Dick Skipworth’s Management Style
Dick Skipworth founded Memec and made it the world’s third largest electronics distributor. He had an individual style of management.
“Everyone trusted Dick, it was the key to all his business success, it made it easy to develop the business”, says Geoff Haynes vof Harris, an early Memec franchise.
Skipworth was a good picker and that’s shown by the many he picked who left Memec to set up successful businesses of their own.
Many recall being wooed into the Memec ranks over a meal or a session in a pub. They joined, it seems, because they liked him.
“Dick’s a moral sort of guy, not in a stuffy sense, but he has a finely tuned feeling for what’s right and what’s wrong, and I think that’s why people like him”, says DaveLathan, who was recruited in a pub in the very early days, then left Memec to manage one of the suppliers’ businesses.
Once recruited, new people were given the chance to make their own way. “There was a great feeling of opportunity”, says Ed Sturmer the first person Skipworth took on at Memec.
“We employed people as salesmen who in a few years were managing directors,” adds Sturmer, “Dick’s good at that, at leaving people to get on with it, giving them their head and supporting them. It was the making of me, personally. I turned from being a shy engineering type, into a fairly confident sales and marketing guy, who became a managing director type.”
Once a group had more than half a dozen product lines, the Memec business model recognised that it had reached the limit of its capability to satisfactorily handle the lines, and a new group would be set up.
Memec’s performance – out-growing the other big, global, distribution groups – suggests that its model works better than other models.
“We were a success in business because we didn’t know any better”, says Skipworth, “if you don’t know any better you’ll go out and do something. You can think too much about a number of things, and in business there are many intangible and indeterminate things that you could always continue thinking about and never get an answer. I have a firm belief that, if you don’t know any better, you’ll probably get out and do something. Not all the things you do will be right – and quite a few of them will be wrong – but at least hopefully, there will be a few that will be right.”