My Biggest Mistake: I didn't go for growth

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Andrew Beeson began his City career at Capel-Cure Linton Clarke in 1963. He became a partner of the firm in 1972, and in 1989 founded his own stockbroking firm, Beeson Gregory, where he is chief executive. In 1992, he co-founded Cisco, the pressure group for smaller quoted companies.

MY BIGGEST mistake was not to get into an economy that was growing - and to be working in a bloody awful economy for the first 20 years of my working life. If you are going to start out in a service business, one of the most important things to decide is where you are going to do it. If you do it in an area that's growing, that makes it a hell of a lot easier than one that isn't. Frankly, I never thought about that at the age of 21.

Those who went to the Far East at that time benefited from extra growth, but I regret to say I saw that only in retrospect. If I had realised it, I think I would have gone into a different territory. We were always hoping that things would improve here.

It was an incredibly difficult time for those in financial services in the UK. I remember in 1977 going to America for the first time to try to do business with American institutions, and suddenly realising how unimportant the UK was to them. Probably that's changed only relatively recently.

I think the advent of Mrs Thatcher in 1979 was undoubtedly a huge turning point. If there was one thing that made a difference to my business life, it was the fundamental change of attitude that came about as a result of her administration.

The next thing that happened was deregulation, in my case in financial services. Before 1985, you couldn't have started a new business in stockbroking. It was more or less a closed shop, but following deregulation that changed.

I wish the climate had been right before, but it wasn't. And then it took a little bit of time for the changes to sink in. If one had started early after deregulation, one probably would have been swept along by the boom of 1986-7, before the October 1987 crash.

We started my firm in 1989. From 1989 to 1992 was probably the most difficult period that we experienced; if we had known what was coming, we wouldn't have started the business. But if you survive that and have a service that people want, you're likely to do well.