After dropping out of secondary school over 15 years ago, Chris followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather and started up his own flooring business and V4
What is it the company does?
Selling to retailers, V4
V4 prides itself on its green credentials and its hardwood is responsibly and ethically sourced. It obtains this flooring material from well-managed and sustainable, purpose-farmed forests.
This means that only mature trees are selected for harvest. And for each one of these trees felled several more fast-growing saplings are planted for the next generation.
In recent years, the company has branched out to produce and distribute
My focus is more on the business than in the business. I am the driving force behind its growth and development and this is moving up a gear as we recently were granted planning permission to build a 6,000 square foot showroom/design centre and office extension to our existing warehouse at Greenbays Park.
The £3million development, which is due open in May, also will comprise 15 start-up units in three blocks, to encourage new businesses, investment and job creation.
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
I am dyslexic and left secondary school with no qualifications and an ambition to become an F1 racing driver.
Although I successfully competed in F Vauxhall and F Renault competitions, including racing for ex-Formula One driver Martin Donnelly’s race team, I took the difficult decision to walk away from the profession after deciding that I wasn’t going to be able to make a career out of the sport.
So, at the age of 23, my life took a new direction and I decided I wanted to follow in the footsteps of my father and grandfather, who ran their own flooring business. This led to the birth of V4
I started out with just ten pallets in a small rented warehouse distributing flooring for one single Austrian brand. Since then the business has flourished and now supplies its products to a network of more than 1,500 dealers across the UK.
What do you believe makes a great leader?
Someone who has the respect of their peers and employees. Respect has to be earned and must be worked on as it is hard to attain, but can very easily be lost.
What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
A fire in 2011 that destroyed one of the company’s four warehouses and burnt half its stock. It was a tough time, but with determination, focus and hard work, and the support of a fantastic workforce, the business was soon back on track.
I am dyslexic and some people may see that as a challenge to being an entrepreneur/business owner, however, I have found this has been an advantage as it means I tend to look at things differently and this has been beneficial for the business.
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
Going to the gym is a great antidote to stress. I try to fit in at least four sessions a week with my personal trainer. I am very family-orientated and there is nothing better than spending time with my children. My wife and I also have a weekly date night. However, I have to admit I never really switch off - even on holiday.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I always have been business-orientated and as a schoolboy would buy sweets and trading cards, which I would sell on to fellow pupils and friends for a profit.
I initially dreamt of being a racing driver, but unfortunately was not good enough to make that a full-time career so tapped into my entrepreneurial skills instead.
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?
People who do not admit their mistakes. If people own up it is much easier for them and the business to move forward. This is a culture I encourage within V4
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
We have just embarked on major development plans for the business, with the creation of the first state-of-the-art ‘V4 World’ design centre, which will allow us to showcase our products to architects, builders, specifiers and customers in individual room settings.
It will be equipped with the latest technology including virtual reality goggles so customers can visualise the flooring in place.
Customers also will benefit from a café, and the centre will host training days for installers and educational events for schools to discuss how best to protect the environment and to ingrain sustainability in a business.
The aim is to roll out the design centre concept with plans for one in London by the end of next year and one in the Midlands in 2019.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
Think things through and then go for it. Take controlled risks. Don’t make excuses why things can’t be done as that is the easy option. A ‘can do’ attitude can work wonders.
What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?
That too much of a focus on selling is not always good for a business. As the saying goes – turnover is vanity, but profit is sanity.
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