After studying economics, my first desire was to stay in the academic world, but I wasn't academic enough. You have to explore opportunities and find your calling. By chance, I found that advertising and marketing really suited me. My career may seem strategic, but it's not. I was awful at planning. I moved away from ad agencies, wanting more control over the business end. I loved working at Levi's, a fast, design-led business, but I wanted to get into general management. Retail was growing, so I joined Threshers as assistant MD.
I hadn't thought of running an off-licence, but my choices were driven by whether I liked working with the people. Yes, the product is important, but whether you sell lager or jeans, it's all about your team.
My biggest achievements were in product marketing at Whitbread, building up Stella and taking Boddingtons from a Manchester beer to a national success. I didn't get the top job at Whitbread, even though I had a good chance. But you shouldn't deny your disappointments. The important thing is how you handle them. The next five years, running Whitbread beer, turned out to be one of the best periods of my life.