Maurice Clegg’s A Life is packed with ideas that will help ambitious business people to make a success of their commercial lives – and perhaps their family lives too.
Born in 1930 in Merseyside into a family of local traders, he was determined to become a seaman. However, on his first assignment with the Navy he suffered such seasickness that aged just 20 he persuaded his uncle to give him a job in the family laundry business. Over the next 53 years he bought out his uncle and moved into the work wear rental market, competing successfully against major PLCs.
Clegg describes with great honesty how his values and ideas helped his company to thrive. While it’s true that his key decisions were made in a different time, the fundamentals of dealing with staff, customers, banks and regulators have not changed that much.
“I loved my work, each and every part of it,” he writes. “Even the crises…for a crisis overcome leaves an afterglow of exhilaration. Building and development is tremendously satisfying.”
One of Clegg’s main focuses was the introduction of financial discipline. The market was saturated with competition and dramatic reorganisation was required to generate profits. For example, when staff proposed the organisation of a union, he accepted. Years later his decision produced a huge bonus when his company won work from the National Coal Board. Few companies bid for the work because they feared Arthur Scargill. However, his unionised staff told the miners to behave and they did.
Clegg devised a profit share scheme and offered staff mortgages in return for their hard work. He also continued to invest in new technology and to diversify his business. Even when refused a bank loan he sought alternatives; a smaller bank was happy to lend him money and together they profited from a number of development deals.
These strategic decisions were not always straightforward. When the banking crisis of 1973 hit, the smaller bank threatened to bankrupt him. Clegg was not afraid to take a risk and contacted the bank that had initially rejected him – saving his business.
This concise yet inspiring read will help any person running a business to understand the dynamics at play in their world.