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Q&A: Robbie Cowling, Colchester United owner
3:00pm Saturday 30th June 2012 in Local news
You succeeded in business where so many others failed because...?
I think it was a combination of having a good idea, being in the right place at the right time and then working harder than you would believe is possible.
Despite working very late in the evenings, I would try to get into work by seven the next morning and, when I did so, I would convince myself all my rivals were still sleeping in their beds while I got a head start on them. If I was ever later than 7am, I would convince myself they were already in work and getting ahead of me. That seemed to spur me on.
The most valuable lesson you have learned in life is?
I think the values I picked up from my Grandma have been the most valuable. She was the most honest, trustworthy, hardworking and respected person I have ever known. I try to live up to her values and I could never have had the success I had without them. The new training ground in Tiptree is named Florence Park after her.
A business decision you got very wrong or an opportunity you missed?
Considering JobServe started in 1993, I think I should have done much better and JobServe should be bigger than Google by now.
When I purchased Colchester United, the negotiations for the stadium were well under way, so I did took a back seat. I should have got more involved.
To help the country, this Government should?
I really don’t get involved in politics. I decided a long time ago I would not become reliant on whoever was or was not in power. However, I know how hard it is to run a football club and keep all of the fans happy, so running a country must be extremely difficult! Part of the problem is the need for the politicians to remain popular with the voters and that leads to short-term thinking and some very bad decisions. I truly believe I am doing my very best for Colchester United and I don’t mind if that makes me unpopular.
If you hadn’t invested in football, you would have spent the money on?
I think I watched too many episodes of Dragon’s Den a few years ago and that resulted in me buying a lot of businesses!
Most of those are in different parts of the world, like Australia, America and even Thailand. So I would probably own a load more companies in various parts of the world. Mind you, half the money would have gone to the taxman, so I’m guessing the economy could have been fixed by now if I hadn’t spent it all on a football club.
Your worst time as owner of Colchester United?
Parting company with Geraint Williams. Geraint was manager during the wonderful Championship season when we finished 10th. He was also a very good manager and I should have stuck with him longer.
When times are hard, a memory you cling to?
When I was about 26, I had a particularly bad day. It’s a long story which I wouldn’t want to bore anyone with, but in one day several things had gone badly wrong for me and none of them were my fault. I was feeling sorry for myself and thought I had every right to do so. Until later that evening, when I was watching Esther Ranzen on Children in Need.
She was filming some poor youngsters who had all sorts of disabilities and who had all been through numerous operations in hospital and had many more operations to look forward to. Sadly, most of them had no chance of a normal life and, even more sadly, some had no chance of surviving into adulthood. However, every single one of them seemed to enjoy life to the full and there I was feeling sorry for myself.
I promised myself there and then I would never feel sorry for myself again – and I never have.
An indulgence you want, but haven’t yet got?
I would love to take a year off work and snowboard for a whole year. It would become a world tour, because I would have to follow the snow around.