A life after the military
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The Evolving Accountant Transcription – a podcast with Adrian Cheesman
Welcome to the evolving accountant podcast. We all know that some accountants can be boring, but definitely not this one. Why talk trial balances and P and L when we can get ripped jeans into the boardroom and hear business insights from people who have really walked the talk. Get ready, becomes an all new episode with your host Darren Winfield.
Hi there, welcome to another episode of the evolving accountant podcast. So today’s guest is sort of a follow on from last week, so I thought it’d be good to sort of see two sides of the same topic a bit, so it’s another one on recruitment but this one’s a very niche, very specific. So today I’m joined by Adrian Cheesman from Demob Job. These guys specialise and work alongside, people leaving the military and looking to get them sort of into the normal commercial or engineering backgrounds away from obviously the military as they complete their service. So, it’s quite a different step we’re taking today, but really, really excited to hear Adrian’s story. Hi Adrian. Welcome to the show today. For our listeners, let’s kick things off. Can you tell everyone a little bit about yourself, but more importantly, why you get out of bed in the morning?
Hi Darren. Thanks for inviting me along. My name’s Adrian Cheeseman. What got me out of bed first thing this morning was my two dogs. You normally find me up out of bed about quarter past six, out with me dogs who I love for their sort of first walk of the day. I’ve got two Labradoodles, yeah, they’re 12, so they’re getting on a bit, but I sometimes laugh at myself cause I imagine people looking out their windows and seeing me walk around the same old route, saying there he is out with his dogs again.
It’s that time of the day.
That’s right, yes, yeah. So, that’s what I like to start my day off with.
Cool. So, let’s talk a little bit about your career or your journey to date. So, for 23 years ago you were telecommunications manager, the roll call of signals.
That’s right, that’s what my LinkedIn profile says.
Yeah that’s where I stole that from.
Yeah, that’s right. I actually joined the army back in 1981, which was a number of years ago. It wasn’t a sort of a career choice that I had all my, you know, like a lot of people who join the military, they tend to sort of — they want to do that over a number of years. It was quite a sort of last-minute choice for myself to join the army, which sort of, I think some people asked me, why did you join the army Adrian? It’s quite a difficult question to answer. I think I was ultimately looking to do something which was going to be a challenge. I wasn’t a typical sort of army person. I liked school, I liked education – I still do. I sort of had a small group of friends, so I didn’t sort of mix into sort of bigger circles. I wasn’t quite — I wasn’t really a sporty type of person. So, when I turned around to my family and my friends and said I was joining the army, I think it came as a bit of a shock and
It wasn’t on April fool’s day was it?
No it wasn’t, no, no. Back then they used to have, obviously the marketing of joining the military has changed over the years. Back then, I can recall the adverts being quite sort of, young Johnny and where he is in different parts of the world. And I looked at that along with other things that were happening on the news and I thought maybe a military life would sort of offer me that kind of adventure and challenge that — I basically wanted to do something that other people, you know, other people might not choose to do so that led me down the path for joining the army. So, yes.
So, what was sort of the day to day role within that career of the army like for yourself?
Well, just like any military career, it can vary, you know, I joined the army, I did two years at a sort of a military college in Harrogate to become an electronics technician. I joined the Royal Corps signals, which is a group — big — a very large group of soldiers that basically provide the majority of the communication systems for the army. So that could be anything, from the size of a small radio, the size of your mobile phone, right up to satellite communications. So, whilst other people broke their equipment, I was trying to fix them. So, you know, just like any military career, you sort of progress through the ranks and with that progression you take more responsibility. But what I particularly liked about having a military career is that sort of, you know, it can take you down different paths, you know, and different places in the world so, you’re not sort of stuck in one job for a number of years. A typical tour would be like four years. My first tour when I left Harrogate was in Germany for four years, and then I moved back to the U.K. and from then I sort of travel ground doing different jobs.
Great, so was it — you said — so just so that I’m it picking up right, it was all the travel was one of the key elements for you, one of their sort of the marketing plugins at the time that’s —
It was, yes, it was — you have to bear in mind that when I joined the army, I didn’t come from a military family, so — when I arrived on day one, I didn’t really know what to expect. The only thing I was very conscious of was that it wasn’t going to be easy. I was going to be out of my comfort zone and my friends took great delight in sort of telling me that and I think the majority of them expected me to be back on the train a couple of weeks after joining. But I think that sort of infused me to sort of, you know, not throw it away, but just get dug in and when I look back those initial two years of military training and going to sort of the military college, the army apprentice colleges, it was called back then, was possibly the best two years in my military career. If I could do it again today at the age I would — at the age I am at the moment, I would, yes.
Cool. So, you went to Germany. Where else have you been?
Crumbs, I’ve been to Germany, I’ve been on some short tours to places like the Falklands, you know, after the war.
So, what’s the definition of a short tour sorry?
It could be like a three, four month tour, you know. I did two tours in the Falklands, one at a place called Kelly’s garden and then my second tour I did up the top of the mountain Mount Alice. So you can imagine sort of being isolated for four months with a small number of people on top of a mountain, you know, but obviously a lot of responsibility with the job. I’d been across to Northern Ireland a few times. I have a — I spent a lot of time instructing. So I was at Catterick, everybody’s heard of Catterick. I also was down at their — down in Blandford, where a lot of the training goes on for the Royal Core Signals. So, doing that job, which is all about, sort of, data networks, it allowed me to travel, you know, to Cyprus, Nepal, which is a fantastic place. So, yes I’ve been around quite a bit.
Sounds brilliant. So, let’s move on slightly. So, after the days in the army, tell us what happened in 2005?
Well 2005 for me was an important year because it, sort of, completed my 22 years in the army. 22 years colour service. I did two years prior like a boy soldier. So that brought it up to — when people do sort of 22 years in the military, it normally comes — they’re normally 40, if like me, they joined at 16. And it’s normally the point of their career where they leave their military career. Some decide to stay in, but I decided to leave. So, at that time, my last sort of — my last job in the army for five years was army recruitment in Leeds. So, I spent those five years, sort of, working out in the community, sort of promoting the careers in the army and that’s obviously another subject today. Obviously, it’s common knowledge that the military are struggling to recruit the numbers that they need. But that — during those five years, you’re running up to my end date and I was thinking seriously about what I wanted to do when I leave, a new chapter. I was always conscious that when I left, although I’d miss my military career, I had to have a sort of focus and a challenge to move forward because a lot of people do struggle when they leave their military career and I was determined to find a challenge that would sort of keep me entertained. My telecoms background, I didn’t really want to continue with that. I had thought about becoming a teacher and then I had sort of — I had this sort of itch about starting my own business. So, initially I look back and I thought I was going to set up a letting agency. In fact, I smile because when I — my first sort of domain name that I bought was “letbyadrian.co.uk” and typical of what I do is I sort of embed myself in books, trying to learn everything but it was — I was out with my girlfriend Judith on my birthday and I was sort of — I’d had a couple of drinks down on the Quayside, lovely place in Newcastle, bearing in mind I’m not from up here and I had suddenly had this thought about I’d spent all these number of years in the military and I hadn’t heard of one commercial organisation that championed the kind of skill sets of people like me, my colleagues. So, I thought maybe there’s some potential there. So that’s sort of early thought developed into what I do now, which is run a sort of — a commercial recruitment agency, placing people with an engineering and technical background who have served in the army, navy and royal air force.
Yeah. So, obviously you are owner, M.D. and founder of Demob Job. So, let’s go with that and do — that obviously must be great because you’ve gone through that process yourself as well, leaving the military and you’ve sort of see what happens to some people when they hit the crossroads coming from a sort of, not a normal life to — cause some of the things people see within the military I would see on a film, versus, [inaudible] what they’ve just gone through. With your driven and your drive with sort of like — is there a passion to help others, is that, is that what made it or was it more because you still want it to be linked to the military at the same time?
I didn’t necessarily want to be linked to the military at the same time, the thought of starting my own business sort of, really caught on with me. It was going to be a challenge, but the passion to help people secure employment when they leave their military career is obviously right up there with it, you know.
That’s cool. So, sort of what — what sort of sectors does Demob Job work with or the types of roles that you look to help fill and…?
Yeah. Well predominantly we’re an engineering and technical recruitment agency, so they’re the sectors we work in. So, I think to be fair, most employers nowadays are quite well — they haven’t a good understanding about the employability of people leaving the military. When I first set my business up, I found myself kind of educating employers about the kind of transferable skills and the kind of value that these individuals can bring to their business. But nowadays I think through the kind of operational, you know, Iraq and Afghanistan that we’ve seen and the sort of military being top of the news, I think people have a better understanding of what actually goes on within a military environment, you know, and to be fair, the majority of the skills and careers you can find in a commercial sector are quite strongly reflected in the military environment. But yes, we basically support companies who are struggling to find high caliber engineering and technical talent. It’s quite common knowledge that the search for that talent nowadays is a challenge, it’s very competitive, and employers are more open to looking at different, what I would call like candidate communities, and one of which is obviously the armed forces. And I believe there’s about 14,000 — I mean I’ve read online there’s about 14,000 people leaving the military every year. I’m not sure whether that figure is accurate this year, but that’s a lot of talent, you know, and through our sort of reach, our understanding of that profile of that person, I’d like to think we — yes we add value to companies across the UK because we do have a nationwide reach.
The argument being that when we’re [inaudible] around talking about the engineering, the technology side of things – little Billy sat behind his computer screen versus the technology or the equipment that the military are using. All you gotta do is look at the tanks, look at the the planes in the air and then boats above water, that they will not have anything in that and that – where the adverts are now, it’s a lot of around that — I remember one – if you can fix a bike, you can fix a car.
Yes the RAF advert.
If you could fix a car, you can fix a tank, or a plane or something. And there is that training element but like you said, I didn’t realise the number was that high – 14,000 people. So, if there’s 40,000 people leaving every year, that’s a lot of knowledge. A lot of like, definitely skills that’s being lost within one industry, but the amount of companies that could make a massive difference to, especially with – like yourself who’s done 22 years of learning in there cause every day will be different.
Yeah. And it’s not just about those kinds of hard skills – it’s about the soft skills as well. The transferable skills. For example, you know, throughout my military career I mentioned the Falklands earlier on, I found myself on top of a mountain as a sole person looking after all the communications and these are like anything from like the radio right up to sort of satellite communications, with very little training. So, the ability to train quickly and learn quickly, which is typical of a military person and I like to think that military people have a focus around solving the problem and not getting hung up on the issue, but looking at a problem and obviously having what I would call like a “can-do” attitude. Obviously, you’ve got all those other sort of, attributes about, we’re used to turning up to work on time, you know, we want to make a difference, we’re looking for a career path when we leave the military. Yeah, so there’s lots of benefits to an employer.
Yeah. So I don’t want to put words in your mouth here or anything but, sort of, with them, the numbers of people that’s coming through, around them are the opportunity and sort of the people leaving, are the elder the candidates more willing to sort of give it a go and see as well, obviously with that being in a safe place?
Yeah, definitely. Obviously, everybody needs a job at the end of the day to pay the mortgage. So, I think military people, what they’re not good at is selling themselves, you know, you don’t have a military career and go through your military career telling people how good you are. So that’s, you know, at the interview stage, you know, they sometimes undersell themselves and obviously like anybody leaving the military, especially if you’ve done a long sort of career like I did, it’s a big step isn’t it? The military is like a family, you know, and when you leave that family you can sometimes feel isolated, although there are good mechanisms in place to support people leaving the military, but, yeah, and I see our job at Demob Job, sort of coaching these individuals — coaching individuals leaving the military. We can’t help everybody obviously but, you know, I often get people ringing me up saying they sort of, they’re stuck with their job search or they’re sort of — had a guy call me up only last night about half of seven just as Coronation Street was starting and he’s not leaving until sort of 12 months. But he, at that early stage, he was doing the right thing and asking questions. He was making plans, you know. So, yes.
It’s gotta be interesting, one of the questions I’m dying to ask – from your point of view is — what do you see the difference between using, sort of like, as an employee using Demob Job versus that of, sort of, what we would call a traditional dog-eat-dog recruitment agency.
Okay. Well, the difference is we work with a unique candidate pool and those candidates, those people, you know, we understand very well, whereas you may be your traditional recruitment agency, can’t quite understand — you know, I can look at the military CV and know exactly the kind of caliber of person number speaking about. A lot of people leaving the military nowadays are using their own, sort of, peer group and their own networks to find employment and like I said earlier, you know, the competition to find high caliber engineering and technical people is really strong at the moment and quite often that community of ex-military can be sort of hard to find, whereas the difference between us and that other agency you mentioned is potentially we have both the reach to reach those individuals and we understand them very well. So I see our job is listening to an employer and their problems, you know, their struggles, their challenges with their recruitment and going out into our community, finding individuals and actually presenting them to that employer pre-screen, pre interview, with a very strong chance of securing that job.
Okay. So, would you work with the individual, sort of, you mentioned before around that coaching. So, do you go through a process of, we’ll help you with coaching and it might be updating that CV, before you start putting them in front of — for job applications then, or?
We’ll always help where we can. We’re a small agency, a busy agency. What we’ll do is sometimes prior to sort of introducing or securing an interview for a candidate, we’ll obviously look at their CV and we’ll coach those individuals to attend the interview. And you have to bear in mind that attending, like an interview in the commercial sector, having a military career can be quite daunting, you know, even down to the sort of question, should I wear my military tie or not, you know, taking it to an extreme, you know. And I had a post on LinkedIn just before Christmas, which have a lot of traction, out of the blue I came into work and there was a box and a parcel from Amazon and when I opened it up, it was a nice bottle of Port and a very short note saying thanks for that advice Adrian, I took it all on board and got that job. In that instance, I only spent 30 minutes with the guy on the telephone, I had nothing to do with the interview or the job he was going for, but he was — he wanted some sort of help with attending that interview because he’d found that he hadn’t been successful on other interviews. And we spoke through that, possible techniques to sort of go in and yeah, come across as the best candidate for the job.
Which, hey, made me feel great. And that goes back to sort of helping people, you know?
It’s got to be one of them where when you get a story or a success like that, it’s just going to give you more drive to do it again and again and again.
I’ve had team members in tears at their desks from sort of, you know, from helping people get jobs who are like right up against it, you know, lost, stuck, nowhere to go. And, I think that’s what makes, you know, working — doing what we do.
Yeah. I love it. I love it. So, I’d love to ask this question, I think there’ll be with your military background and your obviously since 2005 as well with Demob, that if you – what’s that one thing you wish you had known versus when you’d started out? So, if we were rolling back the clock now and it was Adrian telling little Adrian saying, this is what you need, this is why — what’s that one thing you would always go, what you would advise people on now?
Right. That’s a difficult question to answer because there’s always more than one. I set up a business, which I didn’t fully understand, it’s not as if I worked in the commercial sector in like a high street recruitment agency and sort of knew what went on. I sort of set up a business from scratch, literally to the point I was working off a laptop and a mobile phone up in bedroom number three and actually ringing the kind of Newcastle recruitment agencies and [inaudible] as it sounds I actually went along for interviews just to sort of see how they operated. But looking back, some of the things I wish I’d learned back then is have a very clear strategy, possibly have it written down, like your plan, although I had a plan, it was quite loose. I think processes and procedures are important, like in any business, they’re like the foundation of how the business operates and delivers the service. And I think if you get the opportunity to get a mentor who can sort of support you in setting up your business, always grab that opportunity, something I didn’t have, so I was learning by myself and anybody listening to this podcast, who’s set their own business up, might appreciate my words of saying it’s sometimes quite a lonely place to be.
So, did you ever have that sort of support network around you or was it, not to the extent of this is the Adrian show, where you tried to yourself. Did you have friends that you would sort of say, you do this, can you teach us that or can you help us or?
I had some contacts who I could sort of help who certainly helped me during the early stages. I joined like a local business group, which was great, I love mixing with other people who are in business. One of my favourite — well I’m a member of the entrepreneur’s forum, which is great. I love the thought that I can go to, you know, go to a dinner and I might be sat next to somebody who, you know, has a multimillion pound business and to my right, I could have somebody who’s sort of similar size to me and you’re gain different people’s perspectives. But, ultimately it was trial and error but I did, you know, going back to, you know, I enjoy being educated. I spend — you know, if you catch me out at work, I’m reading a lot, trying to sort of self-developed, you know, and learn things, you know, information is power, isn’t it? So…
It’s almost like content is king and knowledge, stuff like that. So, noticed some of the things — you do some of the videos. So, is it that Adrian does marketing as well?
Yeah, I’m quite a creative person and I’m pretty good with software, you know, I tend to pick things up very quick beyond the computer and I do like the creative side of the business. So yes, you will find this Facebook podcast out on, sort of LinkedIn, YouTube, out across our social media and, you know, if you’re, you know, that side of any businesses is evolving isn’t it? You know, social media channels, videos, you know, it’s exploding isn’t it? You know, you can’t — if you’re on LinkedIn or any of the social media channels, you know, people are putting themselves out there, you know, and promoting and I find it — it’s a very powerful way of promoting the brand and your values and obviously, you know, helping people through that medium.
You’ve mentioned a couple times that you do a lot of reading, so and loving to learn, it’s one of our actual key values as well. So, do you sort of have — any recommended reading or videos of people – or, what one normally say is like, that mentor, your sort of go to person for like, I need to know about this, so I’ll go and watch his video or read that type of book?
I don’t have a sort of go to person. About three years ago I was recommended to read a book called “The E-Myth”.
Oh yes, by Michael E. Gerber.
Yes. And, I was actually recommended by a gentleman called Ian Kinnery, he’s a very respected sort of business coach up in this neck of the woods and he said, his words to me — he gave me a copy of it and he said, Adrian, go away and read this, he says, and if that book isn’t written about you by page 20, ring me up and tell me and I’ll have the book back off you. And I got to page 20 and it was like somebody had actually written this book about me and it’s a very powerful book and those that haven’t read it, it’s all to do about sort of growing your business, about processes – basically, you know, it’s — Michael looks at like a franchise model and says that can be applied to any business, you know, so that was quite a powerful read for me to be fair.
It’s all about getting them foundations in place and then if you’re not there, then processes, someone else being able to do it for you as well, so that was probably one of the most powerful books you’ll ever read.
One of my headaches at the moment is updating our processes and we have quite a number of them, yes, but without them, obviously it’s all about level of service, you know, delivering everything in uniform, you know.
So did you give Ian his book back?
No, I’ve actually still got it sort of scribbled in and highlighted.
And he’s not getting it.
So final one, if anyone wants to, obviously, pop by, say hello, how do people find you on social channels?
I think, obviously you can visit our website demobjob.co.uk. There’s links to our social media channels there and personally I’m all over LinkedIn, got quite large audience on LinkedIn. So yeah, you can find me just by sort of searching for Adrian Cheeseman. Cheeseman’s only got the two E’s and not the third E. But that’s the best way to sort of connect in with me and yeah, it’d be great to – yeah, if you’re sort of ex military, with that background, by all means give me a call, connect in with me or indeed you’re like a, you know, you’re an employer involved in recruitment and you’re sort of having challenging times and you’d like to explore the potential, how sort of an ex military candidate can add value to your business, I’m always happy to have that conversation.
That’s amazing. Just want to say thank you for your time again today, it’s been great.
Darren, thanks for inviting me.
Thanks, once again, for Adrian for his time today – coming in and having a quick chat around us. I’ve got to admit at times during when Adrian was talking to us before, I actually had goosebumps on my arms — I felt quite amazing the way this has come around, Adrian’s career, then, sort of still caring about people and caring about his past to an extent, where he wants to look after those that are leaving the military and sort of coming back in to the normal world versus what they’ll see on a daily basis. Yeah, it got me, I’ll be honest. But just once again, thank you for Adrian for taking the time out to talk to us about it. If you’ve got any questions or anything or something — this could be something of interest for your business, make sure you drop Adrian a connection on LinkedIn and have a chat with him. I’m sure he’d love to hear it and hear your feedback and obviously mention, you listened to his podcast. Thanks once again guys. We’ll speak soon. Thanks. Bye.
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