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Following the acquisition by Assa Abloy, Union went through a six-month period of 'ideas generation' in which commercial director Craig Sellers encouraged his staff to challenge the industry and 'think outside the box'. 'I wanted to restructure the Union business worldwide away from being industry driven and product-based to being a specification-driven, aspirational solution provider, ' he explains. 'That was the catalyst to challenge the whole way the industry works.'

Once the ideas started to flow, Sellers reconfigured the company, with a team immediately below him creating the structure needed to put the ideas into practice and beyond that a team tasked with delivery. Sellers himself had previously worked for Assa Abloy in the UK and was employed at Union's then parent, Yale, at the time of the acquisition. He describes his role now as 'blueskying', developing the vision for Union as an international brand and constantly challenging the traditional way the industry works.

One of the advantages of the acquisition, he says, was that it gave Union the chance to 'go backwards in order to go forwards'. Assa Abloy is a great believer in the strength of individual brands, so Union's management was able to spend time identifying exactly what the company's core strengths and values are, and then build on those.

'It's too easy to keep thinking ahead to where the new growth areas might be, ' Sellers says, citing advances in electronic techniques and new methods of scanning and identification. 'But we should be doing what we're known for and doing that really well, and then looking to see if there's a way of doing these other things through Assa Abloy.'

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