Business: Inspired Richard owes a lot of his success to his former boss

MANY people in the Dunstable area knew Richard Cooper during his 20 years with ‘the rubber company’ BTR. Here we catch up with him to see how he’s doing now.

Date of birth:

November 13, 1952.

Town where you live:

What are your business qualifications?

40 years of business experience. Commercial property sales and management in central London, retail management, international logistics and the last 20 years at BTR and Metzeler Rubber/Automotive Company formerly based in Dunstable.

Do you think business leadership can be taught or is it something that comes from a natural instinct?

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To a certain extent yes to them both. I have developed my business skills over many years in different sectors. It’s said that good leaders are made not born. Leadership requires education, training and experience. I can claim two out of the three. I unfortunately had a rather poor education but had some very lucky breaks. What I realised very early is that I was comfortable and more successful in roles that involved sales, negotiating and people. My first job was working as an office junior at a very well established firm of surveyors and estate agents in central London. My mentor was a highly skilled negotiator and property manager; he was my inspiration in those early days.

What is the name of your main business and what does it do?

ASA Business Development (Trading as Automotive Specialist Associates Ltd). A unique consultancy offering a pragmatic approach in support of the SME market seeking advice, coaching and management support in all aspects of business development in the UK, European and global Markets. Particular expertise in the Emerging Markets.

What was the turnover of your main business in the last reporting period?

This is a new company since the later part of 2010.

Where would you like the business to be in 10 years’ time?

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We will have a network of associates established in key locations worldwide. We are already in advanced discussions with potential associates in Asia.

What positives can you extract from current economic conditions?

According to latest figures foreign demand is providing a welcome boost to manufacturing output, but conditions for domestic-facing firms is much weaker. Exporting and creating foreign business opportunities, collaborations and technical agreements are the way forward for many.

What is the most important thing in life and why?

Health and happiness.

At what age do you aim to retire and what will you do after that?

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I can’t see myself finishing at 65, maybe less hours, but definitely not retiring.

What does your partner do?

My wife Susanna works in special needs education.

What is the most important thing you learned at school?

That’s difficult; I suppose people skills were something I picked up early in life.

What extra subject should be placed on the curriculum?

The benefits of strategic and tactical planning tools.

Have you ever had to sack someone on the spot and why?

Over the years, yes a number.

What percentage of your success is inspiration?

Probably almost all. I have been fortunate enough to meet so many inspiring people both in my business and personal life.

Who is your inspiration in business and why?

My old boss Stuart Garling. He was a brilliant marketing and global VP of the old Hertfordshire BTR in Dunstable. He taught me the importance of forming strong business relationships.