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10 Years On… Part 3

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10 Years On… Part 3

I finished my last blog post at the start of 2005, mentioning during 2005 we got a few awards and moved from our second home into a proper office. I also mentioned that was when I purchased UK Business Forums. The start of 2005 was very much head down as I was looking to recover the money lost in the legal wrangling I mentioned before, during this time was when I first started venturing out into the public doing a bit of networking. I first started with some friendly networking through the Northamptonshire Chamber of Commerce before being introduced to BNI – which I stuck with for a whole year and a half before calling it a day, even doing a stint as Membership Coordinator. That basically makes you the most hated person in the group! During that time I reached the point where I was attending at least one networking event a day, often more. It was crazy and I didn’t realise how much unproductive time I was wasting not monitoring my return on investment. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying networking is a waste of time. I’m saying that you need to treat professional networking like any other marketing activity, you need to ensure you are attending the right events and making the right connections.To often and I saw so much of this, people get sucked into feeling like they need to attend every event going and before they know it they start attending more for the social aspect than the business aspect. You pay to attend these events, it costs you money, so you need to be sure you are covering your financial and time investment in networking.

In May 2005 my son arrived, an amazing time and it was great for me to still be working from home at that time. Not only to be around him as a baby, but to be on hand with my wife sharing the experience. I feel for so many fathers in particular you miss out on these times because they need to be back at work within days, although I do appreciate many working mothers are often back at work too in such a short space of time. Later experiences have taught me how valuable family time is, whether you are a parent or a couple you don’t get time back. There is so much pressure in today’s world to give up your soul to the workplace and it achieves nothing, you may end up running the largest business but have the loneliest existence.

Towards the end of 2005 the awards started flowing in, the news clippings have us highlighted as being nominated for record numbers of awards with us winning 3x awards and Highly Commended in two others. We really enjoyed the time putting on the posh frocks, the glitz and the publicity. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to enjoying the attention, being recognised when going to a bar or networking event, being called up by the local radio or papers for a comment on something or another. Being a ‘ickle mini celebrity was fun, but again it didn’t directly make any money so I needed to focus back on the business.

It was about this time I also picked up an idea from accountant Graham Keeble of GKP, when I received a letter from him explaining that instead of sending Christmas cards they made a donation to a local charity. Perhaps it’s the Dutch blood in me but I personally don’t like the amount of wastage with sending corporate Christmas cards. They go in the bin first thing when we return to work in the New Year and often never get past reception, such a huge waste of money. I feel the same with personal cards to a degree, in Holland you only send cards if you are not going to see the person near the time – so it’s a way of saying “Sorry I haven’t seen you in a while, but you’re not forgotten”. So I don’t see the point in buying a birthday card for my neighbour, my wife or kids, etc. I see them every day, so I just wish them Happy Birthday. Of course, I do buy cards because my wife would kill me if I didn’t :). As for not sending corporate cards though, what a great idea! Why waste hundreds of pounds on sending cards when instead give the money to a deserving charity. So far we’ve donated gifts and money to schools, donated to the Air Ambulance, and donated to a couple of children’s charities. I prefer that, and that is when we stopped sending corporate Christmas cards.

The following year was pretty uneventful in regards to news stories. I won a personal award for “Championing Change” which was nice, and Quick Formations was runner up for a national SME of the Year award. Short of that though, the team started to grow and I took on a couple more staff in our new office. Things were really looking like we were rocking, the team coming together well and I was enjoying what I was doing…until.

January 2007, in fact on New Years day Pauline, my mother-in-law I’ve mentioned a few times in this story, collapsed with a brain haemorrhage and was declared brain dead on the 2nd January after being in ICU for more than 24 hours. This completely shook our lives upside down, and really changed the way my wife and I went forward in our personal and business life. For the first couple of months we were good for nothing and if it wasn’t for our new staff the business would have been unlikely to have carried on. Perhaps just an emotional event of the time is that one of my staff, Rebecca Noton, continued to run the office whilst I was absent despite unbeknown to me her own mum was in hospital at the time. As soon as I found that out I told her to leave immediately to be with her mum and I started to pull myself back together and work, but it was a long long time before Lesley was back.

I’m quite a spiritual person. I wouldn’t say I believe in the benevolent being but I believe in a deeper understanding of the soul and what is around us, and be it coincidence or Pauline’s spiritual influence, but within weeks of her passing I found myself in negotiations for the sale of UK Business Forums for significant sums of money. A few months later I sold Quick Credit Reports, and then immediately after that I sold Quick Telecom. It looked like I had a plan but to be honest I’m not sure if I did have a real plan at that time, but I was offloading aspects of the business which were not making a real high value return.

Was this her influence? Dad I somehow triggered these events of my own actions? I genuinely don’t know but what this did do was put us in a much strong financial position to enter 2008, and the up coming Global Financial Crisis.