Bolton University Honorary Doctorate Speech (2019)

14th July 2019

When you were young, you gird yourself, and walked where you would: but when you shall be old, you shall stretch forth your hands, and another shall gird you, and carry you where you would not.
John chapter 21 verse 18;

Today we would translate this as: “When you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.”

Life is a beautiful adventure – all of life.  Sometimes the adventure takes twists and turns you didn’t choose, but that is part of the joy of being alive and walking towards your destiny.

This passage could describe my life.  I believe you can only live to the fullest and achieve your full potential if you have faith in your destiny.

I am evidence of what belief can achieve.  I had faith, I packed my bags and came to the UK without knowing the language.  I trusted in the future that lay through that open door, however much I would have to learn to succeed, and it helped me make my way to where I am today.

So, it is a huge honour to be invited here today to receive an Honorary Doctorate from this great university.

I am particularly proud as it has come from a University  with such a well developed and long-standing reputation for its School of Engineering. I arrived in the UK with a doctorate in law from the University of Pisa.  I should tell you that one of the reasons I chose law – it was quite a big influencing factor actually – was that there was no element of the English language to contend with. Little did I know I would shortly be working in the family business in the UK, reeling cable in the warehouse during the day and studying English at night.

Lawyers have to be analytical.  They have to be prepared.  Most importantly they have to listen and manage information for the best outcomes.  In business, these are very useful skills to have.  In particular, when the business you are in is a family business.

I remember well my recruitment into the business.  I met my girlfriend – now my wife – at university and I was taking her to meet my parents for the first time for dinner.  As we arrived I took a call from my uncle who headed my company, Tratos, a cable manufacturer.  He said it was very important that I come out to dinner with him – now!

I left my mystified girlfriend with two perfect strangers and headed for the restaurant.   My uncle made no reference to what I was doing at that dinner.  Back at my parents’ home I struggled to find some explanation for my absence. 

The next call from my Uncle was to offer me a job.  I thought of a big salary, travel, a good lifestyle and the security to start our family.  I didn’t consider where I would start!  But I did learn.

I learned that whatever life throws at you, work hard.

I learned that however hard you work, even if you sometimes fail, hard work is recognised.

I learned that respect isn’t inherited.  Yes, you have to work for that too. 

And, I learned that if you are in a family business, you have to be in it because you are qualified for a role within it – that you are good at it – and that you want to be there.  These are all great values to live by.  They helped me take the business global.  You have to understand the territory and the culture in every part of the world you seek to connect with.  You have to have respect, you have to employ local talent and you have to deliver the right customer experience and technical support – wherever your international customers are.

If you are an innovative business and you are driving product development then you are behind something new – and something new means change.  Trust and reputation and support are absolutely critical.  We have become the company clients turn to for solutions – when solutions don’t exist yet.  We work with industries from road and rail, power transmission and green energy, ports and marine, offshore oil and gas, telecommunications and construction to defence and world-stage international experimental projects such as the work we’re doing on nuclear fusion.  Some of what we do, of what some of you will go on to do, will help change the world.

Thank you so much for this honour; thank you so much for showing me such generosity today.  I wish those of you who are starting out the best of luck with your career choices.  With hard work and focus – you really can make anything happen.