Brainfood: If I had to start again ...

A romantic part of me thinks it would be bloody good to have had a role building a bridge or a ship, where you could look at what you did and say 'I made that'.

by Nick Land, chairman of Ernst & Young
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

I've always been attracted to the manufacturing industries, whereas what we do with accountancy is less tangible. I sometimes describe myself as a frustrated widget manufacturer.

My big regret is that, although I've travelled a lot, I've never lived abroad. Nowadays, the young guys in these firms tend to go on secondments and experience new countries. They never asked me, so I never went. I don't feel bitter about it, but I look very enviously at the mobility young people have now.

It would be nice to start in this industry again. The competition is tough, but the opportunities for those with determination and ambition are enormous. Like any industry, it has changed a lot. You still need great business expertise and judgment, but the big difference these days is your people skills. Self-awareness is crucial. My 22-year-old son has started working for KPMG, and I always bang on about this to him.

My job hasn't involved much sacrifice in terms of family. My wife is a literary agent, with a full career of her own, so that made it easier.

Plus, I've always said the organisation can have me five days a week, and four evenings - even five - but I've avoided disruption over the weekend. That's my contribution to domesticity and sanity.

I'm stepping down in June, after 11 years as chairman. I've had a great time in my career and been very well rewarded. I've enjoyed 95% of it; the other 5%, I'm sure, was horrible. As I neither garden nor golf, I want to keep on working. I've been chatting to a few chums, to see what's out there. I haven't been in the market like that since 1970, and I'm quite excited by the prospect - but I regret that no-one's going to give me a widget factory to manage, or that bridge to build.

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