Heather Matthews, MD of Little’s Chauffeur Drive
Managing director of Little's Chauffeur Drive, Heather Matthews, talks to BQ about taking over the family business and why looking ahead is so important.
What is it the company does?
Little’s is a respected chauffeur drive business. The company was founded in 1966 in Glasgow by my father and uncle, and today we are still based in the city but operate a global service that specialises in managing transport logistics for high end corporate and leisure clients. This means everything from financial roadshows, major sporting and entertainment events to VIP transport and luxury leisure tours.
Our clients have included heads of state and global movie stars, as well as large events including the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games, the Ryder Cup, the G8 summit, the MTV EMAs, the Metiers d'Art Chanel Fashion Show and the Open Golf Championship.
Describe your role in no more than 100 words
I am responsible for future strategy and the overall management of 20 full time members of staff, 40 professional drivers, 45 luxury cars and an expanding global network in 44 countries worldwide. I spend a great deal of my time developing the business and driving innovation by identifying the changing business landscape of our clients. Globalisation, mobile technology and sustainability are all high on the agenda.
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
After graduating, I joined Little’s as a trainee working on a marketing project to grow the business into the newly emerging financial sector in London, and then I moved into the reservations department for five years. This thorough grounding in the day to day operational side of the business led to me becoming a partner in 1997 before becoming managing director in 2005 after the retirement of the founding partner.
What do you believe makes a great leader?
Someone who is willing to embrace change and innovation and inspire and support their staff. I’m also a firm believer in enhancing your leadership skills through professional development courses to ensure that you remain at the top of your field.
What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
Our business and the needs of our clients are continually evolving so my biggest challenge is to always be one step ahead of future trends and to keep implementing change. At the same time, I need to balance modernisation with complete respect for the great chauffeur drive traditions which have been at the heart of the Little’s business for over 50 years. Our clients love that we are able to combine a very modern service with all the ease that technology can bring to booking and monitoring every job, with the luxury and traditional style of our prestige cars and uniformed drivers. It can be a delicate balancing act and I continue to strive to bring the best of both worlds together for Little’s clients. I’m also the only female managing director of a UK chauffeur drive company, which has at times presented challenges, but it’s something that I have taken on and now feel completely comfortable with.
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
I love going to the gym and gardening, and I have a young son who keeps me very busy whenever I have time off. Health is extremely important to me and I make this a priority to ensure that I can lead my team with a clear mind and healthy body for many years to come.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I was lucky to have the sort of childhood where I was encouraged to do whatever I wanted, and there was no expectation to join the family business. This meant that when I came to the business in my early twenties, and discovered a love and an aptitude for it, there was none of the pressure that can often exist.
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?
I am lucky to have a great team, ably led by a fantastic General Manager who deals with such things should they occur!
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
Little’s is an increasingly global business, working in many different countries on major events and for a wide array of different clients. I can see this side of our business becoming increasingly important as demand increases, so I expect to see our international operations playing a bigger part of the overall business in the next few years.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
Keep your core values at the centre of everything you do, and make sure everyone in your team also lives those values. Always look ahead and innovate. Make your business remarkable, since in a crowded market place, this is more and more important. Finally, don’t be afraid to go out there and build a profile. You will be amazed what can happen.
What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?
Be true to yourself. You know deep down how to make good decisions and be a great leader.
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