Fast Track: CV: Richard Emanuel founder and MD of mobile phone retailer DX communications

Seven years ago, Richard used a pounds 3,000 overdraft to set up his own company, selling mobile phones on Glaswegian door steps. Now, at 30, he is one of the wealthiest young men in Britain

Interview Michael Greenwood
Saturday 22 October 2011 23:01

It's difficult sometimes. One of those women's magazines listed me as one of Britain's most eligible bachelors. I get so much grief over that - my girlfriend wasn't impressed. At school I was creative and enthusiastic but not a great academic. My parents were teachers - my father was a chemistry lecturer at Glasgow University. They were very academically driven and that put a lot of pressure on me to knuckle down, but what it did was put me off further education and I didn't go to university. My parents were worried, they thought I was a young idiot who thought he knew everything. I was leaving education and I would regret it. I can understand how they felt because you can easily fall flat on your face.

I wanted to go into the leisure industry, I thought health and fitness was beginning to boom, it was a very Eighties thing. So I worked as a trainee sales manager at a health and fitness club where part of the work was selling vitamin pills on a commission basis. I was the top seller in the company, making about pounds 40 extra a month. I got quite excited about seeing my name at the top of that list. I still take those vitamins today.

I worked at the club for two years but always wanted the next challenge so while I was there I began planning my own health club. It was very capital intensive, you needed a building and equipment, but the only collateral I had was a bass guitar. Not many banks were willing to lend me money, which was probably a blessing in disguise. There I was, a 19-year-old talking to banks about business plans and loans. It was a great experience. The health club discovered what I was planning and I had to leave; it was very depressing but sometimes you can use these things to spur you on.

At the club it had become increasingly common for members to ask me to look after their mobile phones as they exercised. I realised that telecommunications was a growing market and someone had told me there was a job going in a telecom firm in a sales management role. I worked for them for about two years before I set up DX in 1991 at the age of 23. With the experience I'd had in the telecom industry and pounds 1,300 of savings, I talked the Bank of Scotland into giving me a pounds 3,000 overdraft to set up the company in an industrial unit in Govan. I began knocking on doors selling mobile phones but I quickly learnt there was more to running a business than just selling.

It was a hand-to-mouth existence, I remember driving an ancient Hyundai and parking it around the corner so customers didn't see. It was hard going but it was a good grounding.

By 1993 the price of phones had dropped and we opened our first high- street shop in Glasgow. Suddenly the buzz felt real, the company name was above the door. From then on we have opened a DX store every 18 days. Now with just under 700 staff and a turnover of pounds 40m, the problems are the same as when we were started, the numbers just get bigger.

The name DX came from a management philosophy book. A chapter about goals said you have got to have a burning desire to achieve your goal and you have got to expect to succeed. I took the D from desire and the X from expectancy, the name stuck and that philosophy has stayed with me through the hard times.

To young people I would say have a think about what you want to do with your life and find something that stimulates you so you have that desire. If you want it badly enough you will get it. Life can grind people down and they sell themselves short. Not everybody needs to start a business, but you do need that spark in what you do.

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