Episode 23: When promotion isn’t all it’s cracked up to be – with Tim Dickinson

Tim Dickinson tells us how he spent 17 years working towards a senior management position before deciding, once he’d got there, that it wasn’t for him and he needed a complete change of career.

Today’s guest

Tim Dickinson of Hillbank Plumbing

Website: Hillbank Plumbing

Tim started working in sales in the car industry straight out of school.  From the start he knew he wanted to get into management and worked towards that for the next 17 years before becoming general manager.  However, after three years in that role Tim decided it wasn’t for him and switched careers entirely to train as a plumber and heating engineer.

What you’ll learn in this episode

  • The frustrations of having other people make decisions for you
  • Why it’s worth setting yourself a new challenge once you’ve reached your goal
  • Starting a business based on a particular pain or problem you’ve experienced
  • Training isn’t enough by itself and needs to be supplemented by experience
  • How you always have transferable skills, even if you move to something completely different

Resources mentioned in this episode

Please note that some of these are affiliate links and we may get a small commission in the event that you make a purchase.  This helps us to cover our expenses and is at no additional cost to you.

To see the resources recommended by all our guests, visit the Resources page.

Episode 23: When promotion isn’t all it’s cracked up to be - with Tim Dickinson

Jeremy Cline
In many careers, promotion to a management position is the natural career path - sometimes even the only career path. But what happens if you get there and you discover, well, you just don't like it? That's what we talk about in today's episode. I'm Jeremy Cline, and this is Change Work Life.

Hello and welcome to Change Work Life, the show that's all about banishing the Sunday evening blues and enjoying Mondays again. My guest this week is Tim Dickinson. Tim spent 17 years from when he left school working towards his goal of becoming a general manager in car sales. And what happened when he got there? He decided he didn't really like it. Here's Tim to explain why that was and what he did about it. Hi, Tim, welcome to the show.

Tim Dickinson
Thank you.

Jeremy Cline
Can you start by introducing yourself and telling us what it is that you do?

Tim Dickinson
My name is Tim Dickinson. I'm 39 years old, and I'm a heating and plumbing engineer.

Jeremy Cline
And how long have you been doing that? Because this is a relatively recent career move for you, isn't it?

Tim Dickinson
It is. So I qualified in July and then set up the business from about September. I've gone at it full time, working with a business partner as well. It's been going very well so far.

Jeremy Cline
Brilliant. Now you were introduced to me by someone that you used to work for in car sales. Was car sales what you'd always done before or have you moved around and got into car sales later on?

Tim Dickinson
Pretty much. I've always done that, certainly within the motor industry. So I started off after my A-levels, I started off in the parts side of the car industry, and then I went away to university for a couple of years and then came back and basically did car sales pretty much all the way through. I've sort of moved around into the servicing side of it as well. And then eventually into the management side as well, and with a career probably about 20 years in total.

Jeremy Cline
And why car sales in the first place?

Tim Dickinson
I've always liked cars, and always liked talking to people. When I was about 16 I went on a careers evening, and just got chatting to someone who worked within one of the large motor groups, and they gave me sort of a direction, which was kind of from the parts side - said it was a good way to get into it, and then go from there - but always liked cars. And it was sort of a perfect fit really.

Jeremy Cline
So when you started out - I mean, some people have a very clear idea where they see they're going in terms of trajectory. Quite a lot of people don't. Where did you fit on that? Did you see a path when you started out on that?

Tim Dickinson
Yeah. So when I was in there I sort of saw the path probably within the first year of working there, that I wanted to make it to the higher management level within a garage - they're generally called a Dealer Principal or General Manager - but I thought there really are two sides to that industry and one of them is the sales side, and the other one is the service side. And to do that you really have to have a knowledge of both sides if you want to do it well. So along the way, even though I stuck with car sales, I did go over to the service side as well just to get an idea of how that all runs so eventually, I would end up doing that job, and it eventually happened. It took about 17 years to get there, but I did get there in the end.

Jeremy Cline
Is that the usual kind of length of time that it takes that you need to build up that sort of experience?

Tim Dickinson
Yeah, it can be. You don't tend to get that many young general managers. I was 35, 36 when I ended up doing it and generally they are probably that age or if not older. I think you need to have the experience and you need to have the knowledge as well to do the job well, so someone going in at quite a young age to do that job - it wouldn't really work. So maybe I could have tried to do it sooner, but then I probably wouldn't be able to do that well, because I just wouldn't have the knowledge to do it.

Jeremy Cline
And in terms of the options for career progression in that sort of industry - was management the only option otherwise it was sticking where you were, or were there other ways that you could have progressed outside of management?

Tim Dickinson
It depends what you wanted to do. You could go over to work for the manufacturer itself, you could go sort of a training side as well, that a lot of people do. You don't have to work your way up - you can earn a very comfortable living doing sales, and a lot of people have and that's what they've always done. Generally, as time goes on, you build up a client base and it does get easier for you. And some people are happy just doing that. But I just sort of set myself a goal and really wanted to achieve that.

Jeremy Cline
You said that you set that goal pretty early on, it sounds like within a year or so of starting out there. So what made you decide at that stage that that was what you wanted to go for?

Tim Dickinson
I think I've always been ambitious. After my A-levels as I said I did the parts side, and then went into sales and I worked there for about two years. But then I went away to university and did an HND in motor vehicle management and technology, knowing full well that, you know, I'd come back, and it would just put me in exactly the same position, but I always sort of saw further on in my career it would put me maybe just that bit ahead of the next person I'm going up against to give me more opportunity, really. And that's why I did that. And in fairness, that's what happened. I left the job I was doing, went away and did that and then came back and went back to what I was doing. They gave me the job back and I carried on for a couple of years.

Jeremy Cline
So that was about four or five years in, give or take?

Tim Dickinson
Yeah, so I'd done it for two years, went away for two years to university, and then came back in so four years in and then I came back and I carried on. At the time I was with Rover. It was starting to be about the time that the Rover was declining before it went bust, so that's when I decided to move to another manufacturer, but carried on doing the same job - just with a different manufacturer.

Jeremy Cline
So you had another say 12 or 13 years then where you were still working towards this management position?

Tim Dickinson
Yeah.

Jeremy Cline
Well, first of all, how did you stay motivated? Because that's a heck of a long time to wait to get to that.

Tim Dickinson
Yeah, it is! So a couple of years after that I moved into a sales controller, so that's the next progression really. And then after that, I did a stint as a service manager - so that's running the service side of it. It was a smaller dealership so it wasn't a massive task to take on but it was a good first time run at that sort of role. I then moved on to be a sales manager. And I've done that job twice - again, just with different manufacturers and different dealerships. Then I wasn't happy where I was, there was nothing available at that particular time to carry on as a sales manager so I moved back to be a salesman, and then progressed through there through to sales controller, again sales manager, and then ultimately franchise manager just within that dealership on its own.

Jeremy Cline
And presumably, you worked with a lot of the people who held the position that ultimately you were aiming for. Was there ever a time when you saw what they were doing and thought, 'Do I really want to be doing that?' or was it always a case of 'No, actually, I want their job'?

Tim Dickinson
I think at the time... the motor industry changed a lot in 20 years - a huge amount - when I first started out and then I set this goal and so on, that's what I really wanted to do. I think closer to the time that I actually took the actual job on - my predecessor, I worked with him - yeah, I did look at his job and thought this is not necessarily something I want to do but he was moved on and the opportunity arose. So I thought, well, I'll give it a go. It was enjoyable. Not all of it was enjoyable, and ultimately, that's why I wanted to give it a go. I did it for just shy of three years, and that was the time to change, really. But I'd given it a go. I didn't want to sort of do it and think no this isn't for me, and then just move on to something else. You've got to give something a go, I believe.

Jeremy Cline
So was it a kind of almost opportunistic thing -the fact that your predecessor left or was there a kind of a process where you're kind of almost groomed for that job?

Tim Dickinson
Yeah, in certain ways there was. I was a bit of right place, right time, I suppose but that was sort of the next step for me, so it was there. I could have carried on what I was doing, or taken that role. And I thought, well, you know, this is what I want to do. So let's have a go at it.

Jeremy Cline
And what was the process like - the selection process - when you actually went for that role? Did you have a lot of competition for it? Was it a very sort of stringent process? Or was it something because they knew you'd been there for such a long time that it was kind of like yeah, okay, Tim can do the job?

Tim Dickinson
I think they looked around at a few - they'd always keep stuff like that sort of fairly close to their chest. They was someone else I worked with sort of pushing me saying, you know, why don't you do it? I wasn't sure, I hummed and hawed a bit and then had a chat and I suppose I don't know whether I was persuaded to do it - but it seemed right at the time, they wanted me to do it. So I knew that you know, them wanting me to do it, then I would get a lot more support in doing it. So it felt right and I knew the brand, I knew the company very well. So I felt the right time to do it, and the right place.

Jeremy Cline
So you mentioned that you were in the role for about three years.

Tim Dickinson
Yes.

Jeremy Cline
Tell me about that three years and how it went. Was it everything you wanted to begin with? Did it start not so great and get worse, was it up and down? How did that all pan out?

Tim Dickinson
It was up and down. It started well at the time - so this was beginning of 2015 I think it was when I first started doing it. Market was good. I needed to recruit some new members of the team as well. I think I was quite lucky to start off with - I found two members of staff quite quickly, both very, very good, and I had a really, really good team around us. A lot of its measured on targets, profitability as well - that was up from the previous person - we were hitting the targets, and that probably carried on for a good year, really, of doing that, then various people at the company I worked for, if they saw someone was very good, they would try and move them to somewhere else and progress them as well, which was good. The only trouble is the good team that I had, you know, often they would get moved on, which would be frustrating sometimes. And then probably about 18 months in, you look at recruiting other members of your team and realising that I was probably quite lucky with the first people that I'd recruited. I recruited some people that seemed very good and weren't necessarily and that was hard work. So you're sort of battling with the customer service they were giving - that I found a bit harder, to be honest. I still had some good people around me, which was fine. But the ones that weren't you would move them on, and you would try and recruit again. And sometimes you would be lucky and other times you'd be unlucky.

Jeremy Cline
How much autonomy did you have in the recruitment process? Was it all down to you, or did you have other people kind of making decisions above your head in terms of who you were allowed to recruit?

Tim Dickinson
It would vary. There was no pattern to it. Sometimes it would be the case of you get whoever you want. Other times, it would be a case of 'we've got this person, we want you to take them on' - you don't really get a lot of choice in the matter. But at the time, you know, you need someone so they're there and so you take them on. Sometimes they'll admit that they were wrong in taking that person on, other times they'd take them on and they were really good. But then they would get moved on to another role elsewhere. So I would always have a manager underneath me that did a lot of the running as well. Sometimes I got a bad one. If I got a good one, and you'd start settling the team down, then they would get moved on to another role - which is good for them because they're progressing their career. But it was frustrating, because then you're starting all over again to then try and rebuild our team with a new leader. In the three years, I did that, I think I had five people change underneath me.

Jeremy Cline
This is five managers?

Tim Dickinson
Yeah, second in command. Some decisions of moving them on were good, some not my decision. And that would be kind of frustrating, because sometimes there'd be a bit of an overlap, you know - you'd lose one manager and be a month or two months before you got someone else. So then I'm having to step into that role as well. Which just sort of adds to the job, really.

Jeremy Cline
So the ones that worked out and were then moved on to other roles, was that something that you were aware of was likely to happen? And it was just a thing that just happened where you were working?

Tim Dickinson
No, what would normally happen is someone elsewhere would suddenly get moved on, or disposed of, and then all of a sudden there was a hole to fill, and look around and it would normally be a case of 'we would like to move them,' so you wouldn't really get a lot of notice. Never want to stand in someone's way, you know, generally, if they were good at their job, then I'd be all for them, you know, progressing their career, so I'd never want to stand in their way of their career progression. So it was good for them. But sometimes it was just a case of then I was left behind almost picking up the pieces and sort of starting all over again.

Jeremy Cline
Was there ever opportunity to discuss that with the people who had taken the decisions to take these guys away. I mean, could you say to them, 'Look, this is going to put me in a really difficult position, can you support me?' Or did they just basically leave you to it?

Tim Dickinson
You could say it, but it wouldn't have any effect, unfortunately! So after a couple of times, there's just no point saying anything. So, no, it just almost became the norm it happened that often.

Jeremy Cline
And what was the expectation when that happened? Were you expected, literally just to fill the role and carry on as you had been?

Tim Dickinson
Yes. Yeah, that's right. Just get on with it for now. Carry things on, and then yeah, fill the role as soon as possible. Get someone new in the role and you'd probably get a month or two's grace, but then it's back to it and start - you know, they need results. So it was training someone up very quick as well to do that role, making sure they fitted in with the team as well. So it was challenging.

Jeremy Cline
Was there any allowance in the targets that were set or was it just 'No we're taking the person away and you've got to meet your targets'?

Tim Dickinson
There's different targets set, you get manufacturers targets within car sales, there's no allowance for that - they're set and that's the way it's going to be. You have finance targets as well, used car targets - you may get a little bit of an allowance on that, but not a huge amount really. You're just still expected to perform. That's what they want at the end of the day, is the results really.

Jeremy Cline
At what stage during this three year period you had in this position did you start to think 'this is going wrong?'

Tim Dickinson
I wouldn't say necessarily it was going wrong. I would say about two years in, I think it was a more a case of this is not necessarily what I want to do. It's almost like spinning plates - there are so many plates to spin. And you do it month in, month out, and after a while, you've sort of had enough of it. You know, once you hit a target, great - you've done it, that's fine. You're moving on to the next month now. Got to do it all over again. And it's just over and over and over again, and after a while I'd kind of had enough of it, really. You know it's pressure, sometimes putting yourself under pressure that you didn't really need to have or want. As I said - spinning plates - there are so many targets, so many levels, you're supposed to be at, whether it's customer satisfaction, keeping staff happy, customers happy, hitting targets for new cars, used cars, finance - there are so many bits to spin, you're always going to drop a plate on something, unfortunately, even if it's only once.

Jeremy Cline
Were you aware of the scale of the job when you went for it in the first place? Or was it something that only really became apparent once you'd done it for a while? Or did it change during that period?

Tim Dickinson
I think it changed. I wasn't aware of the full scale of it. I think if I'd had a lot more support - you know, say you had second in command support, you know, sort of continuous person, a good person, then that sort of takes some of the load off because they can concentrate on a certain areas, and I can concentrate on other areas. So that was kind of frustrating. Also, not only that - as I say the motor industry has changed a lot. So you know, with things like the internet and so on like that, margins are always a struggle - more and more. So therefore you're relying on other sources, but you've still got to hit targets because you need to hit new car targets because there's often quite a lot of back end margin, but they rely on hitting targets. But it's more imperative now that you hit them because you haven't got the money, sort of at what we call the front end, you know, when you just sell the car. So everything's getting squeezed, and so it's just imperative that everything gets hit, for money, really.

Jeremy Cline
And as you were coming to this realisation that this just wasn't for you, how did that make you feel? I'm thinking in particular, having effectively worked for 17 years to get there. What sort of emotions were going through your mind as you started to think about that?

Tim Dickinson
Well, I suppose I could be disheartened. But at the end of the day, the way I look at it, I set myself a goal, I'd achieved the goal, and I didn't just do it for a year or so and just say, 'right, I've done it. That's enough.' I gave it a good go. And then I sort of started looking at what else do I want to do? I've got to where I need to, so do I go somewhere else and do the same job - but that doesn't really change anything, I may as well just stay with what I'm doing - or do I set myself a new challenge? And ultimately, that's what I did. Yeah.

Jeremy Cline
So let's talk about that. The decision to leave the car industry - you said that that was basically because if you hadn't done that, you'd have been in pretty much the same position.

Tim Dickinson
Yes. Yeah.

Jeremy Cline
Did you think about demoting yourself or going and trying something else or going to another place?

Tim Dickinson
You always think about it but then you have to have to a long hard think about it. There are pros and cons of different jobs. Yes, there is a lot of pressure on targets and so on as far as the management is, but then as a salesman can be a lot more hours, you have a completely irregular wage each month, and so on. So, I think I'd done my very, very good stint doing car sales, and I didn't really want to go backwards really. So time to sort of set a new challenge and do something completely different.

Jeremy Cline
How did you approach the decision of what to do next?

Tim Dickinson
I'd given it a lot of thought. As I said, my career has pretty much been within the car industry for 20 years. So in a way, that's kind of all I've known. So I've seen a lot of times over the years - the setting up on your own and so on, the main thought would be setting up in the motor industry - setting up like a car sales site or a garage - but again, as I said the motor industry has changed a lot during the years and a lot of it's down to the internet and the margins that are there. Also people are squeezed from both ends - you're paying a lot more for a car and also you can only sell it for so much. So the margins are squeezed, so the investment that would be needed and the return that you'd see from that investment is just really not there anymore. And I saw a lot of people do it over the years who were very good at their job working for someone and tried to set up on their own - but just couldn't make it. And generally it would cost them a lot of money. So it wasn't really a way I wanted to go.

Jeremy Cline
But was setting up your own thing though - even if not cars - was that something you wanted to do, you'd decided that you wanted your own business?

Tim Dickinson
That's right. I'd worked for many years - as long as I can remember - doing work at home in the evenings, doing work at home at the weekends, working late. And I don't mind doing it, I've never been work shy but after a while you just think, I'm just doing this for someone else. I'd quite like to actually do it for myself. If I'm going to work this hard and do the extra hours, I'd like to see the rewards myself. So, you know, that's something I really wanted to do. So yeah, ultimately working for myself, was the new goal really.

Jeremy Cline
Did you ever consider - I forget what the statistics are about the number of new businesses that apparently don't succeed within the first however many years - did any of that put you off, or why didn't that sort of thing that you off?

Tim Dickinson
If I was doing it within the motor industry, like a car sales site or a garage then yes, that would put me off. I think with the industry that I've gone into, one of the reasons I've gone that route - we had a lot of work done on our house, it was very hard to get plumbers. They wouldn't always turn up when they said they were going to and I just thought, do you know what, you put a bit of customer service behind some of that. It's not hard to surely create a good name for yourself. It's never going to happen overnight. And also talking to a lot of people - one of the reasons you don't get plumbers turn up is because they've just got too much work on. So there is clearly an industry where it can take more people doing that job. It's not over saturated.

Jeremy Cline
So you'd identified the demand. What made you think that it was right for you? Why did you think that you'd enjoy it and it was worth making the investment to train yourself up, get qualified and ultimately start a business in plumbing?

Tim Dickinson
I've always been very hands on. I've always liked the DIY side of it. So I've always enjoyed that. I was looking at a couple of different things to do. I really wanted to learn a trade really. Electrician was one of them, however, it's not something I really enjoy doing. When I've done plumbing and stuff, I do actually enjoy it and that side of it. So you know, if I'm going to go and do something on my own and start up something new, you've got to enjoy what you do. Otherwise you just suffer from boredom and so on and you won't necessarily succeed. So I knew it was something I would enjoy and like I said, I think there's a demand for it as well. So that's one of the reasons I did it.

Jeremy Cline
So what sort of stuff had you done that enabled you to realise that you enjoy doing it? Presumably you'd repaired a toilet cistern or installed a shower before?

Tim Dickinson
[Laughs] Yeah, stuff like that! I've done quite a few bathrooms in houses we've had, and so on. Yeah, all of that sort of stuff that I'd done. And it was just something I quite enjoyed. And I haven't got huge experience in doing it, so it is a little bit of a gamble. But whilst I was at college, a friend of mine - he's been a plumber for about 10, 15 years - I went to do work experience with him as well. I was obviously already into doing training and so on. But it's something that I've enjoyed really from starting out - one going to college, and also working with him.

Jeremy Cline
How did you pick up the skills in the first place? And I'm just thinking that, frankly for someone like me, who is really not very hands-on - I'd be terrified of starting a flood or goodness knows what. So how did you first acquire the skills?

Tim Dickinson
I suppose a lot of it I've learned things off YouTube and so on - it's very handy. And then once you've done it, once you've done something once - you kind of get the idea, right, Okay, next time I do it, did I do it right? Did I do it wrong? If I did it wrong - and you just learn a little bit of trial and error. It helps having someone sort of showing you what to do. The college I went to was very good at teaching you and then some of the basics - it is quite straightforward, really. I don't know whether it's just something I've understood quite quickly and other people don't - I don't necessarily think so. I think it's something that other people do. But I think having an interest in it does help as well.

Jeremy Cline
And talk me through the process. Is it college plus an apprenticeship? Is that the way it works?

Tim Dickinson
No. So it's and intensive college course. So you go for block weeks. You do a week, two weeks of theory. You'll go back and do practical. You'll do practical exams and so on. So it's split up over the period of probably about in total - because I'm doing gas as well - it's probably about 18 months in total. So I'm not fully qualified on gas, I am on plumbing. So it's basically just doing that. Now some people will go and they will purely just do the college part of it. And you start to see them struggling because they don't necessarily understand some bits but going out and doing work experience or working with someone is a real help. It's really putting it into into practical knowledge, it really is very good. And I was lucky enough to have a friend that was happy to work with me so it was very good.

Jeremy Cline
And there's got to be a lot of just having the experience so you know, college might show you something but then you see it in situ and there's something which is a bit different and you've got to look at it in a different way.

Tim Dickinson
The college course was kind of sold to me like 'Yeah you can go on this course, as soon as you've done the course you can just set up on your own, and off you go' - and it is quite apparent that you might have a qualification and know how to do something some way, but really when you're actually out there, everything is different. The principle of what you've been taught is there, but the way that maybe a plumber has done something before - you've got to work it out. It's not straightforward as soon as you walk into every house, it's certainly not the same. And it became quite apparent that I couldn't just - once I'd done my course - setup on my own and off I go and start plumbing in people's houses. That's why I've gone in with this friend of mine, we've gone in as a partnership. And most days I will go out with him - not every day, it comes less and less - but experience really is key to it.

Jeremy Cline
And talk me through how that partnership came about. You said it was a friend of yours, but then this is a friend who's saying, 'Okay, you've just started this, you're wet behind the ears, come and work with me?'

Tim Dickinson
Yeah.

Jeremy Cline
So I suppose putting it completely bluntly, what's he getting out of it?

Tim Dickinson
[Laughs] So I used to work with him - to be honest he's a friend because we worked in car sales together. He left car sales and went and worked with his dad, who was a plumber and a general handyman. He went away to college, but he did like a three year day release to do it whilst working. And then his dad retired, so he was doing it on his own. And he said to me I struggle to do some of the bigger jobs, take on the workload - when he's just working on his own. He can advertise, but then if he advertises then all of a sudden you've got too much work on, and you have to start letting people down. And that's the idea of what you want to do. And there are bigger jobs where you really have to have two people doing the job. So for him, it was sort of coming in - a bit of investment as well in some tools and so on like that which I was prepared to do, which he wasn't in a place to do - so that's his help. That's what's in it for him. And then what's in for me - I can gain off his knowledge really.

Jeremy Cline
And the business side of things, I'm guessing that a lot of people don't go into a trade to be a businessperson. So is that something that they teach on the course? Is that something that you've picked up from your friend or a combination of the two? Is it an aspect of the job which you enjoy? Is it something actually with your background in management that has really helped?

Tim Dickinson
Yeah. You don't get taught it at all on your course. I think that side of it, my friend sometimes struggles with. And basically it's the knowledge and experience that I've had from the 20 years in the motor industry - things like marketing, things like accounts and so on like that - I've taken that knowledge and experience from that, and then using it for this, and that sort of side of it - generally, the business side, the accounting side, the marketing side - I kind of do that side of it, really.

Jeremy Cline
So there's really no training on that? If you'd got someone who did the same college course as you aged 21 or something, and thought, right, I'm gonna start my own business - would they literally have just to figure all that out for themselves, make all the mistakes? Where do you even start?

Tim Dickinson
Yeah in a way. I bought a book, which was all about setting up as self employed, which was kind of handy. Read that. A few of my friends have been self employed for many years, probably 10, 15, some of them 20 years - and they've experienced some of it, more the accounting side of it, and they've learned by their mistakes and so on, and they've given me some guidance as well, which has been very useful. Also, about six months prior to me doing it, my wife set up her own business as well. So used some of the knowledge and experience she got from that as well. You know, that sort of guidance, we kind of did that a little bit, some of that together. So I sort of learnt a bit from there as well.

Jeremy Cline
What's her business?

Tim Dickinson
She's a dog groomer.

Jeremy Cline
And what's the book that you mentioned, what was it called?

Tim Dickinson
I can't remember what it's called now - I bought it from Staples which isn't a lot of use because you won't be going there to get it anymore. It's long gone away I think up in the attic, but it was think it was Starting out on Self Employment and then it gave you various sort of scenarios - things about being a limited company, being self employed, as partnership - guidance what you need down to things like insurances, National Insurance. If you are setting up a bigger business, things like employee rights and so on like that, which we don't have to worry too much about, things are pensions as well. But you never know, in the future we may have to.

Jeremy Cline
And the professional relationship between you and your partner, is that something which is quite informal at the moment or is that something where you have put something formal in place, or is that something that you intend to do?

Tim Dickinson
They do say you should write it down, you know, get something signed. At the moment it is literally 50:50 that's how we pay, we have a company bank account. The money goes into that once the materials are covered, then the money gets split 50:50. And that's on every single job. But I think over time with experience, there'll be things like holiday. Certainly I'm sure we'll come up against things where we need to put something a bit more formal in place.

Jeremy Cline
Yeah. I was listening to an interview the other day actually, its with Gary Keller. He's the author of a book called The One Thing and he set up a real estate agency in the US - unbelievably successful. And he likened the relationship to a marriage. He'd been through a divorce. He basically talked about how you should effectively have a business prenup so that you kind of set out you know, what happens if you decide to part ways or one of you wants to buy the other out - all that sort of thing. Do you think that's something you'll look to do in future?

Tim Dickinson
I think so. I think sort if the company starts getting maybe some value. Also if we ever need to enter any sort of credit agreements or anything like that, even just down to a credit card. Or, you know, if we need to do purchase agreements for vans or anything like that, then I think we will then. Because otherwise, if we did sort of fall out or something like that, what who's liable? And so on like that. So I think we will look at doing that as and when the time is right.

Jeremy Cline
And as you went through the change, I'm guessing your immediate family knew what was going on and I'm sure your wife was aware that you were unhappy at work and that sort of thing. But how did other family and friends react when they found out that you were leaving a management position in car sales and starting out as a plumber?

Tim Dickinson
Do you know what, I think I've had encouragement from everyone. I don't think anyone has ever turned around to me and said, that's a bad decision you're doing there. I think the thing that everyone always says to me, and I heard it so many times I remember it is 'everyone needs a plumber'. So it kind of gave me a little bit of 'Yes, I'm doing the right thing here'. But no, everyone has known how long I've done it for and fancied a change and so on like that. So no everyone has been very encouraging really to do it.

Jeremy Cline
In the first three or six months then that you've been doing it, have there been any moments where you've thought, 'Ooh, okay, I wasn't really expecting that' or where you've kind of thought, 'Is this really the right thing?'

Tim Dickinson
Normally when you get a leak or anything like that, or you get wet then you're sort of thinking that, but it comes - it's part and parcel of it, it comes with it. Fortunately, my business partner, he's quite calm. He's got a lot of experience, he's very good at changing a situation. But no, not as yet. I'm sure there will be. Sometimes you hear horror stories of where someone's repaired something and it's leaked and it's damaged a client's home and so on like that - and you just deal with it at the time. But I have noticed that the stress level and so on like that, it's just a complete change. There are stresses, you have time restraints and so on - you have to get things done. You can't, maybe like in the motor industry sometimes you could just sort of like you'd get to the point of going home time and you'd think well 'I'll leave it there on my desk, it'll be there in the morning and I'll finish it then.' You can't do that now, you know, you're in someone's home, they need heating, they need water - you've got to get it done. And that's probably one of the things, but that's just learning I suppose. That's working to a time and knowing when I can get done and finish for the day.

Jeremy Cline
And so where do you think this is going to go? You and your partner, you've got your own company. Is that what you think will work for you long term, having just the two of you - that is absolutely right for some people, you don't have to expand, expand, expand - or do you have ambitions to grow the company, hire more people, become the next Pimlico plumbers or anything like that?

Tim Dickinson
[Laughs] Personally - and I've spoken to my business partner about this and he's pretty much the same - I'm doing this more of a way of life than earning the millions, really. I think I'm happy keeping it like this, if I'm honest. I'm not out there to make millions, I just would prefer a stress-free as possible - not always possible, everything comes with stresses - but more of a stress-free career. And I think hiring, you know, growing a team of 5, 10 people and so on like that, it just increases the stress levels and so on. And, yes, you can probably earn more from doing it. But I don't know if that's necessarily something I want.

Jeremy Cline
And how long do you think you'll be doing this?

Tim Dickinson
I'd love to do it for 10 years, but both myself and my wife, we've sort of set ourselves a 10 year plan. It's always good to set yourself plans I think, something to aim towards. We might look at doing it in 10 years and we may sell our house and so on - the children will be pretty much grown up by then - and move to a different area, and then may set up again and do it again just on my own, once I've got the experience. That's the pipe dream, but whether I do it or not, if not, I'm 40 next year, so another 20 years.

Jeremy Cline
Well you've certainly got plenty of time on your side.

Tim Dickinson
Yeah.

Jeremy Cline
Tim, I've really enjoyed hearing about your story. This has been absolutely fascinating actually. I always ask my guests - you have a book that you mentioned, but any other particular resources or just something which you found has been helpful for you in this journey, in this transition?

Tim Dickinson
For me, it was the training centre that I went to - I call it college, but the training centre - which was Access Training. They do a number of different trades and so on. As I said, I got the qualification, you know, within 18 months, I will be fully qualified. If I was 16 and starting this, it probably would have taken me a good three years. Now I don't have three years - I've still got a family to support and so on. I don't have three years of going to college five days a week, or going and do an apprenticeship - I don't have it. So I just needed to get it done almost as quick as possible and get started and go out earning a living, and try and get back to earning a living where I was. So for me, I have nothing but praise for sort of these fast learning qualifications. It's not just this industry, there's all sorts of industries where you can do sort of adult learning courses. They can be quite expensive. I think they should be government supported but they're not now, so they can be expensive. So yeah, I've got that to consider. I've got that to earn back really, make sure it pays for itself. But I'm almost there now. So I probably wasn't made aware when I first signed up for it sort of quite how intense is - it's very fast paced - but yeah, once you get used to it, they are very good.

Jeremy Cline
Well, the very best of luck with it. I can already tell from speaking to you that your business sense and experience from your previous job is probably going to stand you in brilliant stead compared with other people. So I hope it goes well, and best of luck with it.

Tim Dickinson
Thank you very much. Thank you.

Jeremy Cline
And thank you so much for joining me on the podcast.

Tim Dickinson
No worries, thank you.

Jeremy Cline
I'm amazed how matter of fact and calm Tim was about the fact that management hadn't worked out. Bear in mind, he'd been working towards this position for 17 years, but then after having given it a go for three years, he decided it wasn't for him. Some people might have got frustrated by this - seen it as time wasted - but I didn't get that impression from Tim at all. Tim framed it in very different terms. He'd achieved his goal, he could tick it off, it hadn't worked out - so he decided to try for a new goal. It was also interesting what he said about the fact that he was working so hard, and he didn't really mind working hard, but he was conscious that he was working hard for someone else. And really, he thought, well, if I'm working that hard, I may as well do it for me. You'll find the show notes for this episode on the website at changeworklife.com/23 that's the number 2, 3. Also, there's a contact page at changeworklife/contact and I would love to hear from you. Are there any topics that you'd particularly like covered? Are there any guests that you'd like me to have on? Do you have a career change story of your own that you'd like to share? Please do get in touch, I really would love to hear from you. Next week we'll be speaking to someone who changed career five times before finding her calling and settling on her current role. Does that sound a bit crazy? Well you'll have to listen and judge for yourself. Cheers. Bye.

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