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RICHARD CUMING: Bringing the past to life for new generation

By Herald Express  |  Posted: April 10, 2014

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QWhat company do you run/own?

AI manage Bygones which is a family business in St Marychurch, Torquay. This was set up by my parents 27 years ago. My sister and my niece (when not at university) also work in the attraction.

QWhat is its aim/what is new for 2014 ?

AWe aim to provide a value for money visit which allows our customers to experience life in the late Victorian era and also the 20th century world wars.

This year being the centenary of the start of World War One, we have expanded our displays to reflect this.

Items will be added throughout the year including a new Royal Naval Division section.

After water and storm damage we also have a brand new WW2 display area.

We are always on the lookout for items with an interesting story to tell or a local connection.

Projects for 2015/16 are well under way!

QWhat major challenges are you facing?

AAs with all businesses the ever increasing bureaucracy, paper work and EU legislation seems to increase year on year.

The economic climate, although improving, and the weather continue to have an impact on trading.

We are open all year so the challenge is to expand trade, especially during the out-of -season months, and target new markets.

We still produce and have distributed 140,000 copies of our own leaflets but promotion via the internet is increasingly becoming more important.

Investment in our website, and the use of social media, play a much greater role in our marketing.

The other major challenge for me is to manage the micro and strategic aspects of the business at the same time.

QWhat is your background?

AFrom a business point of view, like several past generations of my family, my background is in independent retail.

I have also been involved in politics, at a local and national level.

I was the leader of Torbay Unitary Authority before we had an elected mayor.

I have also been a parliamentary candidate at two General Elections.

I am no longer directly involved in politics now concentrating on Bygones and promoting the English Riviera. I, of course, retain an interest.

Q Who do you most admire past and present?

ANot surprisingly they are British historical figures who still have a major impact on our way of life.

The first being Nelson who was an inspirational leader and tactician who earned the loyalty of the officers and men who served with him. They were the original 'band of brothers'.

The second would be our greatest ever wartime leader and Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill.

I have always been fascinated by history and both along with maybe Scott of the Antarctic stand out for me .

From a current business perspective it would be Karren Brady who has, and continues, to be successful in many sectors.

I am also inspired by our Armed Forces, both past and present, for whom we owe so much.

Q How would you describe your management style?

AI like to think relaxed! I am lucky to have the support of other family members for advise.

The staff are, of course, our most important asset. Nearly all of them have worked for us for many years some even from previous businesses.

While I am happy to delegate, I take a more hands-on approach to certain areas, for example new displays, marketing and future strategy.

I also buy most of the stock sold in the souvenir shop.

Staff members are encouraged to get involved in different areas and input suggestions for improvements and new ideas.

Q How do you keep infused and keep fresh ?

AI like to keep life in perspective and have a glass half-full rather than half-empty approach to life.

Networking and partnership working are great ways to find new ideas.

I am always up for the next challenge, which helps.

I like to keep a work/leisure balance. I find watching sport with friends a good way of achieving this. Some might say supporting West Ham and Somerset CCC might not be that relaxing!

I also enjoy travel especially to new destinations and making new friends and acquaintances.

Q Describe a typical day?

AThe fact is no one day is ever the same. Normally I would start by clearing the many overnight emails with a couple of cups of milky teas.

Displays are checked, the shop refilled and staff allocated specific tasks.

We operate in 1897 but the time and date is current to 2014 so calendars and clocks are changed daily, as are the special effects.

There may be a group or school visit to welcome. At some point, the Antique Trade Gazette and dealers sites are checked online in between paperwork.

Most days will involve a meeting either here or at another location for Bygones or the Attractions Partnership.

Advertising, website updates and agreeing future events are fitted in. Lunch can be anytime between 11.30am and 4pm!

Often there are evening events to attend for networking and catching up with colleagues .

I also travel all over the country for auctions and contacts to add new items to our displays.

As you can see, it really is Victorian workhouse conditions for me!

Q What other organisations are you involved with?

AFor the past four years I have been chairman of the English Riviera Attractions (Partnership).

I am a director of the English Riviera Tourism Company.

I also chair the judging panel for the Herald Express Tourism and Hospitality Awards.

I am a committee member of the Area Somerset CCC and sit on various other business forums.

I support and raise funds for a number of charities including Help for Heroes, Children's Hospice South West and the Royal British Legion. We usually hold a fundraising charity event at least once a year. I like to keep busy!

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