Friday, September 16, 2011 | Posted by: Fiona Cullinan
Categories: Business advice | Tags: business, entrepreneurs, entrepreneur, Grant Thornton, Manchester, sponsor, conference, Luke Johnson, fob, event, speech, Festival of Business, Telegraph, entrepreneurship, start-ups
Highlights from entrepreneur Luke Johnson’s afternoon address on entrepreneurship at the Telegraph’s Festival of Business today. Grant Thornton is a partner of the event – more coverage to follow…
Given the emphasis on the importance of start-ups, fast-growing mid-size businesses and entrepreneurs in Chancellor George Osborne’s earlier address, there was renewed interest in this afternoon’s interview with Luke Johnson.
Luke Johnson, Chairman of Risk Capital Partners, was formerly Chairman of Pizza Express, famously taking it from a share price of 40p to 800p and was also formerly Chairman of Channel 4. More recently, Johnson has put his experiences into the book Start It Up: Why Running Your Own Business Is Easier Than You Think. We also interviewed him for Grant Thornton’s My Big Decision series, about his life-changing decision to take over Pizza Express.
During his interview with the Telegraph Media Group’s Damian Reece, Johnson revealed the following:
• An entrepreneur is born: He discovered his enthusiasm for business after setting up his own club nights while at university (while training to be a doctor.) The club nights were the result of the ones he hosted on university premises being deemed too raucous.
• Best deal: He considers Pizza Express to be his best deal “not because of the money, but because it changed my life”. Pizza Express was “a brilliant formula, incredibly underexploited” which became hugely successful when Britain came out of a recession in 1993 and people started eating out again.
• Worst deal: He considers Borders to be his worst deal, warning of the risks of taking on a business that is part of a market that is going through such drastic change.
• Entrepreneur traits: There are no ‘Identikit entrepreneurs’, they are completely individual; although they usually all possess “self-discipline, self-confidence, zest and persistence”. Background, contacts and qualifications don’t matter – it’s character that makes an entrepreneur.
• Accessible leadership: Entrepreneurs need to be accessible, those who insulate themselves with networks of secretaries and assistants diminish their sense of curiosity. And “how many ideas do you have sitting in an office? None!”
• The risk equation: The entrepreneur is someone who thinks the gains outweigh the risks, the opposite of how most people think. Johnson cites Patisserie Valerie as an example of a proposition that didn’t seem to have immediately profitable possibilities but ultimately proved very successful (£10 million in profit this year).
• Future plans: Johnson is optimistic, despite the economic climate, with plans to open 50 new outlets across his business portfolio next year.
• Work-life balance: If people want to work for themselves, they should forget work/life balance.
• Healthcare and education opportunities: In terms of promising areas of growth, Johnson considers healthcare in all its forms to be an incredible growth area while he sees Britain as being in a position to be a world leader in education.
• Start-ups need incentives: He advises further stimulation of start-ups by giving further breaks, including National Insurance for staff in start-ups. “The country needs more entrepreneurs!”
Words: James Hickie. Image: © Micha Theiner/Rex Features
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