“We’ve got this incredible energy at Trolex these days and it comes from treating people with respect and dignity.” By anyone’s standards, that’s an enthusiastic assessment.
That John is able to still share such a generous compliment about the company he founded more than 60 years ago speaks volumes of both his passion for the industry, and the quality of the business he’s built.
A privately owned company set up in 1960, Trolex was originally a technical sales agency dealing in safety devices for the mining sector. With a focus on a buoyant British mining industry they quickly became extremely busy selling first other people’s safety products, and then their own.
“We soon realised that we could do it better ourselves, so we got cracking – designing and manufacturing our own.”
“We were right at the forefront of introducing new technologies for safety. The relationship with the mining industry meant that we learnt a lot about hazardous areas, with flammable and toxic gases where you need very high levels of quality control for manufacturing. Right from square one we learnt these skills and it’s the core of our expertise.”
With the British mining industry now practically non-existent, how have John and his team managed to continue to build the business?
“We still operate in the mining sector around the world and we’re probably the leading manufacturer for mining safety equipment but we have a much broader base now and a lot of new opportunities.”
Opportunities across a range of other sectors including general industry, oil and gas, tunnelling, construction and petro-chemical process plants have also been taken.
“Particulate monitoring is very big now. There’s tremendous awareness now – this started with us because of the mining industry as coal dust is really dangerous, but now everybody is waking up to the fact that all dust is dangerous. Not just coal dust but stone, silica, even wood dust, In fact any dust that’s generated in the workplace. And this is the route we’re going down now.
Practically every industry generates dust and dangerous particles – this will be an exciting area for us.
As a lifelong engineer, John is keen to pass on his hard won expertise to a new generation.
“I’ve got a lot of historical knowledge, my background is technical. My main role now is to team up with the technical guys and go in there as a bit of a mentor, giving suggestions and sometimes doing conceptual designs with them.
A massive slice of our income goes into R&D – we’re a privately owned company so we can make our own decisions and we can make them quickly. It’s not a question of feeding shareholders, it’s a case of feeding research and that’s important to all our management.
60+ years’ engineering success, consistent industry acclaim, a loyal international client list, and a brand new range of award-winning particulate monitoring products tells you that John and his team know exactly what the industry wants.
Glyn Jones is perhaps the least “just because things have always been done this way, they need to always be done this way,” person to ever set foot in an engineering company. Not that he’d set foot in many engineering companies before becoming Trolex CEO.
A successful media and technology strategy professional based in London, Glyn’s father asked him to take an objective look at the family business and share some ideas of how he might modernise it. His first response was “why?” His second, “maybe….!”
He agreed to review Trolex as a client, and the closer he looked, the more he began to recognise a good business, with good products, long term customers and a clear niche. And the more the challenge began to appeal.
“What they were missing was a level of strategy and the ability to communicate what they had, and the ambition to really do things differently.”
A not uncommon scenario.
“This was nothing unique about Trolex in that respect. Many companies in the sector behave in the same way. The idea that what they’re doing isn’t already perfect or the best way of doing it – they find that difficult to handle.
I recognised that Trolex had outstanding potential and that I could offer skills that they didn’t already have. If you could bring it all together and make it work it could be a really successful business and save many, many lives.”
And for the last 10 years, Glyn’s been slowly and assuredly shaping Trolex in the image of that ambition. Culturally, strategically and through a range of new products, it’s been ALL about ambition.
“Our three priorities – One: to be successful.
Two: for Trolex to make a genuine impact in the particulates field – where we’ve set out our stall now with the Air X range – and where in my view there are completely unacceptable levels of harm being caused to working people.
Thirdly, creating an original company that behaves differently to most. That’s what I’m trying to instil in people – to be genuinely ambitious.
Who’s the best in our industry or even outside of our industry? What can we learn from them? Let’s implement it and do it our way. Otherwise why are we doing it? Do we just want to be mediocre? Because if that’s all what we want to be…I’m not interested.”
A shared ambition that Glyn’s team at Trolex, their rapidly growing client list – especially new customers in the particulate monitoring field – their world-wide distributor network and even awards judges all seem to clearly recognise and genuinely appreciate.
An experienced geologist with a background in mineral exploration for multinationals in Tanzania and Zambia, Lee has been back at the family business since 2008. Part succession planning. Part fresh perspective and impetus. Wholly positive.
Responsible for operational and strategic management, Lee divides his time between reviewing the legacy portfolio – 60 years of legacy that goes all the way back to the early days of the National Coal Board – and exploring how lessons from more than half a century designing and developing products for dangerous environments can be applied to modern industry.
Lessons well learnt it would seem, with a new range of innovative and acclaimed particulate monitoring products in the process of being launched.
Says Lee, “What we’ve learnt building gas sensors we can apply to particulate monitoring – which uses a lot of the same principals. Now we’re definitely ahead of the game on that with some existing new products and more on the horizon.”
So what’s going on? How come Lee and the team have been so quick to spot these new occupational health and safety opportunities? Perhaps more importantly, how are they able to act on them so quickly?
“The head of engineering Kyle runs a crack team,” says Lee.
“Historically it’s taken us a long time to get new products out, years in some cases, but it’s breathtaking how quickly we’re turning these projects around. From a desk prototype to working concept in months not years.”
An innovative, independent, privately-owned business, and accountable to their ambition rather than shareholders – it all adds up.
“It’s important to understand where your strengths lie. What works and what doesn’t. Because that doesn’t come easily. The company has been going a long time. We’re independent, making our own products and rather than trying to emulate the big boys we’re doing our own thing.”
It’s probably no accident that Steve’s background is in Human Resources.
“My ethos of running a business is all about communications. How you talk to people. Emotional intelligence…it’s a foundation that applies to everything, from negotiations, to a commercial deal with a new customer, talking to a supplier or talking with a guy on the shop floor to understand what’s happening.”
Having built a successful air conditioning and heating business, moved from HR Manager to Finance and then onto a group commercial role, Steve was looking for a fresh challenge.
A business making a real difference in which he could make a real impact. Somewhere new where he could put his own stamp on things – to say “we did things our way and it worked.”
“We all know that engineering can be archaic in many aspects, in many companies and many industries. At Trolex we all see an opportunity to do something different. There’s a real passion in the senior management here for change and improvement and to keep it exciting.
We’ve got a team of people engaged in what they do, they’re passionate rather than just doing it to earn a wage at the end of the month. In my experience that’s what makes you successful – you can’t buy that, it’s all about attitude.
And the great thing about Trolex is it’s not just about making money, it’s about saving lives too.”
It’s crystal clear that Steve and his Managing Director’s role are perfectly suited.
“Put people first, listen to them and the success, the rewards, follow.”
Drawn from rural North Wales to the bright lights of Manchester via an Industrial Design degree at Loughborough, Trolex Technical Director Kyle Hudson is responsible for a team of twelve engineers.
A born problem solver, it’s a responsibility that he clearly thrives on.
“We’ve a strong influence on the direction of new product development… I make sure everyone has everything they need to do their job to the best of their ability, that everyone’s got a voice, is working to the same goal, and understands what that goal is.
Our products go into situations and environments where they save lives, whether that’s as an early warning or to stop what’s going on. It’s not easy sometimes but there’s always a way around a problem and that’s attractive to me.”
Proud of his team’s problem solving abilities, Kyle is also quick to acknowledge the company’s long and successful heritage. The shoulders of the giants they now stand on.
“We shouldn’t forget the 60 years of history and brilliant product development. And there’s always that to learn from and apply moving forward. It’s phenomenal.”
Well that’s the past, what about that future? What does it look like?
“The best is yet to come from Trolex, we’re in an age with massive advancements in technologies and materials and software and algorithms and the quality of the team is phenomenal. The future products from Trolex are going to say big things.”
A bright future that, if things continue to go as well as they are, will surely see Kyle at its heart.
As they say: watch this space.
Some people don’t just do a job. They live one.
Headhunted in 2017 from a leading American portable gas detection company, Dawn takes charge of gas, dust and strata monitoring product sales for mining distributor partnerships across Australia, Vietnam, South Africa and the whole of North and South America.
There are times she’ll turn up in a country days before a client meeting. And times she’ll stay on for days after her meetings have finished. All in the name of gaining a better understanding of the country, the people and their values. Because it’s what she loves to do. Because it makes her better at the job.
“I try to be an empathetic person, for people and for places, and I make the very most of every opportunity. Meeting different cultures, trying things you wouldn’t necessarily try.
When I visit a distributor, I go and see their customers and often they’re so grateful that a company takes the time to visit them that they really appreciate it.”
But isn’t sales meant to be more hard-nosed than that? More cutthroat?
Not when you genuinely put yourself in other people’s shoes.
“With my account management, I’d say 50% of my job isn’t sales. I‘m managing customer accounts and expectations. Improving deliveries, product enquiries, quotes, technical and , certification enquiries, and Ts&Cs. I handle every aspect – helping customers support their customers. And maintaining relationships – sometimes between competing customers.”
It’s kind of counter intuitive – but the less Dawn ‘sells’ the more she sells.
Never has the expression, “people buy from people” felt more appropriate.
International business success demands an international perspective on business. On culture and communication too.
With so much of the world’s oil, gas, mining and tunnelling work found across Eastern Europe and countries of the former Soviet Union, it makes perfect sense that our team at Trolex has an international understanding of those territories.
Not just for our benefit, but also for our customers.
Our business development specialist for Eastern Europe since 2015, Evgeni Gvozdilin is a Russian native with a mining engineering master’s degree from Donetsk University. But it’s his years of industry experience that makes him indispensable.
“First I was commercial technical manager, then business manager, and now I’m business development manager. I travel the world and promote our equipment at shows and exhibitions to develop our business.”
Multicultural, multilingual sales skills that Evgeni first honed with a UK-based Trolex distributor and clients from Kazakhstan to Ukraine and Russia.
This rare skill set and business knowhow can make all the difference at the sharp end of a relationship, negotiation or deal.
“I’m in Russia on a business meeting and usually we meet with decision makers and we’re sitting around the table and they ask a question, a business question. If I wasn’t able to answer that question straight away and have a straight chat with them there’s no second chance in Russia – it’s quite straightforward there… I’m a straightforward man.”
“I don’t like any side talks. Glyn [Trolex’s CEO] knows that. We always talk like that when we chat to each other. Sometimes with a smile, sometimes with no smiles.”
A straightforward, straight talking, clay pigeon shooting, wild-fowling, fisherman.
But no smiles, Evgeni?
Don’t believe it for a minute.
“He’s the kindest man I know,” confides a colleague.
Technical Services Manager
Gareth Herbert has been there, done that and got the technical services t-shirt. In over 26 years at Trolex, he’s worked in production, spent twenty years in the service department, and the last six years as Technical Services Manager. It’s made Gareth an expert in straightening out post-sales implementation and support issues.
It’s what drives him – running the service side of the business.
All the site service work. All the return to base repairs. All the warranty repairs. All the first stage technical queries, system problems, communication problems and servicing to look after clients and distributors: “everything once we’ve sold the product.”
Expert problem solving that Gareth and his team of five clearly take great personal and professional pride in.
“As frustrating as the technical issues can be when you actually solve them, and we do, it’s really satisfying.”
And not just post-sales installation, training and support, but pre-sales system design too.
“Obviously we have the products but we design and build systems to a customer’s exact requirements. We might bring a variety of products together and we might do a backbone for that system and design a SCADA integration.
A system can deal with a combination of gas, dust, humidity monitoring, temperature monitoring, air flow, it can have five or six products.”
Gareth has seen significant changes to Trolex’s technical services during his tenure, an evolution that’s taken Trolex’s offering even further.
“Originally we were a mining safety company and that was all we were.
But the thing with mining was that it was always ahead of the game on safety. Industry and tunnelling and construction, they always lagged behind.
It’s only been the last 10 or 15 years that it’s really ramped up. And it’s our safety background and our knowledge base that’s helped them as they started to catch up. I think that’s why we’ve done so well.
As well as supplying the products it’s all the knowledge that we can give them.”
Hard won, life-long technical support experience.
You can’t beat it.
There’s no doubting the ambition and the importance of the Trolex mission – For every worker exposed to dangerous particulates to have wearable personal dust monitoring equipment by 2031.
A global health and welfare mission that begins with the health and welfare of those at home.
Not with staff at Trolex wearing dust monitoring and particulate detection kit – but with opportunity, with encouragement, with smart recruitment, training, induction, onboarding and with continual care. With great HR.
The person responsible?
HR Manager, Lucy Cutt.
Very much the ‘people person’, in her 27 years at Trolex, Lucy has worked her way from her original role as Directors’ PA to HR Manager. So she’s pretty much seen – and enjoyed – it all.
“The best part of it is being part of a family environment. It’s a really thoughtful business to work for – they really take care of the staff to give people the best experience of working here.”
The successive generations of families working at Trolex, and the apprentices continually graduating through the company career development scheme, speak volumes of Lucy’s HR skills.
Is no secret really. It’s simply a personal approach.
“In engineering, especially in a small business there’s a risk of things becoming a bit ‘them and us’. There’s a really personal approach here. It’s not hierarchical.”
And when she’s not in the office looking after the welfare and well-being of Team Trolex?
At the risk of blowing her own flugelhorn, Lucy’s talents aren’t limited to HR – she’s an elite instrumentalist. So good, she competes (and wins) all across the UK and Europe.
The sound of success.