'You need a team to build your dream'

William Asprey is the chair of William & Son, the luxury goods shop in Mayfair. He is a seventh-generation member of the Asprey family, who have been involved in luxury retailing for 200 years.

What did you want to be as a child?

I thought I might go into hotel management; I enjoyed cooking and thought it would be fun.

What did you realistically think you'd end up doing?

Well, I tried that and failed. I first applied to the Ecole hôtliere de Lausanne in Switzerland, but there was a nine-year waiting list. I wanted to apply to Cornell University but you needed three A-levels and I only had two, and I applied to Oxford Poly and was rejected.

So what did you do?

I joined the Army. After a day-long assessment, I was wheeled in front of the colonel who said he'd like me to join the Royal Green Jackets, so I said thanks very much. But in the back of my mind, I always thought I'd work in the family business I'd worked on the shop floor during school holidays and always enjoyed it. After four years in the Army, I joined the Asprey Group, but a few years after it was sold, I decided to set up my own business.

What did you need to start up on your own?

Courage. You can do predictions and business plans, and on paper it all looks achievable, but taking the plunge and going from employee to employer is a big jump. It was also a wrench leaving Asprey; that was my family name on the door.

Do you consider yourself successful?

I'm doing OK. I've been fortunate to have the support of old customers, but you can't rest on your laurels because that's when you'll go downhill.

What's the best decision you've made?

Setting up on my own. You have to be happy in what you're doing and I wasn't my wife found me a pain.

What are your interview tips?

In any small business, people need to get on with other people, so you need to build up an idea of their character and if they'll fit in. You can't ask about someone's private life because of employment law, but I like an interviewee to be willing to tell me about themselves because that means they want to be part of a team.

What are your CV tips?

It should be short, sweet and relevant.

What are your tips for getting on at work?

Start off slowly and quietly; you're the new boy or girl at the bottom of the pile.

Who are your heroes?

The hotelier Rocco Forte; he's done fantastically well and that's a true family business.

How do I get to be where you are?

To run your own business, you need a little knowledge about a lot of things. Experience in the luxury-goods business is terribly important; work on a shop floor and find out what customers want and how to please them. You also need accountancy skills, and a team to help you build your dream.

What's the best perk of your job?

The incredible people I meet coming through the shop door or on my travels. They're very successful and intelligent and I like turning them into clients.