In deze editie van ‘Aan het woord’ heeft Willem niemand minder dan Alan Blair eens wat vragen voorgeschoteld. Deze altijd vriendelijke en goedlachse Engelsman is in het dagelijkse leven Operations Director bij Nash. Natuurlijk ken je hem ook van de Eurobanx en Urban Banx video’s.
How has your life changed over the last 10 years?
It doesn’t feel like my life has changed, maybe because it is so progressive. It hasn’t been a sudden change. Sure, when I think back to 15 years ago I was a college lecturer, and my students knew me, my friends and family knew me. I was anonymous. Now I do get recognised quite a lot out and about and that’s obviously from having that platform at Nash tackle to put myself out there as an angler whether that be through videos, attending shows and shop days or through social media. As a person you can choose to make the most of that opportunity and that opportunity for constant interaction with people. When social media came along, and I’m talking more specifically about Instagram as I never really did the whole Facebook thing at all, then it takes it to a whole new level.
If you put loads of posts up and people start to follow you on a more regular basis – what you are doing in your angling on a weekly basis as opposed to a monthly basis as was previously the norm through something like a magazine article, or a 3-4 month basis through a YouTube film that’s when you become a part of peoples lives – and then Instastories came along and that takes it up another massive notch. Sometimes daily I will be showing people elements of my life. Not like the Cardassians where I’m literally blogging everything but anything fishing related and things that people might like and you should know to a degree what the people that follow you will like and appreciate, whether that be music or trainers or partying, whatever. I try and show people what they would like to see. What the crowd wants!
So my life is more open now. People see a lot more, and actually I don’t mind that. I love to share. The downside of it is how much time it takes. It is time consuming and I am a bit of a nightmare when it comes to making a single post. First I write too much for what Insta was made for and I’m not great at writing so that takes a long time to even put a single post up, and with Instastories I do try and put some effort and attention to detail into the editing of those videos to get the best clip and that is time consuming. The bit that I hate is the huge number of people that message me that get nothing back from me but at the moment I simply can’t physically reply to them.
There are a couple of negatives of course. The more people that know you and engage with you, the more likelihood of coming into contact with people that don’t like what you are doing, or don’t like you or your opinions or like what you like. Quite why those people follow you is beyond me but they do and from time to time I will end up with a comment that sometimes for a split second, some times for longer does make you think about your actions, the way you have said something or even what you are wearing.
To be able to maintain and carry on doing this you have to have thick skin and resist biting. Thankfully, the reaction is immensely more positive than negative. We are talking a fraction of one percent so I’m grateful for that. Some people out there sadly do get a hard time and I feel for them. So that’s probably the biggest difference in my life over the past 10 years. Social media!
How does the fishing industry affect your family life?
As I touched on in the previous question it does affect family life. My partner Chloe uses social media, but she uses it much more for family and friends, as it was first conceived to function. I’m using it more of a business tool to reach out to followers and fans. The net result of that is when we go somewhere we are often approached. Whether it’s walking in the woods, in the supermarket or a restaurant people do want to speak and have a picture. She dealt with that really well.
To begin with I know she found it frustrating that we couldn’t go anywhere without people wanting to talk about fishing but I think now she perhaps understands a bit better. The girls have been dropped into something that at the moment perhaps they don’t understand, looking through a magazine and seeing photos of themselves and they have had that from a really young age. They don’t understand yet that they can put the tv on and watch themselves on YouTube. But they love it and I wouldn’t do it if they didn’t.
The other side of it is the long hours and the travelling away from home that come with the job. You only have to follow me to see how often I am away and that is hard. To mitigate it I do try and work flexitime and leave a bit early to spend some time in the evening with them. I’m in a fortunate position perhaps unlike a lot of parents that I can get home early. We can have dinner as a family and I can help build lego unicorns! We have had two lovely holidays this year and lots of family outings on a Sunday. I have a pretty strict rule that if I am not working that I will try to avoid it and have a family day with the girls. It’s about balance. And all this is for the future.
Chloe and the girls understand why I’m doing it and that’s because money doesn’t grow on trees and I want them to have a bright future.
Do you feel the pressure being so in the spotlight?
At the moment no. I love it and embrace it. Whether I or indeed anyone could do it for 20 years even 30 years I don’t know but at the moment I am young enough and I have enough energy, enthusiasm and motivation and make sure I do the best I can. Mentally I have to be conscious of what I do and show people. For instance I smoke. I know I shouldn’t and I want to stop one day as I’m sure all smokers do.
So I have to be really careful what I do and say in front of others because it doesn’t just reflect on me, it reflects on the whole business. Especially when working with young children, I avoid swearing and setting a bad example with my behaviour and banter. We are influencing them. With the smoking there is every chance that they will perceive it as acceptable or even cool and it absolutely isn’t.
Physically the lifestyle I lead is demanding and I know my body wont stand up to it for ever. I get up really early most days and survive on 4 hours sleep. It’s intense. It’s not that I’m lifting massive weights or anything like that but I often have long exhausting days, no sleep and no time to recover, day in day out. I am aware that some of the worlds greatest entrepreneurs but great emphasis on your own wellbeing – if you are not healthy then neither can your business be – and that’s something I should be more conscious of I know!
So what will the next 10 years bring? Are you afraid that someone will come and take your position?
There is at least 10 years left in me acting as the ‘face’ of Nash Tackle. Influencing, teaching, guiding, giving up valuable time both working hard for the business and giving something back to angling. I’ll be honest though, I have a life plan and when I get to 50, which is another 15 years away that’s my cut off – I want to slow down. I want the business to be in a position where I don’t have to do 16 hour days. I don’t have to do trips over to China, be attending every single show and shop day because there are some new faces at Nash Tackle.
People like Mike Wilson in product development will at the forefront of all of it, and just like Kev now I will pop in to give my experience and guidance. That goes for the same for the whole of Nash. I would like eventually to be able to take a step back not only for my own health and wellbeing, but because I feel I will have served my duty and I’ll be getting on a bit too!
Kev was wise enough to realise that the business needed some fresh blood too and over the last decade he has brought in a proper squad, with some of the greatest lads in the industry working for the company in various elements of the business. We are the faces of Nash, it’s not just me. There are a number of lads; Oli, Dan, Tom, Mikey, Max and Alfie but all of us have a shelf life and over the next 10 years one of the things I am very conscious of is the need to find that next generation so when I do get to 50 there is another team in place to fill our shoes.
We all just want to go fishing and the world is a big and beautiful place! So I’m not scared of it. I think back to Kev and how he has handed it over. He is still there every day but he isn’t in the films any more, he isn’t writing articles or going to shows. He just comes in really giving us guidance and the benefit of his wisdom and experience. It’s the natural way of things and I will do the same.
Is the glass half empty or half full? And what, if anything, makes you angry?
I am most definitely a glass half full person. I’m always positive, its very rare for me to be negative at all, and I think the only time I am negative is when I’m pissed off and angry. Even in the worst situations I will always try and stay positive as more often than not there is nothing you can do other than work your way out of it. Whatever happens, the only thing to do is get straight on and try and find a solution and rectify the situation. It’s the same with the fishing, which is essentially problem solving. It becomes very gratifying when you do work your way out of a sticky situation.
What makes me angry? Very few things really. I don’t like disloyalty and back biting, especially if I feel I have had a relationship or invested time in those people. A general lack of respect and nastiness upsets me. I love banter, and peoples disappointment in a funny way. If someone falls in it’s hilarious. Things that with that person I can then problem solve to sort the situation out. I don’t like it when people are just horrible – when a lad over here caught a big imported carp he was attacked and that really got my back up. People were hating on him and I’ve never been in that position but that’s not nice. The one thing my mum, bless her, really taught me was to treat others as you wish to be treated and that will stay with me to my grave.
How can Nash help with the future of fishing?
The kids are the future. I have them myself and I’m very aware having been a lecturer and now as a businessman and as an individual. Therefore I do the maximum amount that I can to bring them into angling from a young age. I have for many years taken people fishing that had never been before and given them that first taste of what angling is; catching their first fish, unhooking it, using a disgorger, tying rigs and showing them how to embrace angling.
That has moved on to the point that we now assist with some mainstream secondary schools with their business and fishery management courses, taking students with and interest and giving them qualifications in something that they are passionate about. We run many events where we take children, and more importantly their parents and families and teach them how to catch fish. In the very vast majority of those instances it is never about Nash Tackle, fishing with items of Nash tackle and bait and it’s never about big fish and carp.
There are some things we do that are more carp-orientated but that is only a very small percentage. The vast majority is purely angling for smaller species, catching people their first roach, perch or rudd on a whip. That is something I am very proud of, as I am about all the lads that do it with me. We all give up a fair amount of time each year to do that and that is paid for by Nash. It is our responsibility to do this, and if it was just for the good of the business we would teach everybody to use Scope Rods and R3 bite alarms. We are not. We are just trying to get kids and their parents and guardians to go fishing, because that is our lifeblood.
The lack of recruitment in angling is a worry. I went to a meeting about it yesterday. I don’t know about the Benelux specifically but I suspect that it is a Europe-wide issue in that there are declining numbers of people taking up fishing, for various reasons. It is often blamed on computer games, or that the environments that we angle in are not as safe as they were, but there is no excuse for that if the right people out there like Nash and Korda and the other major players promote it the right way and getting people to go fishing.
What did you want to be as a kid?
My earliest such memories are of wanting to be an archaeologist. I was obsessed with dinosaurs and drawing them and their skeletons. A day at the national history museum was my perfect day out. As I got older I realised that there were not that many dinosaur bones left to dig up any more and I would be better off picking something achievable and that was anything to do with animals. I didn’t know what, but anything outdoors involving animals and nature. As I got older and interested in fishing, that was an obvious direction for me.
What do you like to do outside angling?
Any spare time that I get I am fishing. I am obsessed with it. It’s all I have ever done, and I have no other additional interests and hobbies. I like partying and socialising and I like going out with friends to cool places and having a bite to eat. I like the clothes and street culture associated with the dance music scene in the UK. I’m not a designer man, I like street brands. My perfect night out would be me and my friends in the woods with a generator and a rig and a bonfire and having a party and listening to sick music.
There is an element of event organisation there whether it be planning and organising it ourselves or just sorting what trains everyone need to get to meet up. The result of that is that even at the age of 35 I am still out there doing it and loving it. The last two parties I went to were quite possibly the best in a long time. They seem to be getting better! Some of the older lads at work say ‘I’m done, I’m too old for that now!” They want to but they have written themselves off and decided they are past that point. Once you grow old you can never go back!
Any advice for people with their fishing, particularly at this time of year?
Well it’s still summer just about, and my number one tactic for these warmer months is floater fishing and stalking. More importantly, it’s vital to get up early and make the most of the first part of the day, which from my experience is by far the most productive time to go fishing. So don’t be lazy get up and get at em! It is so difficult in the heat of the day when the fish are lethargic, and those early hours are so productive that you can really make up for the relatively poor conditions. These are your months for finding the fish, in the edge and on the surface. Keep walking, keep prebaiting loads of spots close in and keep an eye on them. Make sure you keep your angling mobile, looking for opportunities.