John Macknay founded Quo Vadis in the mid-nineties as a commercial development consultancy in motorsport. They became a limited company in 2001 followed by a radical move into the emerging eCommerce industry in 2004 (following a gratis training course courtesy of their local Chamber of Commerce/Business Link).
Their first and most prestigious workwear platform (www.DickiesStore.co.uk) was launched May 2005. The annual growth of the company has consistently averaged circa 22% year on year and this current year is set to exceed £2.2m with favourable GP. Their success is based on a core principle of working with RSPs (Recognised Safety Professionals), offering value added customer service to drive a high level of repeating commercial customers within a broader retail mix of workwear, safety footwear and personal protective equipment sales.
Where Is Quo Vadis Based?
How big is your team?
Myself and co-Director (wife) Cherry, 2 Senior Managers and one Graduate with 4 full time Supervisors and 5 part time Operatives/Specialists (e.g. Accountant).
What gets you up in the morning?
Healthy challenge (not the stress type ideally) and the pleasure of good teamwork.
What are Quo Vadis’ bragging rights?
Moving into an entirely new business sector (zero to hero) 7 years ago to become a primary online workwear distributor working exclusively with our key supplier Dickies Workwear. This broke the industry norm of the usual distributor model, which was to have multiple suppliers causing promiscuity rather than brand loyal partnership. We therefore have brand backed renown for specialist understanding of customer requirement (other than just online price!).
What are the challenges you have faced recently?
The transition from ‘personality based’ to a ‘systems based’ business whilst maintaining a team driven culture and remaining ‘leading edge’ in terms of emerging digital opportunities.
What’s your biggest challenge(s) in the next 12 months?
More of the above and Senior Team development.
How would your colleagues describe you?
Mathew Marchant (Operations Mgr) – “John is a charismatic leader; he always pushes the boundaries of thinking and strives for improvement, abiding the status-quo or wait-and-see attitude. John loves innovation; he likes to see things being done and ideas being tried, even if they don’t pan out to become a success. He is by far one of the most inspirational colleagues I’ve ever worked with.”
Mark Tapper (Sales Mgr) – ‘John is a true visionary in his role as Managing Director for Quo Vadis. His ability to see ‘the bigger picture’ taking into account views from all sides ensures his ability to lead his team towards greater understanding of personal and business goals. John is well respected within the business and is regarded as fair and professional at all times.’
Name an organisation that you see as a perfect one and why?
The Red Arrows – public display of consistent professionalism, teamwork, innovation and premeditated dare with the ability to overcome difficulty or loss.
Which entrepreneur(s) do you most admire and why?
I would have to offer due and genuine regard to Robert and Paul at The Directors’ Centre for inspiration/direction and (whilst not everybody’s ‘cup of tea’ perhaps) I greatly admire Lord Sugar for his no-nonsense approach.
What is the best advice you have ever been given?
“Despite any temptation or whatever anybody might tell you; never ever diminish your margins!”
If you could give the Prime Minister one message what would it be?
When morals are sufficient, laws are unnecessary. When morals are insufficient, laws are unenforceable. Apply this mentality consistently within Parliament and beyond, for example, the banking sector!
What are you currently reading?
Re-reading much of my old library including even Dale Carnegie and Anthony Robbins (bit like me …. matured but still relevant!).
What are your favourite business books? Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People & The 8th Habit by Stephen Covey
What is your greatest achievement?
At a personal level it is my PPL (Flying Licence) finally achieved fairly recently where at all times along with my own personal development I have paralleled much with our business evolution. There are laws of nature that are unwise to defy, but if respectfully embraced, offer boundless skies!
What is your biggest mistake?
Occasionally allowing any thought of surrender to enter my head.
Four famous people you would invite to a dinner party…?
Sergey Brin (Google founder), Jeff Bezoz (Amazon founder), Chuck Yeager (US General) and for true entrepreneurialism (and a tasty dinner too) … Harland “Colonel” Sanders (if he were still with us, god bless).