Andrew Cope is one of Yorkshire’s most renowned entrepreneurs and who, as the driving force behind vehicle leasing company Zenith Provecta, steered the company through an historic five successful private equity buyouts between 2003 and 2014. Last year Cope was instrumental in the sale of the Huddersfield-headquartered group of companies FMG to Redde Plc just four months after snapping up the firm in an Endless backed management buyout. We caught up with him and found out how one man’s influence in particular has shaped his approach to business.

I was in my early 20’s and joined CD Bramall Fleet Services which was the fleet management arm of Bramall Motor Group, more as a way to pay off debts and save some money to go travelling rather than taking my first steps on the career ladder. Within a couple of months joining, the firm was acquired by Avis and when the original management team decided to go and form their own company – Zenith – I seized the opportunity and went with them.

Is there someone that you considered as a mentor?

Henry Dean, who headed up the management team that left Bramall has been a huge influence on my business life. He saw something in me even in those early days – I was keen and enthusiastic but most definitely rough around the edges. Henry took me under his wing and the core principles which he instilled in me early on – the moral, cultural and ethical framework which he established and that ran through the heart of Zenith – are very much the things which I looked to carry on and then became instinctive in my own approach to leadership.

What is your business philosophy?

What It’s very simple and has stayed with me from those early days; you have to have a decent business with great values and the potential for growth. You must also have good principles in the way you deal with anyone connected to your business – employees, customers, suppliers, clients. I was relatively young when I was invited to become MD of Zenith but as I had grown up and done my learning within the business there was the understanding amongst the shareholder directors that the beliefs upon which the business had been established were also central to me and would be carried on. That recognition and their confidence allowed me the space in which to develop and take the company forward in a way that would be right for the business.

Given you own experience, do you grow talent over external recruitment?

I do like to bring people on and there is a genuine satisfaction that comes with seeing how you have been able to help and develop someone because of the opportunity that you gave them. But I also recognise that even though we may previously done something in a particular way or a role has required a certain skill set, it is possible to be pointed in a different direction and look towards candidates who might offer alternative options and for the end result to still be ‘right’. I read a quote recently by Mark Zuckerberg which encapsulated my view on recruitment: when I recruit I only ask myself one question – could I work for this person? The underlying culture is so important to any business that being able to work for or with a particular individual has to be a fundamental consideration. I look for character in the old fashioned sense – are they honest, are they presentable, do they have integrity – and whilst I try not to put too much emphasis upon academic achievements, there is a certain discipline that having taken a more formal education route brings which can be appealing.

How has your leadership and management style changed over the years?

Recognising that you have to adapt and adjust your approach depending on where your business is at and who you are dealing with is fundamental to success; a leader who relies on the same management style will not always achieve the required responses. Business is very much about dealing with people that you like and who like you – naturally you widen your circle to accommodate different characters and increase your attractiveness to more people – and in doing so you may suppress certain aspects of your thinking. Good management and leadership is about realising that this needs to be done but it is so instinctive that it becomes natural to you. In a smaller company you can have a much greater knowledge of the detail within a business and cultivate personal relationships; as you grow this is not always possible. You have to make sure that more people are able to carry the message and those working for you understand why you are doing something, where they fit in and what’s in it for them.