Business Experience Learnt Over 50 Years

After graduating from Southampton University in 1964 with a 2:1 in Mechanical Engineering, I turned down the offer of further research into my thesis project, and elected, after much persuasion, to join the family business.

I found the first day of my working life consisted of selling insurance door to door! If you can do that you can do most things regarding sales, which I suppose is the reason I have always been undaunted with any ‘sales’ project!

From there we moved to selling houses. I found out quite quickly that if you could get a mortgage for a customer you were in the box seat to sell them the property (regulation today is different from then though). We then went into building houses and after having problems with getting the right medium to advertise them, we started our own free newspaper and then bought an existing cold set web offset printing company to print the papers.

This was the start of Goodhead Newspress which employed about 15 people, turning over £46,000 and losing £19,000! We made steady progress, buying another web offset company in Bristol (1978) and a fine art printer in Banbury(1983). We were the largest printer of free newspapers in the country and also printed every issue of Autotrader, from the first to the time it went digital. After 10 years, in 1982, we were in a position to demerge from the family business, but, for that, we needed money.

I saw an article in the Financial Times about a company called (ECI) Equity Capital for Industry and after contacting them, together with 3I and The Coal Board Pension Fund, we put the necessary package together. In July 1985 we went on the Stock Market via the USM (Unlisted Securities Market) and by 1990 were employing over 1,000 people with profits of £6m on a turnover of £69m. We went on the main market a couple of years later. By then we had four print factories, eleven free newspapers with additional newspapers in Ontario, Canada and Florida. We bought as much newsprint as any of the major newspapers in Fleet Street.

One of the points in this article is that you must have a ‘can do’ attitude to anything. There were many times in the print business that I was told that nobody does this or that, things like printing the Morman Bible on 30 gsm Fletchers Thinprint on a clapped out old printing press! We did it AND we got paid….business is business.

The major point and the main thing I found in business is that raising finance for anything is key, whether you are a large or small business. I have already talked about raising equity capital and there are the conventional sources like the banks and nowadays there are Crowd Funding sites like Funding Circle and Crowdcube .

There are plenty of companies out there that will help with spreading your VAT or Corporation Tax and a plethora of companies that can offer asset finance and even more that can do invoice discounting.

Please contact me if you feel that my experience may help you to get through what may well be one of the most challenging periods we have ever known…..and having been in business for over 50 years, I can assure you I have never seen anything like this. But with the right, positive attitude we can get through this and emerge out the other side perhaps a little leaner, but a fitter business more capable of coping with these times.

Contact Colin at:

Next week: Raising finance in much more detail!

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