David Randall is a relaxed man these days, but it was not always thus. The past 10 years have hardly been stress-free. He has taken Azlan to the stock market and made himself a millionaire. But so determined was he to achieve this goal that he worked non-stop for months at a time, and he paid the price in his personal life. Two marriages broke up and the work caught up with him in the end: he had to step down from his position at the head of Azlan.
So why not stop there and, after 30 years of hard graft, just sit back and enjoy the fruits of success? Quite simply, Randall is a workaholic.
He can't stay away. 'After three months I realised there are only so many massages you can have in one lifetime. I wanted to get back in. I still get a real buzz out of the business,' he says.
The difference now, after he has been there once, is that he can afford to delegate more of the responsibility. He is focused but not fraught.
Ten years ago, it was a very different story. As PC Dealer was launched, Randall was working alongside Bob Woodland, who he still socialises with, and was deeply embroiled in the political wrangling at publicly quoted distributor Ferrari.
At the start of 1986, Ferrari had shut down its small US operations which had been losing money. Randall had been flying regularly to the US to check on the business. Technically, everything seemed to be in order, but the sales were just not coming in.
'I had to keep going over there because Bob was terrified of flying.
I knew something was wrong but I didn't know what it was, and the financial guy at Ferrari kept telling me there was no problem. In the end I persuaded Bob to get on a flight and we paid a surprise visit. We discovered the warehouse was full of archery products. The guy had been moonlighting and our business had not been getting his full attention,' Randall recalls.
The US operation was closed down and the financial director sacked. But nine months later, when the firm's figures came out, the shareholders wanted someone else to carry the can. The three senior people in the company were Woodland, his wife Sharon Ferrari and Randall. Randall wasn't surprised to draw the short straw.
In October 1986, Randall joined ADT, a small, general computer products distributor owned by the then high-flying dealership Yorkshire Micros.
At the time, Ferrari was the sole UK distributor for a company called Novell. 'Towards the end of my days at Ferrari we had the Novell distributorship and I started to realise that this was going to be an absolute gold-mine.
Even though it was the early days of networking, I was totally convinced.'
He quickly set about cutting the dead wood from ADT's line and re-focused the firm on networking. Since Yorkshire Micros was based in the North, Randall convinced Novell that it should appoint ADT as an additional distributor.
The die was cast. The stratagem was to transform ADT from a small and relatively insignificant distributor into the UK's leading networking products and services organisation, and it was ultimately to lead to the stock market flotation.
'The potential was clear and we just went for it', says Randall. 'That has always been our philosophy and we have stuck with it ever since.
We decided that we'd be in one market, that we'd operate at the top end and that we'd be the best in that market. We've held on to that philosophy ever since and it has worked well.'
By 'we', Randall means the people who started with him at Ferrari and ADT and have stayed with him over the years, many moving from Azlan to join Techex, the company where Randall re-emerged last year. 'The only other component of the app-roach we took, was that we would make the company like a family,' he says. Later on, he was to feel the 'family' approach had got a little out of hand. But it is easy to understand how Randall and his colleagues were swept off their feet by the firm and its speedy growth.
Under Woodland's influence, Randall had become a great advocate of self-awareness training. 'We encouraged people to explore the depths of their talent. We made them realise they had potential that they had never dreamed of and that they could achieve much more than they had ever imagined.
We used a slogan -
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