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Date
18 November 2013

Business Shapers: Nick Wheeler

Nick Wheeler is the founder and chairman of Charles Tyrwhitt Shirts.

Transcript

Business Shapers: Nick Wheeler

Nick Wheeler

CEO and Founder of Charles Tyrwhitt

Business Shapers from Mishcon de Reya

In association with Jazz FM’s Jazz Shapers

I think for as long as I can remember I have always wanted to run my own business.  I have often wondered why did I do shirts.  What I loved about shirts is that I understood them.  Everybody has a view on a shirt, everyone.  You can feel it, you can look at it, you can wear it and they are not complicated.  There is no widgets, there’s no technology in them and I like shirts, you know you’ve got to love your product.

Today people say to me, ‘you know I want to start my own business, but I can’t think what to do!’  And I always say to them ‘just go you know look at a product that you like and go and do it better than anybody else’. 

I started very, very small and I think in a way that’s a great way to start a business.  A lot of people go out they think I’ve got to raise a lot of money.  They raise a lot of money and when you raise money that just comes from investors, it’s incredibly easy to lose.  When you actually have to make money yourself, you think about twenty times before you go out and lose it. 

I have this categorisation on entrepreneurs.  There are hares who want to build a business very fast, sell it and move on and there are tortoises who want to build a business over the long term. 

Back then there was a boom in the classic car market.  My great aunt died and left me £8,000.  I went to my Barclays Bank Manager and said ‘look, I need to make some money for my shirt business, I want to buy this old car for £25,000 and I need to borrow £17,000’, which the idea of a Bank Manager coming up today and saying ‘yeah sure, no problem’ is absolutely absurd.  But he did, he lent me the £17,000, I bought the car for £25,000 and I sold it a year later for £100,000.  To be honest I was just lucky.  I loved old cars and I was just lucky.  I mean you know you need breaks in life and that was one of my breaks. 

I went into the business full time in 1990 and I just really it was nose to the grindstone.  I loved every minute.  I worked every minute godsend and I loved it, I loved building up the business.  I have some very simple rules, I think a lot of businesses find it very difficult to grow beyond a certain stage.  You know some businesses will get to a million pounds sales and stop and some get to 5 million and some get to 40 million.  To keep on going through, you have got to keep things simple and I have you know a certain real core beliefs in this business.  I want the customers to love Charles Tyrwhitt, I want the people that work at Charles Tyrwhitt to love Charles Tyrwhitt and I want our suppliers to love Charles Tyrwhitt.  And I think a lot of people talk about customer service being important, you know they talk about the people in the business being important, but they don’t really mean it.  If you really mean that then you really build those three groups of people to love your business then I think absolutely the world is your oyster.

Business Shapers from Mishcon de Reya

In association with Jazz FM’s Jazz Shapers