Business Words of Wisdom


By Tim Hulse for British Airways Business Life magazine

Photography by 123rf

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April 2016

Whether you’re looking for business inspiration or a spot of life guidance, here are some top tips from members of the global business community.

Ann Cairns, president, International Markets, MasterCard Worldwide

"I travel every week. I believe you don't really fully understand a global business until you have sufficient exposure to the different countries. And, let's face it, your own staff love to meet you. Face-to-face visits are important. I'm sure most senior executives of global firms feel exactly the same."

  • Ann Cairns (MasterCard Worldwide)
  • Michael Wainwright (Boodles)
  • Justin Rose (golfer)

Michael Wainwright, managing director, Boodles

"To be a luxury brand is about getting everything right and making everything luxurious. The most important thing is customer service. We're dealing with wealthy people and a lot of them don't have a lot of time but they do have money and they expect everything to be absolutely right. Your customer service delivery has got to be spot on. If I only had £10,000 to spend, I would invest it all in staff training before marketing. I love advertising and PR, but the staff have got to be tiptop. We have a very rigorous interview process and if someone doesn't work out, we let them know quite quickly."

Your customer service delivery has got to be spot on. If I only had £10,000 to spend, I would invest it all in staff training before marketing.

Justin Rose, golfer

"I always say it's only a bad shot if you react badly to it. You need to accept that you're human and if you make a bad decision, just accept it. And as long as you learn from it, don't beat yourself up about making a mistake. So if you hit a bad shot, immediately let it go. Then give yourself a challenge: "I've hit it in the trees, so this will be a great par." Always looking forward like that. There's no use dwelling on the past. That's an ongoing challenge for me, and I think for a lot of people in life it's one of the hardest things to do. For me, that's where greatness is for top sportsmen and top businessmen, that they're able to really focus on solutions rather than problems."

  • Reid Hoffman (LinkedIn)
  • Ian Robertson (BMW)
  • Sarah Beeny (property and internet entrepreneur)

Reid Hoffman, co-founder and chairman, LinkedIn

"Don't say yes to every LinkedIn request you get. You should say yes to folks you know and trust and like well enough. What I do is look at them on a case-by-case basis and say to myself, is this someone who I would introduce to other people and give them some level of positive reference for what they do? If the answer is yes, whether it's a diligent college intern who's worked for me or a hedge fund manager, it's the same process. Are they good at what they do? But it doesn't have to be someone I'd want to leave my children with."

Ian Robertson, head of sales and marketing, BMW

"Many things appear to be scientific analysis and are not. A professor of mine once said: always be aware of the word 'forecast'. Replace it with the word 'gamble' and you'll think differently. In other words, always be prepared to analyse things yourself. Make up your mind and move forward. Be clear on your long-term goal but the route to get there may be unexpected and involve flexibility. And gut instinct is still important. If it all came out of a book, it would be easy. And it isn't."

Sarah Beeny, property and internet entrepreneur

"Someone told me positive things happen to positive people and it's true, it works. Sorry. My husband finds positive people really irritating, and I apologise because it's terribly un-British, but I am quite a positive person."

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  • Sir Terry Leahy (former CEO of Tesco)
  • Ping Fu (3D Systems)
  • Chris Anderson (3D Robotics)

Sir Terry Leahy, former CEO, Tesco

"One of the things I asked our leaders to do was to work for a week in store as a general assistant.I was the first to do it and I probably learnt more in that week than in the rest of the year. You see the business from a unique perspective. A lot of it's reassuring, about the values of the business and the processes, and there are lots of things that you can see can be improved. And it's good for the staff - they like the idea that you'll roll up your sleeves and get stuck in. I was no good on the checkout. I was checking out one customer and she said, "You weren't very good at that but you tried very hard. I'm sure you'll go far in the business." She didn't know who I was!"

Ping Fu, vice president and chief entrepreneur officer, 3D Systems

"The people in your company are its most important asset. Being able to bring the best out in everyone is what ensures a company's success. It's not about strategic planning, it's not about how smart you are, it is about how much they are in there with you. A company doesn't run if its people don't run with it."

Chris Anderson, former editor-in-chief of Wired, cofounder and CEO, 3D Robotics

"In our house right now the killer app for our 3D printer is doll's house furniture. Is that ultimately going to be the killer app? No, I suspect there will be a better one. At this point we've done it twice: the personal computer revolution and the web revolution. I think we have some confidence in saying we can see how this picture comes together. You take a technology that is formerly an industrial technology, you add the words 'desktop' and 'personal', you make it cheap and easy and ubiquitous and then we find out what it's for."