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Running towards greatness: How Gavin Simpson improved his mental health and career at Travis Perkins

09 Mar

The focus on mental health in the workplace has intensified in recent years, and at Travis Perkins we know how important it is for all of our colleagues to stay healthy in the workplace. Finance Analyst Gavin Simpson shares these views and has taken this focus on wellness one step further – by running marathons to improve his wellbeing. We spoke to Gavin about his journey:

“Five years ago I applied for a Branch Manager role at Harvey Reeves Road”

With previous retail management experience under his belt – not to mention being awarded Manager of the Year when working at National Tyres - Gavin had the right attitude and plenty of great experience, but no specific merchanting experience, when he applied for the role at Travis Perkins. He already knew Travis Perkins well, as it was one of the businesses he collected rubbish from when he took a management break and drove a dustcart. His enthusiasm and work ethic were recognised by the Regional Director at the time, who took him on as a customer service colleague with the shared vision that Gavin would gain experience to run his own branch in the future.

“I was successful in this role and within months we had the best branch availability in the region”

Much of Gavin’s early work involved moving stock around with the merchandising team. Within months, his branch had the best stock availability in the region, and before long Gavin was asked to apply for a role as Branch Stock Improvement Manager in Lakeside House, where he helped to develop projects such as an improved branch stock returns process. His work exposed him to various financial functions of the business, and he found himself becoming increasingly interested in what a career in finance would be like – so he made the move.

“I now work as a Finance Analyst for Supply Chain and Commercial, studying towards becoming a Chartered Management Accountant”

Gavin always had an interest in numbers, to the point where he started to study accountancy in his own time before joining Travis Perkins. After thinking about his strengths and weaknesses and considering what his ideal work environment looked like, finance was the natural choice for Gavin, who says Travis Perkins made it easy to transition into this part of the business.

“I always wanted to work in finance but held myself back because of my perception of the finance world”

After leaving school before sixth form with no GCSEs, Gavin was initially hesitant about a career pivot to finance. He’d always loved numbers but the idea of working alongside university graduates in finance was daunting. However, he needn’t have worried as the move has been a seamless one. He loves the department and is thriving in the new environment, saying his focused and analytical nature makes him a great fit for finance. Travis Perkins made the move easy, says Gavin, and he hasn’t looked back since.

“Working in finance has really helped my work-life balance”

Gavin has always been acutely aware of the need to focus on his mental health, having suffered from depression on and off since the age of nine. A passionate, driven worker, when Gavin applies himself to something he doesn’t stop, which can sometimes come at the detriment of his wellbeing. He tried to fix this by changing careers to work as a bin lorry driver, thinking the time to himself would address the mental health issues, when in reality he needed more dedicated help.

In 2018, Gavin reached a point where he knew he’d got his work-life balance wrong. Personal problems compounded with workplace stress and he had a breakdown. He now knows the operational environment he was working in wasn’t the best fit for his personality and work style, and says the move to finance has been instrumental in addressing his work-life balance and improving his wellbeing.

“Travis Perkins is the first company that has truly built me up instead of grind me down”

Gavin’s mental health journey has been supported by his managers at Travis Perkins. He says the family values and colleague support within the group is second to none, with dedicated training and development plans, including the LEAP programme, showcasing how the leadership team views people as their biggest asset.

“It's not hard to realise why Travis Perkins has won so many awards for being a top employer. I feel the future is bright and I hope these last five years are just the start of a fantastic career,” he says.

“Running has given me a new head space and helped build resilience”

In addition to addressing his work-life balance, Gavin has put in place mechanisms to ensure he remains on track with his mental health. One of these is running. “The rhythmic and somewhat primal experience of running with a group is very meditative,” says Gavin, who runs marathons to test himself mentally as much as physically.

“A marathon is mainly run in the mind and it takes mental strength to keep going when your body wants you to stop,” he says. He believes the endorphins that pump through the body during and after a run help him to feel positive and energised long after he’s stopped running, and as an added benefit he’s also lost nearly three stone and six inches from his waistline. Gavin is such a proponent of running to help with mental health that he even writes about it over at www.runningwiththeblackdog.com.

“If you’re living with a mental health issues, please know that you are not alone”

One in four people will be affected by a mental disorder at some stage, and Gavin says this shows that people struggling are not alone. It doesn’t make you a weak person, he says, and instead may show that you’ve taken on too much and need to regain balance in your life. He recommends talking, noting Travis Perkins’ Employee Assistance Programme provides access to talk to someone confidentially, and advises people try to eat and sleep well and get moving, whether that’s running or another activity.

“If you’re considering joining Travis Perkins, just do it”

Gavin says Travis Perkins is a fantastic business to work for, with a non-hierarchical environment that has a real family feel.

“If you want to succeed and progress, it’s a great place to come and work. I’ve been really supported and helped to grow,” he says.

Progressing from a customer services colleague to a finance analyst, Gavin is testament to Travis Perkins’ commitment to developing its people. Could you be one of them?

Join Travis Perkins

If you want to push your career forward in a supportive, welcoming environment, Travis Perkins could be for you. Take a look at our finance roles here or read more of our blogs to find out about life at Travis Perkins.

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