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Opportunity Brief: Sales Director – Rail

Ford & Stanley Executive Search (Part of the Ford & Stanley Group) are specialists in Executive Interim and Permanent appointments to the UK, US & North American Rail, General Manufacturing, Envirotech & Digital Industries.

We have been exclusively entrusted and appointed by UK Rail Leasing on a retained search for a Sales Director to partner closely with the newly appointed Managing Director to drive growth across the business.

Below you will find an ‘opportunity brief’ developed from notes taken during the scoping meeting (Situational Discovery) held between the Business Manager of F&S Executive Search & the MD of UK Rail Leasing. This brief is designed to give candidates a deeper insight into the opportunity inherent within the role, the challenges the role presents and provide access to the detail that sits behind the job specification.

Client Opportunity Statement:

  • We (UK Rail Leasing) are looking to continue our impressive expansion throughout the UK Rail Market, building on our previous successes and strong financial position to continue to develop our reputation across both passenger and freight markets.”
  • “We already have a well-functioning facility based in Leicester which is the bedrock of our business. However, there is another, newer facility in Loughborough which has some serious potential for growth. Essentially, we are well positioned and primed for our growth across the UK.”
  • “Pivotal to the success of our growth trajectory is the hiring of a proven, hands on, Sales Director, someone who understands the UK Rail Market, is well networked and can lead our growth from the front.”

Challenges expected within the first 12 months include:

  • UK Rail leasing is at the start of a steep growth curve which will require its management team to input foundations to realise the growth opportunity.
  • UK Rail leasing is particularly a ‘business of two halves’ with the two sites offering different services and being at different stages of growth.
  • Clear communication will be needed to manage the expectation on growth.

Key deliverables within the first 12 months include:

  • Develop a functional sales strategy that will deliver sales for the next 2 years.
  • Deliver the 2024 budget (3/4 of which is already contracted).
  • Continue to develop and elevate the brand awareness.

Agreed Hard Skills for candidates to secure an interview:

  • A working understanding and strong network with either (or both) the freight and passenger markets.
  • A strong understanding of required order intake/gross margin within SME businesses.
  • Experience within wider commercial responsibilities (Risk strategy, bidding, tenders, contracts)
  • UK Rail Knowledge   
  • A proven track record in a similar ‘lone wolf’ business development role within UK Rail.

Agreed Soft Skills for candidates to secure an interview:

  • Open and honest communicator, some would say ‘over communicator’.
  • Keen to work in a collaborative environment and ‘flat structure’. Able to work closely with multiple disciplines.
  • Ambitious and excited by growth.
  • Culture fit is key as UK Rail Leasing operate a ‘close knit’ team. Honesty, transparency, candour, and collaboration.
  • Proactive and able to ensure customers receive a ‘first in class’ service.

Desirables include: A working understanding of the overhaul, maintenance and upgrade market. 

Business Manager side notes:

  • UK Rail leasing currently has a headcount of 50, with the expectation that this will grow by roughly 20% year on year.
  • Currently, the business is turning over £11m.
  • It’s important to note that throughout its history UK Rail Leasing has managed to demonstrate growth and profitability year on year.
  • Essentially, they remain in an extremely strong financial and are primed for growth. Additionally, due to the ownership structure they retain very strong relationships with the banks should they need to leverage additional funding.
  • Worth noting that the managing director joined in Q4 2023 and is well underway making an impact across the business including a full restructure of the management team.
  • Once the Sales Director has joined the business the plan is to continue to develop the team underneath them to include contracts and bids.
  • The business has identified brand awareness and sales strategy as two areas requiring focus as they continue to grow into 2024.
  • Historically, UK Rail leasing has operated a ‘passive’ sales approach and is looking to implement a more proactive approach based on solid market information and partnerships.
  • We are looking to implement a more structured process that will contain accountability for all parties.
  • Worth noting that as the business continues its journey of growth there will be a big shift in the ‘feel’ of the business away from the typically, family owned SME feel.
  • A key focus has been the continued improvement of the reputation and market position held by UK Rail Leasing.
  • The growth journey already boasts an impressive 200% increase on 2020 sales.
  • The incoming Sales Director will be tasked with building out the ‘black book’ within the Freight and Passenger rolling stock markets.

About UK Rail Leasing:

Keeping rolling stock well-maintained is a must for all freight and passenger operators. A train stalling at a busy part of the system can have devastating consequences on the timetable and can severely damage an operator’s reputation.

Finding a capable, experienced partner who can offer engineering, modifications, obsolescence management, spares and repairs, overhaul, maintenance, and servicing is essential to guarantee safety and reliability. Operators can gain a competitive advantage by seeking out the best and most efficient maintenance services supplier given that 30% of life-costs of trains is tied up in maintenance and servicing.

UKRL offers rail vehicle engineering, modifications, obsolescence management, spares and repairs, maintenance and our Traincare services to passenger and freight rail companies. Operating from a fully-equipped workshop at our spacious maintenance depot in Leicester, UKRL can tackle anything from full vehicle overhaul through to daily cleaning/fuel point exams and servicing.


  • Salary Brackets – Low £95k/ Mid £105k / Top end £115k for exceptional candidates that meet/exceed all essentials and desirables.
  • Car Allowance
  • Performance-related bonus on agreed objectives/sales
  • Pension
  • 25 days Holiday
  • Annual & Ad hoc Salary Reviews

Likely Job Titles:

Likely current job titles of candidates: Sales Director, Head of Sales, Account Manager, BDM, Sales Manager, Business Development Director, Head of Business Development, Sales Manager.

Working Arrangements & Location:

UK Rail Leasing have two sites, Leicester and Loughborough. The expectation is that you will have a ‘regular’ site presence at both to build relationships but also spend a high degree of time on the road meeting clients.

The interview process:

  • 1st stage interview between you and Gareth (MD). Plan for around an hour or so to go through your experience, suitability for the role, UK Rail Leasing and it’s plan moving forwards.
  • Second and final stage face to face interview between you, Gareth (MD) and Steve (NED). Plan for a good two and a half hours to include a site tour, introduction to key team members and further discussions around suitability for the role.
  • We may organise an informal meeting between you and the Chairman to assess culture fit.

Executive Search Delivery Team:

  • Tom Norton – Business Manager (Headhunting, Networking, Client Recommendations/Advisory, Offer Negotiations, Search, Longlisting, Interviews, Candidate Landscape, Data & Market Intel).
  • Oliver Nunn – Research Manager (Research, Market intel, Longlisting).
  • Ralitsa Kuzeva – Executive Research Associate (Diary Management, Coordination, Candidate Experience).

About Ford & Stanley Executive Search:

At Ford & Stanley Executive Search we go beyond a recruiting transaction with our core mission being that of every interaction we have with clients and candidates is best in class. We are select in the opportunities we represent, as such, work under strict exclusive and retained search assignments with forward-thinking and proactive global Rail companies that place their trust in our ability to deliver a winning shortlist at the first time of asking.

Our Search Directors (who are themselves members of the F&S Group Board) and our in house research team invest time at the front end of process with our client’s leadership team or stakeholders to consult, understand the opportunity inherent within the role, business need, map and agree timescales with supporting delivery plan well in advance of conducting the search.

All candidates both active and passive (head-hunted) can expect full and professional engagement from the Executive Search team in addition a timely, thorough and engaging recruitment process from a committed employer that seeks to secure ‘cream of the crop’ from a busy and noisy candidate market.

Ford & Stanley Group Ltd is committed to a policy of equal opportunities for all opportunity seekers and approach all opportunity with a mindset of who is right for the job irrespective sex, sexual orientation, gender reassignment, marital or civil partnership status, age, disability, colour, race, nationality, ethnic or national origin, religion or belief or political beliefs and we place an obligation upon all staff to respect and act in accordance with the policy. We shall adhere to such a policy at all times and will review on an on-going basis all aspects of recruitment to avoid unlawful or undesirable discrimination.


    • Job type: Permanent
    • Location: Loughborough
    • Date posted:
    • Salary:£95000 - £115000

    This opportunity is being managed by:

    consultant photo

    Tom Norton

    Business Manager