Abbey Petkar

Managing Director, Magenta Security Services

Nobody’s perfect. What quality or ability do you wish you had?

I wish I could be more patient. I have a ‘let’s do it now’ attitude, particularly when it comes to dealing with clients, as they are the most important thing to any business, and in my opinion they should come first. I don’t like to put off until tomorrow what can be done today.

What is the best business book you have ever read, and why?

There are a couple of books which spring to mind. The first is Business Secrets by James Caan. It’s a really helpful book for people who are thinking about starting up their own business or have recently set up their own company. The other book is Lord Sugar’s autobiography, What You See Is What You Get. I can relate to both of these books as they show how both men started up their businesses with very little support, yet they were able to overcome many obstacles to become very successful businessmen.

Someone you would most like to have met, living or dead, and why?

Sir Richard Branson, because we have a shared interest in doing charitable work. He’s done a lot of work with people like Nelson Mandela to try and eradicate poverty and provide education and healthcare for children in third world countries. We’re heavily involved in charitable work in Africa, India and the UK, and what he has achieved is in line with what I would like to do in the future.

What do you consider to be your major achievement (in life or business)?

In business, my biggest achievement was making Magenta Security the first manned guarding security company in Europe to achieve ISO 14000 with the British Standards Institute. At the time, it was something no other companies in the industry were considering. We’ve taken the lead on environmental issues and we’ve taken pioneering steps to promote green improvements as a part of our wider policies. In the last year we’ve achieved a 50 per cent reduction in energy costs and significantly reduced paper usage and increased our recycling of paper. Much of our success in winning new business can be directly attributed to our environmental standards and CSR strategy; and our environmental approach was recognised when we won the first Environmental Initiative of the Year at the Security Excellence Awards.

I’m also proud of making Magenta Security the company it is today. When I first started the business, I came up against many obstacles. I come from an ethnic background and at the time the security industry was made up of mostly ex-forces personnel who were considered to have better skills and knowledge because of their experience. Today, Magenta Security is one of the leading private security companies in the country, working with a range of high-profile clients.

Who or what do you think is overrated?

I don’t think anything can be seen as overrated. Life is what you make of it and how you deal with it. My opinion is that you just get on with it.

What mistakes have you made (professional or otherwise), and what did you learn from them?

The mistakes I have made professionally have happened when I have been too trusting and people have let me down. As a result it takes time for me to trust people, particularly when it comes to running my business. When people break my trust it is the worst thing they can do.

I’d also like to do more charitable work—I haven’t done as much as I have wanted to. We’ve been involved with Water Well projects in Africa; we also sponsor a school for the blind in India and have been involved in various projects relating to children, such as the road safety campaign which provided board games to hundreds of schools to make sure children were aware of the risks on the road. But it’s something I would like to learn from and develop further in the future. Business is not just about being successful but also about giving back to communities around the world in the hope it makes a better society for all of us to live in.

Which one piece of wisdom would you pass on to your successor?

I believe in trusting your gut instinct—nine times out of ten, it will be right. It’s a rule I apply in business and I go with it. You need not be afraid and always plan to achieve your goals: you will never be successful if you have a fear of the unknown.

Who has been your inspiration professionally?

The businessmen I mentioned previously: Lord Sugar, James Caan and Richard Branson. They came from nothing and all of them have shown what can be achieved without much support. I’m inspired by the fact that against all the odds they have been successful in what they have done.

How would you like to be remembered after your retirement?

I would like to be remembered for being fair, honest, hardworking and making decisions based on fact. I would also like to be remembered for treating people equally whatever their creed, colour or religion. If you treat people with respect you will get their respect back.

Do you have a quote or motto you live (or work) by?

My motto is to be fair to everybody and treat them equally. I run my business by this. I am always willing to help, educate and invest in people. You need to give people a chance to prove themselves; however, there comes a point when you have to draw a line and call it a day. But they can’t complain if you have given them a fair opportunity.

Abbey Petkar is managing director of Magenta Security, one of the fastest growing private security companies in the UK. It was the first manned guarding company in Europe to be awarded certification to ISO 14001: 2004 as well as being the first company in the UK to become carbon neutral.