Gary Ward began his career at Dalgety Spillers Management rising to Divisional Management Accountant before leaving to join the Granada group. From Group Accounting Manager he became Finance Director of the Motorway Services and hospitality division, leaving to become Divisional Finance Director for Dairy Crest the commercial arm of the Milk Marketing Board. On leaving Dairy Crest in 1995 he completed his first Venture Capital backed MBO with two partners to create First Motorway Services Ltd. Gary then successfully made a career out of raising money for various MBO and MBI deals in the role of Chairman, Managing Director or Finance Director. He retired age 53 and now pursues other challenges with his time.
Skype Interview 14.05.14
The Authentic Man Podcast Series
Or subscribe with your favorite app by using the address below
What do you think is the difference between a successful career and a successful life?
Gary: From a family perspective, I’ve always been able to say, that’s work, that’s family. And obviously in the early days ‘that’ was a partner, it became a wife and then a family. So all the way through my early twenties into my early thirties, I didn’t have a family but I had a wife, and therefore family/friends/socialising was a different thing to work and I was able to very quickly identify what was work and what was family and continue that – and do continue that – all the way through my life. I’m not saying that work doesn’t impinge on the family and at some stage if you want to be successful – you know there was a time when putting in the hours was what it took but that was a long time ago – having said that, to be successful in what you do, you do have to put the hours in. Something will come up, you know? You’ll be getting on with something and if you are focused – you see I have this ability to focus, I have the ability to switch off which is great, thank goodness for that – but I have this ability to focus and if I focus, I go, I get on with it and I go for it. Now that’s sometimes, and doing that you can get carried away, you can let time run away with you, but I have on the whole known when to stop and say ‘oh, enough, I’ve got to get out of here, I’ve got another life, there’s another part of me apart from work’. Now some have said that I’m a workaholic, but I’m not, I’m not. I just like to get – I want to get the job done. I am someone that will say ‘Right, I’m gonna do this to 110% of my ability’ and therefore I’m gonna get on with it. Because of my focus, I am able to cut to the chase, and I can say ‘hang on, that’s not relevant, that’s relevant, we’ve got to sort that out’ and look ahead, I’ve always been able to plan ahead and think ‘well if that’s where we’re heading, this is what we’ve gotta do.’ But in terms of your question, you know coming back to that, I think it boils down to just knowing what the difference is and that’s very important. Otherwise you go mad, you lose it, you go mad, you think what?? I know a lot of people that are still working all the hours, and they’re in senior jobs. I mean these people – If I’d have stayed doing the job that I was doing, I would have been FD of a major organisation, corporate organisation. That would have been my path, but maybe we’ll get onto that later, I didn’t want to end up there, I chose a different path – but those people that are doing the job now really have given up a lot of their family life, I know they have, I know them. They really do work all the way through a weekend, they never clock off, they’re always on call. You know, they may be being paid £350K a year and all the perks and status that goes with it, but they don’t have a family life, they really have, as far as I’m concerned just lost it, you know? And if that’s what’s happening to people out there, then you have to sit back and say ‘Is this me?’ It might be! And then that’s fine, it’s okay. But it’s not me. I know the difference, there was a time when I was FD of a large £600M organisation but I still then, even then, knew to say ‘enough, sorry, I need time with family here’. It doesn’t mean that everyone won’t ask you to stay and do everything, but you’ve gotta be able to say ‘nah, I’ve had enough, I’m sorry’.
-So you have quite clear boundaries then?
Gary: Yeh. I’m not saying they haven’t been smudged occasionally over the years, but I’ve brought them back and when – I’ve always had this… because some of the jobs I’ve done have been tough ones, turn-arounds, problems, and I ended up in a lot of problem businesses and turn-arounds and doing stuff that’s you know, really unpopular you might say. I always had this thought with me that if I’m doing a job where at the end of a week I can go home and on a Saturday and Sunday to recharge and it doesn’t eat into my soul or, if it has eaten into my soul I can build that back, so that when I start on a Monday morning I’m back to me. Then that’s fine – but if a job gets to the stage where I am not recharging at weekends and therefore my soul is being eaten in to, and everything I stand for and like in life beyond work was not happening – then I’ve gotta change job, I’ve gotta get out of there. And that’s what I’ve just held with me, for most of my – for the last 20 years. That’s what I’ve done. That’s been my ethos.
What’s the main difference between you now and the you 10 years ago?
Gary: The main difference is that I’m less driven now. And I’m less driven because I’ve achieved the level of security and maturity and confidence. Obviously I sold the business and that has made me independently wealthy for the rest of my life, hasn’t made me a mega millionaire, but it’s enough. So to retire at age 53 and to achieve something different – and when I say retire, I’m saying step off from business in the way that I was doing it and involved in it – I have since done many things, you know, other things. And I wanted to do this teaching, lecturing and I’m now doing it. I’ve wanted to do other things which I’ve done and will continue to do and there are other things I want to get on with in life, so retirement – I use the term loosely. It’s stopping what I was doing and doing something different, because it allows me to do that. So that in itself obviously changes you, it gives you – I’m not saying my drive isn’t there, I’m not saying I still don’t give 110%, like last year I did 110 – turned out to be 120 mile cycle ride to France – What an idiot. What an idiot! God, nearly killed me. It doesn’t mean that I don’t say ‘right I’m not going to do certain things’, you know? I take a yacht out with a couple of guys and say ‘what to you want me to do, how does this work…’ – so I still have got the drive, what I’m saying is I’m less driven on a daily basis to get out there and say ‘right, got to earn a living, got to earn a living, got to do something, got to earn some money, got to keep going’. So that’s different.
-Is that because the necessity is gone?
Gary: Yes, primarily the necessity has gone. Secondly though, I came to think ‘I’ve had enough’. If I’m honest. ‘I’m a bit fed up with this, this is hard work’, because actually, you know, business, getting in with business and making money out of business is hard work. It doesn’t just – if anybody says it just drops on your lap, well if they’re telling the truth they’re bloody lucky, but actually most business men and women have had to get out there and get on with it and put in the hours and put in the heartache to make the money. That’s life, that’s how you do it. So, for me, I think I’d had enough of that, on a day-to-day basis. And I thought ‘stop, just stop’. I have to say, for 4 or 5months afterwards I was still working after I’d sold the business and put the money in the bank. I was still working on 3 deals. I was still working with teams, presenting to venture capitalists, credit committees, for a couple of things that I’d been working on with teams – they didn’t actually come off because we couldn’t get the money, we couldn’t raise the funding. But I, even then, I was only going to be non-exec chairman, but by the time my CV gets in front of the venture capitalist as a non-exec chairman, they want me to run it – because of my history, because I have run it, I have done it. But I didn’t want to do that, I wanted to be a non-exec chairman and back off a bit. So I did actually, even afterwards, keep going, it’s like the rotary wheel that when you switch it off it takes a little time to come to a halt. That’s what happened with me, I was still doing that – like ‘what next, right what are we doing, shoot me the papers, shoot me the proposition’ and it was only about 6 months later I went ‘for Godsake, just stop Ward, just stop it, woah’. So 2 things, 1 is I could. 2 is, I think I’d had enough. I’d just been a bit flat out for quite a while on various projects and businesses and then said ‘no, stop.’
-Any other differences between you now and ten years ago?
Gary: I don’t think so actually. I think I’m still me, I still have the same outlook, the same values, modus operandi. No – I think those are the 2 key issues. I’m still me. I can still get revved up, if someone says ‘have a look at this…’. And part of that is to do with the fact that I’m now teaching, or lecturing on the subject. You know, going back and writing this course and then presenting this course on business and then putting in 110/120% – after doing it for 3 months I needed some time off, I was passionate about it. And you know, some of the feedback I’ve got is that when I’m lecturing I am passionate about it, there is still that buzz, there’s still that there and it’s never gonna disappear, I hope it will never disappear because it’s me, it’s what’s made me me really, the drive. I had it, I didn’t know I had it back then, I just got on with it. You know, I started playing rugby, I started playing team sports at 9, well actually earlier than 9 but let’s say 9, and getting out there – I didn’t know I was driven, I didn’t know I was self-motivated, I didn’t quite know what I was striving for but I knew I wanted to get somewhere, I wanted to do things, I wanted to get out into that world. And I wasn’t afraid to do it. I worked hard, I had to get myself through a school that was not conducive to learning, and get through that onto the next level and battle a few things beyond that and then got there. But I know it now, I can say I am driven, I have been a driven guy.
-So when you say you got there, did you know at the time where there was, or do you just know looking back on it?
Gary: I know looking back on it. And looking back on it… I don’t know if I’ve got there. You see I don’t know if there is ever going to exist because I like… there’s a wanderlust about me, I just love life and people and want to go out there and interact and see what else is out there and I’m not just talking business, I’m talking life. You know I love to just get in a car and drive and say ‘let’s go, where are going? Let see what’s out there’. I’ve got to have somewhere to go, where are we going next, when’s the next holiday, when’s the next trip, the next adventure? So I don’t know if I’ve actually got there, I do now know, in terms of a standard of living, the satisfaction in terms of my business life then yes – I’ve achieved a lot. Someone once said to me, ‘The thing about you Ward is you’d be very happy doing what you’re doing until something happens that makes you unhappy, so then you go and do something else’. And I went, ‘What?’ And this was when I was working in big companies, I had a PAYE job that wasn’t linked to my own capital investment or on a venture capital basis – I changed direction around 35 and I’m talking about pre-35, so I’m talking about when I was working in companies. So I worked in Dalgety Spillers and what was then Grenada, I worked in Dairy Crest and all the way through I would give it 110/120% and get on with it but then something would happen that would piss me off – and it was usually to do with someone blocking me or having a pop or disagreement on something fundamental. And that would be enough to say ‘right, hang on’ – all of a sudden my head comes up and I go ‘I don’t like this. I don’t want this. So then, what else is out there then?’. You know when I said about my ability to focus – it’s a bit like that. So this friend of mine said ‘as far as I’m concerned’ – he’s known me for a long time, he said ‘you seem to be fairly happy in your jobs until something happens and then you look up and then you go off and do something else’.
-So it’s not a culmination of things happening, it’s one thing?
Gary: One thing or… they’re usually fundamental things. The first time was – I had been acting up into a role when my boss had got promoted and I thought doing a really good job, and his job was vacant and I’d been doing that job for 6 months. And after 6 months of doing that they then brought in a head office guy, ‘cos it was divisional, they brought a head office guy down from head office and put him in that role for a year and this guy hadn’t got a clue. Hadn’t got a clue. So I was continuing to have to do all the work for him and give it all to him as opposed to doing it myself. And I thought, hang on, no. No, I don’t like this. No, I’m sorry, this is not on, this is absolutely not on. So then I lifted my head and I thought ‘right, what you doing? Where are you, what have you done? So for the last four years you’ve done well, you’re now qualified… so what do you want to do now, you want to get to the next rung – I wanna do what he’s doing, you get the controllers job’. I thought ‘I can do that’. So, I said ‘Well how can I do that? I know, I need to do what this guy that’s come in here and blocked me doing – I need to do his job back at head office. And then, they can’t stop me, because I’d have done what I’ve done – what he’s not done – and I would have done his job – so there!’ So I started applying for these type of jobs, his type of jobs, and got one. And moved, and off, off I went. And then did that and then a meteoric rise through the ranks and everything went well. Up until, the business as a whole – well it was a recession and then business started to do badly. A mentor that I had suddenly wasn’t a mentor anymore – a guy that I thought was a good guy, who I thought I could work with. And he started asking me to do things that from a work perspective I wasn’t happy with and we fell out. And I was also then applying for another sideways move at the same time as all of this was going on because I’d been in finance long enough, I wanted to get out of finance and do a broader management job. So I applied for this broader management job and was blocked – and I went ‘right okay, had enough of this’. Head up again – ‘what do I wanna do now, right what have you done so far, so now you’re a director, you’ve been a director of one of these companies, so I know what you need – if you wanna get to the next level you need to be a divisional director, not just one company, a smaller company within a big organisation, now you wanna be the divisional role before you get to the group FD’. So I started applying, I started looking round, but actually I was headhunted. Just as I started looking round I got a call and that’s what I did next. I got a divisional finance directors job, stepped up again. I was really happy there! Until… I could go on. It got to the point where I thought, how high up do you have to get before somebody else – before you are not affected by somebody? At what stage can you just get on with your own thing? And at that stage I thought – I’ve had enough of this now, so what else can I do to earn a living, in a different way, staying within business? And that’s when I went into the venture capital market and started putting myself round as someone who wanted to do a deal in the venture capital market. Cos I’d come across that a couple of years prior but didn’t know a great deal about it, but then I thought I like the idea about this because then I can be my own boss, I put my own money in and we can run it and we’d run it as a team and I’d be one of the principles. Took me a year and I did it. But I stepped off – you know for a year I wasn’t earning. I had a nice pay off but all during that year I stepped off and just through networking and putting the word out, it was a friend of mine actually, a mate of mine from business who rang me and said ‘look, I’ve just heard that somebody’s looking to do a buy out, they need help with it’. So I made the call and that was it, we formed First Motorways a year later. Borrowed 16 million quid, as you do, and went and set up First Motorways. And that’s when I changed career. And the other thing was, you know when I said about if you can’t recharge your soul at the end of it, get out? That’s when the last one was, this guy – he was a headache, and he would ring up at night, he would ring you up at weekends, he’d ring you up all the time, he was just a nutcase. He was like psychotic in my view, and I thought this is eating me, two things are gonna happen here – I’m either gonna take him out, and that wont look good on the CV, you know? Or I’ve gotta get out, so I got out. You know, that was eating into me, and I was getting angry. Not good. And so I got out, and it made me think about hey, there’s more to life than this, you know, what is this all about? So I started reading up on it, talking to people, getting out there and networking. But at that point I was on my own, the phone didn’t ring – the phone stopped ringing. When you’re in a role, when you’re in a job, my experience is that when you go out to parties or you’re socialising or you’re in any sort of group of human beings, they are wanting to know where they sit. They want to know where you sit, they want to know the relativity of everybody in the room, and therefore one of the things they always ask you is ‘And what do you do?’. They don’t say who are you, you know? You can say ‘I’m Victoria, hello’ and I can say ‘I’m Gary, nice to meet you’. No, they want to know what you do, because they want to put you on this hierarchy, this scale or this map they’ve got in their head, which they know where they are – they want to know where you are in relation to them. So you get a lot of that and what I’ve seen is that if you’re no use to them, or you can’t relate to them or they can’t put you on their scale they very quickly move off. Maybe they don’t know how to relate to you once how they’ve related to you is removed. Yeh? It’s a bit like divorce, we’ll get onto that later. You can lose a lot of friends in divorce and when you leave business because the people you thought were friends actually were only your friends or your associates in a context. And they knew what that context was and were happy to operate with you in that context. Once you’re out of that context, a lot of people don’t know how the hell to treat you, relate to you. Some of them you’re just no use to any more, so you drop off their radar, so they don’t even bother making the contact. Now that was the first time that’s happened to me, but at that stage I was quite strong. I was quite confident, I was 35 and I had a lot of friends, a lot of friends in business – I was fine. But I have to say, there were days when the phone didn’t go and when you’re not used to that, that can be very daunting, it can really undermine your self-confidence. But you know, I’m speaking with hindsight now, having gone through that. But if I’m putting out there any words of wisdom, and I’m not saying I can, but this is just how I got on with it, how I got through life – doesn’t mean that’s the way that everybody else should get through life. That’s up to you and that’s up to how you think and how you act and what makes it right for you – so this is just about me but, I have to say – expect the phone not to ring, and then go and make it ring. Because that is down to you. So, so long as you can overcome the fact that no one’s ringing and it doesn’t drive you down to a state of you don’t want to walk out the door anymore – don’t let that happen and the get out the bloody door, and make it ring. That’s what you’ve got to do, and you’ve got to reel the people, you’ve got to go and see people, just do it, network. And don’t just network when you need something. Because people get really fed up with you. Network, even when you don’t need something, because you’re dealing with human beings and they very quickly clock, ‘I haven’t heard from you in a while, what do you want?’. Not good, I don’t like it, I don’t do it myself. I’ve clocked off, but I still meet people, I still like seeing them for lunch, for beer, for a coffee, I still do it. I don’t need anything. Do that, don’t let the phone not ringing get you down, and then go and make it ring, while doing that keep your network going, keep in touch with people, even when you don’t need anything.
Fill in the blanks: If I didn’t have – – – – – – – – life so far would have been a lot harder.
Gary: Drive. A need to succeed. And a sense of humour.
Name one man and one woman you’d like to know more about.
Gary: This was difficult. This was probably the most difficult, because I don’t like putting people on pedestals. I’ve mentioned this, when I was a bit younger – when I was in my twenties there was a guy I kind of looked up to because I thought ‘you’re a good guy, you’ll do well’. And there was another guy into my thirties. Those two guys in a business context I liked and I respected, until the first one, you know, we fell out. The second one, great guy, still a great guy I had a great time working with him, he was a boss but, I never put him on a pedestal and I don’t like putting people on pedestals because they fall off. But I really had difficulty with deciding, and then the other difficulty I had was the women, because every time I came up with a woman I thought, ‘why do I want to meet this woman?’ It was ‘cos I was attracted to her. And I thought that’s not right, that’s not the question you’re asking, I really don’t think that is the question you’re asking! So I then had to think really hard and go to almost literally answer the questions, you know ‘…you’d like to know more about’. So I have come up with a short list of two and two – two men and two women. Jesus and Mikhail Gorbachev. And the women, I’ve come up with Marilyn Monroe, and Elizabeth I. Now I’m gonna narrow that down, okay? First of all, Jesus – right, come on. I wanna have a chat with him, you have set in train, since you walked this earth, a whole set of things that you can’t have known about and I have all sorts of questions to do with what’s come out of Christianity, based on you, Jesus. So I personally, would like to sit down and have a chat with you, ‘cos I’ve got a few questions, I’d like to understand please. Because we’ve gone through over 2 thousand years of people distorting things, claiming this, claiming that, doing this on your behalf, da da da – hang on, I’d like to understand a bit more please, just where you’re coming from – talk to me.
Mikhail Gorbachev – I would really like to meet that guy and have a chat with him, because what he did in 1989 and the two years leading up to it was phenomenal. To actually decide to allow the soviet block to just go back to Russia, to allow – to decide to change it, it had been there for 50years! And you know, it was horrendous, this big wall down the middle of Europe, but what he did, allowed that wall to come down and for all of those countries to get their autonomy back and to redraw the map. He redrew the map, of the world! I would like to have a chat with him about his thinking, what made him do it, why did he do it, what factors were there to make it go this way – hey, let me buy you a drink, I want to know. Talk to me. That I would find fascinating, to understand his thought process and what made him do that. And I have a lot of respect for that guy and history has treated him badly so far, I hope it won’t eventually. So, those are the two men.
So Marilyn – obviously an attraction there. Now I’m gonna say this, but hopefully you’ll edit it out – If she’d have known me she wouldn’t have been dead, she’d have been alright, you know, she just didn’t meet the right chap! However, she knew – what she knew about so many people… but her story has never been told. You can read everybody else’s story about Marilyn, but where’s Marilyn’s story? She never got the chance to tell it and she knew loads. And I think it was a shame, I think it was sad. I think she was someone who had a lot of problems, very needy and you know, fate is what it is so maybe she was always gonna head out that way. We don’t know if she was murdered or whether she took an overdose, whatever – but no one has told Marilyn’s story because Marilyn died and never told it – so I’d like to have a chat with Marilyn and say hey, tell me about it, what’s going on? What about all these boys, come on, what are they up to, are they using you – are you using them? What do you think, what do you know? Hey Marilyn, what do you know? – There’s a song in there somewhere, I might write it one day! So, that’s Marilyn.
Elizabeth I – why didn’t she get married, why did she never marry, what’s going on there then? She was 50 years in charge of this country when so much of what makes us us now, was going on. And I’d like to say ‘Hey, were you aware of all that going on, what do you think about all of that, why didn’t you get married? Because I now know that your period in history is fantastic, you know you read about it and it’s phenomenal what went on during your 50 years, not quite 50 years but don’t shoot me. Talk to me – cos she hasn’t written her story either. So that’s what I narrowed it down to.
-So it’s very much about learning about these people?
Gary: Yes, it’s about learning, it’s about understanding what was going on and why – yeh.
Gary: Well, fulfilment can be a daily thing, it can be a weekly thing – whatever time. It can be small, it can be big, it can be medium sizes. Today, when I get up in the morning, what do I want to achieve today, what would I like to do, yeh? So I make a decision and I say right, that’s what I’m gonna do today. Now then, I also like to get fulfilment from bigger things that require more planning, where you’ve got to think ahead – and you think ahead weeks, months and years, yeh? So when it comes to fulfilment, I at the end of the day do my best in everything, try to do my best in everything. Such that I think, well, I couldn’t do any more. And then I get fulfilment from that. That might sound mad but whatever it is – you know that classic adage ‘if a jobs worth doing, do it well’ – well take that to the next level in terms of fulfilment, that is me. I sign up to that, I sign up to that ‘do it well’ and I’m willing to put the spade work in and make sure that my toolkit and my rucksack has got as many tools in it for me to do the job as I need or I think I can. Now, what I say to my kids is, do whatever you want. Go and do whatever you want. Don’t be afraid to open a door and walk through it, but what I would say too is, put a lot of thought into what you might need the other side of the door, before you open it. That’s all I ask, but go and open the door. Do not not open that door. Go and have a look – but, with the caveat, have a good toolkit. Have a good rucksack full of the stuff you might just need at the other side – because you’ve thought about it. Why? Because you don’t know what you’ll meet, be prepared and the second one is, to make the most of what you want to do on the other side when you see it, it’s worth putting a bit of spade work in, yeh? So when it comes to fulfilment – fulfilment what does it mean to me? It does mean whatever it is that whatever I’ve set out to do, I feel as though I’ve given it my 110%. Now at one stage, and it can get to you like this – some say perfectionists don’t do as much and don’t achieve as much – there’s no perfection, I understand that totally because some perfectionists are paralysed so they don’t do it because they think they’re not gonna be able to do that to the level of perfection they want to do it and therefore, they’re not gonna do it. I am somewhere between the perfectionist and ‘I’m going through the door’. So, I’ve got to stop myself over-thinking something to say ‘enough, I’m going through the door’. Now sometimes I will just walk through that door and I won’t have even prepared. There’s a side of me, that will just ‘I’m going anyway, whatever’ and you can either follow me or you cant, you know, it’s up to you, but I’m going. You know? So that is a bit of a dichotomy – having said what I do as a professional which is part of me and the way I do things, making sure you’ve done your spade work, making sure you’ve done your homework before you step in. At the same time, the other edge of me will go ‘come on, we’re off, let’s just go’. So that’s part of my character, and that’s been good for me, that’s been good for me, because it hasn’t stopped me opening doors even though I know I can over-think things.
-Do you get different results?
Gary: Yeh, can do, but on the whole I’ve managed to balance the two and achieve a lot. I haven’t over achieved, I didn’t set out to over achieve –
-You don’t think you’ve over achieved?
Gary: Nah, I never set off to rule the world, I set off to have a comfortable life. I think that’s all I wanted to do. I wanted to do more than I had, I wanted to have more than I had and be able to do more than I had, but I didn’t know – coming back to the first question – I didn’t know what that was that I was really running towards or aiming for, I just have got on with it. You know, some people like to say ‘what was your plan?’ but I didn’t really have a plan. Every five years or so, within a business, something stopped me and I looked up and thought and then I started to say ‘ Right I wanna do that, and therefore to do that I’ll do that.’ Don’t say I’m not a planner, I am. In business 5 year planning, budgeting, budgeting ahead, thinking ahead. Plan for a problem, because there will be a problem, so plan for it. Plan for something going wrong, because it will. And that’s when people say to me ‘Well that’s a bit pessimistic’, well no, it’s just realistic. You know, I wanna achieve things and I wanna do things and in order to do that I’ve gotta assume something’s gonna go wrong along the line. Doesn’t mean that I’m not doing anything, doesn’t mean I won’t go out and achieve and push something and make it happen, but part of my thinking has to be negative because negative things happen. So some people they still can’t grasp that, they still think – you’re being a bit negative, but no, because things go wrong. So plan for it, so you can get over that and keep going forward.
-And is that just in business?
Gary: That’s just in business and because you know I am divorced, second time around, you know it happens in life. It happens in life. Things go wrong and they go wrong because we’re human, and we’ve got all sorts of chemicals rushing around mixed with electricity and if you mix all them up and in a different way, add something to it or you take something away from it and throw in a bucket of emotions with it as well – things go wrong, yeh they do. So just be prepared for that, you can’t be totally prepared, but going back to what I’m saying, go through the door. You won’t have everything in there but just prepare yourself mentally perhaps.
I am my most relaxed when…
Gary: I’m asleep or laughing. I sleep soundly.
-How many hours?
Gary: About seven hours
In a friend, I most value…
Gary: Understanding and a sense of humour. Gotta have a laugh with a friend – I don’t have any friends that don’t have a sense of humour, they’re not friends. They’re alright, but they’re not friends if they haven’t got a sense of humour. Because I’ve got a sense of humour, I’ve gotta let that out, so friends have gotta have a sense of humour.
In a teacher, I most value…
-Do you need patience? You don’t seem like someone who would need patience, you seem quite efficient.
Gary: I am but you’re asking me if someone is teaching me something right? Sometimes I don’t get it, I don’t see it. Sometimes I can be in that situation and I say ‘I heard what you said, I’ve seen what you’ve done, but I still don’t get it’. So I would need that guy or that lady to be patient enough to enter into a dialogue with me to make me understand it, from their perspective. Or understand a particular point or whatever it is – if they close me down and move on I’m gonna say ‘sod you then’. I’m not even gonna think about it, ‘go away – right, I’m gonna think about this then’. So they’ve gotta have a bit of patience and my best teachers, the best results were from people / teachers that were patient. I’m a quick learner and I can cut to the quick and cut to the chase of something pretty damn quick. And therefore there was a stage where I would be asking the next but one question and they would think I’m being stupid. And actually, I wasn’t being stupid, I’m saying to them ‘I’ve got where you’re at, yeh I’ve got that’. It’s like the Big Bang, yeh? Oh I get the Big Bang, what I’m after is what happened before it. So you can spend all your time understanding where the Big Bang came from, fine you get on with that if you want – I always say once you get there, I’d like to know what’s just beyond it, what started it in the first place? What was there before it all went bang? Now I can’t answer that, I’m not clever enough, let them get on with it. But I have found this through my career and at school and at university, I’m not saying that I was brilliant in any way, shape or form because I wasn’t I was average. But, on some things I did get and did understand, I would get there quick. And then I would ask the second question not the next obvious question and they thought I was being stupid or just bloody minded. No – but when you’re young and a kid you don’t get listened to, they don’t have the patience. Especially if they’ve got a class of 30 or 35 to look after. So that’s why I’m saying patience.
–And what else do you value in a teacher?
Gary: They’ve got to know what they’re talking about, because I’d see through that pretty damn quickly and then I’d lose respect. So they have got to know what they’re talking about, they can’t be just bluffing. And that’s why when I set about doing this lecturing – I have put in the hours, I’ve read the books, I’ve written the notes – because I’ve gone in there saying I’ve got to have credibility here, I need to know what I’m talking about, I need to be confident I know what I’m talking about and that I can do a good job. So if a teacher is teaching me, they’ve got to know what they’re talking about, otherwise I will just see through them and I will end up not having a lot of respect.
In myself, I most value…
Gary: In myself it’s my sense of humour. It’s got me through so many scrapes, it’s got me into scrapes, but it’s got me out of scrapes. There’s once when I’d just been made up to the senior position, one of them along the way, you know I can’t remember which one it was, but I do remember I was sitting at one of my first board tables presenting ‘cos my boss had been made up so I was standing in. And I thought I’d done everything, I’d thought I’d got it all there and then one of the directors asked a question that I didn’t have an answer to and I thought ‘oh bugger’ and I went ‘I’d prefer a question on sport’. The room went silent, it was deadly, no one got the joke. I thought ‘shit, I’m out’. But I went away, found the answer, got it back to him, I said ‘sorry, I’ll have to go and get some information on that’. But they didn’t get the joke. But so yeh, my sense of humour, so I most value that.
Airplane or train?
Gary: Oh definitely a train. Airplanes are such an unsocial, they’re such an awful way to travel. You’re herded, you’re confined, you’re herded again, then you’re released. Horrendous, but I suppose it efficient so you have to do it. So I prefer the train all the time, everytime.
In a parallel universe, what different career would you chance?
Gary: I think I would have tried teaching.
-What age group?
Gary: It would have to be, ‘cos I’ve come to know myself now, it would have to be sort of A’level onwards. There was a stage where I thought, well I could do 14 onwards and maybe I could have done 14 onwards. And actually maybe then, you know if I’d have set off to do teaching then I would have done 14 onwards. Yeh, then. But I’m thinking now, you’re asking me now. Knowing me now, I know that I need A’ level onwards, there’s no point in putting me below because they’ve got to have a certain knowledge a certain maturity for me to interact with them as a teacher now. But if I was in my 20s then probably 14 onwards or 13 onwards, whatever the cut off point is these days.
Gary: Geography, I love geography! Geography teacher definitely and probably I’d do the P.E thing as well, because at that stage in my 20s I was still very sporty, I played a hell of a lot of sports. I’d have taught rugby definitely and basketball. So rugby, basketball, tennis were my main sports. Well I could play football, I played everything.
So the second part of this question, which I’m not sure is relevant to you is Why wouldn’t you do it in this one? But you’re lecturing, right?
Gary: I’m doing it. However, I’m only doing it now because I’ve achieved a lifestyle that I wanted. That I now know I’m comfortable with and wanted and probably always did want. I could never have achieved this lifestyle by starting teaching and staying in teaching. Being a teacher just doesn’t pay the money, I’m afraid. It should do, but it doesn’t. You know, teachers have dropped right down the scale. Now then if I’d have gone into teaching being me, would I have ended up as a headmaster? Maybe. I could have done that – now, headmasters are paid good money, now. So it’s still lifestyle, you know? I got up the tree very quickly, I wanted to achieve a certain lifestyle and I’ve come to understand that and I did that through business. But as far as teaching is concerned I may have ended up as headmaster and therefore it would have been alright. But it was all about lifestyle, but I’m now doing it, so, fine. I wanted to do it, I’m doing it. I made it happen. Go through the door.
If you could have a meal, sitting across the table from yourself, what would you both eat and what would you be sure to tell or ask the man opposite you?
It would be a good quality, steak and kidney pudding with spinach, French petit pois – hence ‘petit pois’ they’re not French if they’re not petit pois, baby carrots and gravy. And I’d say to him, enjoy life. Enjoy life, you only get one shot.
Beer or champagne?
Beer. I’m a beer man. Doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy a nice glass of champagne in convivial company, but I’m a beer man. Always have been. Having said that, I love a bottle of red wine as well. But between beer and champagne, it’s beer. That’s when I’m out with my friends, I’m out having a beer, and it’s got to be a strong beer, it’s got to be 5% plus, very few 5% plusses around but I always love the strong dark beer. If I’m at dinner, it’s a bottle of red wine, and I don’t mean I drink a bottle everytime, I just make sure there’s a bottle there, enjoy it with the meal.
So I’ve got one final question, it’s not on the list
You mentioned earlier about this whole ‘there’ place, and not being sure if you’ve actually reached there yet. What does ‘there’ look like?
Gary: ‘There’ comes from a wanderlust I have. I’m not the type to actually just put a rucksack on my back and just clear off, because I like a certain quality of life, there are certain things I want and they involve having money. I like there to be showers around, en suite stuff – all that sort of stuff – but there’s still a lot of life still to find out about. Places to go, people to meet, things to do and I wanna do that. So when you said, am I there? No I’m not. Am I comfortable with where I am? Yes. Absolutely. I’ve got a lot of good things in my life, good people in my life. But am I there yet? I don’t think so.
-Is ‘there’ something external?
Gary: I’ll never get there, because my there is to do with wanderlust, and wanderlust is never sated. It’s something you just keep doing and as I get older I’ll have to slow down a bit I’m sure – but not for a little while thank you very much. But eventually I will I’m sure. But I still have this wanderlust, I love learning, I read a lot, I read history books, I read about things, I get involved in things, I want to do things. So ‘there’ will never be reached, but I am – with what I have achieved, my life as it stands – I’m very very happy with, yeh very happy.