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a blog by Chris Barrow

I’m back!

First real day back yesterday – and the continuation of an old tradition (self-fulfilling prophesy?) that I cannot sleep the night before my first day back at work after a holiday.

Went to bed at 11.30 pm on Monday night, woke at 1.30 am Tuesday morning – not a bloody chance of getting back to sleep.

So I finish off “The Player of Games” by Iain M Banks and, after copious cups of tea, decide to get myself ready and packed for a week based in Manchester and, to Annie’s surprise, I wake her at 4.00 am to say “bye bye” (it’s a rule that I do that – I’m not an evil sod).

Leave Falmouth at 4.30 am and start driving North on the A30/M5/M6, happy in the knowledge that the Bank Holiday Monday 9-mile tail-back is a memory.

I’m kept awake by the Linkin Park album “Minutes to Midnight” and then on to my usual chill-out stuff as the 5-hour journey unfolds – plenty of time to think about the months ahead and the opportunities.

My first meeting is at the Bolton head office of IDH, where I join with CEO David Hudaly and our new operations manager for the Private Sector, Matt Jackson, who has been head-hunted specially for the role to build brand standards and systems for the Private Sector and for other divisions of the business.

Matt is a fantastic bloke – totally professional and competent, very experienced at the very highest level in retail strategy, full of energy in his communication. He has already worked out a Gantt Chart for the first year.

The kind of person I enjoyed working with in the best days at Boots Dentalcare – he reminds me very much of Mark Prentice (where is he now?).

What also impresses me is the commitment that IDH are making to a massive overhaul and increase in professionalism throughout the organisation.

These things take time – especially when you are dealing with around 3000 people in the core business – but I’m excited to be operating at this level and to have the “time, money and people” at my disposal to create the practices I’ve dreamed of for 10 years.

Our three-hour meeting discusses a mission-building workshop for the Executive Directors, branding for the new division, the practicalities of the acquisition process, the people that we need to recruit in phase I and the initial approach to acquisition candidates.

Its early days – we will not be ready for a full roll out of the idea until the Showcase. Right now we have an idea, a blank sheet and a sum of money at our disposal, under the experienced and watchful eye of David, who continues to educate me with his leadership style.

I know, I know – its all love and cuddles at the moment – there will undoubtedly be difficult days ahead.

But this is the role I have wanted to play for 12 years – I cannot wait to get started.

After the meeting I am washed out – and drive down to my Altrincham apartment, expecting to unpack and get a couple of hours sleep on the sofa.

As I walk through the door, a phone call from my 20-year old son Alex, who has suddenly checked his diary and discovered that next week’s medical at Shell in Runcorn is in one hour (wrong week).

He has no transport and needs a lift – so I drag myself back to the car and drive him 30 miles there and back, managing to fall asleep sitting up as I wait for an hour in their reception.

The Shell complex in Cheshire is the 6th largest in Europe and accounts for 20% of the UK consumption of petrol – its enormous and like a set from a sci-fi movie about the apocalypse.

Alex starts 9-months work experience next Monday at Shell, after finishing with 4 straight A’s in Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Maths (Wow!) and guaranteeing his place at Imperial College London to study chemical engineering in October 2009.

Needless to say, I’m a very proud father and happy to help him out in whatever way I can – its nice to have some quality time with him in the car – and he’s very impressed with my choice of music!

After an early meal with my daughters, I’m in bed and lights out at 9.00 pm.

Long day.

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