Retiring at 36 … really?

I’ve been very fortunate that through a lot of hard work over the years, I’ve been able to have had many opportunities.

For my 13th Birthday (literally the day of my birthday) my older sister gave me her paper-round to start that day (the legal age I was able to start work).

Prior to that (before I even remember starting school), my ‘pocket money’ was only given to me when I’d properly tidied my bedroom, and cleaned a share of the bathroom.  So you could say that from an early age, I was given a strong work ethic.

At University I had a part time complimentary therapy clinic (and in addition to my full time Engineering degree, I was also a barman, student warden, and ran a few clubs and societies).

On leaving Uni I worked as a door-to-door salesman for a few months, had a challenging office job (in that it wasn’t challenging intellectually!) .. and then started setting up my first Limited Company in June 2000.

I’d already heard that in general, only one in five businesses succeed beyond the first few years, so I set up multiple variations of businesses, running them alongside each other, hoping that at least one would succeed longer term.

Then as some businesses didn’t go as well as I’d hoped, I’d phase them out and develop alternative ones.  And as new opportunities became available, I’d take them on too.

The longer term plan (from a comparatively early age), was to ‘retire’ at 35 years old (in 2012), with the equivalent of a million pound in the bank, so I wouldn’t have to ‘work’ again.  And then, I could move to NZ, and enjoy the incredible outdoor lifestyle whilst still young and fit enough to maximize my time there.

However, in December 2009, the opportunity became available to take on a luxury boutique hotel the following summer of 2010, on a minimum 3 year lease (taking me to the end of August 2013, so a year behind my planned schedule).  But it seemed too good an opportunity not to miss.

This hotel has been going pretty well (although not quite as well as I’d hoped, because of the naivety of many locals perpetuating historical myths about the hotel). And although I haven’t quite reached the million in the bank, through the acquisition of some property, share options, and savings, I’ll have enough to support myself for the coming years (i.e. enough to cover my living costs whilst living in my own property, with the option to ‘work’ if I want to buy something a little more expensive, as and when).

I can then focus on the dreams I want to, when I want to.

However, I’ve now had it confirmed that literally the day after my hotel lease expires (the final definitive date of my hotel lease), I begin the first actual race day of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race!

So how did I do it?

  • My typical working week is at least 100 hours plus (often more).
  • On average, I manage about a half day off every couple of weeks (and even then I’m still on call)
  • I don’t tend to sleep too much (i.e. 6.5 hours a night seem to work perfectly when I’m busy)
  • I work hard, I’m not afraid to turn my hands to doing whatever needs doing (whether that’s unblocking toilets, fixing websites, dealing with challenging customers, etc.)
  • I work ‘smart’ (although this has been a long and slow process, learning just what is smart working and what’s less effective).  – In the main part for me, it’s about employing the right staff / sub-contractors, to do whatever their job is well, so I can leave them to it without question or concern, with trust, (and provide them with all the training they might need to carry on learning as they go along).
  • I also try to rethink through virtually every process and system I’m involved with, to maximise its efficiency and performance.  Also helping ensure consistency for my businesses customers (whoever they are).
  • There are countless books on the subject, and too many apt quotes to describe what I do.  For each person though, you need to work out what works for you, and go with that.
  • As my sister once said “he had to work really hard to be consistently that lucky” ..  to me, that about sums it up.

How running out of coffee, made me attempt to sail around the world

Picture the scene if you will, the background can highlight how the little things can make the massive differences!..

I currently own/manage a small boutique hotel (along with a few other businesses) .. I’ve also been planning for years, to bring these all to a close soon when I ‘retire’ from regular work at the end of my current hotel contract.

Part of the hotel is that we offer a range of all 16 Nespresso coffees to our guests.  For whatever reason I forgot to add my own favourite variety to the most recent order.  The minimum order is 200 capsules (typically every few weeks), so it wasn’t worth doing another order just for the one extra coffee type (and being Nespresso, there are only a few places to actually buy it in person, ie near Harrods).

So last Sunday evening (13th April), we had a rare case of having an empty hotel, while I was on shift..  So I decided .. it was a nice day .. why not get the train into London to buy more coffee .. and then have a bit of a wander around whilst up there. (I do appreciate the rail fare was more than postage of the coffee order).

20 minutes later I was on the train, including a travel card to ensure I could make it to Harrods before they shut (a rare thing for me, I tend to prefer walking across the surface of London, as I’ve been doing for the past few years)..  And then on the underground system this woman catches my eye:

IMG_1135

This image flashes me back 20 years, to a presentation of a friend of my C.O. (while I was in the ATC), from a lovely woman called Cherry (I think).

With no previous professional sailing experience, she skippered a yacht full of other amateur sailors, across the Atlantic (or so I can vaguely remember)..

Even without recalling too many of the finer details, it sounded like an incredible journey .. something to aspire to in years to come, but finding that place in the recesses of my mind along with the other countless thoughts and ideas I collate over the years.

So Monday morning, and after a great night’s sleep, I booted up the laptop and completed the online application.

The website showed the event starting in August 2013, and finishing the following June, so with my timing of the hotel, and my NZ BUNAC work exchange Visa expiring in mid March 2014, I applied for legs 3,4,5 of the 8 legs around the world.  This would take me out on the water from South Africa, to Western Australia, Eastern Australia, and finish in China, from October 2013 to February 2014 (seemingly nicely placed with my hotel lease contract finishing on the 31st August 2013).

Buy that same afternoon I had a call back from a guy called David, at ‘Clipper Ventures’ .. asking if I could I make it to an interview that Friday from 10am-2pm.  Normally this wouldn’t be a problem (I normally have staff working all day on Fridays at the hotel, but one staff member was on holiday for the mornings)..  I had three rooms in, but I should be able to get them paid up early, and head down after breakfast.

So Friday morning, I head down to Gosport, and see this lovely 70′ yacht in the Marina.

Clipper Yacht 2013/14
Clipper Yacht 2013/14

I watch and listen to a great presentation, apparently trying to put you off, but making those of us present to want it even more.

Then it’s mentioned.. the race starts the last weekend in August (not early August as I’d expected)..  I look again at the ‘Round the World’ map, taking in the incredible journey that may be available to me … if I can do three legs, why not do all eight? .. The ‘last weekend’ in August is Saturday 31st August, and Sunday the 1st September .. could they mean that one?

Yes, apparently the race actually begins on the 1st September, possibly from London.  The timing couldn’t be more perfect.

I have a great interview, my diverse range of experiences and skills seemed to be well matched to the challenge  (40,000 miles, with up to 50 strangers (around 20 at any time), in a confined space, on a race through all weathers to the finish, and massively hard work)..

So stuff the holiday after the hotel : I’m going on a boat race!

The tipping point, how a £2.59 gift can lead to £3,520.00 of new business

One of the businesses I’m involved with is Hotel de Vie: a small boutique style hotel, of just 8 en-suite rooms.

Obviously I’ve taken countless steps to try and ensure we provide the best accommodation we can provide (and just last week, it finally took it’s rightful place as the number 1 guest accommodation in the Farnham area, according to the independent review website TripAdvisor.)

The hotel already provides various things for free, that many other hotels charge a premium for, ie a range of snacks, chocolates, fruits, fruit juices, yogurts, cheeses, biscuits, mineral waters, broadband WiFi, toiletries, freshly cooked breakfasts, etc.

I’m also very fortunate (after much selection and training) to have some really great staff who treat each guest as an individual (ie not just another room booking), they’re also always professional, and friendly at the same time, and of course great at their job.

We already have a good working relationship with a local taxi firm (they are our default choice of recommendations for all our guests).

We also have one of our regular guests (who’d stayed at virtually every other hotel in the area, before finding us, and now stays with us whenever she’s in the area), who also had a good relationship with this taxi firm prior to staying with us too.

This particular guest made a mention to me, during her last stay some months earlier, how she particularly enjoyed one of our organic teas.  So when re-ordering, I added an extra box of tea for her (costing me £2.59).

She came and stayed with us again in early September for a couple of days, and I’m sure that the ‘thoughtful gesture of her favourite tea’ (that she’s also not been able to find herself) encouraged her to share her happiness about the hotel, with the taxi driver again.

This same day, the same driver was picking up one of his other longer term international clients (who’s been visiting the area on and off for years).  That particular guest was complaining that morning about his current accommodation to the taxi firm, who I’m sure prompted by this conversation with our other regular guest, recommended my hotel…

A couple of phone calls later, and that guest was booked in to stay for nearly one and a half months, for over £3,500 of new business to the hotel!

There are countless fables and stories about ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back’,  ‘the mouse and the giant turnip’, etc.  In the hotel’s case.. it was a box of tea!

The hotel has also just experienced it’s busiest month since taking over 13 months ago, and it’s busiest week yet (and there’s not even a major event going on in the area!)