Sales and Marketing Director
Working Knowledge Group

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James L

00:00:02 My name is James L and I am a sales and marketing director and co—˜founder of the Working Knowledge Group. The Working Knowledge does two different things. On the one side we have a software platform that we licence to management consultants and business coaches and that sort of thing. The other side, which is the really exciting bit, is that we bridge the gap between the world of education and the world of work.

00:00:25 At primary school I was quite a difficult child, got into lots of trouble, I was pretty bored most of the time at school, to be honest. Loved my sport though, loved my sport. I guess my career all started when my parents moved from South East Kent where I’d grown up in a house almost on the beach and we moved to the Midlands in Nottingham and I just didn’t understand what anyone did up there. Not only had I lost my friends but I’d lost the sea so I took myself off every holiday I could and I taught sailing down on the south coast and I ended up teaching sailing in France, in East Africa, in Australia and New Zealand.

00:01:00 That was really my first career, I guess. But it was during that time that I decided that I was going to save the world, as it were, and I decided to come to, go to university, did environmental science and I then got a job in Kenya and I lived in Kenya for three years working on development programmes over there. Uganda and Kenya were great experiences, amazing experiences. My wife worked in with refugees and they’ve been through amazingly tough lives and the way that they can bounce back from it is quite, quite amazing, actually. And a lot of that has really helped me shape who I am, I guess. That whole experience has definitely shaped who I am and what I want to get out of life.

00:01:41 It was whilst I was working in Kenya that I registered part time at Nottingham for a PhD. Now, I’d never thought to go and do a PhD and in fact I was the first person in my family ever to go to university so the fact that I was going on to do a PhD was amazing. But, I never really should have done one. I’m an 80% person, I get 80% of the detail. PhD is all about the detail, about the last 3% and it almost killed me doing that but I’m just so stubborn, I carried on and I did it. I then returned from working in Kenya and had the idea for a product. It was at a time when things were changing, I’d now got married and I had responsibilities and I had the idea for a product so I decided to set up my own business around a product I’d designed called Pop Vase.

00:02:2 I went to see my sister-in-law in hospital when she had her first baby and I took in a bunch of flowers and there was no vase in the hospital. And I thought, “That’s a bit odd, doesn’t everyone take flowers to the hospital?” And as I walked away I was with my wife and my brother and we were just chatting and I said, “What you need is a fold flat vase, like a greeting card and you can kind of pop it out and pour the water, add the flowers and everything will be fine.” I suddenly realised I had the idea for a product and I spent 18 months designing this product which is Pop Vase and it’s really simple. Snip off the sleeve, pop it open and pour in the water.

00:03:01 We won Gift of the Year in 2001 and I suddenly found myself accelerated from selling on a market stall to in front of the main buyers of Tesco’s and they were saying, “Yeah, we love it, we’ll have 60,000 a week, a million pound line of credit over three months. When do we start?” And I was literally making these on my kitchen table at the time. Ultimately, I sold this business and I have a very small licence deal left now and so I have an ongoing income from it. But I’d gone right through all the, right up to PhD, I’d done all that level of education and funnily enough no-one had really told me how to go and make money out in the world and how to use the experience and the knowledge that I’ve got which is why I founded the Working Knowledge Group.

00:03:46 What do I want to do with life? I want at the very least be able to spend all the summer holidays off, all the school holidays off with my kids. We have an old camper van, we drive around Europe a lot in that. I want to do more and more of that, I need money, I have responsibilities to be able to do that and so I’ve got to work hard over the next few years so that I can continue to have enough money coming in to allow me to go off and enjoy the dreams that I want to make happen.




James L was inspired to invent a pop up vase by a visit to his sister in law in hospital. The vase won gift of the year in 2001 and progressed from manufacturing at home on the kitchen table to a successful and lucrative business. Now his priorities are to work as hard as he can in order to take school holidays off with his kids.

More information about Marketing and sales directors

average salary

The UK average salary is £29,813

average weekly hours

There are 37.5 hours in the average working week

63%  male 
37%  female 

The UK workforce is 47% female and 53% male

Future employment

Future employment?

? Marketing and sales directors plan, organise and direct market research and formulate and implement an organisation’s marketing and sales policies.
Entry is generally via career progression from related occupations (e.g. Marketing Manager, Sales Manager). Entrants to the professional qualifications of the Chartered Institute of Marketing require GCSEs/S grades, A levels/H grades, a BTEC/SQA award, a degree or equivalent qualification and/or relevant experience.
  • Liaises with other senior staff to determine the range of goods or services to be sold;
  • Discusses employer’s or clients’ requirements, plans and monitors surveys and analyses of customers’ reactions to products;
  • Examines and analyses sales figures, advises on and monitors marketing campaigns and promotional activities;
  • Controls the recruitment and training of staff;
  • Produces and/or assesses reports and recommendations concerning marketing and sales strategies.
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