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Elmwood chairman discusses recent redundancies and announces the appointment of David Godber as group chief executive

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By Gillian West, Social media manager

March 8, 2013 | 3 min read

Elmwood chairman Jonathan Sands has assured The Drum “there are no plans for any other head count reductions” after five staff were made redundant from the brand design consultancy’s Leeds-office in recent weeks.

Speaking to The Drum, Sands described the job losses as part of a “restructuring” process as Elmwood seeks to become a “global brand story creation agency”. Sands also revealed the appointment of former Nissan head of research and development and ex-deputy chief executive of the Design Council, David Godber, as group chief executive.

Of the appointment, Sands said: “[Godber] will help drive global design best practice in terms of systems, process and innovation.” As well as driving global growth and best practice Sands adds that the appointment comes as he begins to think about his own succession.

Commenting: “We’re pretty clear, we don’t want to do what many people do, which is to sell to a big network, that’s not to say that we would never sell, but our plan is to stay independent. I want to basically hand the ownership down within the business over the next few years so I can be non-exec chairman.

“Whilst I still have another good 10 years in me, sometimes some business owners outstay their welcome and the business goes into decline. I want to make sure that I don’t outstay my welcome and I hand the business on whilst it’s still growing.”

Discussing the redundancies Sands explained that the changes needed to be made because Elmwood’s “business model is fundamentally changing as is our industry”, adding “There are aspects of our business that are increasingly becoming mechanised and in turn low margin albeit high volume requiring different investment decisions. Our plan is to partner with these companies rather than to try and hang on to revenue that we once enjoyed.”

He furthered that partnering with “world class roll out partners” is the best option for both the clients and the business, stressing that despite the five redundancies net head count was up and the agency was hiring but “sadly these are not like for like roles with the five that have left the business in recent weeks”. Top of the list in terms of hires is a Leeds-based client services director.

Sands was clear to allay staff worries about more possible job losses confirming that the business was “in a pretty good place” and was “still growing ahead of the market with no signs of that changing this year, it’s just our model market has changed.

“In short we have a very clear strategy. Although the economy is tough there is plenty of growth to be had for those businesses that are very clear about what they do well and are capable of playing on a world stage whilst not ignoring its local markets. That is our plan,” he concluded.

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