Enterprise agency boss looks to the future after stepping down from role
Archant Norfolk 2018
Over the last 21 years Kevin Horne has helped thousands of businesses to get off the ground.
At the same time he has built enterprise agency Nwes into the multi-million pound group it is today, spanning across Norfolk and Suffolk and down to London.
Now his time as chief executive of the firm is coming to an end but Mr Horne will continue to be a presence in the East Anglian business world.
He said: “I still have more to give but in a different direction. Like any company you need renewal and it is time for people with different ideas and a different path forward.”
He said he would still be on hand to advise if desired but had faith in the management team.
Along with his long-time co-director John Balch, Mr Horne will retire at the end of the month.
“I always thought I would do 25 years but with John retiring I thought perhaps it was a chance for the business to have a fresh start,” he said.
“I took some time off to think about it because I wanted to get it right, both for me and the business, and I don’t mind telling you that I have had some sleepless nights over it.”
Nwes has come a long way from its early days, as the group now employs 135 staff and has a turnover of £12m.
Mr Horne said: “We have helped set up more than 15,000 businesses across the patch in my 21 years and that is hugely gratifying.
“They stand a better chance of surviving than if they hadn’t had our help, our survival rates are 20% above the national average.
“We have had businesses like 3Sun, which was one of the first tenants in Beacon Innovation Centre [in Gorleston] which have gone on to be huge multi-million pound businesses but to be honest I am just as gratified by someone who comes along and wants to set up on their own – that is just as rewarding for me.”
Mr Horne said one of the key lessons he had learnt was never to never tell anyone whether to start a business or not.
“The key thing is to learn from your mistakes and not make the same mistakes twice, which I think I have managed,” he said.
While he is retiring from Nwes Mr Horne plans to continue working as a consultant as well as volunteering his skills for charities.
He said: “I will probably set up a few small businesses. I always have and I probably always will. It is hard to switch off the entrepreneur in somebody.”
Mr Horne said he wants to work with a cause close to his heart after leaving Nwes and he will be turning his skills towards helping people with severe learning difficulties.
Mr Horne said: “Only 6% of people with learning difficulties have a job, that means 94% unemployment and I think that is a disgrace.
“A lot of people with learning difficulties can run their own business so I want to look at helping people to start their own business.
“Looking back at my time at Nwes one of my proudest things is that we employ a guy with learning difficulties who when he first joined would not talk to anybody.
“Now he has completely changed and the rest of the staff have a better understanding.
“That is probably one of my proudest achievements.”
Mr Horne added he would be spending some more time cycling as well as pursuing other interests.