Over the Christmas and New Year period, Director is profiling the winners of the IoD Director of The Year Awards. Today we meet Daniel Robinson, chairman and chief executive, Gus Robinson Developments, who won the SME Company Director Award…
Robinson was based in the US when his father’s death saw him fly back to the north-east to take the helm. He quickly made numerous difficult changes but things began to improve when the company won a £1.7m contract for a redevelopment in Hartlepool. The firm is recognised as one of the most successful construction firms in the north-east. Here, he considers his business inspirations…
What’s the secret of your success? I’m honest – truly, my word is my bond. I’m pretty good at big-picture thinking and, above all, I’m good at building teams. But my team is the true secret to my success.
What’s the best business advice you’ve ever had? Never choose short-term wins to the detriment of long-term value.
What has been your biggest challenge and how have you overcome it? When I took over the business, my father had just committed suicide. I had to inspire my team to stay with me, to follow me on a journey that was going to involve a lot of personal and collective sacrifice. Holding my team together during those very dark days was the biggest challenge of all.
What’s your leadership style? I always joke that in the early days I acted like a benevolent dictator because I didn’t have time for huge amounts of collaboration. Now, I’ve shaped my team into the team that I want, and become much more collaborative and relaxed. I believe in employing talented people and then empowering them to make decisions.
What’s the key to building a great team? Capability is only part of the solution. You must look very carefully at the individual values of a human being. If these values are not in line with your own, then ultimately, their capability can kill you. Once you’ve built the right team, you have to empower them and get out of their way. This can be scary.
How do you relax? I spend a lot of my time training for Brazilian jiu-jitsu. I’m working towards my black belt.
What’s the best talk you have seen? When I was at Georgetown University, I attended a talk by the last space shuttle crew. It was an incredibly inspiring talk about leadership and teamwork.
What should government do for business in 2016? In the house-building industry it is essential that the government finds a way to reform the planning process. It has become ridiculously burdensome.
Gus Robinson Developments Vital stats
Business Gus Robinson Developments is a commercial construction company and provider of affordable homes across the north-east and North Yorkshire.
HQ Hartlepool, County Durham
Mission statement “To be a force for good in society”
History Founded in 1975, the firm was on the verge of bankruptcy when the death of the firm’s figurehead saw Daniel Robinson take over the company reins. Having restructured, Robinson is aiming to grow the business to a £40m turnover.
Financial highlight Turnover is up from £5m in 2011-12 to over £20m in this financial year.