BIT OF A CHAT
with Bill Borde >> Action man barista In case anyone’s wondering where top Royal Mail ‘fixer’ Mike Dalton has got to, BQ can reveal that ‘Action Man features’ has opened his own posh cafe in Shropshire. Mike, well known to many businesses across the region as the Royal Mail’s head of external relations, launched the ‘stop.’ coffee shop on St Julian’s Crescent, Shrewsbury, in the final quarter of 2012. Mike, who was at Royal Mail from 1997 to the end of 2011, said: “A hugely disappointing experience in a local coffee shop led to a decision to give up my 20-year career in corporate PR. “My wife Nicola and I were seeking a cup of decent coffee in a nice atmosphere. The poor quality of the coffee and the lacklustre service we were offered got us thinking. It quickly became apparent that, if carefully managed, we could cover the costs, make a profit and offer exceptional service and quality. Additionally for me, for the first time in my career I’m in complete control of the decision-making process, not just advising and inputting.” he said. Stop. has quickly built up a loyal customer base and Mike added: “Hopefully some of those faces I know so well will drop by some time and find out for themselves about my new skills as a barista!”
>> Student tax break Britain’s top tax boss certainly watches her pennies when she’s in the West
BUSINESS QUARTER | SPRING 13
Midlands – staying in student lodgings instead of top hotels! Lin Homer, who earns more than £180,000 a year as chief executive and permanent secretary of Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs, was in Birmingham for a community charity dinner in January. The 55-year-old, a former chief executive of Birmingham City Council, brought her daughter Annie with her to the Villa Park event and decided to spend the night in her digs in Warwick. “Mum’s on my floor,” Annie confided in BQ’s man at the dinner. “Well, I’ll probably stay on the floor so she can sleep in my bed,” the third year French and Sociology student added.
>> Pennies make pounds Poundland boss Jim McCarthy has told how he had to survive on wages of just £15 a week as a newly-wed teenager – saving pennies for occasional luxuries. Born in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, Jim went to grammar school in Birmingham, and after a successful retail career became chief executive of T&S Stores, making his first million when Tesco bought the outlets in 2002. He became chief executive of Poundland in 2006, making another £10m when the discount chain was sold to US private equity firm Warburg Pincus in 2010. But Jim’s personal finances weren’t always as rosy, especially as a trainee newsagent at Dillons when setting up home in Small Heath, Birmingham. “It was 1974, when I was about 18,” recalled Jim. “I’d just got married to Rosie, who was the same age, and was earning something like £15 a week at a newsagent, but my rent was £7.50. It was tight. We used to save pennies in a coffee pot to go the pictures every few months, and we didn’t have a honeymoon.” Jim, aged 57, now lives with Rosie in a house he bought in 2006 for £1.8m near Stratford-upon-Avon. They have two sons – James, 25, and Sean, 22. “Money gives you choice,” added Jim, talking in The Sunday Times’ ‘Money’ section. “I bought myself a new Mini for Christmas for £29,000. Technically it’s for my wife. I think I’ll end up driving it more though!”
>> Gorilla marketing It’s genuinely been a case of ‘gorilla’ marketing for one West Midland business this winter. A nine-foot high statue of King Kong was bought by Hall’s Garden Supplies, Sutton Coldfield, and has been sitting outside their premises for months since, attracting plenty of passing comments and hopefully extra business. Andrew Paul, partner at Hall’s, (pictured with Kong) said the £3,000 gorilla had been used to promote a range of animal ornaments. “We bought him as a showpiece,” he said, “and he’s caused quite a stir. At Christmas, we even put him in a Santa hat and a red and white scarf! He added: “He is for sale if anyone wants to buy him.”
>> Jerry warms his toes Nothing was going to stop Jerry Blackett from enjoying lunch with BQ in Birmingham on one of the snowiest days for years. “I’ve brought my over-boots with me,” said Jerry, the chief executive of Birmingham Chamber of Commerce. “I picked them up when I was working in Toronto in the late 1980s.”Apparently, every businessman there keeps a pair of the giant rubber footwear close to hand. “You just stay in your shoes and slip them in,” said Jerry, zipping his shoes and the lower parts of his pin-striped suit into the contraptions before springing away through the snow – leaving BQ’s man to face cold, wet socks all the way home.