Great leadership is "understanding that you work for the team - not the other way around." Steve de la Rosa of Scotland-based ultility management consultancy Boxfish, shares his views on leadership, aspirations to grow his team and future side hustle ideas with BQ.
What is it the company does?
Boxfish is a utility management consultancy which specialises in a range of services from procurement of contracts, bureau management of utilities and energy, compliance and governance, energy disputes, construction connections and technical project delivery.
Whether it’s energy and water conservation, reducing carbon emissions, managing compliance issues, or advising clients on sustainable energy—our team can help businesses to optimise their utility portfolios and save money.
Describe your role in no more than 100 words
Several months into the position of MD and I’m learning that my role is quite broad.
Overall I’m responsible for taking the business to the next level, driving growth by acquiring new clients and looking after our existing portfolio.
It’s a competitive space so our service has to be market-leading – with a major part of my week spent ensuring our team has access to training and mentoring.
I’m also implementing a campaign of change – aiming to disrupt the market by looking at the way we deliver service.
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
I was actually living across the road from Boxfish and had just completed two years in an interim position with the Student Loans Company when I found myself in search of a new challenge. A headhunter recommended the company and given its proximity to my house I thought it would be worth exploring – joining as office manager before being promoted to head of operations and ultimately, managing director, within three years.
It was 20 years ago when I moved to Scotland, working in procurement for a clothing company called Playtex Bras – which has since relocated to Malaysia.
Later I made the move to the public sector, spending several years for the Department for International Development delivering aid programmes for UK Government in Whitehall which I left to take up a group director role for The Eternity Group, a steel supplier and caravan manufacturer in Pontefract. Quite a diverse career path but ultimately I’m a specialist in procurement and client relationships.
What do you believe makes a great leader?
Understanding that you work for the team - not the other way around, is definitely a factor. But it’s also important to surround yourself with people who are ambitious while being experts in their field - as my role shouldn’t be to micromanage staff daily.
Flexibility will go far, both in your approach to changing dynamics in the business and the market you work in.
Finally, ensuring you’re an ever-glowing beacon of positivity about your product or service because if you can’t do that you shouldn’t be in the role.
What has been the biggest challenge in your current position?
Since my appointment four years ago I immediately identified a range of changes to implement within the business – which can be difficult given my predecessor was in the post for more than 10 years.
I’ve tried to introduce new ways of working for the team to further enhance our clients’ experience. I’m pleased to report this has been successful, but it doesn’t come without an element of risk.
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
To relieve stress, I train at the gym four to five times a week and run or cycle daily. I also restore classic cars, love a good DIY project and try to travel for a city break once a quarter.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a chef or a florist and although I never learned to cook (never say never) I will open up a florist shop one day as a side hustle.
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?
Currently ranking highly is the inflexibility of the British way of working a nine-to-five pattern, chained to a desk in a single location. This is the 21st century and with technology, you could be based anywhere. I’m looking closely at flexible working models that Scandinavian countries do so well. That said, taking on the challenge of changing mindset and culture might be my greatest test to date.
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
We will be well on the way to being the UK’s leading utility management consultancy - strictly following our core values of being independent, ethical and 100% transparent in how we serve our clients.
In the shorter term, I want to double the size of my team from 16 to 32 and we’ve invested heavily to make this possible.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
Never stop learning and if you get a mentor that challenges you, this shouldn’t be a problem.
But don’t forget your biggest responsibility after the company is to ensure that all your employee’s mortgages and financial lives are secure by building a high quality and sustainable business. I have also learnt that people are by far your biggest asset and should be treated as such.
What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?
If I were to do it all again I wish I knew that that the goal of your aspirations is never reached by a straight line and that failure, which will happen, is a tool for growth - not a reflection of your capabilities, ambition, or ultimate success in business or personal life.
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