BRAIN FOOD: John McGrath - If I had to start again ..

BRAIN FOOD: John McGrath - If I had to start again .. - I'd learn French, and I'd take an MBA too - that is a good shortcut to certain techniques and thought processes. Also, I wouldn't have been ill for a year at school (I had acute nephritis), which scr

by JOHN MCGRATH, chairman of The Boots Company plc and waspreviously group CEO of GrandMet and Diageo plc
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

I'd learn French, and I'd take an MBA too - that is a good shortcut to certain techniques and thought processes. Also, I wouldn't have been ill for a year at school (I had acute nephritis), which screwed up my education.

I wanted to be a fighter pilot and was accepted into the RAF at 24. They said 'Sign up for 12 years'; I said 'No'. But if I see one of those planes, I still think 'Fantastic'. From university, I worked for Ford Motor Co - that was wonderful. I knew then I wanted to run businesses, but it took me until 1979 to do it. I've always enjoyed corporate life, particularly international business. You have to have an international perspective, ask questions and research exactly what will happen - don't make assumptions that what works here works elsewhere. In Boots, we started up retail stores in Thailand based on the British model - they didn't work. I also learned much from being involved in two firms that went into receivership - British Leyland and Stone-Platt. In both cases, we didn't have the quality of people or decision-making. People like strong leaders and clear direction - with the right person at the top, all problems get addressed. Hire people better than yourself, take decisions thoughtfully, and sooner rather than later. When you know a bad decision's been taken, stand up and be counted, otherwise the consequences are severe. The merger of GrandMet and Guinness, however, was fantastic. Everybody saw it made sense, and it doesn't come much better than that.

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