Monday, 22 April 2019

Let's Get Down to Business: Sam Evans, Humphreys of Henley

Let's Get Down to  Business: Sam Evans, Humphreys of Henley

SAM EVANS is the founder of Humphreys of Henley, a concierge service. Born in Gloucestershire, she went to local boarding schools and then Leeds University where she read for a degree in international history and politics. After graduating, she moved to London and worked in sales and sponsorship for media companies including Classic FM and then as a management consultant. She moved to Henley in 1998. Her partner Steve currently lives in America and they take turns to commute in order to see each other. Her other love is golden retriever Hector, whom she got as a puppy last year after the death of her previous dog Humphrey. She has been a town councillor since 2011 and focuses on her interests in the town’s recreation and green spaces.

Describe your business

The Humphreys of Henley team are the experts in sourcing and creating fabulous things to do in the English countryside. I was inspired to launch the business by my love of everything that is quintessentially English and a desire to share the hidden delights of our countryside. For example, the guests enjoy everything from clay shooting, falconry and flying a tiger moth to exclusive tours of Windsor Castle and Blenheim Palace and fabulous evenings at the Henley Festival. I’ve used my experience of travelling during my corporate career and apply my understanding of making the most of limited time and not wanting to feel that you may have missed the best bits.

How many people does it employ?

Three, including me, but we have a team of associates for all the various bespoke activities we organise.

What did you do before you started this business?

After my career in the media, I spent 14 years as a management consultant specialising in sales and performance management and focused on the pharmaceutical industries.

When did you start your business?

In 2014.

What was your objective?

To open up and promote the English countryside to visitors from home and abroad.

Who or what influenced you?

Just me. I had two major changes in my life and it was time to make a change and take control or feel sorry for myself — I chose the former.

Do you have a mentor or role model?

I’m an avid reader and I’m a member of the Entrepreneurs Circle, which is a fee-based enterprise assisting small business owners, especially with strategy and marketing. I’ve found this to be a big help.

What would you do differently if starting again?

It could take me until Christmas to fully answer that question! There are so many practicalities in running a business but there are many sources of help available which I didn’t know about or look for in the early days.

How is your business doing?

We are 100 per cent up on last year.

How do you market your business?

We have unique connections with some five star hotels, including Cliveden, the Savoy and the Corinthia, among others. We work with travel companies in America. We use Facebook ads. Referrals and repeat business are a major factor in our continued growth.

What’s the best thing about running your own business?

The positive feedback we get from clients means a huge amount — it’s the reason I set up Humphreys. Plus I get to visit so many wonderful places.

What’s the most challenging aspect?

Prioritising. Focusing on the right things and not getting side-tracked.

Where is your business headed?

In 10 years I want to sell it as a multi-million pound company which is recognised as the authority and “go to” expert on the British countryside.

What’s the most valuable thing you've learned?

That I’m a lot stronger than I thought. I especially discovered this not too long ago when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I’m very happy to say that following my treatment I’m now clear.

How would you advise someone starting a business?

Keep it simple. Listen and learn. Learn something new every day.

What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made?

I trusted a couple of people who, with the benefit of hindsight, I shouldn’t have.

What three qualities are most important to success?

Believing in yourself and in what you are doing. Persistence. Direction.

What’s the secret of your success?

I’m creative and I can sell. I love people. I’m always open to learning.

How organised are you?

I’m not naturally organised, which is why I do so much planning. I hire people with complementary skills to mine to ensure we cover all of the bases.

How do you dress for work each day?

Before I had an office I would often be in the clothes I wore for walking the dog. Now I make an effort!

What can’t you be without every day?

Hector, my dog.

Lunch at your desk or going out?

At my desk.

Do you continue to study?

I read all the time and go on courses to become better at things that I’m rubbish at.

What do you read?

Lots of books. I attended a presentation by Prof John Mullen and as a result I’m reading all Jane Austen’s books. I read the Henley Standard, of course!

How are you planning for retirement?

I have a long list of places I want to visit, several of which I will tick off over the next 10 years before dedicating as much time as possible to exploring the world.

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