In 2005, Al Elliott was named in the Top 42 entrepreneurs Under 42 in the UK. By 2007 he was bankrupt for £103,000. By 2008 he’d built an ethically-driven multimillion-pound property business, a portfolio that he still holds today.
This is the untold story of your co-host of the Truth, Lies & Workplace Culture Podcast.
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We’re a few episodes in and realised we’ve never taken the time to introduce ourselves. In the first of a 2-part series, we dive deep into the life and career of Al Elliott, Co-Founder of Oblong, Gladstone Property Group and the Truth, Lies and Workplace Culture Podcast.
Join us as we discuss:
- The DNA of an entrepreneur
- The path to rapid success and media fame
- How being right led to bankruptcy
- Fighting back with business #2…during a recession
- Why the mantra ‘Be rich, not right’ changed everything…
All the links mentioned in the show.
Connect with your hosts
- Connect with Al on LinkedIn
- Connect with Leanne on LinkedIn
- Join the discussion about this episode on LinkedIn
- Email: podcast@TruthLiesandWork.com
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- Chat with us on Twitter @truthlieswork
- YouTube channel for the podcast @TruthLiesWork
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⚠️ NOTE: This is an automated transcript, so it might not always be 100% accurate!
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[00:00:00.170] – Al
Bit of a weird interview because obviously you know so much about me. The stuff I’ve told you said here that I don’t think I’ve ever told you.
[00:00:12.130] – Leanne
Hello, and welcome back to The Truth, Lies and Workplace Culture podcast, where we help business leaders, business owners and everybody else who’s interested untangle this somewhat complex world of people and culture. My name is Leanne. I’m business psychologist.
[00:00:26.180] – Al
My name is Al and I’m a business owner.
[00:00:28.550] – Leanne
And welcome back.
[00:00:29.640] – Al
[00:00:30.730] – Leanne
So today is a little bit different. We’ve been around for a little bit of a few episodes now. We’ve been on the HubSpot podcast network for about six weeks, and we realised that we haven’t really taken the time to introduce ourselves, so we thought we would do that this week in a two part episode series that will both come out this week. And today we are learning all about my wonderful co host, Al Elliot, and his very interesting and rollercoaster experience as a business owner and entrepreneur. Al, welcome to the podcast.
[00:01:14.730] – Al
Well, thank you so much for having me. It’s a delight to be here. I’ve been dreaming of this moment for a long time, Leanne, because you’ve never asked me.
[00:01:23.100] – Leanne
Well, we’re very busy, so I think we should just dive straight in, okay. And get to know Al Elliot. So, to steal a question, and if you’re a regular podcast, you’ll know exactly where this question is from. What do I need to understand about young Al to better understand the man that sits in front of us today?
[00:01:49.170] – Al
That’s a good question. Well, I’m stealing that for the next time I do the interview. I noticed that a lot of the decisions I made tend to be around sort of trying to be popular or trying to be cool, because as a kid, I was never popular. I was never cool. I was the biggest nerd ever up until about the age of sort of like 1920 still. I’m a huge nerd, but I was like an uber nerd. I was never particularly, like, in the comprehensive school, which is, I think, for Americans, that’s public school. I think for the UK, public is different. So for just your general bug standard school, and I said it because I went to one. So with that, I was never particularly public because I was never good at sports. I wasn’t like, I looked weird in my teens, I still look weird now. I wish I could have grown a beard in my teens. And also so I was never really popular there. And then when I went to a grammar school for my A levels, what my parents wanted me to do, because my little brother went to grammar school all the way through, then I came from the comprehensive and I wasn’t particularly intelligent, and so I only scraped by to get in there.
[00:02:58.590] – Al
So I wasn’t particularly popular there either. So when I left university, I think I went into pub management. So I had a few pubs that’s bars, so I had a few jobs in bars and then went into like a bar management and then went into the actual got a job as a pub manager. And I think probably that’s a lot of that is to do with the fact that I wanted to be the person who sort of everyone to put the party together, I suppose. So my first pub was in Manchester in a busy student bar. We used to get sort of two or 3000 people a night in there and my job was to make sure that everything was running right and everything. And so I suppose that was the beginning of it. And I really enjoyed the fact that people thought I was important, that people thought that essentially I looked down and I go, if I hadn’t done all the bits and pieces today to make this night happen, then it wouldn’t be happening. So that’s I suppose with my working career when I left that and I started building businesses, I think it’s a similar kind of thing.
[00:03:57.370] – Al
My very first business was a beer delivery company and I had maybe sort of 20 or 30 staff in there and it was a similar sort of thing. I felt like I was paying people to be around me but I felt that I was creating an environment where people wanted to be and probably wanted to be where I could be part of. Does that make sense?
[00:04:18.720] – Leanne
It does. And before we kind of dive into that period of your life, you said there that you were not good looking, you’re not particularly intelligent, you weren’t popular. Where does this kind of self deprecation come from?
[00:04:36.170] – Al
I honestly don’t think it is. I think it’s just practical. I my brother is a professor, very, very clever. And so obviously, naturally with being two boys in the family, you kind of you are pitted against one another to a certain extent, or compared I suppose is more likely. And then I remember some of my earliest memories where there was a girl called Eleanor who was in my class and my mom kept going, what did Eleanor get in this test? And what did you get in this test? And it’s like, well why didn’t you get what Eleanor got? And so there was a lot of this sort of competition to be intelligent, which I wasn’t able to well, I wasn’t able to win as much as my brother did. Now I think I’ve got intelligence in overt certainly other things academically, no, but in terms of other stuff, definitely I feel like I’m very good at picking up seeing patterns or seeing ideas, which is again, ticking onto entrepreneurship. So I I don’t think it’s self deprecating. I honestly think now in my forty s, I look back and I’m like, yeah, this is just practical.
[00:05:37.600] – Al
That’s just how it was perhaps at the time I felt terrible, but now I don’t mind. Just like, okay, that was just the fact.
[00:05:44.270] – Leanne
What does intelligence mean to you?
[00:05:46.110] – Al
I’m not sure necessarily, that you can define intelligence using just one sort of criteria, because intelligence in warfare, for example, is very different to intelligence in a university, which is very different to intelligence in if you’re leading a massive team, which is very different to intelligence if you’re starting a new business. So I don’t think you can say someone isn’t. You can have got a universal measure of intelligence, even though I’m sure psychologists do, and I’m pretty sure that’s IQ, but I would argue that intelligence is probably within your domain. Do you have intelligence? Do you know things that other people don’t? So if we talk about intelligence in terms of like, Secret Service and spy stuff and all that, the intel they talk about in James Bond, well, that’s the intelligence about a particular domain, isn’t it? About a particular people? So I think maybe intelligence is often very domain specific, and someone who would appear very intelligent as a university professor, for example, I’m trying to take the most extreme example, would appear really stupid to someone who managed a team of 10,000 people or who started a business, or Elon Musk, for example.
[00:06:59.420] – Al
Two very different intelligences.
[00:07:00.910] – Leanne
I think you mentioned that you were often compared to your brother, and it wasn’t kind of a game you could win. Do you think that played a role in you going into business, being an entrepreneur?
[00:07:17.270] – Al
Yeah, maybe. Honestly, I hadn’t really thought about it like that before, yet in my family, that wasn’t a game I could win, whereas in my family, there was no one really who was an entrepreneur. So even if I was a shit one, I’d still be the best entrepreneur in the family. So yeah, I never really thought that of that, but yes, but potentially, yeah.
[00:07:37.860] – Leanne
Are you competitive?
[00:07:38.920] – Al
I don’t think I am particularly competitive. We have a monthly quiz with with my family and with your family, and I am always lasting. It like they they get an average of like eight points, and I get three, and that doesn’t bother me at Al. What does get me excited is when I see an opportunity in something, and I think not many people have have seen this opportunity, and even fewer people are actually acting on it. So that’s where I would become competitive, but not because I have to win, like type A personality, just more because the excitement of being able to bring something to life that hasn’t existed before is incredible. So I suppose I’m competing against time rather than people, in that I like to create things that either haven’t existed before or have existed but aren’t great. And so that’s why I got into coding as well, because it’s maybe about sort of I started programming when I was a kid in Basic, but I started in PHP about 15 years ago, and I was rubbish for about eight years of it. Then I started getting better and better and better. And what really excites me about that is that you can sit down and within a day you can produce something that other people can access and use that’s never existed before.
[00:08:59.450] – Al
Or you can see something that exists and you go, that’s not very good. I can improve that, and I don’t have to go and find a huge tech team to do it because I can create a proof of concept in a couple of days. And that’s what I like. So I suppose it coding very much. Might like Lego or like woodwork, where if you could imagine something existing, like I remember when I was living my brother in Bradford, we built a cabin bed, bunk bed, and so we just sat there, we’re like, okay, let’s design it. Let’s go and cut the wood. And so within three or four days, a space that was unusable in a tiny bedroom suddenly became this place with a desk underneath it. And then I felt like children in and then a bed above it. And we created that and we created from nothing. So I suppose I’m not competitive with other people, but I am competitive with myself in that I want to produce something that I’m proud of before, I suppose, before I get bored of it and move on to something else. So that’s probably my time constraint.
[00:10:01.560] – Al
Probably what I’m competing against is if you were to graph my interest over time, then I’m working so hard to stay in the first third of that quadrant of that graph before it starts to plateau and then dip, and then it just never gets built.
[00:10:14.610] – Leanne
Is that a pattern that is quite familiar to you then?
[00:10:18.060] – Al
100%, I’m not sure. There’s many things that I’ve finished. I’ve started lots of things. What is funny is that I meet a lot of people who say they’ve got great ideas and they never do anything about them. And I always think it’s ridiculous. You could have a website up by this afternoon. You’re going to look at a landing page website this afternoon, you cana be running ads by tomorrow. You could have started this yet. People who look at me when I started something and then haven’t finished it probably think exactly the same thing, like, you’re a flipping idiot. Why have you got this far and got this much momentum and then just given up? So it’s definitely something that I am really bad at. I get excited about opportunities, excited about proof of concept, and then my interest almost falls off a cliff because I’m like, oh, let’s go and build something new.
[00:11:07.140] – Leanne
So let’s take it back to your first business, that first opportunity that you saw, what was the build up to that? What did kind of the twelve months before you started your first business look like?
[00:11:19.100] – Al
I think the build up just down the first business was probably around excitement and frustration that I’d never really fallen into a job that I enjoyed. They all just seemed to be just work for work’s sake, and so I just wanted to do something different. And so I looked at all kinds of different things. And then this idea of doing beer delivery after hours was like the most appealing and the most exciting to me. And also, because I’d been in the licence trade already, I knew a little bit about licensees and licences and all that kind of stuff from the Licencing Law.
[00:11:55.640] – Leanne
So is it just a case that you were kind of bored managing a bar and wanting to do something different in the same industry?
[00:12:02.910] – Al
Yeah, well, I mean, I got sacked from managing the bar because money was going missing and I couldn’t tell them where it had gone. So I ended up getting sacked from that, which obviously was the end of my career in public management, because who else is going to employ a bar manager who at 21 well, at 21 had taken a bar from the 27th worst in the area to the first in terms of sales, but then six months later got sacked for money going missing for gross misconduct.
[00:12:35.060] – Leanne
So how did it feel to go from because that’s a huge amount of success, just so we kind of have a timeline. This was in the what year was this?
[00:12:42.770] – Al
This was 1999 to 2000 and late two thousand s. And you took it.
[00:12:48.410] – Leanne
From number 27 to number one.
[00:12:50.440] – Al
[00:12:50.970] – Leanne
And then you got sacked because the.
[00:12:53.060] – Al
Money was going missing, which you had.
[00:12:54.730] – Leanne
Nothing to do with.
[00:12:55.420] – Al
No. And I still, to this day don’t don’t know where he was going, whether I mean, I know there was a weird thing around the post office in the UK around about the same time where he was over. Postmasters were getting sacked because the tills were saying it should have this much and it was a computer error. So whether it was something like that or it was just as simple as someone was just taking money, I don’t know, but I don’t know the answer to that. So I went to do a sales job, a daughter door sales job, and and I did a phone sales job, both of which taught me loads, but I hated. And so my main thing was just I just hate just basically getting up, going to work, coming home, watching TV, going to bed, getting up, going to work, coming home, watch TV, going to bed. It was just this thing, this horrible cycle of just is this hit.
[00:13:41.030] – Leanne
So gimme some beer was your first business. So tell us about the idea behind gimme some beer.
[00:13:46.860] – Al
So it was born from a night where there was a load of us sitting around having a few drinks. We’d been to the offline now, been to the pub, come back and there was some light, went to someone’s house, maybe like some sherry and some advocacy or something in the cupboard, ran out of that. It was about 11:00 and everyone was like, let’s have another beer. Like, we got no more beer, we got nothing else to drink. So we all sort of disappeared off home and I was like, Wouldn’t it be great if I was the man who was able to phone a friend and go, bring us some beers? And so that’s where it sort of came from, was that surely this we can do something? So I looked more into this and of course, Licencing Law meant that I couldn’t sell alcohol, or no one could sell alcohol after 10:00 p.m. Until 10:00 a.m. The next morning. However, I started looking more into it and realised that actually, a sale, according to British law, is only consummated when the money is taken. And this all started when, and this is going to make sense in a second, when I went to hotel, they took up my card, they swiped it and I said, what have you done that for?
[00:14:49.000] – Al
I said, right, okay. Well, what’s happened is it’s reserved £30 for us, so if you use anything from the minibar, for example, then the money is reserved for us, but not taken yet. So at the end of it, we’ll just say, okay, yeah, you took two Cokes and I’m Jack Daniels, therefore that’ll be eight quid, and then they’ll take the money and then the rest of it’s released. And that’s what gave me the idea for gimme some beer. I was like, well, we can deliver the alcohol at 03:00 in the morning because delivering it is fine. Deliver it at 03:00 in the morning, take a swipe of their card and then put the sale through at 10:00 A.m. The next morning. Which meant that the sale was consummated during permitted times or permitted hours, which got us round the Licencing Law. Well, to start off with. So that’s how it kind of got born, how it started.
[00:15:30.490] – Leanne
And it was successful quite quickly. Was it? Within a few months, you were named in the 42 under 42, is that right?
[00:15:37.930] – Al
It was actually, yeah, because I was only like, was it 2002? So I would have been 29, I think 25. And it all sort of started quickly. I got a loan from HSBC Bank for what seemed like a huge amount of money at the time, but it wasn’t. I got a loan from HSBC Bank, I rented a little sort of shed, I built a big walk in fridge in there. And then I started a business and like, great, we started the business and then the phone didn’t ring at all. And then the second night it rang once and someone wanted a packet of cigarettes, which we were then selling for about the same as we were in the garage. So I made I made about a pound delivery fee on them and I realised that something had to happen. So I came along. This idea of finding students to go up and down the the queues, the lines on outside nightclubs between the hours of slight nine and eleven and basically sign people up for the after hours service saying, look, if you give me a name, email and address. Then when you ring up, we can deliver you beer when you come out the night nightclub or the pub or whatever.
[00:16:38.860] – Al
And that worked phenomenally well. We went from literally, I think I think my first week I took £5.06. Weeks later we were doing about six grand a week and it just blew up just because of that. And that’s where I think I started to get the attention of the paper. I was on local radio and then nominated for this rather embarrassing 42 entrepreneurs under 42, which we’re going to find out in a minute, wasn’t a great.
[00:17:03.670] – Leanne
Nomination, but how did it feel to get I mean, you talked before about in your younger gears not being popular, not kind of being the person that’s getting the accolades. How did it feel to suddenly be the centre of that type of attention?
[00:17:17.130] – Al
Well, I mean, obviously it was quite cool. It was cool and not being British about it. Yes, it was amazing. It was amazing to feel I was building something. It was amazing when people, drivers and staff used to come to my little shed that I’d rented was like a three bedroom, sort of converted garage and one of them was the cold room, one of them was my bedroom and one of them was the office because I slept there. And it was quite cool to select 10:00 at night. As people start to drift in, staff would drift into my office and they’d sit down and start taking phone calls. And then 03:00 in the morning you’ll be like busy and there’d be phones ringing, people shouting and someone going in the beers and stuff. So it did feel like it was like, finally I was at the centre of something quite cool and people were there because they wanted to go with me on this journey.
[00:18:02.730] – Leanne
What was the philosophy behind your business in terms of your people? What did your culture look like?
[00:18:09.850] – Al
I’d written at the time, I read a lot of Tom Peters, which I think he’s kind of fallen out of fashion now a little bit. But we’re back in the day of 2002 and my dad was big into Tom Peters, so I was reading loads of stuff about that. And so I was trying to implement as much of that as possible. So, for example, one of the things we used to do was we have a job swap, so a driver would take calls for one night and then the person who took calls would either go out with the driver or, if they’re insured, do their own deliveries. And then we had a job called the Board Monkey, where the idea was every single order that came out went on the board that sort of moved around. Every single night was a different person on the board. So my whole idea was to create this environment where people had different experiences, everyone understood everyone else’s job and they just had a really good time at work. And I suppose that probably does come back to the time when I was working, I was doing my teaching practise, when I was trained to be a teacher, before I moved into all this.
[00:19:08.880] – Al
And then when I did my sales of just thinking, this is boring. So I never wanted to create a culture or a workplace that was boring, that people went, I really don’t want to go there.
[00:19:20.610] – Leanne
At its peak, what did you give me some bill looked like in terms of number of staff? In terms of revenue?
[00:19:27.110] – Al
I think we had at this peak, we had 30 staff. We’re doing about £20,000 a week turnover, about £5 profit. It wasn’t a very profitable thing, but it was really cool and there was such a great environment there and people just like, when we finished work, it sounds ridiculous, they finished work at six in the morning. Six in the morning, and we’d all sit around and have a couple of beers and watch MTV or something because no one wants to go home. They just felt like they’d had a really good time and it was exciting and things were new and there was problems to solve that they all had the opportunity to solve themselves.
[00:20:06.950] – Leanne
Before we get onto that, you mentioned before about the Licencing laws, and it sounds very much like a loophole there. Was there any repercussions to that or was there any follow up in terms of that? Somewhat? I don’t know, it seems a bit cheeky to me.
[00:20:25.750] – Al
Yes, there was definitely repercussions. In the UK, there’s like a member of the police who’s in charge of Licencing to allow you to sell alcohol, because in the UK you need a licence to sell alcohol. And so his job was to ensure how the people were fit to hold a licence. So I got my first licence, of course, it’s just not licenced, it was a normal licence. And then when he discovered what I was doing, he pulled me back to court, which almost never happens. Pull me back to court and he’s like, I want to clarify what you’re doing. You seem to be contravening the Licencing laws. And at that point, that’s when I was doing my sale and completion and swipe your credit card kind of thing. And so the magistrates, I mean, the magistrates kind of liked when I went there. I went three or four times. They kind of liked it because I think it was just different to how their normal day would go, of dealing with someone who’d stole a car or falling out with their wife or something. So he basically said, My problem is not that I can understand he’s not taking money, but still he’s picking his stock outside of permitted hours.
[00:21:24.970] – Al
And I was like and at the time, I was like, what the hell does that mean? So I went away and did some research and it turns out that, yes, it’s fine to deliver alcohol, but only if it’s being preordered, because in theory, you can only go into the stock room during permitted hours. And of course, we weren’t people. We’re ringing up at 03:00 in the morning saying, Can I have four candicella? And we walk into the stock room, grab the four pack candestella and go and deliver it to them. Now, even though we weren’t taking the money, we were still contravening the UK Licencing laws because we were actually going and getting the stock during outside of permitted hours. So I had an idea and I thought, if the police ever raid us and they want to see, and we’ve got like, two bags, four Kansas Stella going out to Leanne Elliott in Manchester, then they’d go, has she ordered this? And at that point be like, yeah, just a few minutes ago. Show me when she ordered it over a few minutes ago. Right, well, you’ve broken the law. So I thought, wouldn’t it be interesting if we created an order of every permutation of everything that someone could order from us and for every single customer we’ve got?
[00:22:32.100] – Al
So I spent about four weeks writing this computer programme that would essentially create an order, every possible combination of orders, of products we sold for every possible customer we had. We honestly had about 50 binders, each one with probably about five to 500 pages in there and each one in tiny print. So if anyone ever stopped us and said, Where’s the order? We can go, yeah, we printed it out. Look, let me go and get my file. Look under G for Gopsil, which is Leanne’s maiden name, find it and go look. Leanne’s order for cancer. Stella now, the fact is, Leanne had also ordered eight cancella. She’d ordered twelve cancella. She’d ordered a bottle of wine, she ordered two bottles of wine. So there was maybe a thousand different orders for Leanne, but the fact is that legally, she had ordered it beforehand. So that’s how he kind of got round that. He didn’t like that at all. So he took me back to the magistrates for I think this is the fourth time we went back there. And the magistrates went, look, fair enough, you’ve given it a good go, we’ve seen you four times, you tried every possible way to get around this.
[00:23:30.680] – Al
And so, no, we’re taking your licence away from you. And they took away my liquor licence, my off licence.
[00:23:36.930] – Leanne
What happened then? What was left to give me some beer if you had no licence?
[00:23:41.030] – Al
Well, nothing, because suddenly, what could we do? Do people ring up and go, Can I have four candestella? And you go, well, legally we’re allowed to sell you wholesale, which means you have to buy 24 candice Stellar. And they’re like, well, we don’t want 24 candice Stellar. Can you just bring us four? Go, no, because we’ve not got a licence, we can’t sell less than wholesale. And that was the Licencing Law back then, before it changed, was that you could sell it wholesale anytime you want, no licence required, but you couldn’t sell it, not a wholesale in points. So we came up with an idea in Costco, there was a very, very cheap case of something called Lambrini, which is Perry, which is basically pear cider. It’s horrible stuff, but they came in packs of six 1.5 litre bottles and they were about the time, about six quid. And so what we discovered, what I discovered was that if I sold four cana of Stella, and I also made them buy this case of Lambrini, that was qualified as wholesale prices and therefore we didn’t need a licence for it. So it was quite difficult to convince someone who’d been drinking all night ringing up, who wants four cans of Stellar?
[00:24:47.220] – Al
They also have to buy this Lambrini. And we probably lost 50% of my business, but the other 50% were kind of like, okay, I see what you mean. So essentially this is like a delivery fee. I was like, yeah, basically. So you get your four cans, you get these Labrini. And I said, and also, I tell you what we’ll bring next time you order, we’ll bring you another set of Lambrini. But if you got the original one back, we’ll take that back and give you a new one. So you never have to pay for it, you only pay for it once. Kind of like, I suppose, a Costco membership fee again, really convoluted allowed us to get around it for a while, but ultimately wasn’t the solution.
[00:25:21.110] – Leanne
So what happened? How long was there between kind of this final change in how you’re operating before you realise that the business was unsustainable?
[00:25:31.490] – Al
Probably only a few months. The Licencing law was starting to change. It was allowing local shops to stay open until it three, four in the morning, selling alcohol at half the price we were selling at. So I think maybe about six months after that, the business closed. We were selling out the back of a car. I remember I got mugged, or we’re not mugged, but I got an order to this dodgy part of Leads. I went there and they kicked the crap out of me, took my money, my phone, my car. And at that point I was a bit like, you know what, this just isn’t worth it. Unfortunately, I stopped and I went and got another job. But that still wasn’t enough. That still wasn’t enough to sort of pay all my debts because. I bought, like, 103 grand at this point.
[00:26:14.400] – Leanne
Why’d you borrowed that amount money for?
[00:26:16.910] – Al
Well, the bank kept giving me more and more money because they were like, this is an exciting business. It was in the.com era. So all I did when I wanted more money is I just went there and I went, I’ve got a new business plan. I put.com at the end of Gimme some Beer, which was my company name. Gimme some beer. We were like, oh, we’re investing in.com companies now. So, yes, here’s another 50,000 and we increase my overdraft to 40,000 or something. Then I had a van lease, which was like 30,000, and credit cards and all this kind of stuff. So if anyone’s ever run a business and it’s not going well, you’ll know what the credit card dance is? Where you go and apply for a new credit card, then that gets maxed out and then you go and convert it to a loan, which Egg used to do all the time. Then you’d max out your credit card again and we’re just getting deeper and deeper and deeper into the shit, which it all sort of came to a head when I realised that I owe this 103 grand. I was earning about three grand a month from my sales job, commission only sales job, and I don’t think I even covered the repayments on everything.
[00:27:16.040] – Leanne
So what happened then?
[00:27:17.230] – Al
Well, I went bankrupt because everything was personally guaranteed, so it’s the only thing I could do. Well, it wasn’t the only thing I could do. I could, I suppose, have gone, but I couldn’t really, because I got so much stress. So much stress. I was basically working so hard. I was behind on my mortgage that I lived in the place in Bradford, which I bought. I was behind on the mortgage on my investment property in Manchester that I bought, and I was also renting somewhere that we were behind on rent there, and electricity and all that kind of stuff. And I was just thinking, what’s the point in even getting up in the morning going to work? Because I need like, 500 quid today just to keep my head above, just to pay the debts, let alone any kind of any food or travel or petrol or anything like that. I remember I used to go and raid my copper jar to go and put petrol in my car. And that’s the most ridiculous thing, is when you go in and you put eight pound and 40 pence worth of petrol in your car because that’s all you’ve got in coins, and you’re driving so slowly, trying to make sure it’s going to last you all day.
[00:28:20.060] – Al
A so the most sensible thing was to look at bankruptcy and which is what I did in 2007.
[00:28:26.930] – Leanne
How did it feel at that time to be living in that kind of world? Like you say, you’re coppering up to pay for petrol, knowing that just a few months previous to that, you had a business that was doing 20 grand a week staff, a great work environment, a great culture, exciting problems to solve and the drama of being an entrepreneur. And it does sound like a TV, some kind of, like short series of kind of Alvers. As a Licencing guy in Lea, how did it feel being in that darker place and looking back at what you’d had and what you’d lost?
[00:29:06.750] – Al
I think it was awful because, like you’ve said, you’ve lost it. And at that point I was maybe 28, 27. That would be 2007, so I’d be 30, I think I’d be 30 and I was like, what the fuck? I’ve just ruined the last three years of my life. Not only am I starting not starting at zero at 30, I’m starting at -103, grand. So what the hell am I going to do with the rest of my life? And it was just quite a frightening situation, I think, actually, thinking about it, I think I went bankrupt a little before that because I think I was 30 when I started my next business. And it was also a bit of embarrassment. I said before about the 42 under 42, and I’m like, oh, God, you know, what’s if someone finds out that isn’t that it’s not worked? And it’s like because no one’s, you know, there are 42 people who’ve been given that award, you know, no one’s really going to go follow each one of them, go, how are you getting on? So it was that, but there was a lot of shame, I think, and obviously my parents were pretty upset about that, because there’s that stigma attached to being bankrupt.
[00:30:15.410] – Al
But I kept thinking, you know what? If you’ve gone bankrupt, it’s shown that you’ve at least done something. It hasn’t worked, but you’ve done something and you’ve tried something. And I kept borrowing a lot from the American philosophy of just bankruptcy is not bankruptcy is not like the final. Bankruptcy is kind of like the beginning. I was reading a lot of things, people saying there are books, people saying that they only ever invest in entrepreneurs who’ve been bankrupt at least once, because it’s shown that they’ve gone for the moon. It’s not worked. So I was taking a little bit of solace in that, but it wasn’t a great time.
[00:30:49.710] – Leanne
What was the darkest moment during that.
[00:30:51.810] – Al
Time, in terms of shame? The worst moment was when my neighbour rang me up from Bradford and the house had been repossessed. So I’m guessing they’d put some kind of notice on the door being repossessed. My neighbour who had gone on really well with and she rang me up and went, what’s happened? Your house had been repossessed? What’s happened? And I had to pretend it was like a banking error or something. But she knew and I knew, so that wasn’t grey. And of course, there was lots of times which were dark because I did see a way out of it a few months later, but at the time I was like, I’m going to have to get another job. And as I said, I’m worse than where I was five years ago.
[00:31:33.790] – Leanne
You mentioned there that you were kind of looking at the American philosophy and starting to look at kind of the positives behind bankruptcy. Where did that drive come from to try and shift that mindset? Was that you or was that somebody else’s influence?
[00:31:53.010] – Al
I suppose it was me because my parents influence was very much I don’t blame them at all for this. My parents influence is very much, okay, right, you gave it a go. It didn’t work. Let’s go and get a job. You can go and get a job in allergy or weatherspoons or something like that. So you have another opportunity to become a teacher, for example. And that was the last thing I wanted to do. So I suppose that it was almost like a negative motivation that I didn’t want to go back to a normal working life. That made me start to reframe how I looked at things. I think about the same time I might have done a Tony Robbins thing when you run across the coles. And that might have been a bit like, wow, that was sort of as cheesy as it can be. And of course, you have your own opinions about it, but I followed him for quite a bit and bought his. Tapes and his CDs and all this kind of stuff. And that did help, because it just started to reframe, really, that what had happened yesterday doesn’t necessarily dictate what’s going to happen tomorrow.
[00:32:53.110] – Al
And so maybe I’m wrong, but I think I got a lot of self motivation to do this and not much external motivation at that point, I don’t think.
[00:33:08.010] – Leanne
What was it about a normal life, a normal job, to use your word, normal career that was so offputting for you? Especially after you’ve been through so much in the heartbreak of building and losing a business. What was so bad about that more traditional career path?
[00:33:25.820] – Al
I honestly don’t know. I’ve never wanted to be the BMW in the drive of a 400,000 pound detached house in an estate that’s never.
[00:33:37.980] – Leanne
Really you’ve never kind of wanted those things.
[00:33:44.970] – Al
I don’t think so. I just felt that was mediocrity and like, I felt that the, you know, the opposite of of being on, you know, on your ass, like I was after gone bankruptcy is mediocrity, not riches. It’s like people seemed I just felt that those were the two opposites, whereas it was a totally different direction to go in to build something. I don’t know whether I wanted the recognition for building something or I just wanted the excitement of being able to wake up and go, I’m excited about what I’m going to do today rather than I’m going to go, to the same job and see the same people in the same car and then come home and watch the same TV programmes or eat the same food and go to the same bed.
[00:34:27.380] – Leanne
So clearly you were driven to go again, build another business. Tell us that. How do you go from bankruptcy for more than £100,000 to setting up business number two?
[00:34:42.730] – Al
Well, it was funny, because if you’re listening and you’ve started your own business, and you know, there’s usually a business is born from scratching your own, itch from solving a pain that you’ve got. And the pain I had then was I had two houses being repossessed, I was late on my rent, I had all these people chasing me. There was a particular water bill that wasn’t included in my bankruptcy by mistake, and so as a CCJ, and so I realised that I knew probably more about debt, debt management, mortgage arrears than the average person. In fact, more than probably like 70 or 80% of the people in the UK, because I’ve been through it. And I also had this I had empathy as well. So it was at that point that I started talking to the guy who used to manage my business for me in the beer business. He was only a kid at the time, I think he was like 18 or something when he came to work for me. And I started talking to him and he’d gone to university and he was doing his degree, and I just said, you know, do you fancy doing something a bit different?
[00:35:45.680] – Al
Because I’ve seen this way in which you can buy houses for less than what they’re worth, rent it back to the people, and you can help people who have been repossessed to stay in their property. And if you do it ethically most people aren’t doing ethically. If we did it ethically, not only would we make some good money on it, we’d build a property portfolio, but also we’d be helping people in the same way. And so I think that’s where my next business was born, was purely that I had the knowledge and the experience of going through massive amounts of debt, bankruptcy, repossession. And then Chris, my business partner, who was only 21 at the time, but he could hold mortgages, so we could kind of bridge that gap of saying, if you are getting repossessed, then let us buy your house, rent it back to you for 99 years. And I know anyone who’s a landlord knows that’s not right, but we’ll talk about that in a second, rent it back to you forever and save you, or save your family home. And so that’s kind of like how where the next business was born.
[00:36:44.680] – Leanne
What do you mean 99 years isn’t right?
[00:36:46.450] – Al
Well, technically, an AST and a shorthold tenancy, which in England and Wales is only allowed you’re only allowed to give them twelve months. What we did was we give if we said we buy your house, what we’ll do is we’ll give you some kind of undertaking. That means that we will renew that tenancy every year for up to 99 years. As long as long as you pay your rent. You never late, you don’t contravene the licencing the tenancy agreement or whatever. Whatever. And that was really just a marketing thing. It was just to say, because everyone else that was the biggest the biggest issue with other companies in the sector was that they’d buy people’s houses, they’d rent them for six months and they’d buy them for like 30, 40% the cheapest. They could buy 30, 40% below what it’s worth. They’d buy them for rent it to the family for six months, then serve them what’s called a Section 21 notice, an eviction notice, and then sell the house for what it’s worth and realise that gain. And that was going on because it was totally unlicensed back then and that was going on a lot.
[00:37:43.010] – Al
And so I thought, well, that’s their big when we started getting into this, we found that’s the biggest objection to anyone doing this. We said, well, how do we get over that? Well, simply, we’ll give them a 99 year tenancy. And so that kind of won us we were beating. We went to see customers who’d gone to see these massive companies were advertising on TV and these customers are choosing us purely because of that 99 year tendency, which was really not I mean, if they were late with their rent, that entire undertaking went so we were safe. But it just felt like such a felt like such an advantage in the market at the time.
[00:38:18.430] – Leanne
Where did this confidence come from to launch yourself into a new area of business that you didn’t have any former experience in, beyond your own personal experience?
[00:38:29.490] – Al
Impetuosity of youth, perhaps. I don’t know. I was about 30 at the time. It was about when we met, I think, wasn’t it? Maybe I was 29, 30, and I just felt like, why not? Why not? It’s not necessarily confidence. I almost felt like it’s a necessity, like I had to do something about this. And not necessarily from a moral point of view, but just because if I didn’t attempt to build something based on this idea, then what would I have? I would have this mediocre job. I’d be 30 in a salesperson, and nothing against salesperson, salespeople at all. I love sales and some of the most wealthy people I know are salespeople, but I was just selling crap. I was selling advertising space over the phone. So I’d be 30 and then soon enough I’d be 35, then I’d be 40, still doing the same job, same dull things and just the same dull life. So it’s not a confidence. I felt I felt it was a necessity that I had to try this and I had to do this.
[00:39:30.230] – Leanne
So what were the kind of the steps behind that in terms of actually setting up that business? What were the things that you had to I mean, how did you get the trust of a 21 year old to have multiple mortgages? How did you even navigate getting mortgage? How does it all work well without.
[00:39:45.200] – Al
Going into the ins and outs? The trust was there because Chris, who’s still my business partner in that business, what, 15 years on, maybe a bit longer. He’d worked for me in gingerson beer and he’d seen that literally I was sleeping there. He was going home at five in the morning or four in the morning, then coming back in about eleven. And in that time I’d had 2 hours sleep. Then I got to the cash and carry, bought more stuff and then I was doing the accounts and I was typing stuff up and whatever. So he’d seen that I’d worked hard and in fact he was the only person who ever made money from that business because I paid him well. In fact, all the staff I paid well. And that’s probably what made me bankrupt in the first place. I should have been paying people per delivery every like Uber does now. And I was just paying people an hourly rate where they were busy for like 2 hours and then they were quiet for 2 hours and they’re busy for 2 hours and they’re quiet for 2 hours because I wanted to make sure that it was fair and right for them to come into work.
[00:40:39.050] – Al
I think Chris had seen that. He’d seen that I really genuinely wanted to help people. And also I think that he was a bit bored at university. He’d had this exciting sort of like 18 month gap year where we were building gimmes and beer. He came with me to the 42 under 42. We were like brothers and we got on really well and he went to university and I think he felt a bit deflated that oh, I mean, maybe you’ve asking me a bit totally opposite, but I just said to him, look, just come down, hold some mortgages. This is how it’s going to work. All you have to do is hold the mortgages, et cetera, et cetera. And it turns out, actually, that property is Chris’s passion. Like now he’s a big developer, he’s done all kinds of bits and pieces, which he probably wouldn’t have done had we not started that business together. Really. There was no real trust required because Chris trusted me. And then in terms of actually starting it back then it was Google Ads. So I just went and bought all the Google Ad books I could. I can’t remember amazon was around then.
[00:41:31.130] – Al
I can’t remember. I might have gone to the bookshop, I read them and they started implementing them and started running ads and then and then we ran an ad in the Menstrual News and I remember it distinctly. We ran it as an advertorial. So basically editorial that we paid for, but I wrote it, so I read all the articles around money in the, in the imaginative news, and then tried to rewrite it in the same style so it didn’t look like an advert and it worked so well. So we basically went out on the Tuesday and then the Wednesday we had like 810, twelve people who’d inquired about it. And so we had these appointments, we went to see them, and I think from that we bought eight houses each. Each of those houses probably were at the time we had, gave us about 20 grand worth of equity. And over time, those eight houses have probably given us just from that one advert, which was 1500 quid, which is the last 1500 pound we had. I had to convince Chris to get an overdraft, I think, so the cheque would clear. And after that we were off to the races because we had a proven model.
[00:42:29.790] – Leanne
So this was kind of 2007, 2008 time, the beginning of the global financial crisis, where repossession was high. So I guess business was booming. What was the growth trajectory of your business?
[00:42:43.990] – Al
I think we went from literally starting, let’s just say arbitrarily May 2006. We started then. I was obviously bankrupt at that point. And we bought our first house in, I think, say, September 2006, and then it was 18 months. And we bought 38, 39 houses in that period, right? Yes, something like that. 37, 38 houses over 18 months. But at some point we were buying two or three houses a week. And it just grew and grew and grew. And of course, the more we got good at the process, the more we, we could go to the court with the repossessee, if that’s a word, and we knew what to say to make the judge give them a 56 day extension so that we could buy the house. So the growth was phenomenal, but then it just finished as soon as it started. It finished like the same speed that it started. Because like you said, the global financial crisis. You’re getting mortgages for nothing. People will give you a mortgage if you just if you had a pen to sign the documents. Didn’t, didn’t they cheque your income? And then if anyone’s seen The Big Short, then back 2008, lender started going to the wall and then I think, was the point.
[00:43:56.080] – Al
The day we knew it had finished was when we were due to complete the next day on a property for this poor couple who had had a really shit time. I think there’d be a death in the family or something like that. They were about to get repossessed. We were buying it two days before the repossession date, and the lender pulled their funds and we just couldn’t get another mortgage. So we were like, well, this is it. So we’ve let these people down and we know that we can’t buy any more houses for a while because we can’t get any more mortgages.
[00:44:21.410] – Leanne
It’s interesting that you tell that story and so that you let these people down rather than reflect on your disappointment of not being able to buy your 39th property.
[00:44:31.190] – Al
Yeah, I think that’s definitely a theme, is that with everything we do, like with oblong we’re doing together. My primary this sounds like an advert for oblong is not. But my primary thing is how can you help someone to get what they want? Because I think it’s Jim Roney says that in order to get what you want, help others get what they want. So I’ve always sort of tried to think that way and now I think naturally I do, of just taking responsibility for a problem, for a solution to a problem. And then even if that solution doesn’t involve you earning any money, still ensuring that the person can has a solution to that problem. Like for example, we’re buying the houses. We probably had about 1000 applications for help, I would guess about half of those. We told them, we gave them some free advices. All you have to do is this. This won’t cost you any money, we won’t make any money from it, but that’s what you need to do and you’ll solve your problem. So there was probably half of the people we spoke to we never made any money from.
[00:45:31.390] – Al
But I took a personal such. I used to stay up to like 03:00 in the morning answering these emails, helping people out, sending them links to resources and telling them the strategies they should be doing because I just felt like I was helping someone and it was just great because you made a difference to that person’s life. Huge difference.
[00:45:46.160] – Leanne
Where do those values come from?
[00:45:48.540] – Al
So I suppose a lot of it’s come from my parents that you should help people if you cana. But also I’ve always been a little bit fatalistic. Whereas you don’t know who you’re going to help. You stop at the side of a road with someone whose car is broken down and then you maybe sit with them in the rain and they sit in your car and you ring the AA and all that kind of stuff. And then that person turns out to be the next Prime Minister, for example. And even if they never see you again, the fact is that had you not stopped that night, then perhaps someone would have come down and smashed into them and killed them and then they never would have been the next Prime Minister, for example. So I kind of think this weird fatalistic sort of idea that maybe it’s not fatalistic, maybe I’m thinking something different, but that you never know what people are going to do and what they’re going to do with their lives. So if you can help someone in a small way then you may never know it, but their son, daughter or whatever goes on in their life, it could have such an amazing effect on the world.
[00:46:46.900] – Al
And it’s sort of like a reverse butterfly sort of idea. The idea of the butterfly flapping his wings in Japan and then earthquake in Australia, sort of like the opposite of that. And I think that that’s always something that I know. You and I, Liam, we look at things and go, how can we help someone? Not, how can we get something out of them? And that’s made a massive difference, I think.
[00:47:09.080] – Leanne
So you built the property portfolio up. So a business that is no longer well, tell us about that business. So, as you said, that all the mortgages start to be poured. Lenders were changing their policies. What happened with the properties? What happened with you and Kristen?
[00:47:26.190] – Al
So we stopped buying stuff in about 2007. We just held our held our properties, didn’t sell anything for about five years, I don’t think, and just basically rented out. And we were quite lucky in that. The global financial crisis meant that interest rates dropped. So at one point, I think they were zero point 25% and our mortgages were 0.5 below the base, so in theory, they should have been paying us. But actually there was some mortgages, either I come over, there was zero a month, or they were just rather than 300 when they started off with their, like, 50 quid. So we had some opportunity with that and then over time, I’ve started to lose a bit of interest in the property side of it. I’m still interested in the investment side of it, but not the property side of it, whereas Chris’s interest has just massively grown. He’s doing his own developments. He’s absolutely killing it at the moment around Manchester and Salford, and he’s asked what he does for a living. He does property. So we are at the point now where I think we are looking to sort of slightly change things around so that I become more of an investor rather than actually a property manager, because management is not my strength.
[00:48:28.010] – Al
He’s definitely more starting things and getting solving problems. We want different things. He’s got a young family, we haven’t we want to travel. We love moving around Europe and travel. He doesn’t, he wants to stay where he is. So definitely things have I think things have changed massively in our lives. We’re still very grateful that our wealth has come from these properties and will continue to come from the properties. But I like everything, it changes and your perceptions and what’s important to your life changes and therefore, I think your business needs to change at that point as well.
[00:49:02.110] – Leanne
So how did that change for you? How did you kind of go from properties into what you’re doing now?
[00:49:09.150] – Al
One thing that I got really good at was marketing and copywriting, because that’s how I wrote the Google Ads. This is my very first, like, foray into marketing, really, was Google Ads. And so I wrote the ads, I wrote the landing page copy.
[00:49:21.970] – Leanne
This is for the properties.
[00:49:23.240] – Al
You’re sorry, this is for the properties. Yes. So we’re going back to 2005. Six, seven. And that’s what I was writing then. I was used to do follow up letters. There was a guy called Chris Cardell. I don’t know if any of you are old enough to remember Chris Cardell, but he used to do all these webinars, or actually they were telling seminars back then. You pick up the phone and ring in onto this teleconference, and he used to teach your marketing stuff, and at the end, he tried and sell you something, of course, but I learned notes from him, so I copied him. And so I started to get really good at marketing. And then when we couldn’t buy any more properties, and I was like, well, what do I do? I didn’t want to go and get a job, even though we both applied for jobs, we just looked at each other like, we’re not doing this. And so I went off and started becoming a marketing consultant. In fact, I started a marketing company, which then morphed into a web design company. So maybe a year ago after doing all that. So Leon was doing stuff, business psychologist, self employed.
[00:50:09.560] – Al
I was doing marketing self employed. And we’re just having a drink one night. We’re like, why don’t we put why don’t we work together? And I do the marketing and you do the psychologizing.
[00:50:16.770] – Leanne
As you look back then on your career, I guess I have a few questions. What do you see as your biggest success? Marrying you, of course, in your career.
[00:50:30.170] – Al
I think it’s probably just helping I don’t know, it sounds really cheesy, this, but the fact that, you know, there was 39 families that were that we that we saved from bankruptcy, I saved from repossession. There was another two or 300 people who we saved by helping them to remortgage or helping them to to restructure their their debt so they weren’t in so much financial strife. And I just remember getting, like, sometimes getting emails from people who had helped months ago, just going back and saying, thank you so much. I’ve done everything you told me to do. Now I can afford things. I’m on this repayment plan, I’ve spoken to my mortgage company, et cetera, et cetera, and that was just filled me with joy that we could help all these people. So I would say probably the biggest success is the property business, but financially, yes, it’s successful for both of us and for Chris and his family. But really it’s the biggest success was that we made such a big difference to so many people’s lives who were just desperate and despondent and didn’t know where to turn, and that was pretty incredible.
[00:51:35.950] – Leanne
What is the. Biggest lesson you’ve learned in the last 20 years?
[00:51:45.250] – Al
Maybe it’s just as simple as always. Do what you say you’re going to do. I think that’s probably it, because in almost all the situations I can think of when we haven’t, or when I or someone I’m working with hasn’t done what they said they were going to do, nothing good has ever happened. A few times, like, we were buying houses and we did some more calculations, realised when it went it wrong, went back to this woman and said, I’m so sorry, we we can’t give you the price. We originally, we made a miscalculation. It can only be this price. Oh, my God. You’d think that we’d broken in, stolen her cat and set fire to it in the garden because she was so angry with us. And I think that is just like it’s just because if you get the reputation of doing what you say you’re going to do, then people are going to trust you. But more importantly, you never have to look at someone across the room and go, oh, shit. I said I do that thing for them. I never did. I can’t speak to Bob quick, talk to me, or we’ll have to go somewhere else.
[00:52:41.480] – Al
You can hold your head up high and walk through life knowing that every single thing you promised, you kept those promises on. Of course I’ve not I’ve mocked that up lots of times, but each time I feel awful about doing it. So I think that’s probably the biggest lesson. It’s not a very exciting one, though.
[00:52:56.950] – Leanne
What are your hopes for your future in business?
[00:52:59.720] – Al
It’s funny, you know, I’m 45 now. I don’t have the same hopes, dreams that I had when I was 25, because you and I have a very I mean, this is a bit of a weird interview because obviously you know so much about me, but although the stuff I’ve told you said here that I don’t think I’ve ever told you. But our life is very different now. So for me, it’s not about building a business, selling it, I’m not interested. And nor have I got the energy to work like I did when I was 25, to work to build something amazing. So my goals for the business is more of the same. Talk to people, show them a solution or help, or you show them a solution because it’s technical, show them a solution. And even if that solution isn’t our solution, show them the right solution.
[00:53:51.870] – Leanne
Do you consider yourself to be successful?
[00:53:56.410] – Al
Yeah, I think I do now, because I don’t measure it against anything, really. I don’t care how much money we’ve got in the bank, as long as there’s enough for when I go and get some money out, there’s enough money there. I don’t get excited about having X number of thousands or tens of thousands in savings accounts or investments. I don’t really care. So, yeah, I think I’m successful because I don’t care about success. I think that’s probably what it is. I no longer care about success the way I used to, and so therefore, I think I’m successful.
[00:54:31.370] – Leanne
What advice would you give to 15 year old Al, who was in school feeling awkward, not feeling clever in comparison to his siblings, not feeling particularly popular? What advice would you give him?
[00:54:47.210] – Al
Nothing. I’d leave him the fuck alone. I honestly would. I would not say or I would not change anything. I would not say anything because you don’t know. It could be that if I went back there, I could tell him that actually, nerds are going to be really popular, they’re going to be quite cool at some point in the mid two thousands, 2010. I could tell him that it doesn’t matter because this is going to happen in your life. But anything I would say if I just stirred the tiniest little bit I don’t want to get off Back to the Future on you, but if I disturbed the tiniest little bit, then I wouldn’t be here today with a podcast or two podcasts that I’m very proud of, a lovely wife who I work really well with, a business where we genuinely get to help people and we get to sit in a different country most of the time doing different things. So I would not give him any advice. I’d just let him carry on, knowing that he’s going to be miserable for a little bit, but then ultimately, he’s going to be happy.
[00:55:46.830] – Leanne
[00:55:48.590] – Al
Oh, join Samaritans. Yes. That’s a great bit of ice. That’s how Lea Ann and I met. We were both in Samaritans, both volunteers. That made a massive difference. In fact, that’s probably the biggest thing that made the difference to business. And my life today is the Samaritans, just because not only did I meet my lovely wife, but I learned so much about listening, about just putting your own life into context. Oh, you went overdrawn today. Well, here’s someone whose mum died and they just can’t see a way to carry on. It’s just a great way to contextualise what’s actually going on in your life. So you’re absolutely right. Join Samaritans. That’s in the UK. Join Samaritans. It is one of the best things you can do for yourself.
[00:56:29.450] – Leanne
I mean, on that. What advice would you give to I guess, any kids out there who might be don’t want to go to university or decided not to perhaps have an idea to start their own business? Is there any advice you’d give to them?
[00:56:45.970] – Al
Yeah, I think, first of all, don’t chase the dollar. That’s never going to make you happy. Secondly, build a network. Just go and meet more and more people. We took the guy who started lastminute.com, we took him out for breakfast one morning. I just basically kept sending him emails, going, I want to take your breakfast, I want to take you for breakfast and asked him, like, how did you start? Whatever. We leanne loads from him. So I would say build your network, listen to other people. And then one of my sort of maximums is be rich, not right. Don’t say, I’ve created a brand new X for Y, and then spend three, four, 6812 months building it, whether it’s tech or whether it’s a service or whatever. Just go out there and see if your Y, the people you’d build this for, see if they actually want it and where they care about the problem. Validate your idea. And don’t get rid of your ego, because your ego is the thing that’s going to ruin everything for you.
[00:57:44.340] – Leanne
Why would the ego ruin everything for you?
[00:57:46.420] – Al
Because I think that ego stands in your way. And there are so many people I know who are obsessed with being right about something to the point where they will go bankrupt, decide trying to be right, they will be in a job that they hate because they want to be right and never want to be wrong. And I think that this whole idea of making mistakes is so important that by trying to avoid being wrong, you’re going to avoid about 90% of all the good things that are going to happen to you. So don’t let your ego stop you from trying new things, even if the odds are that you’re going to be wrong about it.
[00:58:29.650] – Leanne
Do you think that you went bankrupt because you were trying to be right?
[00:58:34.310] – Al
Oh, yeah, 100%. To put it in context, I told you, I built a walk in fridge, I rented an apartment, an old garage, I had phone lines put in, I had printers, I had all sorts of stuff put into this office before I sold a single thing. Whereas I could have started that business a day after the idea by going by basically advertising. And when someone said, I want four kinds of Stellar, I go the shop and buy four kinds of Stellar. Even though actually that wouldn’t work because of the licences or jobs actually getting ramp, but going by, like, a couple of cases Stellar, couple of case of Carlsberg, few bottles of wine, I could have put probably £800 into stock, another £500 into advertising, and I could have validated that idea in about six weeks. And I would have known in six weeks, probably. There’s not really much money in it, which is why I went bankrupt, because it wasn’t very profitable. Whereas instead I went and got this loan, 40 grand. I got an overdraft, I got this and I got a van and I got the other. Because I felt that’s what you needed to start a business.
[00:59:35.450] – Al
You don’t to start a business. You just need a number of people to say, I will buy what you’re selling and there’s a cheque and that’s it. No business cards. And if you’ll start thinking, oh, well, how do I, how do I register as a business in my in my county? It’s difficult. I’ve got to do paperwork. My advice, which is not legal advice, is to fuck it, just try it. And if you start to get 20 or 30 people who want your stuff, okay, well, then you probably need to look into the actual bureaucracy of getting a business started. You don’t have a business just because you got a business card.
[01:00:08.440] – Leanne
I think that’s a good note to end it on. Al, thank you for your honesty and your candour. And I think my favourite thing about Al is his humility and just is his willingness and joy of just throwing himself into different things. You might think you know Al now, but there are at least five or six jobs he’s had that he didn’t even mention, that they all have stories about him. So fear not, if you meet Al one day, you can still sit down and have a couple of parents and hear a good story. Al, thank you so, so much.
[01:00:44.040] – Al
Thank you, love. And it’s kind of weird being interviewed by someone you know so well, but you asked some great questions and stuff I’d never really thought about, so I’m interviewing you next, so I’m going to have to go and write out some questions and yeah, it’s going to be a tough one.
[01:00:57.890] – Leanne
So, as you said this week, we’re bringing you two episodes. So another bonus after this one, which will be with me when I get into my psychology, which would be interesting. So, yeah, so tune back in on Thursday if you haven’t already. Please do consider subscribing. So all of our episodes will come straight to you without you even having to pick up your phone. And yeah, if people want to get in touch, Al, where will they find us?
[01:01:23.870] – Al
Just go to Truthlizework.com and there’s website there where you can just look in the bottom right and you can get in touch with that or just all the socials look for truth, lies work.
[01:01:33.120] – Leanne
See you soon.
[01:01:33.850] – Al
See you soon. Bye.
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