What leaders think
CEO at InstaVolt
(Leading owner-operated network of rapid electric vehicle chargers)
What challenge did you tackle and overcome in your business this week?
Business is brisk as lockdown comes to an end and EV drivers are returning to the roads, especially in the South West and Lake District where we’ve seen a huge boom in network utilisation, reflecting the growing need for holidays and leisure time. With this, our business is evolving, and the introduction of new hardware will be a game changer for us. We’re undergoing a thorough testing regime ready for this, and this is keeping a few people in the team quite busy!
Which ongoing business challenge is occupying your thoughts this week/month?
It’s the same question on many business leaders’ minds – What is the best path out of lockdown and how do we all safely transition back to work? It is important to have empathy with people’s needs, as they are all different but all equally important.
We have had 2 national lockdowns and a range of regional tier variations over many months. In what way has your approach to these lockdowns / tier restrictions permanently influenced your own way of working and have you made or will you make, any further adjustments now we are in a 3rd lockdown?
We’ve taken the stance to follow the Government guidelines and act cautiously throughout, and the team is set up to work from home really effectively. We are beginning to prepare for a return to office-based working, even if it’s not quite the same as it was. We’ll see a return to the old with an update for the modern world, coupled with more understanding of the family and obligations on other people – like looking after those who are sheltering or those who are home schooling.
I’m super impressed in the way the team pulled together, and they’ve demonstrated that they can work really effectively remotely. The adjustment now is easing back into the office and we’re encouraging people to have meetings in the office, not many people have to travel too far, so it’s doable. We’ll all come back with a lot more understanding of the work/life balance.
Given the reliance on technology during lockdowns, do you now envisage an acceleration in digital/workforce transformation in the short-medium term?
I believe we will rethink some decisions that we used to take for granted. For example, driving 3 hours each way for a 1 hour meeting with a prospective new client. Is this a good use of our time and positive for the environment? It should be questioned. However, at the same time you can’t beat meeting people face-to-face and having a collaborative discussion rather than using Teams which can feel a bit stunted. So discretionary travel will be challenged but we must not lose the value of relationships.
It will rebalance….; we won’t return to the old nor will we see a totally new digital age. It’s an opportunity to rethink – a curb on unnecessary travel is good for the environment but still with the need to have trusting relationships that really do benefit from some face-to-face time.
What are the new working norms starting to look like for your organisation?
We have a hugely collaborative team and we’re small, lean, highly effective and responded incredibly well to COVID. It’s not been easy but helped by the wave of green shoots of recovery we are now seeing.
We’ve kept business momentum going, we’ve signed significant deals, continued to build our network and drivers really appreciate what we’re doing. We still work most effectively as a team.
There is a dramatic reduction in carbon footprints during lockdowns, what is your business planning to do to help continue this going forward?
Reducing CO2 is our core objective by making the transition to an electrified transport fleet so much easier. Our role in the story is giving drivers the confidence to make the leap to electric. Cars are coming to market with greater range and lower price points that are making it more accessible. Still one of the biggest myths is ‘how can I charge at home, if I don’t have off road parking?’ Our mandate is to drive the confidence to help make the shift.
We have secured some great partnership deals with KFC and McDonalds Restaurants and have two more to announce very soon. We’re putting chargers at the locations where drivers stop everyday so drivers can build the charging into their daily routine. We realise how lucky we are in that we have managed to do very well over the last year and anyone in the EV space should be very confident about the future but not take for granted the fortunate position they’re in.
In terms of personal well-being, what changes have you made and will you stick to them post lockdown?
As a CEO of a business, I take huge responsibility for the team. We all started working from home and it became obvious that there was no natural break from the workday. It took me a while to understand that you still need that cut off time. It taught me more about the work/life balance than I ever had in my previous years of working. Trust your team to do the job. Its not weakness to remember to shut the laptop and hang out with the family in the evening.
Who or what has inspired you this week? (They don’t need to be famous)
One of our new younger members of the team has a broad admin role and she impressed us with her enthusiasm. One of her roles is to pick up light HR work and unbeknown to us she enrolled herself on a weekend course in HR. That was without any suggestion from us, and I thought that was fantastic.
Given the recent announcements pertaining to a roadmap out of lockdown are you planning to book a summer holiday this year? If so where, ideally, would you like to go?
We had booked to go to Italy in 2020 and rolled that forward to 2021, but I don’t have much hope that will happen! I love South Devon, so if I can find somewhere to get away for a week or so then that will be great. There’s no better time to get out there and inject some life and cash back into the British economy than this year, so I’m a big advocate for staycations!
Any words of wisdom?
Let’s all seize the day. Don’t wait for a return to old, the future will likely be different, it only a little bit. So many people have put their lives on hold for a year… so don’t put things on hold, just start seizing the day!
I’m also a passionate advocate on wellbeing, look after yourself and your team. I think the last year has shone a light on mental health and the value of looking out for each other.
Adrian Keen, CEO at InstaVolt, leading owner-operated network of rapid electric vehicle chargers
Having joined the business as CFO in 2017, Adrian was appointed CEO of InstaVolt in August 2019. Adrian has spearheaded the business’s rapid growth over the past four years, securing high profile partnership deals with international brands including McDonald’s, KFC and Costa Coffee. Under Adrian’s leadership InstaVolt aims to fulfil its commitment to making EV charging better, faster and more accessible by increasing its network of rapid electric vehicle chargers from 550 to over 5,000 by 2025.
Previously, Adrian held senior financial positions including as an audit manager at KPMG, as Financial Controller at P2i Ltd, a rapidly growing company operating within the field of nano-technology and CFO at private-equity owned international consultancy business Alpha FMC Group. With a passion for supporting young people and advancing their opportunities, Adrian was also a foster carer for over 15 years and has worked as an outreach worker with young people in the care system across Oxfordshire.