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Why you need to have a happy workforce

30th May 2024

Sir John Griffin on receiving his knighthood, his work ethic – and what the future holds


FW: At Finito we were so thrilled to hear about your knighthood. Can you talk a little about what it means to you to be honoured in this way?


JG: It was very moving. I thought of my late father who came from Ireland and worked at Buckingham Palace looking after the guards. When I went to the Palace, it seemed to open up a door to the past: in particular, it meant a lot to me to see the Irish guards and the Royal family too. I felt it as an honour and a privilege – I suppose you could see it capped a lifetime of achievement.


Did you feel awe?

I did – I was actually very taken aback. Did you know that as a kid I used to stand outside Buckingham Palace at the railings? Well here I was in the inner sanctum, as it were, kneeling and receiving the sword. I have always been a great supporter of the Royal Family – they do so much for our nation, putting us on the world stage and yielding a massive profit for the Country- and none more so than the King.


Can you tell us a bit about the day of the investiture itself?

Going into the Palace is a breath-taking experience. Actually, I’m full of Royal connections because I also live in a house designed by John Nash who also designed Buckingham Palace. But the pomp and the tradition is very humbling. I had been there before for a small dinner when Eric Clapton performed with Stevie Wonder – but on the day of my investiture my main memory of the music was the two trumpeteers who gave a magnificent flourish as we came into a celebration lunch.


What do you think your mother and father would say if they knew their son had been made a Knight of the Realm?

They would be so very proud. Other members of my Irish family went to prison. We have got a son at Buckingham Palace!


The citation for the knighthood shows the sheer variety of what you’ve done. What is it that motivates you and keeps you pushing forwards?

The main things which motivate me are helping the next generation and helping to save lives. The work we do at Finito is very important and I’m also incredibly proud of donating £12 million towards building The Griffin Institute at Northwick Park Hospital.

What was the best day’s work you ever did in your life?

I won a six aside football championship and the British Schoolboy boxing championships – those were proud sporting moments. Professionally, I’m most proud of starting Addison Lee – and especially enticing my two sons and our extended family to join the company. It was a right of passage for family members to find their role.

What advice would you give to a young entrepreneur starting out today?

Get up early and work late. Believe in yourself because your best is always enough.

Where do you get your legendary work ethic from?

Both my parents were hard-working people, who instinctively understood that things don’t happen overnight. They believed in me, and I think I was always comforted by that. That definitely helped during the hard times – and if you don’t have hard times as an entrepreneur then you’re not taking enough risks!

How will the knighthood change things for you going forwards? What are your immediate plans?

It won’t come as a surprise that I am thinking about starting another business, but it will be difficult to beat my proudest record of achievement over 38 years at Addison Lee, no driver was found guilty of any offence against a passenger. I am writing my autobiography. When I was 16, I went camping in Devon, milked a cow and drank the milk. As a result, I got brucellosis, bovine tuberculosis. I was in hospital for two years, and I left school without a single exam pass. I was on long term medication. During my treatment, I met a lot of people who later died. I was quite philosophical that I had not and realised that life was a gift.



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