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Leading with Grit | Gary Higgins

Leading with Grit | Gary Higgins

Gary Higgins


“My philosophy for life and business was built in the karate arena, but life isn’t something you can kick your way through. This martial art, like life, is about so much more than fighting and being tough. What impressed me about karate was the learning culture it instilled in me. Life is for learning, and the best way to learn is to live a little. Lifelong learning is an attitude. This means putting yourself out there and trying things out. It is also important that you carry yourself with purpose and be respectful of your opponents, your boss and your employees, should you be so privileged.”

A successful Senior Executive with a strong track record of managing fast-growing engineering and technology companies is what describes Gary, CEO of Coeval Limited. Armed with substantial experience in delivering strategic re-alignment, business turnaround, and delivering shareholder value, Gary’s more than four decades of industry experience makes him a brilliant leader. He has evidenced a record of driving business value via organic growth, acquisition of businesses, sale of intellectual property rights, and off-shoring of manufacturing capability, and led the sale of a group of companies to a trade buyer, realising multi-million-pound returns for stakeholders, including private investors, corporate financiers and merchant banks.  

Above are just a fraction of the achievements. Gary’s most significant accomplishment is being able to guide people toward enhancing themselves. According to him, the reality is that saying one is going to start a business is easy. But doing it, turning nothing into something that makes money, can be extremely tough. In order to start a business, one has to identify an opportunity. “These fall into two categories. You either have a product or the quality of a product that no one else does, or you can deliver a product more cheaply than the competition. This is what a superior product really means: unique in one way if not unique in all ways or cheaper,” he explains. “A good example can be found in a book I recently published available on Amazon called Lightbulb Moments ‘How I made it, lost it and made it again’. My tips for starting your own business are very simple.” Gary states, “First of all, it takes grit and determination. You have to believe in yourself and go for it. This is a self-development question, but you’ve also got to be unafraid to fail. If your idea fails, it can hit you hard, but you’ve got to try again.”

The steadfast leader has been a significant influence on his team and made sure that they can enhance themselves professionally and personally. “We develop and promote people from within, so the rewards are there if you want to take them. I try to create my own learning environment here, too,” says Gary. Armed with this ideology, Gary has been taking the company to new heights.

Building the Company

Coeval delivers infrastructure technology that advises and informs users to help create a safer environment for us all. They do this through various intelligent Radio Linked LED Road Signs and Systems that provide clear, reliable, and flexible messaging, data, and connectivity to feed more comprehensive highway information control systems.

Coeval offers a wide range of technical solutions for speed, hazard, safety, parking, and over-height issues. These can be supplied as stand-alone new units or adapted to make use of existing street furniture to meet individual customer requirements. The company has a powerful range of products for which they either have sole distribution rights or we own the technology. “We use the latest LED technology, solar and wind power, all of which are obviously of great importance in today’s environmentally concerned world,” says Gary. “We have won the ‘Variable Message Sign Company of the Year’ four times in a row. We keep being told our signs are the best in the UK, and you can’t get better than that.”

For instance, Arriva UK Bus – a major bus operator in the United Kingdom that has bus depots situated throughout their functional area and is responsible for running the local bus services. The Luton Depot approached Coeval to help improve safety around their site. With large vehicles moving about and engineering operations under way, drivers need to be aware of their speed and keep to the low five mph speed limit, which is there to protect people on site. Arriva wanted something that would alert drivers of any vehicles on the site to their speed limit and influence their behaviour, so they slowed down.

Coeval proposed using their Speed Indicator Signs (SIDs), one in each direction, to highlight to drivers the speed they are traveling and if that complies with the site speed limit. If they comply with the five mph speed limit, their speed shows in green; if they exceed the five mph limit, their speed shows in red. LED signs are more easily noticed by drivers than static signs and are visible in all conditions, including at night. These vehicle-activated signs have a robust build, with high-power LEDs that can be seen clearly even in inclement weather. “With our optional Cloud Control application for remote monitoring and data provision, users can learn more about driver behaviour in the area of the sign installation,” adds Gary.

 These signs were quick and easy to install, making them minimal disruption to the bus depot. Once installed, they immediately started to raise awareness concerning drivers’ speeds and helped to improve the safety on site as drivers recognise the need to slow down. “I am very satisfied with the product and it has had an immediate impact on cutting speed in and out of the depot by all traffic,” elucidates Linsey Sweet, Arriva Depot, Luton.

In another instance, bridges don’t just carry vehicles and pedestrians. A bridge crossing the A81 at Balfron Station carries water pipes that are used to service the North of Glasgow and, as such, is a crucial piece of infrastructure that needs to be protected from issues such as bridge strikes.

Having previously been struck by high vehicles, Scottish Water implemented a protection project that included reinforcing the bridge structure and deploying our Over-height Vehicle Detection System (OVD). The Coeval OVD systems are installed to provide advance warning to high-sided vehicles approaching the bridge. This allows these vehicles to take an alternative route to avoid striking the bridge and potentially damaging the water pipes as well as the structure itself.

Coeval carried out a full turnkey installation project, including civil works to enable four OVD systems with three OVD message signs to inform and advise the drivers of over-height vehicles. The implementation of Over-height Vehicle Detection has formed a key part of this bridge protection project and not only prevents damage to the structure and the vehicles involved but also prevents delays on the A81 route. The use of the signs to re-route tall vehicles ensures large HGV traffic continues on main arterial routes and not through small communities.

Accomplishments & Future

Poor air quality is the biggest environmental threat to health in the UK, with up to 36,000 deaths yearly attributed to long-term exposure (Public Health England, March 2019). The Environment Audit Committee has estimated that total health costs due to air pollution range between £8.5 billion and £20.2 billion a year. Utilising intelligent signage to influence driver behaviour and increase the attractiveness of active travel (walking and cycling) by improving safety and comfort can support the improvement in air quality.

Gary and his team have supplied various solutions from Parking / Route Guidance to Overheight Vehicle Detection (OVD) and Hazard Warning, all of which help reduce congestion and increase safety. In turn, these solutions support the reduction in air pollution. In addition, they have recently supplied LED message signs for the Birmingham Clean Air Zone (CAZ). Coeval’s fixed and mobile solutions also support the development and increased use of active travel infrastructure – more cycling and walking benefits the environment and health and wellbeing. More recently, with the implementation of air quality sensors, they can publish air quality levels on their intelligent signage to help raise awareness and encourage changes in behaviour.

For the days to come, local authorities across the UK will be given further support with their mission to improve air quality after Coeval partnered with EarthSense, a supplier of air quality monitoring systems, to interface its products to enable real time messages to be relayed to the public. This comes at an important time for councils, many of whom are either launching Clean Air Zones (CAZ) or investing significantly in low emission projects and active travel. Local authorities and other road operators are looking more to technology to help them identify and assess areas of poor air quality and the causes before appropriate action can be taken to improve it.

As part of this partnership, the Coeval supplied Cloud Control System directly interfaces with the EarthSense Zephyr® air quality monitor taking the real-time pollution data to set predefined messages on the Coeval LED message signs, without the need for manual intervention. The Zephyr® data is categorised into seven levels, providing an air quality index that can trigger the appropriate messages on the message signs, for example identifying diversion routes, to avoid high levels of air pollution.

In 2019, Public Health England estimated that 36,000 deaths a year were related to long-term exposure to poor air quality. The Environment Audit Committee has also estimated that due to air pollution, total health costs range between £8.5 billion and £20.2 billion a year.

“Utilising intelligent signage to influence driver behaviour and increase the attractiveness of active travel (walking and cycling), by improving safety and comfort, can support the improvement in air quality,” says Gary. Its fixed and mobile solutions also support the development and increased use of active travel infrastructure.

Gary Higgins Award

" Motivation creates action. Action creates learning. Follow your instincts, and good learning habits will be easier to maintain and establish. "

Gary Higgins


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