If I had to start again ... Steve Gilman

I was born a retailer, so whatever I did would have to involve people. I love the customer contact. That's probably why I joined the police force for a year, although that turned out to be just a diversion.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

At 13, I started working on a market stall in Buxton, Derbyshire, selling fruit and veg. I wanted to get on with life, so instead of university I got a job in a bank. It was so boring. Then I joined the police. This was 30 years ago, when the Met wasn't a particularly nice place to be, and I wasn't really right for it. Even today, I'm much better at coaching than policing.

If you'd told me then that I would end up building a business in China, I'd have thought you were joking. I was 15 before I met my first Chinese person - when a Hong Kong family moved to Buxton and ran our local chippie. But B&Q Asia has been a fantastic experience. I've been privileged to see such change there over the past 13 years.

I like the Chinese. I enjoy their company and sense of humour. They will do anything to develop their knowledge and grab opportunity, and I feel very at home with that energy. My youngest daughter has been studying here in Hong Kong for four years, and my son is learning the language as part of his degree. So my job is not what I would call a hardship post. It has had a very positive impact on my family.

As I've been telling my kids lately, fate or kismet occasionally throws up a crossroads. You have to use your head but follow your heart, and not be afraid to go for it. My decision to move on, after 25 years at B&Q, is scary but exciting. I'm only 52 this year - why not try something different?

I fancy doing a few part-time roles, still connected with Asia, but at a less hectic pace. I've never taken a break before, so I'm going to take the summer off, sit on my sun-lounger, contemplate the meaning of life and decide what I want from my future.

- Steve Gilman steps down as CEO of B&Q Asia in May.

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