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From Nags to Riches: An Evening with Fred Done

Gordon and I recently attended an evening with Fred Done at the University of Salford. Fred is the founder of the bookmakers Betfred. A proud Salfordian, Fred discussed his life story and how he runs his companies.

Done explained how he left school at the age of 15, with no qualifications and started working for the local bookmaker, Ernie Peters. After serving several years there, he set up his own betting shop in Pendleton, Salford. The Betfred name has grown significantly, and it now has over 800 shops. Further to this, it also purchased the government owned bookmaker, the Tote in a move that was considered audacious at the time. The deal was completed in July 2011 for the sum of £265 million. Today, the estate numbers 1,360 shops throughout the UK and employing 10,000 people. In addition to being a bookmaker, he owns companies specialising in Bridge Finance, employment law, sports travel, and property.

Done suggested that businesses will always cope with change, however, he stated the importance of the businesses adapting with the change rather than fighting against it. He described when Britain was hit by the foot and mouth episode and all horse racing was stopped - whilst many companies struggled, Done filled the gap by focusing on greyhound racing – keeping Betfred busy ticking over when competitors simply shut down.

More recently, Betfred has seen the arrival and growth of online gaming; and Betfred has moved some of its attention to embrace this emerging channel. He admitted he did not foresee the effect of the internet on the industry, which could have adversely affected his business were it not for the way they adapted to the change. Done described how 40% of Betfreds online business is now done on the company’s mobile app.

Done’s ability to change and adapt, coincides with his facility to take risks. This was again another major point, and he emphasised the importance of taking calculated risks in order to be successful in business. Like any good entrepreneur, Done has the guts to get the thing he wants. More importantly he suggested that you learn more from the failures and mistakes than the successes.

I found Done a very modest chap, who held a lot of values that we at Trust IV have. He has a personal interest in his employees, and he respects and rewards loyalty. The example of supporting his outgoing Head of IT to set up their own business backs this up. Overall, it was fascinating to hear from one of Manchester’s most prolific entrepreneur (even if his heart rules his head when it comes to matters Manchester United).

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