Revealing his lifestyle as part of our Business Class section, oil industry leader Upshall confessed that he learnt the hard way that having access to too much capital can result in large expenses, as he lost more than some people will ever make.
However, the tycoon is now the chairman of oil industry inspection business OES Oilfield Services Group, which boasts a presence in 15 locations worldwide. As a result, that means a lot of his time is spent travelling, but the Maldives is his preferred spot when he does get time off.
As if the oil industry isn’t enough to keep him busy, Upshall also leads the RU Group, which comprises sporting professional and music artist management, a record label, business consulting, training and sportswear.
Find out what Upshall had to say about his journey to where he is today.
(1) Were you born into wealth or has your success been self-made?
I am 100 per cent self-made.
(2) How much did your first job pay?
At 13 I started working for myself, gardening for neighbours. Within a couple of years, I had a couple of casual school mates working for me, and, by age 16, five of them.
I started on £1.50 an hour. The business model was the basis for one of my most successful businesses today, hire school friends for £ 1.50-an-hour and charge £2.50 an hour or more to do the work.
By the time I was 16 I was getting a minimum of £4.50 per person per hour and paying around £ 2.50 per hour and everyone was happy and earning more than many peers who had left school.
(3) You have achieved business success in oil, farming, sports and entertainment. How lucrative have the marketplaces been for you, and what excites you most about what you do?
It’s been an interesting journey, and continues to be. The markets vary so dramatically, which makes this a difficult question to answer. For example, farming was, initially, a lifestyle option as at the time I was in love with Australia and wanted to spend as much time there as possible.
Australian rural land prices in the mid-90s were very low so over a few years I acquired three properties. I made mistakes, for example buying them in a company name so missing out on subsidies as a sole trader. I made no money on farming itself despite adapting to trends and ran the business with an enormous overhead compared to fellow farmers as I wanted everything new and shiny.
That said, the term “make hay while sun shines” is very apt as most in the oil industry have done very well out of it, and bleating on about losses now just doesn’t wash too much with me.
With the correct planning we can survive the oil industry downturn. Like most bubbles, it is the chancers that get hit the hardest; it has certainly brought some reflection to the market. That said, the next bubble is, I believe, starting now.
As a self-made man what excites me these days is providing opportunities, mentoring and seeing success in those around me. I have helped a number of people become millionaires and have a lot more in the process currently.
To see people flourishing, adapting, changing and feeling better in themselves really does motivate me and to be able to do that in areas from the oil industry to the music business really keeps me fresh and current.
(4) What would you consider the most exhilarating sector you work in?
All the sectors I work in are exhilarating and not always for the right reasons. From the cut and thrust and “alpha” style management of an oil industry services company, through to the “group hug” style of the creative industries I work in, all have their own buzzes and for all sorts of reasons.
(5) What has business ownership taught you about money management?
Cash is king. Under-capitalised businesses are the ones that simply won’t make it. Over-capitalised I have done too, and that’s just wasteful and a drain on resources. Having access to too much money too early meant I lost more than most people ever make.
Knowing when to draw a line under things is important as well. I have kept funding a number of enterprises that simply were never going to work. Just last month I was discussing with an associate entering forced administration how to survive it and rise again.
I’ve not had that experience, I have had voluntary administration though and I have also wound up, of my own accord, a number of businesses that simply haven’t worked.
If you are ever the capital partner, always ensure the operating partner is not too comfortable financially, they need to be motivated, and this is one of the issues historically I have had. Oh, and don’t forget, control the bank accounts totally!
(6) Tell us about your smartest investments
I believe that has happened recently. One of my businesses I owned 50-50 with a silent partner. That partner has just changed out for an active partner and I believe that to be the smartest investment of late.
The first smart investment I made was to liquidate everything, sell up and move to Dubai with the grand total of £400 in my pocket and an open return air ticket back to UK on Aeroflot via Moscow. I never looked back, although the first couple of years were a struggle I assure you!
Generally, and this is a theme in my commentary, I have to say the smartest investments I have made have been in relationships and my wide network of extremely good friends remains the smartest long term investment I have ever made.
(7) Do you get more satisfaction from spending or saving your money?
Oh spending! On myself, on others and having fun!
(8) What are your most expensive hobbies?
I like watches, had to curb that a bit of late with the oil industry downturn and as a result of acquiring new businesses and startups.
The most expensive is probably travel; though as I am always working, conversely I am also always not working! I mix the both and like luxury hotels, flying first class and VIP wining, dining and clubbing!
(9) Most prized possession?
I’m not really a prized possession person. I love my home and my dogs make my home as well. “Things” don’t really do it for me.
My most prized possessions aren’t really possessions, they are what I have earned, which is the trust and friendship of many people all over the world.
(10) What are your favourite luxury brands?
I love Panerai and Bremont watches and have a few more to boot. I own quite an extensive shoe collection and man of the moment is Giuseppe Zanotti.
I own a Ferrari and had a Bentley until recently and I am a big fan of Selfridges for shopping for myself and those around me.
(11) Where has your most luxurious holiday take you?
The Maldives is my favourite place. I love diving, snorkelling and the sun. The best resort I have been to there for my tastes so far has been the W resort, I have been to ten of the 200 that are there and working on visiting more, maybe fitting another one in this year.
(12) Excluding property, what has been your most expensive purchase?
Ha, an ex-wife! Seriously though, cars are my thing so it would be one of them I guess, and I usually own a few at a time – currently a Ferrari California T, a Lexus 450H and a GMC Denali.
Image: W Hotel