I've written a profile of myself [Graham Ellis], and of Well House Consultants (which I set up in 1995, and run with my wife Lisa), before. But that's been with a slant towards our business, rather than towards myself and other involvements which are wider than our business.
Lisa and I moved to Melksham in the dying days of 1999 - into a home that we had purchased six months earlier, as a bit of a "project" - it had taken us that summer and autumn to get it even some of it basically habitable, to get clean running water and drains and some electricity into the place, and to have some floors we could walk on without falling through ... some ceilings that weren't in danger of falling on us (actually we had two ceilings fall on someone in the early days, but another story again). At the time, I was presenting IT course predominantly in Oxfordshire, but also in London, and elsewhere.
We moved to Melksham (to be accurate, to Melksham Without) because of the house ... we wanted a home which provided enough space for us to run the occasional small courses from here [I'm writing in the lounge]. And this without customers feeling they were intruding into our personal space, yet at the same time providing something that was a quiet relaxing learning environment far from a conference room off a buzzing office. We researched Melksham before we committed - but really we didn't know the place very well. We knew there were a selection of places that our delegates could stay and eat within a couple of miles of us. We knew that people could get to us off the M4 and a short drive on the A350; we knew that there were good rai links to Chippenham, and I was aware that Melksham too had a station (somewhere - I had never caught a train there!). We hadn't appreciated what a friendly, welcoming town it would turn out to be. It also turned out that we ran rather more courses in Melksham than we had intended ...
Initially, we didn't jump into town life - we were busy on the house, and our marketing activity was focused out of town; as a niche provider of courses, there were (and are) few local customers. No matter where we're based, the majority of our customers will travel a considerable distance for our product. And that distance is considerable enough for them to stay over in Melksham rather than commute. Which meant we got to know the accommodation providers, and restauranteurs, and via that route gradually get more involved in the town.
Springfield. The Spa B&B. The Old Manor. The Town House. The Regency Hotel. All five were on the road between our training centre and the town centre, and that worked well at first. But the B&B business was changing. It's hard work running a B∧B, and customers want every greater flexibility. They want to pay with credit cards including Amex; they want a large screen TV. Our customers wanted a desk to work at in the evening, they wanted to be able to check in late, and they wanted a guarantee of blistering fast broadband ... those last three requirements not really being met by the holiday room providers who were set up for a different market. As - one by one - the accommodation providers moved on, we decided to jump in with both feet, and add accommodation to the course product that we offered.
"Well House Manor" as we now called it (a bit overgrand IMHO, but a combination of "The Old Manor" and "Well House Consultants") was also a bit of a project. It wasn't in the uninhabitable state that our home had been whan we bought it, but never the less the previous owner had been running it down prior to anticipated demolition, so had naturally cut out the maintenance. We took vacant possession on 1st June 2006, and we had workmen crawling like ants over the place until our reopening on October 16th.
Well House Manor is another project that has exceeded expectations. Originally intended for our own delegates, we were asked by other businesses in town if we would let rooms, if they were available, to them. Why not - a course delegate visiting Melksham has similar needs to a consultant / specialist visiting a Bowerhill business, and we have a good business case for taking them as hotel guests. We have regulars - very good friends - as well as folks who's work brings them to Melksham just once. And if open for business visitors, why not for people who are sightseeing, visiting relatives, or coming to a wedding in town? If what we offer's what they're looking for, we're delighted to have these visitors - and indeed, our continental breakfast with fresh croissants, and strict "no children" rule puts some people off - and is EXACTLY what others are seeking. And so ... as well as a training company, we're now also a hotel. We have three full time staff - working shifts to provide pre-breakfast to after-dark cover seven days a week, and they do a fantastic job. With just five rooms, the finances of the place wouldn't work without the courses - but with the courses, they do, and this lets us provide a somewhat unusual product.
Looking back to 2003 and 2004, some 40% of our delegates came by train. But come 2007, all but 2 trains each way a day had been withdrawn, and 40% has now become 4%. That's not just because there are so few services - it's because the remaining trains are not timed suitably for long distance travellers to use them to get to Melksham. The first one leaves Swindon 5 minutes BEFORE the first London express arrives there, and the second connects off one of the most expensive trains of the day!! We heard about the impending cuts rather late in the day - after the consultation (which I certainly hadn't seen adverised) had closed. Investigating further, I came to teh conclusion that the case for provision of a rather better service hadn't been fully considered, and that the decision made might not have been on solid facts, nor with consideration of the expanding nature of the area and of rail travel in general. Thus I got involved in activities to look at the case, and then to help work towards an appropriate service. And those activities continue. I'm now a member of the TransWilts Community Rail Partnership, and vice chair of the Melksham Railway Development Group.
We "crept" into Melksham as a business in 2000. No-one really knew we were here. But as time has gone on, we have got more involved with the town; we joined the Chamber of Commerce early on, and were made very welcome straight away. We're no longer newcomers in The Chamber - and indeed I was elected (in a contested election) a couple of years ago to a role in which I'm an advocate for the Chamber, thus for the businesses of the town as a whole, and indeed the town.
Whether running a business it's all too easy to look just a few months ahead rather than a few years. And when representing others in an elected role, it's all too easy to say and do things just because they'll be good and popular sound bites which will be remembered when the time for re-election comes around. I have a degree of luxury in the Chamber in that the members are very supportive when I look well ahead (as we must with RSS, and the core plans that have replaced them), or suggest that we look to ourselves to support our businesses as well as making use of what others provide. I am delighted to have been re-elected just 10 days ago to a further year in the role, and I look forward to being active on such topics as are active at the moment, and will be active over the next year.
Family is important. You might not think so from "the above", but I respect their privacy. Dad lives less than 10 miles away and we see him less than we should and would like ...(and I see him as often passing on the bus as I do in person!). The "kids" aren't kids any more and have flown the nest. Two are perched on nearby branches, and the third is half a world away. And in the last year, the family has grown with the addition of two grandaughters. We're now "empty nesters" in our HQ and home ... although it's not quite that empty as there's Gypsy the dog and Charlie the cat ... both of whom we've adopted since we moved here. And "here" - Melksham is now our home. We love the place. We love the people. Years may make it difficult for us to climb stairs, retirement may come at some stage - when work's not fun any more - but you're stuck with us in this town!
"Keep it clean". I have kept the text here clear of formatting tricks, links and other things that may have detracted from the reading of the profile. But I'll provide a handful of links here if you want to explore any aspects further:
Training Course Web Site
Well House Manor Hotel
TransWilts Community Rail
Melksham Chamber of Commerce
Oh - and we're open at Well House Manor - every day, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. for coffee and croissant, fresh orange juice (squeezed on site), and cream teas. We believe in customer service - do drop in and see us. Menu is here
. (written 2011-06-04)
Associated topics are indexed underZ403 - Organisations 
Seed Swap at Well House Manor - (2013-03-10) 
Melksham Community - Annual Report / MCAP - (2013-02-26) 
Melksham - a new dawn - (2012-06-23) 
Some unpublished and historic pictures - Museum of Melksham - (2012-04-28) 
The Bowerhill Villager - a newsletter for Bowerhill, Melksham - (2012-04-22) 
Some advise for guest speakers at meetings - (2012-03-31) 
Melksham Campus - a blog you can read, and a place you can comment - (2012-02-08) 
Melksham has a heart - have your picture taken and support the defibrillator appeal - (2011-11-06) 
A Melksham Timeline - Domesday to present day - (2011-10-17) 
Community consultation - a true open input - (2010-08-04) 
Contact Information for Melksham Oak Community School - (2010-07-13) 
Canal through Melksham - the options and issues - (2010-06-13) 
Consultation in Melksham, on Melkshams future - (2010-01-17) 
Summary of Wiltshire Core Strategy responses - (2010-01-13) 
Dogs Trust, Dog Show, Newbury - (2009-07-06) 
Alumni - revisiting and supporting the old University - (2009-06-13) 
Wiltshire - where everybody matters - (2009-04-13) 
Melksham Climate Friendly Group - (2009-02-05) 
Service Excellence Awards - (2009-01-30) 
The Wiltshire Police - (2009-01-29) 
West Wilts - no longer Wet Wilts - show - (2007-07-28) 
West Wilts Show - (2007-07-26) 
A day looking ahead for Well House Consultants - (2007-07-05) 
Finalist reception - Wiltshire Business of the Year - (2006-12-13) 
Are you free on 29th October - Charity ball - (2005-10-21) 
Farming yesterday - (2005-05-10) 
Call Centres, selling, and a pause for thought - (2004-09-22)
Some other Articles
Travelling aroundReading the nth line from a file (Perl and Tcl examples)Moving on - a task for the hotel staff!Summer Sunday Trains - outings from Swindon, Chippenham, Melksham, Trowbridge and WestburySelf Portrait (in words)Twitter Phishing Trips ... and a great new alert serviceFriday - Electrician, Food Festival, C++ Course, Rail Group MeetingGarden Seating, Well House ManorWhat does our MP do on a Bank Holiday?Are you cheerful, reliable and available on Saturday mornings?