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Chairman of Wax Lyrical on turning around a business

Mike Armstead

22 March 2016

Mike Armstead shared the story of how he picked a business up by its coattails at a Masterclass last week.

When Mike took over home fragrance business Wax Lyrical in January 2007, the business had a turnover of £18m but was losing £5m. The company was hours from closure.

He told an audience of business owners at Lancaster University Management School how, with a clear strategic focus, a lot of ducking and diving, and spades full of hard graft, he put Wax Lyrical back onto solid foundations.

The talk was part of a series of inspirational business Masterclasses hosted by Lancaster University Management School and supported by NatWest. The series is open to all business owners and managers from across the North West.

Wax Lyrical is the UK’s number one manufacturer of home fragrances with a range including candles, reed diffusers, room mists and oils. The company was founded in 1980 in Cumbria by a local family. Mike purchased the business in 2006. At the time the company was trading as The Colony Gift Corporation with 45% of products sold manufactured in-house. In 2007 Mike re-shored the business, bringing manufacturing to the UK and in 2010 the company was renamed Wax Lyrical.

Mike said: “When I joined Wax Lyrical the business faced a very uncertain future but I was convinced that it had all the ingredients needed to be a success. We were looking over the edge of a cliff and it was my job to get the team as far from that cliff edge as possible.

“We made some pretty fundamental changes to how we did things and this, paired with the support of a fantastic team, made it possible and we managed to turn the company around and make it the business it is today. It’s a real success story that I am looking forward to sharing with attendees.”

Helen Fogg, Head of Business Engagement at Lancaster University Management School, said: “Wax Lyrical are an important manufacturing company for the region. The story of how the company was brought back from the brink has offered valuable lessons to the business leader audience.”

On the same day as the Masterclass, students from Lancaster University Management School visited Wax Lyrical’s headquarters to present their market research findings to Senior Management as part of their studies. Wax Lyrical had been looking at ways to further understand their customer base and as part of this had teamed up with a group of budding final year marketing majors.

After five months of working on the project, carrying out market research and analysing data sets, the project team presented their key findings along with a comprehensive 150 page report to Wax Lyrical.

Shane Crawford, Wax Lyrical’s Sales and Marketing Director was delighted, saying: “The whole of the Wax Lyrical team found the Market Research presentation, delivered by the Lancaster University students, to be very detailed and informative in its content and delivered exceptionally well. The experience of working with you has been very beneficial and I’m sure we will look to work together in the future.”

The series of masterclasses are free for SME business owners and managers to attend, but places are limited and must be reserved by contacting Pete Cornwall on 01524 510728. You can find further information about student consulting projects on our website.