Cunning plans and nicely-mown grass

Mike Firth at YIBC 2011
Mike Firth at YIBC 2011
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Mike Firth is the man behind arguably the most prestigious and highly-regarded business event of its kind in Europe - and it’s coming to The Magna Science Adventure Centre in Rotherham in March.

With a heritage spanning almost two decades, the Yorkshire International Business Convention has built a reputation for bringing the biggest names in business - and entertainment and politics - to a Yorkshire stage since it started in 1995.

This year’s line up includes Brian Blessed, Robert Peston, Richard Noble and Clare Balding and the event is set to attract more than 700 business people.

Mike Firth set up the convention in 1995 after being inspired by the Bakersfield Business Conference in the US the previous year where, in one day, he heard three past American Presidents talk to an audience of 14,000 people.

He graduated from the University of Bradford in 1970 with a physics degree.

He worked for Mars, leaving the company in 1974 to start his own business which developed into the Yorkshire Food Group - a UK importer and packer of dried fruit, nuts, beans and pulses.

It went public in 1993 and, ultimately, owned part of the Del Monte operation in California.

He currently has private business interests in food and property and is based in Birstall.

1. My life-changing moment

The birth of my first child - nothing in business can compare.

2. My breakthrough

Building my first business to £15m turnover then buying my biggest - £45m turnover - competitor. We applied our tight working capital controls to a much bigger business and got £7m back from working capital in nine months.

3. My best decision in business

Starting my own business. I am now unemployable.

4. My best decision in life

Getting married and starting a family.

5. My best recruit

Christine, my PA of 30-plus years.

6. My biggest mistake

Taking my successful private business public. I was not suited to life in the listed domain - should have stayed private. I liked being my own boss with a very good team. Reporting to the Stock Exchange drove me mad.

7. My hardest time

Right now!

8. My weakness

Supreme optimism. The entrepreneurial spirit allied to a bit of pessimism is probably the best combination. Makes you look at the potential ‘downsides’.

9. My future

Working as long as I can - I have had some serious ups and downs in business but it still gives me a buzz.

10. My legacy

My kids

11. What have you been doing today?

Knocking out this Q & A!

12. Who is your inspiration?

So many, but all are regular folk – not famous ones. There’s a guy in Birstall who cleans the streets. Always cheerful and does a great job.

13. What is the most nervous you’ve ever been?

Birth of my first child

14. Who or what are you most proud of?

My kids

15. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever had?

‘Don’t look back’ from Sir Ken Morrison. When I took my business public. Sadly I didn’t follow it!

16. Who is the most famous person in your phone?

Can’t tell you – too many people would want the number.

17. What one item do you take with you wherever you go?

My mobile phone of course. Losing it would really panic me – I never download contacts!

18. Do you doubt yourself?

Not often enough - see 8

19. What is your view on social networking?

No idea what it is.

20. How do you relax away from work?

Sit on my tractor and cut the grass. This is when I hatch most of my ‘cunning plans’.