Engineered to succeed
From a technical background to management guru, JACO DE KLERK discovers the many facets of MAN’s Bruce Dickson.
Bruce Dickson, deputy chief executive officer of MAN Truck & Bus Southern Africa, has certainly been busy since his promotion in June of this year. He is responsible for the company’s entire truck business and also handles the total South African retail section of this operation.
Dickson is additionally responsible for marketing and communications and is also taking care of MAN’s Centre East region until a new management board member is assigned. He travels extensively between Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town and handles any problems the company or its customers may experience.
Even with his hectic schedule, Dickson takes pleasure in his new position. “I am very passionate and I really enjoy what I do and being part of this organisation. It is all about people; I love working with people and enjoy seeing the business grow.” He adds that he has always aspired to be in the top management of a big organisation like MAN, “I feel that everything I am working towards has now come together.”
Dickson has an extensive automotive background involving both trucks and buses, in a career stretching back to 1981. He originally began on the technical side, with a nine-year stretch at Durban Transport, before joining MAN at the Pinetown assembly plant. He then moved into the position of divisional director at Voith Turbo Road Division, where he added precious business management experience to his already established technical know-how.
Dickson built on this business experience by adding to his qualifications, which include business management, financial management, a diploma in road transportation management, and an MBA which he obtained in 2001. “I keep trying to hone my skills and keep up with what is going on,” he states. “I have also done numerous courses, with the most recent being a general management program at Oxford University last year.”
The MAN team added Dickson to its arsenal in March 2009, when the tough times were at their height. He says it was “obviously a tough year – but I enjoyed the challenge.”
Dickson believes the biggest obstacle facing MAN and the other players in the industry is the instability of the exchange rate, which could make or break sales for the coming year. “I see this as a challenge because it impacts directly on the total cost of ownership which, in turn, has an effect on the cost of living.”
He points out that the global economic situation could also pose a threat to the company as it influences the rate of exchange. “Our products come from Germany and Brazil, and so we have the effect of both the US dollar and the Euro to contend with,” Dickson states.
Despite all this uncertainty, he reports that MAN, as a South African company, has had an exceptionally good year to date, especially on the Retail side of the business where all targets are on track to be achieved by year end. The company achieved 15,4% market share in October, with another strong performance expected in November.
The trucking market, as Dickson points out, will also experience overall growth due to the deteriorating state of South Africa’s, and Africa’s, railway system. “As a result, we are now moving towards a 90% truck and 10% rail type of scenario,” says Dickson. “I think in the next year this is going to have a big impact on the rail transport of coal and timber, which would obviously have a positive effect on our business as truck suppliers.”