Interviewing Sir Charles Dunstone and Sir Michael Bibby – 25/9/12

26 Sep

Successful business leaders get a terrible press at the moment. But what a joy it was to interview Sir Charles Dunstone and Sir Michael Bibby as part of the Prince’s Trust North West Leadership Team’s annual interview. The format was to quiz Charles first, then Michael, then get the two talking together. I’ve done something similar with Sir Michael before at an event for BDO, but have never met Charles.

He has a reputation for being a laid back friendly sort, and sure enough he was really up for the event. He was happy for me to ask him anything. Obviously I wasn’t going to waste time talking about his recent wedding, the shareholder structure of his US joint ventures, all stuff that I’d read up on him. But it was a chance to dig into his motivations – why did he start Carphone Warehouse? Who inspired him? How much did he thrive as he was part of that disruptive golden circle – along with Luke Johnson and some of the Virgin guys. But more importantly, what does he wish he’d known then that he knows now. He was great value, really warm and inspiring to the 120 or so people in the specially invited audience. You have to think of what they want, not what a nosy journalist like me would like to poke around in. It is for the moment, for the experience on the day.

My own foray into less comfortable areas for them both came when an audience member asked about government policy – I took it on a step – should business people risk political engagement? Charles was photographed on holiday once with Tony Blair, he’s also said to be part of the Chipping Norton set along with the present PM David Cameron, but he’s wise enough and streetwise enough to know who that suits and when.

The other important element was that we were there to support the work of the Prince’s Trust. The event wouldn’t work if it was just an appeal. Equally, it would be a missed opportunity if I didn’t ask the simple question “why?” the simple act of supporting young people in a tough spot to start a business means so much to these guys.

I love these kind of events. They provide a different kind of challenge and I think I’m more comfortable with such people the more I do them. It’s that Malcolm Gladwell theory of doing 10,000 hours of something makes you great at it. I’ve a

lot of live interviews to do before I reach that milestone, but October’s looking pretty busy.

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One Response to “Interviewing Sir Charles Dunstone and Sir Michael Bibby – 25/9/12”

  1. Bigjok October 5, 2012 at 12:24 am #

    Charles is a genuinely lovely person

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