CUSTOMERS AND EMPLOYEES: You have to get on with people at all levels of a business. It sounds simple but you have to try.
TENACITY: Years ago I met a door-to-door salesman who told me keep on knocking. The more doors you walk up to, the more doors you knock, the more orders you will get.
KWIK-FIT ADVERTS: It was an instant hit with the public and raised awareness but it also told the country that our boys were the best thing there was. It was our guys who came to us and said they wanted the slogan on the back of their overalls. They had one of the most recognised jobs in the country. Even now when people see me they ask me to “Give us a dance!”
ACQUISITIONS: It’s not difficult finding the right companies, the challenge is absorbing them into your business. It’s always the small things which are the problems. Some people in those organisations would blame us for buying them! They wouldn’t blame their old management. You have to work to win people over. One thing we found was that our colours were blue and yellow so we wanted that on uniforms and signs but people would say what’s wrong with our brown and red colours! They were all people issues. With the management we would say there’s your pay now go away because they naturally felt resentful when we made changes. It’s human nature.
FOREIGN EXPANSION: We made mistakes but we realised them very early. We were in Paris one day on the Champs des Elysees and we decided to open up some 11 centres there. They were beautiful looking places, like boutiques, exquisite door handles. There was only one thing wrong with them there were no cars in them! We didn’t appreciate the difference in culture. We thought we could take our UK operation and management overseas but it was very different. I remember one of our places was closed at lunchtime. I was surprised to find the staff sitting there having wine and cheese sandwiches. That would never happen in the UK. We didn’t do our homework but we learned quickly.