I was born in Hull, East Yorkshire in 1968. I did the normal things as a schoolboy, football, rugby, cricket etc. Then at the age of 9 my brother-in-law took me to the park with 3 golf balls and a five iron. By the time I was 12 I was a scratch golfer and played for England at 16 – 18 years old. Golf has been a wonderful thing for me, I have travelled, met great people but most of all it taught me the discipline I needed to succeed and prosper in all aspects of my life.
I believe sport and hobbies whether it be golf or a simple collection of something teaches you many great life skills, hard work, discipline and the feeling of losing and how to deal with that feeling.
I kind of stumbled into golf and loved the feeling of playing it well, but like anything you want to be good at it takes two things, talent and hard work. I used to practice as much as my school life would allow, before school in the summer and all hours possible in the winter.
My parents always supported me the best they could but always stressed that I must have a back up plan and they where right. I kept studying for my O Levels and managed to pass them all and at 18 turned Pro. It was a hard existence and I quickly found out that the reality was I did not quite have the talent to succeed. That led me to teaching the sport with a winter spent in Portugal for a short 6 month contract, I ended up staying there for 19 years!! During that time I used the experiences I have had when playing golf with so many varied people to my advantage. I was incredibly lucky and have played both golf and tennis with some of the worlds best business people, best sportsman and even an ex President of the USA!!
In all these people you notice a common trait, they work hard! I copied them in whatever I did and opened a retail business when I saw a gap in the market. This business rapidly expanded to a turnover of £5m per annum and with an impending move back to the UK for my children’s educations, I sold the business at the top of the market.
I was not a trained business person, I just worked hard and I listened. My golden rule in business even to this day is to not be afraid to ask questions. If you don’t understand just ask, do not be embarrassed no one will think any worse of you, indeed just the opposite!
Since returning to the UK, I have changed career and entered the events and exhibition management business. Cutting a 4 year story short I started a business which last year I sold to the worlds largest company in this business Freeman. Freeman are a US $2 billion company based in Dallas, Texas.
I am now the Chief Sales Officer for their business in Europe and the Middle East. The job is extremely varied and extremely busy. Working for a US company means that the days are long as when you finish your day in the UK, they are just starting there’s which means emails, conference calls and webex’s often late into the night
My Weekly Diary
I make sure my working week has structure to it. I always spend Monday in my office in Wellesbourne. On this day I meet with each of my direct reports for at least an hour, which takes up most of the day. I have the whole of the sales, account management, client services, marketing and design teams as my responsibility. I often find that after these meetings I have a substantial amount of work to do to the things my staff has asked. Generally I am in my office at 7am and leave at around 7pm.
Tuesdays are also a structured day in Wellesbourne as it’s the Executive team meeting. This team is small and made up of 6 people. The Chief Executive Officer, The Chief Operations Officer, The Finance Director, The Commercial Director, The HR Director and myself. The meeting is very formal and minutes are taken and a ‘to do’ list written which we are expected to complete by the next meeting. Generally this meeting will last 5 hours, which leaves the afternoon free for general catch up work in the office. I have an extremely good assistant; however managing an assistant takes time and discipline. The instructions need to be clear and timescales set.
The rest of my week is taken up with what I do best, talking to clients! Clients are the air and blood of any business and can never be ignored no matter how difficult or awkward they are! Clear honest communication is vital with all clients. I have always used the mantra of “a deal is only a good deal, if its good for both sides!” What this means is that all businesses need to make profit to survive. So if you get a client who just wants a cheap price then perhaps they are not the clients for you.
In my role I get to do the great jobs, such as signing new business, my deal so far was for £36m and I now handle an annual turnover of £50m per year. But I also have to do the bad jobs, I am the guy who has to call clients when something goes wrong. Our business is normally about live events so when things go wrong they can be disastrous! So luckily this does not happen often. When it does I just tell the truth, no one wants things to go wrong so by being honest you can get to a solution to make sure it never happens again!
Freeman builds some of the worlds biggest events such as Wimbledon, The British Grand Prix, The Grand National, the Horse of the Year Show and many others plus we also build over 50% of the UKs exhibitions such as Grand Designs and the Taste of London.
We are a 24 hour a day, 7 days a week business as we are normally building events and exhibitions at unsociable hours. I regularly visit most events and make sure I see the client even for just a few minutes. This is an important part of my job, it is good for the clients to feel understood and good for us to show effort to go and look at there events to see what can be improved and adjusted for next year.
If I could give you advice as you start your career it would simply be to work as hard as you can, ask questions and be honest. Employers are looking to employ people with these attributes as well as your standard education qualifications. I have employed many people who have perhaps not excelled at school but they work extremely hard and enjoy what they do!
Your life is not a rehearsal so don’t waste it!
Chief Sales Officer