MY BEST... was to create a simple business model with our 'four shirts for £100' offer, which is one of the things we are now best known for. It was a decision driven out of necessity: I realised in 1999 that we needed to change our model after we went from making a £400,000 profit to a £400,000 loss. The offer really struck a chord with customers, so we've stuck with it. Our shirts continue to be made the same way as they were 100 years ago in terms of their construction and the amount of handiwork that goes into them. That has not changed.
Another good decision I made was to employ good people. I've always gone out to get the best people I can around me; twice, I've even employed people who earn a higher salary than I do. A key hire was John Francomb as creative director, who came on board in 1987. John has been the product leader in everything we do - his knowledge and specialism are fantastic. Our business is founded on our product, not on its marketing or anything else, and John shared that vision from day one.
MY WORST... Although I've made good decisions in terms of the people I've hired, I've inevitably made some bad ones, too. But I've always recognised those mistakes and dealt with them in the only way that one can - which is to let that person go. Sometimes, it's hard to understand what someone is going to be like when you're interviewing them and just going on the basis of what they've done in the past. If you make a mistake, the best thing is not to hide or bury it but to deal with it. It sounds harsh, but usually it's better for them, too.
A bad decision for the business was in the mid-'90s when we took our eye off the ball with regard to our competitors. We were running TM Lewin as a small business - we only had four shops - so we were living in our own world, and we were quite happy. As a result, we didn't recognise that the world was changing around us, which meant we were not as successful at the end of the '90s as we had been at the beginning. Now I keep abreast of what's going on; I make sure I always know exactly where we sit.