COMING UP FAST: A SECTION FOR ENTREPRENEURS - THE TIME TO LAUNCH AND THE MOMENT TO SELL - Giles Clarke has made a habit out of pitching new companies into untapped markets and then exiting at the right time His secret is to remain unsentimental, as Rebecc

COMING UP FAST: A SECTION FOR ENTREPRENEURS - THE TIME TO LAUNCH AND THE MOMENT TO SELL - Giles Clarke has made a habit out of pitching new companies into untapped markets and then exiting at the right time His secret is to remain unsentimental, as Rebecc

by REBECCA HOAR

Launching a successful business is one thing - managing to sell that business at the right time and make the right profit in the process is quite another. For Giles Clarke, CEO of StepStone, Europe's largest online recruitment company, picking the right moment to rush in has become something of a habit. The former investment banker has managed to launch both Majestic Wine and Pet City, and has also successfully sold them.

According to Clarke, any company can be successfully launched and sold, no matter what sector it's in, provided the right principles are adhered to. These, he says, are to keep an eye on the markets, to realise when you've run out of enthusiasm for your company, never to become too enamoured of your own business, and to be constantly on the search for new, untapped markets. Staying focused and trusting your own instincts also play an important role, especially if you're considering taking a company to market.

By following these principles, Clarke, 53, has amassed himself a fortune, barely putting a foot wrong since starting his career as an entrepreneur. The pattern began when he joined Stewart Nairn as chief executive and proceeded to expand its assets from pounds 88,000 to pounds 11.5 million before he left in 1985. While he was there, he and colleague Bill Mullins spotted an ad in the Financial Times for a company in receivership - Majestic Vintners. Clarke and Mullins bought the company and launched Majestic Wine Warehouses in 1981.

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