In the first of our series of interviews we find out more about Maxi Haulage Director Robin Allan.
How long have you been at Maxi and how did it come about?
I stared working for a Manchester based road transport company, Joseph Hoyle Transport, at their depot in Derbyshire in 1976 as a Garage Supervisor. At this time, JHT was part of a large steel manufacturing group whose head office was in Sheffield.
In 1980 I was transferred to another JHT site in Wakefield, taking on the role as Depot Manager and Fleet Engineer for the site.
During the early 1980’s, the main group including JHT was sold off to a South African steel producer, Cape Gate. However, by 1985, the political situation in South Africa was such that Cape Gate instigated a sale of all their UK operations, including JHT.
In 1986 I was part of a management buy-out team who bought the road transport company from the South Africans.
A very turbulent trading period followed and, in the summer of 1988, JHT was bought by Maxi Caledonian Holdings Ltd., the forerunner of the Group as it is now.
Having undertaken various roles within the Maxi Group, I am where you see me now.
Tell us some of the highlights of your career.
Moving down to Warwick in 1994 and working with our first mainstream automotive and chassis supplier whilst sustaining and enhancing the long trading relationship between our 2 companies, which continues to this day.
Being part of a team that operated and then moved the Truck Parts Distribution warehouse from Bedfordshire to Warwickshire.
Ensuring there was a face to the name of Maxi Haulage Ltd. during the initial implementation phase for a national leisure and domestic car product distribution company who have a large network of retail outlets in Ireland, both in the north and south of the country.
Designing the current transporter to carry 3 bus chassis which was a first in Europe for this type of chassis being moved from Sweden to Northern Ireland.
More recently, when a double deck trailer turned over on the docks at Birkenhead fully loaded with consumer goods, getting put back on its wheels and the trailer being brought back to Warwick. Over 20 tonnes of product was sorted, cleaned, repackaged and presented back to our customer.
How would you describe Maxi?
Full of many talent and dedicated people who bring a huge a variety of skills to the organisation.
A Company that gives employees the opportunity to extend to grow and develop.
Hands on approach to problem solving.
Customer focused, out of the box thinking, giving innovative solutions resulting in fresh approaches to distribution requirements.
A Company that is being run with both customers and employees at the fore front, with business principles for the long term and continued reinvestment into the structure of the Company.
Who have been the biggest influences on your career?
These are 4 people who have a great influence on my working career.
On leaving school at 15 in 1968, with no qualifications, I took up an apprenticeship with a local haulier. I knew the MD as he lived close to where I was brought up and drove a Rolls Royce Silver Ghost, a huge car to me.
I met him about 3 weeks after I started work, straight from school. He was a big man and towered over me and, on seeing me, he boomed “Robin, all I want you to do is work, “W O R K” – you work and I will pay you. That memory has always stuck with me through my working life – turn up for work and you will get paid.
The second person was a person from JHT he gave me my first managerial position in 1980.
Then Gerry Atkinson, when he bought JHT, who had the confidence in my abilities to enable me to move from being part of a road transport company managerial team, to participating in running a profitable business within the road haulage industry.
Alan Miles, who came into the Maxi Haulage business and brought fresh ideas to the table, some unconventional thoughts on road transport which I was unsure of at the time. He has enabled me to be (I hope) and continue to be a valued member of the team in all manner of disciplines with Maxi Haulage Ltd.
Can you tell us any amusing stories re your time at Maxi?
Some of you may know that in the early nineties, I took up Sub Aqua diving and did a lot dives in the Firth of Clyde but what you may not know was that during 2008/2009, we had an issue with product being stolen from trailers going on ferries from England to Ireland.
Having a dry suit for diving in the cold waters round England (and a potty), it was alleged that I travelled across the Irish Sea in the back of one of our trailers to catch the thieves who were breaking into our trailers. The potty was for comfort breaks as it took 8 hours to travel across the water.
At a senior Maxi Managers meeting, I walked into a discussion on loss reduction and pilfering from our trailers and was asked about my sub aqua qualifications (which I still hold to this day) and about my travels with a potty in a trailer – True or False?
The thieves were caught.
As you know, my role takes me all over the UK, Ireland, Europe (especially Scandinavia) – who has seen the James Bond film “Skyfall”? In the latter part of the film, Bond and ‘M’ are driving in the Austin Martin towards Skyfall. Part of the journey is on a road towards Cape Wrath and I recognised it from some work I had done with Anixter.
Fast forward to a meal in a restaurant in Gothenburg – little did we know that there was a film festival on at the time!
Quick thinking by several people, convinced the waiters I was a “spotter” for the James Bond film empire and I had found the area for that particular clip in the “Skyfall” film and, furthermore, I was in Sweden to look for locations for the snow scenes in the latest Bond film “Spectre”. As those of you who have seen “Spectre” know, there are no snow scenes in the film.
What do you think the biggest challenges in transport have been in your long career?
Remaining profitable in order to reinvest in equipment and people.
What do you think the challenges will be in the next 10 years?
- Ensuring that the industry is attractive to the younger generation and offering opportunities to the existing members of the team.
- Remaining competitive and focused on customer needs as what is right today may not be right tomorrow.
- Embrace technology but remain profitable.
- Lastly it is not turnover, but it is what’s left over.