BRAINFOOD: Sir John Collins, chairman of Dixons Group - If I had to start again ...

I'd love to be a world-class tenor with the talent and passion of Pavarotti.

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

But dream on - I never had the talent; we can discuss the passion! Today, my wish would be to free Zimbabwe, my birthplace, from the tyrant Mugabe and do justice to its people. I was going to be a farmer there but my father sold the farm and almost forgot to tell me. I had the good fortune to join Shell and there followed 29 happy years in a variety of jobs in the UK and overseas. Shell taught me a deep respect for people and, importantly, financial prudence. The lessons learned in cashflow management served me well in rescuing the Vestey family business, the high-risk adventure to which I was lured. Then followed my first experience of a heavily regulated business as a director and then chairman of National Power. Our executive were particularly astute in anticipating the pricing consequences of the new electricity trading arrangements and we quickly sold much of our coal-fired generation portfolio in the UK at prices that won't be realised again for some time. It was the most dramatic change of strategy that I have overseen. For a contrast to a regulated regime, there could be no bigger change than moving to Dixons. The Sir Stanley Kalms philosophy embodies the best of free enterprise culture with self-imposed discipline on corporate governance. Innovation and a 'can do' culture pervades the company. In starting again I wouldn't change much, as life has been good and exciting. I would, however, invest more heavily in studying human behaviour. Every business solution comes down to influencing people. The ability to read individuals' intentions, judge skills, understand motivation and harness talent in team situations is an elusive art. It is also highly rewarding.

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