AO.com founder John Roberts pictured at the companies warehouse in Crewe, U.K. Thursday, Feb. 12, 2015. Photographer: Jason Alden

John Roberts (Class of 1992)

Could you write a brief pen portrait about yourself and your career?

My life and career has been unorthodox. My first job was working 40 hours a week, while doing my A levels, at The Last Drop Hotel as a waiter, and bar man. It was a great experience: whilst it had the inevitable impact on my academic results, it gave me a great insight into hard work and how to serve customers.

From there I moved to work for a kitchen and bathroom distributor, starting in the warehouse before moving into a sales role. I progressed then through a few different companies in the kitchen industry, always in a sales role that focused on customers.
In 2000, we began a business to change the way people buy electrical products, using the internet and technology to create a new paradigm for an industry that was previously infamous for low service and a poor experience.

AO.com now sells circa £700m p.a. of electricals and has expanded internationally to Germany and the Netherlands, employing about 3,000 people. The business was floated on the stock market in 2014 for £1.2bn. I remain the largest shareholder and an active executive board member focusing on our brand and culture, and how they will underpin our future success.

What is your connection to Bolton School? Have any other members of your family attended School here?
I attended school from Park Road up to A Levels, my brother also attended and so do most of our kids.

What is your fondest Bolton School memory?
Going a whole football season unbeaten under Doctor Rodgers’ management!

What do you feel your experience at Bolton School has given to you personally?
Bolton School gave me a rounded education rather than a particularly academic one, which was my doing rather than because of the School’s efforts. I often wonder how life would be without the discipline at Bolton School keeping me just on the rails.

What is the best career advice you can give to Bolton School pupils today?
It doesn’t take a lot to be better than the majority. You have to do more than the next person to have an impact and you have to care about it. If you find something that you are truly passionate about then it is much easier to be better. Always give people more than they expect and don’t listen to the dream-stealers; you can achieve anything if you really believe it and are willing to do whatever it takes.
Always tells the truth and don’t be late.

What do you think about Bolton School’s 100 Campaign aim to re-establish genuine open access through its bursary fund?
It is ambitious and under publicised. Giving all kids an equal opportunity to learn and grow is crucial for community cohesion. It must also be remembered that it is not all about the academic side of life and that everyone receives a rounded experience, development and discipline are just as important.