The ability to wear different hats and to build a strong team are core skills of a great MD. Craig Headford talks to BQ about managing his six-company group, Headford Group.
What is it the company does?
Headford Group is a management consultancy for the freight and logistics industry, assisting companies across the supply chain with their growth strategy. Whether it’s recruitment, mergers and acquisitions or marketing, we are a multi-faceted team with experts who can cater for a number of business requirements.
We have just opened a new office in London in order to support our international clientele. Operating from the world’s most-connected city will grow our network even quicker, and ensure we can travel to Industry events across the globe with ease.
Describe your role in no more than 100 words
My role is predominantly that of a senior management consultant, offering strategic growth planning for any freight business looking to reach new heights. This industry is fiercely competitive, and it’s becoming increasingly important to stand out from the crowd with a clear message about the services you offer.
I spend much of my time with clients discussing their five-year growth strategy and assisting them with their business plans to curate a concise but detailed strategy. I am very much hands-on in the business, and share my knowledge and expertise with my incredible team who support me.
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
I left school at 16 with minimal qualifications, not really having any idea what I wanted to do. I was raised by my grandparents, so my grandmother said; “Craig, you need to get a job as soon as possible and get your teeth into something quickly.”
I took her advice, and a result I was offered two positions which would decide the direction my career would take: one in the offices of Rolls Royce, and one as a trainee freight forwarding clerk.
My grandmother said to take the job in the forwarding office, as it’s a smaller team and I would be given the opportunity to have a real, tangible impact on the team.
Within five years I was a field sales executive with a company car, being paid extremely well for my age. I loved every second of my work there.
My passion for the freight industry had been ignited.
I launched the Headford Group in 2009, specialising in recruitment for the shipping and freight sector. I am lucky enough to have had a great team behind me throughout my journey. I have taken this business from running out of my bedroom to having offices in Bristol, London and Dubai, with offices in the USA opening soon. I guess my grandmother is to thank for kick-starting my journey!
What do you believe makes a great leader?
Leading by example. Never ask your team to do something you wouldn’t do yourself. I try to inspire my team to do more, and I do that by leading the charge. There’s a saying: showing them is growing them - too many leaders tell you what to do, but don’t show you.
What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
The Headford Group is a group of six companies. They all have their own set of challenges and are at different stages of their development.
One minute, I can be in a meeting talking about mergers and acquisitions, and the next I can be talking marketing strategy. At times it is quite challenging for me to switch from one ‘hat’ to the other quickly. The good news is each one of my businesses are run by specialists in their field, and they report directly to me, keeping me in the loop. I am the only one that has to try and master all elements of the business, but I am confident with the support of my management team we can handle pretty much any growth project.
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
My home is in the middle of nowhere, so I can get away from the hustle and bustle very quickly and relax. However, I would say the best way is to work out at the gym or take the dog for a walk.
Exercise isn’t just a cliché. It’s by far the best stress release and can help you cope much better with the day-to-day challenges of running a business, as well as providing time and space to think.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I’m sure I wanted it all! I was good at mathematics so always fancied being an accountant. However, once I got a taste of sales there was no coming back from that. Fortunately, all of the different arms of the business means I get to mix it up a bit.
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?
A lack of focus and activity. You can solve it with a clear day plan, KPIs and even a simple to-do list. Sometimes, it’s not a lack of ambition or drive, it’s someone trying to take on too much work for themselves. It stunts their ability to achieve anything, so breaking work down into simple, achievable targets works wonders.
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
We have a clear growth plan to grow by one sales person per month across the group. This will get us to roughly 100 sales consultants across all three disciplines within five years.
Each arm of the business has small projects that will inevitably grow over the next five years, and with it, I know my staff will progress in their own roles. I encourage my team to share their thoughts and goals with me and endeavour to support their personal and their career growth.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
Build your team, and your team will build your business. Training and growth are crucial to your success, and you are only as good as the management team you have supporting you. So, perfect your training and your growth strategy, and ensure you can place trust in your team – it will boost their confidence too.
What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?
I believe most people need to learn from their own mistakes. However, I wish I had read “Selling to Win” by Richard Denny 30 years ago when I began my career, not 10.
The book has been an inspiration to me and my sales team - every new member of staff is given a copy.
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