Admiral Insurance CEO Henry Engelhardt's best and worst decisions

From an MBO to pounding the pavement looking for business.

Last Updated: 13 May 2015

MY BEST ... I was recruited by Lloyds of London in 1991 to set up Admiral and I negotiated a SWEAT equity stake for myself and my management team. It's a form of equity you get in the business in return for your work and effort rather than your money. In 1999, some of us staged an MBO of Admiral, and we rolled that equity stake over. Knowing that you own part of the company makes a huge difference to your motivation and determination. It's as true of my management executives as of me, and many of them have stayed with me since the beginning.

MY WORST ... I was working for a financial services association in Chicago, had married a French woman and we wanted to move to France. My Chicago office let me open an office in France. I was travelling around Europe speaking to banks and looking for business. To save money, I would walk or take the tram rather than hire a taxi and I didn't spend much on advertising. But the outcome of not advertising enough was that the business was very slow for the first few months, then we got a few clients but never really hit a good stride. Eventually we closed the French office down. When I look back I think it could have done well. A few years later the same company opened a London office, which I think is still going - which shows that it could have been done.

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