I am a person who finds it difficult to back down when confronted with a challenge and several times ended up on wastelands surrounded by an angry gang of kids. It’s hard to fight 20 to 30 others and consequently I ended up with some broken bones. These are tough lessons that teach one to be more thoughtful when dealing with risk and conflict, and to pre-empt crises and danger whenever possible. These are lessons that have served me well in my international career, both corporate and entrepreneurial.
Playing cards through the night
At university I was one of the worst students. I missed a third of my lectures, frequently played cards for money through the night, ran a second-hand car business and played water polo for the university – but, subsequently, in later life, and quite accidentally, I’ve ended up a visiting professor at Newcastle, Nottingham and Oxford universities. I’ve been the president of the Institution of Chemical Engineers, too and am a fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering.
I was also a governing board member at Innovate UK. I set up an enterprise hub at the Royal Academy of Engineering that has helped 100 businesses be created from university spinouts.
I’m 64. I’ve had a pretty busy life. When BGF invested I had five separate businesses, in all of which I was chairman and invested. However, my family has been urging me to retire for many years, so my ambition at the moment is to improve my work life balance. I last saw my two-year-old grandson when he was two months old. My daughter and her husband and son live in Singapore. The current plan is semi-retirement, working only 25% of the time, leaving much more time for family engagement – by necessity involving significant international travel – as well as hobbies and pastimes.
While I was a senior executive in many major multinational companies, I was often considered a maverick and many of those colleagues were not surprised when after 20 years of corporate life I became a serial entrepreneur. I am not driven and motivated by money, and have had a very comfortable life, but I am always focused on winning and creating wealth for the benefit of the many.