My Week: Chris Dawson of The Range

The rags-to-riches entrepreneur on his new pad in the South of France, early starts and travelling by helicopter.

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

This is a big week for us as I’m opening four new stores tomorrow. I’ll be on site at about 6.15 tomorrow and then we’ll be taking off in the chopper around an hour later. We’re right next to the airport but we’ll be taking off from our car park as we wouldn’t pay the landing fee. Ever efficient Dawson said: ‘not likely’. And then we fly from Plymouth to Worthing where for some strange reason we’re getting a police escort from the playing fields we’re landing in to the store - and we didn’t even ask for it. Maybe they think we’re crooks.

Once I’m at Worthing I’ll meet all the staff, examine the store at a rate of knots, which includes checking the exterior, marketing, warehouse procedures, computer systems and I’ll also be checking the actual look of the store. Despite my reputation I wouldn’t say that my staff are intimidated by me, quite the contrary. I’ll probably end up telling them dirty jokes or something.

Then it’s back to the turbo helicopter to fly from Worthing to Corby where I’ll make all the same checks, looking at every inch of the store. And by that I mean back office, everything, I’ll be looking at every molecule. Then from Corby to Leicester – that shouldn’t take long in a helicopter.  The last store opening is in Middlesbrough from where we’re going to go look at some potential new sites – but I’m not telling you where they are.

So it’s a very big week for us. There’s an amazing amount of preparation – from checking the concept, to checking the stock-levels – everything you’d expect from a retailer is double and treble checked.

I’ve been up to other stuff too though. On Tuesday, I was at Gatwick airport at 5am to get a flight to the South of France. I went to visit three of the sites I’ve exchanged on where I designed, built and renovated luxury villas.  We were also reviewing two more potential sites while we were there.

On a more personal note, I’m actually building one for myself in the hills near Cannes, which is going to have a motorcycle museum underneath. I used to race motorcycles, and apparently I wasn’t that bad, but I’m all buckled and bent and old now. I still ride, just not very well.

The road at the bottom near the property is very busy and I was thinking about putting a little table out there with fruit and veg on it to sell. But then I suddenly realised how flash my neighbours are and I thought maybe not. My standards are going to have to go up greatly if they’re going to match the neighbours.

I have an office at the new place in Cannes and it’s a good job as I work all the time. The only time I don’t work is when I’m asleep. I suppose I spend time with my 17-month old grandson too. I absolutely love it. It’s rumoured that I’m not always a tough businessman when I’m with him.

I don’t have a lot of downtime though: on weekends I even work in the Plymouth shop and sometimes I’ll go to the Truro store or the Exeter store. I love to work Saturdays in the store to see how it’s all working. There’s no better opportunity to do so than at the coal-face. I feel it’s a privilege to run a business. I still get so excited; you’d have thought I started this yesterday. I love it. And I’ve certainly got a lot more to do before I die.

Chris Dawson is the founder of CDS Superstores International, the parent company of The Range

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