In our regular series, people at the top remember their life at the bottom
Hi, Pip! Who are you and what do you do?
I’m Pip Wilson, and I’m CEO and co-founder of Amicable. Amicable is the trusted legal service for divorcing and separating couples. We exist to make the experience of divorce and separation kinder, cheaper and better for couples, children and society
What was your #MyFirstMcJob?
Working every Saturday in Freeman Hardy and Willis, the shoe shop, in Hinckley in the East Midlands.
How did you get that job?
I walked down Hinckley High Street, went into every shop and asked: “Are you recruiting?” I picked up an application form, filled it in by hand, handed it back and got that one.
What did you have to do?
Tidy the stockroom, stock keep and general admin. But mainly it was fitting shoes and making sure people went home happy.
How long did you work there for?
About a year while I was doing my GCSEs.
What were the perks of the job?
I think there was the option to take cheap shoes in the sales. But they weren’t necessarily the shoes everybody desired. They were a downmarket version of Clarks, lots of school shoes, so not very aspirational to a teenager.
What did you spend your first paycheque on?
I was a saver, not a spender, because all I wanted to do was drive, because driving was an escape from my local village. So I saved up pretty much everything I earned until my 17th birthday and I bought a very old red Metro, called Thomas, who was my pride and joy.
Did anything particularly funny happen?
People would often try one shoe and say: “I’ll just take them,” but they hadn’t been boxed correctly, so they were sold people two different sizes, or — I can remember on one occasion — a black and a brown shoe — and the customer didn’t notice until they got home.
What skills did you learn as a shoe shop assistant that you still use today?
As a teenager, it was a good lesson having to communicate with customers of different ages, backgrounds, and levels of politeness. Any customer-facing job teaches you to deal with people.
Are you in contact with anyone who worked at the shoe shop?
They had another vacancy, so one of my friends came and started working there as well. I’m in contact with her still.
How many pairs of shoes do you own these days?
I would say probably around average, about 30. Although I now have a 13-year-old with the same size feet as me, so my shoes are borrowed a lot more.
Why is alumni so important to you personally?
Although that work experience probably didn’t yield much from an alumni side, my first post-university job was at Andersen Consulting, now Accenture. We had a start group of around 20 and some became such good friends, we’ve helped each other in terms of jobs, introductions and projects since.
Why is alumni important in general?
Anyone who’s worked for Amicable is an ambassador of our brand. People join us because they like what we are doing, or they want to do it in a different way. We employ people who believe in our mission. Even if they don’t work with us long term, they still remain an ambassador for our brand. We’ve had ex-employees who’ve recommended other people to work for us and that’s always useful.
What would happen if you went back and did a shift in Freeman Hardy and Willis today?
The thought of measuring people’s feet or fitting sweaty children’s shoes is way less appealing. I wouldn’t know where to start. I could probably handle the customer service part but I’ve definitely forgotten everything I learned on how to make sure the shoe fits properly.
If you could go back in time and give yourself one piece of advice, what would you say?
Always look at the opportunities to learn and speak to people to gain knowledge and experience. Even in a straightforward Saturday job, there’s stuff to learn. I later worked for Dixons — considered a step up from shoes! — and learned loads more about sales, customer service, and what makes a good experience for people. Every experience helps.