“If you can make your business operate during a downturn, you’ll be a superstar when the economic scales tip,” he continues. “During a recession, you’ll learn how to keep on top of your cash flow and you’ll learn the art of negotiation. The businesses that are crumbling now were bad businesses. They got lazy.
“Now’s a great time to buy commercial property – it’s cheaper. Now’s a great time to hire – there are more people on the job market. And now’s a great time to haggle with suppliers – they need your business.”
Jay started up his own company, The Coaching Academy, when he was £20k in debt and had only £145 left in cash. “I was publishing a magazine on personal development called The Achievement Report at the time. It was one of those magazines that was very badly funded. We’d make a bit of money one month, then we’d lose money the next. We were turning over little more than £15k a year. It was a pretty desperate situation.”
The upside? That business introduced him to the world of personal development and gave him a little black book full of contacts. “People kept calling the office and asking us if we ran courses on personal development. So I decided to try it. My friend had a database of people who’d been to personal development seminars. He sent a newsletter out to them every month, so I asked him if I could include postcards about the course I was planning on running. He said ‘yes’, so I used the £145 to print 10,000 postcards. Within a week, I had hundreds of enquiries.
"The course cost £2,000 to attend and I took the first 20 bookings on credit cards. Suddenly, I was £20k in the black."
Jay paid off his mortgage and bought a car. “Enquiries kept coming in so I decided to host another course. And then another."
When he sold the company to private investment firm R Capital last November, Jay was pulling in sales of £5m.
He won’t reveal how much he sold the business for – he had to sign a confidentiality clause – but he does say it was “north of £10m”.
“It just goes to show that you don’t need large amounts of money to set up a good business. Television programmes such as Dragons’ Den give an enormously distorted view of startups. The Richard Bransons of today would never have got off the ground if they had to wait to get £125k in venture capital.”
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