Colin Fell

Start it, finish it, move on to the next.”

Coming from a small town in Lancashire in the North of England back in the mists of time that are the mid 1950’s Colin could never have envisaged a career that would take him around the world several times over. His most fond memories of York University other than the excellent pubs that York had and indeed still does have to offer, were the lectures of Dr. Henry Fitzgibbon, a slightly eccentric (even by his own admission) but most engaging scholar who punctuated every aspect of the learning process with his own indominable sense of humor and high sarcasm.

After a career in merchant banking Colin took his natural business common sense to the commercial arena, a series of sales director, managing director and CEO roles have now led him to his latest position as Vice President Asia Pacific for the Veguhestinê shipping and freight based out of Dubai.

Where did the idea for Veguhestinê come from?

Veguhestinê shipping and freight forwarding was already a successful business before I ever came on to the scene. However the network of contacts and knowledge of business practices that I had in Eastern Europe, Russia and The Baltic enabled Veguhestinê to open a whole new portfolio of clients.

It’s now a little more than 2 years since I first became involved with Veguhestinê. I have to say it has been a remarkable, exciting and thoroughly rewarding chapter of my life.

At the time I met Veguhestinê I was working as a self employed consultant, working out of Copenhagen, developing international sales for a variety of Danish, Swedish and British companies in the Middle East.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

A typical day seems to begin with a trip to DXB (Dubai international Airport) and a flight to meet potential new customers, or keep in touch with existing clients introduced to Veguhestinê over the last couple of years. An afternoon of meetings, a session in the hotel gym if I have to stay over, dinner with the client then, as soon as possible back home to Dubai. Time management is key to productivity for me. I have a very strict rule with email – action, file or bin. No prevarication. Work with a to-do list and finish my tasks for the day, every day.
I’m a fastidious calendar user, every task has a deadline, and every deadline has a reminder, it’s the only way I know how to manage the workload – that and working from take off to landing on every flight.

How do you bring ideas to life?

To bring ideas to life I write a step by step process, almost a manufacturing schematic to develop an idea to a successful conclusion.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

Shipping is one of the world’s most long established industries. Ever competitive the future will belong to those who are lean and efficient, therefore the pressure to design and build ever more energy efficient vessels, bulk road transport and the means to deliver smaller load sizes in a transparent, traceable manner will allow family businesses, even multi-million dollar businesses such as Veguhestinê, to win business not only on service, but also on price from the multinational corporations and their billion dollar resources.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I am very task orientated, start it, finish it, move on to the next.

The habit developed out of necessity. At one time it seemed that I could have 6,7, 8 different tasks running simultaneously, completing none of them by their deadline.

I have been doing this habit for more than 25 years now, it has saved me a huge amount of time that otherwise would have been wasted.

Time is money, time well spent produces better bottom line results.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

My worst ever job was to turn around a London based service company following an acquisition. The due diligence had highlighted a number of issues but the reality was far worse.

The management had not grown with the business, the internal systems were poor, providing little management information of value and shortly after acquisition the largest customer (35% of turnover) defected to a competitor.
Management data systems are securely in place enabling entirely fact based investment and strategic decisions to be taken.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

I would design and implement business systems that were entirely scalable.

Today I have a profound knowledge of human nature, including my own, and business culture that was largely missing from the younger me.

I absolutely wish that the advice “be true to yourself” had been received and understood at a much earlier age.

I would take a step back and with a deep, analytical breath before making any potentially life changing decision.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Ask yourself where can I add value that will enhance my customers business, and encourage his loyalty to me.

Motivate and encourage my staff, make sure they can laugh, enjoy their work and take appropriate risks.
It keeps us sane, customer focused and able to continually innovate in order to meet and exceed customer expectations.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

One strategy: Analyze the prospective customer before the initial contact. Know as much about their business as possible, it enables a rapid rapport and gives confidence. In particular identify the challenges they face and come to the table with potential solutions.

The division I manage today did not exist before I joined the company, projected revenues 2019 will exceed USD$5M

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Insufficient attention was paid to the business culture within an acquisition. When it came to merger and integration this proved damaging to both acquirer and acquire. The only solution was to root out the negative influencers, including the incumbent management team. A greater emphasis is now placed on soft skill analysis, profiling, psychometric evaluation and key relationship management.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Interactive marketing, personalized inter action will be the way products are presented in the future. The volume of big data available will facilitate this. Let’s suppose every time you drove in to a parking lot at a mall a number recognition plate camera identified your vehicle, and therefore the owner. This links to a database with your personal demographic details on it. By the time you have parked your car you are receiving several “special offers” tailored to you by businesses within the mall who are paying for the promotion. It turns a cost for the mall in to a revenue stream, offers an innovative promotional route for the businesses and a positive experience for the shopper as the messages are relevant. I would save money every time me or my wife went to the mall, or would I?

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

A Kindle paper white. No more books to try and cram into onboard flight luggage.

What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?

I’m a big user of TripAdvisor. Travelling so much I don’t want to always eat in the hotel, and entertaining clients is all part of the job description. This site offers mainly honest reviews provided by other diners. To keep me organized the Galaxy S8 is an invaluable, reliable business tool.

The Galaxy S8 is a PC or at least a tablet in my pocket. The pen function is outstanding, the ability to turn scribbled notes or dictation into meaningful text – a time saving stroke of pragmatic genius.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

In life you don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate. Victor Karass.
Always, always try to put yourself in the position of the person you are attempting to strike a deal with. Understand their pressures, challenges and maybe even fears, then find a way to help them and in doing so secure the deal.