About Jon

Okay, okay, so you want to know about Jon. Well, instead of waffling on about me, how about reading an interview that I gave to one of our bloggers, Hannah, at one of my other companies?

This month, I have been talking to Jon, who is the managing director of the company – here is what he says!

What is your job at FPO?

I am the Managing Director and, therefore, am responsible for the overall running of the company. However, the staff here are modern, capable and innovative so I don’t really have to do much at all as they grow the company for me.

On a day to day basis, I help with marketing and web site techie/design/innovation stuff. Seems to keep me busy.

Can you give me some history of the company

Well, although no-one ever believes this, Fire Protection Online was started by accident as an experimental online store in 2007. It just met with a massive customer need.

I picked fire safety equipment because I had previously built up and sold one of the UK’s leading independent fire protection companies, Triangle Fire Protection. This was acquired by Kidde plc (now owned, along with Chubb Fire, by UTC). So, I know all there is to know about providing fantastic customer experience and that company was the first to have all our service technicians pass the then new BAFE Technician Scheme. We were the first to have the coveted ISO 14001 Environmental standard and the 2nd company in the UK to complete Investors In People online.

For a very short time, I actually labelled and sent out the boxes but were are now in our third warehouse in three years (we own it and had it newly built) and are probably the only purely online fire safety supplier in the UK. That is, we are not affiliated to any ‘offline’ servicing company and have no external operations.

Each year, so far, we have just about doubled our turnover and probably sell more than 5 times the amount of fire extinguishers as our rivals but it is all down to customer service levels where we cannot be beaten.

How did you get into this business?

After my A-levels in 1983, I took a year out before university and, hitch-hiked all over France and ran out of money. On getting back home, I took a job from the paper that turned out to be selling fire extinguishers to businesses door-to-door cold-calling on commission-only – not for the faint hearted!

But, having done very well, I gradually built up Triangle and, our customers included The Crown Estate, Canary Wharf and Arsenal FC, to name a few

I hear you get to travel a lot – what do you get up to on your jaunts abroad?

I spend a lot of time in the USA but, I normally go from airport to hotel to airport and back home and generally spend just two or three days at an event or masterminding session. I never get to see any of the local area or sights.

These are mostly to further my education in advanced customer-friendly business techniques, which, oddly, I don’t seem to be able to find in the UK. We take our cues from companies such as Zappos, Google and 37 Signals.

Talking to businesses like those has led me to make sure that we really give people all their money back, instantly, if they change their mind for any reason. We will even pay to get the goods back, which can cost a fortune as extinguishers are very heavy. And we replace problem items instantly and ask questions later rather than the traditional way around.

Talk me through a typical day

No day is typical for me but I have to be prised out of bed in the morning just before 8:00am then have a mug of tea and a banana whilst checking emails at home from my overseas friends, colleagues and clients. Then, I give Fiona a lift in to work as we like to car-share and start at 9:00am. One of Fiona’s jobs is to write out what I tell her I am going to do through the day in 30 minutes chucks. Then, she has instructions to order me to get the work done that I was planning – strange by effective. I have a capacity to do a massive amount of work in bite-sized chunks.

My day of work will involve lots of Skype chats around the world, organising creative internet strategies to keep us at the top of Google, strategic company planning, and doing much of the stuff that no-one else know how to do (mainly because I have not had time to tell them, yet). Two days involve receiving calls from my two business coaches and mentors from the USA – sounds a bit odd, but you should try it. June and July may involve much watching of the World Cup in the meeting room on the large FreeSat plasma whilst pretending to work.

Having left work at 5:30pm, I go home to my wife and kids. After they go to bed, I will normally be doing non-fire-related work on a laptop, blogging, recording videos, helping other online business folk, doing webinars or speaking by Skype to people on the far side of the USA or Canada who are 8 hours behind us. I tend to get to bed between midnight and 1:00am which is a bit naughty.

But, whilst you may think that’s work, I think of it as my hobby. And, one day a week, I work out of the office with a laptop and 3G connector in cafes, on the beach, in the park or wherever I want. I can run my businesses from the other side of the world if required.

What do you get up to when you’re not taking over the world one extinguisher at a time?

I guess I am quite active even though I feel very lazy. We have an apartment in La Plagne on the slopes so I love to ski and my 10 and 12 year olds are on full downhill and slalom training which makes me look a bit sedate! I also have a Laser 2000 dinghy, some 1980’s arcade games and I play 2 hours of full-on 5-a-side football and hockey every Monday night.

Then, after normal work time, my wife and I have just started a charity (more on that later), I mentor various internet businesses in England, USA and Canada (which plays havoc with time-clocks and sleep), provide build free web sites for charities and non-profits, I Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and I write a blog advising small businesses how to have an effective web site for pennies and to make it earn it’s keep. I don’t sleep much, lol.

And, as if that is not enough, I am a charter member of the invitation-only Maverick Business Adventures where successful entrepreneurs get together for trips of a lifetime that money cannot buy. I don’t have time to join the others with World Cup tickets to both semi-finals and the finals or to go to Necker Island with Richard Branson but I will be on the Special Ops training at a secret CIA base in the USA in October. How cool is that?

Tell us one strange fact about you and work

Haha, let me see. OK, I have built and run my own successful businesses for the last 20-odd years and work all hours and all days with lots going on. But, I don’t have a diary and don’t enter anything into Outlook except emails. I have a rather good memory and can just remember all dates, appointments, times, and stuff when needed. Weird, I know, but it works for me.

Do you like olives?

No, but I hate tomatoes even more. Come the Revolution, tomatoes will be first against the wall.