As the current Chairman of Walpole’s Brands of Tomorrow initiative (and TP London’s very own mentor within the programme) Jonathan Heilbron certainly knows a thing or two about business. Having began his career at Pricewaterhouse-Coopers, Jonathan took on the role of Director of Corporate Finance at NatWest Markets in 1986 before joining Thomas Pink in 1997 as their Finance Director, a position that quickly changed to CEO of the company a few years later. Earlier this year, after twenty years at Thomas Pink, Jonathan stepped down to pursue other entrepreneurial paths and partnerships. Here we ask him his thoughts on British luxury, what he has learnt from his experiences in business and what’s next in his career.
Tessa Packard [TP]: What inspired you to leave the banking world and join Thomas Pink as Finance Director?
Jonathan Heilbron [JH]: I wanted to join the real world and make more of a difference and was lucky enough to meet Thomas Pink as a potential client and be invited to join at a really exciting time for the brand.
TP: What were the biggest challenges and key learnings you faced as Chief Executive of the brand?
JH: Biggest challenge was to lead and manage a senior team and biggest learning was to back yourself and your convictions.
TP: How would you describe the face of the British luxury industry today in one sentence?
JH: Strong and handsome with a mischievous smile.
TP: You’ve been a mentor to many emerging brands as part of the Walpole’s Brand of Tomorrow programme, but who have been your greatest mentors?
JH: No one person in particular as I’ve always tried to learn from all around me, from bosses to friends to mentees.
TP: What is the best advice one can offer to up and coming entrepreneurs looking to succeed in today’s world?
JH: Believe, persevere, focus and sparkle.
TP: When it comes to choosing emerging brands to join Walpole’s BOT programme, what are the key things you look for in the selection process?
JH: I want to see inspiring people with a well thought out business strategy executing it with precision.
TP: In your opinion, which British brand or brands to have launched in the last ten years do you admire the most in terms of entrepreneurial brilliance? And which British heritage brand do you wish you had founded if you could turn back time?
JH: I think the English brothers have done an amazing job at Bremont and I would have loved to have founded Aston Martin.
TP: In your opinion, what is a small luxury business’s greatest pitfall or danger? And what is its greatest advantage over larger companies?
JH: Greatest danger is not focussing on the things that are going to drive the business and make the difference. Greatest advantage is speed, flexibility and courage.
TP: How do you like to unwind in your spare time?
JH: Sport: playing (tennis, golf, cycling, gym) and watching (rugby, football, racing and cricket).
TP: What’s next in terms of the future?
JH: I am taking on a portfolio of roles with small businesses….liberating and exciting.
ON THE SPOT
Town or Countryside? A cop out – a mixture of both
Favourite city? Sydney
Your perfect dinner guest, dead or alive? Elizabeth I
If you could time travel to any era it would be…? The start of the 23rd Century
The best meal you’ve ever eaten is? Sushi at one of the tiny restaurants in Tokyo
The one essential you can’t leave home without? Access to music
Pet Hate? The overuse of exclamation marks
Biggest extravagance? Two season tickets at West Ham
Favourite book? The Master and Margarita
What would your gravestone read? Cremation, no gravestone
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