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F1 title winner meets with MBA students

Former CEO of Mercedes F1 gives MBA students tips to accelerate their careers

As the CEO of a championship-winning Formula 1 team, Nick Fry knows how to put a company on the fast-track to success. And the former Mercedes racing chief was at Cass to share his top business tips with MBA students in a two hour talk.

Fry gave full-time students an insight into the highly competitive business world of Formula 1 where teams spend millions on developing the latest technology to gain an edge measured in thousandths of second.

Before stepping down from Mercedes last year, Fry was recognised as one of the leading commercial and management figures in the billion dollar sport. When Honda pulled out of Formula 1 at the end of 2008, he was involved in a management buyout which saved the team from the scrapyard.

Reconstituting the team as Brawn, he turned around its fortunes in a single year, winning with Jenson Button the drivers' and constructors' titles in 2009, before selling the team to Mercedes.

F1 talk

Invited to Cass by Dr Paolo Aversa, a foremost researcher in Formula 1, Fry put his success down to hard work, grasping opportunities and "sufficient" brainpower - "too much and you can see all the problems, which just adds complexity".

He went on to offer MBA students 20 lessons gained over his four decade career in business.

1) Get the best people. It's easy to compromise and rationalise but at the top-level you have to get the best people for the role right through the organisation. Sometimes you have to wait - it took Fry years before he signed Lewis Hamilton.

2) Give staff tools to do the job. You wouldn't hire the best heart surgeon and give them a knife and fork. When you've got the best people, give them the best tools.

3) Give clear objectives, make people accountable and don't interfere.

4) Be careful what you ask for as you will probably get it. If you have good people, you will get what you ask them to deliver. Make sure you ask them to deliver the right thing.

5) If you fail, fail fast and don't blame anyone. As you soon as you realise things aren't going to plan, put your ego aside and change direction.

6) Be visibly accessible and supportive. If people have to go to the 20th floor to tell you something you aren't going to like, they probably won't. Take a walk around and find out what's on people's minds. If there's a problem on the production line, go there yourself. The chances are people at lower levels will know about problems before you do.

7) Everyone is important and you can learn something from everyone. In racing, the person putting together the gear box to tolerances of one fifth of human hair has a greater influence on the outcome of a race than the driver.

8) Have the emotions of a house brick (in business) and a fact and data fetish. Start all decisions with facts and don't let ego and emotions take over.

9) All engineers are criminals. By their nature, engineers are never satisfied with the 'final' product. They will always want to improve it. Your job as manager is to know when the product is good enough for market.

10) You're either a team member or you're not. If you don't like it, go somewhere else or do something different.

11) Teamwork is only tested when things get tough. And nothing tests teams like an economic downturn.

12) 90 day rule. You have to make decisions in the first 90 days in any new role or you become a part of the furniture.

13) If you're downsizing, make it fast and fair. People need to know if they're in or out. If something is bad, tell it as it is, and say what you're going to do about it.

14) Cash is king. An unhealthy balance sheet will get you in months, but an unhappy bank manager will get you in days. Poor cash flow can stop a business in its tracks.

15) What did you sell this month? In the car industry, they say you've got to move the metal. If people want blues ones and you sell out, find a way to sell green ones.

16) Diversity is a strength. People from different background thinks differently. Everyone brings a different strength.

17) Don't trust someone trying to sell you something, especially lawyers. Before you sign a contract you're a prospect, after you're a client.

18) Your contract is your best friend. Always aim for a modest basic and a high bonus. If you bargain for a high salary, you make it harder to live up to expectations.

19) Leadership is not the same as management. Leaders make decisions.

20) Don't limit yourself but ask can I live with the consequences. Aim high but make sure you can live with the outcome if you fail.

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