Dr. Keith Ellis is a Director of Allied Comline Limited. An expert in all things friction, he frequently teaches about brakes.
The BRAKE Report: What is your current role and area of responsibility?
Keith Ellis: I am responsible for all friction sales of Allied Nippon Limited in Europe. This is done in conjunction with the Comline Group through a joint venture company, Allied Comline Limited, of which I am a Director. For our group brand sales I support the Comline Group companies with technical backup, and for private branding I manage the whole business operation from start to finish.
TBR: How would you describe your leadership style and why has it worked so well for you?
KE: Very much one of encouraging and supporting those that work for me to meet our goals. I strive to ensure I arm each of my team members with knowledge. Sharing as much as possible, I work on the basis that inclusion encourages ownership. Empowering your workforce and sharing responsibility, in my experience, not only leads to job satisfaction, quite often it results in more innovative ‘out of the box’ results, which are a must have in today’s crowded marketplace.
TBR: What do you see as your biggest challenge right now?
KE: The European Aftermarket in which we operate is highly congested, and we need to offer something special to stand out as the supplier of choice. We do this through a combination of quality products, competitive price, and, most importantly of all, high levels of customer service.
TBR: What do you look for when evaluating and adding top personnel?
KE: Experience in relevant market/positions, enthusiasm, honesty, and an open personality. When recruiting a new team member, obviously, I look for someone with the skills to ‘do the job,’ but I also take great care to ensure they will integrate well within the team. To get the best out of someone they need to be in the right environment, so it is important to look at a candidate as a person as opposed to a CV or a list of achievements / relevant experience
TBR: What was your first job in the automotive industry?
KE: My first job in the automotive industry was as R&D Manager for a friction manufacturing company in the UK. Little did I realise at the time that it was a business I was destined to spend the next 30 years working in.
TBR: What is your favourite thing about working in the brake industry?
KE: I enjoy the technical challenges and the “cut and thrust” of the aftermarket, which is fluid and ever-changing. Just when you think you have got to grips with the market the landscape changes and you need to move quickly to respond.
Technical challenges, which present themselves daily, are something which my team and I particularly thrive upon. Not only do they keep the job ‘interesting,’ they provide opportunities for the brand to shine, showcasing our skills, expertise, and speed in finding suitable solutions.
Another aspect of the job which I enjoy involves education. Despite its safety-critical nature, the brake pad is still a largely underrated and misunderstood product. Part of my job is to change this perception, positioning the brake pad as a critical piece of advanced technology, continually promoting and articulating the scientific nature of the compounds and development processes used.
I have been in this business for some time but, while the underlying script remains the same, I still thoroughly enjoy discussing technological advances, new production techniques, and friction technology with our many customers.
TBR: What is the best career advice you have been given?
KE: “Never say never” and “Never burn bridges.” Both sound advice which have taught me patience and humility in developing business over the years.
TBR: Name your favourite/ recent book(s) you have read:
KE: Prisoners of Geography by Tim Marshall.
TBR: What is your favourite quote and why?
KE: One given by the Sales and Marketing Manager in my first ever job. He said, “No one ever lies on their death bed and says I wish I had spent more time in the office.” In essence, make sure you get the work/life balance right. Family has always been something very important to me.
TBR: How do you see the industry evolving over the next 5-10 years and do you have any bold predictions for us?
KE: The development of electric vehicles is going to be the key change affecting the industry. It will lead to significant changes in the aftermarket, particularly for organisations such as ours for which friction and filters figure so strongly. Fully autonomous cars will lead to massive societal changes with individual car ownership likely to drop drastically in the next 10 – 20 years.
TBR: Tell us something that most people might not know about you or your organisation.
KE: In the UK we have been awarded the prestigious Queens Award for Export and have figured highly in The Financial Times’ FT1000 listing of fast growing European companies due to our consistent turnover growth. Notable accolades which we are incredibly proud of.
TBR: What are some ways you relax away from the office?
KE: Mostly reading, TV, and travelling to new places when the opportunity arises – that and spending time with my children as they finish their University studies.