A real life tale from a real life motor trader in 4 parts…Today the 4th and final instalment…
Fast forward 18 months. Still going strong, working really hard in our new offices, cars everywhere. However…
September 2008 my girlfriend of that time announces she’s pregnant.
October 2008 David nearly dies in a serious Jet Ski accident in Miami.
November 2008 finally work out where the cash has been going, sack administrator for theft.
December 2008 buy a house at the top of the market to house new baby and girlfriend.
January 2009 driver kills a pedestrian whilst moving one of my cars (yes really).
February 2009 builder tells me he needs £50k over budget just to make new house habitable.
March 2009 Dave still in hospital, no admin, no driver and £150k worth of used cars around me.
April 2009 global recession, son born.
May 2009 extraordinarily unfriendly bank tells me my business no longer ‘fits their profile’.
June 2009 move into unfinished house, bank overdraft withdrawn.
July 2009 refused re-mortgage on unfinished house. Driver gets 4 year prison sentence.
August 2009 unable to renew trade insurance due to a multi-million pound public liability pay-out.
September 2009 fire sell stock, bar one Mondeo, realise that I’ve lost £200,000 in one year .
October 2009 shut down. Decide to study, enrol on a 4 year Psychology degree.
November 2009 my girlfriend announces she’s pregnant.
December 2009 a rather low key Christmas.
January 2010 face my creditors.
I don’t blame bad luck for everything, there are decisions that I should have made more quickly than I did. All adverse situations generally bring introspection and I now understand a lot more about myself as a result of my £200k training session.
I’m actually not a very good businessman.
I have some of the attributes associated with being a good businessman; I’m a great communicator, I understand trade, I’m hard working and can be really focused when I need to be. I gain people’s trust at lightning speed and am conscientious. This last honourable trait however is probably my main weakness in business. With conscientiousness comes empathy for others and a desire to do the right thing.
You can get away with this “gentlemanly” approach when things are going swimmingly but empathy is a definite ‘no go’ for a truly successful business person who needs to get tough when the going does likewise.
There were few empathetic motor traders in Warren Street. My administrator for example, I still feel guilty for sacking her even though she was stealing from me. Why the hell is that? Even to this day it still upsets me to think of her dismissal; during her time with me she seemed so sincere. Yes you guessed it; I’m a sensitive sort of bloke and tend to assume the best of people. If I went on ‘The Apprentice’ I would get through three or four stages and then Lord Sugar would say ‘Cameron, you’re a good salesman and a nice fellow but you’re too sensitive, you’re fired’ cut to the next scene of me weeping in the cab.
When I shut the business down I sold everything that I had including my small selection of classic cars that I always wanted to keep. I shoe horned my girlfriend out of the 2 year old Cherokee Jeep that I’d given her to use, got rid of every direct debit and somehow or other made sure everyone involved was paid off, everyone in fact except my key investors whom have fortunately for me, been very understanding so far. I am in a constant communication with them over what’s happening and yes it does keep me awake at night. The debt is being managed by me and paying it off will be a big part of my life for some time to come.
Once it was shut, there were mixed emotions of sadness plus an unexpected feeling of relief followed by a sudden realisation of a bizarre practical issue that I’d never had to consider. My girlfriend and I had no means of personal transport. The last asset in the company was a 2002 Ford Mondeo Automatic that I had taken in part exchange. It was virtually unscathed, one owner, 52,000 miles, had a full main dealer service history and above all had 4 months tax left on the screen. I effectively bought it off what was left of my own company, insured it in my girlfriends name, shut the office doors, got in it, drove it back to my unfinished house went inside sat down and stared at bare plaster walls for a while.
So I’m still here, financially poor but in between the continuing low level worry, most days I am oddly quite euphoric. Like a butterfly, my then girlfriend has now turned into my lovely wife. I have two amazing little boys aged 3 and 4 and less than a year away I will be graduating with a Science degree. I am a model father and a model student and have enjoyed every moment of both fatherhood and study. The Mondeo has now covered another completely incident free 22,000 miles and looks and drives exactly the same as it did 4 years ago. I’m fond of it not only because it’s my ‘first car’ or that we as a family have had some great times in it and not because it has sat outside and all I’ve done is have it serviced, replaced some tyres and MOT’d it but because it’s fair to say my wife and that car, represent one of my few reliable constants during a time in my life when I felt that I’d lost control and then lost everything. At least if the thought of that got too much, I knew there was a car outside my house to use if I needed just to go and have a drive, which I do from time to time and it’s never let me down.
I am now armed with my own piece of simple advice that I can administer confidently to those that I think may benefit which is; if what you’re doing is not working, stop it and do something else. Sounds obvious huh? It’s not easy to walk away from something that has have been an intrinsic part of your life for so long.
Do I miss the motor trade? Parts of it yes but I am going off in an entirely different direction now so I’m able to look back now with fondness. I’ve managed to come to terms with the fact that I went from being in a position for all of my life of not owing anyone anything, to owing a considerable amount of money with no immediate means of paying it off, in a very short space of time. My safety net is the knowledge that I don’t have to take any more of the risks that I took whilst attempting to hang on in there in the latter part of my trading career; it’s all over for the time being.
The motor trade will always be part of me. I imagine my wife and I eventually trading up from our terraced house and living somewhere with space around it for a few cars for my boys and me to mess around with, they don’t know yet that their Dad was once a respected lone warrior in the motor trade so it will be fun to pass on that part of my life to them, in other words a bit of buying and selling into my latter years, more as a hobby than anything else. Working on the old adage ‘if you don’t use it, you lose it’ I keep a close association with all of my friends within the trade from over the years and I have recently sold cars on behalf of others which for me, has actually worked quite well.
So it’s certainly not all bad news! This story is laced with very few regrets and I still consider myself without doubt one of the lucky ones. All normal people experiences tough times at some point during the journey, life is easy to navigate when things are going well, the real measure is how you approach it times of trouble.