Quickfire Questions is a Forbes Advisor UK series that gives executives exclusive insight into their backgrounds, the secrets of their success, their hopes for the future, and what they would do if given a wand.
James Blackham was born and raised in Essex. He holds a Masters Degree in Mathematical Modeling and Scientific Computing from the University of Oxford.
After starting his career as a trader on the London Stock Exchange, he eventually started a car insurance company With miles.
The company offers coverage to low-mileage drivers, with customers paying an annual fee to protect their vehicle while parking, with a separate monthly fee for each mile driven.
He lives and works in West London.
What put you on the path to success?
What has helped my career the most is not being afraid of a dramatic change to get where I want to be, especially since my life goals have changed.
While it was daunting at the time, I’ve made major career changes about five times and I’ve never looked back.
Did you have a hero when you were younger?
Do you have one now?
I admire Elon Musk. He has a great ambition that unites everything he does. From protecting the planet to founding humans on Mars, he has an inspiring level of determination.
Do you get bored easily?
Yes! With so much different information coming my way on a typical day, I always try to improve my attention span. It’s an ongoing process, but I enjoy the challenge.
Who do you admire in business?
Anyone who has built a business from scratch has my admiration as it is a laudable thing to do. I was very inspired by the work of Clayton Christensen, who sadly passed away earlier this year. I’m also a huge fan of business analytics at Ben Thompson Stratechery Blog.
How would you describe your leadership style?
It’s a mix of pace and democratic leadership. I have set a high bar to put a lot of energy into everything I do and to make sure I understand all areas of the business.
I also want to get all of the input before approving a decision as there is great strength in many minds to come together.
What are your goals?
I want to enable carbon-free and accident-free mobility.
What qualities do you look for in colleagues?
The ability to translate my thoughts into written plans and strategies. In general, it’s great to be around people who share your passion. Energy is contagious and learning from other people is always exciting.
Ultimately, you will be spending a lot of time with your colleagues. It is therefore important that you live together in a comfortable environment and challenge each other to reach our full potential. I also think it’s important for all of us to work towards the same goal.
Micromanagement or the big picture?
Definitely a big picture. We started By Miles because we could see the way people travel was changing. The idea arose from many ‘big picture’ considerations and analyzes.
I would like to think that I’m good at handling people with a task without getting in their way unnecessarily.
Do you think companies are valued by society?
Yes, I think people value business, but it wouldn’t be worth mentioning that there are many examples of large companies not acting fair to their customers, which means that profits get into the hands of a few billionaires.
Businesses definitely have a role to play in making sure we all share the benefits of the modern age, but businesses need to act responsibly so as not to become alienated from the society in which they operate.
Here’s a wand – what are you going to do?
It may be a cliché, but I have to say world peace.
What is your favorite time of the day?
I really like the morning. I feel most productive at this time.
Do you believe in luck
I believe that people make their own happiness and that with the right thinking and determination, any problem can be turned into an opportunity.
Where to go next
Mars! But closer to home, I want to keep trying to make car insurance fairer for everyone.