LOUISA GARLAND has instilled in her staff that when designing new products and facing new challenges: "Don't ever say we can't, say we will." This philosophy has served her well.
Since its inception in October 2000, Imperial Armour has forged its way to become a world leader in the manufacturing of personal protection equipment and has grown at a phenomenal rate. This success has also seen Garland win many industry awards. Garland said that the achievements of Imperial Armour is attributed to her passion for her company's products and her positive outlook. She added that after 19 years in business her belief in what she is doing is even stronger. "To stay in business you have to be innovative. As the years have progressed, I have realised the importance of not repeating the same. You need to think out of the box."
With this mindset, Garland is continually seeking new ideas and following the latest trends and technology from all around the world to bring them back to South Africa so that our products stay up to date to serve current needs. This approach has also prompted the recent launch of Imperial Armour's sister company Imperial Uniforms that will manufacture uniforms for security companies. Garland said, "The initiative will open more doors for us as we will be able to provide a complete service to our clients."
Growing the company has also meant changing her approach to marketing. Garland has put herself into the marketplace and continued to spend time with her clients. She said, "It is important to build relationships so that your clients trust you and know that you will provide good service, excellent quality and deliver on time."
In keeping up with her clients, Garland has also recently done a relaunch of Imperial Armour's website to ensure clients and prospective clients can always stay up to date with the latest technology, news and products. In addition, Garland attributes her ability to deliver word class products to her staff. She said that she encourages her employees 'who are 98% women' to be accountable for their production tasks. However, she explains her leadership style as being hands on as she enjoys working alongside her employees.
She said, "I recognise my employees' achievements and I like to keep them happy. That means we also have fun at work, even going so far as to try on the safety gear to check its fit and design. You must have laughter and build team camaraderie to prosper. We enjoy good positive energy."
The staff are also encouraged to work to their strengths and "do what they love to do." Garland said, "I enjoy providing opportunities for the upliftment of my staff through skills training. Employees also feel valued when they are advancing within a company, which is something I feel is important to promote an empowered workforce."
Garland would like to see more manufacturing taking place within South Africa as she is aware of many opportunities for specialised products to be produced. She commented that more manufacturing concerns would also play a huge role in making a prouder South Africa, which would counter many of the social problems we experience.
In her free time Garland is a typical mom who enjoys spending time with her two daughters and encouraging them to be empowered, which has resulted in them both having started their own companies. Emily, the youngest, has recently joined Louisa Garland in Imperial Armour to carry out the company's legacy.
Further to that, Garland has a passion for interior decorating, traveling and keeping active, she has recently done her advanced scuba diving course in Thailand.