In the spotlight this week is Harry Harpur, founder/managing director of Square Box training consultancy in Antrim
What was your first job?
My first job was as a part-time retail sales assistant in a clothes shop in Belfast when I was 17 years old. I really enjoyed this role, particularly engaging with customers. It gave me a real taste of what life in retail is like, which has been instrumental in how I got to where I am today. It definitely brought me outside my comfort zone and developed my communication skills.
What qualifications do you have?
I have a BA honours in retail marketing from Manchester University, I’m CIPD qualified and a fully qualified Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) master practitioner and coach. However, more important to me than qualifications are the 20 years’ experience of working for myself; being married and having three kids (and two dogs) has certainly developed my negotiation skills.
To what do you attribute your success?
For me, my success has been attributed to my upbringing, death, circumstances and the universe. To break it down, I have a very driven and independent mother. My father died when I was eight, so following that life changed, I had to come out of myself and that’s when my personality really developed. Circumstances because I don’t believe in luck – we create our own success and the universe because everything that happens, happens for a reason.
How would you describe yourself to someone who has never met you?
Sensibly I would say, I’m someone who is intuitive, interested and intrigued, however, at first glance, sarcastic, witty and fun.
Who do you look up to in business?
I look up to anyone that’s had or is having a go, living not existing. Those individuals who are not waiting for success, but those who have the drive and ambition to seek it. I also admire anyone who has faced challenges and kept going – I have messed up many times but I’m still trying, so it’s important to have courage and belief in both yourself and your business and have the passion to see it through.
How do you get the best out of the people who work for you?
My team don’t work for me; they work with me. I have spent years recruiting and developing my team, ensuring we are all on the same page and believing in the difference we can make. The starting point is our shared values – fun, challenging, practical, unconventional, results.
If you could change one thing about doing business in Northern Ireland, what would it be?
Lose the initial scepticism about self-development, although this has definitely improved over my 20 years in business here. Do not be scared to open your mind to doing things differently. Having trained over the world, delegates from Northern Ireland can be the hardest to train. I don’t mean to generalise, but in my experience we have a tendency to be initially sceptical but once we realise what is being said, makes sense, we are without a doubt then the best advocates.
What website or app could you not do without?
Definitely LinkedIn. It’s the only social media platform that I am confident and active on and it’s great for both meeting new connections and engaging with current and previous clients.
What was the last book you read?
I’m not a big reader but I do enjoy listening to audio books. The last book I listened to was Black Box Thinking: The Surprising Truth About Success by Matthew Syed, I would strongly recommend it. I’m definitely a biography kind of person rather than fiction.
What car do you drive?
I drive a BMW.
Tell us something interesting about yourself?
Contrary to popular belief, I have never tasted alcohol in my life and, therefore, have no excuses for dodgy dancing or other odd behaviour in my past!
What’s your greatest passion outside work and family?
My greatest passions would be football, rugby, the gym and keeping fit.