As we head into the third Christmas of the current recession with the outlook showing few signs of improving, many students around the United Kingdom may be wondering how they can shine with the economy in the state that it is. Well Young Academic thought what better way to give you guys some perfect insight into how to succeed in business than an interview come career guide with a true success story.
Tom Allworth’s company, Medichem, celebrates its 20th birthday next year and now manufacture for brands such as Prince Charles’ Duchy Originals, Hairdresser Louise Galvin and as well as other products for major UK retailers such as Boots and Superdrug. Having managed to find this great success despite enduring three recessions, what are the secrets to Tom’s success? Editor Charles Whitworth caught up with the tycoon and eco warrior to pick his brains about how entrepreneurs to be can make their way despite the economic downturn.
YA: So Tom, you have found significant success in a number of sectors during your career to date. Do you think the economic downturns you have had to work through have made you stronger as a businessman?
The simple answer is Yes. Recessions force businesses to look much more closely at their costs and overheads. Times like this focus your mind on the basic principles of business by (1) ensuring you have the best product at the best possible price to sell and (2) reviewing all costs and expenses to ensure that they are kept to the bare minimum. There is no reason why you cannot run a successful business during a recession but you do have to work harder on the detail.
YA: The current recession is obviously more severe than the last two we have suffered the United Kingdom. How do you think the different governments have dealt with them and how do you see the future panning out for the British economy?
The current recession has gone on longer than any other recessions I can recall. Unfortunately I do think it is going to continue for some time due to the uncertainty surrounding the eurozone crisis. Having said that, I do not think that the current recession has been as deep as previous ones. I recall in my early years in business when interest rates hit 15%. At that time everyone really was short of cash! both businesses and the general public. However at this time with interest rates so low, the majority of the public should in fact be better off, nevertheless, uncertainty and fear is preventing them from spending money on the High Street which is holding the country in recession. Generally, I consider that the Government is handling the situation well and I believe that the country should be managed prudently and it should not spend more than it receives. That said I personally do not think that Government policy impacts on business significantly; of course it may affect individual businesses, but as a whole, business continues whichever political party is in power. The secret is to adhere to good, solid business principles irrespective of your political views.
YA: As someone that has built their success from nothing and found remarkable success, what advice do you have for Young Academic readers who are looking to make their name in business?
My advice to Young Academic readers considering going into business is to work hard and never give up, believe in yourself and always show confidence in your product, but most of all to pay attention to the basic business principles which are to sell a product/service to the best of your ability at a competitive price whilst always ensuring that overheads and costs are kept trim. I have always believed that it is important to understand the financial position of your company, only then can you make sound decisions. We produce monthly management accounts and have done so every month since I started in 1992, that way you are never fooling yourself. You know month to month exactly what your income is and what your expenses have been and you can then focus your energies accurately and adjust your spending accordingly.
YA: What advice would you also give with regard to work ethics? Do you think that those that knuckle down and work the hardest succeed or is it important to find the balance of work and play?
Fundamentally running your own business is hard work. Particularly in the early years, you need to put in long hours, which also sets a good example to your employees. In spite of this I have always found running a business enjoyable and therefore I have never dreaded ‘Monday morning’. It is important to have breaks in business. I holiday regularly at my house in Spain, but am always ready to return with renewed enthusiasm.
YA: Having not left school with a bag full of qualifications, what are your views on the importance of A Levels and a degree? Would you recommend that young people with a business plan get the ball rolling as soon as possible or pursue their qualifications?
I believe that an entrepreneur has a drive inside of them and that this will determine when they commence their business life. If an opportunity arises whilst you are young and you have desire, drive and commitment early like I did, then of course following that dream may be right for you. However, many entrepreneurs have started later in life, so until such time that the right opportunity arises, and instinct takes over, gaining the best qualifications as possible is the sensible course. I would qualify that by saying that if you have any intention of pursuing a business career, I personally believe that you should look to study something that may help you, like accounts, law, economics or marketing which would all be useful later in life.
YA: Did you have any role models as a young businessman? Apart from yourself obviously, who do you think young academics today look to for inspiration and work ethics?
There are many successful entrepreneurs who inspire others, our specific role models may be more in line with the type of industry that we to take up. I personally followed Richard Branson as I was always struck by the ingenious way in which he managed to re-invent himself and run all different types of businesses using good business principles.
YA: With the advent of social media and other technological advancements, how different is the business landscape now compared to the 80’s and 90’s. Do you think these have has a positive effect on business?
Social media and technology advancements have only changed the way businesses are run and the opportunities out there. However, ultimately business is business – you sell something for a fair price, make a fair profit and ensure that the costs and overheads incurred in making that sale are kept to a minimum to ensure that you make money every month. It doesn’t matter whether you are selling a product or a service on the High Street or over the internet, the business principles remain the same.
YA: You have many achievements to be proud of, not least several patented products being used across the globe but what is the proudest moment of your career to date?
I have several things that I am proud of, however taking aside financial success my proudest achievement is building a good and loyal team of employees around me. This is often overlooked in business, but ultimately an entrepreneur cannot do everything themselves, they need loyal and committed employees around them in all aspects of their business. I have two employees that have worked for me for over 20 years and a quarter of my staff has been with me over ten years. This has laid the foundations to my success.
Name: Tom Allsworth
Title: CEO of Medichem. Multimillion pound contract manufacturer trading in lifestyle and beauty brands. Started from scratch in the 1990’s.
Background: Studied accounts on day release, never finished course. First business when he was 18. Worked in shipping and ship management. Import/export. Spa & beauty market. Fairly successful. Taught him how to run a business – sales, marketing, admin, accounts, people mgmt.
1992 – started medichem and walbrook investments. Start of success
Cross infection control products. Two patented products used in hospitals worldwide. Part of business sold to TriStel plc in 2009.
In 2000 the business began its organic growth by diversifying into contract manufacturing, and now manufacture and distribute a wide range of hair and beauty products for many prestigious clients including HRH the Prince of Wales’ Duchy Originals range. (at this point his company was accredited by the Soil Association)
In 2009, MediChem launched the first product range under its own name – including Colour B4 and Str8 Forward and in 2011 supported these with TV advertising. MedicChem’s product ranges are known for innovation and include many “firsts” for hair and beauty.
MediChem sales now exceed £10m per annum, and are based on strong relationships with key UK retailers including Asda, Boots, Sainsbury’s, Superdrug, Tesco and Waitrose.
Tom sees MediChem’s main focus as manufacturing, yet crucially, he ensures it maintains its position by offering a package of services for clients from product development, with world-renowned formulation experts, to design and packaging, manufacture and fill, warehousing, pick, pack and distribution and even business management.
In his downtime, Tom enjoys golf, swimming, red wine & eating out – as well as spending time at his home in Spain. He has extended business interests in property and development and has been a Magistrate since 2001.
Born:October 1965 – Kent
Education: O Levels at Sheppey School, Sheerness
Status:Lives in Kent with partner of 15 years and 7 year old son, has three children from previous marriage