UK: Henry Sweetbaum - from dishwasher to Wickes.

UK: Henry Sweetbaum - from dishwasher to Wickes. - It used to be traditional in the United States, where students are long accustomed to working their way through college, that you did not get a degree without also gathering experience as a dustman, dish

by
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

It used to be traditional in the United States, where students are long accustomed to working their way through college, that you did not get a degree without also gathering experience as a dustman, dishwasher, short-order cook and truck driver. Henry Sweetbaum, aged 53, the American chairman of building materials retailer Wickes, has been all of those things.

But college is also a place for making contacts, and Sweetbaum did that too. In his last year of reading economics at Wharton he roomed with Saul Steinberg. When Steinberg went on to found Leasco, using money from his family's company, Sweetbaum took a job as a cost accountant for a year, then switched to a business equipment manufacturer and sold small computers.

One year on again he joined up with Steinberg as a director of Leasco. The company gave up general leasing to become a computer specialist, and Sweetbaum was in on the ground floor. "Saul had a desk in his father's housewares factory; I had a chair next to the desk."

By the time that he left, seven years later, Leasco had acquired Reliance, the seventh largest insurance company in the US, and boasted a market capitalisation of $500 million.

Find this article useful?

Get more great articles like this in your inbox every lunchtime

Books for the weekend: Daniel Goleman, Jack Welch, Nelson Mandela

Beaverbrooks CEO Anna Blackburn shares her reading list.

What happens next: COVID-19 lessons from Italian CEOs

Part I: Marco Alvera, chief executive of €15bn Lombardy-based energy firm Snam, on living with...

Coronavirus communications: Dos and don'ts

Uncertainty and isolation make it more important than ever to be seen, to be heard...

Leadership lessons: Mervyn Davies, former CEO of Standard Chartered and trade minister

"People talk about pressure – I worked 24 hours a day. There is more pressure...

How to reinvent your career through motherhood and midlife

Pay it Forward podcast: Former Marie Claire editor-in-chief Trish Halpin and BITE managing editor Nicky...