Leading gents of Surrey business

PUBLISHED: 11:55 08 July 2014 | UPDATED: 12:19 08 July 2014

Michael Clennett

Michael Clennett


From the best career advice to enjoying life in our county, we discover just what makes these Surrey gentlemen tick

We asked our correspondents:

1. What did you want to be when you were growing up?

2. Who has inspired you the most in your career?

3. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?

4. Finally, what do you enjoy most about working in Surrey?




Michael Clennett

Deputy Head, Sutton High School, Sutton

Contact: 0208 642 0594 / suttonhigh.co.uk


Sutton High School is a leading independent day school for girls situated in Sutton and providing outstanding education for pupils from age three to 18


1. I used to watch Crown Court as a child and always wanted to be a brilliant barrister as court rooms seemed such exciting places. Sadly, my interest in the law waned, but as a deputy head, I still occasionally get to sharpen my skills of cross-examination.

2. My first deputy head, who had worked in the same school for 40 years, understood everything about those he taught and still felt the same enthusiasm for the job and desire to support the children as he had in his early 20s.

3. “Keep smiling.”

4. I love watching the changing of the seasons and the different colours in the countryside as I drive to work and when I have time to go walking at the weekends. There’s always something new. I also love the fast trains into London and then home again!




Simon Collins

Headmaster, Aberdour School, Tadworth

Contact: 01737 354119 / aberdourschool.co.uk


Aberdour School is a highly successful preparatory school for boys and girls, aged from two to 13, in Tadworth


1. I was a very keen rider when I was young and watching Marion Mould win a silver medal at the 1968 Olympics on Stroller made me dream of becoming a top show-jumper. Sadly, my riding days are far behind me.

2. Harriet Tubman is one of the most well-known Underground Railroad ‘conductors’ who led over 300 slaves to freedom. This quote from Harriet epitomises the beliefs I have for every pupil at Aberdour: “Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience and the passion to reach for the stars, to change the world.”

3. ‘Always acknowledge the child within you’ – unfortunately, I sometimes take this too far and can be more childish than my pupils – so they tell me!

4. We are fortunate to have over 12 acres of parkland at Aberdour in which to enjoy the beautiful countryside, but we are only 16 miles from Marble Arch and so have easy access to all the benefits that London has to offer.




Jon Dibben

Designer and owner, Jon Dibben jewellery design, Cranleigh

Contact: 01483 278170 / jondibben.co.uk


Known for their fine British design and craftsmanship, Jon Dibben make original engagement rings, collections and one-off pieces in Fairtrade gold and platinum


1. Train driver, then possibly a vet, doctor, actor, rock star… I only realised how creative I was when I went travelling, at 19, and found myself in Greece, making jewellery.

2. At this stage, it would have to be Greg Valerio – the man behind Fairtrade gold. He really has started a revolution in the jewellery industry, where it’s no longer acceptable to ignore the conditions or behaviour of the supply chain and its effect on the environment.

3. You have to be true to yourself. I’m a born perfectionist. I can’t get away from the attention to detail, which I think shows when you have a piece of our jewellery in your hands. We take as long as it needs through the whole process, from the design and meticulous crafting, to a very personal, unhurried experience for our customers.

4. We’ve been tucked away in a beautiful rural location for nearly 25 years but we’re still very easily accessible from Guildford or London.





Darren Dixon

Spa manager, Pennyhill Park Hotel, Bagshot

Contact: 01276 471774 / pennyhillpark.co.uk


Pennyhill Park is a five-star luxury country house hotel and spa, surrounded by 123 acres of rolling parkland


1. When I was six years old, I said I always wanted to be in the navy. I’ve always loved being surrounded by water. I feel this is why I became a swimming coach, Watsu instructor and then after gaining my HND in leisure management and sports science, I moved into the real word of spa and mineral treatments.

2. Tim Harding – I spent 11 years working with him, he was a true professional and gentleman with standards and respect; this is the way I have continued working throughout my 20-plus year career in the spa and leisure industry.

3. A comment from my dad: “Treat life like an onion and enjoy each piece and activity as you slowly peel off one fine layer at a time.”

4. The luxury of Pennyhill Park Hotel and Spa surroundings, great restaurants, stunning places to walk and the fact we are close to London and airports to ease travelling.






Ross Feeney

Chief executive, Successful Sutton, Sutton

Contact: 0203 282 7198 / successfulsutton.co.uk


Successful Sutton is Sutton town centre’s business improvement district company – encouraging people to discover, experience and enjoy the town


1. Like a lot of boys, I wanted to be an airline pilot. The long overseas trips to exotic locations seemed very exciting to an eight-year-old. It still does to be honest!

2. I really admire Ron Dennis, of McLaren, in Woking. He is a great ambassador for British business and a globally successful entrepreneur – building a winning F1 team and launching a world-class sports car manufacturer. He exemplifies what you can achieve with hard work and ambition.

3. My first boss passionately believed in the importance of attention to detail. On my first day with the company, he said that any goal could be achieved with hard work and a focus on attention to detail.

4. Sutton is a great place to work – great shops, a good leisure offer, thriving businesses and a stress-free commute to work.




Cory Lowde

Headmaster, Box Hill School, Mickleham

Contact: 01372 373382 / boxhillschool.com


A well-known independent boarding and day school for girls and boys aged from 11 to 18, Box Hill School is found in Mickleham


1. It would have been to be a policeman. Something of the idea of never quite knowing what the day will bring appeals to me. As a headmaster, I have that feeling many times over every day!

2. The children. It is their open-mindedness and energy that inspire me every day to do the best I can and work the hardest I can for the good of my community.

3. No one should be able to control the way you feel about yourself; your emotions are your own; and only you should ever decide how you feel. Once you realise that, you will mostly always be happy.

4. Being so close to London but nestled so snugly in beautiful countryside. Best of both worlds!




Matthew Milliken

General Manager, The Mandolay Hotel, Guildford

Contact: 01483 303030 / guildford.com


Situated just outside Guildford town centre, the four-star Mandolay Hotel balances the modern with the traditional


1. I knew from an early age that I wanted to be involved in the hospitality industry. Hotels fascinated me and I was 14 and still at school when I began work, unpaid at first but I was quickly offered a paid position. I worked in every department.

2. The biggest inspiration in my career has been my mum. She fought hard to get me into a school that specialised in teaching children with dyslexia and, without this, I doubt very much if I would have achieved anything like as much as I have.

3. I was offered a simple piece of advice in my very first job: perform every task as though somebody that you really admire is watching you. Hardly a day goes by without me applying it, mostly to simple tasks that might otherwise not get my full attention.

4. As a relative newcomer to Surrey, I love the contrast between town and countryside, great shopping and breathtaking scenery.





David Plummer

Principal, Notre Dame School, Cobham

Contact: 01932 869990 / notredame.co.uk


Notre Dame offers high quality, academic and creative education, enabling girls (from two to 18) to become confident and compassionate professional women of the future


1. I have never thought of being anything else but a teacher. Sometimes a shepherd, often a sheepdog, one learns so much about oneself and indeed, what it is to be truly human from being in the company of young people.

2. My big sister, who invited me into her school when she was a trainee teacher, then later as a deputy and then as a head. Being 11 years older, she bewitched me with her organisational skill, compassion, resilience and teaching ability.

3. Blessed art thou amongst women.

4. Whatever the season, there’s a reason to be out and about enjoying the natural beauty that surrounds us in Surrey. The environment educates and lifts the soul.




Chris Wheelhouse

Owner, Hot and Cold Equipment Ltd, Woking

Contact: 01483 726626 / hotandcoldequipment.co.uk


Hot and Cold Equipment is three years old and is expanding fast, becoming a major supplier to the food and catering trade in Surrey and the Home Counties


1. From a young age, I enjoyed working with my father – on Saturdays, working in his warehouse putting plugs on fridges etc – for the shop he owned in Hounslow. For the past 35 years, I have been involved in the refrigeration industry, from an apprentice engineer through to owning Hot and Cold Equipment Limited along with my business partner Neil Champion.

2. I would certainly say that my father had the biggest influence on my career.

3. I have always been taught to look after my customers and to respect other people - and to treat others how I would expect to be treated myself.

4. I have lived in Guildford all my married life with my wife Sue and family. I enjoy Surrey and the surrounding areas as this is a very photogenic environment and I enjoy capturing many of these images on my camera.





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