Of big birds and bigger ideas

Business and career advice with Neil Franklin

Neil Franklin continues his candid articles on how to remain focused and succeed in your business

Not many people know this, but in the early 1990s I was all set to be an ostrich farming millionaire.

For a mere £2,500, I would be on the path to serious riches — ostrich meat was the “meat of the future,” high in protein, low in fat and tasty!

I had tasted ostrich meat thanks to the future thinking of my local Sainsbury’s store in South London, who decided to sell it and it was actually very lean, and I could see the appeal.

Add to that a well-placed advert in a business magazine promising huge returns for investors who wanted to be part of the “only bird in town” and creating the sense of urgency that soon, “every man and his ostrich” would be involved in, you could see how it caught the attention of any entrepreneur.

As far as the ostriches went at that time, I was all in!

Now I must tell you that I had just started my main technology staffing business at this time and also, I was no stranger to a little diversification and in the true entrepreneurial fashion.

When I was running my previous recruiting company, my business partner had decided to buy a seventeen-bedroomed hotel in Brighton, right on the seafront, sand-wiched between the Ramada hotel and the famous Grand hotel.

I became involved by default.

It made total sense — we had absolutely no experience of the hotel and catering industry and our recruiting company was hemorrhaging cash.

The building itself was a gorgeous and from memory I think it was 4 stories high and we never let the fact that there were no parking facilities or elevators stand in our way.

We had various celebratory “opening nights” and on one, where I was looking after the bar, a delightful American lady and her friend asked for two Manhattan cocktails.

Using my zero hour’s experience of bartending, I simply asked what a Manhattan cocktail was and after hearing the explanation, I responded:

“Have you ever tried a Brighton and Hove?”

“No but we would love to as we are here in your beautiful country,” she replied.

“Certainly madam, take a seat and I will bring them right over.”

I love the comedy series Fawlty Towers and now I am in full “Basil mode.”

She told me the cocktails were “wonderful” and asked me what was in them.

 “The Brighton and Hove is our signature cocktail madam and comprises of one measure of gin, one of vodka, tonic water with a splash of orange juice and the mandatory cherry.”

“Oh fantastic, but can we now have two Manhattan’s?”

In our wisdom, we had not even thought about stocking our bar for cocktails and as our resident bartender had left the country without telling us, it was left to yours truly to manage operations and we only had a few spirits, none of which could come remotely close to the ones you need to make a Manhattan, even if I knew what it was.

The hotel as you can imagine, was a resounding success and at least in our opinion — we actually managed to fill all seventeen bedrooms on one night thanks to a Christmas party for our staff in our hugely failing agency business!

In the end, our bank manager had the audacity to ask for his money back and even demanded a nine-o’clock meeting on a Monday morning to formally do so.

Absolutely outrageous!

Getting back to ostriches, I didn’t invest in the opportunity, but instead put £2,500 into a new high-tech startup promising multi-million dollar returns and headed by a “business and mindset guru,” who knew it couldn’t fail.

It did.

Now I did say to you that I would tell my own stories to keep things real and it was an accountant who put me back on the straight and narrow telling me that the best investment you can make is in your own business and do this until you have built a very stable and profitable one.

I will add another component — and that is the word “passion.”

I was lucky in that business itself was my passion, but I found another one in the form of staffing or recruiting and when I set my main business up in the early 1990s after the ostrich saga, I had essentially retired.

I simply loved what I did and had no problem telling everyone how much I loved it, especially my target customers and that becomes infectious.

My message to you is to forget the “get rich quick” schemes and focus intently on your own business.

Diversify by all means but do this when you have built a solid and profitable foundation.

NEXT MONTH I will talk to you about how my experiences with the Russian Special Forces influenced my business philosophy!








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