In a brand-new episode of On A Mission Podcast, host Ellie McKay talks to Dean Forbes, former professional footballer turned multi-millionaire entrepreneur and one of the most successful black CEOs in the UK.
At 17, Dean Forbes faced challenging circumstances as he grappled with homelessness while shouldering the role of the primary caregiver for his mother, who had lost her job. Forbes found himself burdened with significant debts incurred in an attempt to keep pace with his extravagant friends who had found success as footballers at Crystal Palace.
Driven by the urgent need for income, Forbes took on a job at Motorola and over two decades of relentless dedication and hard work, he steadily ascended the corporate ladder, ultimately becoming the CEO of Forterro with a company net worth of €1 billion.
In this latest trending episode of Ellie McKay’s chart-topping podcast named ‘Essential Listening’ by Apple Podcasts, Dean opens up to Ellie about his failed footballer career, his journey into the tech world from being a football player, why he was thinking of running for London Mayor and sharing his biggest challenge with work.
Being a Recovering Work Addict
He said: ‘I’m a recovering work addict, I need to fix that problem because at some point in the next seven or eight years, I need to stop working at this ferocity and this intensity just because it’s not sustainable for the next 25 years, but I’m loving what I’m doing and I’m so fortunate to come from where I’ve come from. To be running this amazing company with these amazing people, it’s unbelievable, and I’m so so grateful to be in this position.
“But actually, I think now the biggest challenge for me is to get myself to a point of comfort and satisfaction and choose not to operate at this intensity. I want to get good enough to just say I don’t feel like it today, I’m not going to do anything today. I want to be able to make that choice.”
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Fight With Mum Over Buying a Cartier Pen
Ellie also asks Dean about his first big deal and he reveals it didn’t actually go to plan, he said: ‘We were homeless twice, it ended up breaking up our family. When that moment happened [signing paperwork for his first big payout], I had to sign a document to complete the transaction as a shareholder, and in signing it, that’s what enables you to get the cash of course.
“So, because of what we’ve been through, I wanted to go and sign this document with my mum. So I went to where my mum was living. I took out the paperwork, I explained to her what had happened, and I explained to her the amount of money involved and she was hysterical, she was crying. We’re hugging. We’re having this amazing moment and she said, “You know, I always knew that you would do this”, and it was such a beautiful moment.
“And I said to her, I wanted to sign this with you and I’ve bought a pen. She said “Oh that’s a nice pen”, I said yeah it’s a Cartier pen I bought it for £1500 pounds, and she just went ballistic. She just said “Only an idiot like you would spend £1500 on a pen, how dare you come into my house with a £1500 pound pen. What kind of person are you? Who do you think you are? This is going be your undoing in life because you don’t understand how to value things”, and we ended up having this massive fight’.
Not wanting to be a poster boy for London Mayor
Dean also addresses how he once was considering running for London Mayor but decided it wasn’t for him.
He told Ellie: ‘I find myself in this really interesting place of being able to talk to corporates and being credible in the boardroom. I still do talk to people who live on the estate I grew up on. I’m still very present in the social circle that I grew up in. So I was able to have conversations kind of on both sides of the fence and then my network was growing and probably a phone call or two phone calls away from just about anybody in the country.
“So I was like, how can I put this to good use and a group of friends who are into politics and big supporters of the Tory party said you should really do the London mayor thing. And I was kind of like I don’t really think I should and they did some desk research and came back saying listen, this is how we think it could go and how we think you could have a credible story.
“So I spent time really investigating the possibility of what that would be like and spoke to a bunch of people in the Tory party about it, and just learned that the degree of true control a politician has to affect change is so nuanced and tiny. That just wouldn’t work for a control freak, like me, and I didn’t want to end up being a convenient face for the Tory party.”
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