So, Dr Bevis, can you please tell us something about yourself?
I am Director and Chief Executive of Highland Titles. I was born in Yorkshire, but raised first in Scotland and later in Kent. My first job was a paper round that I took over from my big sister, who had developed an inability to get up early enough. When I was 16 I took a part time job as a forecourt attendant, back in the days before self-service pumps. After university, I spent ten years in research and academia before joining the pharmaceutical industry.
What inspires you?
I am inspired to leave the world better than it might have been. I have added to our collective knowledge and worked on some fantastic medicines and medical devises. But rewilding is more urgent and relevant.
Best thing about your job?
Being able to take decisions without having to go through a series of committees. In my former life working for large pharmaceutical companies, nobody was able to take a decision. Being the boss is very liberating.
Who was your first employee?
Our first “employee” was my wife, Helen, who was head packer for almost a year. Once we moved out into offices we employed two people to do everything; Fran and Jenny. Jenny is now the General Manager.
Why not? I grew up there. It is “God’s Own Country”. I spent a summer climbing and walking in Glencoe aged 8 and never forgot it. Fortunately Glencoe itself is owned and managed by the National Trust for Scotland. But all around is land once forested and species rich, now reduced to bare land by sheep and deer, or worse, smothered in sterile commercial forestry.
Would you do anything different another time?
Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Knowing now, how successful we have become, I would be more proactive in explaining my plans at the beginneing. In the first years I had nagging doubts that Highland Titles would be able to grow as large as I wanted it to and conserve as well as it has been able to. Another time I would risk the possible accusations of hubris and call public meetings at the time we bought the land. Not going public left some people wondering what our plans were? One local, now a firm supporter, feared we planned to use the land to run quad bike tours, simply because we used a quad bike to help with our early tree planting.
What makes you angry?
Life is too short to get angry. However, government grants that encourage only habitat destruction and jobs for the boys are a provocation
To what do you attribute the success of Highland Titles?
Highland Titles has been a success in part because we have always done what we said we would do. Honesty in all things is the best policy. Always. Never make a promise you can’t keep is good advice for anyone in business. But more than that, we have risen above all our imitators who have simply tried to make a quick buck, or who need to fund the repair of their house by being welcoming. Inviting people to the nature reserve from day 1 and finding local volunteers to show them around when they visit has been key to our success. Sharing ownership of the land is beneficial in itself. But we have worked hard to conserve what is good and restore what is not. The wider community has also benefited greatly and we have always relied on local support.
Paradoxically those who have been openly skeptical, even hostile, to our business model have helped us the most. They have worked very hard to raise our profile. To quote Oscar Wilde, “There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about“. Recently we have had a great boost from several well connected Scottish lawyers, who have driven a lot of traffic to our websites and the increased sales in 2015 are largely thanks to their hard work. Social media has played a very large part in our success. In fact I doubt that Highland Titles could have succeeded without Twitter and Facebook.
What do you do in your leisure time?
Once I spent every spare weekend walking, but I am no longer able to walk as far as I once did. I am fortunate to have family close by. Lovely children and grandchildren. And I ring church bells and hand bells whenever the opportunity presents itself.
Have you plans to retire?
I almost feel I have retired, because I love what I do. I hope to fade away gradually rather than actually stop work. I hope to be still involved in my 90s.