My Influences: Paul Gardner

warrenbuffettEntrepreneur you admire
Warren Buffett (Berkshire Hathaway). His is a fascinating story.

He has amassed an incredible wealth yet famously he doesn’t believe in squandering it, still living in the same house he purchased for $30,000, only owning one car and retaining a penchant for hamburgers and coke. A philanthropist, he has reportedly committed to giving away the vast majority of his wealth to good causes.

At school he was known as having a liking for figures and there are stories of numerous ways in which he would look to earn money.

In his investment career he has extolled the virtues of investing for the long term and in a fair, consistent approach to his fee earning criteria. His keen eye for undervalued stocks gained him a massive following and the title of the “Sage of Omaha”. It’s a pressure he seems to take in his stride, demonstrating a welcome honestly in admitting to those rare mistakes.

Honesty, consistency, confidence and philanthropy – all virtues to admire.

Favourite Film
The Blues Brothers with John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd. A cult classic, it’s impossible to tire of a night in with a few tins, watching Jake and Elwood Blues and a host of music superstars, including the likes of Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles and John Lee Hooker.

My formative musical years were in the punk and new wave era. Anyone who has heard my current ringtone will know that Elvis Costello has remained a favourite. My Aim is True is a classic and whilst not all of his musical journeys since have hit the right note for me, he is an enduring and fascinating singer/songwriter.

Favourite TV Show
The fact that The Young Ones series is downloaded to my iPad gives you a clue as to my sense of humour. However, I am an avid news, politics and current affairs buff. The programme that fulfils my love of both humour and politics is Have I Got News For You. I never miss a show. It is an endearing British trait that we enjoy being able to poke fun at our political leaders.

My wife and I have seen Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers a number of times and it has become a firm favourite. Living in Cardiff, with the wonderful Wales Millennium Centre so close, I have grown to enjoy and admire the work of the Welsh National Opera. Their La Boheme was my first introduction to the genre and not surprisingly it has left me with the opera bug.

Holiday Destination
With young children we tend to stay in the UK and for us it has to be the seaside. We love the West Wales coast and we regularly stay in a wonderful cottage on the river at Aberaeron. Aberaeron is a stunning harbour town and it has some of the UK’s best beaches within easy reach. Crabbing with my daughters bring back many happy childhood holiday memories. If blessed with good weather, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else in the World.

It’s a frustration that between the demands of my business and family, I find so little time to read new books, with any spare time spent with my head in a newspaper.

One book I refer back to more than any other is the Dictionary of Cynical Quotations by Jonathon Green. My book shelf is full of biographies and autobiographies of political figures and political diaries.

I’m a keen cook and a weakness of mine is the buying of cook books – some of which hardly get opened. Although Rick Stein’s India is well thumbed and most of the recipes have been tested.

A Person You Admire
A person I admire is a business mentor of mine of many years by the name of Andrew Pirie. He instilled in me, when working for a demanding subsidiary of HSBC, a commitment to sound business ethics – doing the right thing in the right way. He/we never cut corners and proved that it is possible to make money without compromising the quality of our advice and that you can treat your people fairly. This is something I have never forgotten and I have made difficult career decisions so as not to compromise these principles.

One Piece of advice to a new Start Up
Listen to your customers. If you fail to continually communicate with customers you are susceptible to believing your own hype.

Social media offers tremendous opportunities to keep communication lines open with customers. As your business grows you will need to be agile, and listening to customer feedback will ensure that you can tweak your product/service. Fail to communicate and/or listen and you may reach a point where it is too late to change.