There are a number of key pieces of advice I would give my children – or anyone starting out in business.
1. Work hard but smart
I’ve always had a good work ethic: all the way through school and into my GCSEs, I worked. If I hadn’t, I simply wouldn’t have had money. My parents were comfortable enough, but they didn’t hand it out. Their approach was that if I wanted something in life, I had to earn it myself. They had a wonderful attitude and kept me focused, which I’m sure is why I have that drive. It’s also something I want to make sure my own children learn.
At 12 years old the only way I could buy myself anything costing more than my £1 pocket money was by working. I sold sweets at school, sample clothes at markets and did washing up in pubs. My paper round started at 6:30am and netted £7 a week. It was hard work. The bags were heavy, it was cold, I was tired and then Sunday supplements made it twice as hard. But then, the week before Christmas I bought all my houses cards. I rang on the doorbells for my Christmas tips and received £300 for my efforts. For the next two years I took paper rounds just before Christmas, made money via tips and quit the next day.
Working hard is important but playing to your strengths and working smart is too.
2. Pay your way but save hard
By 18, I was paying rent to my parents. The biggest lesson for me was their principle to always pay my way.
Two years later, the day I went travelling they handed me a cheque for £3000. £30 a week in rent, over two years given back to me.
They also therefore taught me how a constant approach to saving can reap rewards. As a result, I’ve saved £40 a week for both my children since they were born. They don’t know this yet – as I want to instil in them the same work ethic that I have.
3. Don’t be in a rush
Another key message for my children, or to anyone starting a business, is don’t be in a rush. Things take time. My business partner Charlie and I adopted that approach and it helped us to make the right decisions for our business at the right time.
We saw an opportunity where there was something that could use improvements. It wasn’t a full revolution of the industry, more an evolution that we took time to explore. Delight in the small steps of success that you see – don’t reach for the stars from the start.
4. Don’t think you’re too good for something – you may discover something you enjoy
The other is to never think you’re too good for something. I’ve worked every job in my business, as has Charlie. When we need to, we still clean the desks, welcome clients, take calls and work reception. Not for one minute do I feel these tasks are beneath me. I find it so disappointing when sometimes others think differently. The right ethic pays off and the opportunities are limitless if you grasp them.
I’ve worked in many different industries and many different roles throughout my life. Through those I recognised which made me happy and what I was good at. Those that I ‘failed’ at or was fired from taught me something. I learned early on that I wanted to work for myself, for example. There are lessons to be learned in failure.