Adam Walsh of The Right Fuelcard Company
Since Adam Walsh joined The Right Fuelcard Company three years ago, he has driven increased profitability and grown the workforce from 19 to more than 50 staff. BQ finds out what attracted him to the company and what he believes makes a great business leader...
What is it you do?
As business director, I am responsible for overseeing operations and the development and performance of our committed staff and management team. I also maintain supplier relationships and implement strategy which is devised between myself, Liz Slater – our group MD and the board of directors.
What is it the company does?
The Right Fuelcard Company (TRFC) is an independent distributor of Shell, Keyfuels, UK Fuels and Esso fuel cards. Our team of industry experts has a combined 60 years’ experience in the fuel card sector and helps businesses across the UK simplify fuel management and cut the costs and administration of running their vehicles. From our headquarters in Hunslet, Leeds, we work with companies of all sizes.
This year, TRFC was listed 33 in The Sunday Times Best 100 Small Companies to Work For – achieving a 3 star Accreditation for “exceptional” levels of engagement, based on staff feedback. The Sunday Times also ranked us 12th for employees’ wellbeing and 11th for our strong and caring team culture.
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
I joined commercial and domestic oil supplier Bayford & Co. of Wetherby in 2006, as a marketing assistant after graduating from the University of Stirling with a degree in Marketing. The oil industry sounded interesting and, despite my first job being packing dog biscuits for a promotion with farmers, I loved it.
When my boss moved on after a year I was given temporary responsibility for the department. This was a good break for me. I was given a platform and the support to prove myself and worked there for a really challenging and enjoyable three-and-a-half years. I then joined Rix Petroleum in Hull, as marketing manager, to gain a fresh perspective.
Subsequently, I rejoined Bayford - twice. Firstly, I worked for sister company, Be Fuelcards, as sales and marketing manager for two years. Here, my commercial skills were honed by a great boss, Mark Kilvington, and I was responsible for managing a large team for the first time.
I then decided to take a sabbatical to travel to Australia and South East Asia. This was a defining experience, as travelling alone on the other side of the world gave me great self-confidence and a belief that I could make things happen.
These would be very useful when I returned to the UK – and to Bayford for a third stint, in my current role.
What do you believe makes a great leader?
Hard work ethos and honesty.
I believe that if managers demonstrate that they can get on with it and get down to it, they will dispel any myth that an organisation’s leaders are a superfluous layer that has no useful role.
Also, I am always totally straight with people, because if you can create an open environment where people can challenge and bring good ideas to the table, it engenders great staff relations.
What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
Relinquishing the ‘day-to-day’ detail was not easy. There is an enormous change in mind-set from being at the coalface on an immediate task to working more strategically and considering the medium-to-long term. Now, rather than looking a week or so ahead, I’m thinking month to month and year to year.
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
I have two routes:
Study: I am taking a MA in Organisational Behaviour one day a week, at the University of Leeds. It is an escape that removes my mind from the day-to-day.
Activity: I run, cycle, fish – and watch rugby and football. I love anything sports-related.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to play rugby for England. Growing up, my heroes were Brian Moore, Ben Clarke, Martin Johnson and Lawrence Dallaglio. I didn’t quite make the England squad but played at school, played for North Yorkshire Schools, captained North Yorkshire’s club youth side, and as an adult, captained Harrogate Pythons for two seasons.
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?
‘Snidey’ behaviour and negativity. Fortunately, we don’t have much of it at TRFC as we have cultivated a happy, motivated workforce by investing substantially in our staff and managers. A lot of my time is spent working on people’s wellbeing, team culture and effective recruitment to ensure that everyone likes being with the company.
This was reinforced by our IiP accreditation, in 2014. The assessor said that staff enjoy being part of a ‘transparent organisation’ and value the support and mutual respect they receive from each other. Working relationships ‘appear to be the glue that brings people together’.
Ultimately, I believe that if you can get this right, you are laying the foundations of business success.
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
We will build on the strong growth momentum and positive trends of the past few years by maintaining a team that loves to be here and is motivated to add to the impressive achievements made by our top notch people to date.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
You have to learn quickly whose opinions to listen to and whose you should ignore.
As an aspiring business leader, you are inexperienced by definition. You receive lots of opinions, but you should listen to those who have actually achieved success – not necessarily as a leader; it could be somebody who works well in your team – and who really do speak from the voice of experience.