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Rising Stars: Putting the focus on high fliers

Imagine working in an industry for almost 30 years, steadily progressing up the career ladder, and then deciding to hand in your notice without another job to go to.

After just one year with your new company. And with a young family to support. A bit risky? That’s what Nigel Stead did.

“It was my toughest decision,” he says. “On joining Lloyds TSB in 1996 there was a change of management at a senior level, which created an environment I was not willing to be in, even though my job was secure.

“Until that point I had never taken a risk. My career had progressed to my satisfaction and I had been approached for every job I’d taken. But I was confident in my own abilities to think I would get something quickly enough.”

Stead started his career as an apprentice with British Leyland working in various sales positions before switching to car retail with Appleyard. He managed the group’s multi-franchised site in Harrogate for five years, before getting his first taste of contract hire and leasing as Appleyard Contracts sales manager. He joined JCT600 in 1988 to set up and run its leasing operation before the move to Black Horse to spearhead its return to the leasing sector.

“I had never been unhappy in any job – this was the first time,” Stead says. “I feel sad for people whose work is a tedious means of living. My job has to be my hobby.”

He left in 1997, eventually finding work with Velo a year later as managing director of its Northern operation. Two years later he was back at Lloyds TSB as managing director of its Black Horse vehicle management business after another change at the top. Stead was involved in the acquisition of ACL Autolease and formed Lloyds TSB Autolease.

“None of my career moves were pre-planned, but I have benefited from a grounding in the manufacturing environment, from first hand experience in the retail sector and now from the leasing sector,” Stead says. “Through good fortune, my career has taken a wide, well rounded path.”

While he acknowledges this element of luck, Stead believes people spend too much time planning their career. “I didn’t – I responded to opportunities and focused my career development on the opportunities that became available to me.”

He has worked for just five companies in 36 years, but identifies a growing trend now for people to change their jobs more regularly. But while he echoes the view of fellow Rising Stars judge Jon Olsen that people should be patient and learn their trade, he adds: “The timescales for understanding a role are much shorter. People can achieve knowledge more quickly because of the industry commitment to training and the focus on high fliers.”

Attracting the high fliers in the first place remains an industry-wide issue caused by a lingering negative public perception about the automotive sector. It is improving, but there’s still a long way to go.

“Generally speaking, the industry is not focused on recruitment policies to bring in the highly qualified, degree-educated high fliers,” Stead says. “Earning capacity is there – we pay qualified managers reasonably well – but the world doesn’t believe that. We have to continue working on the profile of the industry in the jobs market.”

As the Rising Stars judge for sales, Stead expects to see people who display knowledge, drive, enthusiasm, passion, integrity, honesty – “especially in an industry not renowned for this” – and compassion.

“I am looking for someone who clearly evidences innovative thinking and adding value over and above what you expect from a competent performer,” he adds. “They must have the talent to really stand out.”

  • Winners will be revealed at an exclusive dinner on September 12 at the National Motorcycle Museum.

    Nigel Stead, managing director Black Horse Autolease

    #AM_ART_SPLIT# Our Partner

    Courland Automotive Practice is the only resourcing firm dedicated to the global automotive industry. With unrivalled knowledge of all automotive sectors, Courland has a reputation for high quality executive search, interim management and consulting services.

    The Rising Stars 2006 Judges

    FINANCE Jon Olsen, BCA chief executive
    Jon Olsen is chief executive of BCA, Europe’s biggest vehicle remarketing company with 40 centres, handling more than 1.3m vehicles per year.
    Category sponsor: Capital Bank Motor

    SALES Nigel Stead, Lloyds TSB Autolease
    Managing director Nigel Stead set up Autolease in 2000 after Lloyds TSB bought Chartered Trust. He has also worked for Appleyard, Velo and JCT600.
    Category sponsor: Rockingham

    MARKETING Paul Wilcox, Nissan Europe
    Wilcox, Nissan Europe vice president, strategy and marketing, has been with Nissan since 1992 and is a former Nissan GB marketing director.
    Category sponsor: Google

    HR Gill Banham, Jardine Motor Group
    Group HR director at Jardine, Gill Banham oversees delivery of HR, management training and customer services.
    Category sponsor: automotive skills

    PR Graham Biggs, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars
    As corporate communications director, Biggs heads an international team at the Goodwood head office. Biggs directed the public launch of the Phantom.
    Category sponsor: pf and pr

    Sold his Reg Vardy business to Pendragon in February and is now considering his options in the motor retail business. Highly respected by his peers, Sir Peter was named AM personality of the year in 2003.
    Category sponsor: PricewaterhouseCoopers

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