Without great businesses there is no business, and my philosophy has always been to identify great people and businesses who I want to learn from, help and grow with. I started with JD Sports when they had 15 shops in 1990, years later I had gone from PR advisor to board director of a PLC with over £1 billion turnover with stores in the UK and Europe. What a journey; and an experience I will be forever in the debt of John Wardle, David Makin and Peter Cowgill for.
How many times have you heard someone say it was just the right place, right time? Well, I seem to have made a career of getting the timing right. The day I offered to work for Manchester City for free which eventually put me on the board as Chief Operating Officer of MY CLUB and on to a journey that would change my life forever. When Birdy met Barry, Barry Hearn is one of my oldest friends and I have been so lucky to work with the master of sports marketing and management since my radio days in 1986. Barry Mcguigan at GMEX (now Manchester Central), Benn v Eubank at Old Trafford, premier league snooker, the list of greatness goes on, as does Barry’s appetite, enthusiasm and our friendship.
But one chance meeting I will never forget was the night I sat next to a bookie from Salford at a sports dinner. I had heard of Fred Done but never met him, little did I know that this chance meeting would take my business experience and commercial knowledge to a whole new level. What started out as a chat about football turned into PR representation of Betfred, managing huge sponsorship rights and then being appointed CEO of one of Fred’s favourite businesses Sports Tours International, Europe’s leading sporting tour operator.
Travel is not just part of our business now, it has been part of much of what we have delivered over the last 25 years with initiatives in Romania, France, Spain, Ireland and the USA. But it’s my city where I get my energy, passion and desire. Manchester is my lifeblood. I have been lucky enough to work for the City’s biggest radio station, for my beloved football club Man City, and I have built cherished Mancunian relationships from the late Tony Wilson to Sir Howard Bernstein and I am now also on the board of the City’s and the region’s cricket club, Lancashire. Business, sport and music. The three ingredients to greatness! (In my opinion)
If you are like me and on the wrong side of 50 you may be taking stock and considering what is next? For me the business is still important but there is more I want to do in my City through the We Love Mcr Charity and in my home town of Hattersley where I lived from 1963 to 1985, and where my 83 year old Dad still lives. I have recently become Chairman of Hattersley Junior Football Club, we have brilliant kids, parents and volunteers and we are building a fully inclusive community academy. Total access for all boys, girls, able bodied or disabled, we are age friendly…..You are never too old to play football. Alongside Hattersley I have also re introduced an iconic running event to our borough too. The Tour of Tameside is a race but for me it is a catalyst to get Tameside on the move and to promote health and wellbeing in the community.
I have spent 25 years thinking about me and my clients. But now there has to be room for others.
With a change in focus you have to be confident that the people involved in your business buy into the same philosophy. I am very fortunate that my team have grown with me, and the new recruits must meet strict criteria. And that’s not about having PR experience, you have to be a good person, someone with ideas, enthusiasm and a work ethic not normally seen within the industry. After all Bird is a relationship business first and foremost.
So this is my first ever blog and it may be the last as I am a doer not a talker, but my fabulous deputy Kate has insisted I make the effort. But I have to finish with an important message to anyone who is embarking on a life of self-employment. Make time for your friends and especially your family.
I am blessed with a beautiful, patient and loyal wife, loving kids, amazing grandchildren, and the best parents and brother you could ever wish for. After many years dedicating my life to my work, I have learnt that you must cherish the people you love above everything; I owe my success to them and their unwavering support.
My team laugh, but I do like to quote Dicky Fox from Jerry Maguire. His philosophy for business resonates with me and how I have run my business for the last 25 years, and will continue to into the future. So I will sign off with my favourite….
“If this [heart] is empty, this [head] doesn’t matter”