Decisions: Addison Lee's John Griffin

The founder-chairman of London's largest minicab business on his best and worst business decisions.

by John Griffin
Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012

MY BEST... was to standardise the fleet in 2001. By buying our own cars, we gained a brand identity, as opposed to having loads of different cars owned by the drivers. Owning our cars was considered to be a major error because nobody else was doing it, but it worked very well. We now have 2,400 people carriers running around with the same look. People are beginning to say 'I've ordered an Addison Lee', which is becoming synonymous with 'cab'. I've discovered how important branding is - it's such a big thing.

I've largely run the business by the seat of my pants. I had two people here who researched the idea and they told me it wouldn't work. But I stuck to my instinct. I just thought one day, let's buy our own vehicles, let's have a look at how much it would cost us.

We discovered that we got tremendous discounts by buying our own cars - that was a big change in the economics. Ever since I started, I've never bothered myself with what other companies are doing, so most of what we do here started here.

MY WORST... I'm a bloke who looks forward - I'm always busy planning tomorrow - so when people ask me what mistakes I've made, I struggle. Sometimes what seems to be a mistake can turn out to be a good idea in the end.

About 16 years ago, I had a chap who was working for me and he was very good, but I took the brave step of telling him that he could no longer work for me. We'd moved on as a business and he couldn't get to grips with the IT world. We were moving into a brand-new age - he was lost and I couldn't handle the fact that people were laughing at him.

So he joined another company that was not as IT-driven, and people were saying to me that he would be a big loss, but the truth was, he wasn't. We advanced a lot quicker, and he went to a company where he produced great results because they were part of the old school.

That's the type of thing I look at and think that maybe it's a mistake, but, in the end, if you go with your gut feeling and are honest with people, things work out.

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