1987 – 1991: Aston University BSc, Managerial and Administrative Studies (1989-90 Third-year business analyst, Hewlett Packard UK).
September 1991 – January 1994: Procurement analyst, Mobil Oil Europe.
February 1994 – December 1995: Wholesale fuels manager, Mobil Oil UK.
January 1996 – February 1998: Key account manager, LeasePlan UK.
March 1998 – August 2001: International product development manager, LeasePlan Corporation.
September 2001 – April 2004: Business development director, LeasePlan International.
April 2004 – October 2009: Managing director, LeasePlan International.
October 2009 – April 2014: Commercial director, LeasePlan UK.
May 2014 – present: Managing director, LeasePlan UK.
March 2016: LeasePlan was named leasing company of the year (more than 15,000 vehicles) at the Fleet News Awards.
I have benefited from both university and the ‘school of life’. I was very committed to completing a placement degree to ensure I would have both academic and practical business learning. While studying Managerial and Administrative Studies at Aston University, I spent 14 months working for Hewlett Packard. This was invaluable, especially as I graduated in 1991 which wasn’t the greatest time to be entering the job market. Having that experience under my belt really helped me find a strong graduate role at Mobil Oil.
I first learnt about the fleet industry during my time at Mobil Oil. I worked on the procurement side for its UK company car scheme. I also worked in the wholesale fuels sector, which involved working closely with the fleet fuel sector. My career has really been about gaining experience to build my capability. So although I didn’t set out with the direct intention to work in the fleet industry, I followed my nose to a certain extent and it has brought me to where I am today.
The decision to move and work abroad was the biggest career leap I’ve made. This was back in 1998, early on in my LeasePlan career. I was working as an account manager in the UK and an opportunity came up to work on a project in Brussels. This wasn’t necessarily a promotion, simply a chance to gain some different experience. For me, it was a big decision to up sticks and move as I couldn’t predict how it would go or how I would respond to it personally. I would also have to leave behind my support network of great friends and family. However, I decided to go for it. I packed my life into a Vauxhall Vectra and moved to Brussels. Thankfully, the decision paid off for me, as a year later I moved to Amsterdam and was working at the corporate centre as it went through a major globalisation programme. That was a great work opportunity.
I realised fleet was the industry I wanted to stay in long-term when I was living and working abroad for LeasePlan at the company’s corporate centre in the Netherlands. To take that step and live away from friends and family, there needed to be something compelling about the business and my affinity with it. It also comes down to the culture of the organisation. Can you relate to it? Do you thrive in it? Can you work well with the people who are there? For me, LeasePlan has always had a really powerful culture and spirit that is truly nurtured throughout the business.
I spent more than eight years at LeasePlan International, including five and a half as managing director. I really enjoyed this role, as it enabled me to lead a sales team that worked with all the LeasePlan operating companies to deliver for our multinational customers. It was certainly an exciting time. Global initiatives seemed to be prominent for many multinationals and LeasePlan, given our international network, really does have a strong proposition for this sector. To travel to so many different countries, manage and work with different nationalities, work for the CEO of the group and positively impact the growth of the group, was a real privilege. There was also plenty of opportunity to grab dinner and drinks during the many nights away, which added to the fun.
I wouldn’t say that I always wanted to be an MD. I was always keen on being a leader and felt comfortable with that responsibility. But I was also always looking to add to my experience. So I guess you put those two things together and a managing director role becomes a strong possibility.
Being a good MD all starts with you as an individual and being true to your values and the direction you want to take the business. So, in essence, all managing directors will have their own take on this question. For me, I think it’s important to be a great listener and communicator. You also have to ensure the business is constantly evolving and changing, especially considering the competitiveness of the market. Always try to back the recommendations, and instinct, of yourself and those around you. If you wait for the certainty of knowing you’re making the right decision, it will be too late.
I’ve experienced quite a variety of training throughout my career, and certainly personal development has been a priority during my time at all three companies I have worked for – Hewlett Packard, Mobil Oil and LeasePlan. I’ve tended to use training opportunities to bridge certain gaps in my expertise, though I would say that the most beneficial are those where you are learning about yourself as an individual, especially your strengths and how to deploy these.
The best piece of careers advice I’ve had is to look to continuously improve and always try to leave something in a better place than when you found it.
I’m sure there have been elements of luck and pre-planning in most people’s careers. Certainly, I have been in the right place at the right time at different points in my career but also spent time carefully planning certain moves. However, you have to back yourself, work hard and grab the opportunity no matter how it has come to you. When it comes to career goals, there probably has been some planning but I have not necessarily seen them as such, just capabilities that I wanted to develop.
My advice for those starting their leasing career would be to make sure you understand how we deliver value to our customers and I am including client and drivers in that definition. We have a great opportunity to have a really positive impact on how corporates, small businesses and individuals use vehicles. At that point, you will realise that it is all about the service, the value, the experience and the expertise that we deliver, rather than the mechanics of the lease.
Being named leasing company of the year meant a huge amount to us as a business. But it’s not just about LeasePlan and our employees; it’s also about our suppliers and our customers, and the impact they’ve had. The way we collaborate and the way they push us in terms of what they’re looking for have allowed us to be in the position where we’ve received this recognition. We’ve put a lot of hard work in over the past few years and this show us we’re on the right path, but there is still work to do.
I joined the BVRLA Committee of Management during the summer of 2014. I have also recently been appointed as the vice-chairman of the BVRLA, which I see as a fantastic opportunity to support our industry.