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Lessons from Great Business Leaders

Wales has seen many successful entrepreneurs emerge from this picturesque and mountainous country. With all this talent, comes much wisdom and knowledge for success. So, here are some stand-out business owners and entrepreneurs who have come out of Wales and can offer some sound lessons in making it as a business owner.

Robert Owen

Robert Owen was born in Newtown in 1771. He was nicknamed the Father of British Socialism after he purchased a textile mill and realised the importance of keeping his workers happy, healthy and educated. Owen ensured that his workers, who were previously underpaid and overworked, gained the respect and earnings that they were deserving of as employees of his business. He promptly banned the employment of children in his mill, as they were sometimes as young as 5 years old, and instead built a school for them to get the education they were in need of.

What’s the lesson?

Robert took it upon himself to change the way a business was working previously, not just for the benefit of the business, but for his employees. One of the many lessons that can be learnt is that you should always take into consideration the happiness and needs of your employees. Money is to be made, but with an unappreciated workforce your business will eventually pay the price.

Another lesson is that even though you are entering into an already established business, you still have the ability to change and improve things for the better; therefore, a business’s value shouldn’t be underestimated because of the way it has been running in the past.

Laura Ashley

Even though a globally recognised name, many may not know the story behind the founder of this popular brand. Laura Ashley was born in Merthyr Tydfil in 1925. At the time of starting her business she was a mother of two and working as a secretary. When she found a passion for prints and fabrics, she took inspiration from the Victorian era and saw a gap in the market to produce Victorian-style prints. Her headscarf’s in the now very distinctive print, became a huge success.

What’s the lesson?

Laura Ashley was a working mother, yet her passion and determination meant that the obstacles she faced were put to one side for the success of her business venture. A strong idea can equate to the success of your business, but determination and a clear plan must come in strongly also.

Terry Matthews

As a serial entrepreneur born in Newport in 1943, Terry Matthews is known as the founder of the telecoms company Mitel and has also owned or funded over 100 other businesses. Mitel was Matthews’ first start-up and was initially set to import and sell lawnmowers in Canada. He and his business partner Michael Cowpland have famously stated that this idea was inherently a disaster.

“The shipping company lost the lawnmowers! By the time they showed up no-one wanted them, as you can't cut grass when it's covered with snow!"

Following this, Mitel became a tech consultancy company gaining large clients such as The National Research Council.

What’s the Lesson?

Matthews and Mitel offer an important lesson in timing, branding and restructuring. One thing that wasn’t considered in their initial start-up plan was that their business was seasonal, this meant that even though their product reached them after a delay, they lost the tight window to sell them.

With this, came the opportunity to rebrand and restructure the business. Matthews and Cowpland used their past experiences and employment history as a tool to create a forward-thinking business model for– the now successful – Mitel. This is a lesson in not delving into a sector that you may not be able to keep up with or be able to predict the future of. With your passion should also come knowledge and experience, that you should use to your advantage!

Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl was a highly successful children’s author, born in Cardiff in 1916. His work included the B.F.G, Matilda and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Dahl didn’t begin writing professionally until he was removed from service during WWII after a severe plane crash. After first writing propaganda for the allies; following the war he began to write his more famous stories. These stories took inspiration from his life and kept a lot of the ugly and gruesome of real life included in them even though these stories were aimed at children.

They took an honest approach to children’s storytelling but still with the imagination and colour to entice his young audience.

What’s the lesson?

The lesson from Dahl is that success and entrepreneurship can never come too late. Roald Dahl had many experiences: personal and professional, before finding his talent in writing. When finding your path, this can happen by coincidence or by accident following an important set-back or event in your life.

Therefore, this shouldn’t be a barrier to finding success and whenever you find the opportunity you should embrace it.

Blog by Paulyne Karahassan, Digital Content Manager, BusinessesForSale.com


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