Exporting safety – staff Q&A with Stéphane Legret

Since Brigade Electronics was founded in 1976, our company has grown from a modest start-up to a global market leader in the field of commercial vehicle safety. This success story could never have been possible without the talent and dedication of our staff.

To offer an insight into our business, we’d like to shine a spotlight on Brigade team members in our various departments. Kicking off the series of staff Q&As, we chatted to Stéphane Legret, Regional Export Sales Manager.

How long have you worked for Brigade Electronics?

I joined the company in January 2009. I’d always worked in the global automotive industry, but in the car rather than commercial vehicle sector. It was a fascinating switch to make. Brigade’s pioneering safety products impressed me from the start, and it gives me great satisfaction to know that the work I do results in saving people’s lives.

What is your current role and what does it involve?

As Regional Export Sales Manager, my role involves direct liaison with our distributors in Scandinavia, France and Austria. About a third of my time is spent visiting customers offering sales support, leading product presentations and training sessions, making field visits and attending exhibitions across my region. The remaining time I’m based in our UK headquarters in Kent, where I’m involved throughout the sales process, from general enquiries, pricing and order processing to after-sales support. I’m also responsible for budgeting and reporting to directors.

I really enjoy the travel aspect of the role, and it’s great that I can use my language skills – I’m a native French speaker who has lived in the UK since 1981.

Why did you choose to work in the automotive industry?

I’ve always been interested in vehicles of any kind – as a teenager I had mopeds and motorbikes and would enjoy tinkering with them. I’m no longer hands-on in that sense, but it doesn’t harm to have an understanding of mechanics, because this helps when it comes to appreciating the application of our products.

What do you consider to be the most important factor when building customer relationships?

Honesty and care, because this brings trust. If you have trust as the foundation, you will forge good and long-standing relationships.

How has Brigade Electronics evolved since you joined the company?

When I joined in 2009 there were 60 employees with a turnover below £10 million. Today the company has 170 staff and will achieve over £40 million turnover this financial year. Increased safety regulations in Europe and across the world has led to tremendous growth and a surge in demand. We are the only truly global company in our industry, with distributors in all five continents.

What changes have you seen in the industry over the years?

On the positive side the technology has advanced dramatically, and Brigade’s pioneering commercial vehicle safety products are ever more sophisticated, helping to improve vehicle safety still further. However, with increased demand comes increased competition, and unfortunately some of those competitors do not have the same scrupulous standards that we do. In recent years there’s been a surge in cheap, sub-standard devices being manufactured in the Far East. They are copies of copies, with no quality control or accreditation, and it’s concerning to think that they are being fitted into vehicles.

Our challenge is to spread best practice throughout the industry, offering high-quality and reliable products to the market that promote real improvements in road safety.

Of all Brigade’s products, which do you think has had the most significant impact on vehicle safety?

It’s impossible to pick one! Each product has been innovative for its time, from the first reversing alarms introduced to the UK by Brigade in 1976, to our latest 360° all round vision camera monitor and radar obstacle detection systems. In our current portfolio, all products work together to bring an overall safety solution, helping to eliminate blind spots that are the cause of so many accidents on public roads and on worksites.

Crystal ball gazing – in a futuristic world, describe your dream safety product!

The dream for me would be a safety solution that prevents all collisions and all loss of life caused by mobile vehicles. It might seem hard to imagine that day, but technology is advancing so fast that this might not seem as futuristic as it sounds.