Secrets of Success: None of us are Superman.

From the stories that began in the toughest suburbs and ended in the multi-billion pound companies, to the stories that highlighted the upside of literally telling your own boss to ‘f*@! off’… this unpretentiously honest, beautifully illustrated, and engagingly written book delves into the secrets of success by picking the brains of 33 very different charismatic business leaders.

They have built more than 80,000 houses, boasted revenues of £1bn, appeared in South Park, become household names, headed Liverpool FC, Rolls Royce and Bentley, and turned Tesco into the international giant we know it as. Now they invite you to reflect on your own potential and abilities, engaging in a discussion about what ‘having what it takes’ really means.

Meet the people in the book

Digging sewers isn’t the most glamorous of jobs by anybody’s standards. The word drainage doesn’t exactly scream success. But from these humble beginnings, Steve Morgan built Redrow plc – and became one of the most well-respected homebuilders in the UK. Here Steve reflects on the pitfalls and career turns which have helped him build a company with a turnover of £1.15bn, and which is responsible for more than 80,000 houses built to date. Having started his own business at just 21, he tells us about the need for passion, 100hour working weeks and some of the ‘business commandments’: Thou Shalt Be a Cheeky Bastard! And Thou Shalt Be Lucky!

Michael Oglesby is living proof that you don’t need a grand plan to succeed in life. Leaving school at just 16, he started his career as an apprentice in his father’s heating and plumbing firm because he didn’t really know what else to do. But a few decades later, he went on to found the Bruntwood Group, a leading commercial property company with a portfolio worth more than £900m and a revenue of more than £100m. Along the way he was named as a Businessman of the Year by the CBI and received a CBE for his services to charity. Here he tells us about the lessons learned from early business failures, the importance of doing the right thing and why you can never take your eye off the ball when it comes to cash flow.

From a would-be professional footballer to a potential dentist, George Davies had a few false starts before finding his passion for fashion – and going on to launch some of the UK’s best-known brands. Dubbed the King of the High Street, this award-winning businessman is estimated to have sold well over £50bn worth of clothing since the launch of Next in the 1980s. A household name via Asda, the man behind Per Una, and now spearheading FG4 around the Middle East, George is as ambitious as ever. Here he shares his views on business, retail, and trusting your own vision.

Peter Moore was raised as the son of a publican in some of Liverpool’s toughest neighbourhoods – and now he is the public face of a multi-billion dollar company. His career reads like the American dream: from starting as a shoe salesman in 1982, he ends up as president of Patrick USA by 1988. From only knowing video games via his son, he goes on to launch the Sega Dreamcast and the Xbox 360, and be the COO of gaming and entertainment giant Electronic Arts. From being a humble PE teacher in North Wales, he evolves into one of the most well-known business figures in the world – earning him his very own appearance in South Park.
He’s the mastermind behind some of the world’s bestknown brands, acted as a driving force in huge global companies, and worked closely with Bill Gates. He’s also been at the centre of some now legendary, but entirely true, stories including the time in Tokyo he told his boss at Sega to ‘go fuck himself ’, and the infamous Xbox Red Ring of Death affair.

Dominic Burke started his career with a degree in politics and economics as a trainee account manager in a small insurance brokerage. Not long after, he took the risk, borrowed the money and took over the company through a management buyout. In 14 years he turned it into a region-leading insurance broker which boasted £16m revenues and had a staff of 230 people. While most people would proudly call it a success, his never receding ambition led him to sell his firm to Jardine Lloyd Thompson. Six years on, Dominic found himself at the helm of the whole group, commanding the 4th largest global insurance broker – trading in 40 countries, with 11,000 staff and market capitalisation of £2bn. He is now even more driven than he was when he first started off. Here Dominic shares what he’s learned along the way and what he thinks helps leaders jump over hurdles.

Judy Halewood has led an interesting and adventurous life, with its fair share of challenges along the way. From the age of 12 she worked in the family flower shop, picking up business acumen which laid the foundation for later life. She was the first woman to breed, own and train a horse to compete in the world famous Grand National. Little did she realise that many years later she would become chairperson of Halewood International, the largest independent drinks manufacturer and distributor in the UK, sponsoring the same race with the first ever purse of £1m. She is also a breast cancer survivor, an experience which taught her important lessons in itself. Here Judy tells us about the similarities between the world of horse racing and the world of business, and about the importance of embracing the challenges life throws at us.

His father used to tell him that he had to eat, sleep and drink business if he wanted to succeed. Those were the teenage days, when families with two cars seemed really posh and the £10,000 he made from selling his share in a snooker club felt like an absolute fortune. Decades later, George Downing is referred to as a property magnate with £1b worth of completed developments, iconic buildings in his portfolio and never receding business ambitions. Having retained his unpretentious character, George reflects on what skills and attributes he thinks helped him get there, and what aspiring entrepreneurs should focus on as they also strive to succeed.

Lifetime Achievement Award (Director magazine), Business Person of the Year (Sunday Times), European Businessman of the Year (Fortune), and a knighthood for services to food retailing – Sir Terry Leahy’s is an unlikely story of the son of Irish immigrants raised on a council estate in Liverpool, proving that no circumstances can be an obstacle to one’s determination. Having started as a shelf stacker at Tesco in his teenage years, little did he know that by 1997, he would become the company’s chief executive, helping to transform it into one of the biggest and most influential retailers in the world. Now, as an investor in entrepreneurial businesses among his other successful ventures and interests, Sir Terry shares his views on what he believes creates the foundation for success.

Peter Johnson was working in the family butchery business until a chance encounter with a man selling sausage skins changed everything. That change led him to become the now former owner of two football clubs and a founder of Park Group plc – a business which started with Christmas hampers and is now the UK’s leading multi-redemption voucher and prepaid gift card business, with a turnover of £400m and 1,000 employees. Recently retired, here Peter tells us about the importance of luck, knowing when to cut your losses, treating people fairly and why he never imagined failure.

Like many kids of his generation, James Barton grew up with music and nightclubs in his blood. But what makes him different is the fact that he used that passion to found one of the best known global clubbing brands, Cream, launch award-winning festival Creamfields and become known as the most influential person in the world of electronic dance music, according to Rolling Stone magazine. Now the president of electronic dance music for the world’s leading live entertainment company, Live Nation, James reflects on the need for perseverance and shares the lessons he learned from the ‘chaotic rollercoaster ride’ that was his early business career.

Join the ranks of successful entrepreneurs and business leaders

This book is intended for you if you:

  • have ambitions to become a business leader, are thinking about starting a business or have a business and wonder if you have the right mindset to see things though.
  • sometimes feel your screws will not hold under the pressures of the business vortex.
  • love books with style and character or are looking for a meaningful gift.