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.