My Vision & Purpose
My Vision And Purpose
It started with a cushy number
Like many people, I found school very challenging, and the fact that I was a Dyslexic growing up in the 70’s where Dyslexics were called “stupid” was not helpful. Little did I know at the time that Dyslexia would prove to become a real strength.
I loathed school and couldn’t wait to start work. I was offered a job at a local upholstery company as an apprentice and made sure I was going to excel at whatever I was offered. I realised early on that I had a knack for working out the most efficient ways of working. Creating systems and processes that saved me time wherever there were savings. It wasn’t long before I was producing twice the amount and earning double the salary of men who had been upholsterers for 30 years.
My First Business Blossoms
I started my first business at the age of 21. The first of 4 as it turned out.
Wilson Upholstery was founded in 1987 and was producing quality upholstery and soft furnishings to the great and the good around the Cotswolds. A solid reputation was formed, and the business grew steadily over the next 9 years.
Knowing that my education was an obstacle to further growth, I made the brave decision to go back to college and re-educate myself, gaining top marks in English, Maths, Business, Law, Politics, and Integrated Business Technology.
I have subsequently developed a real passion for learning and is something that I have kept up with to this day.
As part of the growth plan, I decided to start a joint venture with an interior designer and the business took a new direction.
This was an exciting time and exposed me to the freedom of being creative. I found I had a real talent at design and when combined with solid manufacturing knowledge, was able to produce winning ideas.
This resulted in producing one of the best-selling sofa ranges for DFS in 1996 with the guidance and support of Design Line Studios.
Big isn’t always better
Following the success of the DFS project, I was asked if I would head a design team for a large upholstery manufacture. This was an opportunity I couldn’t ignore so I jumped at it.
I was surprised that the systems and processes were poor and that the culture and environment was toxic. This was my first exposure to politics, and I didn’t care for it. I realised that building effective teams with proper systems and processes was paramount to success. Focussed, motivated people are what matter most in business.
I learned a lot about myself during those 2 years and I realised I was tougher and more resilient than I had imagined. I learned how to get the best out of people and that my Dyslexia gave me the creative strategies to overcome resistances when they occurred; knowledge, I use to this day.
Becoming a big cheese
There were several career moves during the next couple of years, all as Head of Design for one large company or another, before landing a role with Steinhoff: firstly, as Head of Design and then Design Director.
As with most billion-dollar businesses, there are lots of changes and opportunities. This was a very exhilarating time to be in furniture design at Steinhoff as the business grew dramatically with large scale organisational change happening, on what seemed like a weekly basis. This was very challenging but also very exciting.
Multimillion-dollar companies were bought and sold; businesses were relocated from one country to another. New countries were added to the supply list, and I was at the heart of it.
I spent the next 9 years on a plane, developing new concepts and business opportunities for some of the UK’s largest retail companies and was responsible for £100million of retail sales for brands like Harvey’s Furniture, and others. I had come a long way from when I was an apprentice.
The Orient beckoned
I left Steinhoff in 2008 to set up a design and sourcing company in Dongguan, China. (Inspire Design Solutions Ltd). I had been going to China for years and thought I knew a lot about the culture. My partner was Taiwanese and based in Dongguan, so I thought we would be fine there. Little did I appreciate how difficult the move would be for me, not from a business point of view necessarily, but from a personal point of view. I did not appreciate how important countryside was for my mental wellbeing. Growing up in the countryside where everything was green and the only company you might meet would be sheep, cattle, and horses, is something I took for granted.
60 million people live in Guangdong province, so let’s just say, it’s a little crowded. Imagine driving from London to Birmingham and seeing nothing but factories as far as the eye can see, that is Dongguan.
We set-up the business to use web-based systems that managed orders by exception. We designed the processes from the ground up which meant we could tailor our offer to both retailers and suppliers. This was a novel way of working in China at the time, as most companies threw people at problems, whereas we needed a very small team to make the business grow and flourish. Our customers almost never called as they had access to all the data they needed via our website.
Things were going well; new customers were loving what we were doing, until!!
Sometimes in life your character and values get tested
I came back from China in 2012 for Christmas expecting to have a quiet holiday, only to come back to the news that my mother and father were both seriously ill. My father had Motor Neuron Disease, and my mother was diagnosed with cancer. Things were going to have to change.
I made the decision to come back from China and help my parents through their illnesses. My father died in 2013 and my mother died several years later.
During this time, I set up a consultancy business (Inspire Design International Ltd) so I could work as a consultant from home in the UK. I also set up a luxury dog bed business (Berkeley Cole Ltd) producing and retailing what I believe to be the best dog beds in the world. All, so I could be around while my mother needed support.
Believe it or not, this was one of the best times of my life, as well as the hardest thing I ever had to manage. It taught me to appreciate life fully and I became humble in the process.
Business Growth Coaching
Caring for someone through the dying process made me realise that helping others is what motivates me the most. I want to utilise my business knowledge and experiences to support as many other entrepreneurs and businesses as I possibly can to help them grow and flourish.
I discovered the effectiveness of business change and business growth coaching while working with Graduate Gardeners. They started to ask me for business advice and consulting. I found that I had a knack for dealing with whatever came my way, and what’s more, not only was I good at it, I also really enjoyed it.
I felt I’d found my vocation in life, but the problem was, I had no formal training. So, I spent several years learning the principles of business change, business coaching, working with businesses of all shapes and sizes to help them grow and flourish.