New Worcestershire CEO Matt Rawnsley faced the challenge of building a new life after cricket when released as a player by the County at the end of the 2002 season.
But it is one Rawnsley, who played a total of 100 first class and List A games for Worcestershire, embraced with flying colours.
It meant that he was able to bring vast commercial – as well as cricketing – experience to his current post following 15 years in business within high performance sales, marketing and operational environments all over the world.
Before moving into the Blackfinch New Road hotseat on March 1, Rawnsley had been Managing Director Of Barnes Group (UK) Ltd for the past five years.
Prior to this, he worked in business development and sales roles at Caterpillar and BTE Plant Sales.
Here Matt Rawnsley looks back on life after cricket and the business years which will serve him well for the challenges ahead in Part Three of an interview with the Worcestershire CCC website.
Rawnsley said: “It was just a very different time (after being released by Worcestershire). I got a job working in Rugby for a plant machinery firm and, that first summer after being released, I was playing for Herefordshire at the same time, the three-day Sunday, Monday, Tuesday games.
“They were very nice and supported me through that as an employer and then it got to the end of that summer and it became clear that you can’t do a sales role part-time if you are going to it properly.
“It was a business selling construction machines and I learnt a lot through that.
“After six months, they put me on the road in Worcestershire, Herefordshire and Shropshire but it would mean not playing cricket anymore in the week, so I had to knock the Minor Counties cricket on the head although I could still play league cricket.
“That started a different career after cricket and I really enjoyed that time. You learn a lot about yourself and others in a direct sales environment.”
Rawnsley worked hard to build up sales and contacts and the experience stood him in good stead for challenges later in his business career.
He said: “From a self discipline point of view, you’ve got a car, a phone, a patch consisting of three counties, and if you don’t put the hard work in, you are not going to get the results.
“Sales are not going to jump out at you, you’ve got to go and find them. That took a long time to build relationships with certain people in that territory, and look for opportunities, but that paid off over the next couple of years and then that led to an opportunity with Caterpillar.”
Rawnsley admitted: “From a business point of view, they were my most formative years. I started as a territory business development manager. The role focussed on road construction machines, paving equipment basically, machines that make roads, and looking after all of the Caterpillar dealers for Northern Europe.
“I’d go out with the sales people from the dealership in places like Norway, Sweden or Iceland and be the expert on the machines.
“There was a three month training programme in the USA and Italy where they make a lot of the machines, so you understand how the machines are made and what the competitive advantages are.”
Rawnsley was prepared to literally get his hands dirty to understand the machinery he was trying to sell before the recession took its toll on the industry.
He said: “One thing they had never done was hands on training so I linked up with a company in Redditch and volunteered as a labourer for a week so I could understand how the machines worked.
“I did that development manager role for two years and then the recession hit and Caterpillar went through a re-organisation and went from 135,000 employees down to 80,000. It meant 55,000 were made redundant over several weeks, it was a bad time for many people.
“It was like being released by Worcestershire almost. You’d go into an office and someone would say ‘yes you’ve got a job or you haven’t’ and if you have this is what your new job is and if you haven’t, here’s an information pack. That was a rough time.
“I got through it, once in 2008 and again in 2009. Again that was another learning experience, a ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’ kind of thing which then led to two more jobs at Caterpillar.
“The next job I did was looking after all machines for the UK and Iceland for four years and then got a job looking at emerging markets in certain countries for Caterpillar and setting up business there – do we need a dealer, do we need a distributor, or an agent.”
It is fair to say that Rawnsley encountered one or two challenging scenarios in his new role!
He said: “The job involved lots of different places you wouldn’t normally go to on holiday – Libya, Tunisia, Sudan, Algeria – but fascinating. I spent quite a lot of time in Russia, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey
“It was great exposure to different cultures and different ways of doing business and how people communicate and also insight into how people generally live their lives.
“From a Western business point of view we think of strategy in three and five year terms…you go into these countries and long term vision for them is next year, even next month, because so much can change politically and financially.
“It can be a very transactional type of relationship – ‘what can you do for me now? Forget about the future, there might not be one for anyone.’
“That manifested itself to me on two occasions – one in 2011 when it was the Spring Uprising and Tunisia blew up overnight and we had to get airlifted out by the military off the top of a hotel!
“Then in Tel Aviv I’m eating my lunch on the beach and just hear this ‘sssshhh’ noise and look up and part of a hotel has disappeared! It’s all good experience and you have got to come out of those things and move on.
“It sounds strange but it is like when you are away as an overseas player for six months and have experienced all different things and it’s all been interesting and new and fantastic.
“Then you meet the people back at home you left six months earlier and there life is a constant – they’ve been to work, done pick-ups and drop-offs at school and these kind of things and life has not really changed for them too much”
“It was dangerous at times but also really exciting as well. But I was getting to a time where that was becoming my life and a few things happened really where I was thinking ‘I don’t know if I want to do this for another four or five years.’
“I had two really young children and wasn’t spending anytime with them. I was away most of the time and so I started looking for other opportunities and then this job as MD came up with Barnes Group (American company who are a global industrial and aerospace manufacturer and service provider).
“That was for nearly five years. That was the first opportunity of my life to run a business totally, oversee it in UK, France, Spain, Germany.
“I remember the first week thinking ‘what would an MD do or say’ but that quickly goes and it becomes far more instinctive. You bring your own part to it and you get the confidence around that and people in that environment are often looking to be led.
“That has given me a lot of confidence coming into this role. While I’m always listening and learning, my past experience has given me the confidence to deal with ambiguity, which is critical in leadership roles.”