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Things Mark learned from trekking in Cambodia

Things Mark learned from trekking in Cambodia

Mark Smith completed this challenge in October.  I was lucky enough to grab some time over  breakfast to talk about the trek itself. Here are some of his most memorable moments and observations:

 

 

 

 

 

1.Team spirit really, really works!

The hardest day was day 3 – a 16 mile walk with 1600 foot climb in 40 degree heat and very, very humid. The previous day the local guides had been chopping down the undergrowth to allow the group to get through the thick vegetation.  Sometimes we walked through sand and streams – it’s really tough walking on the sand. The support and encouragement  of the rest of the group was all that kept some people going yet everyone made it safely to the end of the day.

2. Blisters!

No need to say more here – some were so large I was seriously alarmed.

 

 

 

 

 

3. The scenery was stunning.

Most of the villages had Buddhist temples and we were able to camp in the shelter of their  pagodas. Because of the remote location, the water supply was often coloured. It was a treat to be able to take a dip in a river on the evening of day three. We didn’t really notice many insects but the size, colour and variety of the dragonflies and butterflies were amazing. Angkor Wat itself was an amazing experience and it is a major site for archaeological discoveries.

Aardvark Marketing Consultants |Traditional Cambodian house on stilts

 

 

 

 

 

4. The Cambodians are incredibly welcoming.

The hospitality of the people was great. The children were on their school holidays, so would greet us as we approached their villages. They were always smiling.  We gave out hundreds of pencils so they could use them in school! One day of the walk it rained so hard everyone had to walk through running water. A local family offered shelter from a thunderstorm  in their house built on stilts. Everyone squeezed into the living room of their two bedroom house and all the mattresses were bundled into the smaller room so that everyone had enough room to sit down. After a couple of hours the storm abated and the walk could continue but everybody  left feeling very grateful for local hospitality.

5. Food is basic but delicious.

The variety of fruit and veg was huge, with most evening meals stews containing either rice or noodles. The local bananas were tiny and their oranges were coloured green.

6. There are no bin collections

This was a sad observation – it’s caused by visiting tourists. Any dropped  litter – mainly plastic water bottles and energy bar wrappers – is swept up by the local villagers, but simply deposited at the boundary between villages as there is no local infrastructure in place to collect or recycle waste.

7. Personal organisation

The challenge of doing this trek as a diabetic is do-able. Blood tests, insulin injections and tablets CAN all be managed in a jungle if you are sufficiently focused and organised!

Chatting to different members of the group revealed a variety of reasons for taking part and many had either suffered themselves from mental illness or seen close family members suffer. The group came from many different functions in the bank and many different pay grades but all were united in their commitment to raising money for this good cause. The 70 people in the two groups raised over 1/2 million pounds for Mental Health UK.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It ‘s been a  real pleasure and a privilege  for me to  work alongside and support  the amazing Mark Smith with #MarksMentalHealthMarathon this year. Chris and I are  delighted that he has personally raised over £26,000 to date for this great cause of mental health. The seminars provided some great practical tips for the local  business community. It’s been fun meeting and interviewing all his local business sponsors and supporters. Thanks, Mark, for asking us to share a small part of your  personal project.

Gill Hutchinson

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Aardvark Marketing Consultants | Business Community Carol service at All Saints

A warm invitation to the Worcestershire Business Community Carol Service at All Saints

A warm invitation to the Worcestershire Business Community Carol Service at All Saints

As the year draws to a close we’re delighted to welcome you to the 2019 Worcestershire Business Community Carol Service at All Saints, in the heart of Worcester city centre.

Our friends at All Saints have kindly agreed to host what will be a fabulous event, so come and join us on Tuesday, 10th December to celebrate the festive season, catch up with friends and soak up the traditional candle-lit atmosphere at All Saints Church.

The Carol Service is the final event of 2019 which has seen your kind support help Lloyds Bank raise over £25,000 for Mental Health UK.  Thank you to everyone who has taken part in our awareness seminars, quizzes, art exhibitions and to those who have corporately or personally donated during the year.  Your encouragement has been hugely valued.This is our opportunity to say ‘thank-you’ and to bring together the Worcestershire business community to celebrate all that is good in this marvellous county.

This will be Lloyds Bank’s final 2019 event in support of Mental Health UK, where the huge generosity of the business community has raised over £25,000. Thank you for your
marvellous support! Mindful of the local needs of the county, there will be opportunity to support the Worcester Foodbank at a really important time of the year.

Aardvark Marketing Consultants | Worcester Foodbank Christmas appeal

 

 

 

 

So we can make sure we have enough prosecco, nibbles and mulled-wine for everyone, please let us know how many from your business would like to come along and we’ll see you
there! Please email mark Smith  Mark.Smith5@lloydsbanking.com with your business name and the contact email(s) of those attending.

Agenda

5pm        Doors open, soak up the Christmas atmosphere and enjoy a glass of Prosecco

6pm        Candlelit service with your favourite carols, readings and the All Saints Christmas Choir

7 – 8pm  Christmas nibbles, mulled wine and a chance to chat with friends and business contacts you may not have seen for far too long!

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The Lloyds Bank 2019 Big Quiz Evening in aid of Mental Health UK at Hereford Cathedral School

The Lloyds Bank 2019 Big Quiz Evening in aid of Mental Health UK at Hereford Cathedral School

Pit-your-wits against some of the finest minds in the county…and a few from over the border, too! Our (extra!)ordinary quiz masters, Richard and Ian, will keep us on our toes with a variety of entertaining subject rounds so dust off the grey matter, brush up on your musical memories and keep your eyes on topical new items in the days leading up to the quiz!

2019’s Big Quiz Evening supports Lloyds Bank’s Charity of the Year – Mental Health UK and locally we’re aiming to raise £25K for this great cause. You can read more here.

Date: Thursday, 12th September

Time: 6.30 – 10.45 pm

Venue: Zimmerman Main Hall, Church Street, Hereford, HR1 2NG

Agenda:

6.30 pm for a 7 pm start.
Get your team of 4 masterminds together – £60 per table.

Bring your own picnic supper and enjoy a night-out with the food you enjoy!

Cash bar, raffle, silent auction and winning prizes!

If you’ve been before, you know you enjoyed it! If you’ve never come along,where have you been – we’ve missed you! Tables will book quickly – get in early!

To enter a team, send your £60 donation via the Just Giving link below, then email your team name to Mark.Smith5@Lloydsbanking.com and put The Lloyds Bank 2019 Hereford Big Quiz Evening in your email.

Mark Smith is aiming to raise a staggering £25,000 for Mental Health UK for his forthcoming Cambodian trek, please come along to the quiz evening and have a great time, while supporting a brilliant charity.

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Meet our co-sponsor Mark Harrison

Meet our co-sponsor Mark Harrison

We are proud to be sponsoring Mark Smith in his Mental Health Marathon as he takes on the Cambodian jungle later in the year. We are also delighted to be supporting Mark alongside some truly outstanding people…

Mark Harrison had a background in manufacturing and then in corporate finance before starting to manage glass processing businesses. United Glass Group has grown out of small team of dedicated directors who spotted opportunities to buy and transform family businesses where the owner was ready to retire. The team are close with Mark’s Father involved. His brother introduced him to Mark Smith at Lloyds bank who were involved with financial support from the start. The first company acquired was Brownhills Glass Co, in 2012 as a management buyout team, followed by a part share in Tufwell Glass near Gatwick when this was divested by the parent company (a PLC orphan was how Mark described the company). In 2015, a further finance deal enabled the group to expand with the acquisition of PLG in the Northeast. In 2018 the latest refinance deal, with alternative finance company Duke Royalty enabled the group to acquire the remaining shares of Tufwell Glass to form the group as it is today.

Mark is a very modest capitalist, who doesn’t have a particular ‘grand plan’ for commercial acquisitions, however he has a good eye for spotting an opportunity when the time is right and is not afraid to be opportunistic. Going through some tough times with difficult market conditions has focused the new management teams on what matters to grow each company and realise commercial success. He is a big believer in transforming attitudes towards customers and proactively seeking new business rather than waiting for orders to arrive. Each business is committed to processing orders and confirming the supply date within a few hours. Integrating the businesses within their customers supply chains and trying to improve communication at all stages has been one of the keys to growth.

Much of this transformation has come from some good senior hires along with working hard to change the teams’ attitudes to be more customer orientated and focus on delivery. Some recruits have experience outside the glass industry as well as some from within it but all are prepared to knock on new doors and ask for an order rather than have a chat about the state of the local football team! As the group has grown, customers have also appreciated having more than one UK manufacturing site to call upon, which adds security and flexibility into their supply chain.

Having a larger market share has improved the commercial buying clout of the group and allowed specialisms to flourish. Tufwell Glass are market leading, through short lead-times, in the supply of partitioning glass for commercial applications. PLG is a market leader in over-size production capabilities providing bespoke glass for stunning structurally engineered pieces often in iconic construction projects. At Brownhills in the Black Country the business is split in half. 50% of the sales are made to measure, bespoke products for tradespeople, the other half comes from having large stocks of flat glass in standard stock sizes products, for example for double glazing businesses. As Mark explains “apart from printing and glass bending there is nothing we cannot do. We do everything else”.

The management team are unafraid to challenge traditional ways of working. “We are confident in taking a long, hard look at ourselves to see how we can make the most of our opportunities” says Mark. The way the group has grown has meant that, at times, we were very driven by decisions that would help manage the short term cashflow, and less focused on the longer term, strategic decisions. We have been fortunate to have good people around us. Mark Smith at Lloyds has been supportive at every stage and a non-exec board member has been invaluable in introducing us to contacts in the corporate finance arena.” The group is now successfully building a cash buffer and Mark has his expert eye on another related acquisition opportunity.

As the group success has grown, Mark describes how he takes satisfaction from being able to employ around 140 people “making stuff”. He believes there is always a fine balance to be struck between having group systems and processes that add efficiency and profitability but not losing sight of the unique character and flavour of the original businesses. Whilst they are building their reputation with larger customers who need products supplied across across the UK, many of their customers remain those who prefer to deal with someone they know, like and have trusted for many years. Black Country tradesman still phone up and ask for Rose or Linda at Brownhills, and many remember their fathers doing the same!

The competitive engineering streak is alive and well in this team. Mark describes how he joins his Father and his Brother in motorsport activates at the weekend, often racing around a circuit against other cars. As a child Mark’s hobby was Go Karting. Now his son, who loves Lego, is getting excited about a visit to Silverstone, his youngest, a daughter, seems also to be developing a no-fear personality. After buying Brownhills he says the family weekend conversations were mainly work related but they realised recently this has changed with work rarely being mentioned. Whatever their next project, the future looks bright!

If you would like to read more about Mark’s Mental Health Marathon please click here.

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Aardvark Marketing Consultants are sponsors of MarksMentalHealthMarathon

Spotlight on mental health

Spotlight on mental health

We recently attended two Mental Health Seminars, hosted by Mark Smith of Lloyds Bank as part of his fundraising for his Mental Health Marathon. Mark is aiming to raise £25,000 for Mental Health UK and is taking part in a Cambodian trek.

Mental health is one of more pressing problems of our time, and managing mental health effectively in the workplace has a massive financial implication for businesses. Not only is there the obvious sick leave, but the less obvious reduced productivity has a huge implication. Considering the mental health of your employees, is not only compassionate but also shows good business sense.

During the seminars there were a variety of speakers, talking about mental health from different angles. Mental Health UK discussed how to support you and your business, Harrison Clark Rickerbys discussed the legal aspect, and a speaker from Bishop Fleming gave an incredible and honest insight into managing mental health both personally and professionally.

Here are two attendees reflecting on what they have learnt from the seminar. The first is Mike Forrester from Orchard Valley Foods, also representing the Chamber of Commerce.

The next clip is Rev Dr Richard Johnson. Rev Johnson is vicar at All Saints church in Worcester, Mark Smith’s church, but also attended as representing the church, to increase their understanding of mental health in the workplace.

There are three more Mental Health Seminars planned for later in the year.

All these events follow the same format:

  • Light refreshments.
  • Opening remarks and introduction.
  • Mental Health UK – support for you and your business.
  • Harrison Clark Rickerbys – legal obligations and implications.
  • Bishop Fleming – Honest and practical experiences of a business leader in managing personal and employee wellbeing.
  • Close and light refreshments.

These are free events, with a suggested donation of £25 or more to Mental Health UK, via this Just Giving site, to support Lloyds Bank’s national charity.

Date: Wednesday, 25th September
Time: 8am – 11am
Venue: Malvern College, College Rd, Malvern WR14 3DF
To book your place on the Malvern seminar email Mark.Smith5@lloydsbanking.com and put Malvern 25th September in the email.

Date: Wednesday, 2nd October
Time: 2pm – 5pm
Venue: Ross Labels, Ross Park, Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire, HR9 7US
To book your place on the Ross on Wye seminar email Mark.Smith5@lloydsbanking.com and put Ross 2nd October in the email.

Monmouthshire – November
Date: TBC
Time: TBC
Venue: Monmouth, details TBC

We look forward to seeing you all there!

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Meet our co-sponsor Martyn Rees

Meet our co-sponsor Martyn Rees

We are proud to be sponsoring Mark Smith in his Mental Health Marathon as he takes on the Cambodian jungle later in the year. We are also delighted to be supporting Mark alongside some truly outstanding people…

Martyn isn’t one for titles or formality. He’s the MD at County Building Supplies which has grown from a “two bloke, one van and a passion to get things done” start-up with his mate David Lloyd in 1987 to a highly successful business group of 6 companies serving 10 locations throughout the Midlands. Starting out as a building merchant the business now has specialist services for Kitchens & Bathrooms, Heating & Plumbing, Renewable Energy and, their latest business, an online car detailing supplier. Customers get free delivery if they are within 20 miles of any location (Cheltenham, Coventry, Droitwich, Evesham, Malvern, Monmouth, Nuneaton, Tetbury).

The secret to his success is, according to Martyn, running the happiest builders’ merchant in the world. He’s a firm believer that work should be fun as well as business, calls all his staff on first name terms and directs operations in an informal manner. Staff are all treated with the same respect whether they are the newest member or the longest serving area director. He’s not averse to playing the odd practical joke on fellow directors and identified with being the naughty boy at the back of the classroom in his youth. Today he still enjoys working and has absolutely no plans to retire. Fridays are his work from home days but he’s still very ‘hands on’, making good use of his tablet to stay in touch with email and calls. He won’t thank you for a formal introduction either, no MD title is required, he’s just introduced as “Martyn from Malvern” whenever he’s visiting one of their many sites.

Martyn has a knack for getting on with people and immediately makes you feel welcome when you meet him. He loves being a company rep on the road so much that he still goes out every Tuesday and Thursday meeting new customers and catching up with his ‘friends in business’. This week he’s exchanged garden plants with a customer during his visit. Martyn readily acknowledges that his world is price competitive and the business is a member of a larger buying group to ensure their prices are kept as competitive as possible. It’s not all about a direct cost comparison and County Building Supplies will make every effort to get a part out to a customer quickly because they understand that a contractor doesn’t want to be kept waiting several days. This means, unlike some of their competitors, his trade customer won’t have to pick up a hotel accommodation bill because the item isn’t available the exact day he needs it. In his immaculate showrooms, customers are welcomed, given specialist advice and help with their project, and shown the best products for them to achieve what they want whilst getting good value out of their budget.

What’s so impressive about County Building Supplies is staff loyalty. The average length of service in the business is an incredible 18 years! Because he’s created this happy and productive working environment, Martyn has never had a problem with either staff recruitment or retention. He’s proud that one member of staff who joined the business as a ‘Saturday boy’ remembers their progression from their first pay cheque to being promoted through the ranks up to Director level. Taking the initiative is encouraged, with the newest service, car detailing supplies, being run very successfully online by one of the newest and youngest on the team.

Within the industry Martyn is obviously well liked and respected, and he’s on the Board of Directors for his Commercial Buying group, as position he owes to the votes of his fellow members. Martyn admits this is useful for the business as he always has the ear of another MD or Sales Director whenever necessary. It’s his belief that he works in a friendly industry, he recalls a conversation with an economist attending one of the annual trade events and contrasting the friendly welcome with another trade body where hardly anyone spoke to him.

Martyn is very happy to sponsor Mark Smith with his Mental Health Marathon. Martyn’s comments about Mark are that he’s almost too nice to be a bank manager and is always available for a chat, even if this is in the evening. He says Mark always reacts promptly to what he wants, really understands what he wants and will sort it out, fighting his corner if necessary. Martyn continues to expand the business, which he has managed to do consistently through good economic times and recessions, so he appreciates having a good banker on his side. In the pipeline are plans for new sites in Hereford and in Tewkesbury, which I’m sure will be staffed by more of the friendliest people in the business!

If you would like to read more about Mark’s Mental Health Marathon please click here.

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Meet our co-sponsor, Gary Jones, MD of Glevum

Meet our co-sponsor, Gary Jones, MD of Glevum

We are proud to be sponsoring Mark Smith in his Mental Health Marathon as he takes on the Cambodian jungle later in the year. We are also delighted to be supporting Mark alongside some truly outstanding people. The first of which is Gary Jones…

Gary Jones has a simple business philosophy: whenever he bumps into a customer before or during his beloved Gloucester Rugby – he wants to be assured that they are happy. After 35 very successful years at the helm, customers remain the most important people to him and repeat business or personal recommendation account for 75% of their retail sales. Today Glevum also supplies the top UK housebuilders including Taylor Wimpey, Barratts/David Wilson and Persimmon with hundreds of windows every week, on building sites from Cornwall to Kent, yet high quality products and exceptional service standards are not compromised. From day one of their employment, his teams understand that they should treat customers’ property with the care they would take if it were their own.

Gary has a personal experience of dealing with mental health as Mike Nicholls, his uncle and childhood sporting hero suffered from dementia later in his life. Mike was the first team captain to hold aloft the John Player Charity Shield and Gary has fond memories of being taken by Mike to see Gloucester play as a child. He still has this passion for Gloucester rugby club today. When Mark Smith at Lloyds Bank requested financial support for Mental Health UK, Gary was the first one to reach into his pocket.

Recommended to Gary when their previous banking advisor changed role, Mark has been working alongside Glevum for many years, always supporting their expansion plans by fighting their corner and enabling finance to be made available as the business has grown. Supporting Mark with this project will mean that Mental Health issues are treated as more of a priority here in the Midlands.

Gary started Glevum from his dads’ garage after serving an apprenticeship in mechanical engineering as a field service engineer, which is where he developed his eye for measurement. His first workshop was funded by selling his Ford Cortina and cashflow was a challenge. “Approaching the bank manager and being asked for a cashflow forecast seemed to me like so much mumbo jumbo back then” recalls Gary “but fear of failure was always a great motivator”. As the business grew, Gary came to rely on recruiting and keeping great people in his team, and the business has always been industry leaders in the use of new technology and innovative processes. Gary has a ‘touch of the geek’ about him, and has always enjoyed new IT.  High points in his career was winning the Gloucestershire Business of the Year in 2018 and the UK’s top conservatory builder in 2000, although he also fondly remembers the teasing he received from his mates when, at 39, he won Gloucestershire ‘Young Businessperson of the Year’.

Mark's Mental Health Marathon | Gary Jones of Glevum with HRH The Duke of Gloucester at Glevum Conservatory Village

He’s definitely not a typical MD of a multi-million turnover business! Every customer is invited to complete a 30-question survey about their experience of Glevum and on the odd occasion that any question scores less than half marks, Gary will personally pick up the phone to them so that there is ‘no muddying the water’ with middle managers involved. At the same time the business is developing innovative new apps that are used by building site managers to order their products in the most efficient and traceable manner. Orders are made at the right time in their house build process, scheduled in for manufacture, tracked through production, delivery vehicle location and, finally, invoicing. The new system saves his customers time, hassle and money.

For Gary, business is not all about money making, it’s also about giving back. Glevum are currently supporting a new community interest company (CIC) which will provide charities with affordable and state of the art office facilities in Morroway House in central Gloucester. This new hub has meeting rooms, hot desk spaces and a series of fortnightly seminars specifically for the third sector is already being planned.

Whatever the future holds, here is a leader who loves to embrace new challenges!

If you would like to read more about Mark’s Mental Health Marathon please click here.

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Welcome to Mark’s Mental Health Marathon and thanks for reading.

Welcome to Mark’s Mental Health Marathon and thanks for reading.

As many of you will already know, 2018 was a difficult year…a year in which I was told I might have three-years to live, followed by extensive diagnostic health checks, regular specialist consultant’s visits, cancelled operations, learning how to cope with insulin dependence and eventually a lung biopsy to confirmation a long-term inflammatory lung disease requiring ongoing steroids and, this year, powerful immuno-suppressants that are also used in chemotherapy treatments.  My mother’s untimely death hardly helped the year along!

This year I’ve been offered an opportunity of a lifetime – so, I’m undertaking a sponsored 80km trek to Angkor Wat in Cambodia to raise money for Mental Health UK, Lloyds Bank’s chosen charity. So, why would an insulin-dependent diabetic with only two thirds lung capacity want to take on such a physical challenge in oppressive heat of 35°c and saturating humidity of over 80%?

It’s all about saying ‘thank you’ to the community that supported me and kept me going through the ups and downs of 2018.  Of course, the support from friends and family is invaluable at times like these but I had more, much more. I experienced surprising and very welcome support from my networks of clients, colleagues, professional partners. People who would regularly pick up the phone or drop me an email and simply ask…‘I was just thinking of you, how are you doing?’…and still do!

So the challenge I’ve set myself is to pay-back to everyone who provided that invaluable support network. It’s my way of saying thank you to a fantastic business community.

I want to make a difference in 3 ways:-

  • I’d like the business community to be increasingly capable of supporting people experiencing mental health issues; by being more effective and efficient at spotting issues and hopefully preventing them from developing into something more serious.
  • I’d like everyone in my business community to be able to say ” Yes, I’ve got something out of this for myself, for my team and for my business”.
  • Raising £25,000 for a truly worthwhile and practical charity – Mental Health UK so that they can support many others going through difficult times with mental health issues.

So I invite you all to get involved with me. This might be by attending one of my fundraising events, being one of my corporate sponsors or by coming along to one of our mental health awareness seminars and hearing from expert speakers on mental health issues.

Look out for regular updates on these events as the year progresses, culminating in my trek to Cambodia as part of a team of 70 Lloyds bank staff during the rainy reason in October!

So, can I encourage you, please, to give generously to a cause that at some stage in our lives we all may need to rely on to support our family, friends, or even ourselves.

Whatever amount you might choose to donate, you have my heartfelt appreciation.  Donations can be made most easily through my Just Giving page or, if preferred, by cheque made payable to ‘LBG Charity of the Year’.

Please be kind enough to ‘like’ and ‘share’ my blog posts with your social media connections so we can spread the word. With your support, together, we can make a difference to our community.

With my personal thanks,

Mark

With thanks to Mark Smith our guest blogger this week. Aardvark Marketing Consultants are supporting Mark in his fundraising efforts.

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