Monthly Archives: May 2012

The business of life (chapter 15 – unemployed & on the hunt)

Back in Henley and unemployed I set about the process of getting organised for the job hunt.  My office was sorely in need of some love and attention and the first task was to have a tidying up blitz and reorganisation.  This accomplished, I had an orderly space to think and work.   Reviewing the experience I had under my belt and the skills I had acquired along the way, it seemed to me that I could move industries.  My self confidence being what it was I had never expended much time on using contacts (the phrase networking had yet to assume an audience if it existed then).  So, the Times, the Telegraph and the FT were scoured on a daily basis and applications sent off.  In the age prior to the PC it wasn’t easy to vary one’s CV but I made up for that with hand-written covering letters that were individual to each application.  My approaches varied a great deal and even included a lively personal recording made on tape for the position of MD for a regional radio station; it won me an interview but I failed to make it to the shortlist.

The records I kept at that time show I applied for 79 roles at or one level below the board across a very wide variety of industries.  Very few of these application were to companies in sectors I had previously worked in.  Of the 32 initial interviews I succeeded in obtaining, sectors included finance, medical, training, data management, truck hire, communications, incentives, consumer goods, wood products and many more.  These initial interviews led to 13 second, 5 third and one fourth round meeting and three offers.  Of the rejections I received only a small number of companies or consultants were good enough to provide a reason and these included; no foreign languages, no local authority experience and no MBA qualification.

Looking back at the names of the executive recruitment firms and companies I applied to, the vast majority only ever sent a very cursory rejection and many not at all.  Given the seniority of the posts being filled it seemed to me to be incredibly short-sighted of the recruitment consultants and head-hunters not to have been more engaged with their candidates.  I vowed I would never use any of the people or firms that treated me in this way when I returned to the world of work and I never have.  If they were foolish enough not to realise that today’s candidate is tomorrow’s potential client, then they would do without the very large sums I would spend on recruitment projects over the subsequent years.  Busy or not, they were simply foolish, short-sighted and just plain ignorant people (some of which I had the pleasure in giving personal rejections to when they came touting for business in later years).

Yes, there were frustrations along the way but every application, every interview and every rejection provided a learning experience for me.   Some of the interviews served to shed light on aspects that I ought to emphasise or downplay.  Some interviews were bizarre. One such occasion I remember well; arriving early (something I always tried to do) I was greeted by the consultant who welcomed me warmly and proudly handed over the last three years sets of company accounts for me “to learn about his client”.  Skipping the glossy bits I went straight for the numbers and it was clear that this “highly successful” business was on a downward slope of around 45º!  It had gone into the red, margins were declining, was consuming cash at an alarming rate and had only survived by wringing its creditors dry.  “Well, what do you think, eh?” enquired the inanely grinning consultant as he ushered me into his plush office, “Great opportunity or what?”  I explained that the client was technically insolvent and couldn’t last another 6~9 months unless a miracle occurred.  Given that the industry never made great profits, the business had no clear strategic advantages and no miracle was announced to me, I declined in the politest terms I could muster and made my exit.  Surprisingly, I got a call a week or so later saying I really ought to meet his client before making any final decision.

The concept of psychometrics was not well established at this time and I had never come across such a process before. Only a very small number of firms I met used such testing.  The first was a Swedish company who met with me in a Heathrow hotel.  A very studious, sombre and suspicious looking individual informed me I would first complete his “test”.  I duly did as requested and when finished, the sombre one took it from me with an aloof air and disappeared off into a far corner of the large room to score it.  The second rather more human individual started the interview off with a number of quick fire questions that seemed to have no continuity about them.  A little time later the sombre one reappeared from his corner, his expression as cold as a Swedish winter, announcing, “You are responsibility adverse!”  Somewhat taken aback, I countered as best I could with a response covering the depth and breath of responsibilities I had held and how I rose to the challenges.  “No!” came back the icy blast, “The test is saying this fact and the test cannot be wrong!”  The Swedes decided there and then that there was no place in their organisation for a risk adverse executive.

My other encounter with a questionnaire based psychometric test was at the offices of a major recruitment consultancy where I was asked to work my way through a long questionnaire comprising of a choice between pairs of phrases as to which was more like me.  A standard technique in many psychometric tests (I subsequently learnt), this process can be rather frustrating to the candidate as items keep cropping up paired against a different choice.  Certainly I found this approach entirely frustrating and I was continually going back and changing previous answers when I came across the pairing between “I love ice cream” and “I hate my mother.”  Not exactly having a love of the former, I felt couldn’t make a sensible choice, gave up trying and got no further on that assignment.  Despite acquiring qualifications in many psychometric instruments over the subsequent years, I have never come across this particular instrument again.

Graphology is extensively relied upon in France for recruitment purposes and I had my first encounter during this time.  Applying for a position with a Belgian company, I was interested to note that the advertisement stated that the covering letter had to be in the applicants own handwriting.  I duly complied (as it was what I was doing anyway), sent off my application and was pleased to receive an air ticket the following week for an appointment in Brussels.  As soon as I was introduced to the chief executive he stared intensely at me for a short while as he shook my hand and announced, “I simply had to meet the man who owns this handwriting!”  He never elucidated despite the meeting lasting several hours and I didn’t get through to the next stage.   Many years later I had my handwriting analysed purely for professional interest and was intrigued to see many facets of my character accurately picked out.  Unfortunately, there were also an equal number of behavioural traits claimed for me that were utterly wrong!

At the beginning of October of that year I applied for the role of marketing manager with the UK arm of aUS corporation. Most of the roles I had applied for were above this level but it was a lean week for advertised positions and a combination of characteristics led me to apply.  The company was in an industry I had never worked in before (industrial lighting), it was a small part of a huge corporation (GTE now Verizon following a merger with Bell Telephone) and it inferred significant growth potential. Still wearing my hair shirt from the glamorous, highly spending days of consumer electronics, the role probably met a subconscious desire for atonement.  The consultant advertising the role was one I had never come across previously and in the first meeting we had he grilled me hard but listened acutely to my responses.  It was akin to a tough squash match against an opponent just that bit better.  What I learnt that day made me very interested; the company was a major US & global player in its sector, relatively new to the UK,  had manufacturing here, was currently building a vast new factory and was looking for someone to replace the MD over the next couple of years.

In the next month I had two more interviews in the shabbyWest Yorkshire offices with the European and the UK HR directors plus the MD.  Despite the old offices (they clearly didn’t waste money) I liked even more of what I heard.  The business had started well but had reached a plateau and they wanted someone who could create a new marketing strategy and build theUK brand.  The new factory was indeed vast, with spacious offices and, yes, the MD was singled out for a wider European role over the next few years.  Knowing I would have to leave my beloved Henley onThames, I took the opportunity on the second visit to look around the area and fell in love with Wharfedale.

Several days later I got a call asking if I would fly to Geneva to meet with the European Marketing VP (Louis) and the UK MD (John).  An early flight got me intoGeneva for lunch in a luxurious hotel overlooking the lake and Le Jet d’Eau.  I don’t think I ate more than a mouthful as it seemed like the questions were designed to come at me just as my fork was on its way to my mouth.   I was grilled again for several hours before we decamped to the office the other side of the lake where the negotiations began. They wanted me and by this stage I definitely wanted to join.  When I got on the flight back to Heathrow that evening I had an offer in my pocket to join Sylvania Lighting that I was pleased with.  The downsides were that I had to move the family toYorkshire, my new boss was a curious individual and I had zero experience of industrial marketing.

Was this the best move for me?  Would it work out?

Image courtesy of Farm4.Static

Advertisements

The business of life (chapter 14 – taking stock)

In August 1980 our Olympic Team made their way back from Moscow with a medal haul that included 5 golds (making us ninth in the table below Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria…..), the miners were once again threatening to strike (for a 37% wage increase), GDP had plunged by 1.8% and inflation was over 20% once more.  The Abba hit ‘Winner Takes it All’ was topping the UK singles chart reminding me that losers take nothing save what they learn from their experience.

My career had come to an ignominious halt at the age of 34, after 15 years of continuous success in each and every role I had undertaken,.  I had been fired, let go, out-placed, canned, released, suffered position elimination or whatever euphemism you care to use.  The initial emotions were a combination of relief from the stress of a role that had become hellish followed by profound shock.  These feelings of numbness then lasted for a few days before pure, frustrated rage took over.  My wife suggested that we take a short holiday to visit her parents in Scotland and I agreed.  Even after all these years I am still horrified at how I let my rage build up in my mind and show in my driving on the trip up to Perth on a busy Sunday afternoon.  I can only think that I was suffering temporary insanity and that someone or something was protecting our family that day.

The beautiful Scottish countryside soon started to work its magic on me.  Being a London lad who grew up surrounded by towering tenements, the joy of being amongst hills and mountains is something I never cease to find humbling in an extreme.  There is an incredible feeling of  the permanence of mountains that never fails to bring the fragility and pettiness of my insignificant life into perspective.  I slowly began to unwind and take stock.  Yes, I had been correct in my choice of communications strategy and all of its elements.  I had also been smart enough to monitor the return I was getting on every pound of my budget.  So I knew that I had achieved incredible value for money and results, not just by realigning brand image but also by raising awareness across the general public.  These improvements in awareness and image had resulted in dramatic increases in sales and allowed us to establish Akai in the vital new sectors of home video recording and racked HiFi systems. My financial planning had accurately projected our cash requirements and managed to keep the bank onside through the most trying times.  I had successfully planned and executed the moves to our temporary and new premises without a hitch and brought warehousing and servicing in-house.  These were the pluses.

Being brutally honest however, and looking at the negatives, I realised that there were aspects of my role that I had neglected or performed less than satisfactorily.   Without a shadow of doubt, I had simply been promoted too far, too fast and with insufficient training in a number of less than glamorous but key areas. My administration systems were woeful and unless I had a keen interest in an area I had tended to ignore it until it became a problem.  What I didn’t realise at the time was that, whilst I knew that a combative personality, intense competitiveness and ambition had driven me on and played their part in my success, other aspects of my personality conspired against me.  It took me many more years to realise that a lack of real listening ability, cultural understanding, guile and political skills had also played a significant part in my downfall.

Looking critically at my role at Akai I deduced, at the time, that not having total control of the business (as I had had in my two previous business management roles) had hampered me.  But when combined with an almost complete lack of political skills, I had been hamstrung.  Critically, I also  realised that I had not built a support group that I could rely upon for honest and appropriate advice as I had been fortunate enough to have in my previous roles.  The relationship I had had with Andy when he worked for me in the RAV business had never been one that I had been comfortable with; I felt that he had merely tolerated me.  With the move to Akai he had clearly sought to exploit the friction that grew between Yokose and me over strategy.  Whilst my relationship with Gordon had been a cordial one, and he had certainly been responsible for twice promoting me, his hands-off approach to the business and lack of guidance to me had not helped.  I probably made a convenient sacrifice once the going got tough. I had clearly been suffering from hubris and the inability to realise that which I didn’t know (the unknown unknowns that Donald Rumsfeld would admit to some twenty years later).

The more I tried to understand what had gone wrong (and this was something that I continued to mull over for many years), the more I realised that I had never taken the time to really analyse all the things that had gone right for me.   The intervening years have taught me that the actions taken in pursuit of a goal may not be the only factors that produce the result.  It has also become very clear to me that just because something worked once (or twice or more) it is no guarantee that it will always work.  However, I realised enough at the time that I had to become even more analytical and learn to take a far broader view of situations. I vowed to change.

Back in Henley a sense of calm and freedom settled upon me and helped produce some of the happiest months I can remember from that period.  I had time to share with the family, time for myself to regain fitness (rowing and running) and time to plan for the next stage in my career.  Yes, the UK economy was worsening as it slid into the deepest recession since the second World War but that didn’t worry me.  Despite the shortcomings I had become aware of and the hair shirt that I had donned, I knew that I had a CV full of solid results and that the business world more than ever required those who could prove they could deliver results.  I was confident that I would win that next step on the career ladder and pushed the doubts on my shortcomings to the back of my mind.  I had enough money to last a year or more and I was determined that the next role I got was going to be a serious step forward.

I had a single new goal to focus on.

 Image courtesy of The Guardian

The business of life (Chapter 13 – hubris strikes)

The once enjoyable relationship I once had with Akai colleagues in Japan as their distributor, was changing quickly into a nightmare now I had joined the new business in the UK as an employee.  Constant requests for information and action came fromTokyo at all hours and I learnt quickly that the Japanese would simply not accept the failure of any plan or compliance with mere instruction.  Decisions seemed to take forever and I found that the much vaunted system of collective decision making in Japanese companies wasn’t because it was more efficient, or more motivational, or whatever the text books were claiming; it was simply to avoid personal responsibility if things went wrong. Seppuku may have been no longer practiced in its literal form in 1980 but it certainly lived on in a metaphorical sense.

The promised further injection of capital never materialised and more than once I was required to present a re-working of the financial budget at a week’s notice or less and to jump on a plane toTokyo to present it.  The journey to the bank also became a well trodden path delivering regular cashflow projecions.  On one occasion when I met Yokose at Heathrow one Saturday afternoon for yet another trip he looked like death.  It transpired that he had last slept on Wednesday evening and had continued to work through the next two nights merely allowing himself a change into pyjamas and slippers.  He worked all through the flights toTokyo and again through Sunday night following the inevitable initial rejection of our latest business plan.  Witnessing this I began to feel increasingly uneasy over my decision to join a company with such an alien (and to me inhuman) culture.

I was beginning to become selfish when it came to working beyond 18 hour days and the stress was rising.  One evening arriving home yet again extremely late and completely exhausted, my phone rang and I answered it to find  it was one of the Japanese on the phone demanding I return to the office to deal with something minor.  “It is your duty!” I was informed when I suggested that it was not an emergency. I snapped, said something inappropriate and slammed the phone down. Grabbing a bottle of Scotch, I slumped in a chair and knocked back a stiff shot.  The next thing I remember was finding myself on the floor clutching my stomach feeling like I had been stabbed through.  Although not diagnosed precisely as such at the time, subsequent events led me to realise that this was the start of stomach ulcers.  My doctor gave me stern instructions to take three weeks off, stay away from alcohol and to take things easier in future.

Gordon was supportive but more than a little surprised when I declined a drink with the lunch we had together just before I returned to work.  The pressure from Tokyo to increase sales was growing weekly.  Our results were still improving strongly (and were on course for a 50% total increase since the new company started and would be trending steeply upwards at a running rate of £13m p.a.) but this was still not enough to satisfy our masters.  The problem for us in theUK was not profit but cash and they would not accept that the relentless pressure to increase sales was fuelling a demand for working capital we couldn’t finance from our own resources. Tokyo management had reneged on its promise of further cash injections and our bank was getting more and more nervous about increasing our facilities.

My large marketing budget soon came under attack and I fought back strongly with all the logic and all the evidence I had that our strategy was working.  I put forward the most robust evidence of the brand share increase we were gaining (especially against arch rival Pioneer, which should have been greatly satisfying to Akai) and the danger of reducing momentum.  I felt let down; Akai had agreed my business plans, promised more capital support and we had delivered everything and more that been promised in terms of results.  Our marketing mix was working and I wasn’t about to roll over and see ourUK position worsen.  My natural inclination to meet opposition head on came to the fore and I continued to resist.  Sorely in need of a break (and heeding the warnings about my health), I departed with the family for a glorious holiday touring California.

Returning refreshed I found that the situation had worsened, finding Andy planning a frankly amateurish sales promotion campaign, which he had not discussed with me (and was now trying to avoid doing).  Yokose started in on me immediately, telling me that Andy had assured him that this promotion would compensate for cancelling the majority of our communications programme. I responded that the problem wasn’t one of our dealer network not buying enough, it was of chronic under-capitalisation.  At a time of intense competitor activity to establish leadership in the new VHS and racked HiFi systems, I reasoned that we would lose all of the ground we had won.  Worse, we would find it almost impossible to recover again.  Yokose simply would not listen and fell back on that logic resistant mantra that seem to be drilled into Japanese people from birth; “We have to manage somehow.”  I realised further discussion with him was impossible and beat a retreat thinking that perhaps I could yet convince him.

The following week I was working in my office one afternoon when I heard three hefty thumps on the dividing wall between my office and Gordon’s (his usual manner of attracting my attention).  I smiled to myself and walked into his office.  By then we had an easy going relationship (except when he was ‘in his cups’ after one of his ‘networking’ lunches) and I expected he wanted to chat.  “Boy, you’ve got a problem with the Japanese.” he said immediately and thrust a plain white envelope across the desk at me.  I went cold realising what was in the envelope.  “If this is what I think it is, is the situation negotiable?” I asked, looking him in the eye.  “I’m afraid not,” was the response, “but you’ll see it’s generous and, between you and I, I’m happy to tell anyone who asks that you resigned, needing a change or whatever you decide to say, and are still working for us on a contract basis.”

I hadn’t exactly put the sword in my own hands but the effect was the same.  I had been fired.

 

The business of life (chapter 12 – achievements grow but so does the stress)

On May 3rd 1979 a lady named Margret Thatcher won the UK General Electionwith a Conservative majority of 43 seats.  I had taken relatively little interest in politics up until this point, the economic upheavals of the 70’s scarcely touching my life (apart from the horrendous queues for petrol during the Arab oil embargo, the opportunistic but deeply unpatriotic miners’ strike and the power cuts).  However, I was aware that things had to change or Britain would be consigned to economic oblivion and with it all hopes for my career.  The events that followed caused me to believe that Maggie had brought me some luck along with her own (at least for a while).

Margaret Thatcher wins in ’79

The weeks dragged on with no news of Akai’s plans for their own company.  Sugino had gone to ground and wasn’t returning calls.  Surely they would want to retain the people who had turned around the UK business?  I wanted to hope that this was the case but it seemed that a wall of silence had descended over the situation.  Meanwhile, I applied internally for the position of business development manager for the division.  Whilst I knew that I wasn’t ideally qualified for the role, I considered that I had convincingly demonstrated my ability to adapt and learn fast.  However, I wasn’t prepared for the brusque treatment I received from our personnel director when interviewed.  It was if he was merely going through the motions having already decided I wasn’t right for the role.  Curious.

The mists cleared some days later when I received a call from a member of the Akai management who introduced himself as Yokose.  He was inLondon and would appreciate a meeting at his hotel; was I free that afternoon?  Yokose transpired to be a short, slightly built man in his early forties with an intense manner.  He got straight to the point; would I join the new company? I replied that I would consider the role of managing director (my natural competitiveness quickly resurfacing).  “Ah, so sorry,” Yokose responded with a curious smile, “not possible.  Other roles are possible. What you wish.”  Assuming that it would be Yokose himself in the role of MD and more of a titular head, I proposed the role of general manager.  “This one would be possible,” was the response, “but cannot include sales.”

During the course of the afternoon I found that Yokose had already spoken with Andy and appointed him sales manager. This was not something that pleased me as I had an uneasy feeling about Andy.  Putting this concern aside (his appointment being a fait accompli) it was clear that I was wanted and so I negotiated hard on my package.  I won a significant salary & pension increase and a large new executive car.  I agreed to start work at once on the detailed planning for the new company; a very tight schedule was in prospect.  Back at the office I met with Andy and discovered that he had no more information than me.  Putting my reservations over Andy to one side, I asked him to start work on the sales projections so that I would have a basis for the detailed financial planning that was urgently required.  It soon became apparent that a significant investment was going to be required by Akai to set up the company and fund the planned growth. “Not problem.” was the response I got from Yokose a week later when I put the initial projections to him, “Please to proceed, much haste.”

Gordon’s secretary rang when I returned to the office saying that he wanted to see me immediately.  Wondering where he had been hiding for the last few weeks I took a welcome break from the planning and went up to his office where I was greeted by an unusually jovial Gordon.  Ushering me quickly into his office, he made sure the door was firmly closed before turning to me. “Welcome aboard.” he grinned.  I gave myself a mental kicking for not having worked this one out.  Given that Gordon’s role as divisional MD covered an extensive range of RAV businesses I had not assumed for one moment he would leave to head up Akai.  It wasn’t until some time later when I had to have the full details to complete the business plan that I realised just how good a deal Gordon had negotiated.  However, given Gordon’s hands-off operational style, his devotion to networking and a penchant for very long lunches (and dinners) it seemed I would continue to have a great deal of operational freedom.  Yokose was going to join us as a UK based non-executive (sadly, it wouldn’t be long before he had earned my private nickname of tachograph).

Despite keeping his head down whilst negotiating his exit package from RAV, Gordon had already used his film industry contacts to find us premises.  Our new company home was to be in  the Production Village, a television studio and entertainment complex in Cricklewood set up by Samuelsons (manufacturers of film equipment) in a part of the disused Handley Page factory.  These premises seemed to be entirely in keeping with the image I was striving to build for the brand.  I set about recruiting the remainder of the team we required, setting up systems and leasing cars (Gordon having already lined up a Mercedes 450 SE for himself).

The bad news was discovering, despite Yokose’s prior assurances, that Akai’s capital injection into the new UK company was completely inadequate for our needs.  This news meant that we required a substantial amount of working capital at commencement and growing steadily to finance the growth we had planned.  Despite Akai’s success in Europe they had never succeeded to the same extent in the USA where they trailed significantly behind Pioneer and sold largely under the Roberts brand.  It transpired that the US swallowed up large amounts of Akai’s financial resources.  Following many negotiation with our bank they agreed to fund the working capital at start up providing the Tokyo parent company assumed responsibility for our UK borrowings.  This was negotiated and allowed us to start trading but I was involved from this point on with constant re-budgeting, presenting in Tokyo, going back to the bank and starting all over again.

With largely a new team in place, we started the Akai UK business in a blaze of publicity.  With a marketing budget well in excess of £1m I had no shortage of funds.  In another of those serendipitous moments our advertising agency found that Manhattan Transfer were about to tour the UK and we moved quickly to tie up a deal with their agent as sponsors. The sponsorship deal gave us the right to use the group for television and radio commercials in addition to personal appearances.  A TV commercial was fleshed out, Bray Studios booked and we managed to secure the direction of Ridley Scott (fresh from his success with Alien). In one exhausting session of almost 18 hours the Akai commercial was shot (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XwYldNBNB-c and proved to be incredibly successful in boosting the image and awareness of the brand.  Radio advertisements followed quickly plus some absolutely hilarious personalised dealer radio advertisements ad-libbed by the group.

In parallel I progressed work on a launch party and secured The Talk of The Town just off Leicester Square in London plus the services of Michael Aspel as compère for the evening.  With hundreds of our customers and their guests gathered in this great venue we put on a magnificent show including Richard Lloyd and his racing car rising out of the stage in a very noisy finale.  After just a few hours sleep, and still exhausted, I flew off to Florida with my wife and children for a blissful couple of weeks in the sunshine.

Akai Audi 80

Akai Audi 80

Back in London I started work on our plans for the following year.  Richard Lloyd had negotiated a switch to Audi for the 1980 season and our sponsorship continued.   In an incredible piece of good fortune we managed to sponsor Stirling Moss’s return to motor racing as the number two driver to Richard.  Ex Porsche works driver Vic Elford was recruited to be team manager. Sensing that we had to do something spectacular for the launch, I engaged a production crew to shoot footage of Richard and Stirling driving at Silverstone and commissioned what I believe to be the first ever multi-screen film (nine moving images on one screen).  A press launch took place at The Production Village next to our offices for the Akai Audi team of Richard & Stirling.  Every TV and radio company was handed film and soundtrack and it proved so successful that it produced over £3m worth of TV, radio and press coverage in just one week.

Alan Jones

Word of our sponsorship activities was spreading fastproducing dozens of approaches, most quickly discarded, but there was one approach that also stood out head and shoulders above the rest.  Alan Jones, a new Australian Formula One driver, was looking for personal sponsorship and we did a two year deal with our brand on his helmet. During 1980, Alan went on to win grand prix races in Argentina,Great Britain,Canada and theUnited States, making him the World Champion ahead of Nelson Pique; the publicity for us was wonderful.   A sponsorship deal with Kork Ballington (double World Champion 250 & 350cc) and Kawasaki soon followed.

Kork Ballington

The media coverage continued to flow and an invitation to join the Akai team at racetracks around the country became very sought after.  That summer almost every weekend was spent entertaining our dealers and sales rose steadily along with the hours I was putting in each week.  The acquisition of a large Kawasaki soon had me roaring around the Oxfordshire lanes frightening the life out of my young son who clung on behind for dear life.

Hearing Barry Sheene (500cc World Champion in 1976 & 77) was departing the Suzuki works teamand competing alone on a Yamaha; we leapt in to conclude a deal for sponsorship of Barry and his bike (including a replica for use in promotions).  All of this sponsorship was accomplished at incredibly advantageous rates and proved spectacularly popular with our target market.

Barry Sheen

Barry Sheen

Another major project I had running at the same time was that of locating new premises and organising the move.  We were existing only by subcontracting warehousing, distribution and servicing and this couldn’t continue.  I located a new industrial unit and offices located at the eastern end of the runway at Heathrow, signed the lease and set about planning the layout and organising furniture, phones, warehouse and service department equipment.  The move shortened my commute but now every weekend was spent at one motorsport venue or another around the country or entertaining customers (often in the company of various celebrities of the day).  Sales were still climbing but the personal strain was enormous.

By this time I was working 80~90 hour, 7 day weeks and this pattern, together with other aspects of my personal life, was taking a toll on my marriage.

Something had to give.

Margaret Thatcher image courtesy Daily Mail, Akai Audi 80 image courtesy of Spirit.com, Alan Jones image courtesy of Morem Sports History, Barry Sheene image courstesy of Wikipedia Commons