Shanks boss quits - because of rubbish commute

The chief exec of Shanks is leaving, to work closer to home. Will other disillusioned bosses be making a similar exit in the coming years?

by James Taylor
Last Updated: 19 Aug 2013

Tom Drury worked at the Milton Keynes-based waste management firm for four years, but is leaving in November to become CEO at debt recovery firm Arrow Global. Why? Well, while some CEOs may be lured by more money, prestige or a good old-fashioned challenge, Drury has a far more pragmatic driver: Arrow Global is 120 miles closer to his house in Knutsford, Cheshire. He’s calling it a ‘lifestyle decision’ - and we can see others following suit in the years to come.

Apparently for the last four years, Drury has been leaving his home in the early hours of Monday morning and returning late on Friday - so he's been spending more time with the M6 motorway than with his family, at least during the week. OK, so he's been getting paid £840k a year by way of compensation, but that's still a big ask. He told the Guardian today that while he'd always been prepared to make that sacrifice, with a 25-year marriage and kids rapidly growing up, the travelling had ‘taken its toll after a while’.

Drury's dilemma is one with which plenty of other senior bosses will identify: is it really possible to combine a career at the top of the corporate tree with a successful and fulfilling family life?

We suspect more and more companies will have to face up this issue in the next few years, as people come to demand ever greater flexibility over their working lives. Companies are keen to boats about their efforts in this regard, because they know it has a positive effect on engagement. But how does that work for those at the top? How long will it remain reasonable to ask a CEO to work 100 hours a week and spend four days a week away from their family?

Some might argue that that's the price they pay for earning such jaw-dropping piles of wedge. But maybe priorities are starting to change these days; maybe more and more people will decide that scaling the corporate ladderis worth the sacrifices that entails; that once they've got a certain amount of experience, cash and kudos, they should start trying to appreciate the stuff that’s not so easily derailed by the whims of the market.

Still, if Drury's family are no doubt happy about his decision, his shareholders clearly aren't: news of his imminent departure made Shanks one of the biggest fallers on the FTSE 250 index, with shares dropping by almost 2.5% in early trading to 124p. They did recover later in the day, but nevertheless - good for the ego...

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