MY BEST ... was selling the Medicare chain of 51 drugstores to Gateway supermarket in 1986, securing a profit of pounds 10 million. The timing of the sale was key. Competition for high-street supremacy was intensifying and we were faced with the decision to sign a long-term lease for a warehouse in uncertain times, or to sell Medicare and concentrate on the rapidly expanding recruitment side. In extracting sealed bids from all our major competitors plus a supermarket, we sold Medicare for double its value.
The undivided focus on the recruitment business did no harm either; annual turnover has increased to more than pounds 400 million today. (Now I must come clean - it was my wife's instruction to sell Medicare based on my poor health at the time!)
MY WORST ...
As Charles Dickens forewarned us, the best of times may also be the worst of times, and the age of wisdom may be offset by the age of foolishness.
Going public with Reed Executive in 1971 was - because of bad timing - a poor decision. The business was valued then at pounds 1.5 million and I sold a third of it to the public for an after-tax sum of pounds 300,000. The value of that company has since grown to pounds 150 million-plus, illustrating the lack of wisdom in our premature sale. As there was no pressing need to go public, I learnt a costly lesson - to make such big decisions only in a clear urgency.