Adrian Powell, co-owner and director of Active Workplace Solutions tells us a little bit more about himself and his journey with Active Workplace Solutions.

What is your background?

I left school having failed my A-levels (well I got a D and two E's) which destroyed my hopes of going to Polytechnic or University. I originally had a look at fisheries studies in Plymouth but I soon realised that wasn't something that I wanted to be doing.

My dad told me to get a job instead… so I donned his best suit which I amazingly fitted into, and went for an interview at Pickford Removals in High Wycombe. I had two interviews there, and was offered a job as a trainee branch manager. I was there for two and a half years, ending up as assistant manager at Reading.

I then was 'head hunted' for a job as a manager at another removal company called Overs who were based in Camberley, Addlestone and Salisbury and I managed their Addlestone office for a while before being 'head hunted' back to Pickford's to manage the worst performing branch out of 130 branches! It was quite a task, but I succeeded in turning it around and it was at that point that I fell into commercial moving.

In between working at Pickford's and Overs, I also spent a year working with my dad selling second hand cars and, in that period, he won an award for selling the most second hand cars for Skoda in that year. He picked up a nice parker pen and a holiday in Tenerife for my efforts!

After 3 years I was 'head hunted' back again to Overs, who by then decided to concentrate more on commercial moving. While I was there, I attended the FM show at Olympia and bumped into my old manager from Pickfords, who was working for Nexus, North American Van Lines. He approached me and I started working with him as a National Sales Manager. Shortly after he moved to work for MJF group – the largest Herman Miller dealer in Europe at the time - and I took over running Nexus, the commercial moving brand of North American Van Lines. Eventually I joined him again at MJF group working my way up to director over an 8 year period.

When/ how did you join Active?

I'd been working with Colin for some time, as he used to contract in as an outsourced project manager. At that point, Colin was 'Active'. One day, we were on the tube, on our way to an interview for a job and I mentioned that I was looking to leave and do something myself. Later that evening, he called me to ask for a chat about helping him grow his business, so off we went to the pub and had a chat. We decided to have a trial of working together for three months, which then turned into six. Now it's 12 years on and I'm still here!

Back then, the office was in the cupboard under my stairs. As the business was getting stronger and more projects were coming in, we took my wife Sarah on to help with accounts and operations, which meant moving into the conservatory! As things continued to go well for us, we soon realised that we needed our own warehouse and office so we took a unit which is just around the corner from where we are now. We've recently finished a stylish refurbishment on our offices – a far cry from my cupboard under the stairs.

Who do you work closely with?

Bit of everyone really, more closely with Paul Skelton our business development director, Sarah Powell, Angela Love and Colin Tarsey our other directors. I also work closely with our non-exec chairman David Sanger.

Who, in any other industry do you most admire?

Richard Branson. Two quotes from him really stick with me:'Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don't want to.' And 'If you don't know how to do something, say yes and learn how to do it later.' - He's forward thinking and truly innovative. In my opinion he's inspirational to anyone of any age.

I also like Peter Jones – he has a good choice in socks, like me!

What could you not live without in the office?

Malt loaf. I always have some in my locker. As soon as it hits mid-afternoon I'll be eating it!

How would you improve the industry?

I think with the whole industry, certainly on the FM side, people's motives tend not to be about building relationships and being around for the long term. There just seems to be a lot of deception and race to the bottom. Trust is incredibly important. That, and brilliant customer service is what brings people back to you and your services.

We've built a successful business by a lot of hard work and staying true to our values. One of the foundations of our business is the fact that we are trusted, and we are always trying to do the right thing. If we do make mistakes, we hold our hands up and we will make it right, not a lot of businesses do that.