Getting to know you: Felix Velarde

What do you currently do?
I’m Managing Director of Underwired, a specialised online strategy company which is one of three divisions of Amaze plc. We find ways for brands to understand their customers’ motivations much better so they can become more relevant. It’s an approach which invariably results in £millions in increased revenue. 
What is your inspiration in business?
I love the potential to use our understanding of people to improve the ways companies think about how they relate to consumers. I’ve been part of the internet industry since 1994 when I set up one of the UK’s first digital agencies, and the changes we’ve seen already are staggering. We’re helping to drive change but the changes themselves force us continually to recalibrate, and that’s a challenge I find very exciting.
Who do you admire?
Jobs and Gates, for different reasons. Both because they started with thin air and built billions. Both because they had visions of a future driven by the individual, not the corporation, and I think that’s why I’m in the industry I’m in.
Steve Jobs because he has found a way to drive fanatical loyalty through sharing his vision with ever larger audiences. Bill Gates because, despite his ineptitude with people, has proven to be a game-changing philanthropist. Who wouldn’t want to have Steve’s charisma and Gates’s attitude?
Looking back, are there things you would have done differently?
I think had I wanted a very large company I would have been more ruthless and much less concerned with quality. I’ve made just as many if not more mistakes than most, but I hope I’m improving all the time.
One thing I certainly would have done earlier is join (the CEO mentoring organisation) Vistage, which has given me many of the friends I have in other industries who face the same daily business management challenges as I do, and the support when I’ve needed it.
Vistage has helped me become a professional at what I do, when normally a business leader is expected to get where she or he is through conservative survival or by luck.
What defines your way of doing business?
Find high quality people first, and train them as necessary. Challenge yourself and your team constantly. Ask everyone’s opinion but make the decisions yourself, make them fast and stick to them. Be honourable, and don’t do business with those that aren’t. And if it ain’t fascinating, you’re in the wrong job.
What advice would you give to someone just starting out?
Be yourself, and be true to your values. American entrepreneur culture (which is far, far more advanced than ours!) believes you can’t succeed until you’ve failed three times.
Horse riders in the country say you’re not a rider until you’ve fallen off seven times. Be prepared to try until you succeed – one of the prerequisites for success is dogged determination!