Jon Culshaw

Don’t give up with whatever you are doing – even if you make mistakes or suffer setbacks, it’s all part of the learning and journey!


Jon Culshaw is the CEO of Gate Expectations by Inwood, a traditional joinery firm with workshops on the beautiful North Wales coast. Jon has craftsmanship in his blood, with his joinery heritage going back three generations through his father and grandfather.

Specialising in made to measure gates and doors for the domestic market, Gate Expectations by Inwood are also known for their work in encouraging woodwork activity in the UK through a ‘free wood for schools’ initiative.

During his time guiding a traditional joinery company through the modern economy, Jon has become a big advocate for the value of sharing knowledge in the woodwork and home improvement communities online, and has had his work featured on prominent industry websites.

Where did the idea for Gate Expectations by Inwood come from?

The idea was my mum’s a long time ago, she was a big Charles Dickens fan and it’s obviously a play on Great Expectations – Mum just loved playing around with words and coming up with new phrases.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

I get up around 6:30, get my breakfast and off to work before anybody arrives, so I can sort my plan of action for the day out. Email is a constant bane though a necessary one – I could be stuck reading and replying to emails all day long – so after going through every urgent email in the morning I pick up my tools and don’t deal with email again until the end of the day.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I write everything down and come back to it later to flesh it out a bit more. Then, I’ll leave it – if it still seems like a good idea following that burst of initial enthusiasm then I’ll try and do something with it.

Once I have the idea I tend to adapt into whatever shape I need to to make it happen. With the ‘free wood for schools’ initiative this meant contacting local schools, newspapers and even a TV station. Doing PR like this is not a day-to-day activity for a craftsman, but I did what I needed to to make the idea take off, and it did!

What’s one trend that excites you?

The internet in general still excites me – there is so much information at the touch of a button or swipe of a mouse. Plus, crucially, anybody is able to contribute and help build a community.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Being told that I don’t have the skills to perform a certain task gives me the drive to take it on and complete it!
As an example – going back a few years we had a very simple three-page website, a home page, contact us page and a map. It was a ‘total package’ from the provider, they hosted the site and maintained the pages.

I wanted something a bit better so when it came up for annual renewal I told the salesmen what I wanted and he came back with a ridiculous price, which was totally unaffordable. When he asked me what I wanted to do I said I’d have a go at doing it myself and he laughed at me telling me that he would be back in touch within two months with me begging them for a website!

So, over the course of the next few weeks using Microsoft Frontpage and various Newsgroups I had exactly what I wanted! Looking back now it wasn’t very good by today’s standards, but not everybody had website back then. It was a confident start which I revamped several more times.

I find being told that I am not up to doing something such a motivation to prove whoever said it wrong!

What advice would you give your younger self?

Don’t give up with whatever you are doing – even if you make mistakes or suffer setbacks, it’s all part of the learning and journey! Also if you’re not enjoying what you are doing then move on to something else – life is too short.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

That Tranmere Rovers Football Club are the world’s greatest football team, you’ll probably find around 5000 or so of us who agree – however we’re most definitely in the minority.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Keep notes on everything, as there is simply too much to remember otherwise. It doesn’t necessarily matter if you have a ‘system’ for this, though it might help, as long as you have somewhere you can find what you’d otherwise forget.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

Surround yourself with people you can trust who can bring in new ideas, new ways of doing things and will take on board and act on what needs to be done.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

We once had a major contract with another company who went under, taking a very large payment for three-months’ work with them.

This was just as the internet was kicking off so we ‘pivoted’ almost overnight from taking one line of work to another using the website I had built myself – the same website albeit a more modern version that still brings in 90% of our work now.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Something to understand animals’ thoughts and feelings (hear me out): many a time I’ve been alone either at work or home with Ted (our little Westie) and he has sat there looking puzzled when I have a monologue with him bouncing ideas off him. Give me some feedback! If anybody out there can make this a reality then please take my money now 🙂

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

We bought a ‘Jumparoo’ for my little lad, Jake who is 8 months old, I love watching him jump around in it with a big smile on his face. He could go for hours in it if we let him! It’s the perfect way to unwind after work.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?

Evernote and Dropbox. Both give the ability to share notes and files internally which we find invaluable, and saves many pieces of scrap paper which somewhere a forest is thankful for!

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

I tend to read to escape everything else going on, so don’t read a lot of business books – it’s important for me to switch off in order to be ready for the next day.

If I had to recommend any author however it would be John Steinbeck as I absolutely love every single book he has written, I love the down-to-earth nature of his books that focus on the normal lives of people just trying to get by.

What is your favorite quote?

“The future is unwritten” – Joe Strummer
For simple reasons; you are in control of your own destiny and it can be whatever you want it to be!

Key learnings:

  • Don’t fail to write down an idea – and if it’s still a good idea after a few days, do something with it.
  • Don’t let anybody say you’re not capable of doing something, the worst thing you can do is fail trying.
  • Keep notes on everything – it doesn’t matter what system you organise to use them, just make sure you keep them.
  • Surround yourself with people you trust who bring in new ideas and new ways of doing things, and are open to trying new methods themselves.
  • Don’t ever forget what matters, which at the end of the day is family – as this is why we do what we do!
  • If you’re not enjoying what you are doing, then move onto something you do enjoy – life is too short.


Gate Expectations on Facebook:
Gate Expectations on Twitter: