In Your Shoes - Ann JohnsonAll members Next: Liz Oliver - Rethinking
Ann Johnson founded Blaze Manufacturing Solutions with her husband Howard in 2006, and has grown the business from a garden shed operation to a global business. Originally from Manchester, Ann started her career in the printing industry before moving to Aberdeen with Howard in 1989.
Blaze is very much a family business with Ann working not only with her husband but also her two sons. Blaze provides technical safety and loss prevention solutions in the oil and gas, renewable energies, mining, commercial and industrial sectors and in 2017 was named as one of the top 1000 UK Companies to Inspire by the London Stock Exchange.
Tony’s still got it!Saturday 02 December 2017
The festive party season was well and truly kicked off with the annual Energy Snow Ball held in a fabulous glass marquee in the Marischal College in Aberdeen. Blaze hosted a table at the event which was a chance to catch up with fellow business owners and to let our hair down after what has been a difficult year in the oil and gas sector. Blaze has been fortunate as we’ve been able to diversify and take our fire safety solutions to other markets, however many others have not come out of the downturn unscathed.
The highlight of the evening was my eighties crush Tony Hadley of Spandau Ballet who ‘to cut a long story short’ and ‘true’ to form performed a little bit of ‘gold’ just for me. And no one will tell me different.
Supporting our enterprising young peopleSunday 03 December 2017
I work a lot with Youth Enterprise and with pupils from Mearns Academy, the high school near our head office in Laurencekirk. I think it is important that our young people learn business skills for their future, whatever it holds. The pupils I work with have developed three businesses; ‘Pallet’ makes photo frames out of disused pallets, ‘Wingit’ makes bird boxes out old pieces of wood and ‘Ooops’ make wooden boxes, handmade candles and gift wrap them for presents.
The three businesses traded at the Youth Enterprise Market on Belmont Street in Aberdeen and although it was absolutely freezing, their enthusiasm was heart-warming.
Goodbye to GiftMonday 04 December 2017
For the past two months, we have had Gift Ngosa, our sales agent from the Democratic Republic of Congo, staying with us. We have recently completed a project with Gift’s company DN Enterprises, to deliver a fire safety solution for the Glencore-owned Mumi Mutanda Mine in Katanga.
During her stay with us, Gift has been learning about Blaze products and services and has taken back with her a slight Mancunian accent, courtesy of myself, husband Howard and my dad Bill and a new-found hardiness to our cold climate. Gift was especially delighted that I was able to arrange snow for her before she left.
#TeamBlaze catch-upTuesday 05 December 2017
Every week we try to make time for a management catch-up, to make sure we know where we are with current and future projects. We also have an office in Inverurie so it is really useful to get everyone together at least once a week.
We have teams working across many locations, and this week alone we have people in Canada, Denmark, Belgium, Azerbaijan and even Norwich! We certainly rack up the airmiles. At the moment about 75% of our business is international and only a small percentage now in the oil and gas industry. Over the past two years we have seen new markets open to us in renewables, mining, and the commercial and industrial sectors. We employ 35 people across our two sites and have a contracting workforce of up to 60 people at any one time. Not bad for a little business that started life in our garden shed eleven years ago!
My demanding gang!Wednesday 06 December 2017
I have a demanding brood at home and I don’t just mean of the human kind! Between us all, we have three dogs, two cats and three ponies. My father also lives with us and my son and his girlfriend live in the gatehouse at the bottom of our drive.
For that reason, things can get a little hectic in the Johnson household but my day always starts by making sure the ponies Eva, Emily and Nicoll are fed first, if only to stop them ripping up Howard’s flowerbeds!
Looking into the futureThursday 07 December 2017
Today I attended the ‘Future of Scotland’ event, hosted by The Times newspaper. This was the fourth in a series being held across Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen. The event was chaired by Kenny Farquharson of The Times, Sir Ian Wood, Chairman of Opportunity North West, Deborah O’Neill of Novabiotics and Colette Cohen of The Oil and Gas Technology Centre.
The panel discussed the challenges and opportunities for Scottish businesses in the face of disruptive economic, social and political forces, a topic on which I have plenty to say!
Following this I rushed off to a meeting with Entrepreneurial Scotland where I work with the Aberdeen team and then to a supplier taskforce meeting at Oil and Gas UK where we spoke about the decommissioning opportunities for Dundee.
A real family businessFriday 08 December 2017
Blaze is a real family business and today we were delighted to be told that we have been shortlisted in the Federation of Small Businesses Awards in the Family Business and Triumph Over Adversity categories. Howard and I will unfortunately be away when the awards ceremony is held in Edinburgh in January so my two sons Jamie and Andrew, who also work for Blaze, will be attending for us.
The Blaze family extends to our staff who have been with us through the downturn and helped us to come out the other side.
We have a clear vision of where we want to take Blaze in the future and as we are no longer shackled to a single market, we are excited for a future where we can truly innovate and diversify, taking Team Blaze with us on the journey! Here’s to 2018 and all that it brings us!