What was your favorite toy or game as a child?
Without a doubt LEGO – my creations were replicas (in my mind at least) of all the cool things I saw on TV from Thunderbirds, Dr Who and more. Multi-colored (as they were back then) the beauty was in the eye of the beholder – my parents were very kind – I wish I had photos!!
Why and how did you get into the Toy and Game industry?
Like most of us I think by accident! I was an owner in a small box making company in London back in the early 80s. We had a sideline – 1 machine and 1 legally blind operator – making games boards for UK companies such as Games Workshop, Gibsons Games. One day in 1984 – wow sounds like a fairy story J - a guy walked through the door asking us to make game boards for Trivial Pursuit…….the rest is history. I first worked as a manufacturer, then marketer before being asked to work for the owners of Trivial Pursuit from 1986 – 1989.
What trends do you see in toys or games that excite or worry you?
I still think we as an industry we follow trends rather than lead them, slapping technology onto toys/games that sometimes simply don’t need it. There are obviously exceptions to this with some major robotic successes and, in particular, some Toy creations that made it to the movies e.g. Transformers. For the most part however, I believe we rely on others for innovation and creativity – movies, TV shows, celebrities etc. Of course as an outside inventor representative I love this – opportunity for new inventors
What advice can you give to inventors who are presenting new toy or game ideas to you?
Tough question!! Some of the best ideas have come on a scrap of paper and been huge successes however, in general I think they need to think it t through first. Is it really new, provocative and innovative, is it unique and most of all it has to be practical. Cost is still a major hurdle for manufacturers – I cant tell you how many absolutely beautiful models I have seen but with no idea how to make it economically!!
What advice would you give a young adult graduating from high school or college today?
After all the hard-work of grade etc. one thing I like to see/hear is Networking.To be clear I am not talking about texting a million friends all over, I am talking about actual relationships, really meet people, learn some people skills and talk to people. Consider getting a job working on the front lines be as a server, barista, pumping gas (as I did) – talk to people, share your thoughts and dreams – those relationships could give you that insight, break or opening you did not even know existed.
What does your typical day look like?
Well after 30+ years in the business I am so fortunate to have a variety in my life – we still travel to numerous shows around the world (Hong Kong, UK, Germany, Australia, Japan and on) – sounds glamorous but it is arduous and not as much fun these days with all the airline cutbacks!! We visit with our clients in their offices from time to time so, travel is definitely a big part of my life. When not traveling, there is a lot of administration behind “playing with toy/games”. From sending samples, negotiating terms and drafting contracts, discussing potential marketing opportunities and looking at new idea and concepts for the next “big” one!! Thank goodness for the internet!!
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
The people – there is no doubt in my mind. Of course there are a lot of disappointments along the way but I have been fortunate enough to meet and become friends with some fantastic folks around the world. Whenever we travel we are going to see industry ‘friends’ as much as business contacts. These days I like to think I give back a little by helping ,at ChiTAG and giving some guidance to new inventors – whether I work with them, or not, does not matter – I want to see new inventors succeed and bring new life blood to our industry!
What is the worst job you’ve ever had and what did you learn from it?
Probably pumping gas – good old fashioned hi-test back in those days! Sucking in the fumes for hours on end was probably not great for me BUT I got an education in relating and interacting with folks from all walks of life, something that has stood me in good stead over the years.
What and/or who inspires you?
Sports players, musicians and my wife Catherine!! I think that performers personify the “overnight success” mantra that some people seem to expect. There are hours and years of basic work and practice, learning your skills, honing those down to ultimately - and if you’re lucky as well probably - to be a professional. I think a lot of people forget the value of basics in their professional lives.
Where were you born?
I am a true Eastender! Born in Bow Hospital London England - my folks moved the family to the ourskirts when I was 7 and I think I left the accent behind!!
What was your life like growing up?
I grew up in England during the 60s and 70s. I was a little too young for the peace and love part but, I grew up on the Beatles and the hey days of British music. My parents came from humble beginnings getting married right after WW2 and worked hard to give my sister and me a loving and solid family upbringing. I was honestly not a natural scholar but worked hard alongside my sporting life to leave school with passable grades!! As a young kid 8 or 9, I can recall helping the milkman deliver to homes in the area as well as leaving home in the morning and only coming home for “tea” at 6pm – something parents rarely allow these days. Here's a picture of me at age 7 enjoying the beach!
Where did you grow up and how did that influence who you are today?
The UK was not the melting pot it is today but there was still a good mix of people in my life from a very young age. I believe it taught me to be fair, open and accessible to all.
What is one mistake you’ve made, and what did you learn from it?
Only one!! Wow. Working for family owned businesses has been an issue for me in the past. I learned to protect myself contractually but more importantly to ask better questions of potential employers going forward!!
What do you read every day, and why?
BBC news – I still believe it provides the best global view of the news of the world in a balanced (most of the time) way. You can take the “Brit out of Britain” but I guess old habits die hard!!
What is your favorite gadget, app or piece of software that helps you every day?