Despite leaving academia to go into full time employment at 16, Kevin's life looks pretty good. He is one of the NEF candidates, currently working with Ranjit Boparan at 2 Sisters Food Group.
He talks us through his journey so far.
Hi Kevin, Great to have you on YHP, How are you doing today?
I am very well thank you
Can you give us some brief background information about yourself before we go into the interview properly?
Okay, I am 26 years old and I grew up in Surrey, I am currently living in Birmingham and working with Ranjit Boparan at 2 Sisters Food Group. I left school at the age of 16 and went straight to work in the building trade for about 3 years. I realized that I did not want to work in the building trade for the rest of my life so I then moved into car insurance sales for two years which was the beginning of my sales career.
I then went onto work in the health care recruitment industry for 3 ½ years building myself a successful career without having been to university and earning a pretty healthy salary. I was constantly trying to improve myself by learning how to build websites in my spare time and eventually left recruitment to pursue an online financial comparison business that I was building.
Since then I have launched a small telecommunications business but realized that for me to progress as an entrepreneur and build a long term successful business I needed some further education in business finance and an experienced mentor to give me some further guidance.
I like socializing with friends, going on holiday and enjoying the sun. I like trying new things as well as poker & football but my real passion is business. I just love making money, meeting new people and getting involved in new exciting projects.
So Kevin, tell me about your self growing up? What was your ambition? Were the entrepreneurial - making a quick buck type?
Growing up was interesting to say the least, I didn’t come from an extremely poor background but my family was not wealthy in any way. My teenage years were pretty rebellious and I guess I thought I knew best about everything along with consistently being in trouble in and out of school.
I’m not going to give the old sob story of my life as been so hard growing up and my first word was money but since the age of about 10 years old I have been money motivated and consistently trying to make money by constantly whipping up schemes, selling things and building small startups from my bedroom. I knew from a young age that I wanted to work for myself but knowing where to start was always difficult with very little business guidance.
Everyday I used to wake up and think how I would make money and what am I going to do about making it happen. For me everyday is a new opportunity to change your life to the way you want it. I was not interested at all in making a small amount of money and working in a job I did not love. It was just not for a me and not an option. I will do everything possible to try my hardest and have fun along the way and eventually get to where I want to be, ideally on my own private jet haha.
After school, what did you do?
After leaving school I skipped around the building industry in various different trades and quickly realized that this was no the career path that I aspired to take. I knew in the back of my mind all along that I wanted to work for myself but at the time there was no a big hype around the word entrepreneur. There was not much direction as to how to become an entrepreneur or how to learn some of the key skills I needed to pursue this career path. This was long before youtube, dragons den, The Apprentice and so on.
My best shot at getting to where I wanted to be with no further education was to get into sales and grow my sales skills. I needed to learn from those around me and take in as much information as possible from my employers and progress my skills. Fortunately my previous employers have been very supportive over the years and given me some great guidance and always tried to help me progress further.
The thing is no one teaches you at school or university how to lead a client meeting, selling to a customer over the phone, how to manage a team or even the basics of a professional attitude in a work environment. These are all the things I have learnt along the way to improve myself as my professional career progressed.
Why did you decide to choose the career path rather than going to the university?
I had considered university after leaving school but I guess very keen and felt confident to just get out into the real world and start earning money and gaining experience and of course ‘I knew best’. My understanding at the time was that many people go to university and study for years without actually using the degree that they have been studying and end up working in a completely different job which didn’t really make sense to me.
I was inspired by Richard Branson’s success, he proved you do not need a degree to build a successful business venture. I wanted to break the mold if you like and just get on with it, if there was something I needed to learn then I had the internet and if I needed experience I would get that experience on the job and work my way up the ladder from the bottom. I have no fear in believing in my own ability and I constantly strive to do better and eventually I will achieve want I want to achieve.
What would you say anyone contemplating between going to university or going straight into work?
I think that the days of going to university is changing rapidly due to the high tuition fees. Young people will be thinking twice about just going to sign up for university at the prices being charged. I think you have to be fully committed to the course or career path that you are choosing to part with such a large sum of money.
To me you should go to university if there is something that you really want to learn or a specific career path that you would like to take. If you just want to go to university because it is what your parents are suggesting or your friends are doing then you may need to reconsider because it is a lot of money to waste to get half way through your course and think I don’t like this anymore.
Making your career choice is actually simple in the end and you should always do something that you love. If you do not wake up inspired and motivated at the thought of the job you are about to go and do then you are probably in the wrong job and will be unhappy.
Over the past couple of years what would you say has been some of the key lessons you learnt from working in different companies and what value has it added to your life?
The previous employers that I have worked for in the past have taught me so much. Their encouragement and support have helped me develop my self confidence and the ability to grow my skills. Whilst working in recruitment, I really began to grow with a massive amount of guidance from the senior team leaders and my boss at the time.
Some of the key skills they gave me were how to conduct client meetings, cold calling, recruiting and retaining staff, managing my staff portfolio whilst giving me a good understanding of margins and looking after my own small business. One of the most difficult lessons was how to manage a large number of staff whilst trying to keep everyone happy as well as getting the job done. Recruitment gave me a solid work ethic of work hard, play hard and that you only get out what you put in.
Working as a recruitment consultant gave me my first real buzz for running a small successful business of my own. I learnt a huge amount in my 3 ½ years in terms of canvassing for new business, holding client meetings, selling over the phone, conducting interviews and generally managing my own desk. In running a temporary recruitment desk it gave me a good understanding of monitoring and growing my weekly numbers and margins.
So how did you get involve in NEF? How did you find out about it?
I randomly picked up the city am newspaper as I never read this paper in the mornings because it was usually the metro I read. I noticed the advert and didn’t actually believe what I was reading as I thought it was too good to be true. The NEF is the first course that I have come across that has come anywhere close to giving an up and coming entrepreneur a real opportunity to get the right combination of educational material and access to one of the top entrepreneurs in the country.
After various interviews, tests and assessment days I was fortunate enough to be selected for the final stage which was corporate acceptance. I was then invited for an interview with 2 Sisters Food Group and with some serious luck I was selected for the position and the rest is history.
Tell me about your experience working with Ranjit Singh Boparan at 2 Sisters Food Group so far?
Working with someone like Ranjit is a real eye opener; I have never met an entrepreneur quite like him because he is truly unique. Working with Ranjit is a real privilege and an experience I will never forget. One of the first things he said to me was ‘Cash is King’ which is pretty obvious but considering that I have started many small ventures with little or no capital meant that I was already dead in the water before I had even started those ventures.
Ranjit then went onto explain the importance of understanding my numbers, the importance of having visibility of your businesses numbers to have a sense of control of your business everyday. He has helped me understand the importance of generating cash and controlling working capital. I had never understood this philosophy before that conversation, yet it is one of the most important things to consider when running a business and something else they do not mention on dragons den!
I have learnt so much in such a short space of time because Ranjit has fully understood the NEF concept and what I need to get out of this experience. Ranjit has given me the opportunity to learn at board level in a £2.1 Billion business and learn how to manage and continue to grow a business of this size.
In terms of projects so far I have been involved with integrations, acquisitions, export, startup businesses, charity events, sponsorships, new technology, financial strategies and the list goes on. It has been such an incredible experience so far to meet so many new people and learn so much from such a great team.
What would you say has been some of the key things that you’ve learnt so far?
Some of the key things I have learnt so far is the importance of understanding your numbers as I never really paid much attention to this area because I was mainly focused on the idea and designing my product or service without even understanding how you should start by creating and validating a feasible business plan.
Cash is king in the business world along with your customers being the no1 priority. You have to keep your customers happy and you cannot just sit still, you need to constantly keep improving your service, innovating and giving more for less. You need to know your competition, know your customers and be the best at what you do.
What would you say has been the most challenging part of the whole process?
The most challenging part of the experience is the intense amount of information you need to take in along with all the different projects I am working on and trying to balance a healthy work life balance.
I was living in Surrey before I started this position but it required me to move to Birmingham so that was pretty difficult to leave friends and family behind for a year. It is a very unique opportunity to work at this level and gain insight to a business of this size and be constantly challenged with new projects and opportunities.
To anyone thinking of joining the programme, what value can they expect to get from it?
It will definitely be different form anything you have done before and for me it does depend on which company you are placed with and how much exposure you get with the CEO. You will definitely have an amazing learning experience that is for sure and it will give you a very good understanding of how to launch, manage and grow a business. Along the way you will also grow your business network and make some really good friends.
Tell us about a difficult time on your journey so far and how you’ve been able to overcome that?
To be honest I am constantly thrown into difficult situations and taken out of my comfort zone on a day to day basis. I just try my best and do everything that I can to find solutions to the problems I am faced with. For me the most difficult thing is being nervous when speaking in front of large groups and I haven’t quite overcome that yet but I will let you know when I do but for now I’m winging it.
What has been your most memorable moment up to date?
There are so many great moments so far such as meeting the Mclaren engineering team to traveling around the country and visiting Holland but I guess the most memorable moment so far has to be going to Richard Branson’s house for lunch. Attending the Fast track 100 awards and having the opportunity to network and meet so many great entrepreneurs in one room was a fantastic experience.
After NEF, what’s next for you?
Only time will tell really, the ideal situation would be to launch my own business at the end of this process as I am always thinking of new ideas, new technology, new websites and offline concepts. Hopefully over the next year I will have my light bulb moment and develop that idea into a viable business and get my private jet haha.