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Sir Peter Michael, CBE is one of the UK’s most successful entrepreneurs, as well as being the Business Champion at Newbury Enterprise Hub. Newbury Hub Director  Ed Cooper and Sir Peter discuss the elusive qualities that make successful companies.    


Sir Peter:  “Perhaps the first thing to say is that you have to decide what you count as success. Is it running a business and making a profit? Or do you want to build a huge business empire? Or something in between?    

“But whatever your ambition, if you could work out what was going to make  a successful business and apply it as a formula then it would be very easy,  and it’s not. I’ve not been unsuccessful as a guy who chooses businesses all my life, but if there’s a formula I’m sure I don’t know what it is.    

“‘It’s very difficult’ I think, is the answer, and that’s why the tenacity to have ‘one more spin’ makes the difference between success and failure.    “Access to capital is an important part, and of course the Hub does a lot  of work helping companies to access finance.”    

Ed: “The Enterprise Hubs can definitely help here, we have an Investment Readiness programme delivered by Finance South East (see page 20) that ensures that a company has everything in place that investors require. We can then help link companies to the relevant funding networks: a good proposition will usually find the right funds.”    

Sir Peter: “What we have often failed to do in the UK is to make really  good use of the highly educated, very intelligent people that we spend millions of pounds training.    

“They often end up producing great research, but then they either fail to exploit  their idea properly, or the rights are bought by a company from outside the UK, most often from the US, which has a far better track record of supporting new companies than we do.    

“That’s where I think that Ed and his fellow Hub Directors are trying to do  something particularly useful, because they are trying to improve the way  in which we exploit the assets we have in terms of skills and intelligence.”  

Ed: “As I see more and more entrepreneurs and people with ideas I become more convinced that the way to deal with this issue is by linking ideas to business experience. This can be through mentoring or through building experienced business teams to wrap around a proposition.”    

Sir Peter: “Perhaps one of the biggest issues in companies where Intellectual Property IP is a primary consideration is that very often the people who are capable of creating the IP are often both unable to turn their idea into a successful company, and unwilling to let other people get involved. To be successful you may have to admit that although you know about your invention, you don’t know about all the other things that go into making a successful company. You need to involve other people, who have skills you don’t have.”    

Ed: “Part of my role is to make clients realise that they will have to give up some control of their company if they really want to grow.    “I see the role of the Hub Directors as, to be frank, to maximise the chances of success. To make it more likely that when a company has the final “spin” that Sir Peter describes, that they are more likely to succeed. I’ll also try to get them to think about where they really want to go with their business – to decide what they will count as success.    

“In general I try to put a framework around them so they stand a better chance  of success, though at the end of the day it does come down to the tenacity of the individual, or the team.”    

Sir Peter: “Of course, then there’s a question of what do you do when it goes wrong, which is a question that’s rarely answered. If there’s ever a book that’s not been written it’s what to do when it all goes wrong in business, because anyone who’s started a business will know that it is inevitable at some point something will go wrong. What you do in those circumstances is a real test of your mettle, and that often determines whether you succeed or fail. So I think having the right team is as much about the character of the team as its talents: if you can’t cope with the pressure that is going to come your way then you should find some other way to make your living.”    

Ed: “It is a fact that there are failures - the challenge is to learn from your mistakes, and to be flexible enough to adapt. This flexibility is also linked  to the ability to listen, learn and then act. Inevitably the companies we work  with are the ones that are willing to listen and take on new ideas.”        

Sir Peter Michael is the Newbury Enterprise Hub Champion – his role is  to act as a mentor to Hub Director Ed Cooper, and to provide a unique reservoir of business skills, experience and contacts to Newbury Hub clients.    

Sir Peter was the founder of the Micro Consultants Group. He went on to work as the driving force behind Quantel, which became the world’s most successful digitised special effects company for television and film production.    

In the 1980s, Peter Michael’s private interests merged with UEI and he became Chairman of this public company that also included the Grand Prix engineering company, Cosworth.    

In 1989 UEI was valued at £500 million in a merger with Carlton Communications and Sir Peter, having received a CBE in 1983, was Knighted for his services to industry.

Contact: Ed Cooper


Published: 23rd March 2006

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