Biz Extra

Published: January 30, 2020 | Updated: February 1, 2020

20 Questions: Matthew Barker, Managing Director of Barker Group, takes the hotseat

Matthew Barker: ‘I would like to be remembered for caring. I like to think I will have done some good in the world.’
By Andrew Diprose, editor

Each week we shine the spotlight on a member of Dorset’s business community and ask him, or her, for answers to our part fun/part serious questionnaire. This time…

His first record was a ‘rubbish’ single by 70’s group, Sparks; Basil Brush and Captain Scarlet are among his childhood heroes; he loves Spaghetti Bolognese and has just the teeny-weeniest hang-up about people who insist on stopping at roundabouts when there’s nothing coming (count the references!).

Matthew Barker, Managing Director of Dorset-based Barker Group, the UK’s largest domestic laundry and a leading specialist dry cleaner, takes the 20 Questions’ hotseat.

Question: What is your favourite TV show?

Answer: Right now it has to be The Grand Tour. I like to think that I am more sophisticated but the reality is I associate with the childish humour and, mixed with the sense of adventure, it appeals to the boy in me.

Q: Who would you like to share a car with?

A: It’s got to be James Cordon. I reckon I can sing better than him. Failing that, I’d share a lift with anyone who doesn’t stop at roundabouts when there’s no traffic coming!

Q: The best bit of my job is…?

A: Working with the team on the small changes and tweaks that make that bit of difference. Excellence is a never-ending goal and the gentle journey towards it is the most rewarding.

Q: And the worst…?

A: I once employed 110 staff. Overnight, I had to make 60 staff redundant. It was probably the hardest thing I have ever had to do professionally. Following that, I really can’t think what the worst part of my job is now. By comparison, it’s pretty good these days.

Q: Who was your childhood hero?

A:  I have loads but, in order: Basil Brush, Captain Scarlet and James Bond.

Q: What’s your favourite smell?

A: Freshly laundered linen, of course, and marzipan or better still, Amaretto, the alcoholic version is better.

Q: Where’s your favourite place in Dorset?

A: I can’t tell you the absolute favourite as very few people have discovered it. However, it is close to my home and is a sanctuary for wildlife and me. I walk and run there.

Q: What advice would you give to anyone starting out on a career?

A: If you don’t feel an ounce of passion for what you are doing, don’t do it. Never give shares away and employ people you respect, not people who you believe will do what they’re told.

Q: What was your first record/CD?

A: A single by Sparks in the 70’s. I can’t remember what it was called. It was rubbish but it was cheap and I had only just got a record player so I needed a record!

Q: What gets you angry?

A: Annoying questions! But mainly, people who stop at roundabouts when nothing is coming.

Q: Do you have a favourite piece of music?

A: I have a few and sometimes it depends on how I am feeling. I love show music and particularly the finale in Les Misérables, a combination of brilliant songs like’ One More Day’ and ‘I Dreamed A Dream’. This may be a bit weird but I always come back to ‘Comfortably Numb’ by Pink Floyd.

Q: What are the qualities you look for in a new employee?

A: 1. Loyalty: Job hoppers are a massive turn off. 2. Initiative: I like it when someone questions why we do things certain ways and suggest improvements. 3. Teamwork: you have to fit!

Q: What’s your favourite food or dish?

A: Spaghetti Bolognese.

Q: Steamed sponge pudding and custard or a plate of melon?

A: On a cold winter’s day it has to be steamed sponge pudding with lashings of hot custard. On a hot summers day then sponge pudding with lashings of cold custard. Melon is a starter.

Q: Name the best thing about living/working in Dorset?

A: The more I travel the world the more I appreciate home. We are just two hours flight from anywhere in Europe, the most culturally diverse concentration of humans in the world with more history and art packed into this relatively small area than anywhere on earth. Here in Britain we retain a sense of order, security and decency that is unrivalled and where better on this sceptred Isle to be than in Dorset? Apart from the road infrastructure. That’s terrible!

Q: If you were Prime Minister for the day what would be the first thing you do?

A: At 7am I would invite all the awesome people I have ever wanted to meet for lunch with the Prime Minister. 10am: I would recommend legislation to make parents more responsible for the outcome of their children. There is no such thing as bad children, just bad parents. That would start to resolve a lot of future problems. Following that, it will be time for lunch with the awesome people. That should take me through to the evening.

Q: What’s your biggest frustration?

A: Bad driving, especially people who stop at roundabouts when there’s nothing coming. I am starting to understand I have a problem here!

Q:  Where’s your favourite holiday location?

A: I am so torn between the sun and the snow. I love the Alps and no particular resort or country even. But the older I get the more it hurts so sunshine in the winter is getting more popular with me. I love to travel to exotic places but nothing beats the short flights from Bournemouth to the Canaries or Balearics. However, when the sun is shining, there is nowhere better than Dorset.

Q: Where do you see yourself in ten years’ time?

A: I am not striving for something I have not already got; my needs are pretty simple really. I am happy where I am so I will probably still be working, just not so hard, and maybe from the beach house!

Q: What would you like to be remembered for?

A: I would like to be remembered for caring. I like to think I will have done some good in the world and made a positive impact on many other people’s lives. That’s got to be the main purpose in life, hasn’t it?