Paul, tell us a little bit about you and your work. What does your working day/week usually involve?
I serve on the boards of a rather eclectic mix of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) as a business affairs adviser and, due to my background in law, legal matters generally get pushed in my direction. I also provide services on a ‘one-off’ basis, particularly in the Mergers & Acquisitions (M&A) field.
You have combined your career in the law with your interest in business and corporate affairs. How did this come about?
Although I greatly enjoyed my relatively short time practising at the Bar, I joined a City merchant bank where I ultimately specialised in providing finance for the film and television sectors. I then joined a company providing technical and creative services to film makers and TV production companies and remained in this sector for a number of years. My work has invariably involved dealing with legal issues.
What have some of your career highlights been so far?
At the end of the 1980s, I decided to have a go at being an entrepreneur and started my own business making television commercials. Probably more by luck than judgement, we were fairly successful and within a comparatively short period we were acquired by a quoted media company. I (rather reluctantly) agreed to remain with the company for 6 months to oversee an orderly merger between the businesses – and I left 14 years later as CEO of the company which bought us!
What are the challenges currently facing your sector – both for you, and for your clients?
I am fortunate to operate in a number of different sectors, which each have different challenges. In my experience, the common factor for SMEs is that I believe the old adage about ‘not standing still’ has greater relevance than ever and in order to survive, smaller businesses must continually adapt, innovate and when necessary completely ‘reinvent’ themselves.
Who do you most admire in your profession and why?
I have a great admiration, not shared by all lawyers, for the former Master of the Rolls, Lord “Tom” Denning, who died aged 100 in 1999 and who could be highly controversial. He once summed himself up with the comment, “Unlike my brother judge here, who is concerned with law, I am concerned with justice.”
What is the best professional advice you’ve ever been given?
My late father, an astute professional and accomplished negotiator, once told me that: “Nothing ever turns quite as well, or as badly, as you think it’s going to”. Unfortunately and fortunately, I have always found this to be true and prepare accordingly! If everyone went into a negotiation with this in mind, agreements would be reached much more quickly.