My Thermamax Journey

2 years ago, I didn’t know what a regulator looked like. I didn’t know the difference between ARC, MIG and TIG welding. I had no idea what an electrode was used for. Or that there was a difference between gas welding, and gas cutting. I walked into the Weldamax head office and looked around at all the seasoned professionals of the welding industry and felt a little overwhelmed. Luckily, I was only employed to help create the website and marketing plan for our brother-brand, Maxweld and Braze.

Luckily – or so I thought.

14-months later, my CEO deposited a 150-page Product Management Training Pack on my desk. One that he had personally developed to train his previous global product managers. And just like that, I had a new email signature: “Nicole Black – Marketing and Product Development”. For the big brother brand, Unique Welding. Just 14-months after not knowing that Plasma Cutting even existed, I found myself knee-deep in developing a brand-new range of Plasma Inverters with the team. We’d also just completed an entirely new range of MIG Inverters and ARC Inverters. Now, not only do I know what a regulator is – I know how it works, and the safety and quality standards that govern them. I’ve seen first-hand how they’re made, why we need them, and I’ve had a hand in developing intricate cutting kits and packaging involving these wonderful creatures.

In less than 18 months, our team has managed to recreate, reposition and reignite a brand. A brand that has been around for more than 50 years, largely unnoticed. We have managed to refresh – not only the look and feel of the brand – but the energy of the entire organisation.

From developing a brand-new range of technologically-advanced equipment and consumables, to upgrading the look and feel of the older generation of products. From creating world-class partnerships with key suppliers, to deepening our emphasis on service delivery and complete integrated solutions. From placing a spotlight on salespeople training to converging on creating a more efficient and profitable supply chain. From creating a cohesively successful organisation through all 14 branches, to managing this organisation (or, organism, as I like to call it) with a hawks-eye on finances. This transformation was the amalgamation of great efforts from an incredibly strong, passionate and, most importantly – flexible, team.  

We are now the second largest welding equipment, consumables and gas supplier in Southern Africa. Second, but still the most desired channel to market for international suppliers around the world. The danger in an organisation as “small” as ours is our ability to react very quickly. To pre-empt market trends, and have the elasticity to react swiftly. Decision making is quick – unencumbered by bureaucracy. Often, ground-breaking decisions are made in the passageway between offices. Mistakes are made – and fixed – just as quickly (stickers are magical band-aids), and failures are embraced – not punished.

While speed is a key focus – customer comprehension is paramount. In my short time here, my work has become synonymous with an acronym that we have coined: HMI – Human-Machine Interface.Understanding how the welder interfaces with his machine, and how to create excitement between the two, has helped me understand not only the product, but the market and the industry as a whole.

I have learned that passion to serve customers is not something that is discovered in a manual or picked up on a training course, but is a unique quality that is embedded in the heart of every person within this organisation.

Couple this unique customer intention, with expertise, passion and no-holds’-barred determination…and you have a formula for market-domination. This is a team that has no interest in second place. We appreciate where we have come from. We value the journey. We’ve taken the snap-shots. We are now buckling our seats and getting ready for the journey of a lifetime.

2 years ago, I had no idea that I was walking into a position where I would have the privilege of playing a part in the repositioning of an entire brand. This profound journey has taught me more than just business values. I am fortunate enough to work in a place where the CEO gauges his personal success not on the profits generated for shareholders, but by the achievements and successes of his employees around him. I’m continuously picking up invaluable fragments of knowledge from the abundance of mentors that surround me. This journey has taught me about life. I cannot wait to see what the future holds for Thermamax, and the team behind the brand!

– by Nicole Black,
   Marketing & Product Development Manager