Advice to my younger self: Nick Burrows, CEO of Notcutts in Woodbridge

Nick Burrows, CEO at Notcutts

Nick Burrows, CEO at Notcutts - Credit: Archant

Nick Burrows is CEO of Notcutts, a Woodbridge-based business that operates 18 garden centres throughout the UK. The family-owned firm celebrates 120 years in business in 2017, so we asked Nick to offer us some words of wisdom from his time in the world of work.

Notcutts Garden Centre in Woodbridge. Picture: Notcutts

Notcutts Garden Centre in Woodbridge. Picture: Notcutts - Credit: Archant

How would you describe yourself at 18?

Very lucky and happy. I was having a great time as a young adult in Suffolk, and as a fanatical Ipswich Town follower I was revelling in the brilliant football of the Bobby Robson era.

I was ‘living the teenage dream’ and singing in a band called Straw Dogs, doing concerts locally and even getting some airtime on local radio. I had a bit of money in my pocket from my summer jobs working at The Moon and Sixpence in Waldringfield and Priory Park, Nacton.

I’d just done pretty well in my A levels at Woodbridge School and was heading off to university - and I had the love and support of a wonderful family in my home town of Woodbridge.

What three tips would you give to your younger self?

1. Stay positive - there are rarely problems that can’t be solved if you’re resourceful enough and sufficiently determined.

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2. Keep fit, healthy and stay active. It’s a cliché but ‘healthy body, healthy mind’ is very true. I still recall the time I ventured as a teenager into ‘Gym N Trim’ in Ipswich. It set a pattern of exercise then that I’ve kept up throughout my life.

3. Keep a level head. Calm and balance are qualities that will serve you well in all sorts of situations. They are qualities, I have found, that are equally appreciated by friends, family and work colleagues.

Is there anything you would do differently?

There are of course plenty of things I would do differently, but I’ve always lived my life without regrets. I’ve had ups and downs like anyone else but I’m not one for wallowing in the woes of the past. I’m always looking forward to what comes next.

I became involved with a yoga business some years ago and in yoga it’s very much about living in the moment. As my yoga teacher says it’s about ‘being’ rather than ‘doing’. So I think I’d try and appreciate every moment.

Are there any projects you are particularly proud of?

I have many projects I’m proud of – and they’re on quite different scales.

I’ve been very proud to be CEO at Notcutts for the last two years. The company was started in my home town of Woodbridge and Notcutts was my dad’s favourite garden centre when he was alive. He was a fanatical gardener and my mum still carries on the tradition today. She even won a prize from Woodbridge Horticultural Society for her front garden.

I became a Trustee of the Ipswich Town Charitable Trust in 2012. Since then I’ve become vice chairman and I’m proud to have helped this organisation transition into what is now known as Inspire Suffolk. Under the great leadership of Terry Baxter this charity does magnificent and often unseen work to support the lives of many disadvantaged young people in Suffolk. I’m very proud to have played a small part in this.

Can you point to a turning point, a landmark which told you that your business would be a success?

I’ve been involved in a number of businesses over the years – seemingly in sectors beginning with ‘H’ – hotels, hospitality, holidays, health clubs…and now horticulture!

There are some common themes that represent turning points across the companies I’ve worked with:

n Understanding clearly who your customers are – now and in the future

n Defining a clear business strategy and a route map to achieving it

n Being clear about what your brand stands for – purpose, values, differentiation

n Assembling a team of talented, capable, motivated people who can deliver the strategy

n Building a positive and proud culture throughout the organisation

n Creating a pattern of regularly ‘hitting the numbers’

Why is Suffolk a good place to do business?

Look around you. Open space, fresh air, beautiful scenery and all this within not much more than an hour’s train ride to London.

My office is in Woodbridge and whilst I spend much of my time around our other 18 Notcutts garden centres across the country, I love my days here. Five minutes’ walk and I’m on the banks of the River Deben reliving moments from my youth and soaking up the inspiration that such a wonderful place brings.

There are also some terrific businesses in Suffolk, with whom we have many great partnerships at Notcutts.

And, of course, one day the brilliant football of the Robson years might just appear at Portman Road again. This season has started promisingly.

If you could relive one day, what would it be?

I’m going to be greedy here and relive three.

The birth of my first daughter Rachel – in Ipswich (she’s a Tractor Girl I’m proud to say) and my second daughter Ciara, across the county border in Essex. The third is 6th May 1978 with my dad, mum and brother at Wembley – Geddis, Osborne, 77th minute, Ipswich v Arsenal 1-0.

If you were to choose one motto what would it be?

As a way of living, I’d say: ‘Make it happen, have fun and stay humble’. Also, as Notcutts CEO, I’m particularly proud of our strapline: ‘Garden inspiration since 1897’..