COMING UP FAST: Arnold Fulton, Fulton Umbrellas

COMING UP FAST: Arnold Fulton, Fulton Umbrellas - DECISIONS

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010


MY BEST ... After graduating and spending three years with a firm of consulting engineers, I decided to start my own company. I worked on designing special-purpose machines, and I realised that machines could be used in the manufacture of umbrellas. I designed some machines for an umbrella maker in Sweden, and in 1955 I set up the A Fulton Company Ltd in London. We had pounds 800 investment, and workrooms in a house on Commercial Road, east London. We now have a 20,000 sq ft head office that we built in Canary Wharf and the company is worth pounds 30 million. If I'd stayed in engineering I would probably have a senior position by now but I wouldn't be my own boss and I wouldn't be as financially well-off.

MY WORST ... I acquired two companies in 1985: a luggage manufacturer for pounds 30,000 and a manufacturer of single-engine aircraft, which cost pounds 120,000. We got carried away - we were doing so well that we wanted to expand. But we didn't have the right people in place to manage the two companies, and I didn't have the time to run three businesses. Eventually, we sold them, both at a loss. I can be quite impulsive, and I think in business you must seize opportunities, but this taught me to be more measured. You need to be objective and to evaluate the odds carefully before taking risks. It's something I'm now very good at doing.

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