de Winter founder and CEO Hems de Winter shares his thoughts on stepping down from the business after 27 years…
Decision made. A pretty big one too! There again, if you know in your heart you’re doing the right thing, at the right time and for the right reasons, making the big decisions becomes that much easier.
Implementing it will be the challenging bit. Emotional stuff, leaving a business you started on your own over 26 years ago. Not that I’m disappearing into the sunset or cutting the ties completely – far from it – but it’s still pretty grown-up stuff initiating the countdown to a whole new working life away from ‘de Winter’.
The good bits? Knowing that you’re leaving something that over the years has come to mean something and stand for something good, and knowing that you’re leaving it in safe hands. Kate, Steve, Nikki and a stunning team of really gifted individuals will go on to do great things with a great business.
What’s far more difficult from a personal perspective is no longer having day-to-day contact with people who mean a great deal and have added so much to my quality of my life. In terms of Team de Winter, they’re people who stand for something bigger than the job they do, and do very well. That’s what has always differentiated the people who have worked here.
It’s equally difficult to contemplate the end of my own professional relationships that have been established over many years with some fantastic clients and suppliers.
We’re so lucky to have been able to attract, keep and grow many fantastic brands over the years. Even more important than the brands are the individuals we have worked for and alongside in the past, and are working for now. They have without exception displayed great loyalty and encouragement.
To think that we have relationships with clients going back over 20 years!! I believe that speaks well of us. Many have become valued friends and, I hope, will remain so.
Those sentiments apply just as strongly to the long list of colleagues that have made their own unique contribution and left their indelible mark on ‘Team de Winter’ over the years. It has been one of the greatest privileges to work alongside and hopefully make a difference to a remarkable group of authentic people who really cared.
I’m grateful for the value they added and the magic they created whilst they were with us. Many of them have been very special people of whom I’ve been in complete awe.
Many have gone on to achieve great success. I’d like to think that we’ve helped them on their journeys to be who and what they want to be. There’s no danger of me ever forgetting any of them.
It would be immensely dull of me to attempt to review how the business of running and growing a PR agency has changed since the late ‘80s. Imagine: no mobile phones. No emails. Steam-powered computers. Dictating letters every morning. I’m not sure that technology has actually made life any simpler or more personal, to be honest.
I still can’t quite come to terms with the fact that I’m emailing people who are sitting no more than three paces from me!
Did I ever think we would reach our 25-year milestone? Certainly not. I can almost remember my surprise at reaching five years, and then 10! The rest is a bit of a blur… I’m sure that others who know me better will have been even more surprised than me that we made it to five!
As I’ve been writing these few words, the faces of colleagues, clients and suppliers past and present have paraded themselves across my memory.
Not wishing to make this sound like an Oscars acceptance speech, there are a few of those faces I need to pluck out for particular thanks: my dad – my hero and inspiration – who loaned me the money to buy my first computer and who let me use his office in Ellesmere Port while I found a more permanent base for the agency.
My wife Emma and our children for their unstinting patience and support during some challenging times that inevitably form part and parcel of running a business, and to the ever-giving and wisdom-packed Alan Mullett without whom none of us at de Winter would be who and where we are today.
To Joanne, Sharon and Stu for their amazing loyalty and for being such great confidantes; to Kerry for being such a great companion on the journey for so many years and to Kate Cox and Steve Downes who have done so much to transform our small lifestyle business into a multi-award-winning agency that still makes a real difference to some brilliant global brands.
What next? Sharing with other organisations and young people what I’ve learned over more than 26 years about what makes a business strong and sustainable and what makes a team engaged, fulfilled and effective.
I’m delighted that as part of my new career, I will be able to maintain my association with the agency through weekly mentoring sessions.
Best bits of the last 26 years? Undoubtedly all the people I’ve worked with and for.
Regrets? None. None at all.