What makes a successful businessman tick? RONNIE PARRY talks to multi-millionaire Rob Lloyd about life, and his passion for horse racing.
A DAY in the life of self-made multi-millionaire property developer Rob Lloyd is a hectic, heady mix of hard work and fun.
The 43-year-old Eatonfield Group plc chief executive, who runs Rob Lloyd Racing in Peckforton, puts it all down to family support and encouragement.
He was brought up on his family’s dairy farm in Antrobus, Cheshire.
His father, Winston, could see future difficulties in farming so sent Rob to boarding school.
“He wanted me to get a good start in life and sent me to Rydal School, Colwyn Bay,” said Rob. “I had lots of friends there from very privileged backgrounds. Seeing their parents’ fancy cars made me more determined to succeed.
“I gained eight O-levels and was captain of the school rugby and football teams. It confirmed my belief in the “lots of hard work and lots of fun” ethic and the will to succeed.
“My 95-year-old grandmother, Margaret, inspired this belief. She’s worked all her life. Nan always told me life’s all about opportunities and that you should grasp them when and wherever and capitalise on them, work hard and have fun along the way, be straight with people and never let them down”.
“The gentlemen’s agreement approach is rooted in my farming background. If you say you’re going to do it you don’t let people down. A lot of trust is still required in doing the deal.”
Rob spent a year at Reading University but the temptation “to get out there and make it” proved too strong.
He became a commercial estate agent in Oxfordshire, then moved to Manchester where he made the grade in the property market with developer UK Land.
He sold his share in UK Land in 1998 and founded Eatonfield.
His vision to follow a more diverse strategy involving residential, retail and commercial developments has been largely realised, especially since the company’s successful flotation on the AIM market, which raised £15m.
“The yields were very strong 18 months ago, so we took advantage and sold off many property interests,” said Rob.
“We’ve just bought an 86-acre site at a former Corus manufacturing complex in Cumbria. We’ve got an amazing team at Eatonfield and we’ve never been so busy.
“I’ve been very lucky with the type of people I’ve dealt with.”
One such man is Eatonfield’s legal director and good friend of Rob.
“Keith Mather acted as my solicitor for 20 years,” said Rob.
“I remember being offered a shopping centre deal which had to be completed by the next day. It was one of my first transactions with UK Land. I rang Keith, saying I needed him on the train with me to London. He said he couldn’t do it.
“I wasn’t happy but within 10 minutes Keith rang back to say we’d meet in Crewe. We were greeted in Euston by a man with 12 lever-arch files and worked solidly until 11am next day sealing what was probably one of my best deals.”
Having a strong family also helps sustain Rob’s commitment.
“My wife, Helen, is so supportive,” said Rob. “Helen helps with my charity commitments for orphaned Romanian children and the baby unit at Glan Clwyd Hospital.
“Having three children of my own, daughter Jo, Dan and Jason, makes me realise how important it is to give children a chance.
“I wake at 5am and don’t get home ’til nine at night. The long days can be very tiring but you make your bed and lie in it. What keeps me going is the next deal and challenge.”
At the weekend Rob focuses his attention on another passion – horse racing. What started out as a hobby is galloping ahead to become a serious business venture.
Cloverdale Bloodstock breeding centre at Fron Farm, Halkyn and Peckforton-based Rob Lloyd Racing is really taking off.
By the end of 2008 Rob hopes to be training 100 racehorses. Again, family influences run deep.
“My grandfather used to have a riding centre in Runcorn,” said Rob. “I had my first pony at three years old and got into showjumping. I just love horses.
“We’re applying for more stabling at Fron Farm. It’s also a seriously big commitment at Peckforton. In the first season we’re going to have 35 flat racing horses with 22 two-year-olds in training. It’s going better than I’d anticipated.
“A great team is developing. We’ve got David Murray-Smith, who has worked with top trainers Vincent O’Brien and Dick Hern. Influential owners are starting to take an interest in us.
“We’ve been buying bloodstock from Ireland and hopefully next year will bring in some horses from the United States.
“Whether it’s horses or property, I look for value. It’s about identifying an opportunity with added value and potential. The success of my venture will be judged out there on the track. Horse racing is now more than a hobby and I’m excited.”