What made you want to write a book?
I’ve always written books really. I wrote a lot of fiction at university, things I’m working on I haven’t really shown anyone yet. I was very into business at university and I felt like I had something I could share with my peers about business, without being dogmatic and arrogant, going up in their faces saying "this is what you should do". I wrote a book mainly focusing on business, and then I decided to do one more broad and general, on life, so this is the business of life.
Tells us about some of your business credentials
I've been running businesses since I was 12. My first business was repairing surfboards and then selling them on to tourists on a beach in America, and then i started selling diamonds to friends of friends I knew were getting engaged. I threw a few parties back in my school days and then when I was at Edinburgh I set up a commodity brokerage and did some transactions from Africa to Dubai and South America to France. Then I invested in some tech companies and have basically become very interested in tech. I like the scalability of it; you don't really have to do a lot of legwork. The thing I like about tech is you don't have to market it, you just promote it and it really markets itself by word of mouth. I don't like selling stuff. Apart from my book, of course.
So you were a budding Richard Branson at school?
Yes. I rescued a bunny rabbit from the car park once. It was so young; I picked it up and said this surely should not be in the car park. So i took it. In my dorm room desk there was a filing drawer in the bottom, so I took out all the files and made a little bed, and every morning I'd wake up and say "how's it going?". I used to feed it with a little syringe with baby formula. Boys at school had found out and there was loads of hype about it so it was called The Hype. Then I changed its name to Henry. I used to charge people to cuddle it.
The genre of your books is humour/business. Can business ever be humorous?
Yeah, absolutely. My real business philosophy is only as good as the people behind it. You need innovative people; charismatic people who are going to really going to put their creative energy into the company, and that is what adds value to the company, particularly in start-ups. That's why I think when companies get too corporate or too big they can lose that creative spark and that personality, and I think that's why I'm interested in start up businesses. The first thing is you can impart a lot of influence and creative direction on the idea and direct a company to make it more profitable. It's very vindicating – it's like the harshest school teacher; you're either wrong and you lose all your money or you're right and you make money. it's an A or an F.
Are you good at taking your own advice?
I live by my own advice. You've got to stick to your guns. I try and stick to my guns; I don't consider any path I've taken the wrong path because it's led to me being more experienced and not going down that path in the future. If you don't go down that path, you'll go down eventually.
Who is Boulle's Jewels written for?
It's for you. It's for everyone. It's for everyone that is unhappy, or wants more money, or feels like their relationships could be better, or they could be better generally in life. The perfect thing is it fits in your top breast pocket. If you have a breast pocket.
What advice would you give to a budding entrepreneur?
I think being self-informed is the most important thing. I didn't learn anything from my parents, from my teachers. I went out and I read books and I learnt, and I read articles and I read autobiographies of CEOs that I admired, so its really about being self-informed. In a team you're only as strong as the weakest member, so if you're considering yourself a machine to go and enter the workplace or battleground of business, you need to have all of the weapons.
Do you see a career for yourself as a writer?
I plan on releasing some fiction soon; it remains to be seen. I'm my own worst critic and I'm a perfectionist on that sort of thing; on fiction in particular I need to really make sure that i put something out that i'm proud of. I'm proud of Boulle's Jewels, of course, but a story is something that can live forever.
Boulle's Jewels is out on 8 November, published by Quercus.