Oli talks about “the logical progression from years in recruitment – oak frame carpentry, of course!” With the career crunch point looming, Oli decided to bail out of the City and head for the hills to start afresh designing and building sustainable oak framed buildings. With much blood, sweat and the occasional tear he made the move in 2010 and now runs his own successful business specialising in all things oak framing in the Hampshire countryside. “It’s now big skies not big smoke and I wouldn’t change it for anything.”

The pin stripes and finer Power Points of recruitment were always lost on me. Sure, we had a ball together but we were always a holiday fling not a steady-eddy marriage and sure enough the time came to leave the bright lights with CV’s, interviews and job specs soon a distant, if fond, memory. So it was goodbye City (decent salary, boozy client lunches, and hefty hours) and hello Site for a carpentry apprenticeship (peanut sized salary, tool belts and hefty hours) and, like so many others here, it was the best move I ever made.

Where, why, how?

With the City mourning my departure (… ) I started on the bottom rung doing a carpentry apprenticeship, specifically in oak framing in Sussex for a firm I had been badgering for some time to take on a completely inexperienced keeno.

Why? I’d spent teenage summers working as a labourer on building sites and farms and could never get away from the pull of active, manual work. Oak framing combines large scale building one day and small scale attention to detail finishing works the next and can be incredibly satisfying – if you like that sort of thing.

What now?

I served my time on site then spent the next 2 years splitting time between the office (learning the design, planning and project management aspects) and site (spit, sawdust and framing) before venturing out on my own in 2010.

It’s been a rollercoaster sure, but an incredibly rewarding one and not even a pack of wild horses could drag me back onto the daily Northern line for City slicking.


Each job, circumstance, reason for escaping is different so these may be as useful as an ashtray on a motorbike to you but hopefully they offer some nuggets of assistance.

Greasy elbows = success

Take all the advice, help and leg-ups you can get and make the most of them but when the music stops there’s simply no substitute for hard work.

Don’t give ‘luck’ a look in and let your graft do the talking.

Knowledge is King, granted, but it’s a poor second best without application, so roll those sleeves up!

Touch base

Make AND keep as many contacts as you can.

Forget Facebook and think trade fairs, similar companies, blogs, newsletters even carrier pigeons if needs be.

Everyone else out there has more experience than you and you never know when you might just need the number of that fella you met.

If you put yourself out there you’ll be surprised how many people are willing to talk, help and who knows, they might even be a source of business.

Honest guv’

Always be honest about everything and to everyone.

No-one expects you to be Richard Branson by the end of week 1 and the odd mishap will strike but get them hands up and move on.

Honesty lives far longer in the memory than slick bullshit and your reputation is your shop window that’s much harder won than lost.

Overhead – what overhead?

Be leaner and meaner than a butchers dog with your overheads, especially at first.

Of course there’s a bunch of stuff you need to get started but keep it to a measily minimum, this way you can carry on for longer if it takes a while for that first invoice to drop and secondly, you can rightfully enjoy the fruits of your hard earned when you can afford it.

Jam today – gruel tomorrow

There’ll be good times (that will knock spots of anything you did in the big smoke) and lean times.

Splash the cash when you’ve got it and you’re just putting pressure on yourself if a lean spell comes around.

A healthy rainy day fund is a bigger confidence booster than a high five from The Hoff.

Perspiration and perspective

Once the dust settles on the toil sit back and enjoy the moments of success, freedom and satisfaction.

That’s the whole damn point of this venture.

Don’t lose sight of why you’ve made the leap and be sure to share that pleasure with and reward those who helped you hit those highs – there’s no such thing as a genuine one man band!

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