He won the Rugby World Cup with England back in 2003, but now Phil Vickery’s main focus is his successful clothing business.
The best advice I ever had was probably from another player who, when I was still young and new to the game, told me to think about how I would earn my living in the future, or if an injury ended my rugby career. I starting thinking back in 1998 about what I could do and came up with my clothing company, Raging Bull, which luckily has paid off and is doing really well at the moment.
When I first started out in rugby, I must admit I was totally at sea with my finances. I was only 18 and had just left home but rugby union was still amateur, so I had to have a job to get by. Former England international Mike Teague, the then Gloucester rugby team manager, was brilliant with me and gave me a huge amount of advice on how to manage my financial affairs. He even paid my telephone bill for me – although I had to work on a building site to pay it off!
The best bit of business advice I’ve had was from a top retailer, who taught me to really value your brand. When I first started Raging Bull lots of people came to me offering to use my brand on everything from scrum caps to dressing gowns. It would have been easy to just accept the money and risk devaluing Raging Bull, but I am glad I listened and stuck with developing the brand the way I wanted. This was to stick with what we were good at and grow organically so we could retain our core values.
In terms of professional rugby advice, the best was probably from my doctors, advising me to stop playing! Throughout the years, I picked up many serious neck and back injuries, and finally listened to my doctors’ advice and retired – earlier than I wanted to, but at least relatively fit.
I get asked a lot if I were to give advice to an aspiring professional now, what would it be. The reply is so simple: don’t ever forget why you are playing. With the professional game changing fast and the massive pressures on young players to be fitter, stronger and bigger, a new player can feel like a gym bunny. I played rugby to spend time with my mates enjoying a sport I loved. For aspiring professionals, it’s worth reminding yourself why you started rugby and know you are not a failure if you don’t make it to the professional ranks. Still play at whatever level and make friends for life.
If I were to give advice to anyone starting their business now, it would be: surround yourself with the right people. In 2007, I appointed Shannon Mercer as my MD and she had a strong retail background. Shannon has really driven the lifestyle part of the business to the point now that our turnover is over £3m and we are in more than 30 House of Fraser stores. I would tell people to always remember that the customer has a choice. They can choose not to buy your product, so never take their custom for granted. It still gives me a buzz when I see someone out and about in something from Raging Bull, and I feel genuinely grateful they have chosen to spend some of their income on my brand.
Raging Bull offer a vast range of men's and women's leisurewear and rugby team clothing - for more details, visit www.ragingbull.co.uk