Reg Bamford

You can never accuse Reg Bamford of failing to spot an opportunity. When South Africa rejoined the Commonwealth in 1994, Bamford - who had been working as an article clerk at Deloitte - realised that there was about to be a massive influx of South Africans into the UK. And that, thought the young entrepreneur, was something that somebody should be looking at very seriously.

Nearly two decades on, and the company Bamford helped found, 1st Contact, has quite literally become the first port of call for any South African arriving on British shores. It was founded, Bamford says, because of "a dislike of working for others and a desire to make a difference and grow a business into something great."

It was a decision he would never regret. Now, 1st Contact is part of the Sable Group, which Bamford also founded (after buying into an existing business, Sable Wealth) and which acts as a parent to not only 1st Contact, but a host of other services as well. "We now have a wider vision," says Bamford. "Not just to offer services to young working holiday travellers in London but to engage with those clients who are first generation entrepreneurs and who are making a success of their career in the UK."

For those attempting to impress the Mambas, Bamford is a tough customer: just because he has a knack for spotting an opportunity in the long grass doesn't mean he won't pick and choose where he strikes. But if they can impress him, they'll get a mentor like no other.

Quick Strikes:

  • Born: 11 October 1967
  • Scariest thing he's ever done: Bungi-Jumped off the Bloukrantz Bridge, or giving the Prize Giving address at a local London school in front of five hundred school kids and parents.
  • Person he most admires: Nelson Mandela
  • Best piece of business advice he's ever been given: Surround yourself with great people and extraordinary things will happen
  • When he's off the job, what does he enjoy doing: Spending time with my wife and two young boys, and playing in international croquet events.
  • What's the most unexpectedly successful business idea you've ever seen? Doing a set of Accounts and a tax return in front of a client. It happened because I forgot about a client appointment and they came in to collect their company accounts. I had to do the whole thing in front of them, without them realising it. Why did it succeed? Because it made the preparation of the accounts intensely focused, without distractions, and the client was able to understand exactly what was being done. It then meant that the client experience was far more interactive, we had less queries during the course of the year, and our customer satisfaction levels (and profitability) shot through the roof.
  • Cliched question, but: what piece of advice would you give to prospective entrepreneurs in the program? Find two or three "Wise Men", who will give you honest views and advice. Most big mistakes and wasted effort happens when you start out, so save yourself the time, money and stress by avoiding the big mistakes.