Advice to my younger self: Phillip Ainsworth

Philip Ainsworth, Suffolk Agricultural Association chief executive

Philip Ainsworth, Suffolk Agricultural Association chief executive - Credit: Archant

Chief executive of the Suffolk Agricultural Association offers some pearls of wisdom from his working life.

"We are all good at something, you just need the opportunity," says Phillip.

"We are all good at something, you just need the opportunity," says Phillip.

Since 2016 Phillip Ainsworth has been chief executive of the Suffolk Agricultural Association, a charity that is responsible for organising the annual Suffolk Show, managing Trinity Park events and delivering a wide range of education programmes. Here, he offers some advice to his younger self.

How would you describe yourself at 18?

I was coming to the end of my time at boarding school but had, for a while, determined that I wanted to join the Army. Back then having a degree wasn’t seen as necessary for the armed forces so I took that as a great excuse to do little academic work, spending most of my time playing sport and listening to music instead particularly, Hawkwind, Pink Floyd and Deep Purple.

What three tips would you give to your younger self?

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Have a go at anything and everything (as long as it’s legal) as we are all good at something, you just need the opportunity. Don’t worry about making mistakes but learn from them and always believe in the best of people as, more often than not, they try to do the right thing.

Phillip's chosen motto is Carpe Diem - seize the day.

Phillip's chosen motto is Carpe Diem - seize the day. - Credit: Archant

Is there anything you would do differently?

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Academically I should have worked harder as achieving the fullest of educational opportunities broadens choices for the rest of your life – we can’t all be Richard Branson. That said, I went on to undertake many career-related courses including the Open University which enabled me to progress in a rewarding and positive way both in the armed forces and the NHS.

Are there any projects you are particularly proud of?

After the Army, which I left when I was 31, I joined the NHS and fulfilled a number of management roles. I was very involved in trying to improve cancer care in the local area and was proud to contribute to improved access to new treatments for cancer patients. In my current role, which is both a great pleasure and privilege, seeing numerous young people gain access to our many educational events greatly inspires me as the future is in their hands. The SAA is probably best known for delivering the annual county show which brings our community together in a way that allows many of us to enjoy a huge variety of opportunities; playing a small part in delivering the event is a great honour.

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

The SAA, established in 1831, has adapted and changed with the times. In many ways the organisation is part of the fabric of our county and whilst progressive, rightly preserves its heritage and sense of place. I believe the strength of any organisation is to ensure its relevance for today whilst looking to the future but remembering where it’s come from.

Why is Suffolk a good place to do business?

I came to the county in 1991 to live and work. Prior to then I had spent my life on the move, often abroad. In my experience, there is something about this county that is different.

People often talk about its beauty which is undeniable, but also its friendliness which I have certainly found to be the case. Others talk about our rather polite way of doing things, we don’t show off. Geography really matters and regardless of politics this part of the UK is strategically well placed to continue developing its key industries. It strikes me that we do partnership working rather well which, in an increasingly competitive world, seems to be critical for future success.

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

Several to choose from. At school I represented England in small bore rifle shooting and it was pretty exciting when we won, marching up the steps at Sandhurst on becoming an Army officer was rather special too, but getting married and having children definitely trumps them all.

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

Carpe Diem - seize the day.

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