Neil Davy, CEO The Institute for Family Business

In our regular series, VIPS remember when they were merely Ps


Hi, Neil! Who are you and what do you do?

I’m Neil Davy and I am CEO of the Institute for Family Business, the largest body in the UK representing the family business sector. It’s changed a lot since its inception 22 years ago, and certainly a lot since I came on board last year.

What was your #MyFirstMcJob?

Picking strawberries on a fruit farm in East Sussex to get some money together and keep me out of mischief in the summer holidays.

How did you get the job?

I just walked up the road, because it was literally 50 yards from my house.

What did you have to do?

Spend the day in the field on your hands and knees, picking strawberries and trying not to get caught eating them!

How much were you paid?

Something minuscule, like £3 an hour, if I was lucky.

What were the perks of the job?

Free strawberries was definitely one. You got to meet other people from the village community you wouldn’t have met otherwise. It was as much social as it was work.

Did you ever get sick of eating the “free” strawberries?


What did you spend your first paycheque on?

Probably something like a magazine, sweets or something for my bike.

How long did you work there for?

One summer between my O and A Levels.

Was it a sunny summer?

It was a sunny summer, so that was fortunate! I don’t think it would have gone for the strawberry picking option otherwise.

Did anything funny happen?

Amazingly we didn’t get told off for eating too many strawberries. But other than my older brother, Drew — who was pretty annoying — it was pretty uneventful. The summer came and went and, before you knew it, you were back at school.

What skills did you learn that you still use today?

More of an awareness that you’ve got to earn your graft. Money doesn’t grow on trees — or in strawberry fields. You have to go out and earn it. It taught me there is more to money in your pocket than pocket money or allowances.

Are you still in contact with anyone you worked with?

Just my brother. He’s still just as annoying!

Why is alumni important to you?

The year before lockdown, we had a school reunion, so a small group of us were in a WhatsApp group so that we could meet in a bar beforehand. During lockdown, the WhatsApp group took on a life of itself, with more and more school alumni from all around the world chiming in and telling us what they’ve been doing with their lives, where they’ve been, the fun times and they difficulties they’ve had. It was wonderful to reconnect to all these people we hadn’t seen in 20, 30 years.

Why is alumni important?

Somebody once said to me: your colleagues aren’t your friends. I think that’s absolute nonsense because I’ve made some very good friends through the workplace. These are people you got on with, shared parts of your life with, and became important outside of work. It’s great to have that connection, grounding and community. It’s also helpful to look back at the different stages in your career and understand what you were trying to achieve versus what you’re trying to achieve now. Alumni is like a rear view mirror. It’s a helpful reflection that helps you consider where you are today.

What would happen if you went back and did another day strawberry picking?

I’d probably just spend the day eating!

If you could go back in time and give yourself one piece of career advice, what would you say?

Follow your heart. Have confidence in your convictions. Eat more strawberries.




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