If we were to describe Jerome Smith as a bilingual farmhand done good, you might think that you’re about to read the story of Superman’s earthly upbringing and while we haven’t got conformation that he can fly without the help of business-class, Jerome IS a modern-day business hero.
Citing his life mantra as being ”what’s the worst that can happen?” Jerome Smith has always been optimistic about taking on new challenges and generally having a go at anything and everything, but where has this attitude stemmed from?
“My father had MS, which had a big impact on my childhood. Spending his life in a wheelchair and requiring constant care, it limited what we could do together. He was an artist and saw the fun in life and that it should be enjoyed. He passed away in my last year of Uni. Because of my dad’s situation, my mum was the one to take me to places, to push me to explore hobbies. She worked part-time to raise me and look after my dad.”
This snippet into what must have been a phenomenally challenging childhood, though sometimes fun and always filled with love, tells us so much about how Jerome came to be a respected business owner today. While some are born into their destinies, thanks to family money or operations that are ready to be inherited, others craft their legacy through grit and determination and see themselves shaped by, let’s call a spade a spade, rubbish jobs, which they never want to revisit. Speaking about his career history, Jerome is refreshingly honest and unabashed about the less glamorous positions he has held,
“I started working a little on my grandfather’s farm, doing odd jobs as a child, mainly shovelling manure into various heaps, but my first proper job was being a swimming pool lifeguard. It was a great job to have and my first role with actual responsibility. It was a great couple of years. The role mainly consisted of me telling people their swimming goggles were on their head, when they would approach me and tell me that they had lost them.”
From here, Jerome blitzed through a number of roles, including lugging 20kg boxes around in a factory, suffering legions of drunks as a hotel night porter (though he DID meet Dionne Warwick, so that was a plus) and being part of an electronic tagging team. It would be easy to bemoan each and every one of these jobs, yet Jerome sees them in terms of what they taught him and how they shaped him, especially the tagging company experience,
“I worked in the control room, answering calls and mainly being shouted at during every shift and throughout the night. Everything was recorded as data security was of the utmost important and everything had a procedure, even going to the toilet. I learnt a lot about company structures and security in this role.”
Anybody else would have simply recalled the unsociable hours, the lack of gratitude and the red tape, but not Jerome, which is why, when he finally secured a worthy role, he grasped it with both hands,
“I eventually landed a business development role in a small company. Being small, I was able to see the impact of my decision; they were just less diluted than you may find in a larger enterprise. It was the best decision I ever made, applying for that role. I found an area of business I excelled in, quickly achieving all of the highest targets and I progressed through the ranks and eventually became the Head of Business Development. Building rapport and strong professional relationships was something I could do well and the job had a great extra benefit; travelling around the world on business. I got to secure the business of large companies and negotiate agreements that I never thought I’d have the opportunity to.”
There’s no doubting that Jerome has everything necessary to start a fledging enterprise and turn it into a huge success, but the question has to be asked; why start The Lost Executive (TLE)? With the business development acumen that he has under his belt, surely he could have written his own ticket in ANY existing organisation? Well, you might not be surprised to earn that TLE is the result of a negative situation being spun on it’s head, with a little self-belief thrown in for good measure,
“I worked for a terrible company that was dysfunctional, had no leadership and basically offered no guidance. I had two managers (a strange situation in itself) and both would tell me different things to focus on. In fact, they would tell me to do the opposite of each other. It was a really low point in my career, as I felt like I had hit rock bottom and that nothing would work. After a year or so I resigned, with no job lined up. It was the best decision I ever made, as it led me to where I am now and, I learned a lot about how not to do things.”
How many people do you know that would have simply stuck it out in a role that was going nowhere? The lure of a steady pay packet is one that misguided employers rely on to retain talented but woefully undervalued staff, but Jerome knew that there was something bigger and better waiting for him. With his passion for adventure and love of all things travel related, TLE was only a moment of inspiration away,
“The usual standards of most business travel articles or dedicated publications are shamefully lacklustre, boring and, frankly, they always seem to be negating an integral sense of excitement. We (myself and Donnie Rust) want to change that. We want to do things differently, to add a little spark to the world of business travel, so that whether folks are experiencing the world on their own company or being sent by an employer, they can garner unique and personal memories to keep with them. People want experiences to remember, not to be sat in their hotel room, watching TV to kill time between meetings. We decided to use our experiences, both good and bad, to share how this can be achieved, from the moment business professionals leave their house, suitcase in hand.”
While he has a host of other ambitions, alongside making TLE the best resource for those regularly undertaking business travel, you have to wonder if he really will find time to learn how to play the piano and complete a motorcycle tour through Europe. But then again, this is Jerome we’re talking about, so of course he will and no doubt he’ll inspire many other people to prioritise their personal ambitions while he does, because that’s what all great business leaders do.