Name: Stephen Thompson
Job Role: Group Transport Manager
What was your first proper job?
My first job was working in my family’s coal business. I worked every Friday evening doing the ‘tick run’ as it was known back then, which was collecting outstanding customer payments. It was my first paid job and I got £1 a week!
What qualifications do you have?
I completed my A-levels, and throughout my career, I’ve had the opportunity take part in training courses including Transport Manager Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) and Business Management: Financial Accounting for Non-Financial roles micro-credentials through the Open University.
What or who do you attribute your success to?
My father. From an early age, he instilled a strong work ethic in me and taught me the importance of respecting people from all walks of life. Respect and principle with freedom of choice were ingrained, and he guided and advised me like any good manager. He has always showed immense pride in my achievements, and his drive to keep going, no matter what challenges he faced, influenced me a lot.
How would you describe yourself to someone who’d never met you?
I’m a laid-back person, and I don’t let irrelevant issues distract me if they don’t affect me. I am very passionate, and give 100% effort in any role or project that I am involved in. In terms of work, every decision that I make is based on how it will impact the company.
I know how to work hard, but I have a good sense of humour and like to enjoy the banter with my colleagues.
Who do you look up to in business?
Again, my father. Like many of his generation, he left school at a young age to work, but what he lacked in academic qualifications, he more than compensated for with his ability to engage with people.
He motivated himself to start his own business, built up a great rapport with his customers, and worked hard to achieve a successful business. Both of my parents continue to work well past retirement age to this day.
How do you get the best out of people who work for you?
I ensure we all work together as a team; a team of committed people is far stronger than one person alone. I consider myself good at bringing people with me, communicating important company decisions and sharing my knowledge with them, and I always try to encourage and motivate people to achieve the best result for the company. I’m very proud to be leading the transport team at RiverRidge, which has a strong unity both inside and outside of work.
If you could change one thing about doing business in Northern Ireland, what would it be?
It would be improvements to the primary road infrastructure for all road users across the region, including better facilities for HGV drivers. We need to look at taking more commercial vehicle traffic out of villages and towns, ideally onto bypasses. Also, the existing dual carriageway networks need to be upgraded to modern day safety standards to cope with the higher volumes of traffic.
The current road network can be restrictive to hauliers in some areas, which is also reflected by the worrying safety statistics.
What website or app could you not do without?
‘Northern Ireland Roads Site’ by Wesley Johnston. The level of detail into current and future road projects is fascinating, and Wesley gives up his free time to compile the information for this fantastic website.
What was the last book you read?
I’m not an avid bookworm – as a proud father of four boys and three girls, I never have the time, but my last read was Alex Higgins’ autobiography, ‘From the Eye of the Hurricane’. When I do pick up a book, it tends to be an autobiography or books on true events from the past.
What car do you drive?
I drive a Mercedes Vito 119 Tourer daily, but I have a 1996 Mark 3 VR6 Golf as a restoration project for when the midlife crisis kicks in!
Tell us something interesting about yourself.
When I finished my A-levels, I had planned to go to university to become a pilot, however the opportunity to work alongside my father and take over the family business was too hard to resist, so university was put on hold. If I won the lottery though, I would go back to being a coalman!
What is your greatest passion outside work and family?
It would be tight between gardening and watching my boys play rugby for Ballymena. My garden is my stress buster, and although I don’t claim to be the most knowledgeable on what types of shrubs or plants I have growing, I know what looks good. My spare time would be spent in the garden or playing rugby and football with my boys – although the latter doesn’t exactly help the garden!