Tuesday, 27 February 2007

Get this straight – mine is a North West business

Down the years, loads of people have told me “You need to be in London to be taken seriously”. That’s rubbish, just look at some of the Ernst & Young entrepreneurs regional shortlist each year (we don’t all go bust you know!)

I did set up a London office once, when the dotcom stuff started making serious dough in the late 90s, before it all went tits up. Back then the Yanks wouldn’t have picked Manchester out on a map of Greater Manchester let alone England.

Got a nice deal on some space just off Soho Square, with a guy I used to do a bit of business with – the “Great White” we used to call him, a big rugby lad. He got in on the ground floor of IT publishing in the 80s and we had a few shared interests, not to mention interests in a few shares. Never fancied those stripy jackets myself, so as a rule I’ve always steered clear of the City.

Truth be told you can’t beat London for nightlife, but we had some right bother getting the right staff. Chancers would be one word. One guy I hired as sales director disappeared into thin air, only for his name to pop up in the Sundays – turned out he was a bigamist who’d pulled off some scam regarding his first wife’s inheritance! Can’t see the problem myself, if he could handle two sets of earache good luck to him.

You wouldn’t beleive the trouble you have hiring. Most of the available staff are out of work actors (muppets one and all) or young hippy European birds. Mind you, a few of them brighten up the place, especially when you’re after business in Scandinavia. Not that I get involved myself, but being on a diet doesn’t stop you reading the menu does it?

No, once clowns like Boo.com had bitten the dust and the VCs started getting cold feet we’d already made tracks back up the M1. Why fork out thousands for a London shoebox when you’ve got the likes of Lord Tom Bloxham (is he a Lord yet? I lose track) knocking out space for peanuts? It’s not rocket science.

The Great White stuck at it but ended up getting in bother over a vanity project. He wrote this rubbish erotic novel and ended up paying for its publication when the directors kyboshed publishing it through the company. Ended up hawking them door to door down the Charing Cross Road. He rung last month – he’d backed the Dome to win the supercasino.

Friday, 16 February 2007

Contact sport

As far as I’m concerned business is a contact sport.
And I should know because I can play a bit.
I had trials for United and City when I was a kid.
Oldham even offered me a contract, but business is my field of dreams now.
That and the odd game of five-a-side with Rob Cotton and the boys from the National Computer Centre.
Good lad, Cotton, looks like John Terry, but he knows how to run a proper business.
We’re going to take his mob on in a proper game sometime soon.
Watch this space.
And don’t think we’ll do what Andersen’s did a few years ago and load the team with ringers from Latvia.
As for golf – I’ve got all the gear and no idea.
Got a membership at Mere, as you do.
Not that I ever play there.
They put on a cracking do though.
If you want a proper sportsman’s night out, go to the boxing.
I’ve just been with a few of the boys to see Ricky Hatton in Vegas.
Good trip, and not a muppet among them, and let’s face it, you can get a few on even the best trips. Marathon running is my game.
Like business, even if you can run, you can’t hide.
I’ve just done the Marrakech marathon – THE hardest marathon in the world: deserts, mountains, beggars and whole families on mopeds getting in your way. A bit like business, if you see what I mean.
The London marathon’s for clowns dressed as divers.
New York is for Sex and the City tourist weekend wannabees.
I sponsored one lad in that, Pete Clarke from Isis, he took six hours! I can get a deal shifted in that time.
Now I’m even thinking of sprinkling some of my strategic stardust on the world of football.
After losing a couple of buttons off my shirt on Mark Guterman’s punt at Wrexham and making a few bob out of Droylsden, I’ve got the taste for it. I’m putting a few chaps together to buy Lancaster City Football Club.
There’s a playing field next to the club’s ground – The Giant Axe – which we reckon we could get a few houses on.
Stick a fan on the board to appease the Billy Bunters, get Steve “Jacko” Jackson to send Preston North End and his lapdancing cheerleaders up for a friendly and we’re laughing.
Then I’m getting a board of directors together that will blow you away.
Kevin Roberts, chief executive of Saatchi’s to handle all our marketing and change the brand.
Deep down I think their problem has been the nickname, The Dolly Blues.
The Axe Men is better.
The Axe Men Cometh will be on all the posters.
It will strike fear into the hearts of the enemy.
I’ll make it work because deep down I’m a winner to my core.
European football within ten years, I reckon.
Maybe 15.Either way, you read it here first

Marketing genius

Mad busy at the moment. This business is going like a train. We needed to
bolt a few bits on to get the cash flow going. And word has got out.
Let me tell you about this one business that was on the block. No one wanted it – I mean no one would touch it with a bargepole. The building they were in was an absolute toilet and they were making no money at all.
We bought it, and between you and me, we absolutely stole it. The bloke we bought it off, I asked him if there were anything he hadn’t told me about. Was there something that would make me very angry if I found out about it later?
He went white, said he needed to walk around the car park for an hour. When he came back he said he needed to tell
me something. He puts his wife’s mobile phone through the business. Tut Tut.
We stuck a salesman in there who used to be one of the top guys at The Accident Group and wallop! Fantastic performance.
But you know how the boys like to gossip, word has got out. I would like to refute absolutely the rumour that I am going to make six big ones from this company. That is totally incorrect. More like £8m. Sterling.
These scribblers in the city who earn so-called “big bonuses” make me laugh. They should see my dividend cheque. That’s real success.
Since I’ve started this column all the VCs have been on my case and they all want a slice of my action. Who can blame them? We’re creaming it. But I need some cash to release to do this resi scheme in Altrincham and to buy me and the missus a drum in Majorca. All the Alderley boys have got one – a mate of mine’s setting up a radio station there as well. Worth a punt, eh?
Much more fun has been the attention I’ve had from every
PR company in town. They’re all the same. In comes the boss, good patter, one of the lads; invites me to Old Trafford or the rugby. Then he sends some youngster over in a tight top, fluttering her eyelashes and dropping pencils. What’s that all about? I learned all I need to know about marketing from Chris “Nibbo” Nisbet. A great lad, for a Scouser! He was telling me the tale of how he flogged a flat to Sophie Anderton, that model who got a bit fond of the white stuff, who was on Celebrity Love Island. He did all these posters and had her lined up to be the face of his scheme. When the whole TV programme thing went Pete Tong, he ditched it and knocked up these new ones from an old photo shoot he’d done with some wannabee model he met in Mosquito. Only turned out to be Peter Crouch’s bird, queen of the Wags. Class.

Business isn’t all about work, work, work.

We like to have a laugh.
In fact, I insist on it.
And if you’re going to any of the Christmas parties this year you better watch out for our boys.
Our own bash has a reputation for being creative as well as risqué.
Which means we sometimes get lap dancers to serve drinks.
Hilarious, eh? On our last team night out we all rocked up at Panacea for the last leg of a bonding session – tame in comparison to Mark Boler’s stag do, but then you can’t let rip on home turf in the same way, can you? I tell you what, there’s more silicone in there than the server farm at Net Services (what was he doing floating on AIM?).
I digress. “Wine for my men,” I roared at the waitress. “We ride at dawn!” By which time it had all kicked off.
Wayne Rooney had just slapped some other player for mithering his Doris – can’t blame him, frankly – then some bloke got his ear bitten off in a brawl, the like of which I’d not seen since Paul Beck and Brian Kennedy had a swedge outside Sale Sharks. Dangerous place this, which is a shame as the lads at Gresham had sorted us with memberships and everything.
Good lads, by the way, looks like they stole that one.
A few of the boys asked me to join them in buying my local – The Braz in Alderley Edge – don’t believe a word that Plumber tells you, he wasn’t one of our mob, not after so many of the lads lost their dosh in his Galileo float.
We don’t forget.
Looking back at our best night of the year, that special place in my liver goes to the Freddie Flintoff benefit dinner in London, where we joined my favourite racing tipster Paul Beck, otherwise known as Freddie’s Best Mate (TM). “Would you like a bottle of anything from our wine list?” asked the waiter. “No, but four Smirnoff will do nicely,” I said.
These charity auctions are a laugh.
Seeing if you can get some tool who takes himself too seriously to keep bidding when he really can’t afford it.
Just because he promised his kids he’d get them a signed England shirt.
Sorry son, but if you want to mess with the big boys you’ve got to learn to piss in the tall grass.
You can knock a lad for stuff like that but at the end of the day it’s all about doing it for sick kiddies.
The boot of my Bentley’s now got more signed Phil Neville shirts and Freddie Flintoff bats than you can shake an autographed hockey stick at. There wasn’t much room for Ian “Beefy” Botham when we bundled him into the back after the Old Trafford test.But that’s another story. Be lucky, and see you for a sherbet or two this Christmas

I love the smell of bacon in the morning.

It smells like… Virgin Trains first class breakfasts on the 06.55 from Stockport station; it’s THE place to meet the men that matter in Manchester. I was in first class (obviously) and was on the way to the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Awards in London.
I’d won the northern one already and, to be honest, it was a chance to see some of the hedge fund boys I know down there.
Good lads.
Stuffed if I can understand how they do it, but a 20 per cent yield is my kind of yield. I can’t be bothered with a lot of these awards dos; I just want to get on with scraping a living, like you do.
I only do enter them for the sake of the team.
It’s nothing to do with my ego.
But when you see some of these other muppets winning this and that and your team look to you to lead them, well, it’s letting the side down if you don’t.
And I am a leader of men.
It’s what I was put on this planet to do.
I’d followed some other top lads onto that stage as well, I can tell you.
Just look at who’s been up for this title in the past: Shaid Luqman of Lexi, Peter Bradley of Alta Gas, the iSoft boys; they’re all top geezers at the end of the day.
They get a bit of stick for the odd disqualification, investigation, or insolvency, but that’s the trouble with this country.
Always knocking down the successful.
Anyway, when Insider hinted that they wanted a column full of stories about my rich and successful friends I moved quicker than Danny Hall’s sprint to the stage to get his hands on the Insider’s Deal of the Year Award.
I enjoyed that do.
Went with the lads from Ford Campbell, I think.
The missus wasn’t best pleased as it clashed with the opening night of Goldplated on Channel 4.
She spent the night hiding behind the sofa (£14,000 from Arighi Bianchi, as it happens) and she’s had some stick from her mates that it’s about her and me and our chums.
As if.
Most of my mates are just down-to-earth ordinary blokes I went to school with.
Butchers, plasterers, van drivers, the highest-paid partner at Goldman Sachs, the chief executive of Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide, the founder of Capital Bank.
There I go again, name drops keep falling... So, here’s a story for you.
I last saw Tim Knowles on the train back from London.
He owns that Botany Bay building next to the M61.
I’ve known him for years and he’s a good lad.
I told Tim ages ago that all that flying around in helicopters wasn’t a good idea.
They can break down, just like a car.
But while Stratstone can at least squeeze you into a C-Class for a week or two, if the SLR needs a tune, how does a top entrepreneur get hold of a pool chopper? You can’t.
So where does that leave you? Taking the train.That’s what.