A brief introduction to Neil McClelland



It has been suggested that  “we are the sum total of our experiences.” This may or may not be the case but it is a reasonable point from which to start .

In order to develop a relationship one has to establish a level of disclosure. We all have to know a little about those with whom we are communicating, otherwise we feel as though the relationship is “one sided”, and so I am initiating our relationship by telling you a little about me. By doing this, I hope that I am supplying you with enough information for you to get a feel for my “personal style”- because it is very important that you feel that I offer  you “appropriate skills”.  It is also important to note that in presenting the following information I am not trying to tell you what a fantastic person I am; I am simply trying to indicate that I do offer you a wide range of skills and experiences from which to draw.

No one goes through life without making errors. I certainly am no exception!

The chronology.

Born 28.5.55 -the youngest of a very close family of 3. Mother and father deceased .

Education- life  0-18. In general, a happy childhood provided by a loving mother and a robust father. I learned strategies that I would use with great effect in later life. I also learned some “what not to do’s”

Adolescence was thankfully not too painful, although shedding about a stone in weight as a 14 year old did help. I was mildly subversive, and was threatened with expulsion for continued manipulation of the school uniform policy, but in general terms I enjoyed an unspectacular academic life; my school life  was somewhat sweetened by the fact that I was  “good at games”.

1976. Qualified as a teacher and married Lorna ( I was a child bride- no shotguns involved) My first post was as deputy manager of a residential children’s unit. I worked with  children from 2-17 yrs., all of whom had their own story, all of whom had their own difficulties. I then became a consultant teacher at a Birmingham Social Services Observation and Assessment Centre, where I worked with some of the most “challenging” young people in the UK. I became a Head of Education at the centre and then moved on to work with young offenders.

In 1988 the  McClelland family set sail for all points east. It was time for a change, and so Lorna and I decided that the boating life was for us and our two children Laura 7 and Amy 4. We had purchased a  yacht, having asked for guidance from a friend, because at the time I knew little or nothing about yachts. ( I had learned how to sail a dinghy on a 3 day course, and if the Romans could do it without an engine, then I felt sure that I could manage with some common sense and modern technology.) Thankfully I was right. We spent 3 years sailing in the Mediterranean . We worked as teachers, Lorna taught languages and I taught swimming and skiing in Cyprus . We also worked as engineers, yacht delivery skippers, boat cleaners etc. you name it, we did it. The children were educated on board, when, and if the time was right, and we had a great time. (Both children passed their first “A” levels at 15 so we must have done something right!)

1991. We returned to the UK and our home, which we had rented out for the previous 3 years.  ( We came back with a larger boat and more funds than we had left with. I make this point as financial security and fiscal  competence are of importance to me. I have no need for the “finer things”, but I do have an absolute need for financial independence.) I am definitely of the “If you can’t afford it don’t buy it” brigade. We chose to end our voyage because it was the right time to re-integrate the children into school. They had enjoyed a full social life whilst travelling and they still communicate with friends they met whilst sailing. Lorna and I were able to start teaching again. We both chose to work within the special needs environment. However, it was not long before we needed a new project. Whilst sailing I worked with a training provider from SHELL. I  devised  a new training format called Firm Challenge. I managed to develop this format over the next few years and provided training for NHS trusts, brewing companies , and other multi - nationals.

In 1994 the McClellands were off again.

We had been searching for a property to buy in the South of France, as it was the right time to develop Firm Challenge Europe. Through our searching we came across a spectacular property which was available to rent, and so we agreed to rent 'La Bergerie de Lavagnac' for the next four years. The easy part was to agree the rental, the hard part was to ask our children to move again. Amy was 11 and just about to start secondary school, and Laura was 14 and just about to start her GCSEs. It was a tough decision , and I felt absolutely terrible on their first day at a French school, but Lorna was convinced that we were making the right move. She was right. Within 18 months Laura was Head Girl  and Amy was flying along. (Again I make this point, not out of conceit,  but simply to indicate that by  taking action we can  open our lives to new horizons and opportunities. The adage  goes, "I don’t always make the right decisions, but I make the decisions right".) . The first six months were tough. A new way of  life, new schools , my trying to improve my terrible French ,(thankfully Lorna is multi-lingual)   getting to grips with managing a vineyard , improving the quality of the rooms, developing a new business. It was hard work but we were winning. All was looking good for the launch of  Firm Challenge Europe ; however I had not planned for the drunken driver who cut our car in half.

Lorna was badly injured. Suffice to say she spent 6 months in hospital. All other  issues were shelved, as I had to manage the Bergerie and the family. I should note that my French improved rapidly and my medical vocabulary became very sophisticated! It is pointless to say it was an easy time, as it was not, but, as ever, it is a matter of sinking or swimming. I prefer the latter.

Over the next two years we remained in France whilst Lorna recovered. The Bergerie became a successful venue for vacations, weddings, and study groups. Lorna started to work on French radio and the girls coped with everything which was thrown at them. I became a facilitator for companies wishing to launch their products in either the UK or France. This activity allowed me to continue to develop my skills, as I had to manage projects and people from all over Europe .

In 1998 we returned to the UK- we had purchased our own property in Pezenas which I was in the process of re building , but we needed to return to the UK in order that Lorna could have further medical treatment, and also so that  Laura could attend a UK medical school. So it was time  for another 'change of tack'. On returning to the UK. Lorna and I were again back in our home, which had again been rented for the previous 4 years. Lorna had still not fully recovered from “the  accident” ( it took about 6 years for her to make a 'fullish' recovery) and so we had to be careful of how we managed our re- integration, as she was still prone to fatigue and tears. Lorna continued to recover and was soon looking for a new challenge. I was working as a facilitator and also for Birmingham LEA. In addition, I was continuing to study, as I wished to further formalise my facilitation skills. As for Amy, she quietly got on with things and became the first girl to attend  a local boys grammar school. It was not the lure of the boys, or at least this is what she told us, but it was the only local school which offered Spanish “A” level.

Lorna continued to get back to full strength, and  then marked her recovery by creating the 'Encore Post Trauma Support' organisation www.encorepostraumasupport.org.uk and by taking a job as a Player Liaison and Welfare Officer at a Premiership football club . As well as acting as a coach, I continue to work as a designer (the Skewt-Board  is currently under construction in China ),  and I also work as a training consultant. It could be said that “I practice what I preach”.

So this takes us pretty much up to the present.

So why do you need to know all of this information?

There are those that might say that the information serves no purpose at all as it is just a 'brag sheet'.

I would argue to the contrary, as you now know quite a lot  about me. You know some of the quantitative and qualitative components that are part of my personality- that I am father, husband, trainer, educationalist, facilitator, coach- that I have had some interesting experiences, and that I have had some “difficult” times. You also know that I am  pragmatic and that  I make things work.

You know that I choose  to manage my own life in my own way , accepting challenges with relish knowing that there is , within reason, always a way to resolve a problem. I am also a strong proponent of the view that my way is not necessarily the only way, as  I am pleased to say that I learn something new every day. I most definitely do not have all of the answers, but I can listen to you, and together we can find the answers which best suit your needs.




On a journey it isn't where you end up that's important, but what you see when you get there. You can travel 100,000 miles, but it is pointless unless it changes how you think and feel.

Geoff Howard


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