ENTREPRENEUR OF THE MONTH
November 27, 2018
Our Entrepreneur of the Month is Chris Bowden, geographer, planner, successful entrepreneur and the owner of Navigus Planning. He shares with us how a change in Government policy opened the door to a new field of community planning, which allowed him to successfully run a people- centred planning business that helps communities and authorities plan for social good.
1. Describe Navigus Planning in less than 100 words!
Navigus plans for change that achieves social justice
Inequality in society is a growing but it is possible to shape our physical environment to promote diversity and empower communities to secure socially just outcomes.
Navigus helps authorities and developers plan for social good
Communities are linked with the space around them. How communities interact with physical space ultimately defines whether that space ‘works’. Planning for this is a social good.
Navigus works for the collective, not the individual
Everyone should benefit from changes that are made to the space around them, not just those with a financial interest. Successful communities shape their own futures.
2. Can you tell us a bit about your background?
I always loved geography at school, and whilst I liked an oxbow lake as much as the next person, it was human geography that I was really interested in. I am fascinated by people and communities. For my geography degree I wrote my dissertation on the social implications of AIDS and HIV, which was then one of the main health issues of the day – not perhaps what people would normally associate geography with! I then realised that town planning was a logical career path to take this forward. After working in a number of private consultancies I took the step of setting up my own business which works with communities to plan for their future. Ultimately the focus is to try and help those communities that traditionally are forgotten, due to poverty and other social issues which society often uses as a lazy and unfair label.
3. What did you want to be when you were a child?
Grown up! Like all children, I longed to be an adult, with all the freedoms this brings. Of course now I realise, like most of us, that childhood is often the best time of our lives. Our freedom to explore, experiment and just daydream is never easier than when a child. When I work with communities I urge them to engage with their young people. When asking kids what the future looks like, their responses are so much richer and more interesting than adults, usually because they are not burdened by the responsibility of adulthood.
4. What have been your 3 most important lessons learned as an entrepreneur?
Take the plunge! Most of us don’t know what we can achieve until we commit to do something.
Always think about how you can take yourself out of your comfort zone. Whilst we should always trust our gut instinct, if an opportunity seems slightly alien to us, the chances are that it could open up avenues which we never thought possible.
Be honest with what you want to achieve. If you want to change the world, okay then go for it. But if you simply want to create a business that fits better with your lifestyle then don’t be afraid to admit that to yourself and others.
5. What gave you the idea to start your company?
I was bored with working for large consultancies, often where internal politics took over. I also recognised that planning at the community level was done by volunteers with little or no knowledge of the planning system. I had a slightly hare-brained idea but that took me to a place where, with a change in Government policy, I was very much presented an open door to an almost brand new field of community planning.
6. What is your favourite aspect of running your own business?
Being my own boss. I doubt there are many entrepreneurs that would contemplate going back to the world of ‘formal employment’, with the expectations of corporate culture and a limit on the amount of holiday time you have off. If I need a break, then I go out for a bike ride which usually clears my head and makes the rest of the day more effective. How many large companies would allow that?
7. Do you feel that you have had to make any sacrifices to become a successful entrepreneur?
Relatively few but, when you are your own boss, everything comes back to you. That usually involves long hours. If things are going well then you reach a stage where you have to make a decision about whether to take people on or not and that is a big step.
8. What has been your most satisfying moment in the history of your business so far?
The first time I could confidently turn work away. Saying “I’m sorry but I am too busy” actually felt really good. It also allowed me to realise for the first time that I was totally in control of my own destiny.
9. What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs? (Is there something you wish someone had told you?)
Have confidence of your own abilities but always be prepared to listen to good advice because there is plenty of it out there.