Profile: Neil Lodge
Position and name of company: Chief executive of Fosters Event Catering
Size of company: Turnover £6 million, 40 full-time staff (plus up to 500 temporary staff at major events)
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Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Friday, May 31 2013
Born: Royton, Rochdale
Educated: I went to the local comprehensive in Holmes Chapel, Cheshire, and then studied for a BSc Hons in Hospitality Management at Leeds Polytechnic.
First job: I worked as a waiter in a local pub in Cheshire when I was a teenager but the job and the environment made a big impact on my career ambition. After university, my first proper job was as a business sales executive for the Whitbread Beer Company.
Influences and inspirations: I worked for Harry Ramsden's for many years and the chairman, John Barnes, was a great visionary. He was the guy who took a single fish and chip shop in Yorkshire and built it into a global brand. My father established my work ethic and encouraged me to seek out difficult paths that would lead to the best solutions to life's challenges. The board of Fosters includes Giles Clarke and Rupert King; I am a huge admirer of Giles' entrepreneurial talent and Rupert has a brilliant ability to analyse commercial problems.
Irritations: Poor time-keeping, rudeness, arrogance and I loathe gardening.
Hobbies: Dining out, football (err...Man Utd), my boys (aged four and six).
What first inspired you to become involved in business? When I was first working in the pub, I liked providing a service and being paid for it. The pub was a successful independent business and I was inspired to get a slice of it. Early in my professional life, I had the chance to run a Harry Ramsden's franchise and I was encouraged to run it independently and to develop success in my own style. I thrived under this type of management.
Looking back is there anything you would have done differently in the course of your career? At some stage I would have liked to have run my own business but I've been very fortunate to run other people's businesses as if they were my own. I also considered working abroad and although I've done some stints in other countries, I've never fully immersed myself in another culture or international business environment.
What part of your job do you enjoy the most? Managing the team and getting out on events to see the magic at work. Being the boss sometimes means that I'm detached from it – I love the summer months where I can see it all happening. It's a great energiser.
What is the key challenge facing business in the UK today? The ability to raise capital in order to facilitate growth. General bureaucracy and paperwork – I recognise the value of it but it's a distraction from creating growth.
What can Government do to help businesses thrive? Make capital more accessible. Government could take steps to remove the layers of bureaucracy that stall business growth.
What advice would you give to anyone considering setting up their own company? To be determined and single minded.