Our current Year in Industry student, George, has been interviewing members of the Power Technique Team to gather some memories and some insight into why Atlas Copco stands the test of time.
What is your role at Atlas Copco?
I’m the General Manager for Atlas Copco Power Technique UK and Ireland. I am also a Director of Atlas Copco Limited.
What does being a Director mean?
It means that from a legal and corporate view I am responsible for the good governance of the legal entity Atlas Copco Limited. Anything to do with the legal responsibility of Atlas Copco Limited comes by myself and Alex Bongaerts, who is also a director. I also spend about 25% – 30% of my time working directly with the business area, particularly on acquisitions and projects. I’m also chair of the DB pension scheme trustees, and have been for 10 years.
How long have you been working at Atlas Copco for?
I joined Atlas Copco in 1982 so it will be 37 years this year!
Have you had any different roles since your time at Atlas Copco?
I started as a mechanical design engineer, my degree is in mechanical engineering and I have only ever worked for two companies. When I joined Atlas Copco as a mechanical designer, we were working on oil and gas and special compressor packages, the same equipment we still do here today. I did that job for a couple of years, but an opportunity came up to move into contract management and that was a logical next step. I then had the opportunity to move into the role of proposal engineer, and moved from there to become the Engineering Manager.
Due to a few different situations my boss eventually said to me, “You know all the people we target because you make the quotes, you’re going out visiting and meeting people anyway, so why don’t you become a sales engineer for a couple of days a week”. I never considered becoming a sales guy, I was an engineer! But I took it on, and after some sales experience I decided to go back to University part time and do a Masters Degree in Business Administration – an MBA. The MBA really made me start to question the direction of my career.
I only considered leaving Atlas Copco once, when one of my biggest customers offered me a job. I went to hand my notice in at Atlas Copco because it was such a fantastic opportunity, but Atlas Copco offered me the UK Sales Manager position to persuade me to stay. I had calls from all across Atlas Copco group, in the UK and overseas, had a few chats with some very good colleagues who have become friends and mentors over the years and decided to stay. I became the UK Sales Manager for oil free air (Compressor Technique division) and finished my MBA.
After a while in this role I started looking for overseas roles within Atlas Copco. I applied for a position as Marketing Application Engineering Manager, with the gas and process business at Atlas Copco Comptec in New York. I got the job and moved to Albany, New York. It was a fantastic opportunity and for me it felt like a natural next step.
In the two years I was in America, the UK Business Line Manager position had been replaced and wasn’t working out very well. My boss in America got a call about it, telling him they would really like me to come back – but I’d bought a house and had no intention of coming back at the time, but I was convinced it would be a good opportunity. So I had to go and have the interview with the Oil Free Air President in Air Power, Belgium. It was the longest journey for the shortest interview in my life – from Houston, to New York City, to London, then Brussels and a cab from there for an interview that lasted ten minutes! They asked what I thought were the issues in the UK, and they agreed with what I said, and that was it, I was appointed as Business Line Manager for Oil Free Air. Returning to the UK was a real challenge because it was amazing how much it had changed in two short years.
When I came back there wasn’t much of a team left, so in my first year back I acted as a sales guy and went round all my old contacts who hadn’t seen me for two years and we started again. We rebuilt the business with basic hard work; calling on customers, rebuilding a team, hiring the right people and delivering on our promises.
It was perfect for me because it gave me the opportunity to prove what I can do - we rebuilt a really strong team. One of the great things about Atlas Copco is if you are growing and delivering results, then you get a lot of freedom. So when the General Manager moved in 2004, I applied for the position, and largely based on the results we’d managed to achieve, and the support from my manager, I was lucky enough to be appointed.
I took that position on for about five years and we had a fantastic period during that time, good growth, very strong results. After five or six years is when Atlas Copco likes to move senior people around, and I was asked to go back overseas, but I wanted to stay in the UK for my children. Instead, a General Manager position opened up in the Construction and Mining business in the UK. I saw it as a fantastic opportunity to do something different at the same level. I felt like I learnt a lot in Compressors and could possibly pass on the knowledge to another team. I applied and got the job.
I started in Mining and Construction in January 2009, it was a real tough start because of the economic crash. But within four years we’d made some good progress, had a bit of good fortune with the economy, but it again came down to the basic focus on customers and hiring good people.
As Construction and Mining grew the Group decided to split the business first into MR and CR (Mining and Construction as separate Business Areas) and then splitting away the mining part into a new company, Epiroc, and the Atlas Copco Business Area - Power Technique. I was given the choice to go with Epiroc or stay with Atlas Copco, but after all the years I was with Atlas Copco it was logical to stay, as well as because I am now a director at Atlas Copco Limited. I felt a great loyalty to the team at Atlas Copco Power Technique.
The Swedish have a great saying: “There is no such thing as bad weather, just wrong clothes.” It’s the same with business - there is no such thing as a tough time, you’re just not doing the right things. There are always opportunities no matter how tough the environment becomes, you just have to find them. When times are good you’re so busy doing what you do every day that you might forget about other things that need a bit of attention – tough times make you look at those things. There will always be fresh challenges.
What is your proudest achievement whilst at Atlas Copco?
One of my proudest personal achievements is whilst I was in a sales role, the guy before me made one and half million in sales, so they gave me a target of two million, but I managed six and a half million! I got very lucky, there were some big projects and I didn’t lose a single job that year!
Another one of my most proud achievements was when I was General Manager in Compressor Technique - all of my management team moved on to become General Managers as well. That is your key role as a manager, developing people – of course, business results are important, but I see this role as a chance to develop people as well. Hiring good people and giving them good opportunities.
What Power Technique product would you best describe yourself as?
Oh that’s a good question! I would probably say I’m strong and reliable, so I think that could apply to many of our products but I guess a portable compressor. Our compressor range is very well respected, it’s the market leader and has always been highly regarded for their strength and reliability.