Jonathan Edwards is Group Sales Director for Alcon. For 35 years, Alcon has been providing brake and clutch solutions to professional teams competing in the world’s prime motorsport series including F1, NASCAR, World Rally, Indy Car, and Touring Cars. In the following Q&A, Jonathan shares with us his valuable insights on the topics of leadership and success.
TBR: What is your current role and area of responsibility?
JE: My role is to drive and oversee all sales/commercial activities within Alcon Specialist Brakes & Clutches (Tamworth, United Kingdom), Alcon Specialist Engineering & Products (Northampton, United Kingdom) and Pro-System Brakes Inc (Mooresville, North Carolina).
TBR: How would you describe your leadership style and why has it worked so well for you?
JE: Generally firm but fair, I’m no walkover by any stretch but reward hard workers and earners. I always provide opportunities for people and thrive on them grabbing them with both hands and making a success of themselves. Not grabbing those opportunities will doubtless put me in a difficult space. I lead by example, never unwilling to problem solve and assist with the not so nice things. I see leadership as being earned, it’s not a given based upon a title. I also mentor and train, using my experience within the industries and my commercial prowess to show how to sell. The sales team within the Alcon group are top class, with no exceptions.
TBR: What do you see as your biggest challenge right now?
JE: Finding the right people to join our business here at Alcon.
TBR: What do you look for when evaluating top talent?
JE: (Good) Attitude every time. Given the right attitude, people can go a long way in life. Pure ability whether it is in business, sport or just life generally will only go so far – and usually, that ceiling is a pretty low one in today’s ultra-competitive age. I look for winners in life and can’t abide the boasters that believe they’re something they’re not, who usually are too lazy to have a proper go at stuff. Degree level intellect is useful, but not pre-requisite.
TBR: What was your first job in Industry?
JE: I worked on the trade counter at GKN Driveline outside Birmingham (UK). I needed more life experience and even though I had recently graduated with an Engineering based degree from Coventry University I went for it. I took in driveline components for repair, mainly trucks, busses etc., priced them and followed the rework or repair through the factory. Pay was decidedly average but it was work, experience and I learned. I noticed they did a bit in Motorsport and worked my way into that team, we did shafts and components for WRC, F1, and Touring Cars. I stayed with GKN for a few years and whilst I was there I met the founder of Alcon, John Moore, who asked me to join his team. The rest, as they say, is history….
TBR: What is the best career advice you have been given?
JE: Generally, my guidance came from John Moore in the very early days at Alcon. John is a JFDI kind of gentleman. I knew that John believed in me – race fast without crashing, and of course be a good businessman. He regularly asked if I had won any more business and my subsequent response was “it’s coming”. His usual reply was simply “what are you pissing about at??”..!! He also used to come and watch me race occasionally in my early 750 Motor Club days, a club John also competed with and that was dear to his heart. On one occasion in qualifying at Mallory Park, my full harness buckle on my open cockpit “7” would not close, fully rendering the harness system utterly useless. I had no full cage, no HANS device, no hand tethers – that’s just what it was like back then and that’s why I loved it! I was told to just “get on with it”. “Don’t crash, but go for it!” I think all of that sums up life, give it what you’ve got but don’t be overly reckless as there is always tomorrow…
TBR: Name your favorite / recent book(s) you have read:
JE: Two books from two very different sports very dear to my heart but totally inspirational and insightful. In no particular order or preference:
“How to Build a Car” by the great Adrian Newey, someone I have come to know of late. No explanation needed here as to why this is so good.
“The Full Cycle” by the not so well known but hugely capable professional cyclist from the 60’s Vin Denson. Vin was an early pioneer in the sport of cycling, a British legend and teammate at the time to the late Tom Simpson who sadly passed away on the 1967 Mont Ventoux stage of the Tour De France. I spoke with Vin prior to me recently competing in the Paris Roubaix Sportive and his passion and advice got me through without dramas!
TBR: What is your favorite quote and why?
JE: “He who dares wins” – it’s a bit obvious really given what I have said above.
TBR: How do you see the industry evolving over the next 5-10 years and do you have any bold predictions for us?
JE: Electrification is going to become more prominent in OEM braking technology, but most of you know that anyway. For sure though, it will happen more and more.
TBR: Tell us a something that most people might not know about you or your organization.
JE: When John Moore left Automotive Products in 81 or 82, he went to Alexander Controls designing and manufacturing solenoid valves. He soon got bored and went to visit his friends at Audi Sport and between them and John brakes were made. Alcon was born and our first ever customer was Audi Sport in 1983 on the iconic Group B Quattro rally car. Alcon is a shortened version of Alexander Controls…