Wheels of fortune

You've worked your fingers to the bone to build up your business, so why not give yourself a well-earned treat - a convertible Aston Martin DB9 Volante, for example! Adam Wayland asks six successful entrepreneurs about the car they drive and whether they think it's an important status symbol...

Name: Laurie Beevers, CEO, WH Ireland
Profile: Commenced his stockbroking career in 1972 with Orme & Eykyn in London. Joined WH Ireland as chief executive in May 1995
Current car: Convertible BMW 330i Cabriolet (in blue)
Approx price: £30,000
Performance: 0-62mph in 6.3 secs
Max speed: 155mph

‘I used to have the 325i convertible and this one has a bigger engine, which is a great improvement in performance. BMW have also added one or two bits and bobs that make it more comfortable to drive.
I bought it because it really is a superb piece of equipment. When I was at university driving my Morris Minor – one of three that I’ve owned – I used to joke about having a convertible. I remember I was working for a knitwear company back when I started out and I wore a cream rollneck sweater. I would say to my wife that it was to go with my soft-top, though at that stage I didn’t have it. She had to wait another 30 years for me to get one!
Soft-top cars weren’t very efficient back then. In fact, they were a nightmare and nothing was automatic. Thankfully, the technology has now sufficiently progressed for me to happily buy one.’

Name: Michael Murphy, CEO, Friends Reunited
Profile: Took the helm at Friends Reunited in February 2003 following a successful management buy-in. Prior to joining the company, he had a 20-year career with Pearson Plc, including roles at FT.com, FT Business and the Financial Times.
Current car: Aston Martin DB9 Volante convertible (in black)
Approx price: £120,000
Performance: 0-62mph in 4.9 secs
Max speed: 186mph

‘I actually have a model of the car that I drive on my desk at work. It was always my dream to own one and now I do! It’s a black Aston Martin DB9 Volante. If you ask any young chap on the street which car he’d like to have, I think that’s the one most people would choose.
I bought it after we sold the business because, quite frankly, it’s the best-looking car on the road.
I’m not convinced it’s important to have a car that reflects your success, I just love nice cars and always have done. My first was a Ford Cortina Mark 4, but I passed my test in a Mini, so when I started driving the Cortina it felt so big I hit everything, and I mean everything – lampposts, gateposts, you name it! In the end I had to sell it and buy a Ford Fiesta.’

Name: Bob Morton, serial entrepreneur
Profile: Has backed many successes in his time and currently chairs a number of firms, including facilities management group MacLellan and e-commerce solutions provider Systems Union
Current car: Mini One Convertible (in bright yellow!)
Approx price: £15,000
Performance: 0-62mph in 11.8 secs
Max speed: 105mph

‘The convertible Mini I drive is about a year-and-a-half old. I bought a bright yellow one – I don’t like to stand out!
I live on Jersey so it’s a great car to have here because it’s a sunny place and I can put the hood down. There’s no point having a high-powered car here, since the island is only about five by nine miles. There’s no gridlock and no traffic jams, though. And the speed limit is 40 mph, so you can’t go very fast anyway.
It’s a car that’s easy to park and practical because of Jersey’s narrow roads, but if I lived elsewhere, I’d have a Mercedes S500L and it would be chauffer driven. That way I could use it as a mobile office. On Jersey you don’t spend much time in the car but if I did, I’d want to be able to work as I went.’

Name: Rosemary Conley, founder, Rosemary Conley Diet & Fitness Clubs
Profile: Set up in 1993 to support people following her diet and fitness programmes, the franchised business now runs in excess of 2,000 weekly classes in the UK
for more than 80,000 members.
Current car: Turbo R Bentley (in burgundy)
Approx price: £140,000
Performance: 0-62mph in 6 secs
Max speed: 150mph

‘I’ve had my car eight years and I love it! I’ve driven a Bentley since 1993 and this is the third I’ve owned – before that I had two blue ones. When we first started out with Rosemary Conley Diet and Fitness Cubs my husband and I didn’t draw a salary, but we were able to buy ourselves a nice car. I already had the number plate – ROS1E – so I just needed the car to go with it.
Before that, I owned a Jaguar XJF, but as I got busier I had to get a driver and needed the extra space. That’s why I went for a Bentley with a long wheel base third time around. However, it is soon to be auctioned off in a raffle for Steps, providers of conductive education for children with cerebral palsy (www.step-out.org). It’s for a good cause, but I’ll be sad to see the car go.
Image is quite important when it comes to the car you drive – you want to show you’re successful, but build up your business first. I’ve seen people go down the expensive car route too early and suffer for it.
I think I’ll go for something like a Mercedes or a Lexus next, second-hand though – nothing too pricey!’

Name: Ian Lancaster, CEO, Twenty Plc
Profile: Founder of Virgin Cars in 2000 – a joint venture with Richard Branson – he established the ‘Virgin’ brand within the retail car sector and created the first online consumer-branded, direct car sales business. It was sold to a trade buyer in 2004.
Current car: Porsche 911 (silver)
Approx price:

Performance: 0-62mph in 5.2 secs
Max speed: 175mph

‘I bought a Porsche because it’s a quality product. Having worked in the motor industry and become totally bored by cars, I wanted to re-excite the interest that I’d always had. My passion had waned because they’d become items of working stock, but the Porsche 911 was a step ahead of the rest.
People will make assumptions about your success based on the car you drive, but I think it depends on the sort of business you are in. For instance, I was in the marketing services business for the car industry – there it was important.
Your car can say a lot about the business you’re working for or running. It can also say a lot about your lifestyle, too. For instance, I think in the very near term I’m going to have to go for something more roomy – my two small children aren’t so small now and it’s a bit of a squeeze!
These days I spend a lot more time at the wheel, so having a car that is comfortable to drive is important for me as well.’

Name: Jez Frampton, CEO, Interbrand
Profile: Began his career working for D’Arcy and more recently Saatchi & Saatchi. Joined Interbrand as director of brand experience and later became MD of Interbrand Interactive. Became CEO of Interbrand’s London operation in 2003.
Current car: Porsche 993 Targa (silver)
Approx price: £65,000
Performance: 0-62mph in 5.1secs
Max speed: 177mph

‘I’ve always had an interest in cars and I confess I’m a bit of a petrol head!
The first car I bought was a Fiat 500, one of those little bubble cars, but ever since I’ve been old enough to get a bank loan I’ve had a Porsche.
I remember this guy that lived across from my parents’ house – he had a red 1980s Porsche with the whale tail and everything. He’d pick me up in it if he saw me walking home from school and I just fell in love with it. To me, it was like something from the future – the noise it made and the look of it.
I think in a business context, very few people see me in my car, but you still have to be careful. People want to do business with successful people, but if you turn up in a Lamborghini Murcielago you could send out the wrong message – people are going to think, “he’s making a lot of money and it’s probably from me!”
Some cars do have a stereotypical driver, though. I think you could probably get away with an Audi or something like that, but Bentleys have that footballer image and Porsches used to be a bit gauche, a bit ‘80s, though I think they’re OK again now.’

Adam Wayland

Adam Wayland

Adam was Editor of SmallBusiness.co.uk from 2006 to 2008 and prior to that was staff writer on sister publication BusinessXL Magazine.

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