Mike Brown is a sales partner with Crowley Carbon, responsible for bringing new customers in, and staying with them through the entire journey from software installation to project completion. Mike has more than 30 years experience in manufacturing, working on both sides of the equation – selling into plants and running plants. He spent more than a decade living in Russia, designing, building and running manufacturing plants for automakers, pharma companies and agribusinesses.
Tell us about you – what did you do prior to working with Crowley Carbon?
I spent 10 years working in edible oils in Hull. That company got taken over. Some directors wanted to go with another company so they formed their own company called Crown. I joined the new one. I then worked in the new company for 10 years,and was responsible for project management, plant design and equipment design.
Around 1998 we got a significant project in Southern Russia. The project went so well the client asked me to come work for them in Russia and do another plant for them over there.
From 1998 to 2003 I was working in Southern Russia. I got to look after the plant on behalf of the management there.So I know what it’s like to be on both sides of manufacturing – supplying plants and running plants. There was a hostile takeover over the plant. That was the end of my adventure there.
From 2005-2007 I was a consultant to an American agribusiness. They were building a plant in Northern Russia. The market for sunflower seeds collapsed just when they finished the plant. I had formed a good relationship with the general contractor we used for the plant – Savant – so joined them. I helped them with a new car factory for General Motors in St Petersburg. I was the project manager for Savant in that car factory. We built a car factory from nothing (a piece of swamp land outside St Petersburg) to the finished factory in 18 months. We then built car factories for Hyundai in St Petersburg, as well as pharmaceutical factories and hotels.
I moved back to the UK in 2015 and started working for Crown again. I looked after replacement parts and servicing. In 2018 Crowley Carbon called our company. They were interested in a company that would support them. I took the call.
Our company worked with Crowley Carbon on several plants. I loved what they were doing – saving the planet, lowering carbon footprint etc. I left Crown and joined Crowley Carbon. I had a shed load of contacts made over the years. The first one I contacted to tell about Crowley Carbon – Pannon – loved it and signed up.
I moved from sales to marketing to being a partner with Crowley Carbon. I am also a partner with Hum – a Turkish equipment manufacturer. As a partner I want to bring companies on board and stay with them for the whole journey.
What does your role as a partner entail?
My various partnerships – Hum, Crowley Carbon and T1 all complement each other. So I can deliver a full service from equipment maintenance to process optimisation to energy efficiency projects. My day-to-day involves chasing new leads, writing follow-up emails to existing clients promoting partner agreements, video calls/meetings with prospective clients. You are constantly trying to talk to potential clients in whatever format you can in order to gain their confidence and trust. I also do invoicing, accounting, social media, marketing case studies etc. It’s amazing how quickly your day gets filled.
What do you enjoy most about being a Crowley Carbon partner?
The mission – cooling the planet and lowering the carbon footprint. It made it easier to explain to my family what I do. I like being in a position to promote saving the planet, and the message they are putting out there. As a partner, I also like the fact I am not under any senior management obligations to do certain things. I am my own boss.
What is the hardest part of your job?
Not being able to physically get to see clients and potential clients. I used to be away every other week meeting people. With Covid-19, that is no longer possible. It’s easier to get business when you are meeting with people in-person. Not being able to travel will change in the future though.
When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be an airline pilot or join the army. We live on the coast. I wanted to be a humber pilot. Humber pilots meet ships and help them navigate the waters into port. Ultimately I got an engineering apprenticeship, and did my training with a company that manufactured cranes. Then I studied engineering design and became a draftsman. That’s how I got into project management.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I have no spare time! I started playing rugby when I was 25. Then I went into coaching rugby and coached under-17s in my area. I did that until I was 38. Took up baseball when I was almost 40. It was national baseball so I travelled the country. My two daughters take up all my spare time now.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
On the first day of training in 1973, our Training Officer said: “It doesn’t matter what you do in life, just try to be the very best. Even if you are a toilet cleaner, be the best toilet cleaner”. My aim as a partner is to have more projects than anyone else. My ambition is to be the best. My advice to my younger self is more humility, and less arrogance. Listen more. Don’t try to interrupt people. Listen to what they are saying.