Meet the MD''s! Part 1: Julian Richards

general 11 April 2018

AKW Global Logistics offers a rare view into their Managing Directors'' lives and careers through a two part Q&A, commencing with a personal session with Julian Richards, Managing Director of Distribution...

Q. Tell us a little bit about your background…

I started in logistics straight from school, as a delivery note clerk for Cave Wood Transport. I progressed very quickly, mainly by being keen and taking on jobs nobody else wanted.

By the age of 20 I was a manager and after a few years of experience, I was headhunted by a smaller local company. The two years I spent there exposed me to many things I wasn’t privy to in Cave Wood. I was headhunted back by Cave Wood, now owned by GEODIS, eventually becoming a director by age 32.

The opportunity to come to Manchester and work for AKW was exciting, it was quite a risk but I saw potential, and the business that Tony had built was a great platform to take it forward.

In my personal life, I’m happily married and a proud father to three boys, two of whom have followed in my footsteps and now work for AKW!

Q. What made you enter the industry?

I’ve been in the industry since 1977, a scary number at 41 years!

Like many 70’s school leavers, there was parental and peer pressure to get straight into employment; further education wasn’t popular in those days.

I had many interviews but walking through the transport planning offices seeing trucks departing for Munich, Milan, Madrid sparked my excitement and fascination; I wanted to find out more.

Q. How long have you been with AKW?

I joined in 1999, when turnover was around £6.5m, and profits were thin. It’s amazing to reflect on how far we’ve come.

Q. What’s the most exciting thing about the industry?

Every day is different, especially in the operational arena; you never know the cards you’ll be dealt, you have to think on your feet and deal with whatever you encounter. The unpredictability changes as you progress, but the underlying excitement remains.

Q. Describe your typical working day?

It’s essential to be organised at Director Level, there are always places you need to be and people who need to see you.

My typical week is meticulously managed; meetings with clients, fellow directors, management teams and regional partners.

I leave a little time for the “unexpected” as it always seems to find me.

Q. What do you enjoy most about your job?

I love positive people who get stuck in and make a difference. It’s rewarding to see their careers flourish, I enjoy to be part of that from a mentoring perspective.

Providing resolutions for customers who have something challenging to resolve, by finding a solution with my team, gives me great satisfaction. It’s especially rewarding when the customer appreciates and recognises our adaptability and problem solving abilities in these circumstances.

Q. What do you enjoy least about your job?

Quite simply, negative people. I believe there’s a positive to be found in every day.

Q. Who do you look to for inspiration?

I draw inspiration from many different people. I look for everyday mentors, from aspirational people I’ve worked with to people I admire from afar, who’ve achieved something in their field of expertise.

I approach challenges by thinking, how would my paragon tackle this? I map the problem with the mentor in mind.

Q. What would you change about your career journey if you could?

Hindsight is a great thing! I’m extremely proud of my achievements, and a firm believer that if you changed one step, you could potentially alter the entire course. I sometimes wish I’d pursued further education, but that potentially could have slowed my career progression.

Q. If you could go back to the beginning of your career and offer yourself advice, what would it be?

Have a little more patience, some people take longer to understand things than others, I’m a quick learner so have been frustrated by that in the past.

I’d also say, learn languages; it’s a global industry now, being bilingual would be advantageous, if only from courteous perspective.

Q. What professional values do you uphold above all others?

Time Management is crucial for high paced professions, you must be organised and that includes in your personal life. There’s no way of being a successful executive without  balance.

A mathematical mind is also essential, it’s astounding how many people I meet in business at every level who can’t comprehend the numeric. At a high level it’s vital.

Q. What personal values do you live by?

Honesty, respect and loyalty.

Q. If you had a personal brand, what would it symbolise?

Quality, value and longevity.

Q. How would you say the industry has changed over the years?

Absolutely beyond recognition! Back in 1977 there were no tachographs, mobile phones were two decades away and the internet was a distant dream.

In the last five years, change has been exponential; you’re constantly battling to be ahead of the curve.

Q. What are your ambitions for the future?

Building something stimulating and sustainable for the next generations, attracting them to an exciting and vibrant industry. And of course, to continually catalyse growth and improvement.

Q. What are the top three traits that make you a great leader?

I never ask anybody to do something I wouldn’t be willing to do myself.

I ensure I reflect on all difficult decisions with one question: ‘am I being fair?’

I’m skilled at explaining strategic direction, tailoring it to the audience.

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