Sunday, 21 April 2019

Let's Get Down to Business: Mark Evans, Towergate Insurance

Let's Get Down to Business: Mark Evans, Towergate Insurance

MARK EVANS is the managing director of Towergate Insurance whose offices are in Newtown Road, Henley. Born in Hackney, he left school in 1978, when he was 17, because he wanted to earn some money and joined Eagle Star in Reading. He and his wife Liz, whom he met in Saudi Arabia, where she was a nurse, moved to Sonning Common 22 years ago. They have two grown-up children and a dog, Mishka. Mark loves rugby and supports Reading Abbey, where he is a director and sponsor, the Reading Rams and the Henley Hawks.

Describe your business

We advise on risk and insurance and place insurance policies for large and small commercial businesses and private clients. Towergate has been trading as brokers in Henley under several names since 1962.

How many people does it employ?

There are 45 of us in our Henley office and some of our employees have been with the company for more than 20 years. The longest-serving member of staff is approaching 50 years’ service.

What did you do before you joined this business?

On leaving school, I had four interviews and got three offers. I went for the one that paid the most, which was Eagle Star, where I stayed for six years. I had a friend who had obtained a job with an insurance company in Saudi Arabia and, even though I was only 23, I managed to do the same. I ran an insurance office there for five-and-a-half years.When I came back to the UK I went to Marsh, a very large broker in Reading and the City, where I spent 10 years.

When did you start at Towergate?

It was in 2000. Before becoming Towergate, the business was known first as MPW and then Arbuthnot. I had a meeting with the chief executive Gordon Appleby who persuaded me to join and I’ve been here ever since. I took over as managing director in 2005 when the business was acquired by Towergate.

What was your objective?

I never really had goals and objectives but Gordon offered me a totally different proposition where I could make a meaningful and measurable contribution. There was the added benefit of no longer having to commute every day.

Do you have a mentor or role model?

My life hero is Leonard Cohen, a singer, writer, artist and poet, but the person I learned the most from in business was Gordon Appleby who, sadly, passed away too soon.

What would you do differently if you could again?

Nothing. I never look backwards.

How is your business doing?

Fine. We normally hit our growth targets. There were only 12 people in the business when I joined and there are now 45, so we have grown consistently.

How do you market your business?

We probably don’t do enough really. Most of our business comes from recommendations. As we are part of a big corporate entity, we should probably spend more to promote the Towergate brand nationally. As we feel a part of Henley, we do support a few local sports clubs and charities.

What’s the best thing about running this business?

The business is now run by a team as it became too much to run by myself. We have a great management team and lovely staff and clients, which is the best thing about the business and why I am still here.

What’s the most challenging aspect?

The ever-increasing burden of compliance takes up a lot of time, cost and resource. Also, as a mainly “advisory business” we are losing some business when people buy through the internet without any advice to assist them, so we are developing online options too.

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

The importance of delegation, which I should have realised sooner, communication and being nice to people — even those that are challenges!

What would you advise someone starting a business?

Keep it simple. Keep your costs below your income and you’ll make a profit. Many people seem to forget this basic business premise.

What three qualities are most important to success?

Honesty, a positive attitude and a hard work ethic.

What’s the secret of your success?

Hard work, being nice and marrying a good woman!

How do you dress for work each day?

We are more casual now but I still prefer a suit and tie for business meetings and when I go into the City.

What can’t you do/be without every day?

Stretching exercises, medication and breakfast.

Lunch at your desk or going out?

I try to get away from my desk and support as many of our local pubs and restaurants as possible.

Do you continue to study?

Yes. You can learn something new every day. And Continuing Professional Development is a requirement in this business.

What do you read?

Travel books to decide where to go on holiday. The Telegraph when I’m on holiday. I read the Henley Standard from front to back to find out what everybody is doing.

How are you planning for your retirement?

I’ve worked for 41 years and the thought of retirement takes a bit of getting my head around. My wife has just retired from the Buscot ward at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading after 28 years so it’s now something I need to think about. I love this area so we’ve no plans to move. We often take holidays around sporting events but I pushed my luck when I arranged our honeymoon in 1990 in Jamaica to coincide with the Test match at Sabina Park!

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