James Hill, managing director of Arrow Self Drive, talks to BQ how he got started in business and how he manages a team of more than 80 people.
Describe your role in no more than 100 words
I am the managing director of family-run firm, Arrow Self Drive. We are Yorkshire’s largest independently owned vehicle-hire company. My role is vast as I oversee operations across eight depots in Yorkshire.
Managing a team of more than eighty members of staff means that I am often pulled in different directions. I am extremely hands on, getting involved most areas of the business. Having worked in various positions at Arrow Self Drive over the last sixteen years, I have a very in-depth knowledge of how Arrow operates.
What is it the company does?
Established in 1988, Arrow Self Drive is a family-run business and Yorkshire’s largest independent vehicle rental company with eight depots throughout the region in Huddersfield, Wakefield, Bradford, Sheffield, Leeds, Barnsley, Hull and Knaresborough.
Approaching our 30th year in business, Arrow Self Drive has come a long way since our humble beginnings as Arrow Commercial Centre in 1988. With a startup budget of just £16,000 and three vans, co-founders Chris Taylor and Robert Hill initially began selling commercial vehicles to local businesses from a garage on Manchester Road in Huddersfield 30 years ago. We now own a fleet of almost 2,000 rental vehicles.
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
I studied an undergraduate degree in business at the University of Hull. After I graduated in 2001, I went on to complete a graduate scheme in Peterborough at Perkins Engines. I only stayed in the role for a few months as I didn’t feel that the role was aligned with my work ethic; I’m more of a doer than a follower. I found that the role didn’t allow me to be very pro-active or use my initiative.
I followed in my father’s footsteps and joined Arrow Self Drive in 2002, aged 22. The company was expanding and opening a new site in Wakefield, so it was the perfect opportunity to get involved in the family business. In 2013 I took over as managing director and I haven’t looked back since.
What do you believe makes a great leader?
A great leader needs a strong personality but must also be approachable. He or she must be able to say no when necessary, and most importantly, a great leader must have self-belief in everything they do for the good of the business.
What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
The biggest challenge I have faced in my career has been trying to get my head around new technology and the digital side of running a business.
I have also found HR challenging; people management is definitely a skill that comes with experience.
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
I love spending time with my family, going on holidays and short breaks is a great way to relieve stress. Wales is one of my favourite destinations, but we also like to travel and see new places.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grow up?
I wanted to be a racing car driver; I’ve always had a passion for it.
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?
My pet hate in the workplace is laziness. Thankfully, we hire people at Arrow Self Drive that share our company values, drive and passion.
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
In five years’ time we will be maintaining our position as the number one vehicle-hire company in Yorkshire. We will continue to grow our profile and reputation across Yorkshire, with more customers and at least 2500 vehicles on fleet.
By April 2018 we will have introduced a paperless system at our workshops and maintenance facilities. This will enable us to send information far quicker to our customers and sure that we are at the top of our game.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
My advice to any aspiring business leader is to make sure you have a good team behind you. Invest in your team and your business will thrive.
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