Martin is Chairman of Center Parcs, a Member of the Supervisory Board of Euro Disney and a NED of Regus Group.
What would make UK boardrooms more effective?
The UK has become a slave to legislation. Boards should be encouraged to spend less time on routine considerations that don’t add value and more time on strategic issues. NEDs should feel privileged to be on boards: executive roles are stimulating, whereas NEDs are too often bogged down by compliance issues. Additionally, the size of boards needs to be reduced and NEDs should be more independent, less liable and paid properly.
We should also address the problems RemCos are having and promote a better understanding of the issues that they face. The current level of criticism directed at RemCos is deterring high-quality, experienced candidates from taking up such roles.
Who do you go to for advice?
I have a few personal confidants that I bounce ideas off who are all people that I respect and have built relationships with. In the last 10 years I have found my contacts with P.E. experience very helpful. When my company needs advice, I go to the best we can afford — the return on investment is always worthwhile.
What advice would you give your children in business?
Pursue ideas that you are passionate about, and be relentless in that pursuit.
What is your golden rule?
Instinct is usually right.
What single government policy change would best aid the recovery?
The Government is now on the right track. They have made improvements in the provisions for small businesses and entrepreneurs, but they are lacking expertise. They need to better understand the issues affecting these groups to make sensible policies going forward — on tax breaks, for example.
How will the UK’s global influence change over the next decade?
I’m in two minds. On the one hand the UK is clearly facing a serious challenge. However our influence may increase due to the independence of our currency and we have an entrepreneurial past and loose government intervention in our favour. If we can maintain a stable government then we have the potential to grow.
What is the smartest business decision you’ve witnessed?
Piet Derksen founded Centre Parcs in the 1960s with a vision that busy people in urban environments want quick, accessible, relaxing breaks. He relentlessly pursued this vision and nothing about the concept has changed since.
Which companies or industries would you back for the next decade?
Sustainable and green businesses — sustainable energy will be key going forward and a large industry will develop around supply, sales and maintenance.
What book is on your bedside table?
The Third Man, Peter Mandelson. Then I will be reading Blair (but not Brown!).