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Business Leaders

Author: Right Angles

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Business Leaders brings you extended one-to-one interviews with the key people in global business today. Hosted by Paul Blanchard, each week you can step inside a new company and hear how the world’s top CEOs, founders and entrepreneurs are shaping the future of global business in the 21st Century. Find out the secrets of their success; how they challenge the status quo, turn companies around and build some of the world’s most innovative businesses. Share their insights and find out what makes our most successful leaders tick.
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Daniel Astaire is managing partner at Grosvenor Law. Having practised for over 20 years, he’s worked for a number of blue-chip law firms including Bird and Bird and Clintons before helping to found Grosvenor Law in 2011. Based in Mayfair, the firm specialises in personal and business dispute resolution and works with high-profile individuals and corporations from a range of backgrounds. In a recent case, Daniel represented defendants in claims for fraud and conspiracy to defraud by a former business partner seeking damages in excess of £100 million. In this in-depth conversation, he reveals how the business was built to “speak the language” and understand the needs of affluent clients in the West End of London, he describes the “blood sweat and tears” involved in protecting the legacy of self-made entrepreneurs,  and shares his advice to aspiring lawyers on how to “master your own destiny” by finding an area of law which complements your personality.
Sol Kumin has spent his career in the financial services industry, and is a thoroughbred racehorse owner and philanthropist. A graduate of Johns Hopkins, he began his career in finance at Lazard Asset Management and then Sanford C. Bernstein. In 2005, he joined SAC Capital as managing director and was later chief operating officer. At the end of 2014, he founded hedge fund Folger Hill Asset Management with more than $1 billion from investors, serving as CEO until 2018 when the firm was merged with Schonfeld Strategic Investors. He added the role of chief strategy officer for Leucadia Asset Management LLC and is currently the firm’s co-president. Sol bought his first filly in 2014 and has rapidly become one of the most successful racehorse owners in the US, including Preakness winner Exaggerator, Triple Crown winner Justify, Travers winner Catholic Boy and champion fillies Lady Eli, Monomoy Girl, Midnight Bisou, Uni and British Idiom. In this in-depth interview, he talks about the lasting influence of his first job out of college, describes his experience running Folger Hill Asset Management and explains the business focus and practicality he has brought to owning a high-performing stable of prize-winning horses.
David S. Kidder is chief executive and co-founder of Bionic, an enterprise innovation platform. A graduate in industrial design, he made his name as an entrepreneur and angel investor, co-founding Clickable, an online advertising software service, and SmartRay Network, a pioneering mobile advertising business. He is the author of ‘New to Big’, ‘The Startup Playbook’ and ‘The Intellectual Devotional’. In this in-depth interview, he talks about how his writing gives entrepreneurs digestible daily readings to encourage curiosity and help their business brains, argues that when projects are in their growth stage they often have to satisfy customers who don’t yet know what they want, and discusses the way in which business failure has been transformed from the great taboo to an incredibly valuable learning opportunity for entrepreneurs.[Editor’s note: this podcast was recorded in New York on 10th March 2020, before the full scale of the coronavirus public health crisis became apparent.]
Ross Sklar is the CEO of The Starco Group and Starco Brands. He started his career in the oil and gas industry making anti-corrosion chemicals, before pioneering true anti-stick anti-graffiti coatings which coated the largest structure on earth to be coated with an anti-graffiti coating. Ross then went on to make about a dozen acquisitions in a decade that today make up The Starco Group, a diverse collection of industrial household, personal care and food and beverages manufacturers covering almost all consumer categories. Starco Brands was later born from The Starco Group, and organised as a public venture focused on designing and commercialising behaviour-changing technologies and brands. In this in-depth conversation, Ross describes how he built the businesses by focusing on solving large societal problems chemically that would provide significant value to society and stakeholders, he explains his ability to invent and create technology and also his robust acquisition strategy that’s enabled him to grow Starco Group to hundreds of employees and many facilities across the United States, and expresses his responsibility to provide tools which can protect communities and “better the status quo” during this crucial time.
Andrew Powell is Group CEO of route2work. After 11 years in the British Army, including a stint in Special Forces, he worked in consulting and business operations, before moving full-time into coaching and mentoring. He was a director of The Training Room for six years before founding route2work, a digital education, qualification and careers provider with an emphasis on social impact. Andrew also lends his experience and perspective to the Bank of England’s Decision Maker Panel. In this in-depth conversation, he talks about translating the drive and discipline he learned in the Army to a business environment, explains how he’s worked to create an entire “digital ecosystem” in which route2work can match people’s talents and training with career opportunities, and emphasises how important he’s found it to create “down time” in a busy leadership role to be with his family and away from the demands of email and phone calls.
Kerry O’Brien is chief executive of the Young Urban Arts Foundation. For 25 years she has been a recording and performing artist under the name ‘Lady MC’ and has shared producers with Kanye West and Michael Jackson. She has appeared on BBC2’s ‘Dragons’ Den’, BBC3’s ‘Singing With The Enemy’ and Channel 4’s ‘Musicool’, and in 2001/2 she toured the east coast of the USA with TC Izlam and Prince Tafari. In 2008, she co-founded the British DJ and MC Academy and spent three years as its operations director. The following year she set up YUAF, where she remains, while also working as a reiki master and public speaker. In this in-depth conversation, she talks about the power of music to transform young people’s lives, describes the struggles of running a charity against a background of changing governments and financial support, and explains how figures in the voluntary sector can be the key to unlocking the potential inside everyone.
Mark Evans is managing director for marketing and digital at Direct Line Group, one of the UK’s largest insurance companies. Educated at the University of Nottingham, he joined Mars as a fast track executive and spent nine years with the company, managing a selection of brands across confectionary and pet food. He moved to 118118 Media, rising to CEO and monetising their voice and text inventory, then, after a stint as head of customer management at HSBC, joined Direct Line as director of brand portfolio in 2012. Mark quickly moved across to become marketing director then managing director for marketing and digital. In this in-depth conversation, he reflects on learning “the core toolkit” of marketing in his early days, describes how Direct Line “add value” to their market proposition but circumventing commission, and talks about how insurance companies could adapt to a world of autonomous driving.
Nick Wheeler is the founder of menswear retailer Charles Tyrwhitt. Launched in 1986 as a mail-order shirt business whilst still at university, the company now has over 40 stores in the UK, Paris and America and a thriving online business which accounts for 65% of sales worldwide. He is also a non-executive director of The White Company, and was awarded an OBE for his services to retail in 2017. In this in-depth conversation, he reflects on his entrepreneurial ventures – from photography to christmas trees, describes the dangers of losing focus whilst running your own business, and explains the importance of inner self-belief to sell products and “kick down doors”.
Chris Paton is managing director of Quirk Solutions, a management consultancy which advises large brands such as Unilever, Shell, Heineken and Waitrose, as well as the NHS and the Home Office. Chris was a lieutenant colonel in the Royal Marines, and has completed tours in Afghanistan, Kosovo and Northern Ireland. He was also an advisor to the Cabinet and the National Security Council on Afghan strategy. He currently lectures at London Business School for the executive education programme. In this in-depth conversation, Chris argues that businesses need to be less hierarchical and invest more in training to succeed, explains why adhering to tried and tested strategies is often a recipe for disaster, and describes the seven interconnected disciplines that provide the framework for success – whether you’re running a start-up or a multinational.
Andy Whitehouse is chief executive and managing partner of Copperfield Advisory. The New York-based consulting firm serves clients in sectors including insurance, capital markets, health systems and philanthropy. Prior to founding Copperfield in 2017, Andy served as the chief communications officer for IBM, Willis Towers Watson, and McKinsey & Company. He has also served as a government policymaker in the UK and has led teams in the Prime Minister’s Social Exclusion Unit and the Department of Health. In this in-depth conversation, he outlines the challenges faced by government while trying to improve the life chances of disadvantaged groups, discusses the importance of business leaders’ contributions to public life, and evaluates the value of reputation to brands who want to make a positive impact on their communities.
Bo Deitl is chairman and chief executive of Beau Dietl and Associates. Founded in 1985, the private investigations company provides security services, background checks and risk assessments to corporate and individual clients worldwide. One of New York City's most highly decorated police detectives, his 1988 book 'One Tough Cop' became a major motion picture starring Stephen Baldwin. In this in-depth conversation, he recalls growing up in Queens in the 60s, takes us through his career as a police officer, and describes his transition to acting and movie producing, including his recent role as Joe Glencoe in 'The Irishman'.
Nir Eyal is an entrepreneur and author. After graduating from Stanford in 2008, Nir co-founded AdNectar, a social media advertising company which enabled sites to monetise on adverts. With a background in academia, his research into what makes companies like Facebook and Google “sticky” formed the basis of his best-selling book ‘Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products’. His latest book, ‘Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life’, advises readers on how to beat technology addiction in everyday life and claims that all behaviour is prompted by a desire to escape discomfort. In this in-depth conversation, Nir explains why people “prioritise the urgent at the expense of the important”, describes his theory about why love does actually hurt – and argues that distraction has become “commoditised”.
Brittney Castro is founder and chief executive of Financially Wise Inc. The Los Angeles-based advisory firm promotes financial intelligence through wellness workshops, online money courses and social media. Her specialisms include teaching young couples how to invest their money and build a solid financial strategy. In this in-depth conservation, Brittney details the specific challenges that make women feel insecure about investing, argues that money management is about enjoying life in the moment as well as providing for the future – and describes how, no matter your past, we all have the capability to “set a new story” for ourselves financially.
Irene Molodtsov is CEO of Sia Partners UK. Sia Partners is a global management consultancy firm, with 25 offices around the world and expertise in more than 30 sectors and services. As a pioneer of Consulting 4.0, Sia Partners explores the opportunities afforded by Artificial Intelligence, and invests in Data Science and the development of consulting bots. Irene started her professional career working for Pilkington in Australia. Irene then moved from industry into management consultancy at KMPG working in Hong Kong before moving to London where she ran major change initiatives across Europe. When KPMG Consulting was sold to Atos, Irene co-founded Molten in 2003 with the belief that there was a place in the market to lead with people. Molten was acquired by Sia Partners in in 2016. Irene is a passionate advocate for the Consulting industry being a ‘force for good’ in society. In this in-depth conversation, Irene argues that augmented intelligence is creating more jobs than it eliminates, explains how Sia Partners developed a ‘bot’ to analyse positive hosts and improve guest experiences on Airbnb, and discusses her ‘Consulting for Good’ programme which focuses on diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
Mark Cornell is chief executive of the Ambassador Theatre Group. Operating over 50 venues across Britain, the US and Germany, their portfolio includes historic West End theatres such as the Apollo and the Lyceum. Mark began his career in the British Army and served for seven years, leaving with the rank of captain. He then moved into business as an executive at wholesaler WHSmith News before moving on to Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy (LVMH) in 2001, working in various roles in France and the US. In 2013, he joined Sotheby’s Europe as managing director before taking on his current role in 2016. In this in-depth conversation, Mark discusses how his time in the military taught him to make bold decisions, reveals how completing an MBA at IMD in Switzerland in 1999 helped propel him into the luxury goods industry, and describes how ATG is reaching new audiences by making the theatre experience more engaging.
Tunde Banjoko is founder and chief executive of Making The Leap. The London-based charity tackles the issues surrounding social mobility by increasing opportunities for underprivileged young people, helping them make a start in their careers. Since 2011, the charity has supported over 50,000 young people by developing their essential skills. In 2017, Tunde founded the UK Social Mobility Awards to encourage organisations across the country to tackle this deep societal problem. In this in-depth conversation, Tunde discusses how he has doubled his efforts to tackle social mobility with the launch of his recent podcast, describes how he was inspired by the ‘Strive’ programme in the US which offers support to individuals struggling to find employment, and argues why one of the most impactful changes to social inequality that the UK government can make will be to abolish university fees.
Jason Trost is founder and chief executive of Smarkets. As one of the world's largest betting exchanges, the company simplifies peer-to-peer betting on hundreds of markets daily. With more than 200,000 customers trading billions of pounds annually, it is one of the fastest-growing companies in Europe. Prior to co-founding Smarkets, Jason worked in the global asset management division at UBS, designing and implementing proprietary software to assist in one of the world’s largest hedge fund trading operations. In this in-depth conversation, Jason discusses why sports betting is a “zero-line game”, describes how computer algorithms can flag customers with potential gambling addictions to offer help, and reveals how the company’s prediction markets offer one of the most sophisticated tools for tracking live probabilities for general elections.
James Herring is chief executive and founder of PR agency Taylor Herring. The award-winning agency counts the BBC, Coca Cola, and Walt Disney among its clients and is known for its humorous approach to brand storytelling. The company often hits the headlines with campaigns such as transforming a supermarket into an ice rink and creating an hour long film about a Samsung washing machine. James is also founder of The Poke, a satirical website launched in 2002 known for producing humorous news content. He is also the editor-in-chief of famouscampaigns.com, and director of St Marks Studios, which creates news packages for online and broadcast media. In this in-depth conversation, James discusses how the Edinburgh Festival Fringe inspired him to start a career in media and entertainment, describes how he founded his company with his wife nearly twenty years ago as a creative agency promising to deliver fame and fortune to its clients, and reveals how he convinced Stephen Hawking to write a scientific research paper on the odds of England winning the World Cup Final in 2014.
Ken Daly is the chief executive of JML Group. Joining the company in 1994 when there were just four employees, he has grown the business to 250 employees and expanded into more than 50 countries. Originally selling consumer products through live demonstrations in department stores, JML has evolved to sell DIY, homeware and beauty products through TV shopping and online platforms. Promoted to CEO in 2012, Ken has led the company to become a household name with an annual turnover of £100 million. In this in-depth conversation, Ken describes how he steered the company to infiltrate global e-commerce platforms such as Amazon and eBay, discusses how TV advertising has helped to double the size of the business, and reveals that he will be featuring on Channel 4’s ‘Buy It Now’ entertainment show celebrating British innovation and inventions.
Oren Aviv was most recently the President of the Motion Picture Group and Chief Content Officer at STX Entertainment. Previously the chief creative officer at Walt Disney Studios, he was responsible for overseeing all aspects of live-action film development on hundreds of movies for almost two decades. Prior to this, he designed marketing campaigns and launched film franchises for 20th Century Fox studios, including X-Men and Rise of the Planet of the Apes. In this in-depth conversation, Oren describes the details that went into creating the vision for Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, argues that the growing number of streaming services are increasing pressure on the film industry, and reveals how he helped establish STX entertainment, a global media company which specialises in end-to-end production of film, television, digital and VR content.
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