When I interviewed Peter Done from Peninsula (if you don’t know Peninsula they’re an HR company with over 1000 staff in the UK) he actually said to me that he didn’t have to come into work anymore, he chose to come because he really enjoyed it. You may not have heard of Peter, but he and his brother Fred started the Bet Fred chain of bookies.
Peter shared with me a hugely interesting story of how he and his brother got started. During the early 1970s they were each managing bookies for somebody else, but felt that they could do better themselves. The two brothers managed to scrape together £2000 but they still needed another £2500 to buy a shop. Luckily the businessman selling the shop believed that Peter and his brother could make a real go of it and decided to loan them the remaining £2500, to be paid back over two years. It was a great stroke of luck but was led, no doubt, by their own belief, and the businessman’s faith was paid back when they repaid his loan within just six months.
They bought another shop, so each brother had their own to run, then bought a third and they got their sister to run that one. He said that unfortunately they started to hit problems at this point as they’d run out of family members to run the bookies they wanted to acquire.
So, they had to develop a system where the bookies could, with minimal input, run themselves. Peter and his brother continued to buy bookies, just repeating the business model each time, putting the systems in place to make each one run smoothly. Peter and Fred were still working seven days a week but their business was starting to compound massively with the effort they had put in developing systems, and by the early 80s they owned about 70 bookies. At this point, in one of the shops they took over, an employee didn’t want to work for them and took them to court.
Fred and Peter took advice from a solicitor and even though they followed it to the letter, the solicitor ultimately told them due to a technicality they’d probably lose the case and should settle out of court, which they did for about £4500 (which in the 1980s was a considerable sum of money). Then, to Peter’s surprise, even though they’d lost the case and a substantial amount of money, he received a bill for over £4000 from the solicitor.
A week later, Peter was approached by an HR company that offered to look after all of their HR needs and policies in the future to keep them compliant, plus reduce the chances of them being taken to court again, and if they did, as long as they followed the advice there was an insurance policy that would pay out for any court costs. Fred and Pete were so impressed by the setup of the HR company that they told the owner to give them a call if ever he needed investment. Six months later he did, and they invested.
Moving forward three and a half years, Peninsula was losing money hand over fist, and Peter and Fred’s accountant told them to pull out and not to invest any more money. Peter spoke to his brother and said that he’d go into the company for six months and see if there was anything there they could salvage or do to push the business forward. When Peter examined what was going on he saw that there was a great team, but very little in the way of a systemised marketing and sales process. He rolled his sleeves up and went to work selling Peninsula products on the road for 7-8 months before he came in-house, set up a team, with a marketing and sales process, (including tracking their ratios so they knew what numbers they needed to do to hit their targets) and the rest is history.
What I see when I go into businesses is exactly what Peter saw when he went to Peninsula. Great people but a lack of systems, especially around the marketing and sales sides of the business, so if this sounds familiar, start focusing on putting processes in place, as this will lead to your ultimate business success.
With out them you’re just taking a chance that you’ll be successful, which is a bit like playing craps, it’s all down to the roll of the dice.
By Alan S Adams The Clinic Coach