It’s a life of ups and downs for Nev Wilshire, the businessman at the middle of BBC Three’s fly-on-the-wall show, The Call Centre.
Since embarking on a tumultuous career in the world of sales, he has gone from being an entry level rep straight out of sixth form, to the no-nonsense manager who owns his own company.
We spoke to the larger-than-life boss and found out what it is that drives him.
“Yes, I would consider myself a natural leader,” the booming Welshman tells us. “I think that leadership quality is in me. You’re either a leader or you’re not.”
Currently the CEO of the Swansea-based Save Britain Money Group, an award-winning business that also spawned its own BBC TV show, it’s fair to say that Nev has the credentials to back up his beliefs. Described by some in the media as a real-life version of David Brent from The Office, Nev Wilshire was catapulted into fame when a documentary about the working day in his company was aired. Behind the workplace bravado, on-screen sackings, and spontaneous requests for office karaoke, however, we wanted to know more about the man who describes himself as a “football-kicking, catchphrase-loving man of the people”…
“My first inclination of wanting to be a businessman was when I was about 17. I was doing my A-levels and I thought that was what I wanted to be. I did my A-levels and then took a year out to make some money and just get a job – and of course, once you’ve started earning money it’s difficult to give it all up!”
“By the time I was 19 I was repping for a company. The sales were good, and they were going up and up. The division I got involved with was number 14 in the area out of 23 when I started, and I got it to be number 1 within 2 years. However, because I was so young I was getting paid less than everybody else, which I took exception to. So when I was 24 I decided to branch out and go on my own.”
Grabbing life by the scruff of the neck as a young man, Nev went on to describe the reality of going it alone.
“So, I started my own business when I was 24. By the time I was 28 I was a millionaire, by the time I was 38 I was bust,” he exclaims. “It’s life. When you’re 17, you know it all. When you’re 19 you could run the country. When you’re 30 you don’t know quite so much, and when you’re 40 you realise you know nothing…when you’re 50… you realise what you did know, you’ve forgotten!”
On television Nev’s riotous personality has gained him a devout fan following. His managerial style oscillates between enforcing strict rules, before encouraging people to break into song improve office morale – “Happy people sell” appears a mantra. Also well known to the cult following of the show is Nev’s allegiance to Swansea City FC. With a sigh he tells us, “It hasn’t just been an up and down season, it’s been a down and out season!” But he also reinforces the fact that he knows the Swans will come back. It seems that his faith in the boom and bust cycle is apparent in all aspects of his life.
Similarly, Nev goes on to describe the situation his company is in when it comes to making long term business models.
“Well, obviously we have plans as to where we want to take the business, but when we’re dealing with government grants, all of a sudden the government will change the grants and there’s nothing we can do about it. You’re up one minute and down the next. It’s just the way they do things.”
A sensible man might doubt Nev’s cavalier approach to the world of business, but his ‘who dares wins’ attitude seems to be working for the self-made man from South Wales. Indeed, as Charles Darwin wrote, “In the struggle for survival, the fittest win out at the expense of their rivals because they succeed in adapting themselves best to their environment.” So, perhaps Nev’s fearless approach to the cut-throat world of business will help him adapt and remain successful. Oh, and we’re told that a spot of singing is conducive to a happy office…
The Call Centre airs on BBC3 from 8 April 9pm and Series One is available on DVD from 14 April