Tell us a little about who you are and what you do?
You know me better than most, I’m Tom Richards, Commercial Director at Proceed Solutions. I’ve been with the business two years but in the industry my whole life, my father owned companies before this and my first job was to clean a school 5 days a week after college for my father’s business. Kelly, our Financial Director, saw me being brought into our old office in a baby carrier, I bring my kid in now and hopefully he’ll make it as a professional footballer but if he doesn’t, he can follow my footsteps – I’m proud of the industry I work in. I’m 32 now and feel I’ve evolved into who I am due to the varied roles I’ve had in the industry. I’m lucky enough to have had exposure to business leaders from a very young range, whether that be customers, competitors or clients and my strategy has always been to listen and learn. Taking the bits I like from those around me and adding them to how I represent myself but remaining authentic, for me that’s all that counts. I’m now in a fast-growing company at Proceed which is exactly where I want to be, with like-minded people that want to make a difference. This isn’t about record breaking growth or world domination, this is about genuinely making a difference and initiatives like this (BreatheOut) is a big part of that. A successful business requires a varied skill set, and for me the operational delivery is the foundation. If you don’t deliver on your promises, you can’t get off the ground. At Proceed we have an incredible team.
What makes the business you represent unique?
I feel as though our business operates in a unique space, modest enough in size to really care about our clients but large enough to have all the relevant accreditations/insurances, experience, and knowledge to compete with the big hitters. We have a strong blend of old-school industry experience and young energetic individuals looking to challenge everything and ensure our model and business evolves ahead of the curve. By focussing our minds on a select few market sectors we’re able to gain a great understanding of them and what our clients expect from us.
The size of our organisation makes us agile, in turn making it easier to implement change and deliver a difference on the front line. We have a diverse skill set within the Senior Management team and meet weekly to discuss new products and innovations that we could look to bolt onto our existing offering
Tell us something most people won’t know about you?
I completed the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon
As part of the Breathe Out initiative, it highlights the positive impact of talking to someone and also being active, particularly when you may be struggling. How important are these two factors for combatting mental Ill-health?
Until recently I didn’t think there was a link, ever since I was young I’ve been playing football, running marathons, taking part in boxing events and triathlons and been really active and never thought about what’s going on between my ears. However in the last two years a lot has changed for me personally – I’ve had a child, renovated a house, started a new job all while being injured and unable to exercise and while it’s not affected me I have struggled to fill my evenings after work and feel something’s missing. I’ve never previously had that worry, but more recently I can see the link. In relation to talking I recognise that it’s huge, I feel a little bit of a hypocrite because I’m not the best at it myself. I’m used to being in environments that are not historically well known for talking about your feelings but I feel there’s been a big change in the last few years. If I think about my father who also works for the business, and the change from his generation to ours in terms of how much more openly we talk, it’s clearly going in the right direction. The conversation is being normalised and that is why sessions like this are so important.
Have you ever personally struggled with your own mental health?
Not knowingly, and I know that will sound like a strange answer. I would deem myself as being mentally strong, and typically when I say I’m going to do something I deliver. However now that the topic is being discussed more openly, and you hear the symptoms and how it affects people differently – I look back at periods in my life where I’ve experienced some of them, fortunately not the severe ones but certainly some of the less destructive ones. Then I think because I experienced some symptoms, was I actually alright or I was just trying to conceal my real feelings – the honest answer is I don’t know, but I know that having incredible family/friends, and having a good relationship with exercise has certainly helped suppress them.
In business there’s a stigma attached to people with mental health issues, why do you think that is.
I think that’s the same as all of society, if you’re not going to tell your friends or family you’re maybe not going to feel comfortable enough talking to a colleague. I guess it’s still deemed as a sign of weakness and the last thing you want to be is weak when running a business or in a professional environment. You don’t want your team looking at you thinking you’re losing control but good businesses are getting much better at having these conversations which helps remove some of these stigmas, and initiatives such as Breathe Out engage these conversations. I feel we’ve evolved lots in such a short space of time but still lots more can be done. I don’t struggle with my mental health but I still struggle sometimes just to talk to people, so to think about people who are struggling, still functioning and somehow have the courage in them to ask for help just goes to show how strong they really are.
What tips and guidance could you offer other people who are struggling with their own mental health?
The obvious one is to say to talk, it’s proven and will always help. I personally think there should be more emphasis on the people who are not struggling. The people that are around colleagues who could be looking for the signs and hopefully spotting any changes in personality to help encourage the conversation. You might worry you’re going to offend or upset someone by not using the correct terminology but if your heart’s in the right place and it’s a genuine concern I don’t ever think it will be an issue. I don’t think you need to be an expert to care and look out for your colleagues and people around you. We’ve all got a responsibility to look out for each other.
Date Completed – 13/10/2022
Location – Clent Halls, Worcestershire
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