"When I return to Bolton School to talk to pupils about entrepreneurship, my message is to 'go for it'. This is an attitude that I had instilled in me during my time at the school where my curiosity was fuelled and I became interested in ideas."

Caroline Plumb - CEO of Fresh Minds and youngest woman on Management Today's '35 under 35' list

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Old Boy John Roberts Inspires Sixth Form

Monday, 06 October 2014

Old Boy John Roberts, the CEO and founder of AO.com, returned to School to talk to the Sixth Form boys about his business and how he achieved such huge success.

He talked about how he started Appliances Online, or AO.com as it is now better known, in the year 2000 at the beginning of the internet boom, and since then the company has grown to be worth over £500m. Floatation has recently allowed the company to move into Germany, and Mr Roberts employs around three thousand people internationally. AO.com also placed fourth in the Sunday Times 100 Best Companies to Work For survey in both 2013 and 2014.

However, Mr Roberts emphasised that he has not done anything revolutionary with his business. His success has come from caring passionately about the work and ensuring that it is done outstandingly well at every stage.

Mr Roberts shared his own principles of business with the boys. He advised that people are the key to success: involving the best people and having an amazing team is what makes any company work. He said it’s also important to instil the idea of why the company operates and what individual responsibilities are, as people cannot be paid to care and need reasons. He reminded the boys that caring about the customer is vitally important Similarly, praise and recognition are important, as these are very valuable and cost nothing but time.

He said that he encourages free thinking to deliver high standards, and therefore has his staff operate to principles rather than prescriptions; it’s better to challenge everything and be risky, rather than do things by rote. However, he also emphasised that simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.

Finally, he told the Sixth Formers that there is always a way to solve a problem.

He gave the boys some really useful advice for the future, encouraging them to get advice on careers and drafting their CV. He said that using energetic language doing research on the company they are applying to will make it stand out, and advised them to put in hard work so their efforts look spontaneous.

“The harder you work the luckier you get,” Mr Roberts said. “Life is fun and full of experiences. You will never do your best if you don't enjoy it – do something you care about. If you don't make the most of it, you always have yourself to blame.”

One of Mr Roberts’s final comments was that inspiration is better than instruction – and the Sixth Form boys were certainly inspired by his visit and the great deal of excellent advice he passed on from his own personal experiences.

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John Roberts kindly gave his time to speak to the Sixth Form Boys

John Roberts kindly gave his time to speak to the Sixth Form Boys

The boys were interested to hear Mr Roberts

The boys were interested to hear Mr Roberts's secrets to success!