Business advisor inspires Welwyn Garden City students

CEO coach Steve Tappin

CEO coach Steve Tappin - Credit: Archant

A business guru who advises the bosses of many of the world’s top companies spoke to Welwyn Garden City students to inspire them in their careers.

Steve Tappin, whose list of clients includes Richard Branson, Terry Leahy of Tesco and former BP boss Lord Browne, spoke to about 200 students at Oaklands College in The Campus on February 14.

He told the students: “As soon as your goal becomes clear, go for it, and don’t stop.”

He explained that as a very junior employee of ICI, he had decided to learn how big business worked by meeting various CEOs (chief executive officers).

Mr Tappin said: “I was only 25, but I decided I was going to meet a CEO a week.”

His first mentor was ICI boss Sir John Harvey-Jones, and he travelled the world to talk to leading experts in “soft skills” such as psychology and coaching.

He soon became a CEO himself as the head of the Endogene consultancy, but was ousted when trusted colleagues turned on him.

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Mr Tappin, who hosts the BBC series CEO Guru, told the students: “I was devastated. I thought, how could people do this?”

After a tour of China where he met the huge nation’s most dynamic entrepreneurs, he defied the 2009 recession to found a new consultancy, Xinfu, which means “trusted friend” in Mandarin.

Mr Tappin demonstrated his mastery of the language, and advised the students to learn it.

He told them: “By the time you are at the peak of your powers, China will be bigger [economically] than America.”

Answering questions from the students, he told them: “You can be born with it, but leadership skills can definitely be developed.”

He deplored the shortage of female CEOs - just four per cent of the FTSE 100 - but said many very strong women were pushing for promotion just below the top level.

Asif Khan, head of business and ICT at the college, said: “Steve was truly inspirational. I hope he comes back again soon.”