In 2008 Colin took his passion for education and, alongside his wife Tina, founded Berrison - a training platform for businesses across the world. He speaks to be BQ about his journey so far, and what he hopes the future holds.
What is it the company does?
Berrison is a leadership training and business consultancy, working with organisations all over the world. We create and deliver bespoke programmes to businesses of all sizes, focusing on leadership and management skills, business team coaching and culture change. We have a team of highly experienced professionals working with CEOs, managers and employee teams to make sure that all development is properly supported and learnings effectively applied to make a really positive difference to the workplace and the bottom line. We’ve just celebrated our 10th anniversary.
Describe your role in no more than 100 words
My role as MD is to focus the whole business on quality - growth efficiency and the future. It’s about providing the right resource and atmosphere and promoting a continuous change. I still have a reducing level of operational work: balancing this with running the business can be a challenge!
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
I started as an outdoor instructor in the UK and the UK, using the outdoors to teach personal development. This led to working with the Outward Bound Trust, teaching personal development. I set up my first coaching consultancy using the learnings from the outdoors and applying them to more traditional business needs. I trained in coaching facilitation, setting up and selling a couple of businesses before launching Berrison in 2008 with my wife Tina (the name is a merging of our surnames). I have a passion for education of all ages.
What do you believe makes a great leader?
Vision, flexibility, communication and a sense of fun. I think any leader should be willing to do any task to move the business forward - it’s all about the power of the team, which is one of our main messages. Good leadership can be about understanding how much you DON’T know, which makes you respect the people you work with, delivering training and autonomy to others. I find it genuinely fascinating to see how different businesses approach teamwork and leadership. Great workers also need to be leaders and take responsibility - we help change mindsets and adapt working styles to so that organisations can get the best out of everyone.
What has been the biggest challenge in your current position?
Sometimes I have to take a step back from the ‘fun stuff’ and look after the day to day running of the business. It isn’t a challenge as such, just a new way of working. I’m lucky in that I can still meet the fascinating people we work with and get out there doing the ‘day job’.
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
Run, ski, climb, ride, play guitar - these are all activities that I enjoy and are so absorbing that they make me let go of any business issues and relax.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I didn’t have a clue! Except that I knew it would need to be active. It took me a few years to connect my head to my body and realise I could be better at everything I did.
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?
Hate is a strong word but I suppose a challenge is people who are not willing to give something a go. Negativity. There’s none of that at Berrison but we have seen it in other companies. It often comes down to self-consciousness, so we have programmes that get everyone on a level playing field, break down barriers and help people enjoy the process of getting the best out of themselves. Insecurity and poor working environments make people stand still or only do the minimum.
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
We are currently based in lovely offices in Kendal, Cumbria and it is a fabulous base for our team. Though we’ll continue to base our business here, (because it is a nice place to live!), we’ll undoubtedly be developing the online Learning and Development channels and expanding the events aspect of the business. The online services will help us to reach SMEs as well as large corporates. This will give us a bigger mix of clients as well as services. As we grow, we’ll also grow the level of R&D, to keep the services progressive.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
Use specialists to help you, don’t try and do it all yourself. Get the right team and nurture it. Give your crew respect, training and autonomy and the outcomes will benefit you all.
What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?
That it’s okay to allow yourself a healthy work-life balance. At one point, Tina and I were passing on planes in the air more often than being together - we realised that by practising what we preach and nurturing a strong team of associates, we would be able to continue doing what we love, while still having time to enjoy time outside work.
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