Women in Industry
Women in Industry
We Interviewed Jess Penny, General Manager Of Sales at Penny Hydraulics about the value of working for a family ran business and the challenges that come with being a woman in industry.
What is your job role entail at Penny Hydraulics, and how did you come to work in the industry?
As General Manager of Sales I oversee our internal sales team based at our premises in Clowne, Chesterfield and manage Penny Hydraulics marketing activities which include; content marketing, website updates, search engine optimisation, paid search, trade shows, social media & email marketing.
After completing my degree in PR & Marketing I worked at a small up-and-coming web agency in Sheffield, starting as a Project Assistant, working my way up to Project Manager and then Senior Project Manager within 2.5 years. I have been working for Penny Hydraulics for 5 years now, and whilst my role within the family business is not my first role within the marketing industry, it is my first experience of working in the manufacturing industry.
How did you come to work for the family firm?
I never planned to join the family business. In sales and marketing you have a clear idea of what you bring to a business in financial terms. It got to the stage where I thought, “why am I making other people lots of money when we have a successful, growing business of our own that I could contribute to?” I was also hungry for progression and it reached a point whereby I was told there was no further progression within the agency unless someone else left and I was looking for more.
I knew that Penny Hydraulics were advertising for a new role within Sales and Marketing and so I decided to apply for the job.
Do you think that being a family firm holds any advantages over other non-family businesses?
Despite what any “Mission Statement” may say, most companies have to be run to make money for their shareholders. Success is measured in shareholder value. We don’t have that constraint and this is a major advantage to being a family firm in my opinion. As a family business we still have to be profitable but we have long-term aims over generations leading to more of the profits being re-invested back into the company for future generations.
What is the most challenging part of your job role? What aspects of it do you relish?
Using our family identity in the advertising and marketing for the company is rare and I find this enjoyable as a marketer. Larger businesses have the advantage that they can dominate markets with low prices, large product ranges and mass marketing. But I believe that smaller companies like ours, and in particular family run businesses have the edge when it comes to quality, service and exclusivity and I push this message wherever and whenever possible.
We take every opportunity to stress the benefits to our customers of buying from a family run business. In our case, we are able to provide 'bespoke' goods and services to order which sets us apart from a lot of the larger competition. We also re-inforce our community ties wherever possible, letting customers know that we are supporting the local community and being environmentally-friendly. We do a lot of work with the local council and the local press, including the Derbyshire Times, most recently talking about our plans for expansion and the job opportunities that this will create for the local area and even featured in the Sunday Times commenting about economic growth within our region.
Having already established a strong presence in our local community, we have used our strong online presence to break into larger markets such as those overseas which has been a fundamental part of our strategic growth strategy. All of these activities make my role varied and exciting, no day is the same and there is always something new to learn especially when it comes to the ever changing world of digital marketing.
The most challenging part of my job role would be playing multiple roles and functions effectively. In larger business, I would be focusing entirely on implementing the company’s marketing strategy. In an SME like ours this is not possible, I have to balance our marketing activities with meeting the ever changing needs of the business, be it dealing with HR issues, preparing the documentation required for an audit or dealing with a customer that arrives without an appointment on-site.
Would you say that the industry that you work in is a male-dominated one? Does this affect the way you approach your job in any way?
At university there was not one male on my PR & Marketing degree course! It is then quite different in the world of machinery, trucks and industrial plant and equipment which is very much still male dominated. There are times when I feel certain aspects/practices within our industry are really dated such as naked lady calendars all over the workshop walls, or classing “entertaining customers” as taking them to a strip joint for the evening, but these sorts of things are becoming quickly outdated and being a family business this is never been something that Penny Hydraulics has been about anyway. I can honestly never say that being female has ever held me back in this industry. For the vast majority of our meetings, I am the only female, but this just seems normal now.
At middle management level or higher within our company, there is one other female who is also at General Manager level. Jocelyn is a highly talented engineer with a master’s degree in mechanical engineering. I look forward to the day when we are both sat around the board room table, but this is based on the skills & experience we will bring at board level and nothing to do with our sex.
What advice would you give to any women who are thinking of embarking upon a career in the industry?
Go for it! You don’t have to be an engineer to work in the manufacturing industry! My job is fast paced, varied, exciting and rewarding. For those still in education, I would recommend getting as much practical marketing experience as you can, as soon as possible. This will really put you at an advantage when it comes to getting a place at University (if you choose to go) and a job later down the line.