Five minute interview: Chris Thompson, Avanquest Solutions

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Five minute interview: Chris Thompson, Avanquest Solutions

MicroScope puts its questions to Chris Thompson, managing director of Avanquest Solutions

What is the best/worst advice you have received and from whom?

The best advice was from my mum. She taught me that the more generous you are by nature, the more is given back to you. It is absolutely true. The worst advice was from my stockbroker - to buy bank shares in August 2008. Ouch.

What is the best book you have ever read?

I read all the time and I listen to books on CD in the car, so it is hard to choose one, but for a sheer pleasurable experience it has to be The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. Someone said of it, "It was like getting up at dawn and seeing the sun rise while the rest of the world still slept."

Tell us something most people do not know about you

I was the Borough of Bexley Road Safety Captain at the age of 14. I won't say what year that was, but there were a lot fewer cars on the road.

What temptation can you not resist?

Wine Gums are up near the top of the list. In business, I prefer to be a hirer than a firer, so I have a habit of inventing vacancies when good sales people come looking for a job.

What is your most elusive goal?

Like the alchemist, I have always been searching for the way to turn software into gold. I have had some fantastic winners over the years, but I am still searching for the next Windows.

Which bit of technology would you want with you if you were stranded on a desert island?

A radio would be top of the list. I wake up to Radio Four and have a thirst for knowledge and news. At one time I was a member of the BBC Listeners Panel, sending in weekly reports and criticisms. I would not go crazy with just myself for company, but it would be a lot more bearable if John Humphreys was available at the push of a button.

Where is the one place you would like to visit before you die?

I have been a member of the Avanquest Group Executive for 10 years. We are a global organisation and the Exec meets every four months in a different location, so I have seen some wonderful cities, but all too often it has only been a view from the taxi to and from the airport. Sedona in Arizona is a magical place where I would happily spend a month or two.

What must you do before you die?

Make a will is the sensible answer. I cannot believe how many people still die intestate. What a burden to place on your loved ones. I have a five-volume copy of Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire which I'm saving for retirement. I have my fingers crossed that one day I will read the final page.

Who helped you get to where you are today?

I could provide you with a very long list (like an Oscar winner) and mention various inspiring tutors and bosses from my career, but it is actually my children who have provided the impetus for me to achieve. Nothing changes a person's perspective more than having dependents and wanting to give them the best possible start.

What was your first car?

A Harry Potter Ford Anglia 105e. I paid £30 for it and drove it for two years. On the first day, the petrol tank (which was held in place with canvas straps) fell off as I was testing its performance, which was very scary. The registration number, COF 101, is probably worth 50 times the original cost of the car - and no, I did not keep it.

What do you believe in most?

If you are constant, fair and honorable in your dealings with people then good things will happen to you more often than bad things. I have many examples of where I have been given great opportunities because I am perceived as a good guy who can be trusted. Dictum meum pactum = my word is my bond.

Why are you good at your job?

My boss, the chairman of the Avanquest group, would say it is because I always deliver my budget. I would say it is because I try to relate to, and have empathy with, my managers and staff, understanding their issues and dealing with them fairly.

Do you have any pets? If so, what are they and what are their names?

I don't have pets. My general attitude is that humans live in houses, animals live outside. When my daughter wanted a cat she hid little notes saying "kitten please" all over my study. I cracked in the end, and 10 years later I spend a significant percentage of my life brushing cat hair off of my clothes.

If you could be someone else for a day, who would you be and why?

My dad, when he has a young working man in Ireland in the 1930s. He died when I was around 30 and I wish I had spent more time bonding with him. He was a warm and generous man who gave everything he could to make me and my siblings comfortable.

Describe yourself in one sentence

A simple guy living a complex life and enjoying every minute.

If a grizzly bear and a silverback gorilla decided to have a no holds barred fight, which would you put your money on and why?

I assume this would be in a zoo as they live on separate continents. My money would be on the grizzly. Eight feet tall, weighing in at 1,000 lbs with claws like knives versus the gorilla at less than six feet and only half the weight. It is a miss-match in my view.

If you were shipwrecked, who would you like to have with you and why?

This is a very dangerous question and I could easily get in trouble here so, despite temptations, I will say Tim Severin who sailed across the Atlantic in an ox hide boat to prove that Saint Brendan could have discovered America. If he is not available, Bear Grylls or Rae Mears could be handy.

Name three items (smaller than a fridge) that you would like to have with you if you were shipwrecked

I was a boy scout, so I could probably build a shelter and light a fire, but I would like my Swiss Army Knife, the Champion version, which has everything on it. The collected works of Elmore Leonard (one of greatest living American fiction authors) would help pass the time. And a case of Chateau Petrus 1961 would be a very welcome luxury.

If you could be any animal for a day, what would you be?

Einstein said "if the bee disappeared from the surface of the globe man would have four years left". Bee colonies are being wiped out in the US and Europe by the Varroa Virus and Colony Collapse Disorder. Our government is investing in research, but nowhere near enough and there is an outrageous lack of urgency. I would be a bee and try to find out what is going on from my bee chums. I may be able to save humanity.

Do you prefer cities or the countryside?

It is impossible to choose one over the other. It is like asking if I prefer food or drink. Both are equally valuable and important. Cities are incredibly vibrant and full of life. The country offers peace, tranquillity and relaxation. I would not like to do without either.

Who would you least like to be stuck in a lift with?

I don't like arrogant or rude people. I also think that some so-called celebrities make the mistake of believing their own PR. In that stuck lift maybe Bob Geldof and Bono would deserve each other, but I would try to escape through the hatch (Bono is surprisingly small in real life by the way and wouldn't be able to reach).

Describe your perfect night out

Early dinner with a good glass of wine followed by a great play at the theatre and a good malt whisky nightcap.

What would be your perfect holiday?

Skiing, scuba, sunning, eating, drinking, friends and family - that would be a tough challenge. Five stars all the way would be good.

Sum up the IT channel in one sentence

The IT channel is constantly evolving and will need to find ways to handle innovations such as convergence and SaaS, but I have a hunch that it will stick around and remain an exciting and profitable place to be.

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