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Louisa Garland-Els : A positive outlook
When designing new products, Louisa Garland-Els has often had need to say to her staff, “Don’t ever say we can’t, say we will.” This philosophy has served her well. Since its inception in October 2000, Imperial Armour has forged its way to become a world leader in the manufacturing of personal protection equipment, and over the past five years has grown at a phenomenal rate. This success has also seen Garland-Els win a large number of industry awards
Garland-Els said that the achievements of Imperial Armour may be attributed to her passion for her company’s products and her positive outlook. She added that after 16 years in business her belief in what she is doing has got stronger. Garland-Els said, “To stay in business you have to be innovative. As the years have progressed I have realised the importance of not doing the same old thing. You need to think out of the box.”
This approach has also prompted the recent launch of Imperial Armour’s sister company − Imperial Uniforms that will manufacture uniforms for security companies. Garland-Els said, “The initiative will open more doors for us as we will be able to provide a complete service to our clients.”
Another business venture, which has boosted the confidence in herself and her company, has been the opening of a showroom in Dubai. Garland-Els said that when the showroom opened she remarked, “Wow this is really great.” She added, ‘It showed that we were serious about expanding the international side of the operation and gave the company a strong presence. The showroom has been an important turning point for Imperial Armou
Growing the company has also meant changing her approach to marketing. This year Garland-Els has put herself into the market place and spent more time with her clients. She said, “It is important to build relationships so that your clients trust you and know that you will provide good service, excellent quality and deliver on time.”
In addition, Garland-Els attributes her ability to deliver
word class products to her staff. She said that she encourages her employees −who are mainly women − to be accountable for their production tasks. However, she explains her leadership style as being hands on as she enjoys working alongside her employees. She said, “I recognise my employees achievements and I like to keep them happy. That means we also have fun at work, even going so far as to try on the safety gear to check its fit and design. You have to have laughter and build team camaraderie to prosper. We enjoy good positive energy. At present we have an order for a pink bullet proof vest! Proving that nothing in impossible for our team.”
The staff are also encouraged to work to their strengths and “do things the things they love to do.” Garland-Els said, “I enjoy providing opportunities for the upliftment of my staff through skills training. People also feel valued when they are advancing within a company, which is something I feel is important to promote an empowered workforce.”
Garland-Els said that the current economy has had a negative impact on sales. She added that with the economic instability it is difficult to plan ahead. Costs change monthly, which is a big hurdle when ordering components as well as providing quotes to customers. In this regard Garland-Els would like to see more manufacturing taking place within the South Africa as she is aware of many opportunities for specialised products to be produced. She commented that more manufacturing concerns would also play a huge role in making a prouder South Africa, which would counter many of the social problems we experience.
In her free time Garland-Els is a typical mom who enjoys spending time with her two daughters. She has a passion for interior decorating and loves spending time browsing in shops for special décor items. Another favourite pastime is flying in light aircrafts.
Garland-Els concluded, “In a male dominated world, you have to persevere and never give up. ”
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