This month we welcome broadcaster, adventurer and marine biologist Monty Halls to our regular series of interviews with leading figures in the South West community.
Hello Monty! Can you tell us about what you are up to at the moment?
I’m just back from filming a Channel 5 diving project where I investigate and attempt to solve the world’s greatest underwater mysteries. I also run Great Escapes, an eco-tourism business in Dartmouth running boat trips, diving and coastal walks.
What challenges are you planning over the next 12 months?
I have a few projects in the pipeline. I’m actually very interested in developing leadership training at the moment, I have enjoyed my work in leadership so far and I want to develop it further. I’m also in discussions with the BBC over future programmes.
How has the economic recession impacted your work?
Our issue isn’t so much the economic climate but the physical climate! Running a tourism business is heavily dependent on the weather and last year’s poor summer and harsh winter hit us hard. We live in a costal community and saw several businesses close. People are also more careful with their money nowadays as there’s less of it about and they want to get their money’s worth. Like any business we are always looking to cut costs and reduce overheads.
Do you have any official advisory roles? If so, what have you learned from the experience?
I have an alarmingly large number of advisory roles! I do a lot of work with Help for Heroes and the Royal Marines, but more recently I have been involved with Spotlight, an organisation supporting the fishing community. Sustaining British fishery is an enormously complex task considering the variety of species, people and legislation involved. I’m also patron of the Shark Trust.
Do you have any advice for business leaders in the South West?
What has worked for us is being flexible. In the current difficult environment your business needs to be agile to make the most of the opportunities available. Always put the customer first and adapt your business to suit their needs. Sometimes, I am on the phone with a customer and agree to their demands first then figure out how I’m going to deliver afterwards! Go the extra mile for your customers because there is not as much disposable income as there used to be and competition for it is fierce.
We will shortly be announcing our next Board 2020 Conference: what do you think makes a good conference event?
It may sound trite, but the speaker at an event has to add value. A speaker shouldn’t just turn up and say, ‘this is what I did with my company to be successful, aren’t I great?’ this is a very common theme at conferences and people are sick of it. Speakers need to be able to give the audience messages and models they can take home and apply to their businesses. I could tell you a story of how I climbed a mountain: it’s a nice story but it’s not relevant for the audience. I have been taking professional speaking engagements for 15 years and I have learnt to give value first.
What do you love about South West England?
I have always loved the sea and the South West is a great place to work on it. As a tourist business it is also a logical place to be. The best reason is when people ask where I live, I tell them ‘Devon’ and they always say ‘how nice’!
What do you like to do outside of work?
I’m fortunate in that my work actively involves my interests. As the old saying goes, if you do something you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. I travel extensively for work, which can be hard. When I am home, I enjoy just spending quiet time with my family, playing with my daughter and my dog or putting my feet up and watching TV.
Who is your hero/personal inspiration?
My hero is Herbert ‘Blondie’ Hasler, a Royal Marines officer and leader of the Cockleshell Heroes, who performed a dangerous commando raid on shipping in Bordeaux during WW2. He was an exceptional leader, organised and courageous. When I was on a particularly dangerous deep dive I was quite hesitant, then I thought of Blondie to steel my nerves. If you want to know more about him, I recommend the book ‘Operation Suicide’ by Robert Lyman.
What is on your I-Pod and what are you reading right now?
Someone has recently bought me a Ben Howard CD, a local musician from Totnes and it is great road music for my travels. I’m currently reading Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen after one of my best friends raved about it. It’s about the two month period Matthiessen searched for snow leopards in the Himalayas. It is vivid travel writing but also about his spiritual journey.
Finally, who has the bigger fan following: you or Reuben?
Definitely Rueben! People often ask me the best way to get into television and I always answer the same way: get yourself a big charismatic dog, it certainly worked for me!