Sir Stanley Kalms' Desert Island Discs

He did it 'My Way'

Sir Stanley Kalms, executive chairman of the Dixons Group, appeared on the Radio 4 institution Desert Island Discs on Sunday morning.

Kalms is preparing to stand down and take a non-executive position with the company at its AGM in September 2002. He'll then be two months short of his 71st birthday and he's spent all his working life building up the high street giant. In fact he might say:

And now, the end is near;
And so I face the final curtain

Well he let Frank Sinatra say it for him as one of his desert island choices. The song which best sums up the position he's reached in life is 'My Way'.

If you don't know, the point of the radio show is to choose the eight records you'd most like to have with you if you were stranded on a desert island. Based on his choices, you wouldn't want Stanley to come round and DJ at your party, but he had some interesting things to say about his company.

Sue Lawley, the show's host, probed him on Dixons' reputation for aggressive behaviour towards the competition. "You don't have to kill them," said Stanley. "There's plenty of room for others."

But what about Dixons' cold, hard, business like approach asked Sue.

I did what I had to do
And saw it through without exemption.

"We are not cuddly. You may not get love and affection, but you get good value and service. I assume customers want to buy that way," said Stanley.

Sue also asked about the times when Dixons is accused of not behaving properly. We assume she meant the rap on the knuckles it got for hard selling its warranties.

"There'll be moments when someone will not observe the philosophy of the company. We have rules and punishment for those who break the rules," said Stanley, a bit ominously.

Have there been times when everything didn't go as well as planned with the rise of the Dixons Group?

Yes, there were times, I'm sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew.
But through it all, when there was doubt,
I ate it up and spit it out.
I faced it all and I stood tall;
And did it my way.

Three years after going public the company wasn't performing well and Kalms agonised for six months thinking he was a failure. He was 33 at the time and describes the period as a breakdown. "I felt I wasn't a success, but having that breakdown made me much more resilient," he said.

Has Kalms ever learnt to delegate?

I planned each charted course;
Each careful step along the byway,
But more, much more than this,
I did it my way.

"I have learnt to delegate, but I have always been at the centre. I've been the pilot," was his answer.

Will the Internet threaten Dixons' market position?

My friend, I'll say it clear,
I'll state my case, of which I'm certain.

"I don't think the Internet is a serious form of business," he said. He feels the overheads are too great, such as customer delivery and IT infrastructure, to support the pricing models of the online firms. "Like all discounters they'll have short sweet lives."

How would Sir Stanley manage on a desert island, as he admits he's rubbish at DIY.

And may I say - not in a shy way

"I'd be the ideal castaway. I'm very resourceful, I'd find a way to be rescued," he said.

For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself, then he has naught.
To say the things he truly feels;
And not the words of one who kneels.
The record shows I took the blows -
And did it my way!

My Way was written by Revaux/Francois/Anka.

Sir Stanley Kalms appearance on Radio 4's Desert Island Discs will be repeated on Friday 5 July at 9.00am. ®

Sir Stanley Kalms Desert Island Discs

  1. Waltz of the Flowers from the Nutcracker Suite by Tchaikovsky
  2. La Mer by Charles Trenet
  3. Kol Nidre - something a Cantor sings before Yom Kippur
  4. The Thieving Magpie by Rossini
  5. My Way sung by Frank Sinatra
  6. Air on a G String by Bach
  7. Beim Schlafengehen sung by Elisabeth Schwarzkopf
  8. E lucevan le stelle from Act 3 of Tosca by Puccini

Book choice - The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith

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