An interview with an LDC Top 50 Most Ambitious Business Leaders judge

Stuart Miller, Co-Founder and CEO, ByBox

As we scour the country for the most ambitious business leaders, what does ambition mean to you?

I want to meet entrepreneurs that are trying to solve problems on a global scale. People who think, ‘If I don’t fix it, who will’? I’m also looking for something beyond financial success. It’s not enough to be growing by x% year-on-year if you’re just building a ‘me too’ business.

For me, ambition means the desire to make an impact and effect lasting change. If you get the mission and execution right, financial success naturally follows. Ambition doesn’t mean arrogance. Having said that, I’ve become very wary of business owners who make unrealistic claims, and tell me they are going to build a £1bn business in three months. While it’s good to dream big, the model has to be realistic.

Why is it so important to celebrate British entrepreneurial ambition?

It’s so important to showcase British talent so that other people – especially the younger generation – can see that entrepreneurial success is in reach. This is why it matters so much to me that we find leaders who are ordinary, relatable people who have achieved great things, simply because they never gave up. They will act as a totem pole for others.

I want enterprising 15-year-olds to hear about these heroes and heroines, and learn about all the challenges they faced on the path to success. In business you are always faced with adversity but it’s all about understanding how they became successful despite those setbacks. 

I’m 50 now, and when I was younger, the only stories being told were about rock stars like Richard Branson and Lord Sugar. It was almost paralysing for me, because the gulf between us was so huge. We need pinups that people can relate to when they are initially starting out.

Have you bounced back from business disaster?

There has been a long list of disasters over the years. I managed to work my way through all of them, and learned a lot in the process. ByBox today is very different from the company I co-founded in Silicon Valley 18 years ago, and pivoting was very hard. But ultimately, I needed to find my mission: to try and prevent bad things from happening.

This sounds grand, but our customers include hospitals and data centres. They use our smart lockers to store critical parts, and this ensures that their critical machinery stays ups and running.  I truly believe that ByBox has saved lives, and it will continue to do so. It’s this ongoing ambition that drives me forward.

LDC Top 50 2018