To be honest, this came as a BIG surprise. I am just an ordinary guy trying to do my best in a difficult world and so when the news came in that someone had nominated me, and that I had won ACROSS “Man of the Year”, in their inaugural “Person of the Year” awards, I was shocked, surprised and a little tearful if I am honest.
The last few years have seen massive change for me personally and professionally and it is all a very long time ago since I started the business “Coverpoint”, the foodservice consulting company that grew to become one of the leaders in the property industry. It is amazing to think that almost exactly 25 years ago, to the day, I have been awarded the #MOTY by the Advisory Board at ACROSS. So perhaps, at this moment, it is fitting to look back a little on those 25 years from my very personal perspective.
In January 1993, I left the small London based consulting business, Peter Burholt Planning Services and branched out on my own. I had enjoyed my time there, but I was itching to “give it a go” and try something for myself. Having been coached at MARS, The Imperial Group, Trusthouse Forte Hotels, Carlson and Marriott, to name a few, I had the over-confidence that many young people had at that time – I mean honestly, how hard could it be? I was just about to find out…
1992 saw the start of another recession in the UK, and economic indicators were not good, but despite that plans were made and I started thinking about the company formation, name and concept. It was definitely going to be “Catering Consultancy” but I didn’t want to give it my name – I always have thought this is rather limiting, as people think you are a “one man” company, or if people leave, as often they do, you are left without the founding person. My father, who has always been my inspiration and business mentor, suggested I take the name of his company, “Coverpoint” which he had operated for many years. The word “Coverpoint” comes from a position on the cricket field – a sport that my father played at all levels for many years. It was then, on 13th January 1993, that “Coverpoint Catering Consultancy” was born.
It grew quite slowly in the first year as we moved to our first office in Bray, the famous village outside Maidenhead, UK, that now houses so many Michelin Star restaurants – I like to think it was because of us, but it wasn’t. The Fat Duck, The Waterside and other fine establishments had the benefit of our money and support, but they put Bray on the map, not us. By then, we were working on Bluewater, Trafford Centre, many of the Capital and Counties projects and starting to look abroad at this place called Europe….. It was all getting very exciting.
We won many projects, extended our reach to over 50 countries and became, I think, the leading business in our field. It wasn’t always easy. We went through a phase of not being innovative enough, of not “bespoking” enough and sometimes of not giving it the 120% that we had become famous for. Despite all of that we grew and grew, and we trained an amazing number of people, who are now all over the industry. I will never say it was easy, and I know I was difficult and demanding, with strong ethics and very high standards. All I will say is that I pushed myself harder, much harder, than anybody else. There were many reasons, mostly personal, why my job, my career and Coverpoint were such a huge part of my life.
Then, at the age of 51, things changed – a lot. I went through a divorce, met somebody new and finally started a family. Our son arrived two years ago and our daughter last week!
In 2014 we sold the business to JLL (Jones Lang LaSalle) with high hopes on both sides of the growth and progression of the business. The team that I recruited and trained are still there, doing a great job. I am no longer at JLL, having been given the amazing opportunity to join ECE. We have launched the “We Love Food” program which is both an internal training and development culture and an external industry engagement – we really know food at ECE and we make a great partner for operators. We are training all our people to LOVE food and respect it. I love my job at ECE with the same passion as when I started Coverpoint.
So that’s it – I am incredibly proud that somebody who started collecting and washing glasses in a pub in Nottingham, England, is now the Global Head of Foodservice at ECE. I am hugely proud of the award, but most of all, our lovely new arrival, our daughter Sophia. That is why I think I am “Man of the Year”.