Her fiery red hair made her a distinctive child and she made her mark on all she met. Quite successful at school she was a strong feminist, so when she married she kept her maiden name.
Her parents were keen sailors and she grew up enjoying yachting and the lifestyle that goes with that.
The Second World War was a difficult time for the family and Avril often said her character was formed in those dark and dangerous times.
Avril thought the English people had suffered enough through the restrictions of rationing, so seizing the opportunity in the 1950s she started her own confectionery business. It was a huge success.
Cuco’s Confectionery was on everyone’s lips! Ask any English child of the late 1950s, early 60s and they will regale you with stories of Cuco’s chocolate animals, the birds being particularly scrumptious!
The business grew at a tremendous rate. Soon Cuco’s Confectionery Company, CuCoCoCo as it was affectionately known, was listed on the London Stock Exchange.
Avril had so much drive and energy she found time to compete in the Ostar, the Observer Single-handed Trans-Atlantic Race in 1964. Her red-hair made her a media favourite with the nickname the Red Skipper.
A single handed race typified her style and she ran CuCo in the same way. She was a strong manager who didn’t suffer fools gladly. Avril took charge of the minutiae of the business and left everyone clear about what was to be done, and what would happen if it wasn’t! She was quite proud of the adaption to her Red Skipper nickname that her employees used. They called her the Red Snapper because that was what she did.
Of course she was very keen to bring on talented people in her business. She developed a fast track promotion scheme and spent a lot of time, her free time too, coaching and mentoring these young men to peak performance.
Sadly Avril disappeared in 1984 in a typical Avril way. Sailing her yacht round Britain, radio contact was lost and she was never seen again.
CuCo didn’t survive her disappearance, proving her oft stated assertion that her employees were a complete waste of space who couldn’t manage their way out of a paperbag. The company vanished like so many when their founder and driving force leave the stage.
Avril created a large business through sheer force of personality in the face of adversity and slack employees. A truly great leader.
Story By: Stephen Walker
You can find more Great Leader articles and tips on better management, great leadership and fostering innovation at www.motivationmatters.co.uk
Originally published 01-04-2010 in Perform, the newsletter from Motivation Matters