Dyson Group ventures outside the family

For 70 years the Dyson Group has operated within the family. Now, it's venturing outside for its next generation of leadership.

Dyson Group ventures outside the family
The growing operators will change leadership in the next year

For 70 years the Dyson Group has been led by one family. Now it’s handing over the reins to a new name.

When Laurie Dyson returned from WW2 and bought a bus business, he could never have expected it to become a booming family empire. Fast forward 70 years and the Dyson Group is a prominent player in Melbourne’s public transport industry.

But now, the north-east Melbourne-based group, which also has a large presence in regional Victoria and New South Wales, is about to hand over management to a person without the historic Dyson name attached– Andrew Jakab.

Cousins Neil and Shane Dyson have worked at the family business since 1975. They both rose to become joint managing directors and oversaw the Dyson Group’s expansion in the 21st Century.

Now the pair are primed to transition the company to the next generation.

"It’s fair to say we’ve been responsible for most of the growth from when our fathers retired in 1994," Neil Dyson told ABC magazine. "Shane and I started running the business as joint managing directors with fellow cousin Lance Deacon. From there we continued the growth that began in 1991 when we acquired Reid’s Metropolitan Services."

Now the trio of managing directors have set in place the fourth generation of Dyson Group leadership. For the first time in the business’s history, someone from outside the Dyson family will assume control as CEO and managing director when Shane, Neil and Lance Deacon retire at the end of 2023. The process began at the start of 2021 when the managing directors decided the business needed to look beyond the Dyson family for the next leader.

"From go to woe it took about a year to settle on Andrew [Jakab].We talked about it roughly two years ago when we first reduced our workload, but last year we initiated an intensive recruiting process," said Shane.

"After narrowing it down to three candidates we found that Andrew shone through as the clear choice for the role."

A key factor that helped Jakab become Dyson’s first external CEO was his background skills and experience in a diverse range of industrial environments. He started his career in the army, doing military logistics, before becoming the CEO of a forestry logistics company. The latter part of his career before joining the Dyson Group included working in rail logistics in Queensland and New South Wales while running a containerised freight business.

Although Jakab has no experience in the bus industry, he leapt at the opportunity to assume control of the transport operators.

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"I would probably describe myself as a career logistician, "Jakab told ABC. "I saw the chance to come to Dyson Group as a fantastic opportunity to lead a bunch of committed people and help make the transition from generation three to generation four as seamless as possible for the company. For me, capability isa key ingredient of competitive advantage."

Although it strayed away from the family model that first began with Laurie Dyson, the current managing directors say it’s time to change Dyson’s direction to suit its recent expansion.

Shane says he is excited to see what Jakab’s fresh perspective can bring to growing the group further.

New Dysons CEO Andrew Jakab

"We all grew up in the business and love buses, whereas Andrew has never been in the industry until now," he said. "It was that mix we have with Andrew’s outside business endeavours and our bus world that we thought would make for the perfect combination."

Jakab started at Dyson Group head office on March 1 this year. His role so far has been to facilitate a smooth transition. Jakab says it involves building the executive capability of the company and mentoring young people who aren’t ready to head into senior management roles but are passionate about developing the family business.

"One of the first things I was able to do was build the executive team with a greater generation four presence while the current managing directors began their transition into retirement," Jakab said. "I’ve been gradually increasing the span of responsibility and accountability of the new generation members in a managed and considered way."

With 12 members now part of the executive unit of the next Dyson leadership group, Jakab has clear goals in mind for the operator. Dyson is currently in the closing stages of implementing an enterprise resource planning solution that will modernise the company and its data management. When that’s done, Jakab will turn his gaze to assisting in decarbonising Dyson’s operations.

"An important part of my role with Dysons is to assist the company in transitioning from high emission or diesel buses to zero-emission vehicles while ultimately decarbonising the entire business," Jakab said. "It’s the way of the future and it’ll become an expectation for Dyson to compete in the zero-emission field.

"We look forward to building strategic partnerships with government and other stakeholders to make this vision a reality."

Jakab said Dyson has already spoken to suppliers and manufacturers who possess the equipment to make zero-emission buses about introducing the new sustainable fleet to Dyson’s range.

Along with the current managing directors, the executive group will work to ensure the transition is completed properly and efficiently.

With Dyson Group set to celebrate its 70th anniversary this year, Shane and Neil agree that the company has never been so modern. When they joined the business’s ranks in 1975, they were part of a group that oversaw 30 buses. Now, Dyson Group is responsible for 1,200 employees and roughly 650 buses. This growth comes from Dyson acquiring surrounding depots and operators to gradually expand as a regional and Melbourne suburban power.

A key part of Jakab’s role with Dyson will be to oversee the seven regional depots that the business runs today while continuing to take a growth by acquisition approach.

"The notable thing that the current managing directors established is that strategy to expand in a regional sense," Jakab said. "These acquisitions need careful management so that they conform to Dyson’s cultural norms.

"We still have growth aspirations and we’re wanting to work with people that fit our network and fit the model of our business."

Although Neil and Shane have both been with the family business their whole career, they tell ABC that they won’t find it difficult to pass over control to Jakab. At that point they’ll take a mentoring role and enjoy watching the next generation grow the Dyson name even further.

Shane already has new ideas to impart on the executive group, such as a flexi-ride system where buses don’t adhere to strict routes but instead do what train and trams can’t in exploring areas that aren’t ready for full-blown bus routes as an on-demand service.

Jakab says he is excited to receive this experienced mentoring, and is equally excited about the next phase.

"There’s opportunities everywhere and we have to ensure Dyson remains competitive in all areas," Jakab said. "It’s been a pleasure working with this family business and we’ll keep performing to a really high standard.

"We don’t want to just participate in the change that’s coming in the industry, we want to lead it."

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