Welsh Wisdom For Businesses – Douglas & Mary Perkins

Learning from those who have proved their success in business makes a lot of sense.

In this series we gather advice from successful Welsh entrepreneurs, bringing together their quotes and opinions, to inspire and guide you to ever-greater business growth.

Douglas Perkins & Dame Mary Perkins

Doug and Mary PerkinsPhoto: aop.org.uk/ot/industry/high-street/2016/08/02/a-year-of-growth

Doug and Mary Perkins met at Cardiff University, founded Specsavers in 1984 in Guernsey, and gradually opened over 2,000 stores all over the world, to become the biggest global private optician chain.

The company operates as a joint-venture partnership – each Specsavers opticians is a separate legal business, with 50% of shares owned by the Specsavers Optical Group and 50% by the practice partners.

Each practice pays a fee to the Group for services and support such as IT, marketing, operations and retail training. Profits belong to the partners and staff in that store.

Mary sits on the Group board, oversees the Guernsey operation, runs PR, provides the retail know-how and vision.

Doug describes his role as ‘putting the infrastructure round that, and making sure we have done the support and marketing and motivation of people’.

Business Growth Advice

1. Work Hard

agriculture backyard blur close up
Photo by Lukas on Pexels.com
Doug’s upbringing taught him a mantra he still swears by: if you didn’t work, you didn’t get.

“I am well and truly working class. And I’ve used it as an advantage: it gives you extra drive, there’s no doubt about that. When others may have slackened off, I’ve kept with the same work ethic for 50 years and I really enjoy what I do.”  

Mary says ‘We enjoy going to work every day. Just because we are of retirement age doesn’t mean we should stop doing what we love.’Helpful Resources:

2. Build A Family Values Culture

cold nature cute ice
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Doug says “I’m not working for next year’s results like most people on the stock exchange, watching the share price bob up and down – that doesn’t interest me at all. My shareholders are out there on the shop floor.”

“That’s one of the reasons why we’ve never gone on the stock exchange, because then you would spend half your time talking to institutional shareholders”.

Mary believes the culture of the business – “still a private company with family values” – has been integral to its success.

With over 30,000 staff and a total turnover of £2.61 billion, Specsavers is a huge business, yet retains the feel of a family firm, or as Mary calls it “a family business with thousands of family members”.

Helpful Resources:

3. Focus On The Customer

battle black blur board game
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

“Being working class gives you a work ethic but it also allows you to identify, always, with the importance of the customer, young and old, rich and poor,” says Doug.

Mary adds “I never lose sight of the customers. We wouldn’t have a business if it wasn’t for them, so they… are my best friends, the most important people in my life.”

Helpful Resources:

Specsavers has achieved growth year after year. It has never closed a store, has no loans or outside investment. This is nothing to do with luck or timing, insists Mary, but the result of “careful appraisal of everything”.

Specsavers rigorously researches locations and partners, and is closely involved with the running of each store.

“A board member meets with all the opticians in every country every eight weeks…. It’s not all done from behind a desk, we’re very much involved at the sharp end.”

Helpful Resources:

5. Nurture Community Relationships

person gather hand and foot in center
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The Specsavers joint venture structure encourages opticians to build engagement in their own patch.

Doug explains: “Reputation is ever more important with the new media around. Companies should stay close to their customers and be part of their communities.”

He warns the internet has increased customer expectations “Customers are searching for more value – for more for less. They’re more demanding, and more knowledgeable, using the internet to find out things for themselves, and they want better service. So they need to be told why they should spend money with you.”

Helpful Resources:

6. Stick To The Knitting

two pink spools on brown wooden chopping board beside orange bowl
Photo by Surene Palvie on Pexels.com

Mary’s famous phrase is “Stick to the knitting”, which emphasises the importantance of sticking to core activities that mesh with your existing skills and customer base.

Specsavers have kept growth at a steady and manageable rate. A common cause of failure, she says, is “trying to run before walking, trying to get big in a hurry – there’s no need to do that”.

She warns against being too thinly spread, and losing culture and values when expanding into other markets.

“I think entrepreneurs who want to grow a business have to think really hard about whether they want to add on another country, or whether they should be strengthening what they’ve got.”

Helpful Resources:

7. Different Growth Stages Need Different People

pair of red and white low top sneakers
Photo by Mstudio on Pexels.com

Growing a business necessitates some ruthless decisions, and involves difficult conversations.

“We started with generalists, we could all do a bit of everything. Then there comes a stage when you need specialists – a marketing director and so on.

Later when you go out to different countries, you need global experience.

So there are times when you have to say goodbye to someone… The people who start the business with you are not always the people you need as you get bigger.”

Helpful Resources:


Welsh Wisdom For Business Growth – Henry Engelhardt

How can we not learn from those who have already been there, done that and got the all the T-shirts in business?

In this series we gather advice from successful Welsh entrepreneurs, bringing together their quotes and opinions, to inspire and guide you to ever-greater business growth.

Henry Engelhardt 


Photo Credit: Admiral

Although not originally from Wales (born in Chicago), Henry Engelhardt deserves a place in our series due to the outstanding work he has done here, and the fact he continues to live in Cardiff.

After studying journalism, working as a Credit Exchange trader, travelling around Asia, completing an MBA, moving to the UK, and becoming a management consultant, Engelhardt moved into car insurance at Churchill before launching Admiral in 1993 in Cardiff.

He later created the UK’s first insurance comparison website, Confused.com.

Wales’ only FTSE 100 company, employing over 7,000 people globally, Admiral has been recognised for 19 years as one of the best big companies to work for, in the prestigious Sunday Times Best Company to Work For Awards. 

Henry himself also won the Best Leader for three years in a row.

He stepped down as CEO in 2016, but still works part-time in a senior management mentoring and recruiting role.

Business Growth Advice

1. Good Company Culture Involves Lots Of Actions

balance business cobblestone conceptual
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

“A good strong culture is not one item. It’s not about taking everyone skiing for a week and everyone says ‘what a great culture’.

It’s a lot of people doing a lot of different things to ensure there is good communication, people are treated with respect and fairly, that the rewards are appropriate and we help inspire people.”

All staff automatically get shares after working at Admiral for a year.

Helpful Resources:


2. Capture And Act On Employee Feedback

animal animal photography barbaric big
Photo by Magda Ehlers on Pexels.com

“We measure everything. From systematically collecting information about how new employees imagine a great workplace to how many employees bring children to the Christmas party”

Engelhardt read every description of a great workplace from new employees, and met every employee face to face to explain the Admiral culture.   

Helpful Resources:


3. If People Like What They Do, They’ll Do It Better

photo of assorted letter board quote hanged on wall
Photo by Mikechie Esparagoza on Pexels.com

“This means we go out of our way to make working for Admiral as rewarding and enjoyable as possible. By creating this atmosphere we believe our staff will give our customers the best possible service and the business can continue to be a success”.

“The firm has been built around job satisfaction, with the founders giving each member of staff a piece of a jigsaw during their induction, in the hope of reminding them of their role in the firm.”

Admiral also has a “ministry of fun” that organises workplace games.

Helpful Resources:


4. The Internet Is An Irresistible Force

nature forest waves trees
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

“Young people globally buy insurance online”.

Convenience, price and speed have meant we have seen sales of online non-food items continue to increase.

Helpful Resources:


5. Capture And Act On Customer Feedback

silver desk microphone
Photo by Dids on Pexels.com

“If we didn’t have any customers, how many people would we employ”?

“Questions, comments, indignant remarks”?

“Communication, communication, communication. You can almost never over-communicate”.

Helpful Resources:


6. The Power Of The Team Is Invariably Greater Than The Power Of Any Single Individual

assorted puzzle game
Photo by Magda Ehlers on Pexels.com

“No individual makes the puzzle. We all work together, that’s how we see the big picture”.

We want people who WANT to work here”.

“When you get the most from your potential you usually feel better, about yourself, your job and you usually get the most reward as well”.

“Have fun, satisfy customers, make money. Ask yourself: what are YOU doing to make the most of your talent”?

“People make the difference. YOU make the difference. YOU are the people who will make this company great”.

Helpful Resources:


7. The Perfect Is The Enemy Of The Good

clear beads
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

This quote is attributed to Voltaire as  “The best is the enemy of the good”. Also Confucius said “Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without”.

We must learn to balance our desire for perfection against becoming trapped in continued reworkings of projects, leading to diminishing returns.

Helpful Resources:


8. Always Take Lunch

photo of trees during daytime
Photo by Marcelo Dias on Pexels.com

Whilst it is not easy to consistently make time for a lunch break, it’s essential both for employee health and improved productivity. 

Helpful Resources:


Welsh Wisdom For Business Growth – Michael Moritz

It makes sense to learn from successful entrepreneurs who have proven their skills many times over.

In this series we gather advice from successful Welsh business people, bringing together their quotes and opinions, to inspire and guide you to ever-greater business growth.

Michael Moritz


Photo: Scott Mlyn | CNBC

Sir Michael Moritz, from Cardiff, worked as a journalist for Time magazine, then joined venture capital firm Sequoia Capital in 1986. He led Sequoia from the mid-1990s until 2012, investing early in companies including Google, YouTube, LinkedIn and PayPal.

He is the biggest individual investor in Sequoia-managed funds, and continues to make investments and work with current portfolio companies including Instacart, Klarna and Stripe.

Business Growth Advice

1. Follow Your Instincts

artistic blossom bright clouds
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

“‘Trust your instincts’ was the advice 25 years ago from Don Valentine, the founder of Sequoia Capital, about whether we should participate in the seed round Sequoia Capital of S3.

This shouldn’t be confused with “trust your gut”, “ignore reality”. The rough translation is “do your homework well, analyze things carefully, assess the options but eventually trust your judgment and have the courage of your convictions – even if they are unpopular”. This means swimming against the tide and being prepared to feel lonely.

Most people are not brave enough to just follow their instincts. Following your instincts isn’t easy when familial and social pressures suggest a conventional path or when political pressures within an organization make conformity the comfortable choice”.

Helpful Resources:

assorted color ornaments in gray steel crate
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com
” You don’t need to be a tech expert to see potential. More important than a formal technical education is the ability to effectively learn and process new information and ideas.


Start on an endeavour where you know nothing; where you gather a lot of materials and facts, distill those facts, and then form a cogent opinion and make a decision”.

Helpful Resources:

3. Look Out For The Unexpected

flock of green and blue pigeons
Photo by Vicky Deshmukh on Pexels.com

“The best investments are hard to pigeonhole. Watch for investment opportunities where the ideas “don’t fit in a convenient bucket,” such as Airbnb and Chinese drone company DJI. 

That’s the thing to look out for — the unexpected”.

Helpful Resources:

4. Play the Long Game

road nature trees branches
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

“These are very, very long journeys that we’re on. It takes time and patience and spectacular people and a massive market opportunity to build the real companies that matter and have an influence and great impact on society.”

“Assuming people (young, high-potential) like that flourish, you have incredible loyalty, and they’ll stay with you forever”.

Helpful Resources:

5. Pitch In One Sentence

less is more
Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

“Your audience doesn’t want to wait for the ending. Tell them the big idea up front”. 

The first time Moritz met Sergey Brin and Larry Page they summarized their company in one sentence: ‘Google organizes the world’s information and makes it accessible to everyone’.

Entrepreneurs who cannot express themselves in one sentence when they pitch Sequoia will be asked to go back to the drawing board until they can. 

Helpful Resources:

6. Yesterday Is Irrelevant

flight sky earth space
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

“You can read a book about the principles of high performance, or great leadership, and it’ll all sound very straightforward and rudimentary. The difficulty is doing it every day, doing it every week, month, quarter, year, and keeping that beat up.

That was one of the great things about Steve Jobs, it’s one of the great things about Larry Page, it’s one of the great things about Jeff Bezos, or Reed Hastings. These are leaders who are capable of doing it.

They want to make sure that their product is fresh, that it changes with the times; that they never rest on their laurels, or get complacent; that they always have an element of insecurity about feeling that they can always get eaten by a competitor, and that past successes don’t mean all that much.

Because all of that is yesterday, and it’s irrelevant to the future”.

Helpful Resources:

7. Maintain A Fresh Team

sliced lime fruits
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

“Be able to field the best team at any one time, no matter how long people have been with you. To be not unfair, or ruthless, or harsh; but detached, objective and clinical about the performance of each individual.

No matter how well they’ve performed in the past, or in our case, how many successful investments they’ve made, if their heart is no longer in it, if they no longer have the burning desire to compete, it’s time for them to move on.

Bring in young people who have zest, ambition, energy. And then grow, in our case, our firm organically.

It’s not going out and hiring people who’ve had 30 years of experience in industry. We have hired people…who’ve had industry experience, but they still come to Sequoia at an age where they understand that this is a business that’s difficult, they’ve got to learn it, and they have a real drive to succeed. So it’s constantly refreshing the team”.

Helpful Resources:

8. Change With The Market

close up photo of three slinkies
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

” Stay alert to market opportunities. The world of the companies that you’re all starting today is massively different than it was 30 or 40 years ago, because of what’s happening principally in China, and to a lesser extent in other countries. That change is the face of global technology.

So about 12, 13 years ago, we started a business in China because we felt that, over time, it was going to be increasingly important for Sequoia, for the companies that we have investments in in Silicon Valley, to really understand the Chinese market because of what was going to happen there.

Thanks to the people at Sequoia in China and tremendous amount of hard work from a lot of people, we now have a thriving business in China”.

Helpful Resources:


Quotes by Michael Moritz – Sources:

1. LinkedIn – Best Advice: Listen to Your Inner Voice, published Feb 26, 2013

2. https://stanford.io/2TAakDo

3. https://www.inc.com/carmine-gallo/3-presentation-tips-i-learned-from-preparing-ceos-for-ipos.htm



For SEO and blog-writing services contact jan@brilliantbusinessblogs.com or call us on 0745 2086994.

Welsh Wisdom For Business Growth – Terry Matthews

Nothing beats learning from those who have already been there, done that and got the whole wardrobe of T-shirts.

In this series we gather advice from successful Welsh entrepreneurs, bringing together their quotes and opinions, to inspire and guide you to ever-greater business growth.

Sir Terry Matthews

terence-matthews-02456560-laura-leyshon-cpimages (2)(Photo: Laura Leyshon/CP)

Sir Terry Matthews is one of the best known figures in Welsh business. He co-founded Mitel, sold his stake to British Telecom, then built Newbridge Networks and sold it to Alcatel.

He heads up Wesley Clover, an investment management firm he founded in 1972, and has formed and sold multiple successful businesses, and invested in numerous spinoffs and start-ups. Current projects include the expansion of Celtic Manor Resort and the Newport-based Alacrity Foundation.

Business Growth Advice

1. Gather Customer Feedback

photo of sticky notes and colored pens scrambled on table
Photo by Frans Van Heerden on Pexels.com

“When planning to start Mitel I travelled near and far to learn about potential customers, their needs and feedback. I held round tables, took copious notes and made sure I let my clients know I was listening to them.

The notes I took helped Mitel produce more than what the competitors could offer and became the foundation for solid relationships”.

“If you don’t spend money on R and D, you will definitely die.”

Helpful Resources:

black binoculars
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

3. Build A Network

abstract close up cobweb connection
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

“Growing a successful business is all about building relationships – with the team members, with clients and potential clients and with the supply chain – not to forget government industry and export departments, banks, insurance and accounting firms”.

4. Stay Engaged With Your Audience

brown and black gramophone
Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

“Produce quarterly reports in simple English to allow a wide audience to understand the business and your product.

All employees, family and friends, plus investors and potential investors want to know what’s going on and how their money is being applied and growing”.

Helpful Resources:

Continue reading “Welsh Wisdom For Business Growth – Terry Matthews”

Tech Tools For Business Growth – Part 7

The right technology can accelerate business development in many ways – from reducing overheads to increasing sales. 

Use our blog series to understand tech tool options for growth, and the advantages and disadvantages they present.

Part 7: Integration Software

abstract art blur bright
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

In our final Tech Tools post we examine Integration Software, which allows business applications and processes to work together automatically.

All-in-one software solutions are often not the best choice when growing a business.  It can be more beneficial to select the most appropriate software tools for specific company needs.

However, it is essential that different online platforms can communicate and share data together –  which is where Integration Software is very valuable. 


Continue reading “Tech Tools For Business Growth – Part 7”

%d bloggers like this: