If you're trying to get to the top of your game in anything, a great way to start is by seeking out the people who are already the best in your chosen field and learning from them. While I constantly draw inspiration from members of my family or team, I've also learnt a lot from the people listed below who, in my book, are some of the greatest businesspeople, entrepreneurs and visionaries of our time.
After a near death experience aboard a vessel in Pearl Harbour, which claimed the lives of around 2000 fellow sailors, Earl Nightingale went on to be a radio host, selling over £1million copies of the spoken word. Known best as an American motivational speaker and author of 'The Strangest Secret', Nightingale demonstrated the significance that belief plays in goal accomplishment. I am living proof of his famous assertion that we 'become what we think about' and following this philosophy has been a key ingredient in my success story.
"You are standing in a field of diamonds, but only a few people can see them and know how to reach out and pick them up."
Tony Robbins has been a great business advisor and mentor to me throughout my career. When Gail bought me his CDs, I was struck by his energy and the actual science behind goal setting and success. I quickly realised that to achieve more I had to drop that 'adult' way of thinking and dream bigger! Tony's teachings on goal setting have helped me to never stand still, keeping one eye firmly on the horizon.
I would strongly recommend that anyone looking to be successful in business follows the teachings of Tony and learns the potential of goal-settings for themselves.
"Change is automatic. Progress is not. Progress is the result of conscious thought, decision, and action."
A good friend and exceptional businessman, Richard Branson is a constant source of inspiration to me. You only have to look at the Virgin brand that he created to understand that he is one of the greatest entrepreneurs of our generation. Being able to seek advice from such an accomplished individual has been invaluable.
One of Richard's most impressive traits is his constant ability to listen. Whether it's welcoming feedback from your customers, advice from your staff or simply other people's opinions, I believe this characteristic is essential for anyone running a business.
Another quality that never fails to amaze me about Richard is his humble and honest nature. Despite conquering the world with Virgin, he remains in many aspects a very 'ordinary' person who has managed extraordinary achievements.
"Make sure that you all have a lot of fun in the process. Party lots, take your staff out and get drunk together. People forget that you only live once and most of the time it's at work."
Fred and Elsie Dover
I identify strongly with this successful business partnership, as I too founded UKFast alongside my wife Gail. We've both shown that you can work together if you have a solid relationship outside of work. Between them, Fred and Elsie set up 'Dover Shutters', a company supplying the metal shutters you see on the back of fire engines. Although this dynamic may not work for everyone, I have no doubt that, without our combined efforts, UKFast would not have become the great company that it is today.
I often make reference to the literary works of Jim Collins, and recommend all new recruits read both 'Good to Great' and 'Built to Last' to gain an understanding of how success can be achieved in business. Furthermore, by advocating a careful approach to recruitment, which he explains with the analogy of 'getting the right people on the bus', he has inspired me to build a strong company culture and to value attitude to skillset when looking for new people.
"Great vision without great people is irrelevant."
John Timpson's teachings on empowering people are underpinned by his core belief that "If you treat people well, they will do a good job". It was such a philosophy that proved highly influential to Richard Branson and many other business owners since. I have implemented similar values into UKFast, whereby there is the greatest possible significance placed on delivering high levels of customer service and valuing staff. I think more businesses would achieve greater success if they put more time into looking after the people who look after their customers!
"You've got to have the courage to ignore what other people do and do it the way you've discovered works."
After having Adobe reject his request to create Photoshop for the OSX operating system, Steve Jobs went on to build his own easy to use software, cutting them out entirely. This story demonstrates perfectly that even the best businessman in the world doesn't always succeed first time around. Instead it is the way in which they respond to these hurdles and the extent of their hunger and appetite for success that truly defines their position as a great entrepreneur.
"You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something - your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life."
It is difficult to describe such an extraordinary man, who I never met but whose faith and ability to forgive have inspired me and millions of other people across the world. His compassion and courage helped to transform South Africa, yet resonated much further than that. In a business sense, there's a lot we can learn about leadership simply by looking at Mandela's life and the way he treated those around him.
"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world."
I often apply sporting analogies to business, mainly because there is such an unmistakeable overlap between the two. Muhammad Ali represents how success can be achieved through determination, commitment, and self-belief above any other qualities. His saying, "I run on the road long before I dance under the lights" is on one of the walls of UKFast Campus for a reason, reminding everyone of the importance that practice and preparation have in the journey towards success.
"I am the greatest, I said that even before I knew I was."