Lesley Gulliver Managing Director at The Engine Room

A day in the life of… Lesley Gulliver.


Those who know our managing director Lesley Gulliver, will be the first to say she’s not one for the limelight – she’d far rather the successes of our team, or better still our clients, steal the headlines. But she was interviewed by The Yorkshire Post recently, so that readers could learn how she juggles client projects, the redevelopment of an old mill in Mirfield, directorship with the Design Business Association, family life, and tennis! If you missed the write up, you can read it in full, here…

Whilst the age-old cliché of ‘no two days are ever the same’ certainly applies to me, one thing that remains a constant is the fact that as soon as my alarm goes off, I’m straight into planning mode. In fact, before the chimes of my first snooze reminder, I’ve already clocked what my son Eddie is having for lunch, what sports kit he needs to take, who I need to call on my way into work and how much I must get done before the day’s out.

I’m quiet and contemplative in a morning but listen to Radio 4 during my hour-long commute into work – though I’m beginning to switch off at the Brexit debates! I make good use of my time in the car to hold progress calls, whether they’re with clients, colleagues, prospective customers or partners of the business. That way, I’ve maximum chance to focus when I reach our office in Bates Mill. Whilst probably nobody in the whole of the county will say they enjoy the M62, I do quite like the chance it gives me to get ahead on my day.

Today, we’re hosting a strategic workshop with a manufacturer from the healthcare sector. They are the dream client – they understand the power of brand and the bottom line impact it can have, they enjoy the collaborative benefits of looking outwardly and inwardly at brand values, and they keep a keen eye on how they can continue to evolve their brand manifestations to maintain a competitive edge. Many organisations will stake the same claim, but unfortunately for others, brand is little more than just a logo.

Our focus this morning is on the use of language and they bring representatives from company-wide departments to aid the strategic thinking.

I’m heading off-site this afternoon, so before I grab lunch I book tomorrow’s train tickets to London for a quarterly board meeting with the Design Business Association. I openly admit I’m quite disorganised when it comes to arranging my travel, which very much goes against the culture of my co-director Darren – founder of The Engine Room. For someone so creative he’s also meticulously methodical with his time and always prepared for everything!

Over lunch I review the content of a Design Council public services programme that I’m going to deliver in Leeds next month, to a cohort of local government organisations. Whilst each delegate is naturally different from the next, they are all looking to transform their services via new design thinking, which is a topic I can talk very passionately about.

Then it’s back in the car to Mirfield. We’re in the final phases of converting a 19th century former mill and piggery into our new business premises. We purchased York Mills in January 2017 for £250,000 and have spent in excess of £100,000 to transform the 4,000 sqft space. It’s been a project that we have relished, and we’re close to seeing the fruits of our effort, but it has been challenging to say the least. We’re lucky to be working with a fantastic sustainability construction and joiner company called Offset Workshop that is managing the scheme of work, but it has taken up a vast amount of our time too – not least to keep on top of cashflow.

This afternoon, I meet our electrician to provide an updated lighting spec. The Engine Room will occupy the first floor of the building, the ground floor will be a creative workshop space for use by both our team and local businesses, and the brick-vaulted-ceiling cellar has the potential for a number of small lettings.

My journey home is the mirror image of my commute into work. I’m reflecting on the day’s progress and making any final calls that I can before I’m back to the franticness of motherhood. If I’m lucky I fit in a game of tennis – my other passion.