Ironman boss planning a workplace revolution
PUBLISHED: 16:51 08 October 2019 | UPDATED: 16:53 08 October 2019
He’s no ordinary CEO but wears red shoes, inspired by Dorothy’s in the Wizard of Oz, and is hoping to ‘energise’ 10 million workers over the next five years. He’s also an Ironman athlete. Caroline Culot spoke to Ian Hacon.
Ian Hacon is not your usual CEO.
At his office - a converted first floor above his double garage at home in Gorleston - Ian works in jeans, a t-shirt emblazoned with the logo for his new firm and red trainers.
The red shoes are a throwback to the ruby red slippers belonging to Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, the inspiration for a former business called The Yellow Brick Road Solutions, which he founded five years ago.
His new business Energise Me, depicted by a logo showing a battery and a plus sign symbolising positivity, is similar but with a new digital offering. The plan is to offer an immersive programme for businesses whereby employees' performance and personal wellbeing is improved, aiding them be happier and healthier and enhancing their ability. And the idea evolved from Ian's own personal journey.
"I have always been a self-development junkie, and a few years ago I started exercising which led to eating more healthily. I looked at positive psychology, started meditation and people noticed the difference. I was getting more stuff done, the more I invested in myself, the better my work performance was." Ian, 50, has now developed Energise Me with help from funding from EIRA, which supports innovation in East Anglia, and is currently working with about 50-60 individuals.
As part of the funding, he has enlisted a behavioural psychologist from the UEA to audit the changes in people's mental heath together with both the employee but also their employer, who is asked to rate their performance. The results will be published in a scientific journal. "We came up with Energise Me on the basis of the fact we felt people, particularly men, were more responsive to the idea of 'could you do with a little more energy?' rather than ask them about their wellbeing.
"But we want to be different, the big frustration with training is someone comes in to a business and they might be really inspiring and they leave you with this file and you put it on a shelf and never look at it again, life gets in the way. So from the outset, we said we wanted to immerse people in an experience, with action centred digital learning and face-to-face coaching and measurement.
"We start by asking people to come in with a to do list which we will pull apart because if people don't get time management and effectiveness right, they'll be more stressed, then we make more time for exercises and healthy eating. And it's had incredible results."
Ian's back story is impressive. Excellent at maths at school, he trained to be an accountant and worked for a firm in Gorleston, where he grew up, before going to work for Blue Sky Leisure, a holiday home rental firm, and then Anglia TV as an assistant accountant. He worked his way up to be the financial controller. He also, years later, ended up back at Blue Sky as CEO after also successfully growing and selling an oil and gas business.
"They were really formulative years for me in that I went from being an accountant to being a business leader," he said. "I guess you move through your career and finance is a great grounding for getting a feel of a whole business so I took on more responsibility.
Ian was also president of the Norfolk Chamber of Commerce, from 2013-2015, working his way up from being director responsible for tourism and spearheading the organisation through some tricky times. And meanwhile, along with lecturing at the UEA on wellbeing and being on countless boards and trusts ranging from the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership's skills board to Rossi's health club and Bateman Groundworks, he also represented Britain as a triathlete and duathlete for his age group.
"It was a week before my 39th birthday, I thought this time next year I'll be 40 so I started doing the Couch to 5k app, Gorleston was the only parkrun then so I did that then I did 10k then a half marathon then in 2009 I did the London marathon. I finished in three hours, 31 minutes and it was a great sense of achievement, if I want to be in a happy, joyful place, I think back to finishing my first marathon."
Ian has now done three London marathons and six Ironman and duathlon events and is currently aiming for the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii, the "biggest race on the planet".
But he's vowed to take some time off from his gruelling physical challenges next year as he and his estate agent wife Jo have just started fostering to add to his three children, aged 21, 18 and 12.
"Dream big is my motto, even if you don't realise your goals, it's important to have them."
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