GENERATION AGELESS

Graeme Robinson’s passion for the perfect pint led to a radical career change in his late 40s when he ditched the corporate world in favour of setting up his own ale houses.
Graeme Robinson

We’re talking to people with a positive attitude to mid-life, doing things differently, changing their pace of life, their priorities, reflecting on what’s gone before and the new opportunities and challenges to come…

Graeme Robinson restored the former ladies’ waiting room at Durham Station to its Victorian splendour and here he welcomes thirsty travellers with a showcase of local ales and famous Northern hospitality.

I used to do this…

I spent 14 years as Head of Facilities and Security at a North East university, leading a large department of over 200 staff delivering front line services. It was a highly stressful role and meant I was permanently on-call to deal with incidents and all university related crime.

Now life is about…

Wonderful ale! I have set up a leisure company, Ouseburn Leisure Group and plan to create a series of ale houses. The Waiting Room, housed in an 1872 northbound platform building in Durham Railway Station, was the first to open in February this year. Now I’m looking for the perfect location for the next.

Why/how I made a change…

I’m 47 years old now, which in my head is ‘proper grown up’. That, for me, brought a few anxieties! I did quite a bit of thinking about how I wanted the latter years of my life (and lifestyle) to pan out.

Like most people I had always dreamed of working for myself, doing something that was of interest as well as fun but not that stressful. Having already done the whole corporate/senior management thing I very much wanted to be in charge of my own destiny. I’ve never been very good with the rigidity of 9-5 working. I craved a change that would not only offer a greater level of flexibility but would also remove a constant level of worry and anxiety that a stressful and reactionary job brings with it.

I initially thought about entering into the traditional pub trade via the brewery-owned route, but quickly ruled that out as most pubs were in the wrong locations or didn’t offer what customers today are looking for. So I thought that if I can’t get the right deal on the right pub in the right location then I would need to build and develop my own – a micro pub.

Funding the move was obviously a big step towards making this huge-life change and a loan from Transmit Start-ups got us off the ground. After a great first six months at the Waiting Room we are looking for further opportunities.

Things are different because…

I am now in control of my own destiny. I am busy doing what I want to do, when I want to do it.

The people who are important…

Family is obviously the most important thing in life. When it comes to business I think it’s really important to find a few trusted people that you can call on for advice, whether they are friends or former colleagues. It’s also good to know I have people around me that I can trust to always do the right thing for the business and for me.

A day in the life of me…

I arrive at Durham at 7.30am and make sure the bar is set up, ready to operate and open at 10am. If we’re not cleaning lines or managing the cellar then the mornings are spent sorting deliveries and ordering stock for the coming week – this can be quite tricky when choosing the right beers that will sell at the right prices and anticipating how much beer you will need (and can fit in the small cellar in the Grade II listed station building).The rest of the day is spent welcoming customers, visiting the cash and carry, meetings with the accountant, suppliers and designers who are working on the next project.

Of course my favourite ‘job’ of any day involves sampling new ales…

I thrive on…

Achieving and getting things right first time. Business for me is basically all about constantly assessing, managing and minimising risk. Someone once said to me that ‘the paranoid survive’ and this really resonates with me. Some people think I’m a bit of a control freak, when in actual fact it is all about managing risk – if it can go wrong, it probably will (unless you proactively manage it).


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