Veterans

British Ex-Forces In Business: Rod Brown

Home improvements expert Rod Brown had a difficult transition from the Royal Navy, but he's making business work.

WATCH: Rod Brown on his British Ex-Forces In Business Awards nomination

On learning he was a finalist for a Lifetime Achievement accolade, Rod Brown’s first thought was:  

“But I’ve got a lot more to do yet!”

The Royal Navy veteran’s home improvements company, Opun, has brought him to the 2019 British Ex-Forces In Business Awards.

Rod Brown, ex-Navy and finalist in British Ex-Forces In Business 2019
Rod Brown in his Royal Navy days

The honours, that are being handed out for only the second time ever, pay tribute to former service personnel who have really made a difference in their new commercial ventures.

Eighteen gongs – across categories like Inspiration of the Year, Advocate of the Year, and Champion of Women – will be taken home from a glamorous ceremony on May 8.

Rod’s entrepreneurial journey, that began in the early 1990s, wasn’t quite as straightforward as he had first hoped.

Flying back into Brize Norton from the Falkland Islands on a Friday, and enrolled in a London business school by the following Monday, he was raring to strike out on his new career path.

WATCH: But, what happened on Rod's first day at business school?

Despite feeling like a fish out of water in his new civilian career, because his new peers had more experience than him, Rod stuck to his guns and made a name for himself along the way.

Plenty of work for consulting companies led onto a key role at Tesco, where he helped to create the supermarket’s Home Services department.

It was after leaving Tesco that, along with one of his old suppliers, he co-founded Opun, which aims to take care of homeowners' home improvement projects from planning right through to the build.

He said: “We created the business as a proof of principle, for another brand to take forward.

“That a home improvement business, supported by great tech, could deliver a better service to customers using their brand.

“That took us five years, but eventually we did it; and we sold to our number one target, John Lewis.”

Understanding first-hand what it’s like to struggle in the move from uniform to a civilian job, Rod had some words of wisdom for those in a similar position.

WATCH: “It is not an easy transition…”

Rod joked that he didn’t feel old enough to be in the finals for the Lifetime Achievement category.

He reflected on why awards like these are important for service leavers.

 WATCH: “Any encouragement we can give is a worthwhile thing.”

Asked how he was looking forward to the night, Rod continued: “I think it’s a great jamboree on the evening, and that’s absolutely fantastic, but the important thing here is encouraging people.

“To say, yeah, you’re really good.”

He added: “Never forget that you’re really good, as you leave the Armed Forces – and do well in business, because you can.”

  • Rod Brown is a finalist in the Lifetime Achievement Award category at the British Ex-Forces In Business Awards, at London Hilton on Park Lane, on May 8.
The British Ex-Forces in Business Awards are sponsored by CBRE, FDM Group, Kuehne + Nagel, Galliford Try, Lloyd's of London, the Officers' Association, NTT Data, Santander, Savills, Sopra Steria and Standard Life Aberdeen.
Other supporters include BFBS, Forces Recruitment Services, RFEA – The Forces Employment Charity, SaluteMyJob, the White Ensign Association and other media partners Quest Magazine and RealBusiness.co.uk.