My Biggest Mistake: Oh Dell, why did I listen to them?
Wednesday 15 September 1999
I HAD been at Electra for a week, looking at the accounts of these boring manufacturing companies, and thinking it was hard to get excited about this.
I got called into a presentation at the last minute because everybody was out of the office. An American college kid had an idea which seemed amazingly simple: when it comes to buying a PC, going into a shop to be patronised by a 17-year-old with bad skin isn't pleasant. Why not sell over the phone? It takes out the cost and leads to a better shopping experience. It seemed so gobsmackingly obvious. I thought, fantastic, my first deal. I raced off to tell colleagues, who said: "Start-ups always fail, and if the idea was so obvious, someone would have done it."
I felt I was new in the business and new in the country. They've been in this for years. So I turned the investment down. The guy was Michael Dell, who's now worth $8bn.
I left Electra for Virgin, where my job was to look at new ideas. Meeting Richard Branson was a turning point. I took him some research and he said: "Don't pay much attention to that - if you'd buy the products, that's the best guide." Western training teaches obedience and conformity, but he's never worked for anybody; he's never done anything but trust his instincts.
One of the first things I thought about at Virgin was getting a pension sorted out. I'd never bought a personal finance product, so I called my bank, the Equitable and an independent financial adviser. But I couldn't understand what they were saying - and I'm an accountant with three degrees in finance. I saw that 95 per cent of the reputation and 50 per cent of the income of these pension providers was tied to commission-earning salesmen. Every instinct told me we could do this better and keep it simple. People will buy it, and if you don't have to pay huge commissions, the product's cheaper.
Everybody said: "You have got no idea how complicated this business is." But now I am someone who trusts my instincts first, my analytical ability second, and what other people say a poor third.
- 1 Russell Brand accuses FOX News anchor Sean Hannity of terrorism after aggressive Israel-Gaza debate
- 2 Pope Francis issues top 10 tips for happiness – including don’t try to convert other people
- 3 Disney heiress Abigail disowns her share of family profits in West Bank company
- 4 The secret report that helps Israel hide facts
- 5 Israel's propaganda machine is finally starting to misfire
Russell Brand accuses FOX News anchor Sean Hannity of terrorism after aggressive Israel-Gaza debate
Pope Francis issues top 10 tips for happiness – including don’t try to convert other people
Sabina Altynbekova, the girl branded 'too good looking' for volleyball, says social media obsession with her is a 'bit much'
Justin Bieber posts Instagram photo of Orlando Bloom crying after Ibiza fight 'over Miranda Kerr'
Disney heiress Abigail disowns her share of family profits in West Bank company
The secret report that helps Israel hide facts
Land for gas: Merkel and Putin discussed secret deal could end Ukraine crisis
Woman and two children killed by mob in riots over 'blasphemous' Facebook post in Pakistan
A day in the life of Vladimir Putin: The dictator in his labyrinth
Putin is 'thuggish, dishonest and reckless', says British ambassador to US
Richard Dawkins tweets: 'Date rape is bad, stranger rape is worse'
- < Previous
- Next >
iJobs Money & Business
£20000 - £24000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading provider of web based m...
£28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Secretary (Sales Team Support) - Mat...
Competitive (DOE): Guru Careers: We are looking for an Assistant Management Ac...
£600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...