Dyslexia forced me into jobs that didn't match my skills

<i>My Biggest Mistake</i>
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The Independent Online

James Murray, 30, worked as an engineer and salesman before setting up Alternative Networks, six years ago. As a reseller for telecoms providers, including MCI WorldCom and Cable & Wireless Communications, the company now turns over £12m a year

James Murray, 30, worked as an engineer and salesman before setting up Alternative Networks, six years ago. As a reseller for telecoms providers, including MCI WorldCom and Cable & Wireless Communications, the company now turns over £12m a year

My biggest mistake was to spend time pursuing avenues that weren't suited to me because I didn't have a definite skillset.

At school I was dyslexic, and left at 16. I got a few GCSEs but it took me five years to pass the exams. I spent a year up north working in a clothes shop, then for a marquee company, which involved a lot of 4am starts. When I came to London my first job was in a wine company, making deliveries. I stayed two weeks, and went to work for a friend of my sister as a cable boy, installing cable.

Three of my six months in that job were spent in the Shaftesbury Theatre in London. I used to think about the playwright Noel Coward and the way he used to sweep the stage. I used to think to myself: "This kind of work is my way of sweeping the stage."

I thought I wanted to work for a telecoms company, and used the Yellow Pages to look up the nearest one, which was Lynton Europe. The first time I went to see them, they said: "Go away." The third time, they gave me a job, and that was where I met my business partner, Chris Wilson. I was there for two years and became their most successful salesperson. I wanted to set up on my own but made a massive mistake because I didn't have the confidence to go out and do it by myself. Lynton set me up under a separate arm, Lynton UK, but it was a bit of a farce and only done to appease me, though I didn't recognise it at the time.

After about six months, I went to my boss and said: "Look, this is not working. At the end of the day, it's no different to what I was doing six months ago."

Where dyslexia held me back was in my confidence. I had always wanted to start a business but I didn't realise what I was good at for a long time and I worked for firms I wasn't suited to.

When I started my own business with Chris, we put £4,500 of our savings into it and I finally found something that clicked.

I got on very well with people and was good at motivating them. As an entrepreneur, you begin to think in a different light. I could probably have done what I did 18 months earlier and I should have started more quicker.

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