Director of the Year Awards 2018 – Simon Erlanger, managing director, Isle of Harris Distillers

Simon Erlanger - Director of the Year Awards

Every day over the Christmas period, we’ll speak to winners from the recent IoD Director of the Year Awards. Today it’s Simon Erlanger, managing director of the Isle of Harris Distillers, who won the SME award

‘Mindful leadership has transformed how I manage’

This “profits with purpose” business started in 2015 to provide employment on the remote island of Harris. With Erlanger at the helm, its visitor numbers, sales and profits have exceeded expectations, thanks in no small part to its approach to social media and direct consumer engagement.

What’s been the most pivotal moment for your business? “The unimagined success of Isle of Harris gin, which led us to rewrite our business plan after only two years and provide employment for 35 people on the Isle of Harris.”

Your biggest career challenge so far? “That was many years ago: my transition from an operational to managerial role. A professional coach taught me the concept of mindful leadership. This has transformed how I manage my teams.”

How do you ensure good governance as your company grows? “I take advice from our experienced board. I also plan to make the most of my IoD membership.”

How are you approaching Brexit? “We continue to push forward with growing our export business, spreading our risk by opening markets on three continents. The customers for our gin will still be there after Brexit.”

Which other person in the business world do you admire? “I greatly admire [investor and philanthropist] George Soros. He campaigns for an open, tolerant society and reminds us that imperfection is the human condition. He said: ‘There is no shame in being wrong, only in failing to correct our mistakes.’”

What technology has proved crucial to your business? “Our direct- to-consumer model is possible thanks to e-commerce and social media. This digital tech has enabled our fledgling venture to punch well above its weight.”

Where do you get your best ideas? “By listening – to my customers, my team, my board and my other stakeholders.”

Entires are now open for the 2019 IoD Director of the Year Awards – click here for more info and to nominate

Click here for more winners’ interviews

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Director magazine

Director magazine

Director is the magazine for business leaders. Free to IoD members and available to purchase through subscription, each edition is full of insightful interviews with entrepreneurs and company directors.

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