He’s driven Rolls Royce cars, written business textbooks, learned to speak Japanese, travelled the globe and competed in strength-sapping triathlons.
There’s so much going on in the life of training company founder Dr Martin Haigh, you’re tempted to ask how he finds the time to fit everything in! The answer? “I enjoy the variety of work I do – and I love learning new things,” he says.
Martin, who runs Lattitude7 to provide businesses with training in personal development, team building and operational excellence, has just completed his latest challenge – competing in the London Triathlon to raise more than £1,000 for Working Wonders, a Calderdale-based charity which he helped set up in 2013 to help young people into work by funding apprenticeships.
The London event was his 14th triathlon. Last year, he raised £2,000 for charity Scope by competing in the gruelling UK Ironman triathlon – a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a 26-mile marathon – all done and dusted in well under 17 hours!
Martin’s addiction to athletics began as a teenager. “I played football for Sowerby Bridge until I was 19 when I got an ankle injury,” he says. “I knew that simply doing football training would not get me fit again so I joined Halifax Harriers.”
Martin took part in the 1982 London marathon and clocked a time of 2hrs 55mins. He started doing running events for charities such as St John’s Ambulance and the British Heart Foundation.
In 2013, he was part of a seven-strong team to cycle from Land’s End to John O’Groats – 937 miles in nine days to raise £106,000 to fund 23 apprenticeship places for a year.
That led to his involvement in setting up Working Wonders, which has continued to place young people into apprenticeships, leading to a number of permanent jobs.
It’s a cause close to his heart. Halifax-born Martin began his career as an automotive engineering apprentice with a Rolls Royce dealership. “I spent five years servicing Rolls Royce and Bentley cars,” he says. “Can you imagine a better first job than driving Rolls Royce cars around?”
He completed a four-year course in mechanical engineering at Huddersfield Polytechnic before getting a job as a project engineer at brake linings firm BBA in Cleckheaton. Says Martin: “At the time, the managing director was really hot on computers, so I went back to Huddersfield to do a master’s degree equivalent in computing.”
A switch of careers in 1983 saw him teach computing at Calderdale College during which time he wrote a book on computer-aided design and manufacturing. “It sold 4,500 copies worldwide, which was quite good for a science text,” he says.
Martin took a one-year sabbatical in 1987 to undertake a Ph.D in mechanical engineering and computing at Leeds University. After meeting up with his ex-boss at BBA, he returned to the firm as a principal engineer before becoming technical manager in 1990.
“At the time, Nissan, Honda and Toyota were all opening factories in the UK,” says Martin. “I went to evening class for two years to learn Japanese so BBA could differentiate itself from other suppliers. It was another string to my bow. It demonstrated to the customer, during my visits to Japan, that we really cared for them. We got a lot of work in Japan as a result.”
In 1998, Martin was appointed product development director at WABCO – now WABCO Vehicle Control Systems – in Morley. Martin recalls: “They were a big global business, a $2.6bn company. I did lots of travelling around the world. It was a fantastic job.”
Business was booming, but the firm knew it had to do more to engage its workforce. Martin attended a meeting in Brussels which led to the creation of a coaching concept. “I became group coach for engineering worldwide based in Germany,” he says. “I took off my engineering hat and put on my leadership and coaching hat. I had an apartment in Hanover and it was a great role to have.
“In 2006, I took on another position as director of product development in the after-market division. It also involved organising leadership seminars in Spain. I’d worked for the Dale Carnegie corporation on leadership and personal development programmes which complemented the work I was doing in-house.”
In 2009 Martin left the company and set up his own training business. “I had no customers because all my clients had been in the business,” he recalls. “I did some pro bono work for the Community Foundation for Calderdale, followed that with some interim consultancy and registered the business in 2010.”
Martin hit on the name Lattitude7 after a friend advised against using the phrase “training solutions” in the company name. Says Martin: “At the time, I was learning to fly an aeroplane and during ground training the word ‘Latitude’ kept going through my head.” Lattitude7 takes the “L” for learner, as it’s a learning organisation, and Martin’s “7 steps to success” tagline – both embracing the word “attitude”.
Martin has provided training and seminars on issues such as motivation, presentations and inter-personal skills as well as mentoring for bodies, including Calderdale Council, Birmingham Council, York City Council and many private sector clients.
“During the recession, there were lots of savvy employers who understood they could not reward staff with money, but could provide staff development,” he says. “They recognise there was an economic blip, but realised that when they came through it, they needed to be ahead of the curve.”
Says Martin: “Because I have been in ‘real business’ I can talk to people about real life experiences – whether I’m involved in training NHS managers, solicitors or bakers.”
Martin is a chartered engineer and a fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. “I can speak their language,” he says “As a result, I have done quite a lot of business with engineering companies. I get enquiries all the time. I am doing work in Exeter and Newcastle, I will be after-dinner speaking in Elland and I’m doing a two-week programme in October for Jaguar Land Rover in Coventry.”
Martin is an NLP and AI practitioner. He also runs Stage Fright, a programme for people who are nervous or self-conscious about speaking in public. His next course on October 20 at Holdsworth Hall in Halifax has received funding from Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP).
Martin continues to do pro bono work for schools to help youngsters set up mini-businesses to learn enterprise skills – and raise money for charity. A governor at Salterhebble J&I school, he has also worked with Brighouse High School on seminars and careers advice and with the Kirklees Youth Enterprise Partnership at Netherhall Learning Campus in Rawthorpe. “Enterprise skills are really life skills,” he says. “It’s about preparing young people for the world of work.”
Martin, who runs his business from Hove Edge, has won several business awards. He’s never regretted setting up Lattitude7. “It has been a fantastic change of life going from industry to running my own business. I have had to learn so much.”
It’s all about changing attitudes for business success, he says, adding: “Whatever I do with a client I aim to exceed their expectations. And I always keep in touch because – for them – the journey doesn’t stop when the training programme finishes; that’s when the journey begins.”
Family: Married to Melanie with daughter Sophie, 22
Holidays: We enjoy holidaying in Santorini. We like holidays with sun and something to look at!
Car: Hyundai ix35 – because it has a big boot, which is great for all my triathlon gear
First job: Apprentice automotive engineer getting the chance to drive Rolls Royce cars!
Best thing about the job? It is really interesting at one end to help companies grow, get senior executive out of their comfort zone and at the other end help young people prepare for the world of work
Worst thing about the job? Making time for the essential parts of the business like finance and marketing
Business tip: You are better than you think you are. You just need to believe it.
Work: Personal development, team building and operational excellence
Site: Hove Edge
Phone: 01484 712800