BRAIN FOOD: Sir Ronnie Hampel - If I had to start again

BRAIN FOOD: Sir Ronnie Hampel - If I had to start again - I'd seek a business career because, although I have from time to time 'kicked the wall', I have enjoyed it. When I joined ICI in 1955 careers for life were the expectation. Today, the demands on bu

by SIR RONNIE HAMPEL, chairman of United Business Media plc, waspreviously chairman of ICI plc, 1995-99
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

I'd seek a business career because, although I have from time to time 'kicked the wall', I have enjoyed it. When I joined ICI in 1955 careers for life were the expectation. Today, the demands on business and the requirements of employees make single-company careers far less likely. But my 44-year career in ICI gave me stimulus - wonderful people to work with and multi business challenges; variety and diverse experience - work in six divisions and head office; the chance to live in the US and to travel the world; and career progression and reward. I've also had the opportunity to participate outside business - for example, in chairing the Committee on Corporate Governance and the Trustees of the Eden Project, and as a member of the Committee at Wimbledon. All this has brought me into contact with a variety of interesting, able and stimulating people. Add to this a supportive wife and a close-knit family and you have a formula for a happy life. Have I made mistakes? Of course, but hindsight is easy. In business, sins of commission are today fully exposed. More interesting are sins of omission, which rarely emerge. In my time on the ICI board I was party to two examples - a failure in the mid-1980s to buy a significant pharmaceutical business to merge with ICI's organically grown business; and a failure at the time of the demerger of that business to strengthen ICI's balance sheet to cushion it for loss of cashflow and underestimated legacy costs.

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