In early 2004.
My landlord was Fred Hoult.
Fred was a wonderful, well known, jolly North East businessman.
We got on well.
One day, Fred wandered in to my office.
A 1,000(ish) square foot office that I rented from Fred for about £8,000.
Fred (very politely) asked me to follow him.
So I did.
We wandered 100 yards across the yard.
Chatting about the weather.
Fred saw me as ambitious.
Which is why he was taking me to The Boilerhouse.
The Boilerhouse was the biggest single unit on the estate.
7,000 square feet over two levels.
3,500 square feet at ground level.
3,500 square feet in the basement.
Except, on that day.
And at that point.
There was just one level.
The underground level.
Because as we walked slowly into The Boilerhouse together.
We were faced with a gaping hole.
Because at that point.
There was no ground floor.
And, come to think of it, not much of a roof either.
Here’s what Fred said.
About this shell of a building:
I want to invest in redeveloping this.
But I want to have someone to move in immediately.
It’ll take 6 months.
And the rent, based on square footage will be just shy of £60,000 per year.
If you want it, you can have it for £8,000 per year for 1 year.
Then £16,000 for 1 year.
Then – you jump to full rate.
Let me know.
Ambition in your heart.
And ambition in your hands.
Are two different things.
Yes, I had talked about ambition to Fred.
And the businesses I had were good.
And I was good.
But ambition in your heart is safe.
And low risk.
Ambition in your hands is not safe.
It’s a real commitment.
Both financially and mentally.
For you and your team.
If you are going to commit to your ambition.
You have to be confident.
And you have to commit.
You have to commit to projected numbers and strategy.
A strategy that you have to monitor and change constantly.
And even though numbers on a page and strategies are not real.
Bricks, mortar, fit-outs, salaries – and giving your word (and your money) to a landlord you like and respect – are.
We moved into the Boilerhouse 7 months later.
Our 8 staff rattling around.
And our £350,000 turnover just about making sense of key financial ratios.
So long as the rent stayed at £8,000, of course.
Two years after that, our 25 staff and £1,100,000 turnover made more sense.
Even with a £57,000 rent bill.
What happened in those two years was all about optimism.
Measured and constantly tested optimism.
And painting clear pictures so you take people with you.
The ambition was in my hands.
And in the room.
It was in every room that I entered.
And it was the team’s hands too.
I made sure they knew that.
And I made sure that they believed.
I made them see it
I made them be it before we were it.
Each morning I woke up and – just like Dracula in his coffin.
In those old films.
I sat bolt upright.
Full of energy and ideas.
We had to be it before we were it.
It was the only way we were going to bring the vision to life.
And we did.
And it was brilliant.
A year later, 2008 came.
But that’s a story for another time.
And how much do I regret the 2005 to 2007 journey?
With the hindsight of 2008?