Meet the MD: Terence Turnbull of Turnbull and Thomas

Terence Turnbull is managing director at Turnbull and Thomas, a fine furniture retailer based in Stockton-on-Tees. Day-to-day he's involved with a little bit of everything, from making key decisions and sourcing products, to maintaining the upkeep of the brand's online and social media presence. He caught up with BQ to tell us more...

Describe your role in no more than 100 words.

I do a bit of everything at Turnbull and Thomas. I feel it’s important to keep a hand in on the day to day business. I’m involved in every key decision from sourcing the products, to the design of our website and our social media presence. That way we can sure that we are delivering only the very best offering on all fronts. Quality is something that is very important to me.


What is it the company does?

Turnbull and Thomas is a fine furnishing retailer. We originally started as an online-only store, which proved to be such a huge success that we opened our flagship store just outside of Yarm late last year.

Our aim is to always be the best that we can be, and you can see that in all aspects of the business. We only stock the best from each supplier and endeavour to make sure that every customer - no matter the amount of money they’re spending – receives great service all the way through the buying process from browsing the showroom, through to ordering, receiving their order, and finally, aftercare services.


Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?

I joined the Royal Artillery aged 18 and spent the next 24 years in the Armed Forces, progressing from Gunner to a Senior Non Commissioned Officer, before leaving the Gun Line to join the logistical division, where I finally ended up as Head of Logistics. I had tours of duty in Northern Ireland, both Gulf Wars, Bosnia and Cyprus, picking up medals including, Northern Ireland, Iraq Medal with Clasp, OP Telic, former Yugoslavia, UN Cyprus and a 2002 Jubilee, along the way.

The core elements of my business rely on the skills and work ethos that I developed in the Army. I was responsible for distribution, re-supply and logistics; making sure everything was where it needed to be on time. There was no leeway for late delivery and you can’t make excuses. The job needs to be done, and it needs to be done properly.

When I left the Army, I was overseeing the running of an online-only retailer and came to realise that the basic premise wasn’t that different from what I had been doing for the Army for nearly a quarter of a century, and that it was much more profitable.

My business partner, Gareth Thomas, and I branched out to form our own business, Turnbull and Thomas. We spent a long time perfecting our business plan, strategy and making sure we had the best products possible. Soon our online sales rocketed to the point where we realised we needed a physical presence too, so we set up our flagship showroom for customers.

Things are going from strength to strength and I’m excited by what the future holds for the business.


What do you believe makes a great leader?

During my time I’ve come across many different leadership styles, but having a leader who leads from the front, gets stuck in and imparts knowledge to others through feedback and praise, will always get the best from their team.

A great leader doesn’t take credit for other anyone else’s work, rather he praises them for a job well done in the hope of inspiring others to follow their example. Ultimately, the true test of a leader’s mettle is their ability to positively motivate others to work as hard as they can, even without the boss looking over their shoulder.



What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?

I think my military background has made me bit of a perfectionist; it’s a mind-set that is drilled into you from the first day of training – failure is not an option and you have to be at your best all the time.

Coming from that kind of environment, I found some people just seem to lack work ethic and motivation, which I find really exasperating because I’m a ‘get up and go’ kind of person.



When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I’m from Teesside and like many young lads, I was footy-mad growing up and my dream was always to play for Middlesbrough. Now that we’re part of the Middlesbrough business club, we get recognition at the Riverside Stadium and it still fills me with pride each time I see our name on the pitch side. It really means a lot to me as a local lad.



Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about then?

People who don’t admit to mistakes or learn from them. Everyone messes up occasionally, but when people don’t hold their hands up, accept responsibility and learn from what they did, it really annoys me. A mistake is a learning tool for everybody, not an excuse to be bad at your job.



Where do you see the company in five years time?

We want to be one of the top fine furnishing retailers in the UK. We’ve had a mission from the start to be the best, and so far we’ve met every target we’ve set ourselves. Gareth and I formed the business to be a legacy for our children so it would be great to have some of them working in the business, but there is no pressure for them to join if they want to follow another career path, but the option is always open to them.



What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?

To keep persevering. All business owners will have a rough ride at some point, but you have to keep moving and find solutions to your problems, rather than wallowing in the mire. Once you think you could fail, you already have. There is no security on this earth, there is only opportunity.




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