What I’ve learnt: Alastair Waite

December 1, 2015

IoD North East Director of the Year 2014/15, Alastair Waite, has an impressive track record in building value in various businesses, including retail, engineering,  biofuel and IT ventures. He led the buyout of Onyx Group before attracting private equity interest in 2011 and his latest focus is building Altec Engineering, a company established by his father in 1978. Alastair is also named in the as one of the Top 100 people in the UK who give time and investment to help other businesses, and last month, he was awarded the Business Mentor of the Year award by the Entrepreneurs’ Forum

If you focus and really believe in something then the chances of success are significantly higher. When Onyx Group’s US Parent went into administration many years ago we found ourselves in administration too, despite being profitable and growing. We focused on completing a management buyout and I, along with the majority of employees, believed in what we were doing and invested to make the deal happen.


Clearly define your USP. Think of three interlocking circles: your business, your customers and your competitors. Focus on the area of overlap where you can provide a great product or service that your customer needs and where your competitors can’t match you. This is where the biggest opportunity for creating value and profit lies.


Treat everyone you meet with respect. They might have different opinions but you can agree to disagree and still work toward a common goal.


Be a good role model.


When meeting someone new, think what you can do for that person. Often people think first about what they can get from that person. In my experience, the more you give, without expecting a return, the more you get back in the long run.


You don’t know what you don’t know. I have YDKWYDK on the back of my business card. Being CEO can often be a lonely experience and others expect you to have all of the answers. It is best to recognise your limitations and when to seek help and then not be afraid to ask others to assist.


Get a mentor. I have had a personal mentor for more than ten years. I visit him three or four times a year. He forces me to write down everything I am doing in my business life, my family life and my personal life and then grills me for 24 hours on where my focus needs to be and what needs to be done.


Do simple stuff excellently, de-clutter your work environment and intentionally get better.


Be an optimist. See setbacks as temporary events, don’t take failure personally, remain calm and objective and control the way you react to events.


Look after your money. Money is very easy to get rid of, but very, very hard to acquire in the first place.


Finally, a mantra of mine is ‘every touch leaves a trace’.  Everyone you come into contact with will remember you for what you said and how you have acted. Strive to make this a positive experience, show you care, do something that will help others and give something back. Nelson Mandela referred to this as ubuntu, which roughly translated means humanity towards others.


Alastair Waite is the CEO of Altec Group



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Supporting role: Megan Savage and Sam Burt