How I got to where I am now:
I left the Navy at in 1979 at the age of 21 and went to work as a chef in Bath, because my wife Lauren was doing nursing training there. In 1981 we moved to Poole in Dorset where Lauren continued her training and I joined the 110-bedroom Haven hotel in Sandbanks. I was made head chef after six months of being there.
I left the Haven hotel to go and open a new restaurant as head chef, then was head-hunted to become a chef/catering manager in a private members' club in Bournemouth, but I was 26 at this point and decided I wanted to buy my own restaurant - it was 1984 and pubs were not considered a respectable route for a chef to go down at that time.
Lauren and I bought a 35-cover French style country restaurant with six bedrooms, called La Belle Alliance near Blandford Forum in Dorset. We ran it for 10 years and established it as one of the best small restaurants in the south of England. Lauren continued nursing for a while, but eventually joined me full-time to run our business.
In 1993 I felt pubs would be the future of the eating out marketing, so we got involved in a great country pub called The Langton Arms in Dorset. For a year or so we ran the restaurant and the pub, but then sold La Belle Alliance to focus on developing the Langton Arms as a successful food pub.
Three years later, having got the Langton Arms well-established, we decided to go it alone, so we upped roots from Dorset and moved to The Sun in the Wood in Ashmore Green near Newbury. It had been closed but with a lot of hard work and sizeable investment we developed it into a successful country pub. Fifteen years on, it's still working well for us.
With the success and encouragement of these other pubs behind me, I have also set up a consultancy Recipe4Success, as a standalone business, to offer a service I wish had been available to me when I first had my own business 27 years ago.
My biggest challenge:
Trading my restaurant through the previous recession in 1991. We had to make good staff, who were also our friends, redundant, but the hard lessons we learned back then have stood us in good stead for trading profitably through the recent downturn in the economy. I think our first few months at The Sun in the Wood were also quite tough, because we had left behind a well-established team of people, trusted suppliers and lots of fantastic customers.
My greatest achievement:
Apart from winning Licensee of the Year in 2009, it would have to be the fact that all the hard work we have put in over the years has paid off and given us a decent standard of living, which has also enabled us to give our daughter a fantastic education and a chance to do well in her life.
What I love about being behind the bar:
Running a pub is such a diverse job. In how many professions can you be cook, server, host, accountant, marketing director, advice councillor, car park attendant, plumber, dishwasher, gardener, and jack of all trades all in one day?
My top tips for running a pub:
You must make time to develop your business, with my consultant and mentoring hat on I'd say, 'don’t be to busy working to make your pub successful'.
It is a great job with great financial returns if you do it properly, but do it badly and it can be a disaster. I'd recommend that anyone who wants to go into the business gets some good experience, understands the sheer bloody hard work in can be, get some top class advice and treat it as a business not a hobby.