One Cornwall businessman is indulging his passion for exotic animals by having his own snake and lizards zoo in his office.
Rob Vivian, the founder of PureComms is such an avid collector of rare and exotic reptiles – and fish – that his office has been turned into a mini Noah’s Ark.
The entrepreneur, who has a dangerous wild animals licence, owns 11 different species of snakes, 30 different lizards and four types of frog and turtles. His collection even includes a six-foot python.
The lizards, exotic fish and snakes are all part of the decor at PureComms.
In fact his expertise is such that he has spoken at government conferences and been invited to foreign institutes and countries to collaborate in the study of very rare vipers.
So what do his staff think of sharing an office with the likes of Fijian iguanas, cone head basilisks and East African tree lizards?
PureComms’ Cornwall team with Rob and his wife Jane in the centre.
“Someone in our Cornwall-based team has a real fear of snakes so I took the ones I had there out and replaced them with iguanas which she’s happy about,” said Rob.
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Born in Greenwich and an avid West Ham supporter, Rob moved to the Westcountry when he was 10.
His father, a zoology professor who instilled the love of exotic animals in his son, came from the area – a genetic link that is clearly important as, whilst Rob started and continues to run his business in Bristol, he opened an office in St Austell on the basis of loving Cornwall with a passion and having relatives in the county. Now he spends most weekdays living and working here.
Never one to tread a ‘normal’ path, Rob went to university to study engineering but dropped out after a year to take a call centre job instead. He hated the work environment but turned out to be exceptionally good at sales.
When an opportunity arose to take on a similar role in a Telecoms company he took it, quickly learning all he could about the industry. Six years later, aged just 29 and already a sales director, he left for London.
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In January 2010 Rob was back with his family in the Westcountry to fulfil his dream of starting his own company.
“I started PureComms at home, in my study, using a borrowed laptop,” he says. “Earning an income was my top priority so I spent my days on the phone, surrounded by books and pictures, with our cat on the desk and tanks of frogs and lizards for company.
“Sometimes I didn’t even change out of my dressing gown. It was a very comfortable existence but one which I knew couldn’t go on if the business was to thrive.”
By September 2010, Rob had swapped that cosy environment for a tiny office in Clevedon.
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“It was draughty, the décor was awful and it had just enough room to fit two desks and a fish tank,” he laughs. “I’m pretty sure there were ghosts too. I’d describe myself as a sceptic but three things happened that convinced me the place was haunted.
“The first was a door that genuinely opened on its own, the second was seeing someone through a frosted door when the room turned out to be empty and the third was looking down to the front reception from a balcony whilst working late and seeing a momentary but very distinct mist. All rather unsettling experiences.”
Motivated to move on as quickly as possible, Rob took on his first employee to look after admin whilst he focused on growing his customer base. More staff followed until, in March 2013, Rob made another leap of faith and leased massive new premises beside a main road.
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“It had 2,500 square feet of space and was huge for our small team then but the plan was to expand into it, which is exactly what we’ve done. We’ve even built a research and development centre – the first Telecoms provider to have such a facility.
“It takes up a lot of room but I think it’s important because having it means we can test out technology before installing it and, if a client has a problem, we can mimic their systems and troubleshoot solutions. That attention to detail and fast, responsive service makes us stand out from the crowd.”
PureComms’ second office was opened in Cornwall two years ago. Rob runs the company with his wife, Jane, who is a co-director of the company.
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“She’s used to me by now!” laughs Rob. “She had a very good career as a college and local authority director before joining PureComms last year. Working together means we’re flexible in terms of looking after the boys and her business development experience and skills are proving invaluable.”
As in Clevedon, the occupants of the Cornish office aren’t just human.
“I used to have my reptiles at home but it’s hard to look after them properly with children in the house, so they’re at work.”
In addition to unusual creatures, PureComms’ Bristol office also boasts a 50ft model railway.
The 50ft train model in Rob’s Bristol office.
“I met Richard Corser, my non-executive finance director, whilst working as a crew member on the King Edward I steam locomotive. It’s a passion we share.”
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Rob is a keen sportsman too. When he doesn’t spend his time off playing sport with sons James, 10, and Jonathan, seven, he’s training for a 250km coast-to-coast charity trek in Costa Rica this autumn to raise money for Children’s Hospice South West.
One of Rob’s team members at PureComms.
Whether he’s expertly handling a six-foot python, playing with trains, barbecuing with employees, working with clients, kicking a football, challenging his vertigo by climbing a mountain or donating aquariums to children’s hospices, Rob Vivian is a talented, likeable and very successful one-off.
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Source: Cornwall Live