Gloucestershire business lessons: How a learning culture is driving Forge Engineering to success

In the first of the brand-new Gloucestershire business lessons interview series in partnership with Nimble Elearning, SoGlos speaks to Peter Miles from Forge Engineering about how investing in training has transformed his multi-million-pound organisation.

By Andrew Merrell  |  Published
Gloucester firm Forge Engineering says a culture of continual learning is helping drive its business forward.
Gloucester firm Forge Engineering says a culture of continual learning is helping drive its business forward.

Peter Miles is the managing director of £6 million-plus turnover, 50-staff-strong Forge Engineering – a man with a passion for learning that stands in stark contrast to his younger self, who left school with few qualifications.

He did go on to complete an engineering apprenticeship at Dowty, but by his own admission became a shop steward with ‘something of an anti-management stance’, suggesting little of the man who is today closing in on an MBA (Master of Business Administration) postgraduate qualification from the University of Gloucestershire through through county leadership specialists firm QuoLux.

For Miles, whose early focus was rugby (he played for Gloucester, Bath and Worcester as the game turned professional) the change in how he wanted to and would spend his working life came unexpectedly.

‘For some reason I began to think about my uncle and dad working long hours in their business and suddenly I had an epiphany.

‘The hard work they put in equated to the amount they got out. I realised I wanted that,’ said Miles, who spoke to SoGlos as part of our Gloucestershire business lessons series compiled in partnership with online training provider Nimble Elearning.

He moved into the family firm in the 1990s, which today is a group of companies producing performance vehicle parts and includes Forge Motorsport UK, Forge Motorsport USA and Forge Motorsport Asia.

It was 10 years later, facing the prospect of a senior management role, that he began to ask himself whether his own skill set was good enough to lead the firm – and that led him on the most unexpected journey he is still on.

‘I’m now on the final third of an MBA and we now have six more staff also taking a similar path. I would truly say it has transformed our business,’ said Miles, now the managing director of the growing business which last year celebrated its 25th birthday.

‘We have probably invested £140,000 in training so far and we are recovering that every day through the company.

‘I now know that you must challenge what you know to truly understand it. For me, it is all about improving leadership.’

In a move that has renewed Miles’ relationship with Gloucester Rugby, Forge Motorsport has just sponsored the Kingsholm club and sport continues to provide inspiration.

‘I like the All Blacks thinking that the standards you walk past are the standards you become. It is not just about the part you are making for a motor car; for aviation; for the MOD, it’s the standard of the equipment you use, the floor you stand on, the lighting above the machine, it’s everything. This sort of thinking now underpins our business.

‘When we started down this path of continual learning I did something I heard Clive Woodward do when he first took over as coach of the England Rugby team.

‘We got everyone together and asked them what kind of team they wanted us to be. They came up with words like honesty, integrity and determination, so we distilled that down to what we call The Forge Way.

‘Ultimately, everything starts from one place — you speak to people as you want to be spoken to and treat people as you would like to be treated.’

More on Gloucestershire business lessons

More from Business