“When I came back as deputy managing director, it was always part of the plan that at some point in 2020 I would become managing director,” said Bird, who officially takes charge on 1 June.
“The business was handed over piece by piece, and we were pretty much there, so it seemed the ideal time to do it. Although it does feel a little strange taking the reins while working from home.”
Bird takes over from Robert Flather, who has been Kolbus UK MD since 1 January 1999, after joining the business as deputy to then managing director Gordon Robson in 1997.
Flather will now become executive chairman of Kolbus UK and continue to be managing director of Kolbus Autobox, a role he took on following the retirement of Barry Tabor in March this year.
63-year old Flather will remain full time, and as well as supporting Kolbus UK and leading Kolbus Autobox, which is his main focus, he will also support Kolbus globally, particularly in France and the US, following the departure of Kolbus managing director Kai Büntemeyer last year.
Flather said Bird, who rejoined the business last July, was the perfect leader to take the Kolbus UK business forward: “He’s such an asset to the business and will continue to be for a long time to come,” he said.
“I’ve hardly seen a UK customer for nearly nine months and the business has been in the safest of hands.”
According to Bird, while a number of Kolbus UK’s 14 staff have been furloughed, the business continues to support existing customers remotely through the lockdown and, when required, with technicians on site. Spare parts supply has also been uninterrupted.
He said: “In the initial weeks [of the lockdown], sales projects for new machinery were placed on hold as businesses, understandably, focused on managing cash.
“Slowly but surely though over the past few weeks, as businesses start getting back to work and feel a little more confident, we’ve started to see customers take those projects off the shelf and want to start discussions again.”
This was echoed by Flather, who said that while the 50-staff Autobox factory in Bedfordshire had been mothballed for the first few weeks of lockdown, a skeleton staff had gradually returned and the business had sold a number of machines to customers in Mexico, Guatemala, France and the UK during the Covid-19 crisis.
“The challenge ahead, for all businesses, not just ours, is how we come back to 100% as get more information from government on how the furlough scheme will work from July,” said Bird.
“When we understand that then we can start drawing up a sensible plans on how we bring our businesses back to work.”
“That will be the art, a managed, graduated recovery.”