Paul Agnew meets with Chris Gateley who talks about his childhood in Africa and his success in business
It would be all too easy – given his current business interest in high-end cars – to describe Chris Gateley as driven. But you can’t escape the facts. Here is a man who has made a real go of life by accepting challenges, taking risks, grasping opportunities and confronting situations with confidence.
Chris exudes confidence, but not the confidence that can so often overlap into arrogance or conceit – quite the opposite.
“I suppose I’ve never been afraid to move forward and try something new,” says the 57-year-old owner of the fast-growing Jasmine Porschalink UK, based in Nelson. “I’m happy to take risks and learn from every mistake. I’ve also been very lucky to work for and with some truly great people, which has certainly contributed to any success I may have enjoyed.”
Born in Lancaster, Chris moved to Africa aged five, when his father, encouraged by his supporting wife, took up a post in the power industry in Zambia.
“My parents, Colin and Freda, were both just 25 and I had a younger brother, Stephen, but they just sold their house, packed everything up and off we went!”
The adventure worked out well with another brother, Mark, joining the happy clan.
“Dad was employed installing power supplies to towns and cities, Mum really settled in and we, the lads, had a wonderful upbringing going to boarding school in Rhodesia and enjoying some great holidays in some beautiful places in Africa – we were very fortunate.”
“But when it became obvious that things were changing in Rhodesia, probably for the worse, it was agreed that we should finish off our education in England. I went off to boarding school in Yorkshire and did a degree at Leeds University.”
In 1981, on a trip back to Africa, Chris lent a young lady his pen to complete landing forms on the airplane and Haidee (from another family of ex-pats) has been with him ever since!
Chris selected Chartered Accountancy as his career path and worked with KPMG and qualified in 1987 and married Haidee in the same year. They both shared a romantic notion to return to Africa to see if they could carve out a life there.
“KPMG offered me a chance to go to Canada, but Price Waterhouse Cooper came up with a really exciting opportunity in Liberia. It all sounded so perfect, but living in Liberia proved nothing like we remembered Africa to be.”
It did, however, provide some invaluable business experience for Chris. He helped local SMEs and international investment companies in Liberia to develop and prosper, often tackling complex matters surrounding taxation and fraud. Liberia then fell apart falling into civil war and they left to return to England, this time in PWC’s Uxbridge office.
Chris left the accounting profession in 1990 to join Alfred McAlpine plc taking on various roles but finally, based in central London, he was given the role of Group Financial Controller.
“I was involved in some major acquisition and disposal deals with McAlpines that led to me working at Lex Service plc where again I was involved in M&A work leading to a number of FD and MD roles. I led an MBO from Lex Service plc – Multipart Solutions in Chorley – and that’s when we moved up to the North West. I found a buyer for Multipart in 2010 and thought about retiring.”
Having taken on a lot of business risk (and lived in some difficult places but also spent so much time working), Chris and Haidee wanted a future with plenty of family time for daughter Shannon and son Finnian. In 2010, Chris retired.
“I love the easier pace of life in the Ribble Valley. I’ve seen every rugby match Finnian has played in since he was 12 and we both love going to watch Shannon (a student at the Royal College of Music in London) performing in concerts.”
Chris has a real passion (bordering on obsession according to Haidee) for cars! After taking his Porsche to Jasmine Porschalink for many years, and having a little spare time, when the company came up for sale, he decided to buy Jasmine.
Jasmine Porchalink is a labour of love. You can sense the joy whenever he talks about it and the pride as he shows you around.
“I used to bring my own cars here and ended up buying the place. The potential was clear and I stuck to my business philosophy of surrounding myself with good, honest and talented people. Consequently I can pop in as and when I fancy knowing that day-to-day everything is in ultra-safe hands.”
“We haven’t been frightened to invest in the best technical equipment and our ‘reviews’ make for good reading. Porsche owners, quite rightly, have high expectations and if you do a poor job word spreads quickly. But the love everyone here has for both the brand and the job ensures that every car receives optimum treatment. No customer can ask for more than that.”