UK: Brain food - Sir John Harvey Jones - If I had to start again.

UK: Brain food - Sir John Harvey Jones - If I had to start again. - If I were 20 now, I'd still do my own thing and I'd still go into manufacturing - what I call real business - not shuffling money around. But I might start out by doing a degree in IT. T

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

If I were 20 now, I'd still do my own thing and I'd still go into manufacturing - what I call real business - not shuffling money around. But I might start out by doing a degree in IT. Then I'd join a large organisation to get the experience and feeling for the industry and see how the world looks from there. After five years I'd leave and do an MBA, then set up on my own. If I had my life again, I would have left the navy much earlier.

I didn't leave until I was over 30 and, although it was tremendous fun, it didn't really develop me as a person. And I would not have been separated for so long from my only daughter. I was away for two years at a time.

I made up for it later, but if it had not been for that separation I'd have had a much closer relationship with her. Second, I wouldn't have stayed the course at ICI. I'd have left to set up my own business much earlier than I did. I wasted quite a lot of time at ICI: it was like trying to move an enormous incubus. I was on the main board from 1973-82 and, looking back, I think I made very little difference. When you are on your own you can pick and choose: you have a flexibility, a speed and an immediacy that you don't have with a large company. But I still think a large company background is essential - you do a lot of learning there. Whatever else I did, I'd like to do a course of some sort, or gain some kind of new experience, every year. This is something I've always tried to do: the best businessmen are interested in both theory and practice.

Sir John Harvey Jones was chairman of ICI, 1973-82.

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