‘If you think you can, or can’t – you are probably right’ - founder of Stokes Sauces Rick Sheepshanks offers some words of wisdom
- Credit: Archant
Known for its luxury tomato ketchups, mayonnaises and other condiments, Stokes Sauces launched in 2004 and is based at Rendlesham, in what’s affectionately known as the ‘Suffolk Saucery’.
How would you describe yourself at 18?
Lost - with loads of imagination but lacking self-belief. By taking on many different jobs, both in this country and far-flung places abroad, I began to discover myself and along the way packed my life with adventures. I learnt a lot of lessons too and over the years these have served me well.
What three tips would you give your younger self?
Firstly, dream big and then dream bigger. Refuse to be confined by what others think is possible for you. Believe in yourself!
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Secondly, aim for excellence in what you do. Failure is part and parcel of the road to achieving your goals, but remember there is no shame in failing, only in not trying.
Thirdly, understand, as soon as possible, that your deeds are what define you. Thoughts and words can be well and good, but it is your actions that will determine who you are. Clearly visualising your core value system and setting the rules you live by is essential.
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Is there anything you would do differently?
I have made enough mistakes for several lifetimes. Of course, there are things I would like to have done differently or not done at all, or things that I'd said differently or spoken up when I just stayed quiet. But that is life. Those are my mistakes, and I live with them. Hopefully, as you go through life, you learn to forgive yourself, grow the grit to stay in the game and do better next time. But if I could have changed anything, I would just have done more.
Are there any projects that you are particularly proud of?
Apart from my family, the team at Stokes is what makes me most proud. You start off thinking you are the boss and all-important, and then the irony hits you that you are simply a cog and without all the other cogs - the team of people around you - the engine wouldn't keep turning and actually, you are pretty small and not that important.
If I have ever looked good in my life, it is because someone else or group of people whom I am part of have made me look good by association. That is certainly the case at Stokes. As we have grown, we have nurtured an exceptionally talented team and created an environment where people can flourish and grow.
I believe in Aristotle's adage - "The whole is bigger than the sum of the parts" and whatever small part I have had in helping people to grow and reach their full potential makes me proud.
Can you point to a landmark in your career where you knew you would be successful?
Not really, I don't view success like that anyway. As Samuel Beckett once put it "Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better." You are only ever as good as your last game, negotiation, big business deal, customer win - whatever. Success and failure are just transitory milestones on your journey. I think that when you say 'I have been a success' it implies you have finished and I am not. I view my life and career as work in progress.
Why is Suffolk a good place to do business?
For me it's because I live here and my roots are here. When I was a boy, Suffolk was a gastronomic black hole, and now we are spoiled for choice - the county is home to an array of wonderful producers and restaurants. Is it the food hub of the UK? I don't know, it's a definite contender, but it is the home of Stokes Sauces.
If you could relive one day, what would it be?
Crikey! I think it would have to be my wedding day. I didn't get married until I was 47. I was, and still am really, a bit of a loner. I avoid crowds. I was nervous as hell on the day, until Anny put her hand in mine, but at that moment it was as if God had put his hand on my shoulder and I knew I was going to be just fine with this special girl, but it still all went by in a blur. If I could do it again, I would. But that's assuming she would.
If you could choose one motto - what would it be?
My family motto is "Perserverando" or "To Persevere", which has been pretty apt for me. If I had to choose a different one, perhaps "If you think you can, or can't - you are probably right."