1. Tell us about one of the toughest situations you’ve found yourself in as a business owner.
Having started a road transport business in the 1970s, 20 years later it was clear the best business decision was to close the doors, sell the assets, and invest the proceeds in commercial property.
It was hard explaining to drivers and staff that, despite all of their loyalty, commitment and hard work with the company, they were to lose their jobs. Our people were good and the demise of the business was through no fault of theirs, so I spent some weeks recommending them to other transporters and ensuring that they all had jobs to go to.
2. Which business achievement are you most proud of?
Without a doubt it was developing and then managing the plan to repatriate refugees from Angola to Namibia in time for them to vote in the independence elections in 1990.
Over a 12-week period, using trucks, buses and aircraft, we transported more than 25,000 people and their belongings home safely. With no accidents or injuries, we actually delivered several more people due to babies being born en route.
3. Describe your greatest weakness as an entrepreneur.
Impatience and expecting everything to be done immediately, when it clearly cannot. I have learned to take advice and a more realistic view on objectives and time frames, which brings order to the process.
4. Which popular entrepreneurial advice do you disagree with?
It is great to be able to invent something new or to deliver a unique service but neither is vital to become a successful entrepreneur. It can be enough to add value to an existing product or service, and then effectively execute the business plan for delivery, so that you can be ahead of the competition.
5. Is there anything you wish you knew about entrepreneurship before you got started?
Yes – a lot.
Every day I come across something and say to myself: “I wish I had known that before now.” But the best way to learn is the hard way – through experience, just so long as it’s not too costly.
6. Name a business opportunity you would still like to pursue.
I want to develop a world-class performance venue back in my hometown in Scotland.
The venue will be a great resource, and it will create employment and attract footfall and business to the town centre. This is partly driven by my ambition to use what I have learned in various jobs in different parts of the world for my community back home.