My Week: John Griffin of Addison Lee

The minicab supremo on experimenting with childcare rules, docking smokers' bonuses and why he sees no point in kicking back.

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013
Running London's largest minicab company means that I don’t have a regular day: there is nothing regular about what I do, which pleases me. But, thanks to the IT that’s available, I normally spend my mornings at home dealing with some of my stuff, then go into the office around lunchtime, and stay there until about 7.30.

At the moment, we’re working with the BBC on a programme-cum-social experiment, whereby young children under the age of 18 months are bought into work by their mothers. We accommodate the children, and it gives the mothers an opportunity to keep working and be close to their children during their first couple of years.

We’ve got about six women with young children – I think it’s a great idea. Really, in their first year, the children mainly eat and sleep. It’s not disruptive. When they start walking around and get inquisitive, then they get a bit disruptive – so we have to look at the balance and see what’s sensible. I’ve been in touch with Boris Johnson’s campaign manager, to see if he’d like to come along and have a look, and I got in touch with Lord Feldman, the chairman of the Conservative Party, and put it to him that David might like to come and observe what we’re doing. So far, nothing’s happened. That’s the way of the world, unfortunately.

It’s health week this week at Addison Lee, so we’ve bought lots of fruit and also some electric cigarettes, for people who want to give up smoking. They’re interesting: some years ago I decided to look at the whole smoking issue. I decided to take 10% off the Christmas bonus of all smokers. It’s not illegal – it’s not in people’s contracts, so we’re allowed to do what we like.

Of course, there was a bit of a furore about that – so the next year, I decided to increase it to 20%. As we speak, I take 20% off every smoker, just to send out that message – what it’s cost you, and so on. I think that if they haven’t worked it out before, they realise it’s an expensive business. And really, employers do have a responsibility. If we can encourage them not to smoke, we should do so.

After work, I will generally go up to the West End with my partner to eat. I eat out every night. I don’t like cooking: I don’t enjoy the smells, I don’t enjoy the shopping, I don’t like preparation and I don’t like the aftermath, so I eat out. You walk in, have a meal, walk out, job done. I’m a favourite at Odin’s in Devonshire Street, the Square on Bruton Street and Le Gavroche on Brook Street. I have a number of favourites, and I just rotate.

People say to me about relaxing, but I say to them, look – if you want to see a lot of relaxed people, go to a cemetery. They’re all completely relaxed – and one day, I shall be lying alongside them. At the moment, if I want to do something like watch telly, I use Sky+ to record things I want to see, and then watch it here in the morning. I have never seen a soap opera in my life, though: I play golf with some prominent soap actors, and I haven’t a clue who they are. They’re fine about that, incidentally. They understand that I want to live life, not watch other people do it.

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