Entrepreneurship Personal musings

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.
Entrepreneurship Personal musings

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:


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!

Personal musings

The Kama Sutra Hindu 64 Arts – Modern Day UK equivalents?

I was fortunate to find a book that was pretty life changing for me many years ago. This is not the picture book version, but the ‘Penguin Popular Classic’ which is entirely a text based version!

I didn’t get all that far through the book the first time around, as I was distracted by the pages referring to a the ’64 Arts’ which apparently should be studied in conjunction with the rest of the book (the traditional Hindu Arts).

Although these original arts are a bit different to the culture I was growing up in, I figured that the an equivalent I could work out, would probably be good to try and develop for myself over the subsequent years.

So the original arts (with what I see as many of their modern equivalents where appropriate) are as follows (I can’t do all of these yet, but they were a base for me to look out from and head towards):

  1. Singing
  2. Playing musical instruments
  3. Dancing – Salsa, ballroom, pole
  4. Performance combining the above
  5. Writing and drawing
  6. Tattooing
  7. Adorning an idol with rice and flowers – Floristry and flower arranging ?
  8. Spreading and arranging of bed of flowers, or flowers upon the ground
  9. Colouring the teeth, clothing, hair, nails and bodies – body painting and hair styling
  10. Fixed stained glass into the floor – mosaics
  11. The art of making beds – hotel housekeeping
  12. Playing musical glasses partially filled with water
  13. Storing and accumulating water, aqueducts, etc. – household plumbing
  14. Picture making – modern day photography
  15. Stringing of necklaces and garlands –
  16. Binding of turbans and chaplets –
  17. Scenic representation /stage play – Amateur Dramatics?
  18. Art of making ear ornaments –
  19. Preparing perfumes –
  20. Proper disposition of jewels and decorations in dress – fashion accessories
  21. Magic or sorcery – stage magic and slight of hand
  22. Quickness and dexterity in manual skill – computer typing speed.
  23. Culinary art – cooking and baking
  24. Making lemonades, acidulated drinks – smoothies, cocktails and fruit drinks
  25. Tailors work and sewing – same today (including curtain making)
  26. Making parrots and other decorative items out of yarn or thread – cross stitching
  27. Solutions of riddles and verbal puzzles – same today (+ debating contests)
  28. Connected stories game – Modern day politics or sales
  29. Mimicry or imitation – acting and imitation
  30. Reading, including chanting and intoning – public speaking / corporate training
  31. Tongue twisters
  32. Sword, quarterstaff, bow and arrow – martial arts
  33. Drawing inferences, reasoning and inferring – psychotherapy and counselling
  34. Carpentry – carpentry and furniture building (both flat pack and from scratch)
  35. Architecture or the art of building – build your own home and/or house extension
  36. Knowledge about gold silver and gems – same
  37. Chemistry and mineralogy – same
  38. Colouring jewels, gems and beads
  39. Knowledge of mines and quarries
  40. Gardening – gardening and tree surgery
  41. Cockfighting, quail fighting and ram fighting – boxing or martial art tournaments
  42. Teaching parrots or starlings to speak – dog and horse whispering
  43. Applying perfumes to the body
  44. Writing of cipher – code writing and code breaking / computer programming
  45. Modifying speech in abstract ways
  46. Knowledge of languages – speaking foreign languages
  47. Making flower carriages
  48. Spells and charms – Spells and witchcraft
  49. Memory and mental exercises – brain challenges and IQ tests
  50. Composing poems
  51. Knowledge of dictionaries and vocabularies – well read and well spoken
  52. Knowledge of disguising people
  53. The ability to change cheaper items to appear as of a higher value (ie cotton to silk, etc.)
  54. Gambling – gambling and stock market share dealing
  55. Art of mantras or incarnations to gaining possession of others’ property – positive thinking and witchcraft
  56. Skill in youthful sports – sports and athletics
  57. Knowledge of the rules of society, and paying respects and compliments to others – well mannered, respectful to all, and ability to give genuine compliments
  58. Knowledge of the art of war, armies, etc – military service (paid, part time, or voluntary)
  59. Knowledge of gymnastics – modern day gymnastics
  60. Knowing someone’s character by their features – personology, face reading and body language
  61. Knowledge of scanning and constructing verses – speed reading and writing
  62. Arithmetical recreations – maths challenges / chess
  63. Making artificial flowers
  64. Making figures and images in clay – pottery and sculpture

Particularly where I couldn’t work out a modern UK equivalent, I also felt there was a few modern day skills not included in the above list, but useful in the UK Society I lived and grew up:

  1. Sailing and navigating on water
  2. Ship building
  3. Plastering a wall
  4. Painting and Decorating
  5. Household rewiring
  6. Massage therapies
  7. Hypnotherapy & Hypnosis
  8. Meditation
  9. Anatomy and physiology
  10. Website design and development
  11. IT software skills (ie Windows, Linux, Mac)
  12. IT hardware skills (repairing / rebuilding your computer hardware)
  13. Sales skills
  14. Presentation skills / after dinner speeches
  15. Voluntary work with children
  16. Movie making / directing
  17. Advanced driver training
  18. Skills in piloting a plane  (ie private pilots licence, or gliding certificate)
  19. Sustainable living / renewable energies
  20. Growing your own fruit and veg
  21. Survival skills (remote living)
  22. Surfing
  23. Rock Climbing / Urban Free Running
  24. Car mechanics and repair
  25. Swimming
  26. Scuba diving
  27. High Board Diving

Your thoughts?

Personal musings

More random things about me

I was thinking last night of some of the random things I’ve been doing over the last few years (and how many of them I keep forgetting), so I’ve started writing a list, now detailed briefly on my Random Facts page.

Business Personal musings

My near death Car Accident – – 28th Feb 2006

The following blog post, is a copy of one made on the 1st March 2006 (the day immediately after), and then updated over the following week.  However, as I’m shortly moving the old website to a new location, it seemed appropriate to re-post here!  Do scroll down to the images at the base for a better view.

At the roadside - view 4

Don’t try and dodge the squirrel‘!

So there I was, on Tuesday the 28th Feb 2006, at around 10:30am, driving confidently along the inside lane of the A329M motorway just by junction 10 of the M4.

Holding a steady 70mph, aware of the other vehicles around me, and the road ahead looking clear, ready to exit in around half a mile.

Suddenly, out of the tree line, a small brown squirrel starts racing it’s way to new pastures, attempting to dash as fast as it little legs could carry it, across 2 lanes of fast moving traffic!

Correlating it’s speed, my speed, and the distance between us, there’s a very high chance we’ll collide and Sammy will certainly not do very well out of it. Unfortunately then instinct (possibly from being a strict vegetarian for more than 10 years), means that I then attempted to take evasive action.

A sharp swerve on the steering to the right to try and avoid Sammy, means that at these high speeds the car begins to loose it’s feet. A counter turn to the left helps a little but the car is already unavoidably about to loose traction.

Should I counter again and try to compensate by going right, setting up an uncontrollable rock and roll around the motorway? That could mean moving across the lanes, and also potentially into oncoming traffic from the other direction (as there’s no central barrier on that part of the motorway). And that could be dangerous.

So knowing I was loosing traction anyway, the safest direction was to continue holding my slight left lock, hopefully then sliding onto the hard shoulder in the safest manner, knowing also that the cars behind were also traveling quite slowly and the motorway was still relatively clear on this side.

Unfortunately, the car continued to yaw slightly to the left, then loosing traction completely with all four wheels skidding sideways, but thankfully with the vehicle still moving in the direction of the hard shoulder.

“This might cause a little damage to the car” I thought.

Unfortunately a tree to the side of the hard shoulder wasn’t so happy about the intrusion to its space, and attempted to hold its ground despite the rapid application of the driver’s door against it.

The car, not wishing to give up entirely, continued it’s motion against the tree, but with nowhere else to go tried to leap over the top (not very effectively), by rolling its way up the trunk.

Not wishing to make things too difficult, the tree finally gave in, embedding itself into the roof of the car, folding the roof in, right in front of Jason’s eyes just to make it clear of its displeasure about the intrusion.

I swerved and swerved to avoid a crash, but still hit the tree‘!

“It’s likely this might damage the car a little more than expected” I thought, as the horizon span around in front of my eyes.

The car came to a gentle halt, right way up, and somehow I was still there, sitting upright, hands still both comfortably on the steering wheel, engine still running, windscreen wipers for some reason oscillating, wondering slightly why I couldn’t really see all that well out of the front or side of the vehicle but figuring I should get out as quickly as possible.

Not being able to see if I was actually blocking the motorway, and hearing cars still flying past beside me, I felt a second vehicle could hit me at any time. I hadn’t realised at this point how much the car had been crushed around my seated position.

Thankfully, on kicking my way out of the driver’s door, three guys were already running towards me to help out (seemingly slightly surprised I was just about out by the time they got to me).

Then taking stock of my location, I was surprised and pleased to see that the car had quite nicely parked itself onto the embankment, wasn’t even on the hard shoulder. All the remnants from the car interior had even been scattered into the trees without anything obstructing the motorway at all!

Bystanders seemed somewhat surprised as I walked around freely, assisting me in retrieving various items strewn from the rear of the vehicle into the embankment.

As I was okay, and the car quite clearly no longer drivable, I wondered how long it would take for the AA to arrive. No-one was entirely sure what to do next. However, in the meantime, one of the drivers of another vehicle was already calling the police and ambulance to come and ‘rescue’ me.

Within minutes, the ambulance crew arrived and saw me smiling and waving signs of ‘I’m okay’ to them. They were however slightly puzzled as to where the driver of the vehicle was, and who else must still be trapped inside, judging from how badly the vehicle was crushed.

Taking me to the ambulance to attend to the slight cuts on the backs of my hands (from the broken glass imploding onto me), one of the paramedics returned to the vehicle, expressing that had I not been walking around on arrival as I was, they would have expected to need to cut the roof off the vehicle, and only carry me out on a spinal board!

One paramedic expressed that it was “the worst accident he’d ever seen, where someone had come out alive”. Unfortunately Sammy the squirrel wasn’t so lucky!


So after the event, I booked myself in for a Sports Massage on Wednesday morning, an Aromatherapy treatment Wednesday evening, an Osteopathy treatment to reset a couple of vertebrae on the Friday morning, and another massage on the following Monday! 🙂

The week continued relatively as normal (although a couple of days did seem to pass by, without being quite normally balanced!).

Thankfully, after a series X-rays, (apart from the car, the tree, and of course Sammy) nothing appears to be broken!

(I wrote this, because the ambulance guys, the crash transporter guys, and many others enjoyed the humour of ‘’ marked across the car, in the crushed form you see above!)

Personal musings

Don’t be fooled by appearances

If you’ve met me, you might recognise that I generally look around 5-10 years younger than my age, I smile a lot, if I’m out and about I’m likely to have a rucksack on my back, and I tend to wear practical clothes rather than fashionable.

However, I’m also involved various businesses that continue to grow around the UK, with currently a turnover of thousands of pounds a year (and so of course spend quite a lot of money with a lot of different suppliers from around the UK), so when I buy things, I tend to buy in bulk.

My recent experience:

Very recently however, whilst walking around my new local town, I happened to notice a small independent interior designers.  Knowing that our new hotel is likely to be going through some significant internal renovations next year, I dropped in to have a look around, and discuss the potential of working together.

The lady in the store was already busy on the phone when I walked in.. so I didn’t rush her, but perused the small collection of fabrics and samples on display whilst waiting.

She didn’t seem like she’d be off the phone anytime soon, and hadn’t made any efforts to let me know she’d be right with me.

I then spotted a hardback interior design book on one of the chairs, so picked it up to get some further ideas to discuss.  Flicking through the pages, I then spotted something tucked into the book, which looked very out of place, and quickly spotted it was a printed boarding pass for a flight that month.  Trying to glance through to find out if this would be too late to get it to the owners (who must have left it by mistake), or whatever else I may be able to do to reunite it.

However, just then, the lady of the store (whilst still on the phone), snatched it out from my hands, told me not to touch it. She then quickly folded the paperwork back in half, and put it back in the book (by which time she’d also snatched this out of my hands).  She then put the book back on the chair, and then walked back into the rear of the store to continue her discussion on the phone (who I could work out was a long term supplier).

Not surprisingly, I left the store.

Realising that a lot of people don’t always get to know what they might have missed, I felt it important to let her know.  Therefore, with a smile in my step, and arms full of shopping (‘Pretty Woman’ style) I returned around 45 minutes later, sharing some information:

  1. I do own a small, local, luxury boutique hotel;
  2. We were looking to spend up to around £20,000 on some interior work (particularly on the design and finishing),
  3. And that unfortunately, due to the way I’d been treated by her a little earlier, there was absolutely no way I would now consider working with her or her company.

She was of course apologetic at this point, but it was too little : too late.

This incident is certainly not isolated.

A very successful friend had just been decorating her own new home, in a very expensive part of Guildford.  Remembering her dental needs, still partially covered in clothes caked in paint, she tried to register with a very local but expensive private dentists.  The receptionist apparently wouldn’t even give her the time of day.  But upon returning later that week, this time on her return from work (in a tailored suite), they couldn’t sign her up quickly enough.

Similarly, a good colleague who now runs fleet services for a well known luxury car company:  shared with me a time one Saturday afternoon when a gentleman in casual jeans and a t-shirt turned up at the showroom and forecourt of the car firm, and was taking a good look around.  The high pressure sales guys at the time didn’t take long to assume he was just going to waste their time, so they sent over the Saturday kid (John) who was trying to learn the sales trade whilst washing the cars.  The gentleman had a few questions, that the kid tried to answer as best he could.  The gentleman then asked how he could go about ordering 14 of these for his business.

Not surprisingly, the Saturday kid didn’t really know how to proceed, so went back to asked the main sales guys what to do next.. on hearing the news, they elbowed their way into trying to get the commission, but the gentleman in question stopped them, explained that they had all dismissed him whilst he was walking around and whilst trying to ask questions, and so John (the Saturday kid) was the only person who should get the commission from the significant sale.

Incredible people:

Now being a hotel owner, I’m fortunate to meet many incredible people from around the world who have come to stay with us.

Over the course of their stay, some of them are kind enough to share with me their background, and we do get all types of people.  Some are nurses, midwifes, and teachers, others are mutli-millionaire business owners, now expanding, retiring, or just keeping busy.  All of them look much the same, especially when they come down for breakfast in the hotel dressing gowns.

As the saying goes:

Apparently 40% of the decision to buy a book is based on its cover alone, but they do still say: “don’t judge a book by its cover”.

When it comes to people especially, basing your opinion on image alone, more than likely you’ll be completely wrong.

Personal musings

150 press-ups every day, at 77 years old!

I had a very nice visit last week, from my Great Uncle and Great Aunt, Owen and Peg, who were over visiting from the USA.

It was great seeing them again (I’m sure it’s been over 15 years since the last time), and through finding out a little more about them this time, was amazed to hear that Owen (on the far right of the photo below), at aged 77, still does 150 press-ups every day!

Personally I think that’s very impressive (I think I might be able to do around 10% of that at the moment!), so if he can do that at 77, it gives me a great focus of what I should be able to do at 33!

Jason, Peg, and Owen

Many thanks guys.  Lovely to see you both again.

Personal musings

My new personal blog

My new blog here at should hopefully give me the outlet to share various things that don’t seem too appropriate to update anywhere else!

I’ve just been updating the about page as I know a lot of people can get a bit puzzled by the various things I get up to during my 7 day working week.  (Thankfully though, because of the vocations I’ve chosen, very little of it feels like ‘work’ anymore!)

I’ve been modifying some lovely recipes over recent months too, so hopefully these will find a place to be shared soon.

A lot of people ask me about setting up their own business too, so hopefully this will be another area I’ll be able to share information on over the coming blogging period.

If you have any queries at any time, please just post a note beneath an associated blog, and I’ll try and get back to you!