What I’ve learnt
On personal and work values
It is very important to know that your company’s core values match your own personal values. This starts at the interview process; I watch the behaviours of the interviewer and the senior team and ask myself ‘Do they exhibit those values and actually live it?’ In spite of all the research you can do on a company, you don’t know for sure about those values until you get in there and start working. Integrity, trust and honesty are all values that mean a lot to me; but until you join an organisation and get embedded into it, it is difficult to know for sure if those values are truly lived. I’m pleased to say they are lived here at the IAM and my past employers too.
On being a leader
You can only be a good leader if you surround yourself with good people. It is important to acknowledge that you can’t be an expert in everything. Leaders who say they can often breed a culture that reflects that viewpoint, which might not be for the better. A good leader will acknowledge there are experts in their field that can only enhance the work you do.
On having a work-life balance
It is really important to make time for family and friends. I am very happy to meet with our members and volunteers at evenings and weekends, it is an integral part of my work at the IAM, but I also know I must give time to my family equally. I am also conscious of finding time for myself, to think about my needs in terms of personal development and how I can be the best leader for my company and for myself.
On the road
As a driver, motorcyclist and cyclist, I know only too well the pressures we face on the roads today. Some road users do not appear comfortable sharing their space with other road users, leading to friction between user groups, but everyone needs to look out for each other and show each other respect. I’m a keen cyclist, putting in 50-75 miles a week and take part in sportives two or three times a year. I like cycling because it is a real break from work life, and I enjoy the fresh air and exercise.
I really don’t think about work on my way to the office, it is really important to concentrate on the journey itself. Our work at the IAM has highlighted the dangers of not getting distracted during journeys, so I do try to live that as best I can. It’s understandable that people have many things to think about on their journeys but concentration is a crucial factor in reading the road ahead and avoiding accidents.
What I’ve learnt
Mapping the journey
In 17 years as a consultant in the fleet industry, I’ve seen a significant shift in the relationship between companies and their fleet service providers. Where the focus was once on internal resourcing, there’s now far greater reliance on the expertise leasing companies can offer. Particularly in the past five to 10 years, in response to
the volatile financial climate, organisations have looked to their service providers for strategic guidance as opposed to traditional day-to-day fleet operations.
In recent years, the economic downturn has been the primary catalyst for change within many organisations. As the demand for cost-cutting and cost-saving solutions was pushed up the agenda, leasing companies found themselves working more closely with customers’ financial and procurement departments. Combined with taxation and legislative changes, advancements in plug-in technology and alternative fuels, organisations are dealing with significant external forces – for better or worse.
Changes for the long haul
Looking to the future, our role as a business partner is likely to become more critical. I believe we will continue to evolve into an overall mobility and business solutions provider. Within that shift, we’ll see a growing demand for specialist support, guidance and advice in a consultancy capacity coupled with the ongoing development of user-friendly ecommerce and online management resources for customers at all levels. Sole supply contracts will undoubtedly be required to facilitate this close partnership approach.
The power of plug-in technology
Although confidence in electric and plug-in vehicles has been cautious up to now, we expect to see a continuing increase in uptake as manufacturers develop new products in response to market demands. Combined with the Government’s pledge to invest tens of millions of pounds in this sector, we expect to see a sustained period of growth in the future. But like all new technology, it doesn’t come without its limitations and challenges.
Gearing up for the future
It looks like 2014 will be quiet on the taxation and legislative front before significant BiK changes come into effect in 2015, especially for ultra and zero emission cars. This presents an excellent window of opportunity for companies to start preparing now.
What I’ve learnt
People are the life blood of any organisation. It is people who make an organisation. They ultimately determine how successful an organisation will be through their commitment, dedication, enthusiasm, passion and hard work. I have never believed in top heavy organisations but I do believe strongly that successful organisations need key people at the top who have the vision and the drive to take the business forward. They need to share similar values and set the culture of an organisation. These key people need to be reliant on a strong management structure who can deliver on the objectives set. Everyone within the organisation needs to understand what the business is trying to achieve and therefore clear, honest communication is critical. And you need to invest in your people and provide proper training to support their job functions so that they can make better contributions.
Without customers, organisations would not exist. It’s stating the obvious but I can’t believe how many organisations lose sight of this basic tenet. We place delivering the highest quality customer service at the fore of all that we do. We are passionate about providing our discerning customers with a premium fleet service experience. And we can only do this by really engaging with our customers and fully understanding their businesses. To ensure that we walk the talk, each board member acts as a customer sponsor and attends major review meetings so that we keep our fingers on the pulse and can make quick decisions.
Working in close partnership with our employees, customers and suppliers is the only way to extract maximum value from a business relationship. Experience has shown that an honest, open approach is always the best way of getting the most out of relationships. Even if it’s bad news, recipients at the end of the day appreciate sincerity. Nothing will ever always go to plan and it’s how you face up to issues and propose to resolve them that will determine the success of long-term partnerships. Usually how you have successfully tackled a problem will end up strengthening a business relationship.
You can’t invest enough in technology. Once you’ve determined the solutions that your business requires now and in the future and identified the right technology partners to deliver on your requirements, you need to work hand-in-hand with them to ensure the right solutions are delivered on time. The technology you choose has to be flexible, intuitive, scalable and above all capable of integration with other systems used within the organisation. And you should not stop investing in technology if you truly want to position your organisation as an innovative, class leader.
I have always placed strong reliance on great communications across the board. Excellent communications starts with your internal audience – your people – extend to your customers and suppliers right through to the media at large. As with any partnership, building up good relationships with principal media is essential to getting your key messages out into the market. And you need to be reactive to requests for press comment. I’ve never had a problem with the media because I believe I understand their requirements and aim to deliver quotes on message that will stand out from the crowd.
And lastly, you never stop learning. Once you do, you’re dead in the water, if not six foot under!
What I’ve learnt
Comment – What I’ve learnt
On running a trade association
I had worked for a BVRLA member for many years and thought I had a good idea of what it would be like to run the association. I soon learned that things were very different from how I had viewed it on the outside. The BVRLA board often describes me as an “Expert Generalist”, which is a good summary of the breadth of subjects and knowledge that running the BVRLA demands.
Dealing with members
In my early days, a member I was visiting said he paid his subscriptions because the BVRLA brand gave him credibility and also as a form of insurance. It was very important to his business that he had access to support and information in the event of any problems.
This comparison between association membership and an insurance policy has stayed with me for the last 13 years and underpins how the BVRLA team responds to all member queries.
Dealing with Government
I very quickly got my head around the fact that dealing with Government departments is one of the most challenging aspects of the role. This isn’t because of the people involved – most of them are very pleasant and engaging individuals. The challenge is that common sense and logic have little value in the political arena. You may have the best thought-out argument supported by a host of facts and data, but if it does not fit the minister’s political agenda you are on to a loser.
Dealing with the media
You have to accept that the media are always on the lookout for something a bit more sensational than their competition. The real facts can be pretty boring to report so you shouldn’t assume that what you say will be reproduced faithfully in any article, particularly with the headline. However, working with the press is essential if you want to inform a big audience quickly and, used wisely, the trade press is a great asset to any industry.
I can only remember one day in my working life where a business issue kept me awake all night. It was the night after Black Horse phoned to advise me that they had decided to exit funding the contract hire and rental sector. As the largest single funder to our industry, I was struggling with what our next steps should be.
Wind forward 48 hours and we had agreement to set up a funding steering group and the rest is thankfully now history.