Imagination in Business

I was asked to speak at the Buckingham’s Civic Service held at St Bernardine’s Church, Chandos Road on the 28th of April. Buckingham Town Mayor, Cllr Jon Harvey’s, chosen theme for the service was Celebrating the Spirit of Imagination in Buckingham.


Hosted by the Mayor and Fr. Roy Karakkattu of St. Bernadines’s Church, guest speakers included Cherry Coombe from the University of Buckingham, Rachel Curness of Buckingham School and Capt Xander Coleman of the Salvation Army. ‘Songs of dreams and Imagination’ were provided by Buckingham Childrens Choir who splendidly sang A Million Dreams from the film The Greatest Showman. It was an uplifting, moving event to be part of, and true to its theme it made everyone present consider the value of imagination and the importance it plays in our everyday lives. Below is a copy of my speech from the day.


Thank-you, Jon, for the invitation to speak today. When you asked me to speak a couple of months ago, I was honored to be considered to share my thoughts on ‘’the spirit of imagination’’ and how it has shaped and influenced me.


Oddly enough on the very same day I was asked to speak on this subject, someone who has shaped my imagination and continues to encourage me to use it, gave me a quote on imagination by a scientist and its power to enhance. A strange & curious coincidence, I thought at the time, and I’ll share the quote with you later.


Imagination isn’t something that you think about often, or certainly I hadn’t. However, it is something we all possess, and something that is much over looked in our makeup.


I thought imagination was reserved for musicians and artists – people like Fats Domino, John Lennon, Michelangelo, Picasso. But it isn’t. Imagination is powerful and applies to us all, every day of our lives. While gathering my thoughts as to what I should say this afternoon, it forced me to self analyse on how imagination draws upon experiences and the commonalities we share – home, family, a circle of good friends.


When young, we dream! We dream of being an astronaut, an engine driver, a fighter pilot, a footballer. I remember when I was a child, I’d spent hours building in my mind entire realities of what I wanted to be and do. As a child, this power to project has no limits and can be life altering! Before you have a plan, you must have a dream and if you dream big, the details can be filled in later.


As you get older the power of dreams and imagination dulls, no surprise here since as adults we often don’t get the time needed to imagine. Work, family, finances – LIFE’S STUFF takes over, distracts us, and the worry-free existence once had, is no longer available. In today’s modern world our expectations are instant. This causes problems when trying to align your imagination against your own expectations.

So how as an adult do you follow your imagination and make it a reality? Well that depends on the dream and YOU…


So how has my imagination shaped me? Someone once told me something that has stuck with me ‘’aim for the stars, miss the trees’’, and this has turned to one of my philosophies in life. Dream big, be the best you can, inspire those around you to achieve their dreams and aspirations, do this and even if you don’t achieve everything you set out to, at least you’ll be following your dreams and hopefully get a chance to help others on the way.


I was very lucky, I was brought up in a public house, here in Buckingham, which my parents, Deirdre & Mike, ran for many, many years. I grew up surrounded by people from all walks of life. Musicians, farmers, hells angels, builders and decorators, local councilors, business owners, growing up in a pub was an education in itself and was truly inspiring, with never a dull moment!


In the 25 years they ran the pub, my parents constantly innovated and through their imagination inspired me and the people around them, moving with the times and ensuring the place was an inter-generational hub of activity, and a happy place that people wanted to visit.


The basement of the pub for example, initially a cold unused space, was turned into the town’s first Family & Children’s Room, equipped with learning toys and board games, books and its own bar, serving soft drinks and crisps. Young people were expected to look after it, and I, along with my brothers and sister were encouraged to help, on many occasions left in charge. Parents were able relax in the knowledge their children were in a safe zone downstairs and happily occupied. A unique service, that only my parents could pull off; my mum (working also as a supply teacher) and my dad, front of house and loving it. It worked, and those children eventually became the adults upstairs, a generation of responsible drinkers and happy to join their own mums and dads for a drink, so great for business!


Eventually it was time to innovate again, and here I stepped in and suggested the room could be converted into an internet café. It was my first business venture and sowed the seed of Cloudy Group as it is now: The New Inn-ternet as it was known.. Smartphone didn’t exist then and we provided in-house broadband and fast internet access to local people and students from Buckingham University. Following my mantra of aiming for the stars and missing the trees I had grand ideas and plans, the majority of which made little money and barely covered my costs BUT I was following my dreams.


Fortunately, there were many individuals in the pub, who also played a part in my business journey and helped me with the enriching of my imagination. These people later would help me shape a number of my decisions and give me some of the key ingredients that have contributed to my personal success.


The late Chris Phillips, a business owner and neighbour, from whom I rented my first office space, was like a mentor to me. A kind and approachable man, a Rotarian, he gave me an introduction into good business practice, and as my parents also did, linking it with Giving and charitable causes.


Chris Watts, the owner of Fitcom computers – Chris took me on as a young IT apprentice, taking me under his wing straight out of school. He gave me the opportunity to work and supported me throughout. He taught me the importance of investing in young people and giving them opportunities to achieve their goals, having helped me achieve mine.


Steve Redfearn, my father in law and owner of Rockerhopper Studios – Steve allowed me to embrace my imagination and love of events and promotion taking on an unheard-of mobile recording studio and within a year attending some of the top music events in the country. Glastonbury, Hard Rock Calling Hyde Park, Latitude whilst being hired by some of the top names in the industry including Yamaha, Avid and Sennheiser.


Fast forward nearly two decades starting with the New Innternet, The PC People, CloudyIT, Rockhopper Studios fitting in there somehow, and finally Cloudy Group.


My imagination ensures that I move with the times, innovating, whilst doing the things I enjoy and love – helping me follow my dreams. My experiences and the mentorship by the people mentioned engrains in me the beliefs I hold dear and gives me the focus I need.


I am proud to be working with some brilliant people, many of them in this room today. Through the Cloudy Academy and other projects, we are helping to inspire a generation of young people to achieve their goals and ambitions and wherever it might take them, I wish them all the best.


It is considered that humans only use 10% of their brain, which is a bit of a myth. But I think what is probably truer is that we only use 10% of our imagination.

Someone who definitely used more than 10% of his brain and imagination was Albert Einstein who’s quote I would like to leave you with, a quote to which I referred to at the beginning of this speech….. 


“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.”