The greatest gift is your time


The undercroft of Narrow Water Castle seemed like an unlikely venue to talk about philanthropy. Sir Tom Farmer said he’s “never presented in a dungeon before”. Whilst it was pretty cold down there the content gave me a very warm feeling.

Tom Farmer is a classic self made man. Youngest of seven children, brought up in a home he descried as having “a tremendous sense of security” in Edinburgh, he left school and went straight to work in a tire company. He quickly progressed and learned the lesson of how important it is to feel proud of the company one works for. He decided to work for himself and now he is most famously known as the founder of the iconic Kwik Fit auto parts chain which he sold to Ford Motor Company in 1999 for £1bn.

In his own quiet way Sir Tom introduced us to his personal philosophy:

On being in business: “The most important thing in any business is the people: reward them, give them a share of the profits and empower them. The second most important thing is your suppliers: make sure they get paid.”

On philanthropy: “Philanthropy is not just about giving money: it is about giving of yourself. Time is your most precious commodity. You can make a difference by doing small things.”

On community: “We are the only people who can make change in our communities. Government can’t do it.”

On Doris Day: “She was wrong! It isn’t ‘Que Sera, Sera, Whatever Will Be, Will Be’, it is ‘What will be is what we make it.’”

But perhaps the most telling insight into Sir Tom was that comment in his opening remarks. About how important it was for him to be brought up in a community where he felt safe, where the local bobby knew his name, the postman knew his business, his siblings took care of him and one another and where his parents where his heroes.

Our first impressions of this world shape us and frame us: what impression are leaving as our legacy to our community, to our children? Who will they grow up to be and what will their contribution be back to society.

What we model is what they will improve. Let’s set the bar high for them.

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About Kevin

In the past year Kevin has spoken at 20 conferences and seminars on a range of leading IT topics, including methodologies, business analysis, quality assurance techniques, governance, open source issues, tool interoperability, from the mainframe to distributed platforms to the web and mobile and embedded systems. He is a much sought after speaker, recognized around the world for his provocative and entertaining style. Kevin is a 30 year industry veteran, holder of three technology patents and today is VP and Chief Evangelist at leading Application Development vendor Serena Software. He started his career as a software developer and rose to lead the engineering team as VP of R&D at Serena Software, a role he held for 8 years. In the past five years he has been crossing the globe and has met with over 4,000 people. At Serena he works closely with industry analysts, the press, customers, partners and employees to exchange ideas about industry direction and business issues. Today he is leading the Value Engineering initiative at Serena bringing measurable benefits to their customers. He was born and educated in the UK and lives on a boat on the San Francisco Bay and works in Redwood City California.
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2 Responses to The greatest gift is your time

  1. Paul Smyth says:

    Many thanks for your kind remarks Kevin – so glad you enjoyed the event. It was great to see the obvious impact that Sir Tom’s visits earlier in the day to our various projects had had on him. He is a true gentleman – and so generous with his time and wisdom

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