I’ve never lacked confidence and I felt sure that I had the knowledge, skill and work ethic to start my own business. What I didn’t have was much cash behind me so I teamed up with an old colleague from my days at FG Trew’s, Ken Jones. Together we had enough money to get our first business up and running – a plumbers merchant called Central Heating Services. Situated in Oxford Street, Swansea we opened our doors in 1984. I was lucky enough to have excellent contacts with plumbers who showed me great loyalty and helped get the business off to a great start. It was hard work but we made £100,000 in the first year and we were all delighted.
Unfortunately my partnership with Ken didn’t work out as we had very different views on how a business should be run. Fortunately, with financial help from my parents, I was able to buy Ken out. Times were hard at first and I still remember my Mum giving up her time by coming in to help me with the books which gave me a solid foundation on which to build. I assembled a great team including a certain Mel Protheroe who still works for me today. Mel is in the photo above with a pen in his pocket; he now takes great delight in telling everyone at the call centre about some of my antics as a young businessman. One tale that often gets recalled was how on a Christmas night out in Swansea I disappeared from a pub, abandoned my shoes and somehow made it to the top of a lamppost!
In the end our hard work paid off and the business flourished, making me a millionaire in the process. Life was good! By 1988 I was ready to expand and with much fanfare opened a second depot in Cardiff. However, what I hadn’t foreseen was the coming recession which by 1989 was starting to bite and was soon to change my life dramatically.
Like countless other businesses, the recession of 89 had an immediate impact on sales. I battled for a while to turn things around but increasing levels of debt were saddling the firm. Eventually it was the bank that put my company into receivership. This experience taught me countless lessons; one that I still carry with me today is to always keep a handle on your finances and don’t rely on others to provide you with crucial information.
It was a shattering blow to see my hard work blown away and it led to two extremely difficult years. My marriage ended, I lost my home and I was left selling off personal assets to try and get things straight.
However, no matter how severe the trials and tribulations of my business life have been over the years, I have always had cause to remind myself of what is really important in life. A truly frightening time was when my eldest son, aged just seven, was kicked in the head by a horse in Dunvant. It was a serious injury that left him medically dead for a short while. Miraculously he survived and thanks to the care he received, made a full recovery. I often use this memory to put things into perspective when things in life seem bad.