Beyond the Entrepreneur: John Roberts

NameJohn Roberts

CompanyAO World plc

Written byStephen Chadwick


The numbers: Group revenue £1.05 billion, 3,227 employees, millions of customers

How did he do it? John Roberts was a sales manager for a fitted-kitchen firm. One day he was confiding in a friend that he wanted to quit his job and start his own business. His friend, Alan Latchford, who went on to become a co-founder, bet him £1 that he wouldn’t get round to starting the firm. The company was originally named Appliances Online.

“Like all the best businesses, it started in the pub,” Roberts told Retail Week.

One bright idea that helped the business: that the characteristics of major domestic appliances (which were not take-home products and were usually branded, known value products) would make them well suited for online purchasing.

Latest news: John, who stepped down as CEO in 2017, returned to that role in February 2019 and remains there today. AO now sell all kinds of electronics including major domestic appliances, small domestic appliances, audio visual equipment, computing, mobile, gaming and smart home technology – it sells more than 8,500 different products on The company is renowned for its excellent customer service.

Best quote: “Treat every customer like your gran and make decisions that will make your mum proud.”


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