Civvy Life – Darin Tudor
Former RAF engineer, Tudor, has developed an entrepreneurs’ toolkit which is an online step by step guide on how to launch and run a business and avoid the pitfalls.
What’s your Military background?
I joined the RAF in 1978 and came out in 1988. I was an aircraft technician working on the Hercules and Harrier Jump Jets. Because of the Cold War fizzling out, the Air Force was going to shrink by half.
I’d actually used the Air Force as a betterment vehicle for my future career. I’d done air and auto engineering, a civilian qualification which is paid for by the RAF, thinking it would get me into the commercial world. I went through the normal recruitment mechanism, which is through professional recruiters. And, of course, guess what they did? “Wait a minute, you’re ex-Forces. You’ve got no transferable skills. Next…”
It’s a little easier now…
What are the skills and attributes picked up in the Forces that you rely on most?
They give you correct sequence training, no matter what discipline you’re in. You take an undercarriage out in a certain way; there are no shortcuts, you do it that way; there are no shortcuts, that’s when disasters happen. I took that correct, sequential approach into the commercial world.
It worked beautifully because there’s no such thing as a model for a field salesperson. So, I had to create one.
I did field sales for 20 years. Then, I was recruited by venture capitalists and went scouting for innovation businesses they could buy. I would then sit down with the board, and normally it was a board that was in trouble. Because I’d done the field craft for the sequence, no matter what we bought, we went and did it. We built the 54th fastest growing company in the UK. The business model was recognised by Coventry University and I became entrepreneur in residence.
When did the toolkit emerge?
The problem I got was all these people came to me and said, “I’ve matured my business idea and it’s not working. Apparently, you’re going to help me.” I knew I should be speaking to these people at the start of their journey; not when they’ve committed cash, energy and years of their careers. So, I took a step back and went to see the students, and they said, “What we’d really like, Mr Tudor, is an MBA lite.”
They didn’t want the professor telling them how it is, because he’s not done it. They wanted the real-world view. So, I went up to the board and said: “I know what it looks like; it’s like, an entrepreneurs’ toolkit”.
What kind of stuff is in the toolkit?
I did a brain dump of all this commercial world experience and I applied the Forces structure, sequence and methodical approach. Then, I applied the entrepreneurial flair, which is the risk-taking and the looking outside the box.
It takes you through the complete business journey in sequence. Around 120 students have gone through it at Coventry University; Wolverhampton University have put about 100 people through it and the British Army have just put a load of people through it as well.
What is your essential advice for Service leavers?
They’ve got these incredible baseline skills. What you don’t have, of course, is that whole commercial landscape understanding; you can’t have it; you have to develop it – and the quicker you can get to that point, the better.
Pick a career where you can apply those baseline skills as best you can, in which you’ve got a real flair in, because then, you tend to be really good at it, because you’re really interested in it. Then, work very hard on whatever mechanisms you can find to develop this commercial skill in that important period when you’re adjusting into the real world.