One of the many excellent presentations that I observed at the recent ALBUM conference was given by an old chum of mine, whose career I have watched with interest for a good few years now since he burst on the scene with his unique flair of Liverpudlian good humour and innovative energy.
I talk of none other than Mr Alex Hornby the CEO of Trans Dev Blazefield Bus Company based in my old happy hunting ground of Harrogate in God’s own county of West Yorkshire. Alex has done well in his fairly short career. He has loved the bus industry since a small child and got a job on the buses while still a student at Aston University.
His particular USP, was a good combination of a very affable personality and a real flair for marketing and an excellent understanding of social media. This has seen him serve good apprenticeships with some excellent Companies, including Trent Barton. Here Alex was immersed with some of the best brains in the UK Bus industry, including Ian Morgan and the legend that is Geoff Caunsell.
These guys and the ethos at Trent Barton were an excellent apprenticeship for Alex, who simply flourished. In fairness after a few years he was off to pastures new as the MD of Blazefield Holdings, a fine bus Company which originally was founded by the genius that is Giles Feanley now the MD of First UK Bus.
I remember having a good chat with Alex just before he started the role and we discussed both the opportunities and the challenges that lay ahead. I had no doubt that his people skills and good commercial acumen would work and so it proved. In the two years that Captain Hornby has been at the helm of the good ship he has transformed the Company.
The secret to his success has been a combination of investing in his people and creating excellent customer service policies shaped around creative marketing and solid customer service. A winning combination as last years UK Bus awards proved. One of the things I especially liked was the creation of the Company as a big family, not easy to achieve with 400 staff. But, fair play he set out his stall on day one with a letter to every employee setting out his intentions and including his personal email address. A positive and inclusive gesture that resonated from day one.
So, I will be watching with great interest just where this journey goes, bearing in mind that the Company is part of a giant French owned organisation. They also seem to allow local Companies and the MD’s autonomy to make local decisions and take local risks, a combination that with Alex has worked out very well indeed.