The interview: Neil Ashworth
“After three years as an Ambassador, I feel as committed today as I did on day one.” CEO, Professor, Major – Neil Ashworth has many roles. However, he’s still found time to act as a Transaid Ambassador. We interviewed Neil on his role in the transport industry, completing cycle challenges, and why he would advise others to get involved with Transaid.
Neil joined Collect+, the UK’s largest independent store based parcel network as CEO in early 2013, having been at the forefront of digital developments in retail for over 15 years, and has been described as an innovator in delivery solutions.
Before joining Collect+, he worked as a consultant and business advisor to several blue-chip UK retailers. During a period at Tesco he was a leading member of the team that designed and launched the Tesco Direct business and was a member of the tesco.com board. Prior to Tesco, Neil worked at Woolworths, Hallmark Cards, and CWS Ltd.
Neil is the immediate past Chairman of CILT(UK). He is a member of the Advisory Board at Warwick University Professional and Executive Programme faculty and on the Retail Masters Programme at Cranfield University School of Management. He is a Visiting Lecturer at Cranfield University, at Warwick University (WMG), and is Professor of Operations Management and Information Systems at Nottingham University Business School
Neil holds the rank of Major in the British Army through the Engineering and Logistics Staff Corps as a member of an invited group of volunteer professionals who provide advice and guidance to branches of the armed forces.
How did you get involved in the transport industry?
To a degree, by chance. I joined the Cooperative Wholesale Society (forerunner of The Cooperative) graduate scheme after my degree and never got past the Distribution function. I liked the business area, they seemed to like me – and the rest is history
What do you do in your current role?
I am CEO of Collect+, which is a product of the online shopping era. We aim to make shopping easier by allowing customers to drop off and collect their parcels at times that suit them, allowing them to get on with their busy lifestyles. It is a great business – only six years old and therefore has the feel of a start-up. It is small, but very dynamic. We work with many of the most famous names in the UK retail industry – and many that will become famous over the coming years. I am proud to say that I am a retailer.
What are your interests outside work?
When you take into account the activities with the Universities and my other commitments I have limited time for other pursuits. However, I like to play golf, ride my bike from time to time and I read…a lot. I have two dogs, and two sons. I often think that the dogs are easier to manage….
I am a long suffering supporter of Blackpool FC…the less said about that the better, and like to watch rugby (both Union and League).
What would people be surprised to know about you?
Most can’t be published….
Why did you get involved with Transaid?
As the ‘Industry’s Charity’ it is always in your mind’s eye. Through my work with CILT I have always been aware of the great work that Transaid does and have always been keen to support the charity’s efforts. When the opportunity arose to get personally involved in a fundraising event, it seemed like a seamless next step.
How did you become an Ambassador?
I was delighted to be asked by Transaid to ‘formalise’ my support through the Ambassadorial role. Having ridden to Paris, Amsterdam, and Brussels/Bruges, knitting support for Transaid into my day-to-day activities feels like a natural extension to the more physical efforts. After three years as an Ambassador, I feel as committed today as I did on day one.
Is there a particular aspect of Transaid you’re most fascinated by?
The work that the charity does in Africa to transport young mums-to-be to hospital via cycle ambulance is simple, but enormously effective. It is this type of inspired, cost-effective support that I think sets Transaid apart.
How are you planning to get involved as an Ambassador?
I raise the profile of the charity at every opportunity – at conferences where I regularly speak, at Universities, through my work with the organisations that I am linked to and also through the odd bit of fundraising. I am keen to work with the group of Ambassadors to help the full-time team and maybe use my network and contacts to help make their efforts go that little bit further.
How does being an Ambassador fit in with your life?
The great thing about being a Transaid Ambassador is that it fits how you want it to fit – there is no prescriptive approach, and the input from every Ambassador is different. Whilst there are a series of things that I have committed to do, this evolves and grows on a continual basis. This flexibility is enormously beneficial to me, and hopefully to the charity.
How was your first cycle challenge?
The first cycle challenge to Paris was challenging, as I really didn’t know what to expect – but worked out well and was great fun. From there, I simply carried on riding throughout the following winter and through the following years to ensure that I was prepared for the next ride. After two further challenges I took a break last year. The rides are a great opportunity to meet new people facing into a common challenge. They are great fun whilst being personally and physically rewarding – and you raise a pile of cash for a great cause at the same time…what can be better than that! Frankly, if you haven’t done one of the challenges, you should give it a whirl – they are enormous fun.
Will you be doing future challenges?
Yes… not sure which, but I will probably get a small team together this summer for one of the Nightrider events before doing one of the more substantial challenges again next year.
Why should others get involved with Transaid?
Only when you see the great work that Transaid does do you really understand how privileged we are to live the way in which we do in the UK, and how challenged people are in parts of sub-Saharan Africa. When you consider this, and the impact that you can make – even in a relatively modest way – it is just a natural thing to want to do. Go on – get involved! On a number of levels, you will be a bigger and better person.
Join Neil in signing up for a cycling challenge!
Cycling novice, or expert biker – we encourage everyone to take part.
London: 4/5 June and/or Liverpool: 16/17 July
Participants will cover either 60km or 100km, traveling past landmarks in two iconic cities.
Find more info here
Cycle South Africa
10-19 March 2017
For those chasing a bigger adventure, start preparing this year for an exciting 2017 challenge, which gives riders the opportunity to cycle through some of South Africa’s most stunning scenery. Volunteers will cover 450km across five days, from the Western Cape to Cape Agulhas.
Find more info here
You can also request a registration form by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.