In the Hot Seat, is our new business feature, getting to know successful business professionals from a variety of backgrounds and industries across Huddersfield. In the Hot Seat this time is Charles Brook, partner of Huddersfield-based insolvency practitioners, Poppleton & Appleby.
What was your first job?
If you don’t include my evening newspaper round in the early 1970’s, delivering “The Huddersfield Daily Examiner” to homes in my home village of Honley, when just about everyone bought it, I suppose it would be as a Saturday sales assistant in the hardware department of the Co-Op Department Store on New Street, Huddersfield. I started on my 16th birthday almost 45 years ago, and my first task was sweeping the stockroom in the cellars with disinfected sawdust, intended to keep the dust and the vermin at bay. I worked there for 5 years, weekends and holidays, eventually managing every department (except ladieswear and lingerie) when the full-time staff were on leave.
What does your company do, and how does your role support the company goal?
Poppleton & Appleby provides advice and technical support to Companies and Individuals that are facing financial challenges. The Partners all happen to be Licensed Insolvency Practitioners, and it would be easy to think that business owners would only come to us for advice if they wanted to put their company into liquidation, but that’s not what we are about. Our focus is always on business survival and recovery. Liquidations and Administrations etc. are just the public side of what we do. So much more of our work is confidential and positive.
If you weren’t in your current position, where would you be?
My earliest realistic career dreams were to be either a Naval Engineer, an Architect or a Barrister. The closest I came to any of that was when I trained to be a lawyer and I worked as a Legal Executive doing Commercial Litigation. If I had chance to start over again, I’d train to be a commercial and industrial photographer, so that I could combine one of my favourite pastimes with my love of architecture and engineering.
Are you an early bird or a night owl?
I’m a night owl. I do my best thinking in the morning but I’m definitely more productive later in the day and will work into the early hours of the next day to complete something that could have been started sooner. I do my best work under pressure and sometimes work in a way that takes advantage of that trait.
What behaviour or personality trait do you most attribute your success to, and why?
I look for the importance in the details. I suppose that’s the photographer and the engineer in me. Being able to recognise the importance of the details and not lose sight of the context or the goal, enables me to work purposely. When I’ve made an assessment of a situation, I do my best to verify and agree it with my client and my colleagues, with the aim of collaborating in the solution and the outcome. Shared success!
What is your proudest achievement (personal or work-related)?
I’m sorry if this sounds kitschy, but I’m just proud to lead whatever team on whichever project that I’m involved in. Whether at work or as part of a committee of trustees in my social life, I always feel very privileged to receive support for my contribution and to have my leadership valued. Being “the boss” entitles me to nothing at all; I’m conscious that I only lead by definition, in that people are willing to follow me.
If you could choose a superpower, what would it be?
To compose my words in the knowledge of the person who will hear them. That doesn’t mean I want to tell people what they want to hear, I just want them to listen to and understand what I say and be receptive to it.
What is your top tip for success in business/career?
I don’t think I’ve yet reached a point where I can offer that tip, but I’m convinced that being observant in every moment and keeping your eyes, ears and mind open (without preconceptions) must be up there in the top ten. Put very simply, ‘think, before you engage your mouth’.
If you could snap your fingers and become an expert in something, what would it be?
Particle Physics. I’m sure that so much of what we don’t know and that troubles us, has an answer at a sub-atomic level.
What’s your most-used emoji?
What are your hopes for the future of Huddersfield (say, 10 years from now)?
I’d like to see Huddersfield become more comfortable with itself again. For a variety of reasons, Huddersfield feels as though it has been searching for its identity for the past 2 decades and I’m starting to wonder if this restlessness isn’t just the tension that’s showing between the heritage of which we are proud of, and the present, that many people aren’t. We all know that in the past it every Summer was sunny, and it always snowed at Christmas, but the present is so much more raw and real. I’d like Huddersfield to be proud of and to respect its past, but it would be better to look forward and build a future that is different. We can choose either to be in the shadow of Leeds and Manchester or we can bask in the glow of their shared light, it is simply a matter of perspective. If we try to compete, we will fail to thrive, but if we make the most of those things for which we remain well-regarded, I believe we can fulfil a very special role in this unique geographic location. Education, Arts, Specialised Engineering, Cultural heritage, and diversity combine to make this a very special Town and, if we build and play to our strengths, people will come, and Huddersfield will thrive. There is no quick fix, but there’ll be no fix at all if our aspirations for the future are too deeply anchored in a faded recollection of the past.
What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?
I once kept wicket for Yorkshire. (They don’t know it, because it didn’t happen, except in my dreams!).
If you were to host a dinner party with three influential people (alive or deceased) who would you have dinner with and why?
Professor Brian Cox, so that we could amusingly discuss Particle Physics.
Barack Obama, because he was the most erudite, intelligent and potentially most important (and possibly the most unkindly frustrated) senior politician of the past 50 years.
Dave Allen, the original observational comedian. His irreverent humour, and pin-sharp satire, was delivered without malice or prejudice at a time when the World was full of both.
Who has influenced you most when it comes to how your approach your work?
My Dad. He died 32 years ago, and I shall never stop missing him.
What would you do if you won the Lottery?
That depends on how much.
- Give enough to assure my children and my siblings with financial stability but without removing their personal goals.
- Give enough, to do the same for my closest friends and colleagues.
- Give enough to charity to be purposeful.
- Keep enough for me and my wife to live the remainder of our lives in modest comfort and enjoy the luxury of not having to plan anything other than how to spend our time.