It’s World Thinking Day and UK EMS Provider Gives us some Food for Thought

This year, World Thinking Day is celebrated on Monday, 22 February. To mark the occasion, we asked Oli Randell, Managing Director of Active EMS about his own personal philosophy and how he has adopted it into his own business?

My own philosophy is based on a combination of the influences of five mentors – Warren Buffett, Charlie Munger, Tony Hsieh, Bo Burlingham and Ella Quatresols. Each has had an influence on a different aspect of my thinking and I have built the Active EMS business around their ideas.

My first mentor, Warren Buffet, needs no introduction. He highlights the fact that reputations and relationships are far more valuable commodities than revenue and profitability for business over the long term. Buffet also a great believer in the importance of investing in yourself through continuous learning and surrounding yourself with people you respect and trust.

One of the people that Buffet respects and trusts most is Berkshire Hathaway’s Vice Chairman, Charlie Munger. Charlie is an excellent example for World Thinking Day with his enthusiasm for independent thinking. He is also famous for the use of multiple models to encourage broad thinking, which gives a lot more context to any situation. Finally, I have learned a lot from Charlie’s use of inversion thinking techniques to find solutions to more difficult problems.

Mentor number three is former Zappos Chairman, Tony Hsieh who stresses how successful companies need to have a solid foundation of culture and values. That culture can then be used as a compass to drive the future direction of the business. Tony was also a great help to me in understanding how to evaluate the intangible rather than just measuring tangible outcomes.

My next great influence is Bo Burlingham, a business author, who’s route to long term sustainability is dependent on the pursuit of excellence, rather than focussing on volume growth. Bo also introduced me to the concept of businesses having a duality of purpose, where sustainable profitability should be allied to a passion or purpose to create a business that has ‘Mojo’.

However, my first and most important mentor and role model was Ella Quatresols, who highlighted motivational psychology long before it gained widespread popularity. Ella was a great proponent of having a positive mindset, a determined mindset, a resilient mindset and behaving ethically. She also understood the importance of assessing the techniques employed in deriving outcomes, rather than an evaluation of the outcome alone. Ella is a bit different from my other four influences in that she was never a renowned captain of industry, but everyone is entitled to make an exception for their own nan.

Practical implementation

My ambition is for the Active EMS business to outlive me. To achieve this requires building a multi-generational company that nurtures and develops its team, its clients, its suppliers and its equipment, as well as the physical environment to retain its core culture. These requirements have to be met while continuously improving and adapting. I have used what I’ve learned from my five mentors to build the foundations of that multi-generational company.

The same philosophies have also been used to create a company culture at Active EMS that aids our ambition to be a sustainable, employee owned and ethical electronic assembly partner that behaves as part of the client. The company’s core values stress the provision of the highest quality and best value assembled electronic products delivered through the integration of quality, value and flexibility within our own ethical framework. This focus on culture and values is integrated in every function of the business, from recruitment to how we engage with suppliers and stakeholders.

To foster a continuous improvement mindset, we use the phrase “Good, Better, Best” as a thinking model to allow us to make the leap to better or best directly if resources allow. We will never take the next step up if we have to undo some of that effort to allow us to move to the next level. Our continuous improvement programmes wrap around people, processes, systems, equipment, our physical environment and, most importantly, our active thinking.



 50% of the Active EMS workforce is female. This high level of gender parity is helped by the culture and values we have built within the company. It is important for us to continue to ask ourselves what more could we do to be inclusive and diverse in our culture.

When recruiting, we often see people who may have been overlooked elsewhere and not had the opportunities that they deserve. Adversity often breeds determination, resilience and the drive to achieve something for yourself. We think it is most important to look for those character and personality traits in future team members and not hold pre-conceived biases or get in the way of people who show those traits.

My advice to anyone looking at a career in electronics is to first built the self-awareness and emotional intelligence to allow them to evaluate their personality traits and capabilities through a psychometric test to see which type of career best suits them. Many psychometric tests can be accessed online, such as the Myers Briggs Personality Type Indicator. The electronics industry has many roles suitable for different personality traits, such as sales, marketing, finance, HR, production, logistics and supply chain. Thanks to my mentors, my personal philosophy has helped to create a business with a culture and values where all of these traits can contribute and thrive together.