Being asked to run an organisation with more than 400 employees at the age of 25 would be a daunting experience for most. For Colin Robertson, though, it was something he took in his stride.
Colin was 17 when he started his career as an engineering apprentice with Cummins Engine Company, climbing the ladder steadily before being put in charge of the entire machine shop, managing over 400 workers.
After a successful period at Cummins he took on a new challenge at JI Case, the tractor manufacturer, where for four years he was unit manager and responsible for facilities across the UK, Germany and France. After 13 years of service he moved on to Terex Corporation where he enjoyed a meteoric rise through the ranks, becoming President of their $2billion construction division and ultimately Executive Vice President of Global Operations, based at the company’s Connecticut headquarters in the USA.
In 2007 he returned to Scotland, this time as CEO of Falkirk-based bus and coach manufacturer Alexander Dennis Limited (ADL).
Since then ADL has seen its UK market share rise from 30% to over 50%. It leads the market in all four key sectors – midi bus, full-size single deck, double-deck and hybrid-electric sales – and has established itself as Europe’s leading supplier of low-carbon buses that reduce fuel and CO2 emissions by over 30%.
In parallel with this it has seen export sales grow rapidly from 20% to circa 35%, doubled turnover in the past three years to £360m, with a further 20% growth anticipated in 2012, and is on course to see profits increase significantly this year and next.
All of this has been achieved in the teeth of the toughest global recession in 40 years but, despite this, Colin is convinced there is much more to come on the back of new partnerships and ‘build alliances’ he has now secured in North America, Hong Kong, China and New Zealand, and with recent big business wins in Canada, Asia and the Southern Hemisphere.
Retaining almost 2,000 employees in the UK throughout the recession, ADL has cleverly introduced invaluable out-sourcing arrangements, enabling it to increase output by 60% while preserving its core workforce in facilities at Falkirk, Scarborough, Guildford and key overseas locations. Clearly, this is one Scottish manufacturing boss who sees adversity as opportunity – and has taken the opportunity to take his company into the big league of global players in his industry sector.
Jim Boyle, head of entrepreneurial business at Deloitte, and awards judge, said: “We were extremely impressed with Colin both as an individual and as a business person. He is clearly very passionate about ADL and is committed to expanding the business even further.
“From a young age Colin has demonstrated a nose for building successful businesses and has a very impressive track record both at home and abroad. On accepting the role at ADL he has shown a keen desire to challenge himself and those around him. With Colin at the helm ADL is a great example of a successful Scottish manufacturing business driving an export-led recovery.”