The Gloves are off! Will Dunn, LES survives Hoist quickfire 10 questions in 10 minutes...13 May 2021
As part of Hoist feature series, we kick off a ‘No holds barred’ interview with Will Dunn, CEO, Lifting Equipment Store and president, Lifting Equipment Store USA
Hoist: Tell us what you need to get off your chest?
WD: I believe we need to hear more younger voices in this industry. There are some younger people with a real vision, but I don't think they're being heard. It’s time that the old guard stepped aside to let the next generation shine a little more.
Hoist: What triumphs and challenges have you have seen over the years?
WD: Selling online was a much easier thing eight years ago. You could put a product online and begin making 40% margin immediately. But the level of competition these days means you have to be more diverse, and the market continues to become more complex and more demanding in terms of what it needs from its supply chain. And then over the last 12 months, everything has gone nuts – everyone has turned into an internet business.
Hoist: What’s your favourite and least favourite part of the job?
WD: My least favourite part of the job is when things don't go right with an employee and you have to discipline them. No one likes telling someone off. It's not fun, but it’s part of the job. The best part of the job is watching the business grow and watching the people within it grow as well – to keep growing and pushing and developing.
Hoist: What feedback are you getting from clients?
WD: There’s a growing demand for lightweight kit. One of our Trustpilot reviews sticks in my mind because they said about a piece of equipment: ‘It's great, but it's really heavy’. I thought ‘What a strange comment – it should be heavy, it's heavy duty!’ But actually, they were right. Today's technologies increasingly allow heavy duty items to be lighter, with innovations like carbon fibre. So, yes, I have customers asking for lightweight, asking for more safety, and asking for semi-automation as well.
Hoist: Has the growing concern of sustainability had an effect on your business?
WD: Quite frankly, other than the fact the EU introduced an anti-dumping tax on pallet trucks, I don’t think enough is being done to focus on the environmental effects of our industry. I’d like to see a lot more encouragement and tax relief for people who use sustainable products. For instance, where there are taxes on products that we bring in from China, we should get 4% tax back if we use environmentally friendly hydraulic oil. That’s the kind of thing we need to see a lot more of.
Hoist: What’s next for you?
WD: Having launched Lifting Equipment Store USA last year, I'm on my crusade to America. I'm busy getting the hierarchy in place in the UK company to allow me to transition over to the States. The business is at a growth stage right now - we're looking at new methods of logistics, warehousing, and senior roles in the company. And for the industry it’s all about technology, technology, technology. That’s the big innovation that will transform the industry with elements like automation and AI.
Hoist: What do you see as the one ‘burning issue’ within this industry?
WD: A major concern for our industry should be the change that is coming next. If you're not ready for it, if you're not dynamic and diverse, you're going to get shut down. I've had to change the direction and strategy of our company several times over my eight years in charge. There will be more events like the pandemic that will come out of nowhere and surprise everyone. We have to keep looking at risk and ask what's coming next.
Hoist: What H&S and work regulations do we need to keep on top of?
WD: The general public need to be more aware of the dangers of portable machinery. I see such a lack of precaution when the public are around forklifts and lifting machinery. I’ve seen people walk behind them - they don't see danger. There needs to be much more public awareness of that.
Hoist: Does the prospect of going digital and entering Industry 4.0 scare you?
I'm not scared of it at all. It inspires me and drives me. When the pandemic came, the fact that we’d already invested in cloud-based telephony meant no one even knew we were already working from home! Innovation is very important to us. We're doing stuff in our warehouse right now that nobody else in the industry is doing.
Hoist: What are you doing to attract the next generation of employees?
WD: It’s a challenging question. I welcome the people offering apprenticeships, and training young individuals out of college, because ultimately physical skills are much less prevalent in young people than they used to be. In schools, the kids are picking up virtual skills with computers, but they’re not physically minded anymore. It's so important that we keep educating the next generation on physical as well as digital skills.
Want to get something off your chest? If you would like to take part in our 10 questions in 10 minutes interview, please email editor Jenny Eagle at firstname.lastname@example.org