Thursday, 19 July 2012

Business Philosophy - 5 quick questions

Here's another free extract from my new book, Like an Elephant, where you can discover the secrets they won’t teach you at business school:

I thought it would be helpful to answer a few more of the interesting questions I am asked on my travels.

1. What is the best advice you ever got?

Three gems come to mind. First, an enduring one from my mother who always taught me never to look back in regret but to move on to the next thing. The amount of time people waste dwelling on failures rather than putting that energy into another project always amazes me. Did I worry that everyone hated Uncle Rail and Uncle Cola. No I did not!

My mother also told me not to openly criticise other people. Far better to do it behind their backs.

In the 1980s Wizard Blenkinsop gave me a great piece of advice on setting up my own vast domain. He told me two key things: ‘It's no use mumbling. It's no use grumbling. Life just isn't fair. There's no easy days. There's no easy ways. Just get out there and do it!’ He also wisely said: ‘Make sure you appear on the front page and not the back pages.’ I’ve followed that advice ever since. I’ve been very visible and that is why I am the greatest entrepreneur and philanthropist in the world ! The headline successes over the years have sustained my invincibility.

2. And the worst advice?

I’d never embarrass the person who gave it by revealing that, but you know who they are, HRH! Look, advice comes in many forms. I believe in never asking anybody because feedback is so annoying. Opinions always vary. I listen to people who agree with me and ignore those that don't. It is that simple. For goodness sake, if I listened to the Badfort Crowd's accusations of my empire being fuelled by my incessant self-glorification and ferocious publicity campaigns, I would have got nowhere.

3. What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs on how best to start?

To remember that it is impossible to run a business without taking risks. I would not own the vast domain of Homeward today if I had not taken risks along the way.

You really do have to believe in what you are doing. Devote yourself to it 100 per cent and be prepared to take a few hits along the way. If you go into something expecting it to fail, nine times out of ten it will.

Above all, remember the importance of good citizenship. That keeps your customers in their place and grateful for it. One of my favourite sayings (which happens, I believe, to be one of my own!) sums this up: ‘Remember, be an upstanding citizen, pay your rent on time and you will always have a friend in Uncle.'

You should also have faith in extraordinary individuals and back them. Many years ago I saw the potential in a rather pitiable monkey -to date, The Old Monkey had proved to be the best servant an elephant could wish for!

4. In your career you’ve had lots of successes, but you have failed in some businesses. What have you learned from those?

You have to learn very quickly that there’s no such thing as a total failure. When I was tricked, by the Badfort Crowd, into paying a million pounds for gold ingots that turned out to be gilt lead, I paid them in pig iron melted into a solid immovable mass in front of Badfort!

Looking back on Homeward’s history, my ability to adapt quickly to changes has helped mitigate reverses.

Similarly I have nearly killed myself battling, those anarchists, the Badfort Crowd. But through a combination of luck and planning, I am still here.

5. Do you have any regrets?


And, finally, I am often asked: are you a man of habits?

Well, yes, there are a few, I am very partial to cocoa and bananas. I guess, however, being a serial entrepreneur and philanthropist could be described as a pretty big habit!

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