As bosses are criticised for only hiring from elite universities, we highlight five successful business people who didn’t graduate at all
Former Tesco boss Sir Terry Leahy has today called for companies to break through the “class ceiling” by hiring people on talent not those who went to the right universities.
His comments, in an article for the Telegraph, come on the day the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission says a number of business are skewing recruitment in favour of those who attend fee-paying schools.
Sir Terry, who grew up on Liverpool council estate, led Tesco from 1997 to 2011.
He writes: “Sometimes people argue that efforts to recruit a more diverse workforce will somehow ‘lower standards’ or ‘compromise excellence’ within their organisation. I disagree.
“Indeed, as the authors of today’s report highlight, quite a number of the senior individuals in our professions believe they would not now be hired by their own organisation given the criteria that is now used, whether because they did not go to one of the ‘right universities’ or perhaps did not go to university at all.”
In light of his comments, we’re highlighting some of the South West’s most successful business people who either dropped out or didn’t go to university at all.
Grew up on a council estate in Bristol. Left school at 15 to start his own oven cleaning business, Easy Clean, originally run from a phone box, leading to him later being dubbed the Phone Box Millionaire. He later sold the business and invested in property, which he continues to do as well as having a number of other interests through Fear Group.
Started in business aged 19 living off a £40 a week Government grant and selling clothes he bought with money borrowed from his dad. He later set up a clothes shop in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, which grew into the Superdry brand which floated on the stock market with a £400 million valuation in 2010. His personal wealth is now said to be £478 million, according to the Sunday Times. The chain will hit 75 branches by the end of 2015.
The co-founder of the fast growing cafe bar chain Loungers started at Northampton University but after just five weeks realised it wasn’t for him and went back to working in restaurants. He opened Loungers in Southville, Bristol, with friends Jake Bishop and Dave Reid in 2002 and hit on a winning recipe of a venue that works all day, from parents catching up over coffee in the morning, to working lunches, and young professionals dining out or having a few drinks in the evening.
As chief technology officer for Creditcall, Jeremy splits his time between Bristol and New York. The company has become a global player in payments technology and its exports to the US are growing fast. Jeremy left school at 16 and says he learned more working in McDonald’s, though he does now employs lots of talented graduates.
George decided Birmingham University wasn’t for him and went home to Liverpool to work for Littlewoods. Retail clearly suited him better than education as he went on to create Next, then the George at Asda clothing brand which brought supermarkets into the clothing business. Since then he ran Per Una in Marks & Spencer and new women’s wear brand GIVe. Despite him dropping out, George, who lives in Broadway in the Cotswolds, has since been award several honorary degrees.