What were your career ambitions growing up?
Actually I wanted to go into the forestry commission due to a love of the great outdoors which has stayed with me ever since. Having ﬁnished studying law and doing a post grad in management I became an avid reader of management theory but with a focus on simple application. Sir John Harvey Jones was also on the TV in ‘troubleshooter’ and I read most of his books. I knew that at some point I wanted to do something similar.
It has taken me a while to get there and it has been an interesting journey but setting up ‘360 Growth Partners’ and ﬁnding solutions for growing SMEs is the realisation of a long-term goal.
What has been your career path so far?
I started work at Vaux Plc in their hotel division, (Swallow Hotels) in a sales and marketing capacity but realized early on that the large corporate wasn’t for me but I had a good 7 years which gave me a solid foundation for my future career.
Managing a central reservations ofﬁce at 24 was a steep learning curve! I then joined Virgin, who had a hotel business, as Director of Sales and Marketing and loved the Virgin world who had a fantastic culture combined with a very entrepreneurial spirit. I also became head of Virgin Incentives which aggregated the Virgin portfolio services to incentivize and reward company employees so I got an insight into many of the Virgin businesses.
Much of my learning and ways of working come from my time with Virgin (I went back at a later stage in my career to work as part of a team developing a range of dotcom businesses.) I only left because Richard Branson sold his hotel interests to enter the mobile phone arena! After a few twists and turns I joined a PE backed ﬂedgling hotel development and operating company who had a UK master franchise to build and operate hotels under the Golden Tulip brand. I was there from the start and eventually became MD. It was a fantastic experience and in 2007 we sold 15 hotels to Whitbread (perfect timing and planned of course!) but not for a price that meant I could retire! Between 2008 and 2011 I supported other growing hotel companies in a Commercial Director/Business Development Director capacity and even tried to set up my own hotel business.
The hotel world meant I travelled extensively and had some great times but it takes its toll and I was concerned that I was in danger of missing my children grow up and my wife divorcing me! In 2011 I came back to work in the North East as MD for a healthcare business which conﬁrmed my suspicion that I could transfer my ‘business growth’ skills to other sectors. I have worked in numerous businesses in many different settings but a common thread has been unlocking people and business potential and I am now in the fortunate position of doing what I enjoy with people who share the same mindset and a hunger for learning or growth.
What are your companies deﬁning qualities?
We are a bunch of down to earth, honest people who have a passion for doing business the right way and using our collective skills and experience to identify, coordinate and make the adjustments businesses need to accelerate their growth. We have all been working within businesses most of our careers, are driven by results and making a discernable difference. I believe that there is a valuable role we can play as ‘business partners’ to help ‘time and resource poor’ SME owners achieve their growth aspirations.
What is the greatest challenge you have faced so far?
When we sold the PE backed hotel company I had to make the whole central team redundant after spending nearly 5 years building it. I told the senior management team in the ofﬁces of a law ﬁrm in London – it was a painful process and something that I have never forgotten but I stayed with the buyer for whole integration process to ensure that those staying or leaving were treated fairly.
What is your proudest achievement to date?
How the same team reacted to me as the MD throughout the sale and the positive comments made by the buyer about the team, the culture and business they were buying. We spent considerable time creating a business that challenged the norm, celebrated being different and built on putting the customer ﬁrst, second and third! On a personal level completing the end to end Coniston water open water swim (5.25miles) and raising £1500 for Cancer research in the process. Oh and of course my wedding day and birth of our two sons!
Is there a mantra you aspire to do business by?
Virgin had a clear management philosophy – “look after your staff who will look after the customer and proﬁt will follow” – I have continued to adopt this philosophy wherever I have been. ‘Everyone has an opinion – make time to listen’ – you might be surprised what you uncover! and ‘What gets measured gets done’ but make sure you are measuring the right things!
Who are your heroes in and out of business?
Richard Branson – for his determination to succeed, learning from his mistakes, creating a fantastic brand and for lasting the test of time. Jessica EnnisHill and Jonny Wilkinson – both are consummate professionals, never lost their humility and who can forget that drop goal in the Rugby world cup ﬁnal!
How do you like to unwind?
I have always been addicted to ﬁtness, in many different forms – currently swimming and feel a different person after exercise. We have a barn in the Yorkshire Dales and we try to go there as often as possible to go walking and generally chill out! Training a young golden retriever is a distraction if not always relaxing!
Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
To have established 360 Growth Partners as the ‘go to’ place for making a measureable difference to growing SMEs in the North of England. Having a well-established network of partners who share the same passion.
How would you like to be remembered?
As someone who delivered value and made a genuine difference to growing businesses. As a support and mentor to business owners and their teams. Most of all someone who got results but always treated people fairly and with respect