How to build a company & sell for £200m. And then what?

Mike Clare was the guest of Mike Duckett of myself on our most recent show on , and what an interesting guest he was.  Mike is the former owner of which he famously sold for around £200m, and is now Executive Chairman of and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of .

Having delved into start-ups in previous shows, we wanted to look at the other end of the scale, selling a business.

Given that we don’t just throw these shows together (!), there was a flow to the discussion and you can follow that flow through the links below.

Mike speaks first about his first steps into the bed business (and what he did before that) here and reveals some of the secrets of his success here .

A key part of being successful is hiring and nurturing the right people.  Mike explains how it was important for him to know if the candidate was wearing a cap or on drugs.  Confused?  Have a listen here .

Perhaps the key question is “Why sell a successful business?” – hear Mike’s answer here , as well as why he didn’t sell it sooner.  What makes it the right time??

Having never sold a business, how do you go about doing it?  Who should be your advisors?  How do you know you can trust them?  Hear how Mike did it here .

So, there you are with £200m in the bank and no job.  So, what do you do now??  Your answer may well be different to Mike’s but hear what he had to say here.

We hope you enjoy these clips – as always, constructive comments are welcome!

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How to get quality of service wrong

I needed to book three cinema tickets to see Skyfall last week.
Me and several million others.
It should be easy really.  We do live in the 21st century and I am reasonably tech savvy.
So, I  Google cinemas in Bath & find the Odeon & go online and book.
Or rather I don’t.
Their web booking system is astonishingly slow.  First you select the town from a drop-down menu.  Then you wait (literally) 2-3 mins, before you can click on the film.  You then wait another 2-3 mins before you can choose the date.  However, the date I wanted (6 days ahead) did not appear.
So, I thought, give up on the web & try a real person.  The only number to call is an 0871 number, which I would call only if the world was coming to an end, as the cost is such a rip-off.  Fortunately, one of my favourite websites (see ) not only had a landline number, but had the direct number for the cinema in Bath.  Success!
Well, to a degree.  Friday can only be booked when Tuesday comes around.  Ho hum.
So, on Tuesday, I do the same again (yawn yawn) and guess what – same again – the date does not appear.
So I have another chat with my new bff in Bath and am told it will probably be online later that day, or maybe the next.
Wednesday dawns and I try again (again again).
Or at least, until I need to enter my credit card details when the screen tells me there is a system error and I should call the 0871 number to tell them the error code.
Well, just in case, I try it all again, but the same happens again.
By now, I really want to tell Mr Odeon what I think of them.  Fortunately, the sayno…. website not only has an alternative number for the 0871 Customer Service number, but it’s an 0800 number (0800 808950 in case you ever want to talk to them).
Gritting my teeth, braced for the conversation, I dial the number.  A delightful sounding recorded lady tells me that I am 36th in the queue with an estimated wait time of 26 minutes.
Calmly, without damaging my phone in any way, I hang up.
I re-Google cinemas in Bath and find  .  Holding my breath, I go through the whole booking and payment process in under two minutes and pay £5.40 less than I would have paid Mr Odeon.
Now, that wasn’t so hard, was it, Mr Odeon??
Finally, I use the Odeon website contact form to tell them (a slightly shorter version of) this story.
And their response?  You guessed it – no response at all.
You’re probably shaking your head right now at the zero-star customer service.  So let me ask you a question – how good is your customer service?  And how do you know that?  Have you tried phoning your company, like a customer would?  Have you bought something on your own website?  Do you ask your customers what they think?  And what do you do if they didn’t enjoy their ‘customer journey’?
I wonder if the MD of Odeon will ever read this, and what he’ll think if he does.  And what he’ll do about it.  He’ll probably take precipitous action to put things right, because he (or indeed she) is a real person.  The trouble with poor customer service in such corporates is it’s so hard to get to a real person at a high enough level to be vaguely interested.
As a postscript, the Little Theatre Cinema in Bath is a delight.  It dates from the 1930’s but has state of the art sound and vision as well as very comfy seats.  It was a lovely place to be.  The customer service was first class.  I suppose I owe the Odeon a ‘thank you’ – if they hadn’t been so bad I might never have stumbled across their delightful competitor.  Where do you think I will go next time??
Best you make sure you don’t nudge your customers and prospects in the direction of your competitor!
Post script – I eventually got an email from the Odeon apologising for the problems which they’re trying to make sure do not happen again.  I also got an email from Little Theatre Cinema thanking me for the positive feedback & offering me two free tickets.  Which company do you think I feel more positive about??
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A good time was had……

……by one and all, on last Thursday’s show on Marlow FM.

I just loved an article by @kprescott on the BBC news website – you can read it yourself at .  Mike Duckett of and I chatted about it during our show on on Thursday & did struggle to keep our composure!  Listen for yourself at – well worth 3 minutes of your time, though I say so myself!

We were joined on the show by Tony Thomson of , a local training & business development company.  Unlike the start-up companies we’d spoken to on previous shows, Tony had bought Thirdwave from a broker.  You can listen to his comments on that process at .

Being a little provocative (as I like to be!) I put the view to Tony that there’s no point training people – they just use their new skills to beef up their CV and leave!  You can hear Tony’s thoughts on the matter at .

As always, comments and feedback are welcome!

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How inspiring!

Having been around the block a couple of times, I do have to admit that I get a bit jaded sometimes.

So, how inspiring was it to have two guests on the show at last Thursday who are bright, young, enthusiastic, and at the very beginning of their journey through professional life?

Answer – very!

Rebekah & Sarah Ghent are High Wycombe based twins who have sought and are receiving help from The Princes Trust, first to make sure they really do want to start a business and then to explore how viable their business idea is.  To find out what happens, we (like they) will have to wait and see – the business is soon to be launched!

To hear about how they engaged with The Prince’s Trust, have a listen at . explores the idea of internships and the first steps the twins took towards seeking help.

For some conversation around who The Prince’s Trust uses as Business Mentors, have a listen to .

To hear what a Business Mentor is doing for their business, listen to .

Finally, Mike and I do sometimes have a little conflict on air – regular listeners will know what I mean!  To hear why conflict within a business can be a good thing, have a listen to .


We hope you enjoy these clips – I can get the whole show to you if you wish – let me know if you want that to happen!

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So, I was wrong!

Well, last week on the radio show on we had Leo Sykes as our guest.

I was delighted that I refrained from calling him Leo Sayer for the whole programme, but I, like my co-presenter Mike Duckett of did both make a different mistake.

OK, we could argue that the company description “Insolvency Practitioner” does tend to imply that they help people move gently into insolvency in a calm and ordered manner – a bit like the Dignitas of the financial world.

Through the course of the programme though, we discovered that much of the work that they do is more like BUPA than Dignitas!

Why did we not know that before?  Well, mainly because saving a company is not something that the owners generally want publicised to staff, suppliers or customers – they’d rather keep that quiet & just keep on trading.

You can hear what Leo had to say about that at and you might also want a quick listen at to hear why there are less insolvencies in a recession!

Finally, do you put your mobile on the desk when you go in to a meeting?  Don’t!  Why not?  Go to to find out!

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Does any boss work 50 times harder than his people?


I’m afraid I had a bit of a rant on last week.  Poor old Michael O’Leary, Chief Exec of Ryanair was my victim, but I guess he can take it on the chin.

You can hear what I had to say at .

While you are there, please do click on and to hear what our guests (David Cardno & Neil Dockar) had to say about part time Finance Directors.  They were a little more positive than I was about Mr O’Leary!

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How many careers have you had?


Just a short blog to let you know that the theme for Biz Buzz on at 2pm tomorrow (Thursday) is Career Changes.

This is all about having one career after another, which does of course follow on nicely from Mike’s theme a fortnight ago (I was on a beach – lovely!) which was Portfolio Careers, or doing many things at once.  If you missed that show, you can ‘listen again’ at – well worth the time and effort, even if I am not in it!

Our guest from 2.30 onwards tomorrow will be Doug Cannon of Keep it Running.  At the moment he’s a gas engineer, but you’d be amazed at what he was before that, and before that, and before that!  Listen to the show to hear more – if you’re local it’s on 97.5FM, if you’re not you can listen online via the button top right at .

As always, the final half hour will be a Q&A from our listeners – you can email us via , text us via 07900 975 975 or call us on 01628-488975 with questions, ideally ‘on topic’, but any business questions are good to receive.  If you do phone, please do it while the music is playing so we can answer your call!

For more about me, see , for more about Mike, see .

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