Getting Personal with Purple’s CEO, Gavin Wheeldon

Gavin wheeldon headshot
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I’ve got to know Gavin really well over the years I’ve been at Purple. Gavin is happily married with two daughters, aged six and nine. He’s a family man, super smart, down to earth and approachable. He holds strong values and views, and he doesn’t suffer politics or fools. So I thought it might make for interesting reading to ask him some personal questions, to find out more about what makes him tick.

Gavin is a self-made man, having succeeded in exiting his last start-up business, ALS (Applied Language Solutions) following a sale to Capita. He has appeared on TV in titles such as Dragon’s Den where he pitched to the dragon’s for investment back in 2004, and following his selling of the online translation business ALS he appeared on Secret Millionaire, where he ended up donating funds to various small businesses in North Wales.

For the last seven years he has been at the helm of the good ship Purple, leading the business as we scale up and go global in our mission to turn the world Purple. Gavin has led the business from a small start-up based on the outskirts of Manchester, to a global, awarding winning enterprise with over 110 million users worldwide.

  1. Tell me about yourself, using only 5 words.
    Driven, ambitious, generous, caring, fair.
  2. What did you want to be when you were a child?
    A dog! I’ve always loved animals in general, but I particularly love dogs. They’ve got a great life, dogs, haven’t they? Running around, having fun, chilling out!
  3. Describe your first paying job.
    When I was 12 I did various jobs for cash. I had a gardening round and a window cleaning round. The window cleaning was for bungalows only – because I didn’t have any ladders. Eventually I had a few mates working for me. I remember buying stuff from the 50p shop – such as door chains and door peepholes, and I would knock door to door and offer to fit them for £3 or so. When I was 14, I lied about my age to take a telesales job with a kitchen sales company, I worked 6-9pm evenings and Saturday mornings. Within a few months I was their best salesperson so came clean about my age and they kept me on – paying cash!
  4. What is the book you have read that has influenced you the most?
    There are so many. But I always end up picking Jack Welch’s Straight from the Gut. He wasn’t a traditional entrepreneur as he worked his way up in GE, but I found everything he did, his courageous moves – incredibly inspiring. Another book I really enjoyed reading was Richard Branson’s, Losing my Virginity, which is a little more akin to the journey that I have been on as an entrepreneur, the ‘risk it all’ type path.
  5. What’s the film you could watch over and over?
    Pulp Fiction.
  6. Do you have a recurring dream – what is it?
    I don’t have one. But I do dream!
  7. Who’s the most influential person in your life and why?
    The answer to this question has changed over time. Right now it’s the kids – Ava and Milla. Your world changes once kids arrive and everything becomes about them, all the decisions we make are now with them in mind. I try to provide the best possible life and environment for them to grow up in. So yes they influence me the most, even though they don’t even know it.
  8. What are you most proud of?
    At the risk of sounding repetitive, my kids. We have two very kind, caring and well balanced down to earth children, considering some of the privileges they have, they could have turned out very differently. I’m so proud of them.
  9. What’s your biggest regret?
    I don’t tend to allow myself regrets. My wife would agree with this – I am very good at moving on! You make decisions at the time, for the right reasons, and yes you can make mistakes, but I always put those in a box and move on. If you allow yourself regrets, you might worry about making decisions and doing new things.
  10. Your house is burning and you can only rescue 3 things. They are:
    Marie-Claire, Ava and Milla. If I can’t have people, I’ll take my laptop (MacBook), and the kids memory boxes – as those are irreplaceable.
  11. What lie do you tell yourself?
    ‘I won’t do that again’. It might be a rocking hangover from drinking shots, or staying up til 4am. Also while selling the last business, after going through building up a business and the process of selling it, I told myself ‘never again’. The amount of pure hard work, bumps and bruises and near death experiences (from a business perspective). When I had sold it, I never had to work again, so why would I do it again? But then I couldn’t help myself. I told myself this time would be different. I had money, I would hire good people, I’d just work a couple of days a week… but then reality hits! I’ve ended up doing it again, rinse and repeat, a bit like having a second child. It’s the same, but different. And I wouldn’t change it.
  12. Religion or evolution?
  13. Does life exist on other planets?
    Absolutely. It would be complete arrogance to think that somewhere in the universe that we live in, that life hasn’t evolved somewhere else… it’s just nature, the chaos and mess that is life.
  14. Are you now where you always dreamt you would be, or is there more on your bucket list?
    There’s more I guess! I’m really happy with where I am. However as an NLP practitioner and fan, I’ve always been really into goal setting, visualizing my goals, where I will be in the future. So I am broadly where I expected and visualized I would be, but I will always have goals and ambitions that I will strive for. The minute you stop growing, you start dying.
  15. Can you share your next steps with us?
    Well I have now taken up my first non-executive position for another start up business… I’m really keen that as I get more time, I will start to work more and more with other businesses who are on the same path I’ve been on, so I can help them in turn.
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