What makes a great entrepreneur? Part of the story is having the drive and ambition, as well as the guts and tenacity, to create something from scratch, having spotted an opportunity no one else has.
But it is also about luck and knowing when to leave the party. The good ones play to their strengths and know what they can and can't do. The very best seem to have an instinctive knack for handing things over to someone else at the right time, whether that's someone more suited to running a growing business or someone with the appropriate industry contacts and skills. Once the thrill of start-up has gone, many entrepreneurs lose interest anyway.
One serial entrepreneur who appears to know this is Tim Levene. His story is a classic example of spotting gaps (for fresh juice bars and online betting) and then knowing when to sell. He sold most of his stake in Crussh to a rival and merged his online betting company with Betfair, which recently confirmed its IPO on the London Stock Exchange. Now he's launching a private equity fund to help other would-be entrepreneurs.
At the other end of the business scale, another leader who has displayed an impeccable sense of timing is the outgoing Tesco boss Sir Terry Leahy. His announcement earlier this year that he was stepping aside was applauded as the epitome of good succession planning. Having built on the good work of his mentor Lord MacLaurin, Sir Terry has become a role model for directors. Despite an impressive shortlist, the Tesco boss was the clear choice for the Director Lifetime Achievement Award at the inaugural Director of the Year Awards UK finals.
Sir Terry has been a one-company man in an age where loyalty is unfashionable. His achievements include securing Tesco's place as the most successful UK grocer and expanding the range of goods sold by the business so that it now flogs everything from furniture to financial services. He has also overseen global expansion—a rarity for a UK retailer—and has grown Tesco into the third largest retailer in the world.
As a judge at the UK finals of the Director of the Year Awards, it's obvious to me that there are many high-calibre directors like Sir Terry and Tim Levene in the UK. Despite the gloom, it's enough to make me hopeful for our future.