Meet the MD of MyFerryLink - Robin Wilkins
PUBLISHED: 09:04 14 June 2014 | UPDATED: 09:04 14 June 2014
Manu Palomeque 07977074797
Customer service and why best is better than biggest
Tell us a bit about you
My move from Surrey to Kent came after 12 years at the Gillette company, working my way up through various sales and marketing assignments in the UK and Scandinavia. My career needing a shot in the arm, I got a phone call about the head of marketing job at newly formed Hoverspeed in Ramsgate. So did my brighter and more experienced colleague, so I talked him out of applying and I got the job. We’re still firm friends!
The company initially lost money heavily, but after staking everything I had on a management buy out, we sold the now-profitable business to Sea Containers in 1986 and at the age of 39 I became the MD. In the 90s I had spells in aviation and at Cunard before joining SeaFrance as MD when it set up in 1996. I spent 16 years there before the company was brought down by intransigent French trade unions.
Broadstairs has been home since moving to Kent. The North Foreland is a glorious, quiet environment and I love the sea view!
Tell us about MyFerryLink
MyFerryLink is the newest Dover-Calais service offering 16 crossings a day on two superferries, with a distinctive French touch. We also have a freighter. It’s unique in that while the brand is owned by Groupe Eurotunnel, the service is operated by a French-based employee partnership, rather like John Lewis. All the seagoing staff are equal shareholders, so have a vested interest in giving excellent service.
I’m responsible for all the UK activities, and for tourism marketing Europe wide. Two thirds of our customers are British, mainly from London and the south east. The eastern European market is growing and we are strong in France.
Any plans for expansion?
We have no ambition to be the biggest, but we want to be the best and our customer rating is the highest of all the operators. In this start-up phase the customer offer is evolving, but we are on track to meet our long-term objectives. We’re giving our Behemoth competitors a lot to worry about.
Advice for new start-up businesses?
It’s best to be in a business sector you know about: make sure you have points of difference that customers value and can easily discern. Keep overheads minimal and watch cash flow like a hawk. Negotiate back-up finance before you need it.
Your best piece of business advice?
Keep the focus on customers and competitors, not on internal politics.
What makes a good boss?
Staff give their best in a culture they like to work in. If you look after the staff, the customer service will follow. A boss should give confidence, be inclusive and approachable. Give responsibility, then don’t micro-manage or criticise in front of others. Give credit where it’s due and take your share of the blame.
Your most prized possession?
My Rockola 1493 ‘Princess’ vinyl juke-box, built 1962 when I was a teenager.
Do you use social media?
It is a big and growing influence on our business and our customer communication, @myferrylink gives you up-to-the-minute information about your travel with us, and we have a multi-language Facebook page.
How is your work/leisure balance?
I don’t take the job home with me, but I don’t like doing nothing. I enjoy art and sport (playing and watching) and experiencing all the variety Kent offers.
Favourite Kent restaurants?
The Swan in West Malling, The Marquis at Alkham, the Ambrette in Margate and Kathton House in Sturry are favourites.
What did you have for breakfast?
Today, it was porridge with blueberries, raspberries and strawberries. n