2 years ago
I’ve just finished reading the first couple of chapters of Duncan Bannatyne’s autobiography, and he tells a story there which reveals much about the roots and foundation of his success.
When he was just a kid, Bannatyne’s family were very poor. There was scarcely enough money for food and clothing, let alone luxuries of any sort. So when the young Duncan wanted himself a bike, it was little surprise that there was no money available to buy him one.
Undeterred by that, he resolved to get a paper round and buy one himself. But when he went into his local newsagent to ask for a job, the lady owner took one look at the scruffy urchin in front of her, and told him there was no work available. Duncan suspected that this wasn’t entirely true… and that the owner was probably put off by nothing more than his appearance… but rather than argue, he did something that not one in a thousand others would.
No, he didn’t just simply take himself home to smarten himself up...
He went far beyond that.
He set about knocking on doors in the area where he lived, and asked householders whether they would like a newspaper delivered. Over the course of a day or two, he managed to build himself up a list of around 100 new customers, and then went back to the same newsagent with a ready-made round. What could she say? She had to give him a job then, and eventually, he got himself his bike.
Despite him showing such great entrepreneurial flair, Bannatyne now says this represented his first big mistake in business too. That list of 100 new customers was valuable, and he should have sold it to the newsagent, rather than giving it away in exchange for a job!
No matter. Because what he did still showed astonishing enterprise at such a young age.
And another shining example came to me just the other day too.
While most of us were holed up in our living rooms moaning and wailing about the weather, a small team of youths came knocking at the front door. We had just experienced an unusually high amount of snow fall in the spate of a single night and these four lads had had the clarity of mind to find an opportune opening to make themselves a fast buck.
Armed with nothing more than shovels, their product was the desperately needed clearing of footpaths and driveways for just a fiver.
Between them it took less than five minutes to clear the snow from a driveway and they were working a street with a hundred houses. That one day alone must have netted these lads a hundred pounds each, just for having the gall to actually go out and do something.
And reading about Duncan just prior to seeing these lads
got me thinking about my own childhood too.
As kids, we weren’t that well off either… maybe not quite as poverty-stricken as the Bannatyne’s, but there was certainly no spare money available for ‘fun stuff’ aside from Christmas and birthdays.
So between the ages of about 9 until 13, I earned most of my own money on the golf course – no not by playing golf, but by selling second hand balls to the players.
Now you might think this is a mundane activity with not much to be learned, but take it from me, many of the elements necessary for success in any business, were present in that early enterprise. I learned about stock, sourcing, pricing, marketing, wholesaling, profit margins, discounts, special offers, negotiation, customer relations, up-selling, win-win deals… and a whole lot more.
Of course I didn’t attach those labels to what I was doing at the time. I was just trying to find and flog as many balls as I could for as much money as I could get. But when I look back, many of the things I now take to be common knowledge were grounded in that seemingly simple enterprise. And much of what I’ve done subsequently, is just the same stuff, scaled up and adapted.
And I’d have never learned any of that stuff if we’d been ‘comfortable’ and I didn’t need the money.
When I was young, there were times when I bemoaned the fact that I wasn’t born ‘into money’. Watching my own children take advantage of opportunities which I didn’t even realise existed as a child, has given me cause to wonder what it would have been like too. But I now realise that I’d have missed out on so many experiences as well…
And what I’d have gained on the swings,
I’d have almost certainly lost on the roundabouts.
I think that’s the same for all of us – irrespective of our background. Where we start out is important but it’s just that, a starting point. What’s far more important is how we use the positive aspects of where we start out, to get to where we ultimately want to be.
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