You’ve had a range of different jobs. Of which are you most proud and why?
My current job is always my favourite! For the last 7 years I have been Chairman and FD of an export focused British manufacturing company DiGiCo and over that time we have grown its profits by a factor of eight. More excitingly we have just completed a transaction which probably makes us the largest manufacturer of sound mixing consoles in the World – I am the Group CFO. Liking to be busy, I also enjoy my other current roles as independent chairman of Baronsmead VCT2 plc, as chairman of BG Training Limited and as non-executive director of a listed property business and an investment trust. All of these jobs are interesting and challenging in their own way – so they are all favourites !!
You worked for some companies for a very long time. Do you think career longevity is linked with career success?
This is a very interesting question. Of course you only stay somewhere a long time if you are successful. I spent 20 years at Baker Tilly but after 10 years as managing partner and 5 years as chairman I was ready for a change. Applying the lessons you have learned in one sector to another is very interesting and now I am in what is these days called my ‘portfolio stage’ – I am really energised by working closely with different businesses.
Which is the biggest career risk you’ve taken and would you take it again?
I suppose in one way leaving Baker Tilly and joining a boutique corporate finance business, the Business Exchange as CEO was the biggest risk I have ever taken. However, I am so pleased I did it. In three years I learned so many new skills and developed my negotiation and project management experience significantly. The only other time I took a major personal risk, was (20 years earlier) turning down an offer to join a client. I would be a lot wealthier today if I had gone to join them – but at the time I felt that the greater flexibility of advising many different clients was more fun.
What amount of risk would you encourage your mentees to take in their careers?
You won’t get anywhere without taking risk, but it has to be well thought through and you need your team to be with you. They don’t all have to agree with you, but they have to be willing to give you a chance and support you. The workplace culture has to be with you as well – the most successful teams operate on a no blame basis. If you don’t take risks and accept that from time to time you will fail you will never, ever move forward.
You started out as an actor. Who should play you in your biopic?
My wife says she wouldn’t mind sharing the house with either John Thaw (no longer with us I am afraid) or Martin Shaw. As far as I can see I share the same hair colour and that’s it.