The Eagle Blog

Life Lessons From A Business Owner

Kevin Dee in his Royal Navy uniformToday is my birthday, and I think that birthdays are a good time to reflect on life lessons.

I started my working life as a Junior Naval Aircraft Mechanic 2nd Class in the Royal Navy. It does not get any lower in the hierarchy than that! I was 16 years old and left my home in Liverpool, caught a train to Plymouth where I began my journey to find a career that would work for me.

(And YES that is a picture of me and a picture of HMS Ark Royal where I spent some time).

We all face those kinds of decisions… what do I want to do with my life?

I knew that I had to leave school, I was not academically inclined and even though my marks were good enough to carry on I just had a burning need to get out and do something. I was very interested in car mechanics, having helped my dad over the years in keeping our old “bangers” going. The problem at the time was that in the early 1970s jobs were tough to come by (sound familiar?). So I decided to join the military, and since I did not want to be sent into harms way in Northern Ireland, which was a hot spot at the time, I chose the Navy over the Army. One problem was that they didn’t have any “car mechanic” jobs… “But we do have aircraft mechanics, what do you think about that then mate?”

And so my first career was born.

HMS-Ark-RoyalI spent seven years in the Royal Navy and at 23 years old had to make a choice between continuing in that career, or choosing something different. Some influences on my decision at the time were (a) most of the aircraft mechanic jobs available would be in Northern Scotland or the Middle East; (b) there was much talk about world oil shortages, and who knew if airplanes would still be around 20 years later; and (c) a random aptitude test I took to see whether I would be a candidate to work with computers!

I chose my second career in the computer world as a programmer… and went back to college for a two year course, feeling very old amongst a class of 18 year olds. My attitude to learning was however now very different… I worked hard, finished top of the class and didn’t look back.

After two years as a programmer working for Barclay’s Bank my experience won me a job in Canada.

Here I progressed through various roles, moved into sales, then management and eventually had the opportunity to own my own company. So came my third (sales) and fourth (entrepreneur) career perhaps?

Today that company has offices across Canada and generates about $140 million in revenues.

What are some of my life lessons?

  1. We don’t all find the perfect career out of the gate.
  2. Anything we do adds to our life experiences and we can always build on that. I have no regrets about my decisions along the way.
  3. It doesn’t matter what you do… just do something.
  4. At different times in your life you will be given opportunities… make a choice, live with it and do the best you can!
  5. If you work hard you will get ahead… even this dumb kid from Liverpool!
  6. You choose to enjoy life or not… it is all in your control.
  7. Attitude is huge! Be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem!
  8. Never stop learning!
  9. It is never too late! I was 42 years old when we started this company!
  10. Give generously to others… it feels good, it defines you as a person and it WILL come back in ways you can’t imagine.


Kevin Dee is CEO of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)
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