What makes successful people tick? What advice would they offer to their younger selves? What gives them confidence? We continue our LSC Gents series of interviews with Harry Mead, founder of The Court, a members’ club on Carnaby Street in London.
Tell me about how The Court came to be?
I’ve worked in hospitality for years, and I’ve always had this dream of opening up an old school piano bar. I grew up watching black and white films and reading those old classic novels, and always wanted that kind of environment for my nights out. The more I looked around London, the more I realised that it didn’t exist anymore.
We [Harry’s collaborators include chef Tom Sellers of Restaurant Story, artist Bradley Theodore and mixologist Ryan Chetiyawardana] decided to launch a private members’ club, but not one that is defined by people’s career or net worth, our membership is based on character.
The address of The Court used to Bag O’ Nails. It is steeped in amazing history…
It’s where Jimi Hendrix played first in the UK, Fleetwood Mac came here, the Beatles… It’s one of the most famous musical places in town. Under all of the walnut and the brass that we have, there is still the original Bag O’ Nails, ‘60s wallpaper. The same one that the Beatles and Rolling Stones used to touch and get drunk against!
Who would you want to meet here?
Our ideal members aren’t a typical profile. I think they are someone who has a great story, treats people decently and can have a good time. They are the person you want to sit with at a wedding, someone who adds a bit of vibrancy to a table. Those are our members.
What is good leadership for you, and how do you manifest that in the way you run things?
I’m a huge devotee of my father’s [advertising executive Peter Mead] approach to leadership. He started an advertising agency called AMV, which has since grown to be the biggest in Europe, on one simple principle: When in doubt, be nice.
If you could go back to your 25-year-old self – based on all the lessons you have learned over the years, with The Court and other enterprises you’ve had – what advice would you give yourself?
I think when you start a business, you have your ideal scenario, a backup scenario and then your worst-case scenario. I would say, for your sanity, always work towards the worst case and then anything else is a bonus. Be comfortable with the idea that this is all-consuming. I think a lot of people want to be entrepreneurs these days, but not that many are willing to make the sacrifice. As glamorous as the lifestyle can look, the reality is, when you set up a business, it is all-consuming. If you’re an entrepreneur, you have no days off. I think a high percentage of new startups fail because people don’t realise the level of commitment needed.
What about style? Is that important to you, for giving you confidence in your job?
I’ve always enjoyed a well-fitting suit. A suit, with a white shirt and a matching tie, is so easy and the perfect setup for the rest of the day. My approach has always been that you never know who you are going to meet that day, so always dress for a pitch. Also, I think you should always dress for the job you want; portray that image to the world, and it will help you realise it.
Do you have any favourite brands?
I love Gieves & Hawkes and Bennett and Winch. I love London Sock Company, I get more compliments on my these socks than anything else. They are beautiful. It’s always nice to come across new brands with exciting people, who are trying to do things differently.
Do you have a favourite pair of LSC socks?
East India Saffron, I wear those more often than I should if I want them to survive. I have the Simply Sartorial box, and I love them all! I have the navy ones in there for when I need to dress for work and be a little more traditional, and then the block colours for punching it up! When I’m a bit more casual, I go for the patterned styles. It’s everything I need in one box.