In the fi­nal ex­tract from his book, The Sec­ond Bounce of the Ball, pi­o­neer­ing ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist Sir Ron­ald Cohen ex­plains why, in busi­ness, the harder you work the luck­ier you get — and why in­tegrity is key to your suc­cess

The Jewish Chronicle - - FEATURES -


THE FIRST rule of luck in busi­ness is that you should per­se­vere in do­ing the right thing. Op­por­tu­ni­ties will come your way if you do. En­ter­tain­ment en­tre­pre­neur Haim Sa­ban pro­vides an ex­am­ple. He was in Ja­pan when, by chance, he saw Power Rangers on tele­vi­sion. He re­alised that the pro­gramme would have in­ter­na­tional ap­peal and bought the world­wide rights to it. He sold it to broad­cast­ers all over the world and

You could say that Haim Sa­ban was lucky to see Power Rangers when he did, be­fore some­one else bought it. But his com­peti­tors were not as as­sid­u­ous in their trav­els as Sa­ban. They were not in Ja­pan. Those who were did not see in Power Rangers what he was able to see in it. The fact that he was in the right place at the right time was a mat­ter of perseverance, not luck. Haim Sa­ban was in search of a prod­uct that would have mass ap­peal. He was con­stantly on the look­out. He found what he wanted in Power Rangers.

The sec­ond el­e­ment in mak­ing your own luck is net­work­ing. I would say that luck is di­rectly pro­por­tional to the size and ap­pro­pri­ate­ness of your net­work. The more peo­ple you know in your sec­tor, the more of­ten you will en­counter cir­cum­stances that help your cause.

Thirdly, you must put your­self in a po­si­tion to ben­e­fit from events and cir­cum­stances more than your com­peti­tors, to be­come “luck­ier” than them by grasp­ing bet­ter the op­por­tu­ni­ties that present them­selves.

The fourth el­e­ment is be­ing flex­i­ble enough to re­spond quickly to changes in the market. You must live and breathe the strat­egy of your busi­ness, try­ing to push it for­ward in a di­rec­tion that will give you the ul­ti­mate prize of leader of the sec­tor.

The fi­nal el­e­ment may well be the most im­por­tant. From time to time, change will be harshly im­posed on you. A com­peti­tor might come up with a threat­en­ing prod­uct or ser­vice. One of your im­por­tant re­sources might walk out of the door: a key part­ner might leave. You need to rise to the chal­lenge ev­ery time that hap­pens. It is not a ques­tion of just cop­ing with that event; it is a ques­tion of turn­ing it to your ad­van­tage. This is a fun­da­men­tal pre­cept of en­trepreneurial leadership.


DEEP DOWN, most en­trepreneurs are driven by the de­sire to make a mark. This driver is all about ego. But there is a dif­fer­ence be­tween im­me­di­ate grat­i­fi­ca­tion, which is what the self-re­gard­ing en­tre­pre­neur most craves, and the recog­ni­tion that comes from long-term achieve­ment.

For the en­tre­pre­neur, har­ness­ing ego is an es­sen­tial dis­ci­pline for suc­cess, but this dis­ci­pline is not al­ways main­tained.

Sin­clair had en­joyed suc­cess with his elec­tronic cal­cu­la­tors, com­put­ers and por­ta­ble tele­vi­sions, man­age­ment was not his strength. He tried to do ev­ery­thing him­self. In ad­di­tion, he in­sisted on the in­fal­li­bil­ity of his own read­ing of the market.

He wanted to rev­o­lu­tionise the car thought he could do it be­cause he be­lieved he was the man who could rev­o­lu­tionise ev­ery­thing. He de­signed the car was a fail­ure as a re­sult. In the event, we suc­ceeded and two other non-ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tors even­tu­ally re­signed from the board be­cause we felt that, de­spite his un­doubted tal­ent, it would be im­pos­si­ble for him to suc­ceed.

To keep ego out of the driv­ing seat, the en­tre­pre­neur must give pri­or­ity to in­tel­lect and in­tu­ition. In­tel­lect is rel­a­tively easy to iden­tify: it is about calm, ra­tio­nal anal­y­sis of the ev­i­dence be­fore ar­riv­ing at a de­ci­sion.

But you should also fol­low your in­tu­ition. Why? Be­cause in­tu­ition sub­sumes in­tel­lect. The more an­a­lyt­i­cal work you have done, the more ex­pe­ri­ence you have, the more re­li­able will be your in­tu­ition.

Find­ing the bal­ance be­tween ego, in­tel­lect and in­tu­ition is es­pe­cially im­por­tant when it comes to re­cruit­ment. In my ex­pe­ri­ence, women tend to be more in­tu­itive than men. Be­cause I be­lieve that in­tu­ition plays a cru­cial role in busi­ness, I have al­ways tried to re­cruit women. The truth, how­ever, is that women are ei­ther not at­tracted to, or are not as well ac­com­mo­dated within, the world of busi­ness as men. There are many great women man­agers, but there are still too few women en­trepreneurs.


APAX OULD only grow to the size it did in my time be­cause we had an agreed set of val­ues: per­sonal and cor­po­rate in­tegrity; mer­i­toc­racy; main­tain­ing longterm re­la­tion­ships based on trust with our in­vestors and the en­trepreneurs we backed; leadership.

The eth­i­cal ap­proach has a great track record. Among the long­est-lived and most suc­cess­ful compa U a tra­di­tion of eth­i­cal con­duct.

Do­ing it right at Apax meant ad­her­ence to five pre­cepts. First, my word is my bond: if we agreed to some­thing orally, it could be re­lied upon.

Sec­ond, hon­our the spirit as well as the let­ter of agree­ments: we did not look to sat­isfy le­gal word­ing rather than the agreed in­ten­tion.

Third, full dis­clo­sure: for Apax, in­ad­e­quate dis­clo­sure is ly­ing by omis­sion. It was al­ways our prac­tice to in­form rel­e­vant par­ties in a timely man­ner of any in­for­ma­tion to which they were en­ti­tled.

Fourth, act fairly: I stand up for my­self and my firm and I will al­ways in­sist on what is fair from my point of view. By the same to­ken, I try to en­sure that it is also fair from the point of view of the other per­son. This ap­plies es­pe­cially where there is an im­bal­ance of power, for ex­am­ple be­tween em­ployer and em­ployee.

Fi­nally, act re­spon­si­bly: if you have power and au­thor­ity, with it goes re­spon­si­bil­ity. I tried to en­sure, for ex­am­ple, that I never put peo­ple into sit­u­a­tions where they were vul­ner­a­ble.

You can only be the best if you at­tract the best peo­ple; you only at­tract the best peo­ple if you of­fer them a great vi­sion; and a great vi­sion in­cludes great ethics. To­day, I would go fur­ther: I would say that to at­tract the best peo­ple, you need both a moral di­men­sion and a so­cial con­science.

Youmay­makealit­tle­less­moneyintheshort­term,but you cre­ate an or­gan­i­sa­tion that oth­ers want to do busi­ness­with.In­th­e­longterm,youwillbe­more­suc­cess­ful.


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