If I had to start again...

Sir Michael Bishop. I'd start my business career later and probably go to university.

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

I'd start my business career later and probably go to university. I picked up a broad range of knowledge later in life, but it would have been useful to have it upfront. I was 36 when I bought British Midland and found that I lacked some of the skills I needed in accounting and legal matters. I really did fly by the seat of my pants for the first 10 years.

Running an airline is a high-pressure business, and I had to concentrate on work to the exclusion of other interests. I'm a fan of the arts, and I'd like to have dedicated more time to that, but to become a really talented musician - a pianist or violinist - you have to do it 10 hours a day, to the exclusion of everything else. Whichever path you take, you're missing out on other things, so I don't regret the sacrifices I've made.

There have been some really difficult times and tough decisions to make - we've operated in the face of oil spikes, September 11 and Sars - and overcoming such challenges is a 24/7 job. We had a very serious aircraft accident in 1989. That was a real low point and very tragic to go through.

Personally, that's a scar you never remove. But I certainly wouldn't choose any other industry.

I've spent some time in television - I was chairman of Channel 4 for five years. I enjoyed it a lot, but being a proprietor is different. It's a marathon - based on long-term strategy, not short-term objectives - and I'm not a 100 yards man; I'm a sticker. I said at 18 that I wanted to run my own airline, at a time when it was a graveyard for investors.

At 36 I achieved my aim. If someone says something is impossible, I like to prove them wrong by doing it. Of course, that can be a burning disaster, but if you convince yourself you can do it, you usually can.

The key to carrying on in business - I'm 63 now and don't plan to retire - is to look forward. It's no use trawling back over what might have been.

Sir Michael Bishop has been proprietor of British Midland since 1978.

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