What I've Learnt: Richard Lane, Co-founder and CCO, durhamlane

Rachael Hesno's picture
by Rachael Hesno
Richard Lane, durhamlane

Richard Lane is the co-founder and Chief Commercial Officer at durhamlane.

Through his career, he has led both UK and global sales organisations and telemarketing teams and is also an Associate Lecturer at Anglia Ruskin University.

The Newcastle-based sales and marketing company works with clients including Konica Minolta, Sodexo and Deloitte.

We found out all the lessons he has learnt.


Which single daily habit or practice could you not do without?

Most weekdays throughout the year, the first thing I do when I get up is a Pilates-like workout. Some mornings (quite often at the moment!) I grapple with gravity for a few minutes, but as soon as I step outside onto my balcony, I feel better. It is 20 minutes that has become the best way to start my day, whatever the weather, whatever the temperature.

What's been your luckiest break?

Getting my first ‘proper’ job in Sales - City of London, May ‘96. I consider it the best trip-up that has happened to me. Unfortunately (and this still seems to be the case, although it is getting better), few schools or universities promote sales as a sign-posted career option. Raising the bar of the sales profession is one of the reasons that Lee Durham, my fellow co-founder, and I first got talking and soon after started durhamlane together.

One of our founding goals for durhamlane, which remains true today, is that we want as many people as possible to see that sales is a career to be proud of and that sales skills will serve you well throughout your life and career – business and personal. Simon Hazeldine, who I co-host The Insiders podcast with, and I call this the ‘happy trip-up club’.

What's your best failure?

Not becoming a Rock Star. I was convinced, 100%, from age 15 that my career was going to be in music. It didn’t happen and with the benefit of hindsight, I am glad. I don’t think I would have liked the lifestyle (I am a ‘homebird’), I very much doubt I’d have the family I have, and I am pretty sure I’ve earned more money than I’d have ever made from royalties!

Interestingly, sales has allowed me to access and enjoy many of the same motivators that I imagine I would have achieved through a life in music; performing in front of a crowd/audience, connecting and engaging with different people, being creative, recognition. Just not with my guitar!

What is the best investment you've ever made, either financial or time?

Financially, it has to be buying our first maisonette flat in North London before house prices went crazy. This provided my wife Laura and I with our first home and the stepping stone to our next house, then to buying our house up North when we made the 300 mile move from London, almost 17 years ago. The timing of that first purchase was an important piece in the jigsaw towards financial security and a chilled-out perspective.

Which book would you recommend others to read and why?

Can I recommend two? ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’ by Dale Carnegie and ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ by Stephen Covey. I have read both multiple times and have bought both for many people. Killer guides to both work and play.

What one piece of advice would you give your 21-year-old self?

Warm up and warm down properly before and after exercise!

Who or what has had the single biggest influence on your working life?

Bob Bones from Barking. He was drafted in to project manage the first million pound deal I won early on in my corporate sales journey. We’d secured a contract which stretched our capabilities and Bob helped us deliver a successful programme. He taught me a number of life lessons at this early stage of my career, not least to remember to respect your own time and not just the time of others.

He later became my manager, mentor and I even joined his band – the ‘Temperton Bones Blues Café’ as lead guitarist. The other biggest influence on my working life, shaping the second half of my career, and developing me as an ‘entrepreneurial professional’ is durhamlane.

Now in our 12th year, durhamlane has grown from 2 people to over 120, and we are proud to claim some of the largest companies in the world as our customers. Every day provides a new opportunity to learn, develop, inspire and deliver value. There is always something to deal with, to lean into or to accelerate. I love it!

Tell us something about you that would surprise people.

I used to be able to play the solo in Johnny B Goode with my teeth, a la Jimi Hendrix.

How will the COVID crisis change work for the better?

The flexible office, work from anywhere mentality will become mainstream. Case in point: around 30% of our workforce are now based outside of the North East. Whilst working from home is not new, COVID has made it possible for many different types of workers and roles to be based from home. WFH has been legitimised and the traditional walls of work have come tumbling down.

I believe we have an obligation and an opportunity to make work ‘work’ for everyone. Since COVID we have been able to hire many different people, who live in different locations, and many of whom I doubt we would have been able to attract previously. It has made us a better business and is facilitating our continued growth.

What does success look like to you?

I have found this question hard to answer… Success comes in so many different guises. As I get older success has become more about being healthy, happy, having time to breath and reflect. It’s about helping others to value themselves and about surrounding yourself with wonderful people. I try to leave positive footprints wherever I go.

From a business perspective, I am proud of the way we have helped so many durhamlaners build amazing careers for themselves – some becoming key people within our company, taking us to new levels – others achieving greatness outside of our organisation, perhaps beyond even their own initial expectations of what was possible so early on in their careers.

It’s about fulfilling and exceeding customer expectations, creating long-term friendships and associations in the process. Finally, it’s about building a recognised and respected brand and creating an organisation that has become more than the sum of its parts.

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