Tim Watts, chairman of Pertemps

1What's the first lesson you learnt in business?

1What's the first lesson you learnt in business?

To trust people, which is one of the hardest things to learn. People always believe they can do things better themselves, but that's a very limiting factor when you're trying to build a business. If you don't trust, you don't grow.

2What single event or person gave you the impetus to succeed?

When I got the sack as a commercial airline pilot. I think the fear of failure is probably greater than the requirement of success. Having been an utter failure in my first job in life, I was determined not to fail again. While I was looking for a job, I started working with my mother and was given the task of opening a second Pertemps office in Wolverhampton. I ended up staying and taking over the business.

3If you didn't run Pertemps, which company would you most like to run?

The Playboy enterprise, because [the owner] Hugh Hefner seems to have a lot of fun.

4What was the worst investment you made, and the best?

The worst was investing in a pedalo boat company in Portugal. They had this fantastic new design, which was going to revolutionise the world's pedalo market. I put £25,000 in, a lot of money 20 years ago, and ended up losing the lot because their fantastic new design didn't work. It was a typical get-rich-quick investment intended to make me a millionaire overnight. I quickly learnt there is no get-rich-quick formula in business.

My best investment also goes back 20 years, when I went on a management course run by an Australian called Louis Tyce. He taught me to think about much broader concepts and did a great deal for my understanding of business and life. I learnt the ability to focus on my achievements because nobody ever achieves anything unless they dream it first. If you have the right attitude you can achieve anything.

5Do you have a business philosophy?

My whole philosophy can be summed up in one word - inclusivity. You must focus on the customer whoever he or she is, because without that focus you don't have a business. If you exceed the expectations of the customer, you should achieve.

Also, you should make your staff a focal point because they deliver day in and day out. I have a fantastic photograph of a tug-of-war game in my office, which shows everyone making a huge effort but ultimately getting nowhere. It's important to get people pulling in the same direction, which is why we run a profit-share scheme. A junior is two years with us before they are entitled to shares.

6Which single task do you hate doing the most?

I hate downsizing an unsuccessful company. Not everything in life goes 100 per cent to plan so sometimes you have to bite the bullet and close something down.

7How has the employment industry changed in the past 30 years?

We've seen the emergence of near-equality of gender and race. It would be wrong to say there is no discrimination in terms of age, sex and race but we've come a long way in 30 years. I'm a great supporter of women in management so it gives me great joy to see the negatives being eroded.

8What's been the biggest growth area?

Without doubt it's been in the move from call centre management into customer relationship servicing. They are probably still the same people in the same building, but technology has enabled them to relate to the customer as an individual. In broad terms it's the same job, but they are better trained and far more sensitive to the customer's needs.

Unlike the old call centre, when everyone was dealt with similarly, in relationship servicing they know who the customer is as soon as they answer the phone and they can call up account details and deal with problems faster and more effectively.

9What was the happiest day of your working life, and the worst?

The happiest day was the first time my company made a £1m profit. It was one of the benchmarks I'd set out to achieve and at the time seemed to be the measure of a man. Now I'm 52, I can tell you a man cannot be measured in terms of his wealth. Anyone who uses pound notes as a measure is misunderstanding life. The most miserable day was two years ago when my mother, Constance, died. She founded Pertemps, in 1961, which specialised in hiring permanent and temporary secretaries.

10 Has the onlinerecruitment had animpact on the industry?

Online recruitment is a joke. The sites I've seen are not only pathetic and don't work, but they seem to be disappearing rapidly. There needs to be a clicks-and-bricks formula for online recruitment to succeed, which is why we're presently investing a great deal in that area.

11Have you ever been tempted to float?

I'm incredibly flattered by the constant offers, but in 1993 we created an employment benefit trust, which was specifically organised so the company would never go public.

My boys and girls come to work because they are committed to the company. If we had to pay our profits to the institutions and little old ladies in Bournemouth, it would take away all their dedication and commitment.

12What's the best piece of advice anyone gave you?

To love yourself. If you don't love yourself you cannot love somebody else.

13Are you easy to work for, and what makes you lose your temper?

I'm very strong on longevity and loyalty so I must be doing something right. I started out in business with four partners 28 years ago and they are all still with me, all still working ridiculously long hours. I also have more than 40 people who have been with me 20 years.

I lose my temper when I make the same mistake twice. It sends me into a barney because it happens quite frequently.

14Who do you most respect in the industry?

Sir Stewart Hampson from the John Lewis Partnership, who is a very articulate and caring man. Through the force of his personality, he managed to keep John Lewis private even when he was challenged by the shareholders to put it on the stock market.

15In terms of personal wealth, how much is enough?

I'd like more money because it would allow me to help more people. As there isn't a limit on the amount of people I could help, there isn't a limit on how much is enough.

16If your briefcase were about to be confiscated, which three things would you retrieve?

My little black book, a change of clothes which are hidden in a pocket at the back, and my affirmation cards, which have little sayings on them to help me to become a better person.

17What's your greatest personal indulgence?

Owning 20 racehorses, although we've pulled off some real coups lately.

A fortnight ago, a two-year-old called Dim Sum won a big championship race at Redcar. I recently received a letter from the Tote saying they were set up 70 years ago to promote the interests of racing and if they allowed me to carry on gambling it would significantly affect the sport.

I've had 20 accounts closed on me in recent years. In fact, I have a great problem investing in the sport at all because there isn't a bookmaker in the country who will now let me gamble on credit.

18Where do you want to be five years from now?

We have enormous potential so I'd like more of what I've got today.

19Are you pro-Europe and the single currency?

I'm totally pro-Europe, but the idea that we should have a single currency is about the most ridiculous statement anyone ever made. We have an independent oil, energy and gas policy, which our colleagues in Europe don't enjoy.

We trade more with America than we do with Europe. We attract two-thirds of all inward investment into Europe because we are independent in currency, which also annoys our partners incredibly.

People say that the Japanese will stop investing in Britain if we don't join the euro but that's a ridiculous argument because Nissan is owned and controlled by Peugeot. And Honda, which is still Japanese-owned, has recently said it will double its investment in Britain.

France's socialist policies on employment are killing the country and the black economy in Italy is killing that country.

And if we join the euro we commit ourselves to one policy for interest rates, which is the most stupid idea of all.

20If you went bankrupt tomorrow would you start again?

Definitely, although I'd try not to make the same mistakes again.

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