in the future. Additionally they would need to have a collaborative approach with people management skills to successfully implement significant business change in a company that was very proud of its heritage and paternalistic towards its employees.

The outcome

Warren Partners focused predominantly on candidates with a manufacturing background working within the Defence and Life Sciences sectors who could bring business change expertise. This would enhance the Gooch & Housego Board and enable the company to apply this expertise to better serve the US and Pan European markets that were key to Gooch & Housego's future.

The initial list of 13 candidates had an in-depth face-to face interview with us. Following this, six had interviews with Gooch & Housego's Chairman and CEO and two went forward for interview with the Nominations Committee. In addition full background checks were completed on the final two candidates.

The feedback from the Nominations Committee was that both candidates were an excellent fit for the role. The role was awarded to Alex Warnock, COO of Optos who has an extensive track record in international markets and broad experience of new product introduction (NPI), particularly of complex electronic products. He previously held the positions of Director, Global CAS Technology and Development for DePuy iOrthopaedics (a division of Johnson & Johnson); Divisional Vice President and Senior GM/VP Engineering at Pace Micro Technology; and European Operations Manager at Motorola.

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