Add colour to your investment

Earlier this month, I finished reading the autobiography of the late high-profile horse trainer, Ginger McCain.  

My Colourful Life is the story of a man making the most of the quite average hand he was dealt. After trying numerous roles, once he happened upon something he truly wanted to do, namely train a Grand National winning horse, McCain worked extremely hard and was rewarded with the satisfaction of achieving his goal, testimony to his drive and ambition.

I suspect the word ‘colourful’ in the book’s title is a euphemism for a story of ups and a fair share of downs, but there are few complaints from Ginger.

Throughout this entertaining read, there are regular anecdotal referrals to Noel Le Mare, Red Rum’s owner, who gave McCain the authority to buy the horse in the first place. His story sounded just as fascinating as Ginger’s, starting from the time when he and three friends met in a Manchester teahouse and agreed to establish a construction company. Le Mare had to borrow most of the £250 he needed for his quarter share, but his investment was rewarded many times over as he went on to build Norwest, a huge civil engineering company, which employed more than 6,000 people at its peak.

The tale made me wonder whether it is still possible to develop a new business from such modest beginnings and whether investors can identify and possibly even assist with a young business’s growth.

I have no doubt that the overwhelming majority of the 450,000 people who decided to take the plunge and start their own business last year will have done so in the hope of emulating Mr Le Mare, but why is it that some businesses race ahead while others fall at the first fence?

It’s a tough one to answer, but I believe there are certain characteristics which differentiate the entrepreneur most likely to succeed from his or her peers, which brings me to another book I have recently finished, How I Made It by Rachel Bridge.

The book’s cover proclaims “40 successful entrepreneurs reveal all” although in truth, they don’t, yet the book provides an intriguing series of interviews with all manner of people,  from late starters to others, such as Daniel Mitchell, who started selling office equipment at the age of 19.

There is a consistency in each of their philosophies, however, which could be summed up as a willingness to take risks in order to seize opportunities.

Of course, some people are driven by an overwhelming desire to make pots of money, while others feel they have something to prove. Several successful entrepreneurs have been told at some stage that they’ll never amount to much, others such as Mark Ellingham, founder of the Rough Guide travel book series which he sold for £10m, have found that necessity is the mother of invention. One factor stands above all else when it comes to underpinning success, however, and that is an overwhelming determination to make things happen.

In many respects, each of these two books are similar in content, but are there lessons the investor can draw from either? I think there are. Keep an eye open for people who, having meandered through life suddenly take the bull by the horns and display remarkable business-orientated drive.

It follows that investors don’t need to focus entirely on the stock market to see a return on their money as assisting such folk could eventually pay enormous dividends and could actually provide quite a colourful ride en route.

posted on 19 October 2012 15:50 byPJS