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Monthly Archives: December 2014

Few men in history can lay claim to the honor of starting a revolution with an enduring legacy that continues well into the second millennium – and Johannes Gensfleisch zur Laden zum Gutenberg is one of these men. Gutenberg was a multi-talented man whose expertise as a blacksmith, goldsmith and printer as well as publisher made him a celebrity in his own right in Germany and in Europe, not to mention that he revolutionized society by introducing mechanical movable type printing technology.

Indeed, his innovation started the Printing Revolution, now widely considered as the most important event in modern history. He is also widely regarded as one of the most influential persons in history because his technology changed the way that information was created, distributed, and communicated – via the mass production of books. His invention was also important in the development of several historical eras including the Renaissance, Reformation, and the Age of Enlightenment as well as the scientific revolution.

Gutenberg is also credited with creating the foundation of the modern-day knowledge-based economy as well as the spread of learning among the masses. His revolution is truly one of the most welcome revolutions man has known for many centuries to come.

While he has many contributions to the printing industry we know today, his most notable are the invention of mass-producing movable type in printing, the use of oil-based inks in his works, and the use of the wooden printing press. While the ideas behind these innovations have been around during his time, he was the first to combine these elements for practical applications including mass production of books.

His printing system made books more easily accessible and affordable for more people instead of just the elite of society. Mass production then ushered in unrestricted circulation of information, which threatened and even toppled governments, monarchies and societies at the time.

So when you hold a book or read an e-book, you should thank Johannes Gutenberg for his creative mind in starting a revolution that made modern society possible.

Arthur Levinson certainly has moved up in the world although he has every right to do so considering his innate intelligence, astute business sense, and personal charm. With his bachelor’s degree from the University of Washington in Seattle and doctoral degree in biochemistry from Princeton University, he occupied a top post-doctoral position at the University of California’s Department of Microbiology.

In 1980, his life changed when he started work as a research scientist at Genentech. Levinson was soon moving up the corporate ladder – in 1989, he became Vice President of Research Technology; in 1990, he was Vice President of Research; in 1992, he was promoted to Senior Vice President of Research; and in 1993, he became Senior Vice President of Research and Development.

His pinnacle of success at Genentech came in July 1995 when he became its Chief Executive Officer until April 2009. He was named Chairman in 1999, the same year he was also awarded with the Irvington Institute’s Corporate Leadership Award in Science and honoured by the National Breast Cancer Coalition with the Corporate Leadership Award.

Levinson has an impressive resume, indeed! He was formerly a director with Google (2004-2009) as well as chairman of the board of Apple Inc. (2011) and chief executive officer of Calico, a Google-funded company focusing on health and wellness. He has several awards to his name including his induction into the Biotech Hall of Fame, his four-time citation as “America’s Best CEO” for the biotech industry, and his Alumnus Summa Laude Dignatus Award from his alma mater.

Oliver Chace (born 24 August 1769, died 21 May 1852) was a noted businessman in the United States’ textile manufacturing industry in the early 19th century. His most notable contribution to the American business industry is his establishment of the Valley Falls Company, which will become the foundation for Berkshire Hathaway in the 20th century.

Berkshire Hathaway Inc., an Omaha-based multinational conglomerate holding company, is considered as the fifth largest company in the world. Under the helm of Warren Buffet since 1965, the company manages several subsidiary companies including GEICO, Dairy Queen, BNSF, Fruit of the Loom, Lubrizol, Helzberg Diamonds, and FlightSafety International, among others.

Chace was born to a Quakers (Society of Friends) family who traced their ancestry to English Puritans who travelled to the United States in 1630 with Governor John Winthrop’s fleet. His parents, Jonathan Chace and Mary Earle, were members of New England’s Yankee elite.

He married twice – first to Susanna Buffington in 1796 and then to Patience Robinson after he was widowed on 1827. He had seven children with Buffington, two of whom later followed their father’s footsteps in the textile industry.

Chace started his career as a carpenter for Samuel Slater, the founder of the first successful textile mill in the country (in 1793 at Pawtucket, Rhode Island). He then became a serial entrepreneur, as modern-day business pundits call it, by establishing several textile mills in relatively quick succession.

His first textile mill was established in 1806 in Swansea, Massachusetts. Then in 1813, he established Troy Cotton & Woolen Manufactory in Fall River, Massachusetts and followed in 1821 by the Pocasset Manufacturing Company, also at Fall River.

In 1839, he purchased and reorganized the antecedent for Berkshire Hathaway, the Valley Falls Company in Valley Falls, Rhode Island. Chace soon expanded his business to include Moodus Cotton Factory, Manville Mills, Albion Mills, and Tar-Kiln Factory.

When Peter Kelly established Softcat in 1993, he asserted that he was not as interested in making profits as much as in making his staff happy. In a profit-obsessed world, his assertions were met with ridicule but he is now having the last laugh – or laughing his way to the bank.

Kelly established Softcat as a mail-order software company for the B2B market but it is now a full-service IT provider for the public sector. His small company has grown to include 300 employees with an annual sales of £395.8 million for the 2012-2013 period and forecasted sales of £470 million for the succeeding period. He has taken a backseat in management in 2012 but he still has an active hand in its direction – it is his baby, after all.

What makes Kelly different? Again, he sets out to make staff happy and he has many programs in place for this purpose. He has instilled a democratic environment where staff members are involved in the company-wide decision-making process and provided with incentives for good performance.

Many entrepreneurs have difficulty growing a business of scale, much less repeating its success for as many times as necessary for world domination. But Roy MacGregor is not just any entrepreneur either – he is a serial entrepreneur extraordinaire!

After getting his degree in marketing and business management in the late 1970s, MacGregor joined the family retail and property company where acquired the chops for his future entrepreneurial ventures. When the family business was sold in 1985, he put his managerial experience in supplying food items to offshore vessels and rigs into action and, thus, MacGregor Energy Services was born.

His first company supplied specialist support services to the lucrative oil and gas industry from Invergordon before its expansion into Aberdeen to meet increased demands. He was the right person in the right time at the right place – by 1994, MacGregor’s company had a £50 million annual turnover that attracted 3i’s interest. He soon sold MacGregor Energy Services to the investment company for an undisclosed amount.

Not one to just enjoy the spoils, MacGregor soon purchased a small recruitment business while still keeping an eye out for profitable opportunities in the oil and gas industry. In 2005, he established Global Energy Group, a small Aberdeen-based engineering firm selling various specialist services to the aforementioned industry – truly, a return to his entrepreneurial roots.

With his savvy strategies coupled with his hard work, MacGregor ushered Global Energy Group to success. He used organic growth and acquisitions in ensuring that the company becomes a market leader in the multi-energy sector market. His company has achieved an impressive half-billion pounds annual turnover and a strong balance sheet – and growing – so much so that there is no doubt that, once again, MacGregor has arrive on the oil and industry market.

Today, MacGregor continues to lead Global Energy Group with its worldwide 4,000-strong workforce. He shows no signs of slowing down, as does his company.

Undoubtedly, we have a fascination with fashion regardless of whether we profess to love it or hate it. Julian Dunkerton, co-founder of SuperGroup that manufactures and distributes the ultra-successful SuperDry clothing label, has made millions from being on the other side of such fascination. His happy clientele include the rich and famous like David Beckham, Ed Sheeran, Jamie Oliver, and Leonardo DiCaprio, among others.

Dunkerton has little experience with the fashion industry before setting up SuperGroup but he certainly had the grit and guts necessary to carry it off. He was 19-year old school dropout who decided to travel the world where it was on one of his travels to Japan where he had the inspiration of combining cold text and bright colours with British and American classic designs. Thus, the SuperGroup company and SuperDry label was born with its frist shop being a rented shop about to be demolished.

Today, Dunkerton has stepped down from his chief executive position in the company to concentrate on his responsibilities as product and brand director.

Mahmud Kamani is no stranger to the fashion industry – he has at least 30 years of experience in all of its aspects under his belt. He has worked as an importer, wholesaler and retailer in the fashion and apparel industry as well as an entrepreneur in the trade and hospitality industry. He is, indeed, well-equipped for world domination via fashion!

His weapon of choice: boohoo.com, a fashion website designed to address the fashion needs and wants of budget-conscious – or more appropriately, cash-strapped yet fashion-hungry – young people between 16 to 24 years of age. Its £12 denim jeans and £8 maxi dresses, among other affordable yet fashionable items, are giving fashionistas good reasons to buy from boohoo.com instead of its competitors, such as Primark.

His proof of world domination via fashion: On a wall in his office is a world map. But he says that he does not need dots to signify boohoo.com’s presence because his company will be “everywhere”. Such dedication to a single-minded goal cannot be questioned considering that boohoo.com has fared well – very well, if you ask its stockholders – in the dog-eat-dog world of fashion.

boohoo.com has so far achieved an impressive track record with its initial public offering (IPO) netting Kamani’s family and board members a whopping £240 million. In February2014, its profits hit nearly £11 million on £110 million sales while its expansion plans including its Burnley warehouses have been on track.

Kamani works hard at his business, a trait that he inherited from his father who still comes to work at 80 years old. He, in fact, has stated that he has no other hobby and has known no other life than being in business so much so that he wants to walk into his office an old man.

With the way business is booming, he may well enjoy world domination via fashion and work until he is an old man!

Born in Pescara in 1941, Stefano Pessina is the present-day Executive Chairman of Alliance Boots. He has a degree in nuclear physics from the Polytechnic University of Milan but, like all good Italian sons, he went into the family business – a pharmaceutical wholesaler.

He soon turned the family business into an international pharmaceutical group, the Alliance Santé, which merged with Alliance UniChem in 1997. He joined the company as a board director but he soon became the Chief Executive from 2001 to 2004. He also served as Executive Deputy Chairman and Executive Chairman for the company.

Since August 2012, he has served on the Board of Directors of Walgreen’s and on the Consumer Goods Forum. He is the largest shareholder of Walgreen’s as well.

In 2006, he merged Alliance UniChem Group with the Boots Group, thus, forming Alliance Boots. In 2007, the company went private and Pessina is riding the wave of its success to this day.

Pessina has been awarded international recognition for his notable contributions to the international pharmaceutical industry. His awards include the Grande ufficiale dell’Ordine della stella d’Italia and honorary degrees from several universities.

Eugene Charles Albert Sharrer, a British subject with German descent, blazed a path in the country now known as Malawi. While little is known about him before his arrival in Central Africa, he rapidly became a leading entrepreneur in the region with his controlling financial interests in the commercial operations of several industries. His interests included wholesale and retail trading, cotton and coffee plantations, and steamer fleet operations, among others.
Sharrer was also a prominent figure in the pressure groups, which promoted and represented the business interests of European planters to the colonial government. He was also known for his role in the development of the first railway in the British Central Africa Protectorate. He was, indeed, a man to be reckoned with in Central Africa during his prime.
With the declaration of the protectorate, Sharrer owned several estates – 3 large and 2 smaller properties – that were largely undeveloped upon his acquisition. His holdings were mostly in the Shire Valley, in contrast with other large landowners with properties in the Shire Highlands. But he soon turned it into an advantage by experimenting with a wide range of crops, which soon made him a leading landowner in the country.
By 1891, he owned the largest coffee plantation in the protectorate. He was also the first settler-cum-landowner to cultivate cotton, the so-called white gold, in the Middle Shire Valley. He became the Chairman of the Shire Highland Planters Association, which he established in November 1891.
Sharrer was also the leading force behind the British Central Africa Chamber of Agriculture and Commerce, which was formed with the union of the Shire Highland Planters Association and the Nyasaland Planters Association.
Before his departure from Central Africa, he consolidated all of his business interests via the British Central Africa Company Ltd, thus, allowing him to retain his financial interests in the British territory. He died during World War I as a German subject of the Custodian of Enemy Property in London.