A Brief insight into Richard’s experience in business.
It only seems right to provide some insight into my personal journey through a range of business experiences.
I have always been someone who likes to be hands-on and gets to understand how things work and go together. I’m a practical person who can visualise a plan in 3D, quickly understand how an object goes together or works in practice. I also have the ability to stand back from a situation and see the whole picture. We can then consider different possible solutions. These are all crucial elements for experience in business.
At school, art, metalwork, woodwork, geography, geology and outdoor pursuits were my preferred subjects. Outside of study and work I enjoy the nicer things in life. Good food, wine, nice homes, good looking and practical vehicles, quality clothes but none of it ostentatious or over expensive! It feels good to look good and enjoy nice possessions around you.
With a close and maturing family, finances are often stretched. We ensure that everyone has the chance to share and be included in outings, events and holidays. It does not matter if that means that we enjoy some of the less expensive treats but have fun together. I’ve always enjoyed being outdoors, walking, observing and enjoying the countryside. The environment around us is important to me wherever I have lived or travelled.
My first experience in business was as a student, making and selling coloured leather wristbands, belts, necklaces and other decorative items. In those days it earned me “beer money” and went towards the rent of my bedsit.
At this time my main interest was architectural. I spent a total of about 6 years working as a technical draughtsman for a number of architectural practices in Norfolk. I thoroughly enjoyed this experience. Any real advance though was blocked by my lack of motivation to study maths and sciences to “A level” and to go on to university.
I decided to move more into a commercial environment. A new direction as a pre-contracts assistant and draughtsman for an aluminium shop-front and window manufacturing company. I learned about the contract process, ordering materials and parts ready for manufacturing. Gaining knowledge by working with production operatives and solving problems on site during installations or in the production factory. This all round knowledge served me well for my future experience in business.
After a while the entrepreneurial spirit got to me again. I considered opening a crafts shop near Norwich Cathedral. I found suitable premises and arranged suppliers and shop-fittings ready for the lease to be signed. Unfortunately there was a long delay over the lease that prevented me from starting to trade before the main Summer season. I decided not to go ahead.
Instead of the shop I set up a market stall business selling these crafts as well as cheap jewellery and car accessories. The Summer and lead up to Christmas that year was great fun and we took reasonable amounts of money. Unfortunately, there were not enough customers providing adequate cash-flow in the cold, dark months after to pay our way. The business was closed and the equipment and final stock sold off. A really good learning curve about cash-flow, costs and market research for the future!
Business is always something to go into with good research. An enthusiastic outlook, tempered with realism and a good plan for the future. It is important to know when to ask for help. If something is not working it may be better to try a different approach or consider something else.
I trained as a public house licensee in London after the markets and enjoyed working in the trade as a pub manager for a while. This offered more practical business experience plus a great grounding on building inter-personal relationships. Dealing with staffing issues, assessing our customers feelings and their motivation/intent.
After this period and some personal changes I had a bit of a “wilderness ” period. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do as a future career or business. I enrolled on a government sponsored training course. There I learned a grounding in computer programming using an ancient(by today’s standards) language called COBOL. Although I didn’t get any of the 80 or so jobs that I applied for, it did stand me in good stead for the future.
I was lucky enough to have been left some money by a relative and enjoyed a 6 week trip to Canada. Travelling by scenic train from Montreal to Toronto and then all the way across to Vancouver in British Columbia was an eye opener.
Not long after returning from my trip I applied for and was appointed as a kitchen and bathroom showroom manager at a local builders merchants depot. I spent a total of about 15 years with this company. My programming and previous business experience enabled me to write an outline paper on the ways that I saw that the company could be computerised and made more efficient. This approach to the suggestion scheme got me appointed to the computer implementation team a few months later! I experienced the chance to test the new systems from a business user viewpoint. I helped to write training materials, review branch structures and processes, as well set up computer equipment. We then trained staff to use it, managers to understand all the new computer generated information on a daily, weekly and monthly basis from the board level downwards. Other general logistical aspects were needed such as automated stock-takes, warehouse organisation, labelling and control of goods in and out. All aspects of cash reconciliation and daily monitoring of a trading business. Post implementation, I was in charge of one of the local mini computer sites supporting up to 30 branches in the South West of the UK. It was a brilliant all-round education and set of experiences into the way that a large national business group operates, from all aspects and at all levels.
That whole experience has been so useful in helping me with running my own business as a self-employed person over the last 19 years. I’ve still made mistakes and had to work out how to get over them. I’ve tried different methods, employed my own staff (and sadly had to make them redundant too :(). There were many very satisfying times designing and creating timber decking materials and projects. This was followed by 9 years of designing and building fantastic quality private residential gardens from start to finish. It’s extremely satisfying seeing a garden created from bare earth to wall or timber terraces, paved patios, timber and stone sculptures through to fully planted and landscaped grounds.
During this time I have invested in a number of properties and am still continuing to grow my small rental portfolio. I am also helping other individuals to become involved in property investments to provide a semi-passive income. This is still an active pursuit and passion of mine. Networking has enable me to make many good friends and business contacts around the country.
From my experience in business, developing the builders merchants computerised systems and my own websites I have launched Zintracom Marketing, a new business to help other business’ develop. Creating them a modern marketing and internet presence and reaching out to a wider customer base. Helping to promote their services and products in this rapidly developing and changing mobile marketing era.