Leadership Stories

Disclaimer: All details included in these leadership stories have been provided by the finalists themselves. All information has been accepted in good faith. Any references to individuals or circumstances have been relayed in the finalist’s own words and have not been verified by the Leading Wales Awards Directors or its Consortium. Any views expressed are those of the individuals concerned and are not necessarily the views of the Leading Wales Awards Directors or Consortium members.

Roy Allkin

Roy Allkin is the MD of Wolfestone, VoiceBox, Boss Brewing Co and Copper Bars. His role across the portfolio is to envision where the businesses need to go and design strategy to achieve that vision. It’s also to empower his staff and ensure that they feel they are actively contributing to the overall vision no matter what level they are at in the businesses.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I come from a very working class background, growing up on a Council estate just outside Ammanford, my dad was a car mechanic and my mum was a factory worker. I was determined that I wanted to improve things for my family. My parents worked really hard to make sure me and my three sisters always had what we needed but I could see the constant struggle. I got my head down, worked hard in school and was the first person in my family to go to university and get a degree. From then it was work hard, dream and lead from the front.

What have been the main highlights and challenges since taking up your leadership role with Wolfestone?
People are both the highlights and the challenges. As my businesses grew it was a constant challenge finding the right blend of people to help drive the company forward. However, seeing how people have developed within the businesses, learning, growing, becoming more confident has been a constant delight. Even when people have left the businesses, I’ve been extremely proud that they have left better equipped for the rest of their careers, with more knowledge, more skills, and most importantly as more rounded and developed individuals.

What have been the most helpful things you have learnt from these highlights and challenges?
That people will always be central to every business. I’m a big advocate of automation and utilising technology wherever possible to make things more efficient, accurate, effective, etc. but you can’t replace human intelligence, empathy and compassion. I truly believe that it is the people that make businesses successful.

What do you think is the biggest issue facing leaders in Wales in 2017?
I think that the biggest issue facing leaders in all sectors in Wales is uncertainty. What will happen with Brexit? Where will we fund our services from? How stable is the political situation? Are we the next target for terror? How do we continue to encourage entrepreneurship and the economy? These are just a few of the questions.

Which other leaders in Wales do you admire and why?
I admire anyone that is ‘doing it’ and not just ‘talking about it’. It takes courage and ambition to put yourself out there as a leader. You’re the figurehead who gets lauded when things go well but you’re also the one at the front who will be shot down when things don’t go so well. It’s easy to criticise, it’s not so easy to get up and make a difference.

What is one word that sums up leadership for you?
Ambition.

Jay Ball (winner)

Jay Ball is the MD of DataKom, an independent and fast-growing telecom company. As MD he drives the business strategy, works with the management team and leads a team of 30 team members from the company’s base in Bocam Park, Pencoed.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
When I started the business back in 2007, I had very little start up capital and so I ended up selling my motorbike to help fund the very first months. With that pressure, I had to quickly develop a customer base, through hard work and commitment. And those early days have influenced the leader I am today. I am careful about our spending and never feel like we have made it – and look to motivate our team, instilling that work ethic and appreciation for the value of things in our company – leading by example.

What have been the main highlights and challenges since taking up your leadership role with DataKom?
One of the biggest challenges has been creating an outstanding team, with the right culture and philosophy. We call them the DataKom family. It’s taken many years but through a lot of work on internal training and internal promotions, we’ve developed a really caring and honest culture, one which our customers love. One of our key philosophies is that if we don’t look after our customers someone else will, and for me, that starts with building and looking after the team too.

What have been the most helpful things you have learnt from these highlights and challenges?
I’ve learned to really value people and relationships above all else, and putting energy into developing people. I’ve learned that what you put in to people you get back and then some, and I believe that nurturing has been a big part of our success over the last 10 years.

What do you think is the biggest issue facing leaders in Wales in 2017?
I think one of the biggest issues is that with squeezing margins across all industries and during austerity, it can be tempting to veer away from your core strategy, philosophy and culture – to compete on price. Too many businesses are cutting corners on things like culture and training, but staying true to quality you can create real value within the economy.

Which other leaders in Wales do you admire and why?
I’ve always liked the way Henry Engelhardt has built a business (in Admiral) that has a strong company culture and with good employment practices – meaning they reward and value long-serving team members. I think that’s a big part of their success over the last few years.

What is one word that sums up leadership for you?
People

John White

John White is Director of Brickfab. In the last few years as John heads towards retirement, he has set himself three tasks; building a senior management team that can take Brickfab forward for the next twenty, establishing a sound financial base for future developments and creating a culture in which people at all levels can thrive.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I started my working life in engineering, which gave me an understanding of how machines and systems work, or not! Applying this same knowledge in my business life, means I always try to make things simple and easy to grasp. My work as Course Director at The Leadership Trust has also enabled me to better understand the process of leadership development to grow other leaders and I have been lucky to visit organisations around the world and ‘steal’ some of their good ideas.

What have been the main highlights and challenges since taking up your leadership role with Brickfab?
I have three successful start-ups to my name and Brickfab started in 1997 with three people, an empty factory and no customers – challenge number one! Our factory was largely destroyed by fire in 2014 – challenge number two! The highlights in both situations was how people reacted, by bringing ideas and energy and pulling together to make things work. After the fire, I sent colleagues from the shop floor to JCB, Toyota and other world class businesses, then challenged them to make Brickfab world class. They have done a brilliant job.

What have been the most helpful things you have learnt from these highlights and challenges?
Fundamentally leadership is about people, spotting their potential and allowing it to flourish, this brings rewards for both individuals and organisations irrespective of sector. Four years ago I helped set up Caplor Horizons, a sustainability charity, spotting its potential has proved to be a force for good, on a global scale.
www.caplorhorizons.org

What do you think is the biggest issue facing leaders in Wales in 2017?
Having the confidence to move from a grant supported, low wage economy to a high skill, location of choice for world class business, located in a beautiful and vibrant part of Europe. As a small dynamic country Wales can lead on so many levels.

Which other leaders in Wales do you admire and why?
Henry Engelhardt, recently retired CEO of Admiral Insurance for the way he has grown a FTSE 100 business that is firmly based in Wales. He used employee engagement/ownership in such a creative way to create a ‘can do’ culture which is a great example of what can be done in Wales.

What is one word that sums up leadership for you?
Potential – in people and in opportunities.