Smiths Group (formerly Smiths Industries), is a FTSE 100 global engineering company valued at more than £4bn. From its Victorian beginnings in the jewellery trade and twentieth-century mass production of motor and aviation instruments, watches and clocks, it is today a diversified international company in the medical, communications, security and engineered components sectors.
The story begins in the nineteenth century with the Smith family amassing a fortune in retail. Floating in 1914, the business then matures into a professionally run, managerial enterprise. In the 1970s it faces competition and the decline of major markets, leading to new business lines and internationalisation – it now has 23,000 employees across more than 50 countries.
In the 1980s it shocks the financial markets by abandoning traditional activities, and in 2000 engages in a wholly unexpected and controversial merger. The rich culture of Smiths, characterised by the fostering of technical brilliance and embodied in a cast of larger-than-life characters, is brought to life through unfettered access to corporate records and extensive interviews.
This fascinating narrative history highlights the significance of serendipity alongside strong corporate culture, succession planning and the effects of mergers in a constant search for sustainable growth.
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