BRAIN FOOD: Sir David Barnes - If I had to start again ..

BRAIN FOOD: Sir David Barnes - If I had to start again .. - Business was my metier, although I got there by mistake. So I don't look back and wish I'd been a professional footballer or conductor. The first thing I'd do is gain additional language skills -

by SIR DAVID BARNES who was CEO of of Zeneca 1993-99
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Business was my metier, although I got there by mistake. So I don't look back and wish I'd been a professional footballer or conductor. The first thing I'd do is gain additional language skills - certainly Spanish, with French or German as number two. When I was at school, Spanish wasn't an option, but today it would be invaluable.

Second, for the first 20 years in ICI I doubt I heard the phrase 'shareholder returns'. Back then, shareholder value was hardly ever mentioned. For me the real education began when we demerged Zeneca. I'd like to have been much more aware of investor and City relations earlier on. Third, I'd be more courageous about speaking out about industry issues. In a senior position, you tend not to want to attract attention to 'your' company.

I wish I'd been far more constructively critical about government regulations and so on - even the size of print in pharmaceutical ads is regulated. That's ridiculous.

I would also be more rigorous about taking holiday entitlement. And I'd have made greater efforts to get out and about round the business units.

It's too easy to get trapped in head office. You wind up going to lots of external meetings but not making enough in-company visits. Finally, I'd avoid diversification. Once you stray from the core it doesn't seem to work. If I look at the big ICI picture, with all its diversifications, I have to question its track record.

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