Bus firm MD picks up top director award for driving transformation in his business

June 14, 2019

The managing director of First West of England, the largest bus operator in and around Bath, has been named as the South West’s top large company director.

James Freeman, who has worked for First West of England for nearly five years, won the Institute of Directors’ South West Director of the Year award for what the judges called “a comprehensive, engaging and convincing” three-year business transformation.

They said he had been the prime catalyst and driver of bringing a traditional public bus company into the 21st century.

First West of England employs just under 1,500 drivers and around 300 other staff operating a fleet of 611 buses around a region stretching from Bath through Bristol to Weston-super-Mare.

In the year to last November it carried 67m passengers on 103 routes covering a total of 25m miles.

James was among the winners at the awards ceremony held at Bristol Zoo Gardens on Tuesday.

The awards are designed to celebrate leadership, talent and success in the South West. All the winners were commended by the judges for their clear strategies, vision and drive in establishing and heading up a range of diverse businesses in both the public and private sectors.

The awards ceremony also marked the first visit to the South West by the IoD’s recently appointed national chair Charlotte Valeur, who talked about her vision for a refreshed IoD, making it more inclusive, modern and ready to equip directors and aspiring directors with the professional development, environment and support they need.

IoD South West chairman and chartered director Muir Macdonald said: “This event is one of the highlights of our year as it turns the spotlight on the people actually driving our economy and contributing to the prosperity of our society on a day to day basis.  

“It’s been a challenging landscape in which to operate over the past two years and therefore good leadership, good governance and flexibility has arguably never been more important. In the judges’ opinion, all our winners and highly commended have demonstrated and excelled in all of these qualities and epitomise the IoD’s new strapline, ‘integrity and enterprise’.”

The ceremony was partnered by the University of the West of England (UWE) and sponsored by Export for Growth, the specialist programme that improves overseas marketing presence for both first-time and experienced exporters.

Bath Business News and its sister titles Bristol Business News and Swindon Business News were again media partner for the awards.

The award winners were: Amy McCormack, commercial director, ETM Recycling (Family Business Director of the Year), Amy Golding CEO of recruiters Opus Talent Solutions (Young Director), Charmaine Vincent, owner and CEO of Baltimore Consulting (SME Director) – all based in Bristol – Paula Martin, CEO of Cornwall Air Ambulance (Third Sector) and Giles Letheren, MD of Delt Shared Services, based in Plymouth (Public Sector)

Chris Holland, managing director of Bristol-based Waste Source, which aims to help businesses reduce their waste costs and increase recycling rates, and Lucy Findlay MBE, CEO of Plymouth-based The Social Enterprise Mark, were Highly Commended.

Pictured, all the IoD Director of the Year South West Award winners, from left: Chris Holland, Ben Ridgeway (standing in for Amy Golding), Charmaine Vincent, Paula Martin, James Freeman, Amy McCormack, Giles Letheren and Lucy Findlay


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