The Business On... Richard Harpin, Chief Executive, Homeserve

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The Independent Online

Another high-flyer?

Funny you should say that. Having built up Homeserve from scratch – it provides insurance cover for domestic emergencies – Mr Harpin is now a businessman of substantial wealth. And some of that wealth has been used to indulge his passion – flying helicopters.

You mean he's one of those adrenaline junkies?

Far from it. Homeserve's office is in Walsall and Mr Harpin lives in North Yorkshire, some 140 miles away. He uses his helicopter to help him get home from work in time to put his three children to bed.

So what's he up to now?

Mr Harpin has put up £50,000 of his own money to fund a new initiative at the Scout Association: an entrepreneur badge – just like the badges scouts have always worked towards for knot-tying and so on – for those scouts who demonstrate an acumen for business or fund-raising.

What's the idea?

The Homeserve boss wants to foster the natural entrepreneurial skills that many children have. As a former schoolboy businessman himself, he knows all about that. He started out selling conkers from his garden to fellow pupils at school and went on to launch a tuck shop. Other ventures, selling everything from fish tackle to Christmas trees, followed.

Goodness, what got him started?

The helicopter thing in fact. One of his earliest memories, says Mr Harpin, is of a helicopter landing in the garden of the house up the lane from his parents' home. He discovered later that it was Lord Hanson flying in for Sunday lunch with his parents and swore to himself that he would emulate the trick.

Any other business heroes the scouts might want to study?

While many executives are sniffy about programmes such as Dragons' Den and The Apprentice, Mr Halpin thinks they've been good for the image of business and praises Lord Sugar as "wonderful". The entrepreneur badges, by the way, feature a bar chart. From building fires to "You're fired", you might say.