Brain Food: Charlie Banks - If i had to start again...

I could have stayed in the military. When we married, my wife actually thought I would. I was in the Navy for two years, and spent five years in the reserves. It was a great leadership experience, but my style wasn't suited to peacetime. I found it frustrating just worrying about the state of my ships. I joined Ferguson as a trainee, and that company was bought by Wolseley in 1982. I will be retiring in July after 39 years in the group.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

It's unusual today for someone to stay at one company for so long, but it was the level of opportunity that kept me here. I spent my first day in the warehouse, being introduced to the cash box and the billing book, and soon I had tasted everything from unloading trucks to being a salesman.

When I was 27, I had one view of where the opportunities were; when I was 32, the ceiling was higher; and at 38 it had moved again. I just kept raising the bar. I never thought I'd be running Ferguson, or a company with an $8 billion market cap. Still, if I could start again I'd think bigger, look further down the road and move along faster.

Sure, I would like to have spent more time with the kids, but we have a good relationship, and always focused on spending quality time together. That just didn't mean being home at six every night having a beer. I moved to England from the States in 2001 and would do it again. Leaving friends and re-establishing yourself and your family can be difficult, but my wife and I saw it as exciting, and coming here has been a great experience. Now I need to find something else I can get enthusiastic about, where the chemistry with the people is right, but without the commitment of travelling 240,000 miles a year.

I've got six grandchildren - three in California and three in Virginia - and it's hard to see them when you live in two continents. I'll see what looks comfortable in July.

Charlie Banks is chief executive of Wolseley.


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