- Programme: Proteus
- Nationality: British
- Job Post-programme: Managing Director, Ellis Patents Ltd
Education and experience
Richard gained an Honours degree in Production Engineering from Leeds Polytechnic. He spent his entire career in manufacturing, mostly with SMEs, and has worked with a variety of products across operations, export sales and senior management roles. Richard has managed successful turnarounds, moved continents and headed divisions across Canada, the US and Mexico. In his current role, he has helped the company develop their export market and build their market-leading position. Richard completed Proteus in 2012.
Gaining a broader perspective
I work with quite an eclectic board of non-executive directors at Ellis, all of whom have held very senior roles for large organisations. When they suggested that some sort of executive programme might interest me I did a lot of searching in the UK and abroad, but quickly realised that at my experience level there was limited choice. I was already running a successful business so I didn’t necessarily want a programme that would just turn everything I knew upside-down for the sake of it. Instead I wanted to gain a broader perspective on both my personal life and career, to consider what I might be doing in another ten years’ time, and to begin thinking outside a very driven business agenda of goals and targets.
International peer group
Proteus appealed to me because it was unusual. It is very niche; rather than a mini-MBA, it addresses things that you tend to think about more as you get older; looking at legacy and focussing on the kind of business and personal impact you want to leave behind. It certainly offered me an exceptional, high profile and international peer group – my class included the CEO of Melbourne City, the Deputy CEO of Crédit Lyonnais and even the Financial Ombudsman. I was initially uncertain how I would fit into that environment, but one of the things that Proteus taught me is that, broadly speaking, everyone is the same. Holding a very senior position can often come between what would otherwise evolve into a natural friendship, and it was enlightening to have this illusion stripped away.
Proteus has changed me, and the way I view the world quite dramatically. It is not so much my leadership style (which is pretty relaxed), although it did give me a helpful reality check that what I’m doing is actually OK. Instead, the programme focused me on happiness and acting for personal fulfilment, rather than just worrying about business goals. The highlight was a trip to London Zoo with Volker Sommer, Professor of Evolutionary Anthropology. Discussing early cave art, population growth and extinction in relation to my individual lifespan made me think about my own time and efforts. It reiterated the need to use all my skills to do what I enjoy, and to do what’s right.
Achieving a good work-life balance
Since I’ve taken this on board, my attitude – my legacy, if you like – is to try and help those around me have a happier, more fulfilled life. I want to pass on my values to my children, and run an interesting company that provides sustainable and stimulating employment. If I can make someone’s life more complete as an employer, then that’s a really good thing. Sometimes it is the little things that make a difference. At work, for example, I stress the importance of family and I believe that staff should put attending their child's nativity play ahead of work in their list of priorities. I think the fact that we have no significant job turnover speaks for itself. I genuinely believe that the typical business model of many companies is flawed. It’s not about the amount of money you have, or make, it’s about whether you are any better off because of it.
Shifting a paradigm
I came to Proteus thinking that maybe I should be concentrating on my next big career move. Instead, my paradigm has shifted. What I’ve realised is that my current role gives me more control over my own life and destiny than I would get anywhere else. I feel very privileged that so far I’ve had such an exciting journey. From now on, I’m ensuring my life remains fulfilled across the spectrum and staying exactly where I am.