In the last few years I’ve had the privilege of meeting some extraordinarily gifted and brilliant individuals. From millionaires, to artists and singers, through to individuals who are just kind and wholesome, the mix has been inspiring, bewildering, challenging and uplifting. Some of these people I have come to admire, learn from and marvel at. Such a man is Stevie Kidd.
Picture him now. A towering figure with a bald head, keen eyes and a mind that moves as fast as light and has been formed from hard experience, pure determination and powerful emotions. He has in his eyes a hint of genius and maybe a look that some who don’t “get” him might call madness, but which I know is pure inspiration. When Stevie is in the room, you know about it. And when Stevie is in the room, he knows you know.
I cannot go into the details of everything that he does, nor the incredible and confident way that he generates a new idea and then puts his heart and soul into pursuing it. Suffice to say that in 6 short years he has turned a £500 loan from his mother and a burning idea into a multi-million pound business, with divisions in training, distribution, care and personal development. By the time I have written this piece, I am sure he will have added yet more elements to his business, and will have made further friends at high levels. Stevie is the original unstoppable force who is making changes in people all around him. One of his businesses gets the long-term unemployed back to work. For him and his dedicated staff, this isn’t about figures, numbers or statistics. In every case, and in every business interaction he has, it is the people that he cares about, and the people that he will push and challenge to make their lives better.
So let me give you three snapshots of the man.
Midnight on a street in Earl’s Court, standing outside a Thai restaurant. I have just noticed Stevie respond to some gossip around the table by standing up and walking out for a cigarette. I read it straight away in his eyes: he wasn’t going to get drawn into showing anyone any disrespect. So, instead, he walked out the door, his phone in his hand, and started to think about his next business venture. This is Stevie all over: he never stops or rests to bask in the glory of a moment, or to fritter a moment unproductively.
I join him on the sodium-light-flooded pavement, and we stand and talk a moment while he lights a cigarette. He is thinking about the new things he has to do, about the new projects he is going to get involved in. He tells me about the things that motivate him – about his role models – about his drive to want to help others.
And then, as we talk, two lads come down the road, one with a bicycle, the other on foot. The smaller of the two is a skinny black kid of 14 or so, with thick NHS glasses on, all scratched up. He squints through them at Stevie, and tries to get a cigarette off him, and then to get money from him to buy some cola. He doesn’t appear to hold his attention on anything for any amount of time, staring around him, and not listening when Stevie talks – but still hovers and flits around, somehow pulled in by Stevie’s manner. The other kid is a taller, heavier white guy with freckles – about 15 years old, with a quiet inward-looking presence, and looking a little lost, too.
Stevie holds firm about giving the pair of them money. And then he starts on something that I begin to realise he does all the time. He launches in at the two of them, engaging them in conversation, finding out what makes them tick, what floats their boats. He drops ideas into their heads when one of them tells him he likes cars. There are training courses for mechanics that young people can get on to, there are great things that he could do with his life. But he does it in a roundabout way – holding their interest at the same time as putting ideas into their minds. They talk together, these three, in a low-key way for 15 minutes, and then he lets them go.
He didn’t have to do it, but when they leave he turns to me and says: “I got the white kid thinking. Out here, now, that’s all you can do. Plant a seed. The other one, well, he had a lot of problems, I could see that. I hope something has got through.”
Standing in the training room of the KDS Group, Glasgow, where Stevie Kidd has helped hundreds of long-term unemployed get back to work by putting them through his training programme, he is showing a group of us his offices. We are standing around him as he goes through the photos on the wall of the different academies his company has trained.
He points out individuals one by one in the groups, relating their unique stories to us: “This one, he had a really shitty childhood, and he didn’t know what to do with himself. This one, she just had no self confidence. This one, he was a kid without a sense of direction, and I shook him up big time. All of these people are in work, thanks to us.”
He pauses a moment as his finger hovers over another photograph. “This one, she…” he trails off and his story break offs. I can hear his voice breaking, and I see him bend his head, inhaling through his nose and then his mouth, to calm himself. The emotion in him is so strong, and he takes a full minute to master his emotions, running techniques of self-composure on himself to stop being overwhelmed by his feelings.
After a while he says: “She had so much go wrong.” He won’t reveal any more than that, merely telling us: “It was a terrible story. But she is in work now. She is working. She’s okay. And she’s happy, at last.”
And as he says this, a renewed note of hope enters his voice and he wipes a tear from his eyes with the back of his hand.
Interviewing Stevie Kidd in a London hotel for an article I am writing, and hearing him talk about his day. The passion with which he starts to talk about the lives he has touched that day, beginning at 5 a.m. by sitting with the staff in the hotel he is staying at and helping them to sort out the newspapers for the guests. Heading out and inspiring his driver to do more with his life – even stopping at a bookshop to buy him the books he needs to take his career further. In between meetings with politicians and businessmen, stopping at a newsagent and just getting the shopkeeper to smile. In the evening, heading out for dinner and getting the staff in the Chinese restaurant to have fun and laugh.
And then, he leans closer to me as he grows more intense and his face and voice become more passionate now, he tells me of seeking out the homeless in parks in London, helping them to find a place to stay, before getting back to the hotel at 3 a.m.
It almost seems too much to believe, until I log in to his facebook account and see photos of each of the stories he has told me about. I think about the sheer energy and passion in this man, and marvel at it…
Above are three snapshots, all tied together by a single theme. Some people might call it philanthropy, some might call it care and respect. But the theme is more neatly summed up in another way: People.
Whenever Stevie Kidd engages with a person, he expects them to engage back with a thousand per cent of their being. He is a man driven by passion, and by extraordinarily strong emotions which flow through a body that has to be strong enough and powerful enough to contain them.
Some have described him as a “force of nature”. I don’t think that. I think he is an extraordinary individual, who cares about others from the bottom of his heart – and understands that business, like the rest of life – is made up of relationships.
And I believe that if you choose to learn that lesson, which lives at the heart of it all, it will make you not just rich – but also wealthy in the true sense of the word.