My Biggest Mistake Jan Reynolds: I was slow to take charge

Jan Reynolds is the managing director of Bristol match manufacturer Octavius Hunt. The company has 45 staff and an annual turnover of pounds 2m. The MoD and the Australian army are clients

MY BIGGEST mistake was that I spent so many years not recognising my talents. Formost of my early working life I had assumed my vocation was to be a good secretary, and I felt frustrated when I was not taken seriously.

In my last company, a plastics manufacturer, it dawned on me that I was quite a vocal person. I was taking on more and more responsibility, looking after a pounds 1m sales account and running the company's advertising and marketing activities

As well as that I was handling my responsibilities as PA to the managing director. One evening at 7 I looked out at the car park and noticed that my car was the only non-company car still there.

The next morning I issued an ultimatum to my boss. Either he gave me the job title I deserved and rewards to go with the position, or I moved on. I was subsequently appointed commercial manager, then commercial director. I had a good mentor at the company, who told me: "Don't hide your light under a bushel." I left after 10 years because I needed a new challenge.

I came to Octavius Hunt in 1989 without a job description. I had an empty desk and my work evolved. There were no formal systems or procedures. Chemring bought the company in 1991, but it operated autonomously. They allowed their companies to breathe.

I was given good advice by the president of an American account I used to look after: "The art of a good manager is to not be missed when you are not there." That taught me about delegation.

My promotions were gradual and not something I particularly sought. My predecessor was an engineer, so the company was production-led. Since I've taken over, it's been sales-led, which is how it should be.

I've had to become more of a lateral thinker and be more enterprising. I used to be a bit of a plodder but now I have to look beyond the immediate future because the company has to grow.

It's always been successful and profitable and the maxim, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" applies. But we want to expand our research and development department. We already manufacture smoke pesticides and now we want to develop scented smokes and security smokes. When the position of managing director was first offered to me, I took some time to think it over. I had always seen myself as a number two. I thought, `I've never failed at anything and I don't intend to start now'. It was a huge responsibility but I've never looked back.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister
TVSPOILER ALERT: It's all coming together as series returns to form
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Neil Pavier: Management Accountant

£45,000 - £55,000: Neil Pavier: Are you looking for your next opportunity for ...

Sheridan Maine: Commercial Accountant

£45,000 - £55,000: Sheridan Maine: Are you a newly qualified ACA/ACCA/ACMA qua...

Laura Norton: Project Accountant

£50,000 - £60,000: Laura Norton: Are you looking for an opportunity within a w...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine