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  • Bio: James Barry is Head of Customer Business at Rolls-Royce, based in Derby. He currently leads a team of 12 customer business professionals to manage the largest customer base of the Rolls-Royce overhaul shops. He graduated with a BEng in Aeronautical Engineering in 1994 from the University of Glasgow.
  • Role: Head of Customer Business
  • Location: Derby

James Barry

Starting out I always had a leaning towards engineering and more specifically planes and so wanted to join the aviation industry in some capacity. I was therefore extremely fortunate to be offered a sponsorship from Rolls-Royce whilst studying Aeronautical Engineering at the University of Glasgow.

Over each summer I went onto their placement scheme and through this gained at an early stage a real insight into the way the business worked. In 1994, I joined their graduate training scheme and, after two years, became an Engine Performance Analyst.

A change in direction

Although I started my career in a specialist position, the opportunity arose to move into a more business-orientated role. I had started to see myself as a generalist rather than a specialist and felt this was the right move for me. It was where I felt my talents lay and where I could fulfil my capability.

At Rolls-Royce career opportunities within the business are posted internally and you have the option to put yourself forward. This was how my move into Customer Business arose, and in 1997/8 I started as a customer analyst.

After spending two or three years in customer business, as a Customer Analyst, I was very pleased to get the opportunity to move abroad to Toulouse. This was an exciting, and ultimately successful career move. At this time I was Sales & Marketing Manager and the main project I was involved in was working with Airbus.

I was the key interface between Airbus and Rolls-Royce in terms of ‘on-the-ground’ sales and marketing. My role involved collecting intelligence to help those in senior positions with their sales tactics and competitive positioning. I was developing relationships and trust with the key influencers in Airbus and making sure the right people on both sides were talking to each other.

The aim of which was to win the business and get Airbus to put Roll-Royce at the front of all their marketing.

This was a very exciting time for me, and one where I had to think on my feet and essentially a time in which I learnt a lot. I had a disproportionate amount of influence for my level as I was placed in positions where I was trusted to be the ambassador for the company and needed to communicate with people at very senior levels. Therefore the pressure was on to win people over and succeed for the business.

I loved experiencing a different culture and although I did not speak French when I went over (all company business is done in English), I was able to manage by the time I left. It was an experience that I would recommend and one I could well see myself repeating in the future.

Since then, I have worked in a number of roles within Rolls Royce and am currently Head of Customer Business for Rolls-Royce Aero Repair and Overhaul (AR&O).

Here and now

This role involves leading a team of 12 customer business professionals and overseeing around 50 accounts, the largest customer base of the Rolls-Royce shops.

Our clients are located globally with only ten based in the UK. The rest cover every continent, which means business trips to the Americas, the Middle East and Far East. We are responsible for winning service contracts and then once we have won a business, we manage their engines, overhauling and servicing the engines and returning them to the customers in line with their contract.

For my team winning the contract is the front part of the process. This involves negotiating commercial terms, servicing customer needs and then generally managing the relationship. We are representing the customer’s interests – which essentially is being the customer’s advocate within the business.

My advice to graduates starting out in sales

  • Have confidence in your own ability.
  • You need to be highly motivated and have a keen desire to learn.
  • Be willing to adapt to changing circumstances.
  • You need to have the ability to work and communicate with people at all levels.
  • Ambition is key – you have to be willing to think and work hard in sales.
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