Yesterday I was privileged (and extremely chuffed) to be invited to Roger French's retirement celebration. For those of you who do not know of Roger French - he was (until lunchtime today) The Managing Director of Brighton & Hove Bus Company. And he really is a remarkable man. His retirement celebration was in Hove Town Hall - which was crammed with 200 of the great and the good from Brighton and beyond who had come to say their goodbyes. Speeches were given by Michael Beard (editor of the Argus), David Brown (Group Chief Executive of the Go-Ahead group), Norman Baker MP (Parliamentary Under Secretary for Transport), Caroline Lower (CEO of the Martlets Hospice) and Tony Mernagh (Executive Director at Brighton and Hove Economic partnership). Each speaker identified why they thought Roger had made such a great contribution to the City and to the Brighton & Hove Bus Company. Their speeches were all extremely eloquent and certainly a fitting tribute to Roger.
At risk of sounding like Carrie Bradshaw 'It got me thinking... what is it that makes a great man great?'
In his speech, Roger talked of how he was dealt a hand of aces - a great city, a great company, great people and the right time. In a speech two nights before to his staff, he had talked about how he saw the Brighton & Hove Bus Company as a beautiful jigsaw - and that everyone in the Company was a piece of that jigsaw - and that together they made a beautiful picture.
What these two metaphors tell me - is that what made Roger so refreshing and inspiring to those he worked with and around was that along with being an exceptional MD he was also a man who understood it wasn't just about him. He understood that to do his job as well as he wanted he needed other people to do their job as well as they could too. He needed to trust, to empower, to energise, to inspire and to motivate his management team, his staff, his suppliers and all his 'partners'. So - yes he learnt their names and he learnt about their lives. He did what he said he would as well as he could and trusted that others would do the same... and they did... And the result of all those people being the best they could was that Brighton & Hove have one of the best bus transport networks in the country. One that is held up as an exemplar, in parliament as well as in the corridors of global transport companies.
I was extremely lucky to work with Roger producing On Route - the Brighton & Hove bus passenger magazine. We had twice yearly editorial meetings and it was at these meetings that I got a tiny insight into the way Roger worked - and over time I realised that of all the people I have known in business Roger is the person I most admire. I love his honesty, his integrity, his generosity of spirit, the fact that he just loves what he does - but most of all I admire his desire to make the world he lives in a better place.
So what makes a great man great? Well I would say a great man is man who makes the people around him shine. And Roger does that in bucket loads.
Best of luck in your retirement Roger and Thank You for showing us how it can be done!