THE BUSINESS PROFILE: Problem Solved; Campbell Docherty Talks to John Woodcock, Who Co-Owns Birmingham's Biggest Event Management Business Tightrope-Walking Gordon Brown Lookalike Who Can Juggle Whisky and Cigarettes?

The Birmingham Post (England), July 19, 2003 | Go to article overview

THE BUSINESS PROFILE: Problem Solved; Campbell Docherty Talks to John Woodcock, Who Co-Owns Birmingham's Biggest Event Management Business Tightrope-Walking Gordon Brown Lookalike Who Can Juggle Whisky and Cigarettes?


Byline: Campbell Docherty

'F ind me a Gordon Brown impersonator who can walk a tightrope while, at the same time, juggle a bottle of whisky and a packet of 200 cigarettes.'

John Woodcock thinks for a moment... thinks a bit more and says: 'Well, its not what we normally do... but OK,' and promptly finds the disparately talented guy the client was looking for.

This request for a Budget Day stunt outside the Houses of Parliament perfectly encapsulates Mr Woodcock's mantra: 'There are no problems, only situations.'

The likeably enthusiastic 50year-old learnt as much progressing through eventful but successful early careers in accountancy and recruitment.

Nowhere did his optimistic belief in finding solutions to seemingly insurmountable problems face greater test than during an late seventies assignment, living under martial law in Iran in the months leading up to the revolution which toppled the westernbacked Shah.

Now Birmingham-born Mr Woodcock co-owns the city's biggest event management business -PSP -and gets his thrills providing technical solutions for huge showcase occasions such as the Capital Radio Music Awards, Carlton's Midlander of the Year Awards and hundreds of corporate events for an impressive client list including KPMG, Wragge & Co and the NEC Group.

He left school at 18 and sponsored by global engineering company GKN, began a business studies degree at Wolverhampton Polytechnic.

'My boss at GKN, bless his cotton socks, said I should go and train in what was called cost and works accounting in those days, but is now known much more poshly as chartered management accountancy.

'I didn't know anything about accounting, but I did it and ended up qualified as an accountant by the age of 20.

'As I was training at GKN, they gave me every horrible job you could imagine because they had never had an accountant before and didn't know what to do with me I suppose. But they also wanted to give me a full training into everything the business did.

'So, for example, for two weeks I was a setter in a drop forge with temperatures getting up to 120 or 130 degrees. This was in the good old days when you could send somebody round to work in every different department. It was fantastic experience.'

He stayed with GKN for a little over a year after qualifying and then moved 400 yards across the road to IMI in Witton. There, he saw an opportunity advertised for accountant to go out and work in Iran for IMI's Summerfield Research, an offshoot working for the Ministry of Defence on the Rapier missile project.

Iran was to have a factory building motors for the missiles and Mr Woodcock secured the chance to go to Teheran and work as an accountant there.

'As soon as we got out there, it all fell apart and the riots started. It was interesting to say the least.

'The project was cancelled after a few months and two of us were left to sort it out.'

Hairy it might have been, but now Mr Woodcock credits it the experience with successfully arming him for a successful business life.

'It was one of those experiences when you couldn't just say you were an accountant. I had to handle everything.

'It widened my horizons and showed me that there are many different ways to solve problems. The basics of just living were hilarious really. At one stage the curfew was seven o'clock and if you were caught out later, you could get shot. …

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