Tag Archives: Mark Smith

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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Aardvark Marketing Consultants | Meet co-sponsor of Marks Mental Health Marathon Rev Dr Rich Johnson

How can I serve? Meet co-sponsor Rev Dr Rich Johnson

How can I serve? Meet co-sponsor Rev Dr Rich Johnson

The Rev Dr Rich Johnson talks about modern ministry and mental health

Aardvark Marketing Consultants | Meet co-sponsor of Marks Mental Health Marathon Rev Dr Rich Johnson

 

 

 

 

 

The parish of All Saints at the heart of Worcester city is one of the oldest in the city.  It now uses two buildings. St Helen’s, a 15th century church building occupies a site used for worship since Roman times. You may have seen the scaffold wrap artwork on the High Street earlier this year, part of a Heritage Lottery Fund project that enabled much needed stonework repairs to be made. All Saints on Deansway is the historic parish church built into the city walls in Norman times.  Worship services are now held in both buildings. Although the buildings are steeped in history, there is absolutely nothing old fashioned about this very modern pastoral team with it’s drive and enthusiasm for creating social support in the community.

The church is now one of the largest in the Diocese of Worcester, not only with many adults, but welcoming students, teenagers and children into the community. After the second world war many of the houses in the parish were demolished, scattering the previous community of dockers and porcelain workers and their families, so the congregation fell. Today the church, with its own distinctive style of less formal, contemporary worship, has gone from strength to strength.

Rich brings his own leadership style to his role, heading up a team of “brilliant” and committed individuals, whether they are volunteers or staff. He describes his methods as “equip, envision, empower and release”.  He’s currently supporting Mark Smith of Lloyds Bank to give back to the business community as well as raising money for Mental Health UK. Mark has set himself a target for fundraising but also important to him is that business leaders and managers in his area know more about Mental Health issues and have some clear guidance to follow if necessary. It was at one of these seminars for business that I met Rich, who had come to both learn more from the speakers and to support Mark and his project. The seminars address practical steps such as how to spot potential problems in their own teams and how to provide the right supportive working environment to minimise the impact on that individual, their colleagues and their families.

By supporting others, All Saints seeks to serve the Worcester community in so many ways. A key question Rich asks when evaluating how the church is developing is “If we shut down overnight, would the city miss us?”.   Increasingly, the answer is yes.  Rich and his team work with people who have the vision, commitment and passion to succeed and help them with practical support to get projects started and developed. In this way the church set up and now runs the Worcester Foodbank, Worcester Street Pastors, supports homeless people, those fostering and adopting, schools, colleges and individual students with mental health resilience courses. The Foodbank even provides necessities such as school shoes and toys for birthdays and at Christmas to children whose families would otherwise genuinely struggle to get by.

The list of organisations where Rich and his team are known and respected is large and includes the County Council, local schools, Worcester Community Trust, Worcester BID, local business leaders, local MP’s, local police etc. By building networks across these organisations, the church is collaborating with others to help achieve something that is both worthwhile and makes a real difference to local people. Rich sees his role as a trusted partner not only to listen and participate but also to challenge. He talks to me about Desmond Tutu, who said “There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in.” Because the Church is uniquely placed to talk with all these organisations, it’s able to bring its in-depth, local knowledge of the causes of the issues that adversely affect individuals and their families in modern life. This understanding allows them to ask the ‘awkward’ or ‘brave’ questions of politicians and civic authorities so that their decision making is better informed.

For so many people in need of social support networks, poor mental health is a common denominator. Rich works hard to listen and understand why so many people, not just our students, teenagers and young people are struggling. It’s clear that social media and the pressure of growing up in the public eye has much to answer for. Rich talks about digital addiction, hyperconsumerism, eating disorders, self-harming issues, anxiety and depression and believes it’s this central issue of defining our identity and who we are for ourselves that is important. We almost need to learn to define ourselves and our worth in society without constant reference to how we appear to others online. He plays a very active role in listening to youngsters, works closely with local schools, colleges and universities and some of his team actively provide support and counselling to help youngsters understand themselves better and be comfortable with their identity.

Striking the right balance between being helpful and being a prophetic challenge can be difficult and it’s possible for the public, outside the church, to dismiss the role of a church because it is often perceived as judgemental or interfering. Rich believes that to help someone you need to be there in the same room and to accept that no-one person or organisation will have all the answers. Their role is to offer some solutions, invite people in and become a part of the answer. For example, by listening to many young people who come to an individual drop in, he can give anonymous feedback to a school leader about issues that could be part of their Personal, Health and Social education (PSE) syllabus. Young people are therefore getting a chance to explore and learn about something that has affected or will affect them or their peers, so they are better prepared for the future. The team also talk to parents, for example by providing workshops helping parents understand how to help their kids navigate the digital world safely or attending a parents evening at a school. It’s exploring and implementing these very practical steps that have transformed this ministry.

“The first step to helping is to be empathetic” says Rich.” Everyone has experienced times when they are stressed, anxious or are feeling low in themselves. It’s when people are put in situations, often beyond their control, that cause a change from occasional worries into something more chronic and serious that they need more specialised help”. Many in society have lost the traditional family support networks, so the Church’s pastoral team need to be listening and thinking, ‘what can we do differently that will improve matters?’ because we are all in this together. By doing this humbly and consistently, over time, we build the credibility and permission to get involved.

This team certainly make a difference to Worcester and their work never stands still. After discussion with Mark Smith, he will be extending a very warm welcome to the business community with a special Carol service on 10th December at 6 o clock in All Saints – we hope to see many readers of this blog join us then.

Aardvark Marketing Consultants | Marks Mental health Marathon - Rev Dr Rich Johnson talks about the mental health seminar

 

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Meet our co-sponsors – Tom Blencowe and Imogen Heath of RLUK

Meet our co-sponsors – Tom Blencowe and Imogen Heath of RLUK

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…

“Diversify or die” is the business mantra of Tom Blencowe, CEO of RLUK group. He believes in today’s fast-moving world of retail, being quick off the block with new ideas and having a flexible approach is the key to long term success. Labels Shopping is certainly in a challenging marketplace, with the toll of failures in big name, big brand high street retailers happening at almost frightening speed. “It’s become almost impossible to predict future retail trends,” says Tom, “which is proving difficult even for even the bigger retailers to do; we’ve always focused on moving forwards rather than staying still, reacting quickly and flexibly to changing market and local conditions”.

I met up with Tom and Imogen Heath, Commercial Director, in their impressive Labels shopping outlet at Ross on Wye. The business has changed over the years, outgrowing the original country store, developing new business models and adding new attractions to make Labels Shopping a better experience. The shopping centre has a enticing mix of outlets – over 50 brands of clothing, plus accessories,shoes, luggage, home furnishings, furniture and giftware.

It’s also a real foodies’s paradise, with a tempting array of brands and lots of local produce in the Food Emporium, Farm shop and local butcher. Fruit, vegetables and free-range eggs for the shop comes from their own local farm, as well as meat from the small numbers of sheep, Tamworth and Welsh pigs. Eating out options onsite include the café, with lovely views of the Herefordshire countryside and the Seafood bar.

Marks Mental Health Marathon | Inside the Gateway cinema at Labels

The latest addition is the Gateway – a 50-seater cinema with comfy Anemone red leather sofas, where you can watch a movie, a streamlined live opera, pop concert or ballet or enjoy live theatre. You can tuck into a meal before a matinee or evening performance or just relax in the bar beforehand. The business plans on having more comedy nights and foreign films into the future, building up new audiences. Much of the upper ground floor of the building is being developed to be an entertainment and leisure space and there are exciting plans in the pipeline to add more health and wellness options – a hair and beauty salon, a health foods store plus physio and therapy space.

Tom has seen many changes to the site over the years, from the original purchase of the site and developing a purpose-built building to developing the office block. Originally the offices were going to be run as a hot desking/flexible working option, but a couple of organisations snapped up the site for new offices, so the plan was changed, and this now provides the group with rental income. It’s this ability of the management team to adapt and offer something new and exciting at the park that has underpinned their success.

Marks Mental Health Marathon | The Gateway cinema bar at Labels

Imogen explained how the shopping business had changed in the 5 years she’s been working there. “We moved from a concession model to a tenant basis in 2015 on the lower ground floor, which gives a more stable income and have retained some space for our own brands, as with, for example, the Food Emporium.” The cinema has a superb state of the art sound system and Tom designed the space.  “The popularity of the opera and ballet performances are due to the quality of the sound” she says “and the events sell out really fast, so you have to be quick to get tickets”.  She’s also a believer is surrounding herself with a strong team and the group employ an expert from the film industry to plan the diverse events calendar. The July and August programme includes magic, puppet theatre, vintage cars, craft workshops, or you could try the story time and illustration workshop with children’s’ author Hannah Shaw.

Tom and Mark Smith go back many years and they have developed a strong partnership based on mutual respect. “I really enjoy working with Mark” says Tom, “as we can have a chat about life as well as talk business”. We’re pleased to be supporting Mark in raising money for Mental Health, which Tom knows from experience of working as an architect in hospitals, has been a poor relation to physical illness in the health service for years. On 2nd October Labels are generously hosting a Mental Health– Practical Help For You & Your Business seminar in the cinema. The business is also involved in fundraising for a local charity as Teenagers In Crisis are their chosen charity of for 2019. On 9th October, they will be hosting two fashion shows, with some of the teenagers who have used the helpline becoming their models for the day.

Naturally, I couldn’t leave Labels without indulging in a little retail therapy involving clothes and puddings and I’m sure every visitor will feel the same about this treasure trove on our doorsteps!

Marks Mental Health Marathon | Labels

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

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Meet Rob Bartup of GB Liners, one of our co-sponsors

Meet Rob Bartup of GB Liners, one of our co-sponsors

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…

Keeping the family business on the road through the peaks and troughs of economic cycles isn’t easy, but MD Rob Bartup takes everything in his stride and has resilience written all over him.

The business was started as Bartups of Brighton by his grandfather in 1923. His father came into the business after being in the RAF and having ended up in a PoW camp in the Middle East in 1944. Coming home aged just 26, he was dispatched to manage the ‘Hereford office’, which then had just one van. He remained working at GB Liners until he passed away in 1995. Rob has always worked in the business, although he was tempted by a several job offers in accountancy after finishing University and has one regret – that he might have preferred taking up the law as a profession

.Marks Mental Health Marathon | GB Liners 3

Rob took over the Hereford office in 1975, when the team had grown to about 15 and there were half a dozen removal vans in two locations – Hereford and Brighton. Today their dedicated staff operate a fleet of 90 vehicles from 11 UK offices. The network has grown by acquisition of smaller businesses – not always at opportune moments – and frequently when tough competition had drawn smaller competitors into serious cashflow difficulties. The sites at Bristol and Cheltenham were the first to be taken over when the owners went bust, their Hereford site merged into GB Liners Hereford.  Leeds was another smaller, 2 van business which was acquired next; then came Manchester, ‘a difficult’ start up’ according to Rob. A warehouse storage site in Cirencester was later bought and a branch established. Loughborough and Edinburgh followed, then a business in St Helens which was merged into the Manchester office. Aberdeen was bought at the height of the North Sea oil and gas boon, only to present problems in 2007/08 as the oil price crashed. The last acquisition was of a sales office in Paris, to help manage growing demand for intercontinental business. Rob denies there is an overall ‘grand plan’ however is currently on the lookout for strategically placed acquisitions in the Northeast, East or South.

Rob appreciates the role of Mark Smith at Lloyds Bank in these considerable number of property acquisitions. Some have had complex compliance requirements; others have gone through in a remarkably smooth and speedy manner. What’s been valuable is knowing at an early stage whether the interest shown by GB Liners would be likely to lead to a successful purchase, and a great deal of time, effort and energy hasn’t been expended on those unlikely to fly. Mark has given sage advice and has an ability to explain in simple language the intricacies of some of the things GB Liners have tried to do.

Marks Mental Health Marathon | GB Liners 1

The housing market and the removals business follows what Rob refers to as the ‘the economic cycle magnified many times over’. There are times when house sales are buoyant, and their existing staff and removal vans literally cannot cope with the high volume of consumer demand. At times of economic downturn, the opposite happens. “2008-09 was the worst” says Rob, “when nothing was happening”. He also recalls recessions in 1979 – 81, the introduction of the 3-day week and describes 1988-1992 as ‘extremely horrible.’ The business has always had to stash the cash at peak capacity and then watch it pour out in the downturns when the few business opportunities available get drawn into ‘silly price’ competition.

The challenge of new regulation changes and politics is never far away. The imminent introduction of Clean Air Zones around the country will have a severe impact. GB Liners managed the introduction of London’s’ Congestion zone by moving the vehicles around between offices, with newer models that complied with changing regulation on diesel engines used there. In the very near future, new zones could potentially be introduced in Bristol, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Birmingham and Leeds. Rob predicts that Manchester will introduce restrictions. This makes life difficult for a business that has a vehicle  lifecycle of 15 years, as they’ll either have to be replaced early (and the old ones cannot be sold off as their residual value will be lowered) or customers will have pay a surcharge of about £100 per day if it involves a congestion zone.

Marks Mental Health Marathon | GB Liners 2

Currently GB Liners has about one third of its business coming from moves across Europe, so Brexit could have a huge impact on the business. The scale of the challenge getting goods moved through the channel ports is huge, with the number of staff at customs agents reduced from a pre single market peak of 3,000 to around 150 people today in just five agencies. This could potentially mean each person having to process 12,000 consignments per day! Rob explained that even the planned ‘Simplified Transit Procedure’ wasn’t finalised yet and would require paperwork to be processed both before and after the movement of the removal vans. Without advance notice of what would be required it’s difficult for the business managers to put Brexit plans in place.

GB Liners have adapted to every change in the past and will, no doubt be equally successful in the future, whatever the economic and political climate. Over the years, the managers and teams have pulled together to share ideas and solutions and Rob is very proud of his staff who have stayed with the firm through thick and thin. GB Liners takes pride in their excellent service delivered by very dedicated people. “One thing I’ve learned, says Rob, “is that the cost of putting something right is unbearable, so we work very hard at making sure things are right first time. The reputation of the company for their high-quality service is our most important asset”.

Marks Mental Health Marathon | Sponsor GB Liners

Marks Mental Health marathon | GB Liners

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

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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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Thoughts on Mental Health

Thoughts on Mental Health

Further to our previous blog “Spotlight on Mental Health” we have two more individuals discussing their reactions to the brilliant Mental Health seminars as hosted by Mark Smith. Mark Smith is aiming to raise a staggering £25,000 for Mental Health UK for his forthcoming Cambodian trek. As part of his fundraising he is hosting a series of seminars tackling mental health in the workplace.

At Aardvark Marketing we are proud to be supporting Mark Smith in his efforts, alongside some truly inspirational business leaders. Speakers at the mental health seminars include Harrison Clark Rickerbys discussing the legal aspect, and a speaker from Bishop Fleming who gives an incredible and honest insight into managing mental health both personally and professionally.

Here are two attendees from the recent seminars sharing what they learnt. The first is Richard Nicol from Nicol & Co Estate Agents.

The second is Gill Wooldridge from Bradley Haines Law, discussing how she found the seminar helpful given her role in HR.

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, Ian Smith, Chair at Bishop Fleming

Meet our co-sponsor, Ian Smith, Chair at Bishop Fleming

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…

Today I met a remarkable man. Ian Smith is chair of Bishop Fleming, the accountancy firm that has made The Sunday Times ‘Top 100 companies to work for‘  list for the last 4 years, as well as a string of regional awards for excellence in professional services and Investors in People.  For Ian, the success of the firm is down to developing the right people; experts in their field who are interested in developing their clients’ businesses. Ian’s ‘little black book ‘is legendary and he prides himself in making introductions from his personal network.

Ian’s responsibilities on the Board include diversity and inclusion. As a carer himself, he understands that people often have responsibilities outside the workplace, and they may take steps to keep them hidden from colleagues. He calls this their ‘invisible baggage’ and he knows that these people are under unrelenting pressure. He is someone who definitely leads by example.  Ian takes active steps to look after his mental and physical health so that he can balance his demanding role at the company he loves with the caring role in his personal life. He talked to me about the challenges people face when they first encounter something they cannot simply ‘fix’.  Ian has found his own methods that really work in practice so that this isn’t a barrier in his professional life.

Despite his busy schedule, he’s generous with his time too, and he’ll be one of the guest speakers at the “Mark’s Mental Health Marathon” seminars.  Bishop Fleming staff are actively involved in charities – this year they are aiming to raise £100K to mark their centenary year and recently 120 of their staff took part in the Bath half marathon. Others are undertaking the 3 Peaks Challenge or taking part in a 4-day walking challenge to walk 100 miles.

So what are the secrets to his success?

  1. Self-discipline and sticking to a routine

Ian is firm believer that in order to look after your team, you first need to look after yourself. For the last 13 years Ian has had a weekly session with his fitness trainer. Recently he has seen a Shiatsu practitioner twice as month as well. Shiatsu is a holistic approach to fitness and isn’t just physical fitness but includes monitoring and managing diet, sleep patterns, massage and manipulation. The aim is to release endorphins which promote an overall feeling of well-being. Ian is a very focussed, driven person himself and he’s learned that the value of sitting under a tree doing nothing or walking the dog can be as beneficial as going on a weekend away to play golf (which often gets competitive).

 

  1. Understand both your own and your team members resilience to stress.

Ian explained the ‘Stress Bucket’ concept to me. Everybody has a different ability to deal with stress, so whilst some people seem to thrive on it and perform very well under constant pressure (they have a skip sized ‘bucket’), others find that they need to keep stress at a much lower level to function well ( imagine these people with a thimble). At any time, life is adding stress into the top of the bucket, so the level is always increasing, whilst we can empty it through our own personal tap at the base. Everyone has a different relieving ‘tap’ which could be getting better sleep, quiet reading, socialising with friends, stroking a pet etc.

By getting to know your team better, and what causes and relieves stress levels, you can direct them at work to make the most of their talents and interests and avoid situations or job roles that are unsuitable for them. At Bishop Fleming, managers and staff are encouraged to have these conversations so that the root causes of stress are identified and can be dealt with, for example by finding the right person to talk to. Without this support network at work, people will often take a medical approach, when sleeping tablets or anti-depressants may be offered, which doesn’t address the issues causing stress in the first place. Both approaches have their place, but a good support network can mean medicines may not be needed.

 

  1. Adopt the Radical Candour methodology

This is a concept developed by Kim Scott, who has worked with Google, Apple, Twitter and is a New York Times bestselling author. Her new approach, which has been adopted at Bishop Fleming, helps managers have honest feedback discussions with their team, and, as a result, achieve a happier and more productive workplace.

 

Mark Smith is very grateful for the support offered by Ian Smith, both as a corporate sponsor and speaker at the seminars. You can find out more details about the seminars 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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