George Cox

I wouldn't do much differently, and that's not being smug about it.

I'm sure I've made lots of mistakes down the line, but none of them were big. Inevitably, you can look back on things and say that if you'd pursued any of them for longer and with more focus, what might have been the outcome? What if we hadn't sold Butler Cox 13 years ago? Would it be a FTSE-100 company now? I don't doubt it - it was growing strongly and perhaps we should have raised more money to expand it, but then I'd have missed out on other experiences. I wouldn't have had the role at the IoD, which I've found very interesting. I've really enjoyed the political side of this. How many people get the chance to sit face to face with the Chancellor and tell him what he ought to do in the budget? What a privilege. Or to sit in Number 10, discussing policy issues? I remember coming out of a Treasury meeting thinking: 'It's a pity my old mum isn't alive now, because she'd be astounded at this.' One of the few regrets in my life is that I didn't row for the country. I had a chance in my early twenties and screwed up. I got very close but didn't make the final crew that went to the 1962 world championships. I was lucky later in life, as I went to the championships as a coach, so eventually I got the blazer and the vest. But it doesn't quite put right my earlier disappointment. I think I've been lucky with the opportunities I've been given. I was very lucky to get a good state education and go to university. I was very lucky to have parents who encouraged ambition for someone living on a council estate.

George Cox co-founded Butler Cox in 1977. He was chairman of Unisys UK before becoming director-general of the Institute of Directors in '99. He stepped down in August to become Design Council chairman.

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