Parkinson Lee Executive search are delighted to be sharing a series of interviews with Business Leaders from across the region. Each month we will be publishing “an interview with…” that our Managing Partner, Lee Bhandal, has conducted with highly respected Executives from across the region.
Our seventh interview is with Tom Rumboll, CEO at SYNETIQ. Tom joined SYNETIQ as an Executive Chairman, having played a pivotal role in the merger that created the market-leading salvage and vehicle recycling business. In 2021, Tom was appointed as CEO, with overall responsibility for the performance of the business and its people.
SYNETIQ is a UK’s leading vehicle salvage, dismantling & recycling specialist, offering affordable and sustainable motoring solutions. They cater to customers looking for quality used car parts and businesses who want to maximise the financial and environmental return of their vehicles.
Sustainability is at the heart of everything they do. In support of their mission, the company have implemented a “Road to Tomorrow” strategy, which shapes their long and short-term approach to becoming a more sustainable business.
Following a hugely successful 23-year career in various business development, commercial and advisory roles, in large PLCs, regulated industries and high growth businesses, Tom has given an insight into his impressive career journey, how he has led SYNETIQ in becoming the UK’s largest vehicle dismantler with incredible year on year growth and what he enjoys in life, outside the world of a CEO.
Interview with Tom
Can you give us an overview of your career to date?
After graduating from university in 1999, I joined the Lloyds Bank Business Graduate Training Programme in Newcastle. I then moved into the world of Corporate Banking in Leeds in 2001 and never looked back. During my time there I held a variety of roles, predominantly in either Relationship Management or Business Development, alongside a challenging but rewarding 6-month secondment in a people, compliance and merger integration role as part of the COO’s office. This was part of the Lloyds and HBoS merger integration programme.
The career development I experienced at Lloyds was incredible. Working for, and alongside some fantastic role models, I received feedback, coaching, formal training and financial support to complete external recognised professional qualifications in both Accountancy and Marketing. I gained some extremely valuable and transferable skills and experiences.
In 2013, I left Lloyds Bank to join the Board of one of my Banking clients, Company Shop Group. My initial attraction to the company was through their incredibly strong ESG and sustainability credentials. During the four years I was with the Group, I was a part of a significant restructure, witnessed the company’s rapid growth and had the honour of receiving the Queen’s Award for Sustainable Development, and was presented this by the Queen at Buckingham Palace, on behalf of the business.
I then set up my own Corporate Advisory business, which was how I got involved in the opportunity that became the business, SYNETIQ. I was brought in as an independent advisor to support a 4-way merger, and, after a lot of hard work SYNETIQ was created. We became the UK’s largest integrated vehicle salvage, dismantling and recycling business. Like Company Shop Group, SYNETIQ has a very strong sustainability story. I initially joined as Executive Chairman and in January 2021, became CEO.
Was it always in your career plan to become a business leader and if so, how did this drive your career path to your current position as Chief Executive Officer at SYNETIQ?
It is fair to say that I have always had lots of drive, determination and ambition but my goals have always been to do the very best job that I can, to continuously improve, to make a positive difference and to make my family proud.
With the variety of experiences, I have had, and a desire to constantly challenge myself, I have been given some amazing opportunities to fulfil these personal goals. All of which, have led me to my current position as CEO of SYNETIQ, a role I am very proud and privileged to fulfil.
Anyone who worked with me at Lloyds, Company Shop or SYNETIQ, know I am fond of a quote. This one from Larry Bird sums up my approach to my career to date.
“I’ve got a theory that if you give 100% all the time, somehow things will work out in the end”
In 2019 when SYNETIQ was established as a result of the merger of Motorhog, Car Transplants, DH Systems and FAB Recycling – what were the key challenges or setbacks that you had to overcome, what were they & how did you deal with them?
Any merger, brings challenges, but a 4-way merger where the Shareholders and Directors of all the merging entities stay in the new business, brings its own unique set of challenges!
The biggest challenge, unsurprisingly, was around change and all that goes with it. I am pleased to say that we successfully integrated the SYNETIQ business by winning both hearts and minds. There was a compelling merger rationale, clear recommendations from the vendor due diligence (undertaken by myself pre-merger) and obvious synergy benefits which were delivered with positivity, integrity, empathy and a care for people at its heart.
Can you share some of your greatest achievements during your career?
A great question! There are lots of things I am proud of in my career to date, starting with winning some fantastic clients for Lloyds Bank over the years.
Taking Company Shop to their first Queen’s Award, delivering a 3-way partnership with a major retailer and a charity that resulted in a £750,000 charity donation, opening the business’s first new “greenfield” store and developing a store roll-out plan that has seen the business grow hugely since I left has given me a real sense of achievement.
In my relatively short time working in an advisory capacity, I advised on 3-mergers, all of which have gone on to great success since.
More recently my career highlights understandably relate to SYNETIQ. Creating the business in the first instance was a real highlight, then building one market-leading, nationally recognised business and then achieving an exit at more than double the value two and half years later was a real challenge, but one that has been incredibly rewarding.
Putting the big headlines to one side, I am so, so proud of how SYNETIQ has put sustainability at the centre of our business and strategy, becoming Carbon Literacy Silver accredited, supporting other organisations in becoming carbon literate and committing to set Science Based Targets to help us become net zero. We are leading our industry to a more sustainable future.
Investing in our people, establishing our apprenticeship programme and creating a nationally accredited apprenticeship for our industry speaks volumes about us, and interacting with our apprentices who are right at the start of their careers gives me real pride and optimism.
Can you tell us more about how you have driven SYNETIQ to become the UK’s largest vehicle dismantler, with year-on-year growth?
Whilst the business that made up SYNETIQ had combined trading histories of over 150 years, the opportunity we had with the new business that became SYNETIQ was to think big, think differently and think long term.
I worked with the Board to agree a progressive and ambitious vision and then set about creating a business that could deliver this Vision.
Putting sustainability at the heart of the business has been a major ingredient in our success, alongside our fantastic people, our commitment to our clients, our technology and innovation and the strength of the foundation the legacy businesses provided to us.
We combined the best from each business’s legacy, added in new thinking and expertise and created a market-leading circular model that is absolutely right for our time.
Having recently led the successful sale of the business, what is your future vision for SYNETIQ and how do you aim to get there?
The future vision for SYNETIQ is the same as the current vision, but I believe that with the brand, proposition, people, infrastructure, client partnerships and momentum we have built, coupled with the resources and support we will receive from our owners, IAA Inc. we will go much faster towards it.
I truly believe the SYNETIQ model can and will become a household name in the UK and internationalise to help decarbonise part of the automotive supply chain across Europe and beyond.
Do you see the importance of transparency in your role as CEO? If so, how do you demonstrate this?
Being transparent, honest, authentic and consistent are essential traits of any leader. I try to demonstrate this at all times and take the businesses best interests into every situation, conversation and thought process. I do not have a secret formula; I just treat others as I would wish to be treated and ensure that what I do is consistent with what I say.
As Mark Twain said, “if you always tell the truth, you never have to remember anything”.
As a business leader, constant and unforeseen changes can be very challenging to navigate through. How do you tackle these challenges head on, affectively adapt and ensure the wider business are all working collaboratively?
I am a big believer in facing life as it is, not how you want it to be, so the first things that I do and have done is to define the current reality and secondly, bring to life our intended future state. From this definition comes both, clarity and a clear goal to aim for and be motivated towards reaching. With clarity and goals, effective plans can be created.
With competent, confident, hardworking and trusting teams, plans to reach these goals can be delivered, and good decisions can be made with enough flexibility and agility to accommodate the constant change in the internal and external environment.
The mindset and energy to continually invest time and effort in recognising, rewarding, reflecting, supporting and challenging in order to sustain and maintain pace, commitment and progress has proved to be a really effective formula for SYNETIQ, in what has been a challenging and changeable period since we were formed in 2019.
What would you say are the key qualities required for a successful CEO?
If I were to distil this down to those that have served me on my journey to becoming a CEO and since, I would say:
- Optimism – A belief that the future can and will be better is powerful personally and infectious for those around you.
- Confidence – A belief that you are capable of delivering a better future for yourself, your team, your business and your industry motivates you to act.
- Resilience – The ability to learn from and recover quickly from mistakes or disappointment is essential to maintain focus and positivity in the face of adversity.
- Energy – The enthusiasm and stamina to be at, and to give your best at all times creates a positive effect on those around you, such that this energy is multiplied many times over.
- Care – a genuine care for what you do, how you do it and who you do it for and with, cannot be manufactured. From care comes authenticity which is so important for building commitment and trust from those in your care.
What advice would you give to young professionals aspiring to reach CEO level in their future career?
Firstly, I would say anyone can be a CEO, regardless of their starting point or career discipline. After that I would guide anyone to follow your passion. Build a career in an area you believe in, that is consistent with your values and excites you. Build a career in something you are passionate about where your skills can be put to best use. Self-awareness and knowing what drives you is essential here.
My advice would be to use the early part of your career to both build skills and experience whilst getting to know yourself better; to understand how you learn, motivate yourself, and, crucially, re-energise.
On a more practical note, I would also suggest; investing time in building a trusted network of friends and mentors, making your career decisions based on building skills and learning rather than money, and to always remember that there are lessons you can learn in every situation.
“Great things are never achieved from within a comfort zone” is a phrase that has stuck with me throughout my career. So, with that in mind, my final piece of advice is to be prepared for being uncomfortable and always say yes to opportunities that put you out of your comfort zone. By moving into realms where you don’t have all the answers, but will work hard to get the answers, you’ll find yourself at the other side with a new set of skills, competencies, and confidence.
I’m sure that work takes up an enormous amount of your time, but as a family man, what do you enjoying with any free time?
I am blessed with an amazing family, my fantastic wife Emilie and our 8-year-old twin boys Arthur and Albert. We love spending time together as a family walking, cycling, playing very competitive games of Monopoly and watching the boys at their various after school and weekend activities.
Personally, I like to keep fit through a mixture of running and HIIT and I am the Manager of my son’s football team (way more difficult than running a business!)
My big passion is House music and DJ’ing where I love to buy, play and record mixes either live or to post online. I DJ under the name LGRTR where you can find me on Soundcloud (shameless plug!) David Solomons, the CEO of Goldman Sachs is also a DJ, so if it’s good enough for DSOL, it’s good enough for me!
For more information on this interview or to discuss how Parkinson Lee could assist your organisation in hiring Executive or Board Level appointments, please contact Lee Bhandal on 07590 529 274 or firstname.lastname@example.org.