16/09/2021

Hugin

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I was winning prizes and accolades at Xerox but little in the way of money, so I applied for a job back in the cash register business with another Swedish organisation, Hugin. I was appointed to their Special Applications Division, focusing on sophisticated systems such as hire purchase accounting, dry cleaners’ systems and VAT accounting.

Appointment to Hugin (Mar-1972)

Here I met the second person to shape me significantly. It was Ken Turner at Sweda who taught me selling, now it was the turn of Hugin’s new MD, Dave Pope, known as DCP, who taught me marketing and management.

I learned DCP’s backstory. As a ‘Paddington boy’ his first business activity was to stand near Spurs ground holding a six-inch nail and calling out to those parking, ‘Mind your car, Mister’ – most paid up. He had become established as a sales trainer with Muldivo, a calculator direct sales organisation, and brought a number of people with him from there.

ASIDE: This is not quite sat at the right place because Britain’s 3-day week was in 1974. But what the heck it’s a good anecdote. The Ted Heath government had just emerged from the 1973 oil crisis, then in 1974 ran into trouble with the miners’ unions and decided that electricity had to be saved by putting us on to a three-day week. Power was selectively switched off on specified days to businesses.

One of my clients ran a series of burger bars and realised that one of these was on the edge of a zone, so that while he was off, the shop next door was on, and vice versa. He talked with the other retailer and agreed to run a power lead between their shops. My customer ran from this a whole raft of freezers, fridges, cooking ranges and grillers through this. Next door was a shoe shop that ran about three light bulbs when it was their turn, yet the retailer never realised the inequality and was happy with the arrangement – presumably only until his company received their power bill.

Hugin booked a stand at the Business Efficiency Exhibition (BEE) at Olympia. I was called into DCP’s office and told I should prepare a ‘network analysis’ of the tasks various people would need to do and by when, which would provide us with a major fillip from the show. I had enough smarts not to admit that I had never heard of the technique; I just agreed and left. As I was already a paid-up member of the Institute of Marketing, I called its library and a booklet on network analysis was couriered to my office.

Swdish Coop Logo

After a weekend I returned with a colour-coded chart that involved every member of the team in some way or other. This was important as the organisation contained two camps. The first was the ex-Cooperative Society people; Hugin was owned by the Swedish Coop (KF) and we supplied most of the UK Coop business. The other camp was DCP and his new coterie – including me. The exercise, as DCP had surmised, brought the two closer together – at least for that project.

We are getting a bit ahead of ourselves, but several years later I was asked to brief the design of our stand and came up with an interesting approach. By that time the question was whether electronic cash registers (ECRs) would kill the electromechanicals. Of course they eventually would, but right then the debate was still alive and kicking.

Brochure showing roles of different chess pieces/registers

I had little budget and a large square area to fill in the open well of the hall. I quickly decided we did not have the budget for any expensive grand superstructure so instead used squares of black and white carpet to create a large chess board. We found a source to loan some large feature chess pieces that had been used in a Bond movie. The pawns we created were flat-topped to take hold a register. We presented two types of registers (ECR and electromechanical) as black and white. (You might imagine that much debate ensued about which should be white!) The clever bit was that the arrangement depicted a stalemate, our message being that different pieces suited different situations; there was no overall winner. It was eye-catching, won awards and very inexpensive to mount.  

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