We are absolutely delighted to share the latest episode in our #LOFTCAST series with Colin Robertson CBE
Bright, colourful, energetic, unashamedly Scottish and one of the country’s top business people, Colin Robertson CBE has spent the last 13 years transforming Larbert-based bus and coach company Alexander Dennis into one of the worlds top manufacturers. In this wide-ranging interview, Colin takes us through his 13-year period as CEO of the company – the battles he had at the beginning taking an organisation that was previously in administration to one that was capable of world-beating performance – particularly in terms of operational excellence, manufacturing, customer service and after-market support. He gives us a number of fascinating insights which touch on all the fundamentals of business – vision, values, leadership, managing others and also managing yourself.
He shares some stunningly simple yet effective ideas on international expansion, market positioning and how manufacturers can best prepare for the future. Finally, he takes us through the impacts of Covid-19 before answering a number of questions from business people all over the world.
This interview was the latest in the LOFTCAST series, a video and audio podcast which celebrates high-impact people and the change they are leading in society today. A must watch for any budding entrepreneur, business owner, leader, manager, manufacturer or anybody with a particular interest in bus or coaches.
We hope you enjoy watching it as much as we’ve enjoyed creating it.
Friday morning was a very special day as we spent a wonderful morning interviewing Colin Robertson CBE of Alexander Dennis in our latest LOFTCAST video podcast.
Colin has done an absolutely incredible job as CEO of Alexander Dennis over the last 13 years helping to turn the company into one of the world’s most successful bus and coach manufacturers. He’s helped increase Annual Turnover almost 400% to £631million, opened the company up to new markets, transformed product development as well as aftermarket support. He’s won numerous awards and been acknowledged by her majesty the Queen herself.
Quite simply, Colin is one of Scotland’s top business leaders.
On Friday morning, we covered business growth, leadership, manufacturing, bus & coaches and of course – dealing with COVID-19.
At the end of our conversation, we managed to get in its of questions from all you budding entrepreneurs, business leaders and even bus & coach enthusiasts.
We think this one is going to be very special and we can’t wait to share it with you…
‘Resurgence’ is the new video podcast for entrepreneurs, business owners and organisational leaders that are looking to thrive, not just survive, at the end of the crisis. In this series we are bringing you interviews with some of our top business/organisational leaders and looking at what they’ve done so far, how they are preparing for the future and mainly how they are looking to turn this crisis into something positive for the future.
The first of our interviews is with Dr Iain MacRitchie, Scottish entrepreneur, philanthropist and founder of the incredible MCR Pathway programme. In this wide-ranging interview – Iain gives some wonderful guidance for leaders in how to best look after themselves/their teams, why knowing your purpose, vision & mission has never been more important and also the steps MCR Pathways are taking to turn this crisis into a form of lasting change that will help them realise their vision to help every care-experienced and disadvantaged young person in the country gets the same education outcomes, career opportunities and life chances as every other young person.
These are some of the key messages from the interview.
We’re in the same storm but we’re experiencing it in different ways.
Take care of the staff – there is nothing we can’t overcome – we are going to get through this.
Most importantly for us, we kept the focus of the main reason we exist – we need to support the young people.
When facing a crisis, being very calm is an absolute prerequisite – which is hard – crisis brings adrenaline.
You have to get calmer in crisis and really deal with your adrenaline.
Take care of yourself first and foremost, you can’t take care of anybody else – if you haven’t taken care of yourself.
As a leader, you have to take leadership, you have to be the one that pushes. It’s a constant communication, it’s constant.
Get yourself in order, be decisive and then do stuff!!
Make stuff happen but take care of people along the way – they will have challenges along the way.
Let’s make sure everybody is included and nobody is left behind.
We’ve done things in timescales that were unheard off!!
One of the things I love about this – is that it does show that we can respond to need, it does show that we can take care of those that need to be taken care off.
There are things we can now build on – there is absolutely zero excuse for leaving anybody behind.
Every organisation I’ve worked with from 5 people to 5000 people have a challenge to stay focussed.
When doing scenario planning – what is the purpose of your organisation?
Every organisation from 5000 to 5 people – have a challenge to stay focussed.
Either opportunism to chase a sale or chase an opportunity – may not be a bad thing – but it starts to dilute, starts to distract, starts to take you away.
Go back to the beginning – what is the purpose of your organisation – and if you can’t answer that in 1-2 sentences, then you’ve not got the right answer. It can and should be a sentence.
Scenario Planning starts off with absolute focus – what is the focus of your organisation
What’s the purpose of the organisation? What is the focus? What does success look like? What is it trying to achieve?
As soon as you can’t remember something – it becomes irrelevant.
What is the big hairy goal – what do I want it to be and where do I sit in that particular equation? Businesses that fail lose direction and go off-track.
Clarity of need should be in the front of business leader’s mind all the time.
Need first and foremost and think about ways to deliver against that and then communicate it to death.
Everything is going to change – that is opportunity – for me to do it all much better and faster – because there is no resistance anymore.
We have a fantastic opportunity to get it right for society in general but also for the economy
Those that are communicating, those that are out there, are doing great
For those in a rush, we’ve taken the entire interview and broken down for you to go directly to the parts that most interest you…
0 mins | Introduction of series and Dr Iain MacRitchie, Founder of MCR Pathways – supporting over 2000 disadvantaged young people in the country.
1 mins | Dealing with lockdown – sometimes feels like we are two different people at times.
2 mins | Consideration that some of us have it much easier than others, Iain admits to being in a privileged position, but heart goes out to those that are locked down and suffering to a greater extent.
3 mins | Steps taken with MCR Pathways – scenario planning in early February, the consideration of schools closing, get people ready to work from home, clearing the building. Taking practical steps but most importantly prepare people’s mindsets for what was about to happen.
4 mins | Importance of communication to staff, trying to give some form of certainty, the de-stability of facing uncertainty for any team or organisation
5 mins | Communicating to so many different stakeholders, respecting the privacy, inventing a brand-new process, keeping in mind the reason the organisation exists – supporting the young people, moving to a way to communicate virtually.
6 mins | The importance of being calm, of managing adrenaline.
7 mins | Back to basics – how can we reach the young people now the schools are closed? Virtual mentoring in a safe way, asking young people how best to carry on the relationships. Not able to switch to virtual overnight, encouraging mentors and young people to exchange messages (done in the traditional forum of letters called Pen-pal,)
8 mins | Calmness, planning and then going on the persuasion, having to change views on what was possible, the team did a great job on being calm, working towards milestones, had 2-3 weeks to get infrastructure in place, the single objective of reaching young people.
9 mins | Advice for managers and leaders in staying calm – dealing with your energy levels, deal with your body before you deal with your brain, be as relaxed as possible, Iain would blast exercise bike to burn off some excess energy. Mentions to respect the body and the mind.
10 mins | Make sure you pause, reflect, absorb and think – give yourself time to think. Iain works in three times zones – P1 felt like a sprint, no point in burning out, virus isn’t going away any time soon, so must adapt accordingly.
11 mins | Taking time to reflect – what may this look like next month or in 3-4 months’ time, can’t think long term yet, thinking then planning, importance of writing it out down.
12 mins | Writing down objectives, putting together a framework and then sharing that with the team, not an absolute law but a framework. Get the collective engaged and involved in the plan. Iain is an originator of an idea but needs team to buy-in and believe it, ideally to the same level that he does.
13 mins | Underestimating the difference in environment with this crisis, giving people more time to absorb what’s going on – even with themselves, get yourself in order, be decisive and do stuff.
14 mins | Don’t get bogged down in scenario planning, MCR are acting right now in 2 weeks blocks, week time intervals were too tight – months too long, all about reaching the young people, creating an engagement programme which encourages them to continue developing themselves.
16 mins | Some kids don’t have broadband access at home, or devices either, raised funds to bring people online, scenarios quickly identified this isn’t going to change any time soon.
17 mins | Making the current proposition – a permanent part of their offering, constructing time zones in your mind are critical to help your brain think of the now but in the context of the future.
18 mins | People might need time out, supporting over 2300 young people each week – managing to re-engage with over 1300 young people with virtual mentoring quickly, had to work through a lot of regulations, restrictions and barriers but cut through and quickly!!
20 mins | Iain loves how this situations has shown how we can respond to need, that it does show that there are no excuses for anybody being left behind or being able to respond or being able to be taken care off, scenario planning on way out of the crisis.
21 mins | More detail on scenario planning, every organisation Iain has worked with from 5 people to 5000 people have a challenge to stay focussed, opportunism to chase a sale or chase an opportunity takes you down an angle – but starts to dilute, distract or take you away. Go back to the beginning – what is the purpose of your organisation? And if you can’t answer that in 1-2 sentences, then you’ve not got the right answer.
22 mins | MCR Pathway – we are about engaging the young people so that they feel more confident, certain and hopeful about their futures, reaching the young people to give them the support, young people should feel comfortable and secure in that mentoring relationship.
23 mins, common denominator of all organisations should be – what is the purpose of the organisation – what are we trying to achieve? what is the focus? What does success look like? MCR Pathways vision/mission is that they don’t want there to be any difference in education outcomes, job choices or life changes of our most disadvantaged young people relative to others. Have to face into the reality with 3 different mindsets.
24 mins | 3 scenarios in mind – best case/worst case – and how can I deliver on my purpose against those two? Scenarios should be 3, get into your imagination, how can we realise our best case?
25 mins | Hopes of a summer programme for young people with physical mentoring – but preparing for more likely scenario of more lockdowns, schools still aren’t fully back, etc.
26 mins | Both scenarios are planned in some detail – and look/adjust between the two.
27 mins | Don’t want to create a lot of uncertainty around the team, scenario planning does involve a smaller group of people, it is more intense.
28 mins | Clarity of purpose – nailing the purpose down, do whatever it takes to get revenue, revenue comes first!
29 mins | Get yourself in a survival position. Get cashflow, get headroom, get whatever it takes to protect a core of your organisation.
30 mins | What’s your vision for the organisation, what is your big goal? What’s your Mission? Get clear on your vision and your mission then get the mechanics right on the framework to achieve that.
31 mins | What is the big hairy goal – what do I want it to be and where do I sit in that particular equation? Businesses that fail lose direction and go off-track. Business is really simple.
32 mins | Survive first, choices second. Advice to marketeers and communications?
33 mins | Get to what is the needed. What need does your organisation fill? Difference between those in stable household and those that are not. Clarity of need should be in the front of your mind all the time!
34 mins | Many of those in trouble still have customers with needs, pandemic has not changed need, every organisation that survives the pandemic is going to be needed once things return to normal or the ‘new-normal.’ Need is the first thing to keep in mind.
35 mins | Mentoring works, it’s not changing we just have to deliver it in a different way, do everything possible to support those young people when they are locked down, the memory that mentors do care is a profound one to young disadvantaged people, businesses must communicate to customers.
36 mins | Need first and foremost and think about ways to deliver against that and communicate it to death, MCR is fighting to survive just like everybody else, importance of MCR Values – Motivation, Commitment and Resilience.
37 mins | Why can’t we be ahead of the game? Why can’t we be first? Resilience – this is not a sprint, this is a marathon, MCR values are currency to deal with change – imposed on us by the virus.
38 mins | No human being likes change, we like habits or certainty, we have no choice but to change, everything is going to change, country has just borrowed £300 Billion which has huge implications, everything is going to change, however there is an opportunity to do it all much better.
39 mins | Half-full mindset is going to fight the half-empty’s down the track, there is opportunity, going to play a different game in dealing with inequalities, we’ve been able to deal with stuff in a shorter space of time which just wasn’t possible before.
40 mins | This is brand new and that is very good in that respect, we have the chance to get it right for inequality, those things are intertwined.
41 mins | Opportunities with the new economy and get it working for everybody, let’s get going.
42 mins | Companies that have started to communicate well have impressed Iain, local shops have done a great job as well as courier services and front-line workers.
43 mins | Some third-sector organisations have done a phenomenal job.
44 mins | Community/local based organisations that have stood up and responded to demand have been heroic, care workers as well as those delivering essential services, couriers.
45 mins | Sections of public institutions have performed magnificently; the good news is that we know exactly what this country needs to do and should do.
46 mins | Get to the front of the queue and MCR it!