He is the calm disruptor, redefining the look, the perception, and the way we use mobility and accessibility adaptations in the home. Steering Stiltz Homelifts for almost a decade, he has headed up an impressive growth story with turnover doubling year-on-year over the first five years, then continuing to grow the domestic lifts company at 50 per cent for the next four years.
An accomplished business professional, Mike combines an entrepreneurial flair alongside strong business management skills. But his core strength is creating a strategy and inspiring his teams to deliver the vision and financial success. His, and the Stiltz home lift team’s, over-arching mission statement for Stiltz is ‘Democratizing’ home lifts; for a Stiltz Homelift to be the natural choice, a commonplace appliance available to anyone who wants to add convenience and style to their home in the same way as currently more mainstream home improvements and appliances. This vision captures the mood of the moment where the drive for continuing independence for older generations AND younger people with compromised mobility means they all seek a solution for inclusive living.
And that is a tough order from an industry often laden with a prosaic, make-do-and-mend image.
Born in 1966, Mike hails from Leyland in Lancashire, and by his own admission, he was academically ‘average’ at school, spending more time focusing on canoe slalom, managing to get selected for the GB Youth Team. He then went on to the University of Central Lancashire initially to study electronic engineering but switched to business after his first year setting him on his path to success. Mike still loves the product engineering part of Stiltz despite his lack of academic prowess in the subject at uni!
Mike headed straight into the manufacturing business on leaving but it was in 1993, when he joined Sunrise Medical, that his mobility industry journey started. The roles he held here were pivotal in shaping his knowledge and understanding of the sector, overseeing sales, product development, IT and customer services. After this came the management buy-out from Sunrise in 2000 with Mike staging a further buyout in 2004, becoming CEO for the first time.
Following the sale of Minivator to Handicare, he became Chairman of Handicare in the UK for a short period; alongside this he created a portfolio of investments in new business start-ups and turnarounds. This was at the risk end of investment with Mike taking calculated managerial and fiscal risks not all of which turned out well. Bank and investor management are an intrinsic part of his experience, as is creating a positive can-do culture across management teams and the business.
Mike’s dynamic portfolio approach and continued search for new investment led to him becoming aware of the fledgling Stiltz Homelifts in 2011. He immediately saw the potential for this unique and highly disruptive product as the Stiltz domestic lift. A meeting with co-founder Lachlan Faulkner at The Ideal Home Show shaped the next decade for them. Mike and his finance specialist set to work creating the business structure needed to take the company global, investing in 2014 and buying out the other three original founders with Lachlan, creating a new Board Team in 2017.
Mike Lord has what he sees as a simple and obvious business philosophy. There are three parts to a successful business – process, people and product, and the key is getting them to work together. The founders of Stiltz are from Australia and that Aussie spirit is espoused within the workplace culture; laid back and welcoming but hard-working, focused on success and hugely competitive in the market. Mike jokes that the management team like to ‘SMACK’ their employees. SMACK is an acronym for the Stiltz recipe for successfully growing professional people … secure, motivated, appreciated, challenged and knowledgeable.
For a man at the helm of such an influential, market-leading company his calm and relatively private persona might seem at odds with someone who can deliver such business success. Mike chooses to live in the country with his wife and seven children – only two of which have now flown the nest. Keen on outdoor pursuits he enjoys mountain biking but has by his own admission had to embrace the e-bike version. He holds a pilot’s licence and is surrounded by a veritable menagerie of animals. He describes his leadership as ‘open, consultative but driven’ and this is undoubtedly working. One piece of advice he has for all aspiring entrepreneurs is not cloaked in managerial complexity but is straightforward – work hard, be resilient and find great people to work with.