So this is the background of my latest venture, some of you may know me, some of you won’t have a clue who I am! so here are the ramblings of my life and why I am here writing this blog.
Well for the past 33 years I have generally kept myself busy all be it, I have thrown in to the mix a couple of planned career breaks and one big change of direction. In the main, I spent the large part of my career working in Retail and very happy doing it. I started out working for what was the Burton Group as a 16 year old sales assistant in Burton Menswear in Portsmouth, I quickly and steadily advanced my career with them and within no time I was a store manager and again fairly quickly moved to be one of their top 10 store managers, the fact that the store was Jersey in the Channel Islands made it even more appealing. I went on to become an Area Manager with what had then become Arcadia Group, running a collection of Topshop, Topman and Miss Selfridge stores in the South of England. Just before Philip Green (not sure if he is still a Sir) bought the group I made the move to Beales Department Stores, a small independent group in Bournemouth and spent several years as Store Director of their Poole Store, tragically both these businesses recently went into administration – Beales has been reborn from the ashes of a sad collapse, and the Poole store is the only one still trading and who knows what’s going to happen to Arcadia Group. I can say though without any question of doubt that both of these businesses were great institutions of business learning and taught me well.
2006 was the end of my career of PLC’s, I left Beales and headed to Saudi Arabia to work for the incredible Alhokair Brothers in their Alhokair Fashion Retail business. I was now a Country Manager for several fashion and lifestyle brands that they ran in the Middle East – Gap, Banana Republic and the iconic French brand Promod to name a few. Saudi was where I learned to be persistent, resilient and adaptable. Coming from the land of PLC’s and now working in a private company in another country was a a real eye opener, what would have seemed impossible to achieve in some businesses was now the norm. I remember being called into the office of one the brothers who owned the business and he asked me when I thought a new store that we were planning could be opened, I think from memory I’d told him two weeks, he told me I had two days but not to worry whatever I needed I could have to make it happen, it happened with a bit of hardwork and a sprinkle of luck and a prevailing wind, it wasn’t perfect but it was open and trading and that was what he wanted so that’s what we did.
After 4 years there my wife and I decided to move to Thailand, her home country and to the beautiful island of Phuket where she grew up and where I had met here about 12 years before. My wife and I opened a restaurant there and really enjoyed the experience but unfortunately we couldn’t get the sales to a sustainable level throughout the year, Thailand has a high and low season and the I location did not favour well in the low season – hey but lesson learned – Location, Location, Location.
I decided to call my old bosses in Saudi Arabia and see if they had anything to offer me. Boom one weeks later I am arriving in Almaty Airport in Kazakhstan as International Operations Manager for their expansion into the CIS region. This was an interesting period for me I spent 6 months in Kazakhstan, which if you get the chance do visit make sure you do, what an amazing country, with just the most beautiful culture and friendly nature of people not to mention some amazing scenery that you could ever imagine, with a sprinkle of old Soviet history added in. After there I went onto Azerbaijan, again an amazing place to visit and truely of the main tourist map back then but since my time there, they have really grown their international reputation.
Kansas City was my next posting, 8 months in the USA opening 25 Monsoon – Accessorize stores across the Mid-West and Eastern Seaboard as Project Director of Store Development. Someone please tell me why Americans cannot work with the metric system, dealing with Contractors in imperial and Designers in metric really tested my patience. Great times though and although I wasn’t keen on the USA on arrival I really loved it when I left, having visited 26 states in 8 months I was pretty impressed with myself along with the fact that I had single handedly project managed 25 new store openings in the USA.
Next on my world tour is Morocco, Casablanca to be exact – this is all still with Alhokair Fashion Retail, their reach is far and wide. I am going to have to say though Casablanca was definitely not my all time favourite posting, in fact, it rates fairly low on the scale not because of the work or the people, I just didn’t resinate with the country, I found it a very aggressive but oppressed place but that’s just my opinion, I was not here long though just 4 months.
Welcome back to the Far East! during these previous 2 years my family were still living in Phuket so you can imagine the strain on us as a family, lots of FaceTime calls, at one point my youngest daughter actually stopped talking English to me and would only talk to me in Thai through her sister. However in January 2013 I had secured a new job with a new company in Bangkok just a 1 hour flight home for the weekend from now on. Central Department Stores was where I was headed and what a great time laid ahead of me, at the time it was a privately owned group and I was working for Khun Yuwadee Chirathivat one of the primary family members in the 200 strong family business. It was great! a little bumpy to begin with but that again is just family businesses I think, they react quickly and when they like and trust you then you become part of that family. I spent 9 months jumping about, 3 months in their sports division Supersports, 3 months in Vietnam as they launched Supersports there and the 3 months back in Bangkok starting to run M&S for them which was the job I had been recruited for, just as I was getting my feet under the table and starting to see results from strategies that I was implementing and they dropped a bombshell on me.
Managing Director of PT Central Retail Indonesia – I was off again, given a great opportunity to launch their department store business into a new market how could I say no! With every new country and role comes learning and development, this was a huge growth period for me both professionally and personally. One thing I learned from this situation is that when you get the golden salary type jobs is don’t start blowing it like you are a saudi prince but start saving it hard and fast, it was this decision that has put me where I am now. I did 3.5 years with them opened two 200,000 sqft department stores whilst running a company of over 1,000 employees and had the time of my life, the only issue for me was the bi-weekly trips home to see my family and my daughters were getting older and education was becoming more important. Given that all the external family pressures and my hard saving and property investment had put me into a comfortable position we made the decision to return to the UK to see the girls through Senior School and on to University so I took my leave and thanked the amazing Chirathivat family for the opportunity they had given me and resigned.
Back in the UK things didn’t quite go as expected it has to be said, as an expat your age is a benefit, but in the UK it is a major obstacle, I was returning to the country of my birth after 10 years overseas and too my shock I was now considered old at 46, no one would ever tell you that, save a few agencies but that is the case there are lots of us out in the market place who have this wealth of experience but it’s not been utilised because young recruitment associates think we are too old, I was talking to a young sales manager not that long ago and I asked him this question about age and he said that “young graduates will do anything you ask them, where as older people have opinions, families and morales”. It was an interesting time for me, another learning curve, a time to reflect. Had I given up a 6 figure salary thinking it would be easy to just drop back into the retail world in the UK? Yes would be the answer, and how wrong I was, it wasn’t about the salary because I don’t need the money but I like to work.
Step one of my transformation, my wife had always driven in the UK previously on an international driving license but this time she wanted to get her UK license so I helped teach her, it took her three attempts and a few arguments but we got there and it got me thinking I could do this, I have been training people for 30 years, so this will be easy. It was and I enjoy it, I started learning to be an Approved Driving Instructor in October 2018, was working as a Potential Driving Instructor by January 2019 and in June of that year I was fully qualified. Unfortunately 2020 was a crap year due to COVID with only 6 months of actual work but I had another project under way, it is a Driving Instructor Directory www.driveacademy.uk this filled my lockdown time and fuelled the flames of my interest in digital media and creative. Having worked in a consumer led industry all my working career I am no stranger to Marketing and Digital, but now I am actually doing some myself and doing it well. Drive Academy is up and running and traffic is growing month on month well was until Lockdown 3 hit us all.
So here I am now using my time and knowledge to strike out into something new and educate myself whilst I am doing it, every single day I am learning something new and that is amazing it drives a passion in me, I’ll be honest I get frustrated because I don’t know everything but if I don’t know it then I go and teach myself so I can come back stronger. So here we are I am launching Joshua Pycroft Business Solutions – joshuapycroft.co.uk don’t worry if you found this site and want to learn to drive I am still going to be doing that when the lockdown is lifted but I am going to do both, I am insatiable about work, it fills my days and I love it. I am not expensive and you will get lots of stuff out of me free of charge, so hit me up if you think that I could help with anything in your business.
In summary my life has been quite an adventure and although I keep telling my self to slowdown and take it easy, that’s just not me, I like getting involved in stuff and pushing the boundaries so I can’t imagine there will be any slowing down soon.