Friday, February 22, 2008

Luke Johnson: a serial entrepreneur

Yesterday afternoon I attended a lecture at University College London. The guest speaker was Luke Johnson, a "serial entrepreneur" as he likes to define himself.
Mr. Johnson is famous for having organised the acquisition of Pizza Express and having floated it at the London Stock Exchange with the price of 40p. He lead the company until 1999. The stock price had increased 20 times during his tenure.
He sits on the board of several companies, he is the chairman of Channel 4 and writes a column on the Financial Times.

Mr. Johnson became an entrepreneur when he was at university. He was studying medicine at Oxford during the day and partying in the night.
One fateful night, the owners of the dormitory where he was staying complained for the noise of his parties.
He thus decided to partner with a nearby bar that was not going too well. He would collect tickets at the entrance and the bar's owner would earn from the sales of drinks.
Parties were saved and Mr. Johnson had become an entrepreneur.

Not all endeavors were so successful. In Mr. Johnson word the life of an entrepreneur is characterised by many failures. An entrepreneur that says he has never failed is lying, in denial or heading towards a dramatic failure.
Being an entrepreneur is like having a monkey on the back that constantly pushes you to look for improvements or new challenges. Most entrepreneur have obsessive and psychotic personalities. You need to be ambitious and believe in a better future.
To be a successful entrepreneur you need luck, ingenuity and resilience. You need to be able to implement your dreams: ideas are cheap, it is execution that matters.

Mr Johnson's advice for young entrepreneurs is "never give a personal guarantee".

Mr Johnson most loved book is "Grinding It Out: The Making of Mcdonalds", the autobiography of Ray Kroc.


Annie Kim said...

Interesting post. I want to run my own business and become an entrepreneur someday, so this is very useful. I'm mostly interested in buying a business instead of starting one from scratch, but I haven't had much luck looking for one. Do you have any suggestions? Thanks.

wintermute said...

Dear Annie,
my 2 cents is: do not overpay the business you are gonna buy. It is very easy to overestimate the profit the business will generate.
Do your homework by taking into account the worst case scenario.
But, on the other hand, becoming an entrepeneur is also a matter of faith in a better world.
So, if you really believe in your endevour, do go for it!

Annie Kim said...

Thanks for the advice. It's a risk, especially buying a business, but I'm willing to take it. I did more research, and I managed to find a website called, which is like this online global marketplace where you can buy, sell, and invest in a small business. I've already found a potential one. I'll remember to do my due diligence...!