Antony Thompson – Little Big Vets Podcast – Series 1

Play Video

A career cut short from injury is always a difficult thing to accept. A footballer who retires due to a serious ACL tear, a pilot who sustains an eye injury and must pivot to a management job, or a military officer who finds themselves off active service due to a cruel twist of fate: it’s alway tough.

the person I was going to replace was unfortunately killed on Christmas Day basically rolling into a place and a

hostile environment where I was basically the sprog and I’m trying to

replace someone and fill someone else’s boots and I remember that being like quite a bit big ask I wanted to be the

best possible to ensure that I earned my place because I was aware and this person was no longer there and

I think like that and I’ll be really honest with you and I’m probably really not admit to this to lots and lots of

people if anyone at all I really overcompensated it was tough to try and fit in and whilst the professionalism

was absolutely of the highest degree at I think like psychologically I was like

I’m not good enough to be here I’m Nick Haley founder of Little Big

Tech after more than a decade in the Army I left and joined civilian life in this podcast series I’ll be speaking to

entrepreneurs who left military service and started the next exciting chapter in their lives we’ll hear how these

inspiring individuals transitioned from active service to the world of business how did they take the first step on the

road to becoming an entrepreneur we’ll find out welcome to little big vets the

veteran entrepreneurs podcast

a career cut short from injury is always a difficult thing to accept a footballer who retires due to a serious ACL tear a

pilot who sustains an eye injury must pivot to a management job or a military officer who finds themselves off active

service due to a cruel twist of fate it’s always tough it was especially tough for Anthony Thompson in the midst

of a distinguished career in the Royal Marines during a training exercise in the Brecken beacons he jumped with a

weight and ruptured multiple ligaments in his legs how did it feel to get that injury and realize it could finish your

career yeah I don’t think I realized at the time that was the career Ender it was a testament to his mental strength

that Anthony overcame that setback his desire to succeed and keep his freedom led him to start his own business today

we’ll find out how he did it how looping his AI driven business designed to boost worker performance has succeeded in the

next stage of his life Anthony great to have you here today let’s go back to the start and talk about young Anthony

joining the Marines what was that experience like yeah it was pretty interesting really I

think you know age 19 falling massively short of all the things I wanted to do with my life falling into the wrong

environment with those that I spent most of my time with not particularly bad people but not on my trajectory or at

least my believed or perceived trajectory at the time when I left school and so fundamentally you know going into

that Armed Forces career’s office was the game changer that I needed and when

I first went in it was actually with my best friend Mike he wanted to join the military as well we kind of both got

into the mindset of uh we needed to get out because I grew up in Norwich and at

the time it was referred to as the graveyard of ambition I’m sure many wouldn’t agree and and I probably

wouldn’t agree with that now but certainly where I was at all of the things I’d wanted to do I was just

missing the mark off and so when he said I think I’m going to join the Navy I said yeah that’s a good idea I think

I’ll join the Navy too and we both walked into the Armed Forces careers office and he went forward to be a bomb

disposal diver you know best of the Navy out then that was the perception and I

think I just followed suit really because I thought that’s a great ticket out of here and I need to get out and

whilst he went into the armful screws office I’ve shortly followed and he immediately went to the desk where the

officer was like welcome Mr lovewell thank you very much for attending and

did his bit I kind of just waited in that seating area and I caught the attention of the big Corporal that was

sat behind the desk and he kind of looked up and we sort of met a sort of a

difficult gaze and obviously was immediately intimidated but he said uh you’re quite a big lad aren’t you I said

yeah you know cocky 19 year old he said directly you could do 10 Pull-Ups it’s like yeah obviously you know wanted

to show that was a dominant alpha male in that moment in time because that’s a world which I came from

and I uh just did the 10 pull-ups and he said well how do you feel about joining the Marines and I said yeah I’ll join

the Marines good idea took a paperwork home did the paperwork over the weekend told everyone in my family I was going to do it plenty of people in my family

were saying I don’t think you’re gonna do this you hate being told what to do how on Earth are you going to join the

Marines forget it and I just thought well I’ll just go and do it anyway you know kind of strong-willed so return

back on the Monday Tuesday with the paperwork filled out and that was really the moment where I decided I was going

to join the Marines I mean we’ll probably talk about it later as to why I chose the Marines at the moment but yeah that was

kind of the starting block for everything that’s come since that time right so then went off and did the I

can’t remember what the Royal Marines basic training’s called but you’ve got something different I call it that they call it I think then you have all the

Commando tests at the end you’ve got the you know your typical Medicals you’ve got your pre-joining fitness test your PJ ft then you’ve got prmc potential

Royal Marines course you know three four days down at limstone to see if you’ve got the grit to potentially make it

through and I think that’s the key word isn’t it you know they’re looking for potential they’re saying is this somebody who has the ability given some

work because I definitely needed to work personally and professionally does this person show

the signs that they may make it out of here successfully and then you go on to basic training you know typical first or

soldier in 15 weeks then beyond that point is more advanced soldering and then a culmination of that is the

Commando tests right at the end you know or Commando phase from week 26 onwards and then the final test or tests are the

four days of grueling physical activity when you got to that point were you ever

thinking I can’t do this Jim interestingly I never thought that in training I never thought I couldn’t do

it I always wanted to have a Green Beret at the end of it and reality is it is a

piece of cloth at the end of the day but I think that my experiences and my environment were really a determining of

factor as to why I wanted to go on and get this Green Beret and it’s kind of linked back to when I was growing up my

grandfather I never had a father growing up so no male role model don’t even know if he’s still alive if he’s not and my

grandfather was my role model you know my fatherly figure if you like and invested quite heavily in me as a child

and his interest became my interest if you like and he took me on a trip to

Normandy I don’t know if you’ve ever been on Normandy trip and you’ve been to all of the D-Day Landings Juno Beach

Gold Beach and so on and so forth yeah that’s it so we did one of those and we went on a coach and we ended up

sitting behind this chap called Jim tuft obviously didn’t know his name at the time but Jim Tuff was you know quite engaging on this coach tour you know I’m

12 13 years old so everything is brilliant and I’m just like wow so many questions so many questions I think this first interaction was your grandson asks

a lot of questions doesn’t he and my grandpa was like yep he definitely does and when we arrived at Pegasus bridge

where the first uh you know Powers landed in the gliders and did potentially an unbelief you know one of

the most remarkable Feats of soldiering I’ve ever heard stories of and then I

don’t think it’s there anymore but then there was a tank that was just the other side of the bridge

and Jim turned around and said well you know that’s my tank and obviously you know 12 13 years old I’m like

amazing this is incredible this guy’s awesome okay tell me more about this tank and he started showing his photos

where he was the tank commander of this particular tank rolling in on D-Day

and I so I was I was in I was brought in I was like yeah this guy is awesome and I just hung off every word beyond that

point and because obviously at that age you know I didn’t know it but fundamentally I was

looking for a you know really strong Role Models you know male male role models particularly because I hadn’t complete absence of those within my

childhood and so you know we ended up reaching out after the tour we went down

to Rochester where he lived and the stories that he told and what he stood for and the things that he had done with

his life I was just like wow and I kind of remember that just at the time when I

was walking into the Armed Forces careers office I remember that being the decide moment where I thought art Marines yeah

definitely I want to be like that and so in answer to your question no I never wanted to give in I never

didn’t think that I could do it because I wanted to be the person that was able to wear the Green Beret because I wanted

to hold those values I wanted to be that person and I think like that super precise Clear Vision of who I wanted to

become even in the roughest of times when you know I told my Hip Flex uh mile 24 on

the 30 mile there as many many other Lads do you know get multiple injuries a crack on but you just become so laser

focused on getting to that point no I can’t say that I ever felt that I

had wanted to throw in the towel per se I just didn’t remember when I was going through purple I joined the Irish guards

to start with I was 17 and I joined the army because I didn’t really know what else to do I knew I wasn’t having a good time at school I didn’t enjoy it I

didn’t find it difficult I just didn’t like it and one of my friends had joined the army and so I was like well that

sounds like a laugh so I joined up and uh yeah I distinctly remember a few times a little voice in my head during

basic training going what are you doing it’s all these big lumps just shouting

at you making you run up like a sand hill with a big heavy bag on what are you doing life could be so much easier

but then there was something that went well no you’ve started it so finish it but yeah I definitely remember

having doubts in some of the tough times but yeah it never actually wrapped on it I really remember that being distinctly

different when I went back through basic training to become an officer so I put myself back to do call Commission and I

remember having immediate doubts within the first three weeks where I’d never had doubt before and that was a new experience for me so

it happens I just think it happens it happens to everyone but I just wonder when it happens people are different stages so uh yeah did happen to me what

was life like after you finished training you’ve joined a regular unit how was that yeah good you know I think

within the first month I was put on BCR so battle casualty replacement this was

during the time of Herrick 9. and I was stood to ready to deploy pretty much

from that point forward my call came about two weeks three weeks after that point of being put on that roster on

that list not knowingly at the time although I was aware of it the person I was going to replace was unfortunately

killed on Christmas Day basically rolling into a place and hostile

environment where I was basically the sprog and I’m trying to replace someone

and fill someone else’s boots and I remember that being like quite a big ask I wanted to be the best possible to

ensure that I earned my place because I was aware that this person was no longer there and I think like that for me in many ways

kind of set me off on the wrong foot I tried to be more than what I actually was was if that makes

sense it was almost like a I need to do everything at you know 110 and I’ll be

really honest with you and I’ve probably really not admitted this to lots and lots of people if anyone at all I really

overcompensated to the point where it kind of kicked me in the wrong places it was tough to try and fit in and whilst

the professionalism was absolutely of the highest degree in theater when we were on the ground

think like psychologically I was like I’m not good enough to be here and this person’s boost I’m trying to feel is

dead and I remember that really sort of playing on my mind I’m also becoming aware of it later but

that really was what I was experiencing as I was out there so it was really interesting time for me whilst I was

doing everything that I’ve been trained to do so I was fortunate enough to experience that bizarrely as that may

sound but that’s obviously what you’ve trained for and I think it was a great

first opportunity to do that and enjoy an enjoyable one that all

sounds like quite a short period of time to finish from training to go out on your first tour what was that time

period I finished early to mid December and I was out by mid to end Jam so

really really short time and obviously you had Christmas leaving that time frame as well so I had probably like three four maybe Max five weeks at a

unit and it was like okay you’re off to Afghan filler let’s go I was maybe 15 16

months something like that before I went on my first tour and I was still very much a sprog at that point so like you

know that time frame is crazy that would have been tough it was tough but it was also like immense excitement to go do it

I was tremendously excited okay yeah that’s something a lot of people don’t really appreciate that you know when you

were a young lad and you’ve been through all of this training when someone says right get your gear on we’re gonna go and do it that

it’s incredibly exciting so then you’ve done your first tool you come back and then have things gone after that so

first touring bag you know and then coming back was an interesting period

because I was still deemed a sprog you know I hadn’t have a box six because because the tour finished in April so I

was still a sprock you know six months in I remember that I was getting married that year as well and I had to do my

joining run obviously we don’t talk about joining runs but you know initiation but it wasn’t anything too

bad and uh it was interesting because I think like part of it had to request

some elements that like my eyebrows staying on my face would be very good if I could Rock up to my wedding photos

with those on that would be super there’s a different time back then anyway so you know it’s all part of the

sort of experience but no I just didn’t remember that and uh that being allowed yeah yeah he’s done a tour it’s fine

it’s fine he can keep his eyebrows all right okay cheers thanks very much the weird things that

you thank people foreign exactly exactly and yeah you know one of

the things I do remember is really wanting to always just get on with the next thing I’ve done that right now what

do I need to do what do I need to specialize in where do I need to go from this point forward and I wanted to go SF

I was like yeah I need to do SF that’s that’s where I want to be but I try sfc so special force

communicators I remember going down to obviously where they train and doing the

one week of aptitude and I remember doing it finishing it and going

I’m not sure that this is actually what I want for my life right now because they were really honest about it they

were like you’ll do six months you’ll come back for a month you’ll be out again for six months and you’ll probably be on that rotation for about the next

two to three years and if you don’t have the capacity and you don’t have the willingness to want to go and do that

don’t apply and I thought ah I just got married

started my new part of this life is this what is the right thing to do and I just remember saying no that’s not what I

want to do so I then found intelligence if it was I was waiting for

combat in I then had the opportunity to go on the display team I subsequently done some work with the with the

sergeant major or the sausage maker as a everybody refers to him as and uh I was

put in the Clark role whilst I was in this holding pattern to start my intelligence course because there was only one intake per year of eight people

that was kind of your maximum and I then got the opportunity to go on the display team the final display team

which was going around the country doing choreograph fighting and really looking

back you go what were we actually selling there extreme violence and how to beat each other up join the Royal

Marines it was a bit of a weird one I mean there was more to that of course there was but you know four to eight

people you know thrown themselves on about on the mat I learned how to dodge a baseball bat I learned how to uh to

dodge a Cosh so you know there was some upside from a personal perspective but no it was a really a really really good

experience and I think that you know bonding with those those guys because we were on the road a lot it was a really

good period of my time in the military was actually doing that and going out there and being able to do those things and then yeah later came intelligence

that was something you’d put yourself forward for was the further selection that you had to do for that or was it

okay so if you said I want to do this new boss goes yeah he’s a good lad he could do that you have to do like initial testing then you do the aptitude

of a week because it was such a small portion of the Marines I think in total

maybe 30 maybe 40 people made up the entire combat intelligence specialization I think it’s expanded out

a little bit more now now everybody’s realized that you know J2 intelligence is of quality and relatively importantly

yeah it’s kind of need to know what’s going on right what makes you wonder what we did before but anyway the group

was small the aptitude of passed we went on eight guys during this sort of six month intelligence course that was the

thing I was really interested in I was really interested in understanding what was going on I was really interested in fundamentally understanding what we were

doing and what the enemy was doing that enthusiasm never really left me I still

enjoyed doing it a little bit today I suppose it’s a bit like uh Enterprise sales you kind of need to understand

who’s in the power base who’s the economic buyer who’s the facilitator who’s the financier you know it’s no

different really and just cross-deck of those skills into the corporate world is um set me up quite nicely actually what

did you move on to doing from there so I didn’t other tool I went around the med and down to Saudi you know man

about 2011 2012. that was the first big ship deployment that they’ve done in I

think 10 15 years something like that because obviously Afghan and Iraq had taken presidents and so they kind of left all of those

peace building exercise or relationship building exercises to uh sort of Fallen by the wayside

really yeah that was fantastic you know four four and a half months on ship creatine was my diet a good opportunity

to get a good tan to be in shape meet with some really interesting foreign militaries that was really really

fantastic to have that exposure to the multitude of different militaries around the world and you know

actually identify the similarities between all of them everybody has different cultures yes everybody has

different languages but fundamentally there’s something about the culture of being in the military it’s it’s quite

quite fascinating I’m sure you’ve had your own independent experience of these and many of the other guys have as well

the biggest thing I noticed was the difference between volunteer soldiers and conscripted soldiers when you worked

with uh countries where they’d got conscripts they were very different people to the people

who’d put their hand up and said I want to do this and that was my my biggest memory of foreign militaries

yeah I mean I can’t I’m terrifying check special forces were yeah

I I think I would have struggled to say that I met uh you know I would have known a difference between a conscript

and a regular only because I may never have met an actual conscript other than volunteers yeah I mean you

can kind of see that what’s playing out around the world in terms of morale and enthusiasm you have for what you do I

can’t imagine being a conscript into into an army is much fun if it goes completely against what you want to do

and believe in so yeah I can imagine there’s distinct differences so yeah working with volunteers primarily yeah

it was really really interesting experience so you know four and a half months on ship brilliant actually really enjoyed it didn’t think I was going to

enjoy it did and when we were in Djibouti that was an

interesting place and I think my first sort of exposure was going out into the town someone had obviously dropped

trowel and just was defecating on the streets and I was like okay I think I’ve

got the gauge of the place pretty quick and subsequently transpired that you

could buy leopards at the local market or some other type of big cat I’m not

particularly great you know in that world I’m not a zoologist or anything but a couple of nights in because we I

think we’ve stopped there for three or four days one of the lads had uh plucked up the courage to go and purchase one of

these big cats and you know obviously intoxicated came back to the ship and

tried to get the leopard slash big cat back on board much of a disappointment obviously the guards that the ship did

not allow this to take place and uh he had to uh return it to the market yeah it’s all the stuff that you would never

experience anywhere else around you know in any other job at ending not condoning

it obviously but it is pretty hilarious it was after then that you made the the push to go and do the officer training

it was after my second tour actually I had a really really great tour you know did all sorts of things that I probably

would never have done as a you know Rifleman within the company you know I did tactical questioning which is superb

I thoroughly enjoyed that trying to identify someone’s motivators for wanting to do what they had or had not

done and trying to piece together the truth that was a really fascinating part of my role and something again I look

quite favorably upon I was getting on as well getting on 25. foreign

exactly and I kind of had two options I was I was then at that point I thought

well I’d really like to go SF or I’d like to go for offices and it just

came down to a simple math equation if I give officers a go and don’t pass

I can try SF later but if I give up the opportunity of officers I’ll never be able to do it again past my 26th

birthday and so I just thought well just give it a go I remember having to get a waiver

because I was edging on the cusp and they thought actually you know let’s let’s let this guy through and give it a

blast I remember doing a potential officers course again I remembered in the aib you know all of the things which was basically like as I was going

through it and kind of what I was talking about earlier and what you asked me did I ever have doubt I don’t think I had doubt until the second week of

actual training where I was getting beasted like I was a nod uh like I was somebody had just joined training again

you know I’ve done five six years two tours and it was just like I was dirt on somebody’s shoe again and I was and that

was really hard to go through as well if I’m truly honest probably haven’t admitted this to many people but I do

remember phoning up my wife and bawling and going I don’t know why I thought this was a good idea this is terrible

to be treated like this again after all of that and I don’t re and and that kind of made me think have I gone into this

with the wrong with the incorrect expectations and it was all to do with expectation management what did I think

it was going to be like how do I set myself up to really be treated as that you know upon reflection no I

hadn’t fully set myself up to be that dirt on the on the shoe again I thought there was some sort of

not special treatment because that would that would maybe sound uh you know somewhat privileged I think and and I

don’t think it was as Extreme as that but almost just like a all right fair enough you’ve got Green

Beret you know you’ve done some tours will go easy maybe on some some aspects

so was it on the course that you you got injured it was right towards the back end probably the week pre uh Commando

test again so it’s kind of on that final episode again yeah

yeah there were four or five other core commission it was the most core

commission that they had in that year ever there’s usually One Max two and there was six core commission that went

through that year and they also had to do it again and I knew that and it was explained in detail you know before I

went for this and they also were really really articulated the point around and

probably Amplified the point saying if you get to a certain point and you

get injured you cannot return back to service you do understand that don’t you and I said yeah I won’t get injured you

know it’s not in my plan it’s not it’s not what I’m gonna it’s not what I’m gonna do I’m gonna get in there Smash It

and and have a really successful career beyond that point so you got past the maximum point and

thought you know this is just plain sailing for me I should be able to smash this and then of course I did get

injured and then the real worry starts to set the set in you know anxiety starts to go

and go is this injury it or am I just gonna work really really hard to try and rehab this injury

so I can rejoin the batch again I would have had to rejoin another 10 weeks

than I’d already got to if that makes sense I had I wanted to join the next year yeah and I was like

that’s pretty heavy that’s quite a big ask to do that again bear in mind I’ve just done sort of 25

no 30 weeks at that point another 30 weeks and I was like um that’s that’s quite a big ass anyway I

just went for it and then my injury wasn’t in the position to go to the next patch because

I only had four or five months to really get it up to full rehab you know to fully operational and so on and then stayed again to go

into the next one but for whatever reason that the CEO that came in said that anybody get that gets injured and

they have longer than like three weeks off they have to return right to back to the start of training

again and I kind of just thought oh I remember having you know really

in-depth chats with the other OC and the medical advisors doctors

and just saying look I’ve just been like you know game changing injured here this

is this is a game changer I could probably have squeezed out like another six months of of training on this but to

go right back and ask me to do all that again what do you think and the rehab was going okay it wasn’t

anywhere where it needed to be I couldn’t run yet and certainly couldn’t carry weight and as it got closer and closer and closer they were you know of

the opinion to redo another 64 weeks in training is probably gonna

give me some sort of long lasting damage and it certainly won’t allow me to crack on in the military is what you need to

be as a fresh young officer being charged with the responsibility of potentially going to take troop of

Marines on active service that just wasn’t reality for me and so kind of wound down that after after a couple

years but in many ways it wasn’t too bad because I didn’t really like to sort of stay still and I

did sort of four months at a different posting five months at this posting sort of six weeks eight weeks here Here There

and Everywhere around different parts of the core and that was actually some really good exposure for my last sort of

two and a half years in the Marines was doing and being posted around those places of which I would never have had

that opportunity had I gone a typical route so I saw things and met people and got involved in things which I would

otherwise have probably never have done in that capacity as a junior officer because when you when you finish you are

qualified as that in effect so then you’ve you’ve got to the point where you’ve had to agree that it’s not

going to work out the injury is not going to allow you to get back through the course again so did you have any

idea what you were going to do Beyond no yeah

no absolutely not I thought I was going to stay in the military for 22. I thought

that was me I thought it was going to be in and I wanted to make the most of it and yeah I had no I I didn’t even know what

would be what I could go and do to be honest with you quite frankly so I just started

doing what everyone else said to do which was project management change management become a project manager or a

consultant I was like yeah fine this is this is the path the well trodden path let’s let’s go do these things

and so I trained in change in Risk in project management in apmp ticked all

those boxes spent lots of lcasts getting those courses done very good for the lcast receivers and to be fair the the

training was really good it was of high quality and I just kind of went a bit blindly

into it if I’m really honest did you feel like the Marines looked after you well from the point where it was clear

that you weren’t going to continue was the resettlement process good I don’t know if you experienced this at all but

it’s once you’re on that way out it’s no longer really a Marine’s responded Marines responsible it’s kind

of like an armed forces problem I become an armed forces problem or what will soon to be a veteran

problem and going through that typical route of of CTP careers transition partnership

which of course I don’t want to bring into any type of questioning on on this

forum but fundamentally I do believe that there is more that could be offered

to people transitioning even still today from what I hear and you know that’s one of the reasons why I’ve got involved

with boonex into business which is a sort of cic that we can talk about another time but

it was really not clear what to do where to go I think I remember getting job adverts for

becoming a forklift driver your skills match this yeah and not you

know if you’ve got your heart set being on a forklift driver amazing I didn’t and I really felt that there were not

very many jobs that I wanted to go and do that you know I think I got cleaning

at the local office again I didn’t have my heart set on that that’s not what I wanted for myself and

so I think I really struggled with that process and I was unemployed for seven months after leaving the military I had

no job I had no prospects and I hadn’t really been taught at that time

a route to here go do this activity because this activity is gonna actually

bring you something in return that activity and you know what I’m talking about here is networking

you know that networking activity is by far the most important thing it’s still today

um I mean I mean you know you would undoubtedly have gone through a similar path I should imagine there was a lot

more blagging at the start of my yeah my civilian career

I think I can say that now I don’t work for any of those people anymore um yeah

um I sold myself well but yeah it was uh when I was leaving there were similar stuff like what was suggested to me is

like potential future careers I nothing that was suggested to me through any

official channels like interested me so I decided I’d make my own way bought

some books sat some exams did some world-class blogging got my way into a

career in Tech and it sort of has gone all right from there and I don’t think I

learned the networking lesson early enough if I could go back to just

leaving the army that would probably be the big thing that I would push first is

like there are amazing people out there who will freely give you their time and

opinion and guidance as long as you’re you know a decent person you meet the

likes of uh of Ben Legg incredible guy and happily shares his time with uh with

other veterans and helps people and if you’re leaving start building a network

also what’s what’s really important is is understanding your own value knowing your value not over inflating your value

but knowing your value I think is super important and knowing your values and how they translate into something of

value within the workplaces is so so crucially important as I was leaving I knew I was in trouble I had my second

child on the way and I just remember thinking I used to be the breadwinner

and now I’m nothing I felt like I was nothing and I’ve now

got an entire family to support and I don’t know where to turn I don’t know what to go to and I don’t know who I

need to go to for help so I remember contacting pretty much all of the Charities and the one that really really

stood out for me was safer and they assigned me a mentor and this chat was called Alex

and he massive Alex McLeod he really really helped me understand my value

within the workplace the you know referred to then civilian world but the real world let’s be honest and I would

say that networking is one aspect but also if you can find and you just

mentioned it there a mentor a few sessions with a mentor can really be all you need in order to set yourself up for

success I think realistically not just lead a better life but like understand where you can go where you could be and

what skills you’ve learned have put you into a very very small

percentage of the population and those skills turned into something can be of incredible value to not only

yourself but those around you and adding value back into the economy which is what is so desperately needed now

entrepreneurs bringing other business into the economy which is so fundamentally needed not trying to

always link it back to a financial return or a financial benefit but the reality is is that you do have a great

skill set for being one of those few that do succeed as a successful entrepreneur as well so so you’ve then

worked with a mentor and you’ve done a bit of the uh enhanced learning so then

um did you did you go and get an employed job or did you just start straight off self-employed no I actually

I actually had a chat with a chat called Roger app so he’s he’s a former Marine officer I said mate

no you want to go and do this stuff but go and cut your teeth that wasn’t the expression I used I can’t remember the

expression he used but he said in effect go cut your teeth in a corporate job said 12 18 24 months and then go from

there and so I I said that that seems like Sound Advice I’ll go and do that and I managed to get a job as a

Management Consultant for Capital which is fantastic and the team I went into was really quality team you know they’re

really focused on it obviously for far more years of experience than me but I’ve kind of found myself in that sort

of pmo project management office role as reporting and to be honest with you that

the chap who was running the team Andrew was kind of like you seemed like a awesome bloke but I don’t really know

where to put you so I’m going to put you on reporting you’re probably good at that and I was fine it was good it was a good experience but I just always

looking for other activities that I could get involved in because I didn’t I

didn’t necessarily have a very very specific job role but you don’t as a consultant there you know you just try and find different things to add valid

way you can add value and that’s really what I did so I went to cut my teeth in management consultancy then moved to what was then a kind of Boutique

consultancy but it’s now a very very successful consultancy in Bristol and they were awesome had I not gone and

done my own thing I probably would have stayed with that consultancy for as long as I could have done because I think the leaders there were were brilliant Graham

and Dean really really top legs so management consultancy was my path post the military gained some other

additional skills did networking all the time I was there I was like right let’s increase the black book I know the

secret thing to do now let’s go do that and just everywhere I go now it’s just networking networking networking yeah

carried that forward and started my own business with Ben how did you meet Ben everybody thinks that we were in the

Marines together and when I say them or Ben says them is like no no we actually met on LinkedIn they’re like what really

how did you go on and build this thing and the kind of answer is always the same when we both started he had just

come off the bat of working with England football team down at limpston and I’d start my little coaching business he’d

start his little coaching business you know interesting coaching names his was Williams Elite mine was the motivation

mogul thank you and we we got on the call and we

probably between us shared a client uh or two and you know that call was after

we met on LinkedIn you know took him four months to respond but I don’t remind him that frequently and we got a

call which was supposed to be 15 minutes of hey you know you’re right like what

you’re up to really just checking each other out scoping each other out going are you doing about the mayor do I need

to up my game that kind of thing and we both openly admit that but two and a half hours later three hours later we

were still in the car and I was in my car he was in his car and we were like imagine if we could do everything we

want to do but we just do it together imagine the impact we could have imagine the value we could bring if we do you know multiply uh you know force force

multiplier just do it and just crack it here’s the thing we share we share the same values or similar values we want to

go after the same things and we’ve got a Clear Vision of where we want to go let’s just do it together

and I think after that two hours two and a half hours three hours we just got very busy you know I was still doing the

consultancy job there but in the evening we were having you know calls from like eight o’clock till 10 o’clock ten at

night I’ve still got them the original Powerpoints and it’s like Williams and Thompson agenda for today

and it was just you know trying to over professionalize it for the band of two bended his little artistic thing wrote

out the brand which we then worked towards interesting brand obviously we

called it Vanguard Global Solutions and and how we arrived at that name was I you know it looks in a little bit in

Greek mythology and realized that you know Vanguard and Vanguard obviously was applicable to that of gen force uh you

know wargaming you know Vanguard was the first unit in the most disruptive and uh basically the ones that got the job

initially done so like yeah we need to be called Vanguard because that’s what we’re going to do we’re going to be the first in and that disrupt with the

disruptors so vanguard’s the in a suitable name and then we were like hmm well we don’t just want to be in the UK

we don’t just want to be in Europe so let’s be Global let’s do it Global right Vanguard Global okay what’s the next one

uh well what is it that we do well we do Solutions so Solutions Vanguard Global Solutions

and that’s how vgs was born literally from that

fair enough it’s it’s a reasonable approach to name in an organization everybody thought we were a security firm which is brilliant do you do

security you know how the Security Contracts obviously you’ve moved from being the Marines into security the

Classic route we’re like no no no no no we’re you know we’re mindset coaches that’s what we do

here’s our brand that was brilliant so then how did that

go when you you guys had tender you’d creatively named yourself like a

security company and uh how did it go like taking that Journey with someone else it was good it was a lot of

additional work lots of hours put in and not to in for the slightest moment promoting this this hustle culture it’s

just what is required of when you start a bit I think you know I didn’t really see how you get away with not doing lots

of hours personal opinion just reality but we yeah put lots of additional hours in lots of weekends lots of what are we

going to be what are we trying to sell the creation of our own courses I found an original proposal for

services the other day to a big customer that we’d probably just got to the second conversation with and obviously

there was already a full Proposal with costings and weekly agendas and you know

I would build them I think I think the proposed bill was 1.2 million or something some loot Grissom for literally nothing

more than sort of two blokes rocking up talking about mindset in a business anyway you go through all these phases

of business don’t you naively it sounds like I’m an absolute amateur I probably was I’m a little bit more professional

now which is good but you try and test you know try and test try and test try and just keep just keep trying and testing and we kept trying to test in

and I got this opportunity interesting enough from her openers to go and attend one of their Dragons Den days up at HSBC

in Centenary Square in Birmingham and I didn’t really know what to expect at all there was me trying to promote a mindset

and performance consultancy and obviously we look like a security company so that was one of the comments

we got back immediately what they had done is they had basically invited some senior people with an HSBC Bank like

really quite senior people with business banking and to partake in this day and they had selected some of their most

senior account holders I think that’s what they referred into as or businesses smes you know senior smes in the county

or in the district whatever you’d like to refer to and they all sat around this table so it’s quite

come and Pitch as your business I don’t really know if I’m truly honest what was actually pitching I was just I get there

for more for an opinion I was like I’m doing this what do you reckon and obviously I think I was supposed to be

you know asking for money or something like that but we just went in there and said what we’re doing and from that

crazily we managed to secure like a huge huge engage program with HSBC off the

back of that we met in that same room someone who’s now our investor for our later business and it couldn’t have gone

that badly in that moment in time because two really promising things came from it but no it was after that point

you know we worked really hard we probably had 14 different meetings before we actually secured the contract with HSBC

and each one it was a bit like oh let’s get more serious again more serious physical more get more serious then we did the pilots and of course they wanted

to to road test us to make sure that we were of quality and we did exactly what we said on the tin because we kind of

over promised but that’s fine you do that at the time and then we kind of like the idea of over deliver as well

and we over delivered and we managed to get some of the highest evaluation scores on their surveys that

the bank’s ever had in their pilots of these types of workshops and that isn’t a like a that that’s not bragging rights

hashtag bragging rights that’s just a point to say that we really were quite serious about what we were doing and

that was enough to secure us then a a really big deal where he’s helped and supported three and a half thousand

people of HSBC to go through the program and that would kind of really put us on the right path for our original business

which was the coaching and Consulting and then of course just as we were hitting terminal velocity

covered put an immediate Blocker on what we’re doing so we were working with VW meta and all these great companies and

it just immediately stopped because of covid and we all had to move to online and no one really it just took the wind

out the sails at that moment in time it was just a really sort of crushing thing to experience like so many other

businesses I’m not trying to say that I’m all we are at all special but this

happened to a lot of people and that’s when we kind of moved on to the next business who suggested the new business you or

Ben we’d always spoken about tech even before this happened I think one of our

first conceptual ideas was to create a community app because we had this other brand as well we started forgot about

this we started a clothing brand as well called Brave Edge for those who dare obviously

and uh it was you know we sold quite a few t-shirts you know we did sell quite a few t-shirts couple of hoodies there

Here There and Everywhere I think some shorts as well you know we still got the rights to it so we’ll probably do something with a later stage within this

Brave Edge we started this Community page and within about I don’t know three

months we probably had over 1500 2000 people who were interested in

what we were doing this community and the the whole premise of the community was to give back to your community look

after your own Community silly little things like getting rewarded for picking up litter in your community and ensuring

that everybody’s sort of just playing the game you know bringing that sort of real Camp ethos into the community if

your community looks after yourself then everybody has a much better experience then that’s kind of what we’re doing with brave Edge and then we thought well

maybe we could make that into an app we can reward people with points and cashback at their local restaurants and

and cafes to putting everything back it like reinvesting back into the community we had a six to nine month Hiatus of

that idea until covert because we got really busy with the other stuff the coaching Consulting work and then we got we presented with that opportunity and

Ben was quite a lot on the delivery you know he really did deliver the majority on the HSBC stuff and so we saw an

opportunity to start that business in technology and we knew nothing naively went Boulders brass into

technology and just started creating and just thought well here’s some conceptual ideas let’s

create this and one of the ideas was I think our first business idea was the thought app and so the idea of what we

noticed in businesses that we were working with was that the actual Rich information that all of these people

held amongst them was never reaching it to the point of where somebody could do something about it it was always getting

watered down or fettered out or whatever it might have happened to it but it needed to reach the decision makers and this information was never getting

pushed in the right direction so it’s all about forward mobilization of data and they were using engagement surveys

to get lagging indicators and we were kind of like there’s got to be a data enrichment program here there’s got to

be a way to get better quality data to those decision makers well we don’t know how to do that so

we’ll just try and conceptualize these ideas I think one of the first ideas that we had was like this bubble up

uh that would like raise the bubble all the way in the bubble when the bubble got to the top it would burst and that

would be like the number one idea that was the number one sentiment that was happening within the company we were kind of like yeah that’s got to be the

thing that we go after here and then we’ve got some professionals basically saying that’s ridiculous and it’s not

possible you need like a full Dev team to do that and we were like okay so what can we start with and we just start with

the check-in we’re like okay well that was pretty important because in 2019 Ben and I sort of between us had had four

friends that committed suicide and we thought well you know obviously that’s really not great and quite a sad time

but I think it also made us quite curious as to what could be done about that how do you combat that what would

you need to do in order to try and have a net positive impact on that where do

you start well if we could maybe check in you know just checking with the mates regularly enough just make sure that

everything’s okay and that was kind of where this whole checking idea it made sense for being able to check in for the

sentiment to enrich the data but it also made sense to do it from a you know well-being perspective I suppose and we

got some initial quotes from some people outside of our organization our organization makes some massive

outside the three of us then we just started recruiting for

product manager someone in Dev who knew what they were doing a developer because we felt that what we were going to

create always needed to remain in-house it didn’t need to be shipped out per se nothing wrong with that at all but we

just felt that the sensitivity of the work that we were doing we wanted to keep it in-house and we just started the

business and we just added small people really good quality people surround yourself with Excellence always just get

on with it really and just go well that’s one cross and cross that off right okay let’s go to the next one

don’t we know where we’re going here but this feels like we’re going in the right direction here’s the rough business plan here’s the business presentation and

yeah we kind of bootstrapped it for nine months and then we got some investment so did you go out to your network for

investment yeah turns out our Network didn’t have any investors in it so that was quite interesting

yeah we did and then then we’d start just searching all the angel networks that we possibly could started to speak

to as many people trying to bring the awareness to this idea that we had had and which was now gaining momentum we’ve

got to an MVP stage there’s a bit more to this story so let me let me give you some context around it because it does require the context how we arrived at

this point this was probably October 2020 and at this point at the end of October we had spoken to maybe 20 30

different investors and they’d all just said this will never work good luck we even

got on a second call with an investor potential investor where we thought it might be going

somewhere but the second call was basically just to tell us how much they disliked the military and what we were

doing was ridiculous trying to connect military with humans you know what do you know about you know having an effect

for people what do you know about this all you do is kill them we were like uh okay thanks

bye whilst also feeling you know incredibly enraged but not really knowing what to say or what was okay to

say it just you know completely taken aback and I remember saying to Ben and Ben said to me like we need to get a team in a room because actually we’ve

only got six weeks sorry eight weeks of Runway the dream dies in eight weeks if we don’t get investment like it’s

over and at this point we had seven people and so we all brought them in the room we had this little Shack in in Western super Mare and you know it was

referred to as a shack days or the shack and we refer to it as the shack days great days no internet

trying to create a tech company with no internet is difficult obviously tech company yeah why would you need

that yeah yeah so we know we had all our phones like pitched up on the window just trying to you know switch between

whoever had the strongest mobile reception and so anyway we brought the team into this Shack which was next to a

dump it was in an industrial estate and I think it had some very loud Graphics like machines downstairs so when it was

hot it was Bloody boiling because there was no windows or like one window where there was air coming in and when it was

hot the dust was coming in because it was just the nature of the Beast where we were and when it was cold it was

freaking cold because it was all like metal above our head so we put the team through their Paces in the early days we

really did anyway we called them up and we’d got them in the room we were like the team we’ve got eight weeks left

don’t know if we’re gonna raise money this is the reality we do not mind if you at this stage want to walk out the

door and go and try and find something else but we needed to let you know they kind

of all looked at each other they’re like nah we don’t want to leave you’ll figure it out let’s get back to work ah right okay let’s go and get busy

then and from that point you know after telling the team then Jack went home and spoke to his dad and said look dad

never been in this situation before done University and this is what’s happening and they need to find investment so his

dad says oh actually I think I know somebody through through my network and

he was a panel beater and he said oh I think I know Chris who knows Dave and Dave’s working at this chaps house who’s

who’s just done really well from a business I’ll ask him and Dave the chippy came back and said I

think Paul’s probably interested in this like through the lines of communication got back to Jack and Jack answered the

phone and Paul phoned him and Jack was like hello and then we got onto the the actual Zoom

call with Paul there Jack was sat next to us briefed it as we had done you know 50 times probably beforehand Alton

nothing no avail and done the presentation at the end of it Paul sat

back in his chair and I was like whatever’s happening please tell me if this is a goer or or

not a goer and Paul was of the opinion he said would I invest in this

and it felt like ages it felt like absolutely ages till the next thing that he said

it was reality it was probably five seconds but it felt like five minutes and he said yes I would invest in this

and me and Jack under the table like yes like you know straight faces but just like ripped each other’s hands like yes

yes we found it and that’s kind of really after that point when Lupine started to gain momentum that’s when it

really started to move up to the next level when we got investment and we really started putting meat on the bones January 2021. do you want to share what

Lupine is now and where it’s going Lupine fundamentally is it’s evolved over time uh the premise is still you

know looking out for one another but by doing this we’re now at a point because we’ve included AI into our platform

we’re now able to identify where there’s a higher propensity for Burnout and there’s a higher propensity for attrition within teams and equally

through the way in which the platform is built it’s encouraging that openness between teams which by virtue increases

team resilience and team understanding and awareness we are having a net positive effects on not only

the actual Team Dynamics and you know increasing performance but we’re also

able to identify and save on the bottom line by people not having to go on long term

sick because they’re burnt out because we spot that early enough or where there’s a people heading

towards wanting to leave we can spot that early enough and we just had a really big company which I will be able

to mention and they’re not too distant future just sign up for 12 months because of when they had a pilot of sort of 60 days they were able to prevent two

people from leaving and two people from burning out and they said that they’ve never had a technology like this so this

for us is is why we want to take it forward for the next 12 months at least who’s it aimed at what sort of companies

is it aimed at it’s really difficult to to be precise on this fundamentally it’s it’s bigger organizations you know 100

plus is kind of the ICP really Enterprises are great but 100 to 350

companies are kind of like our sweet spot if you like but I got asked this

the other day they said what what sectors do you do you find yourself in and I said well realistically every sector has people in it so it’s

relatively sector agnostic albeit where we’re working really really well is within sales teams within marketing

teams and within Tech teams and we’re doing really really well in those particular areas of business

when you were sat there with eight weeks of Runway left and you’re thinking I want to make this

work but I don’t know if it’s gonna do you think your experiences back in the military helped you keep pushing I think

so I’d say so pretty pretty big degree of confidence it would have been pretty easy to wrap

at that point and go this isn’t happening guys we need to go and find something else and switch Focus to go in

and try and finding a new income or a new route or go back to the coaching or

yeah I always have a saying though whoever comes easy in life is valued less or not worth having which is not

entirely true of course but in many instances it is and so also being a glutton for punishment clearly I’ve

lately found out that you know something probably wrong with me but we’ll unpick that at a later stage but I think that

resilience piece is by its very definition the thing which kept us all going you know the team had resilience

the team wanted this to succeed and I think that that was through a mix of

openness within the team you know the truth are showing vulnerability yeah us having

a very very clear path of where we want to go clear very clear Target you know it’s kind of like you need a Target so

you can pull the bow back you know it’s kind of like the intention where are we going where’s the intention being applied here I know that’s also tension

and intention but I do in this count mean intention but you need somewhere to point the Target and I think having that

Target is really really clear and that can really buy people into why to stay at the company definitely between Ben

and I we managed to encourage a team through our own experiences and that of which we’ve experienced before

something I’ve I’ve been asking everyone is uh and I already think I know what you’re going to answer to this but we’ll

see uh if you were to give a piece of advice to someone who was coming up to their last year in the armed forces what

would that bit of advice be it’s really difficult now because I think it’s slightly changed obviously

the natural answer is networking never have too many coffees is what I’m trying to say never have too many coffees go to places you wouldn’t normally go to buy

someone else a coffee who you don’t know or you think is someone worth speaking to in an organization you know where you

want to go or even if you don’t rule it out so networking is one of them I think

probably the most important thing to do and this is a piece of advice which I staunchly sit behind all the time is

figuring out what you don’t want to do because then that narrows the lanes it Narrows the opportunity for you to then

go actually I’ve got these three four things which definitely definitely hey I don’t know if I want to do them but like

at least I you know I’ve discounted all the other things I don’t want to do I think if I would have heard that piece

of advice that would have really really helped me how you do it is then go through that process of you know what do

I stand for what are my values yes I was given Excellence Integrity self-discipline humility courage

determination unselfishness and cheerfulness in the face of adversity from the Marines as my values but equally I have values

as a father I have values as a husband I have values as a business part now business partner and they will require a

different value set and I think you are going through and transitioning now what do I not want to do

is really really important and then thirdly just be mindful of the noise as

well because I think I’ve seen a few things over the last like a couple of years where I think there might be wrong

advice that’s being given which isn’t helpful especially if you go into business conversation and you think that

you can walk into a job that’s three hundred thousand and they say are you kidding we only pay 50 60

you go well this job clearly isn’t for me and that’s an actual thing that has happened which I’ve heard about which is

you know Way Off the Mark get weighted advice don’t just take it up front

cross-reference your information and make sure that is actually true build a network that you can then

check advice amongst yeah all of those things come from the network definitely

Anthony it’s been fantastic talking to you today I’ve really enjoyed it and thank you very much for giving me your

time no honestly Nick absolute pleasure been really great thank you very much for your time and uh to everyone that’s

given up an hour of their time listening to my daughter tones and and your

brilliant questioning thanks for listening I’m sure you’ll agree the stories from the guests on the show are incredible

starting your own company is an incredibly Brave and difficult thing to do and there’s a theme of resilience through all these stories which is key

to success as an entrepreneur if you’re a veteran with a good story to tell we’d love to have you on if you’re leaving

the military and you want to get in touch email podcast if you run a

business and you’re looking for an I.T company that’s entrepreneurial and forward thinking please do get in touch

I hope you enjoy the rest of the series thank you

Share this podcast

Other podcasts

Play Video

Ben Read – Little Big Vets Podcast – Series 1

Ben Read, spent nearly 11 years moving through the ranks of Craftsman, Lance Corporal, and Corporal to become a Sergeant for REME (Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers), where Ben worked globally on rotary and fixed-wing aircraft for the British Army.

Play Video

Guy Denison-Smith – Little Big Vets Podcast – Series 1

From commanding and training infantry soldiers during operational tours in Northern Ireland, Afghanistan and Bosnia to becoming responsible for the day-to-day management, leadership and welfare of Battalions of up to 650 men and women, my guest on today’s podcast, Guy Denison-Smith, is no stranger to the qualities it takes to lead.

Play Video

Paul Blair – Little Big Vets Podcast – Series 1

In 2006, Sangin, Afghanistan was on of the most dangerous places on earth. It was the epicentre of the British army’s ongoing battle with the Taliban. The Soliders of C Company 3 Para – part of the elite Parachute Regiment – were led by Major Paul Blair…

Play Video

Peter Whawell – Little Big Vets Podcast – Series 1

From serving 12 years in the Royal Naval Reserve as a Lieutenant to a subsequent 19 years within the UK Government as Deputy Director for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, our guest on this episode, Peter Whawell, is no stranger to serving his country.

Play Video

Ben Legg – Little Big Vets Podcast – Series 1

They’ve overcome the biggest challenges.  They’ve pushed through the hardest times.  They’ve slogged it out, and come out on top.

Play Video

Antony Thompson – Little Big Vets Podcast – Series 1

A career cut short from injury is always a difficult thing to accept. A footballer who retires due to a serious ACL tear, a pilot who sustains an eye injury and must pivot to a management job, or a military officer who finds themselves off active service due to a cruel twist of fate: it’s alway tough.


Book a call with Nick today

Our boss Nick loves helping businesses just like yours. Schedule some time with him to pick his brains on how to get your business to where it needs to be.