Pioneer Safety Group – Safe and Sound

Pioneer Safety Group is made up of leading brands in the safety engineering and switchgear markets, but it is also a proudly recognised brand in its own right.

The Pioneer Safety Group is a group of companies focused on safety engineering and switchgear. “We started with Pyroban, then added additional companies that complemented our offering,” says Brian Quarendon, the Group CEO. “We acquired Baldwin & Francis because it was in the mining market, but the transport and industrial switchgear markets are gaining traction. We’ve seen the switchgear market grow and we’re currently building that part of the business.”

Switchgears have always been a key part of Pioneer Safety Group’s offering, although its original focus was safety engineering. Now, however, the company is adapting to the needs of the market as it always has. Owned by private equity group, Longacre, since it was founded in October 2017 the company has been growing organically and through acquisition to become the six-company group it is today.

Across all six firms, the Group offers bespoke explosive protection products and switchgear solutions to industrial markets. But perhaps unusually, despite operating as a single group Pioneer Safety Group has not changed the branding of the companies it has acquired.

“It’s because of the brands of the companies. They are all leaders in their own right,” Quarendon explains. “Pyroban offers world-leading materials handling equipment.

‘Pyroban’ is to materials handling what ‘hoover’ is to vacuum cleaners.

Baldwin & Francis has a hundred years of experience in mining and switchgear. Allenwest has another hundred years in mining and tunnel engineering. The common theme across all of these brands is safety and switchgear, but they trade under their brands as part of the Group. It means that when customers come to us, we can offer them the brand they prefer.”

Growing with Expectations

The Pioneer Safety Group is a trusted brand name made up of trusted brand names, but as its customers grow, the Group needs to grow alongside them.

“Our biggest challenge is meeting the growth expectations of our customers.

We’re growing far faster than we ever thought we would do, and servicing our customers properly while doing that,” Quarendon says.

Facing that challenge, Pioneer Safety Group has only one option.

“We are trying to recruit!” Quarendon tells us. “We are carrying out the recruitment in a staged manner because the whole company breaks down into quite small entities. We are focussing on serving our core customers and the enquiries are flooding in, but you need to resource that work with the business development team. At this moment in time, people with the necessary skills in the industry are challenging to find.”

Fortunately, the staff of companies the Group has acquired are more than happy to continue on their journey.

“Of the core staff that we acquired with our companies, nobody has left since we acquired them,” Quarendon points out. “They like the ethos of the company.”

At the same time, the Group’s reputation, and the collection of brand names under its umbrella, make it an appealing place for prospective employees.

“We have been using LinkedIn and people have been applying to us. They hear we’re an up-and-coming team and would like to join us,” Quarendon says. “They are attracted by the brands to start with. People know those brands in the industries as leaders in their market sectors. We are winning business and people working in adjacent industries can see we’re winning business and want to be part of that.”

As well as being a respected brand, new recruits are keen to buy into the company’s vision of being the UK’s leading industrial safety and switchgear business.

“Within each of the sectors we serve, we have an interpretation of what the vision is and where we’re trying to take it,” Quarendon says.

All of those companies are tied together by a common culture, which Quarendon himself leads.

“I personally give a state of the nation address to all the companies on an annual basis.

I let them know how we performed last year and what we’re planning for the next three years, so everyone has heard it from me,” Quarendon tells us.

“They all feel part of that bigger team.” Pioneer Safety Group, appropriately, cares deeply about the safety of that team and has been careful to guide them through the pandemic crisis.

“We have kept the company operational throughout the entire Covid period, fulfilling customer requirements and

with nobody catching Covid within the workplace,” Quarendon tells us. “It’s not rocket science. You put in simple processes and guidelines. People coming in or getting up from their desks wear masks. We have screens around desks and separate out the production areas. People with symptoms were paid to stay at home. We followed government guidelines and made sure everyone felt comfortable.”

Where some employers have found staff reluctant to return to the office after a year of working from home, from very early on Pioneer Safety Group had the opposite challenge.

“When the first lockdown started, we gave people the option to work from home, but people were saying they wanted to come in and work,” Quarendon points out.

Seeking partnerships

Pioneer Safety Group’s story is one of growth, both organically and through acquisition, and that story is set to continue.

“The organic growth this year will increase our turnover by 20% but we’re also acquiring other companies,” Quarendon says. “Where we need additional technologies, we buy those in and get the right people on board to develop them. We’re actively pursuing companies that want to join our group.”

Choosing the right companies is no easy task, but there are plenty who are keen to work with the Group. “Really it is about where they are going to add value to our group,” Quarendon reflects. “Moving forward you can see gaps in our technologies and where the industry is going. We find companies that will fill those gaps for us. We have got a lot of products, and we are focusing on bringing that portfolio together in a more coordinated way. Other companies want to buy into that vision. We are asking where the future gaps will be so that we can target them.”

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