After more than 100 years in the mattress industry, the fourth-generation family that owns AH Beard decided to take its history and its integrity and add a breath of fresh air, looking for a CEO outside the family for the first time. It didn’t need to look far—AH Beard had been doing business very happily with Paul Longman for years.
“Until 2005, the company had had outside general management, but in terms of a professional CEO, and restructuring the whole family organisation around a professional management team, I was the first—so, quite a privilege!” Paul exclaims.
Paul had already been working in the mattress industry for 27 years by then, starting as a toolmaker and then progressing to an engineering degree, cutting his teeth in factory processes, plant layout, and industrial design. He spent 10 years with Pacific Dunlop, and it was during his time as its national operations manager that he formed a strong relationship with fellow mattress giant and Fortune 500 company Leggett and Platt. Paul relocated to Queensland, but Leggett and Platt lured him back with an offer to set up an Australian arm of their business selling machinery to the mattress industry. “So I went from being in competition with AH Beard to being a supplier,” Paul says.
It proved to be a turning point for AH Beard, as Paul explains: “Leggett and Platt was a force in the industry—it still is—and it had a strong bond with Pacific Dunlop. I was able to bring some of the strengths from Leggett into AH Beard and refocus on technology, helping them in the next step to become a really strong national business. That forged a four-year relationship with AH Beard.
“We did some great things together, and during that tenure we built a great friendship and trust. After spending time in the US, AH Beard called and asked me to join them in New South Wales as group GM in 2005. Three years later, I was elevated to CEO and set about restructuring the business. The family had got to the point where there was enough trust and goodwill that they were happy to strike a balance between the family and corporate governance. New people were brought into the business to help it grow to the next level.