Head of Sales - Aggregates, Rail Freight

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The Company

Having already partnered Collingwood late last year, the largest freight operator in the UK again got in touch for this senior sales management position, with the exiting incumbent being promoted to the UK board. 


The Role and Its Challenges

There had been dramatic change required from this UK arm over the past year due to them losing market share during a 5 year period. In part, it was this existing Head of Sales - Aggregates who had driven a change culture within the two sales departments and so promoting him was broadly anticipated across the UK operation. This was a crucial chain of promotion for the operator, with the UK CEO having previously satisfied his new role for some time.

Sales are split into two sections; industrial (aggregates) and logistics. The industrial department manage the aggregate market (e.g. Tarmac, Breedon, Hanson), which makes up around 50% of the UK’s revenue figures (c.£150m revenue) and had been in decline. The department also looks after domestic waste.

Key to this search was securing someone with not only the credibility within the aggregate marketplace and understanding of how products are freighted but someone who would also quickly gain the respect and attention of the direct team.  Continuing with the exiting Managers success in driving a new business and continuous improvement culture with critical.  Personality was a clear consideration to Collingwood when assessing any long list. 


The Solution

Whilst taking the brief, both Mark Goldsmith and Collingwood's Managing Director, Doug Mackay, highlighted that limiting our research around individuals managing aggregate sales teams within the small pool of directly competing national freight businesses would provide us with an extremely limited talent pool. Having listened to what core skills were required and upon agreement with the client, Mark opened up the search to include those working within the aggregate manufacturers who manage rail freight operations. 

Being more precise, this opened up the search from eight like-for-like replacements to over 30. Engaging our client in a regular update on how the research and approach work was going was key – be this that the person was likely to come from the less favoured aggregate market or from a direct competitor.

Collingwood also agreed to take any internal applicants through the same assessment process as external headhunted candidates. 


The Result

In total, this led to Mark approaching 36 target individuals, engaging with both Sales Directors, Regional Sales Directors, National Sales Managers and Freight Managers from the manufacturers. Working with our contact in further shaping the research, this ultimately led Mark to sharing six candidates from the approach phase who, on paper, looked of the right quality. These, along with three internal applicants were interviewed by Mark.

Upon holding a conference call with his main contact, Collingwood's client agreed that four should be met for first interview stage, along with the three internals, with Mark having aired his concerns / findings when comparing them against the headhunted counterparts. Two were progressed to second and then final interview stage, with Mark managing the process to include Thomas International assessments. 

The preferred candidate came from a direct competitor, having exceptionally strong exposure to the market and sector.  Mark had recognised that his character and management style perfectly matched that of the exiting director and so he would be seamlessly positioned to continue his hard work and improvement to date. 


About the author
Doug Mackay
min read

Having started his career in Executive Search in 1998, Doug set up Collingwood in 2005 alongside his wife, Claire Mackay.

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Doug Mcckay

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