Peter Bazalgette is the man who is generally given credit – if credit is the right word – for bringing the “reality” television show Big Brother to Britain. His great-great-grandfather is Sir Joseph Bazalgette, the brilliant Victorian civil engineer and philanthropist, who is generally given credit for building the London sewer system, thereby saving tens of thousands of lives from cholera.
It has been said that it is easy to tell these two Bazalgettes apart: Joseph is the one who pumped the effluent out of millions of British homes; Peter is the one who pumped it back into them.
Be that as it may, Peter does at least deserve praise for his book on the business behind the Big Brother phenomenon – although is it, sadly, now out of print. It really ought to be reprinted – and until it is, it might be worth tracking down a second hand copy – because it presents one of the best recent portraits of a natural entrepreneur.
The “hero” is John de Mol, co-founder of Endemol and a compulsive deal-maker in the most literal sense: like many other very successful entrepreneurs, de Mol loves making deals so much that it actually seems like a compulsion. Natural entrepreneurs do deals like addicts do drugs.
It might seem strange to non-entrepreneurs that Bazalgette reckons that the self-made multi-multi-millionaire de Mol is not particularly interested in money. One of de Mol’s closest associates is quoted as saying that it is making deals, not making money that matters to him. Of course, this does not mean that de Mol does not care about money: for one thing, the money is necessary to quantify the success of his deal-making – but not much more than that, a way of keeping score.
The paradox in all this is that those who are able to focus on the deal, rather than on the money at the end of the deal, are far more likely to become very rich than those who are simply obsessed with money.
In business, as in any game, the trick is to keep one’s mind on the game, not the rewards. The player who spends the whole game day-dreaming about how good it will be if he wins will not win. Victory goes to the player who stays focussed throughout the game on the game itself – and this is usually the player who loves playing the game for its own sake.