Against a background of today’s low risk culture, Richard Noble specialises in developing high risk ventures. Obviously not all of them can be successful, but the Thrust2 programme which brought the World Land Speed Record back to Britain in 1983 and the Thrust SSC first ever supersonic land speed record programme are the best known.
Noble’s other projects include the ARV Super2 light aircraft, the Atlantic Sprinter Blue Riband contender, Programme Funding, an original television funding company, Farnborough Aircraft, the first distributed travel air taxi aircraft and currently the Mach 1.4 Bloodhound SSC project the latest in the long line of Land Speed Record cars now being run through 3600UK schools.
Working in this high risk environment can never be seen as secure or comfortable, for the financial horizon is often just days away and the company depends on its wits to survive. The upside is that we try to use flat structures wherever possible, delegating both responsibility and authority – which can result in a team which drives the project fast and across a wide front, activities which would be seriously expensive for traditionally micro-managed companies.
As an example, the ThrustSSC team found itself head to head with both well funded American and Formula 1 teams. McLaren were building the Maverick supersonic car and had budgetted £25m. The Spirit of America team were reputed to have a $14m budget. The ThrustSSC team carried out the entire programme on a cash spend of £2.85m – 14% of the McLaren budget.
The projects have always tended to be innovative – and that puts them against the odds and against the system which will always favour the conventional. Whilst support in terms of people and resource tends to be forthcoming, the financial support has always been the most difficult to achieve – whether sponsorship or investment – and often because of the financial community’s real doubts about the teams ability to achieve. Oddly it does seem that the higher the perceived risk by the financial people, the greater the chance of the team achieving!
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