Out of Office: What Harrogate Spring Water boss James Cain OBE does when he’s not at work

Ethical and environmental approach - James Cain, managing director of Harrogate Spring Water. (1703061AM8)
Ethical and environmental approach - James Cain, managing director of Harrogate Spring Water. (1703061AM8)

James Cain joined Harrogate Spring Water in 2006 and became managing director five years later. He has transformed the business following major expansion in production capacity and launched ‘Thirsty Planet’ spring water, a charity brand.

What does a typical day look like for James Cain?

I’m a pretty organised person, and I like detail. I have everything mapped out the night before. I like to have a plan. My days vary hugely – I’m lucky in that respect.

If my diary allows, I enjoy starting the day with a walk. I live in a beautiful part of the world and there’s no better way to power up for the day ahead.

An average week also sees me out of the office – whether with customers, suppliers, sponsors or attending industry events. Typically, I’m in London for a day each week, which is always an enjoyable contrast!

What inspired you to join Harrogate Water Brands?

My father was instrumental in starting the business in 2000 as a founder shareholder. While he was establishing Harrogate Water, I was cutting my teeth with Asda Wal-Mart, working alongside chief executives Allan Leighton and Paul Mason in the world of retail.

I never thought I’d end up working with my father, but when fate intervened, I used the business lessons I’d learned to help deliver the vision for Harrogate Water set out by my father, the true entrepreneur in the family. It’s been an incredible journey.

What do you think is the biggest barrier to growing an organisation like yours?

People make or break organisations. Having the right people with the right skills and getting people to deliver the vision is crucial.

What is the best lesson you have learned in business?

Treat everyone with respect and lead by example. It’s not just the right thing to do – it’s the right business thing to do. A positive culture leads to job satisfaction, improves communication, innovation and overall company performance.

Who was your biggest inspiration growing up?

It has to be James Bond… isn’t that every boy’s dream?! I enjoy a passion for all types of vehicle, from cars and motorbikes to helicopters and boats.

I also love to travel, especially when it takes you off the beaten track, meeting new people and exploring different cultures.

Above all, it’s about knowing ‘the good guys always win’ – but that’s only after having quite a bit of fun along the way!

What is your ideal day away from the day job?

As a sponsor of Ascot and Royal Ascot, we’ve been lucky enough to enjoy some wonderful days out at the races.

My favourite way to unwind would be a long walk with my wife and our dog Bella, followed by a leisurely lunch with family.

Is there a part of your career you wish you could have another chance at?

I certainly don’t look back with any regrets. I had an inspiring business apprenticeship in logistics at Asda and further to this as PA to Paul Mason and Tony DeNunzio at Asda Wal-Mart, which continued to shape and guide me in my role at Harrogate.

It was amazing to be around the board table at Wal-Mart in Arkansas in early 2000 with CEO Lee Scott. If I could go back, it would simply be as a fly on the wall, to see how the business has continued to evolve and react to the dramatic challenges impacting on bricks-and-mortar businesses over the last 20 years.

Does the pace of technological change worry you at all?

Yes and no. I have to remind myself that I studied computer science in the 1990s and managed to get a degree prior to the internet!

Sometimes the pace of change can feel overwhelming. You master one new digital development, just to be faced with three more.

I am concerned about young people and their dependence on technology and the impact on mental health and wellbeing.

I recognise there will always be downsides that need to be managed, but technological change is also leading to greener energy, greener transport and a healthier environment.

Who is your favourite Yorkshire artist/musician and why?

There are so many musicians and groups from Yorkshire that I have enjoyed and listened to over the years... no ski holiday is complete without the Kaiser Chiefs!

Last year we were fortunate enough to see Ed Sheeran in Dublin – the diversity of his music and his appeal is amazing – a true talent.