As managing director of Bradford-based Ucan Recycling Rob Seal is responsible for steering the company towards each of its business objectives. Operating from a converted barn the firm dispose of IT in a secure manner, reusing or recycling all the equipment they receive. He caught up with BQ to tell us more about is role...
Describe your role in no more than 100 words.
As the owner I am responsible for setting the business objectives and steering the company towards them – I work alongside the management team to help hit pre-discussed targets. I also assist in promoting the company and help to bring in initial business leads. In addition, I help to instill Ucan Recycling’s vision and strong social stance into all apprentices and volunteers I take on too.
What is it the company does?
Ucan is a not-for-profit IT company with a difference. We operate from a converted farm in Bradford, where we dispose of IT in a secure manner and reuse or recycle 100% of the equipment – to prevent anything going to landfill. Ucan provides a free IT collection service for businesses, schools, universities and local authorities throughout Yorkshire and beyond. In addition, a major part of our ethos is re-establishing local unemployed people back into the work environment – we help to build their self-esteem, develop their skill-set and create jobs in the process.
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
I studied marketing at the University of Huddersfield and continued working in direct marketing for about 15 years after that. I spent some time in Holland and Germany, and then joined a number of high-profile agencies back in the UK. Following redundancy I completely changed my career path and became a self-employed metal trader – exporting metals overseas – before returning to Germany to break down metals and WEEE for reuse.
I moved back to the UK and set up my one-man recycling business in an incubation hub in Leeds, but after a year I needed premises and staff. I therefore acquired a warehouse in Leeds and – eventually – 16 employees. We only recently moved to our current location in Bradford, where between 3-8 volunteers are on the site at any time, who are trained and offered jobs, wherever possible. So quite a varied career!
What do you believe makes a great leader?
All the things I would like to be. I think you need a clear vision of where you want your business to go, drive and enthusiasm to get it there and to help you overcome obstacles, and excellent communication skills.
What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
Ucan Recycling is governed by lots of external factors. We rely on other companies replacing their IT equipment, and we work in a competitive and challenging environment, where the marketplace governs the post-Brexit shrinking profit margins. But the free collection service we provide really helps us stand out from the competition!
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How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
It’s very difficult to ever switch off when you run a business, particularly when your wife also works in the business. We limit the time spent discussing work when at home, take the dog for a walk and spend quality time with our children. I am a fan of Leeds United, and watching sport – along with going out on my motorbike – helps to take my mind off things.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a footballer or an RAF pilot, but as I grew up I never had one clear idea, which is why I think I ended up in marketing rather than anything too specific.
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about then?
Over-promising and under-delivering. I think it’s important to do what you say you are going to. It frustrates me when people hide behind emails and I encourage staff to always address issues face to face or over the telephone – never just email. Handling matters personally, and promptly, can turn a negative into a positive and strengthen relationships.
Where do you see the company in five years time?
After recently winning the ‘Job creator of the year’ award at the Bradford Means Business Awards, we have been given a springboard to elevate us and raise our profile. I would like to see a further increase in staff, and to partner up with larger companies and councils with a need for I.T disposal. However large we grow, we’ll always maintain our social ethos – we’ll actually be able to offer more volunteering opportunities the more equipment we have to recycle.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
Try to have a clear vision of what you aim to achieve and maintain the determination to make it happen – never be put off by problems and you will succeed.
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