"Believe in yourself, never give up and go about your business with passion, drive and enthusiasm" – Peter Jones
Peter Jones is quintessentially British, as Anglophile as his no-nonsense, straight to the point name might suggest. In many respects however he might have been a successful American businessman, the product of multiple reincarnations and the ongoing "you can do it" psyche inherent in US culture. He has his fingers in many different pies, insists on overseeing all his investments directly and was recently appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire for his services to business. He runs a £200m telecommunications firm, his own television production company, a variety of different investments and a number of different homes and fast cars. Oh yes… he just achieved his lifelong dream, persuading the British government to invest in a National Enterprise Academy, the first time that accredited courses have been offered in entrepreneurship and enterprise, representing a direct investment in Britain’s entrepreneurial future.
After leaving school in Windsor with three "A" levels, Jones traded his time between playing tennis, giving lessons through his own academy and tinkering with computer creation. He decided to open his own computer business, manufacturing personal computers under his own brand until he fell foul of the (relatively) significant recession of the 1990s, failing to reel in credit that he had given out and losing everything. Forced to liquidate all his assets and start from scratch, he bounced back pretty well by landing a job at Siemens and rising to head its computer operation in the UK.
He was soon in a position to branch out on his own again and founded Sports International Group in 1998. Explosive growth followed, tied to the growth of Ericsson phone products in Europe. The company’s turnover had increased tenfold within three years, but he always remembered the hard lessons he learned with his initial computer startup and never extended himself or his company too much, despite that growth.
While his telecommunications business was expanding, Jones had branched out into TV. He was persuaded to become an initial investor in the hit BBC TV series Dragons Den. The series lines up would be pitchmen against a tough panel of entrepreneurs, with the pitcher having 15 minutes to persuade them to invest. Jones is known as one of the most shrewd and more successful investors in the series, with several achievements under his belt. Extending involvement in the medium, Peter Jones TV is the name of his television production company, responsible for The Inventor, a hit show for ABC in America, the ITV show Tycoon and other ventures with his good friend Simon Cowell.
Jones is most proud of the National Enterprise Academy, however which has now developed from a tester program into a full-scale commitment, with a £40m government commitment over five years to bring the concept to various locations throughout Great Britain. "Its the proudest thing I could ever do in my life apart from having my own kids. [It is] a mindset-based curriculum that’s very testing to students and its the first Academy of its type in Britain. It’s a proven, working model," says Jones. After all, "I’ve always liked the idea of creating a nation of entrepreneurs."