Half-shepherd, half-businessman

PUBLISHED: 15:51 28 September 2011 | UPDATED: 20:03 20 February 2013

Half-shepherd, half-businessman

Half-shepherd, half-businessman

Chris Farnsworth, shepherd and business mentor, talks to Dee La Vardera.

Chris Farnsworth, shepherd and business mentor, talks to Dee La Vardera.

It has just stopped raining and Chris Farnsworth is standing in the middle of a damp field in Bromham with his dog and a small flock of sheep. As he walks towards me I see that he is dressed in his trademark half-shepherd, half-businessman suit.

I thought Id show you what I wear when Im doing promotional work or teaching for Are you a Sheep, a Sheep Dog or a Shepherd? Thats the question I ask people who come on my motivational and team-building courses. My experience of working with animals is at the heart of the work I do helping people achieve the best they can. I want people to see the value of being adaptable so they can achieve what they want out of life.

Chris has certainly needed to be adaptable in his 30-year farming career. Everyone knows how difficult it is making a living on the land especially with our weather and the economic pressures on farmers. I was born and bred in London so coming to Wiltshire was a massive change for me. I settled in Bromham and became a contract shepherd, looking after about 6,000 sheep, my own and other peoples flocks. Then Foot and Mouth broke out in Northumberland in 2001, which quickly spread to the South West, and I woke up one morning to find that my livelihood had disappeared overnight.

I was prevented from going to other peoples farms so I had to do something to pay the mortgage and keep a roof over my head. I heard about a business opportunity with Forever, the aloe vera company, and after working for them selling their products, while building up my own team, I was able to earn enough to save my house. I learned a lot about business and working with people and I have put these skills to good use in my mentoring work.

How did he make the move from shepherding to teaching? I started my courses about four years ago. I was chatting one day to a friend, David Wreathall, who is co-founder of a charity called Inner Flame, which works with young people, inspiring them to reach their potential. He mentioned that he was looking for a team-building event, something to encourage his youngsters to work together, to build their self-confidence and self-belief, as well as helping them to develop as individuals and cope in the wider community.

I told him that he ought to get them out in the fresh air, running around to lose some of their energy while introducing them to what the countryside is all about. I started to work on the idea of how my skills as a shepherd could be transferred to other people. I felt that everybody could learn a lot from sheep and how they behave, and how they work with the dog and the shepherd. As with any team, each member has a distinct role to play. I created a programme in which the participants could interact with the sheep so they would naturally fall into the role that suited them; and by working together they would learn how being in a team can be stronger and more effective than working on their own.

What do people take away from one of his courses? A broad spectrum of people have taken part, from City bankers to schoolchildren. Theyve all loved it and have come away feeling more confident in themselves and about what they are capable of doing. They learn the importance of good communication, and gain an understanding of the essential tasks within the group at a particular time. I encourage people to recognise their individual strengths and how to work on them.

The problem-solving aspect appeals to businesses which value the personal development of their employees.

Im lucky that Ive found the perfect work/life balance. Too many people hate getting up in the morning because they have jobs they dont like or have deadlines to meet. I think you should find what makes you happy, something which makes you jump out of bed in the morning. I still love shepherding. You cant have a bad day when you go out in a field and a face a flock of sheep. Youre absolutely focused on what youre doing and you forget everything else. Id like everyone to feel like that.

So, are you a sheep, a sheep dog or a shepherd? To find out more, contact Chris Farnsworth on 07970 717110.

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