If I had to start again ...

My one regret is that I never went to university. I often think it would have been good to have had that experience. But it just means you have to work that little bit harder.

by Bob Speirs
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

My father worked in the prison service, so I spent the first 17 years of my life in and around the UK's jails. He'd had a very uncertain upbringing in Scotland during the 1920s and '30s, and was always preaching security. That's what led me to the civil service. I started off at the Inland Revenue, a background that has been an absolute plus all through my career.

National service was still around when I started working. I did two years in the RAF, and after that I was very unsettled. I didn't like the Britain of the late 1950s, so I decided to go to Rhodesia. It was a superb country. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and even got married there.

I came back six years later and went into Coopers & Lybrand, using my tax experience to switch from gamekeeper to poacher. My career reached its pinnacle as number two at RBS.

I've always stuck to one adage: I'll only work with nice people. Of course, that's easier when you get a portfolio of non-exec roles and people are asking you to work for them. I've been lucky in that regard too - I've met a lot of people I admire.

But there are sacrifices. I trawled the world to raise finances for major projects, spending a lot of weekends away. You do miss your children growing up, and it puts a huge burden on your wife. That's the worst thing.

Now, at 72, I'm gradually running down. I'm still chairman at Stagecoach, but have handed over my chairmanship of Miller Group. Having had so much success, it's very sad to leave with the housebuilding industry hitting a brick wall. When you see the stresses others are going through, you have to be pleased you're not in the firing line. That said, it's always nice to be getting a kick at the ball.

Bob Speirs stepped down as Miller Group chairman last month

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