Disability Made Me a Better Person
Richard Talbot-Jones tells us why a need for flexibility led him to set up his own chartered insurance broker firm, why he is inspired by his wife, and why you’ll rarely see him in a suit.
How do you identify as disabled, and what does it mean to you?
I joined the army in 2005 and during my first term at Royal Military Academy Sandhurst I developed a muscle condition called Chronic Exertional Compartment Syndrome, which restricted my ability to move, stand or even sit for long periods. After five surgeries, it became clear that the condition would be with me for life and the Veterans Agency assessed me as 20% disabled.
Like many people, my disability is (mostly) invisible. I have scars and sometimes I don’t walk very smoothly; even more rarely, I use a stick or wheelchair to get around. Neuropathy from surgery means I prefer to wear shorts, or heavy trousers – it’s rare you will see me in a suit, the light trousers make my legs feel like they’re on fire!
Acknowledging and accepting my disability took a long time and was an emotional journey. It is very difficult and impacts every moment of my day, but it has also made me a better husband, father, businessman, employer and person in general.
Tell us a little about your business.
In 2016, my wife, Clare, and I founded Talbot Jones Ltd, a chartered insurance brokers that specialises in supporting and protecting third sector and professional organisations as they grow and thrive. We are an Appointed Representative of Ten Insurance Services, as well as a member of BIBA.
Why did you start the business? Share your story so far.
In order to manage my condition, I swim and have regular physiotherapy appointments, which means my working hours can be odd and require flexibility. Setting up our own business meant that we could create something that would be flexible enough to work around my needs, while also providing me with a job that I would enjoy and that would support our family financially.
We were also keen to promote the benefits of using qualified insurance brokers, and corporate chartered status in particular – we are one of only three chartered insurance brokers headquartered in the northeast of England.
What do you see as the main challenges facing your business and its continued operation or growth?
At the moment, the biggest challenge is economic uncertainty, and how this will play out in the sectors that we support. We’re seeing more clients cease trading, and more new business enquiries due to a new batch of professionals who have been made redundant launching their own businesses. We’re also getting enquiries from organisations looking for cheaper quotes due to the hardening insurance market.
What can we do to encourage more disabled entrepreneurs to start businesses – what is holding them back and what can we all do to help change that?
In all honesty, we don’t know! We launched our business without talking to other disabled entrepreneurs. Having a community of entrepreneurs with a disability would be a first logical and positive step towards identifying barriers.
Due to our areas of interest, we meet a lot of micro-business owners who, like me, found employment difficult because of their disability. Greater representation would perhaps give us greater confidence to set ambitious business goals. Support in growing teams and business skills beyond the technical service skills entrepreneurs have already developed would help build solid foundations for a resilient and impactful organisation.
What do you consider your greatest achievement or the proudest moment in your life so far?
Professionally, it is probably achieving chartered status – both as an individual and as a firm. There are no requirements for insurance brokers to have a qualification, so working through to a Level 6 qualification feels like a big achievement!
If there was one thing you could change about peoples’ perception of disability what would it be and why?
Understanding that not all disabilities are visible, and that disabilities affect people in different ways.
Who or what inspires you?
There have been two key inspirations in my life so far:
My wife, Clare, has struggled with mental ill health, and her example in identifying the problems, dealing with them and then moving on have helped me do the same – albeit less successfully!
My dad, Pete, got off to a rocky start in life, but always persevered and worked his way up from a private soldier to retiring as an officer, and then working for a multinational firm and getting a Master’s degree – the first in our family!
Do you have a recommendation for a book or a podcast which has helped you along your journey?
As an entrepreneur, the best book I’ve read is “The E-Myth Revisited”, by Michael E Gerber. It helps people understand what they want from their business, and how to build a business around personal objectives.