Realising people are their most important factor for success and customer service, Houghton International makes sure to invest in apprentices, personal development and career opportunities.
Houghton International, founded in Newcastle in 1984 by Ron and Christine Mitten, today has four locations in the area, each providing a different service to the company’s varied customers in the UK and around the world. The company has grown from originally serving one customer to now working with over 200 customers globally. They service many manufacturing companies in the UK, including Siemens and ABB, as well as train companies like GTR and GWR among others.
They specialise in the repair, maintenance and life extension of rotating electrical assets. Houghton International works with customers to solve problems, reduce costs and increase reliability by improving performance and extending the life of their motors, generators and other electro mechanical machines.
Houghton International exports to over 28 countries worldwide, including Canada, Greece, Hong Kong, Australia, Indonesia, Nigeria, Norway, Venezuela, Malaysia, the Middle East, the USA and the Caribbean.
Houghton International currently employs 118 people, of which around 20% are apprentices. They are in the middle of their 5-year plan of achieving £20 million revenue by the end of 2020. So far they have doubled the business in the last three years and more than doubled their headcount.
“We’re on the path to achieving our goal”, said CEO Michael Mitten, “but the journey is the most important thing for us. It’s the quality, values and principals by which we are making this journey that matter the most to us.”
A business is the sum of its people
Michael, the son of founders Ron and Christine Mitten, emphasises that Houghton International is all about people. “The business is only as good as the people in it and their commitment to continually do a great job and provide a great service for our customers”, said Michael. “We are always looking at ways to enable everybody in the company to benefit from and share in the success of the business.”
According to Michael, part of their values is making sure to invest in employees, from apprentices to directors. “The skills gap is huge in our industry”, said Michael, “so we have to create and develop those skills ourselves. We took on six apprentices this year.”
Houghton International invests in providing learning and development training to their workforce, so in addition to training apprentices they also have a leadership and management skills program offered to managers ranging from team leaders to directors. In December 2017, Houghton International was recognised by the AEMT awards and won the top prize in the ‘Contribution to Skills & Training’ category for their apprenticeship programme.
The company’s first apprentice has been with them for 33 years and has progressed to being their International Sales Manager. Chris Robson, Houghton International’s Sales and Marketing Director started out at Houghton as a shop floor worker and progressed to his current role.
“At Houghton International everyone matters", said Sales and Marketing Director Chris Robson, "and we are committed to providing our apprentices with a high quality education in a hands on working environment. Investing in the future of our business is important in order to ensure we have the skills to continue to grow and many former apprentices have gone onto senior roles within the business, supporting both business growth and the training of new apprentices."
According to Michael, it is imperative for the company that their day-to-day decisions are always linked to their core values and principals and that Houghton International employees and managers understand them and buy into their importance and relevance to the business. Every quarter Houghton International awards the person who is living the values, as voted democratically by the employees themselves.
“We are a 24/7 emergency response business”, Michael added, “and that relies a lot on the people that we have, who are putting an effort in and their commitment. We can count on our people to do their best and to do whatever is needed, whether when visiting a client on-site or if there’s a weekend or after-hours emergency.”
Houghton International’s values and principles
Houghton International's CEO Michael Mitten talks about what makes them unique