Ricky: That was really difficult because I want, I desperately wanted it to work, desperately wanted it to work. It was tough having to deal with that rejection cuz as I say, I wasn’t used to that. I hadn’t had that in my working life up to that point
Nishi: Hi, it’s Nishi here. Before we continue with the rest of the started, I just wanted to take a few seconds to explain what we do. We’re a firm of accountants and business advisors, and we are really passionate about helping people grow and scale their own businesses and achieve the lifestyle they deserve.
To do this, we’ve created a series of resources on our website, unrelenting drive.com. So whilst we go a few minutes after this episode, it’s definitely worth checking that out. And just a quick reminder, if you do enjoy this episode, just remember to like, share, follow and subscribe today. I’m really excited.
We joined by Ricky Knight from Fitter Bodies Franchise. Hi Ricky, thanks for joining us. Uh, hope you like our new studio.
Ricky: Indeed. Very impressive. Yeah. Thinking of copying it.
Nishi: If you could just start off with, um, telling us a bit about your background and how you got into business and, um, and then we’ll, we’ll take it from there.
Ricky: I guess as far as my first business being a business owner, it landed on my lap a little bit in sofar as I used to work in a financial services company. And, and, uh, we used to specialize in mortgages more than anything else. Um, and that’s where my career was up to that point actually. Uh, but my, my experience was working at sort of big corporate organizations regarding financial services and, and then I worked for a, a local independent company.
And then in 2004, they decided to sell it. And the first, uh, point of call was, uh, an mbo, so they offered it to myself and four of the senior management team. Uh, so the five of us that the. Raised the money that was necessary to buy this company in, you know, just between us. I think we paid it over a million for it.
from 2004 up until 2007, uh, it, and do you know what, actually, it’s probably quite important to touch on the bit before that because it felt like, you know, this is me in my twenties. It felt like that pretty much everything up to that point, everything that I touched, turned to gold, honestly. And I, I had a, a horrible ego in my twenties as well that went with that, uh, because I, I honestly, whatever I tried, I, I was good at it.
And, and so this came along and so I had that, like, there’s nothing in me that thought we can’t make a success of this. And so from 2004 to 2007, It was successful, but you know, this is during the market where I think it would’ve been quite hard not to not be successful.
Nishi: I mean, I’m, I’m sure you asked for a lot of effort and, um, skill into it as well.
Did you, uh, when you said management, by, by, how many of you was five. Five of you. Okay. And, um, and were you a qualified financial advisor at the time? Yeah. Okay, fine. Yeah. And, um, when, when you did the management buyout, how did you organize that amongst yourselves? Did you all have different roles in, in the business?
And what was your role at that point?
Ricky: I was based down in Milton Keynes, and we had offices in Milton Keynes and Luton. So I took on the sales director role for Milton Keynes and Luton it wasn’t that different as far as what I was doing. It wasn’t that different to what I was doing before the nbo and the, and bear in mind that the NBO itself, it, it took four to six months for it to go through.
I agree. Okay. So, yeah. And, and so to buildup, so even though we knew it was happening, we knew it was gonna go on. Yeah. We were preparing for that, but it’s not as if it then went through and then all of a sudden, the next day, the next week, our roles drastically changed. We had the extra responsibility that came with it as a, as a board, as a team of directors, uh, with regards to, um, I guess more the strategy and the vision about what we wanted to do with the company, where we wanted to take it.
And, uh, those bits, we didn’t have much of a responsibility before the nbo. Um, All need to do.
Nishi: But what happened to the owners? Did they leave on, on the, uh, the buyout day or did they hang around?
Ricky: No, they, they left it, it was, so it was actually, um, they’re known to be an estate agency and uh, they, when they set up the estate agents, they then had the financial services arm to it.
Okay. Which made complete sense cuz if people are buying their homes, then it meant that they had in-house mortgage advisors in each of the offices. They then grew to a point though, where I think the financial services bit, it wasn’t there. It wasn’t their passion, their passion was the estate agency side.
And so it just grew to a point where it was kind of like they wanted to free up time to be able to focus purely on the estate agency side of things. And it just made sense that they then relinquished that part. But moving forward, yeah, it was still this, um, exclusivity regarding, um, the, um, the deal that we had in place whereby all of our mortgage advisors that were based in their offices could carry on like that they were only gonna recommend, they were still gonna recommend when people buy their homes that they still use us.
Nishi: So they, it is almost like it was the other way around. Like a lot of businesses go from a joint venture to a partnership. Yes. Whereas, uh, I guess, uh, yeah, you guys went for a partnership to the joint venture and, uh, but, but you know, that makes sense. Cause sometimes actually suits people really well.
Ricky: Yeah. Did at the time. Yeah. Absolutely.
Nishi: And um, was that your first experience really running a business?
Ricky: Yes. That’s, that’s 2004. Um, so yeah, that, that was the first time. And, and it was a steep, I guess it was a, it was a steep learning curve because, you know, this is a business that was turning over. Yeah. At the time it was like, end up a million, million two, something like that, and 1.2 million and, and, uh, there were about 25 staff at the time.
We, we grew it to a point where Yeah. Yeah. Including us. And then we grew it to a point where there was about 32 staff and at 1.8 million and, and, and it, it was from, from going from being an employee. Yeah. All those years. Um, to then all of a sudden running a business like that. I, I talked to it quite easily, just purely because as I say, my ego at the time Yeah.
Was just kind of like, yeah, look at me. I’ve just bought this company for over a million. Quit. And honestly, it was, I was an idiot. Um, you know, but still in my twenties, this is before I had kids, I was quite immature.
Nishi: Uh, I mean, I think you, you are doing a lot more than most 20 year olds were doing at that point.
So I, I’d say that’s, um, you, you prob you’d probably achieved even a lot up to that point. It’s, so, if you don’t mind me asking, um, like normally people start with their childhood a little bit. Say like, what, what was your upbringing like, how, how do you get to the point where you, you were that, um, cocky, sorry.
Uh, in your own words.
Ricky: Yeah, yeah. Um, so pretty normal. I, I, I would say, you know, got, got brother, got sister, uh, moved around a bit. Uh, but it was, it was, it was. Good. I, I was never a great fit with school. Okay. Um, I just wanted to, from as young as I can remember, I wanted to make money. Yeah. Um, whether that was, I remember at a very early age saying to my dad, I’m gonna have your job one day, whether it was, um, start a paper round and then, you know, the paper round.
I’d get my brother to help me do half the work and only give him a pound. And I was getting seven pounds and like, you know, but yeah. Like, he was three years younger than me. But just, just do, doing, doing those sorts of things. Cause I just, I wanted to be able to make money and I, you know, what I remember when finishing a Levels, uh, which couldn’t come soon enough.
And then, um, all my friends went off to university and then I, I just wanted to get outta her money. So, um, just got a crappy job. Um, date entry or something like that. But living at home, actually having, uh, reg working full time, having a regular pay packet, I felt like I was earning good money. Yeah. And then all my friends started coming back from university saying how much of a great time they were having.
Yeah. So I thought, hmm, you know what I, I quite fancy a little bit that, so this is Know 18, 19. And so decided to, um, save up money to then go to university a year later. I’ve had a year where I’ve been working, earning money, and then I was at university for this week spending the money that I had earned whilst so I’m a year older, whilst I’m surrounded by a load of other people that students that were there on mom and Dad’s money.
Yeah. And I was just, gosh, something just didn’t feel right. I sort of, even though I was still very immature at that age, I’d grown up in other ways over that previous 12 months. And I realized very quickly, um, that. University was not gonna be for me. So left after, after fresh Spring,
Nishi: that’s the best part.
And then it just goes downhill from there as soon as you pick up a textbook.
Ricky: Really? Yeah. It wasn’t for me. The studying bit was just not, not for me at all. So, uh, came back, drifted a little bit working in a hotel at the time. And um, uh, and then after that my dad, uh, he got me a job with this big insurance company called Pearl Assurance.
Not even sure if they’re even going these days. And the day that, um, I joined was the day that he was made redundant. Yeah, it was, it was. And it was almost like they were sort of trying to get this sort of fresh, young blood through the doors and sort of get some of the older generation out and, and, uh, I benefited from that.
Um, he helped me, as I say, get the job. Um, and, and I did that. That’s, and that was great for me at the time cuz I was 19 and I’ve got all my qualifications then. Yeah. All my financial services qualifications, uh, from them and got. I had a great mentor there as well, a guy called Pete Doris, who was brilliant with me and he taught me how to, uh, how to sell.
But he did, he did things in a way whereby you can, and this is why I got on with him so great, is that there’s almost like the textbook way of doing things. And then there is, there’s, there’s one that isn’t textbook. It’s a little bit more rogue, but it still gets job done. But you get the job done and, and the lines are maybe a little bit Yeah, right.
It’s a bit gray. It’s in that gray operating in the gray area where, um, certainly in the financial services industry where things are very black and white. I’m assuming
Nishi: it wasn’t Wolf of Wall Street or anything like that.
Ricky: You say that. So not then. No, not then. Um, but I definitely, uh, have had that Wolf of Wall Street experience and that was a few years later.
Okay. Um, Because, so yeah, I had this sort of great mentor, did very well, so I, I was, I was, yeah, 1920. And it, it, it actually pissed off a lot of the older guys that were in the office that this young whipper snapper would come in. I remember doing stuff like, there’d be, it wasn’t cold calling, but it was calling up existing, uh, maybe old clients that might take net insurance policy like 20 years ago.
And, you know, they’ve still got their details and, and it’s just like calling people up like that. And I remember that, um, they were like struggling for sales as an office and everyone in, there’s about. 20 agents in there in this room, and the guy like, right, you know, we’re gonna do some cold calls now and like, you know, call some of these old clients up and like, try and get appointments.
And I was just 100% all for that, like he said, right. Who’s gonna go first? And there was me, this young whipper snapper was just like, yeah, me. Yeah. Um, and just put a few of the old guys’ noses out joints. So I would get up there and I was just like, on the phone, I was getting appointments. Yeah. I was getting nose along the way as well.
But I was getting appointments and then I was doing things like going to appointments and then I would knock on the neighbor’s door and ask them what they were doing for like, their insurance and stuff. And so it was, I was, I was, but I was taught all of that by this, uh, this other guy, um, Pete. And, and, and the thing is at that age is that, um, I just think that you, you, you, you benefit almost by being naive.
By not fearing rejection or anything, just I was, I was naive enough to just listen whatever Pete said I would do. So, Newport, Palo High Street, for example, we need to get business insurance quotes. We’re just gonna, you do one side, I’ll do the other side, go in every shop and just get renewal dates. And I thought nothing of doing that cuz he said, this is what we’re gonna do.
And he was doing it. And then I was doing it. And as I say, I don’t know, it was, it was just a really good grounding for me, um, in the years to come is what, how,
Nishi: why did he pick you like out?
Ricky: He didn’t, he, he didn’t pick me. He wasn’t the guy that, uh, recruited me. I was just given to him. Oh. And, um, funny enough, like he knew my dad.
Um, he was, he was sort of closer to my dad’s age than, than anything. But he was, yeah, just a, just a, a great guy to sort of teach me, um, how to, rather than just sit back and wait for the phone to ring rather than just wait for, be an order taker, uh, wait for things to happen. He was, he taught me from a very early age to go out and just make things happen.
Nishi: I do. I talked to a lot of successful business owners now, and, and one thing many of them do have in common, probably more than they don’t have in common, is that they, they didn’t go to university. Um, a lot of them went straight into something, you know, some of them are, are really successful.
They didn’t even get, go, go finish school. But they are incredibly bright. Like they’re, they’re incredibly intelligent in, in maybe not a, a non-academic way, but they know their numbers. They, um, They, they know the key, the actions they need to take. That’s actually, I think in business, that’s a sign of high level of intelligence.
A lot of the time. You’ve got, you’ve got so many people that know what they want, but not enough people that know what they, what they need to do. And, um, and that, that’s one thing I’ve noticed about our group as well. So, yeah, I, I guess, um, that is, um, it, it is really good though. You had that from an early age, I guess.
Um, then going, going back to the, um, the management buyout and then you, you were running it, but there was five of you. How, how did that go? Did you
Ricky: all get on?
We were the senior management team, so we knew each other really well. We knew each other’s partners ever so well. Like yeah, we, we, we did, we did get
Nishi: on in. In terms of the sales team, was it a, a sales team, you pretty much built from scratch or
Ricky: It was. When I say built from scratch, it was built from scratch.
In the previous, in the pre, under the previous ownership. I joined the company when there were only, there were only two, uh, mortgage advisors at the time, maybe three. And, and um, by the time the NBO went through, I think we had 12. And were you already
Nishi: managing that team at that point? Yes. Okay, fine. And then, yeah.
And then you continued to direct it? Yeah. And, and how old were you at that stage?
Nishi: Okay. Right.
Ricky: 28 when it went through.
Nishi: So did you… I mean, one of the things that, you know, alludes a lot of small business owners, cause I come, come across a lot of clients, especially, um, maybe in digital marketing, maybe in service-based businesses.
And they, they, they just struggle to build that sales team. I don’t know, maybe it’s the, the candidates at the moment just cuz I, I think, um, the, the cost of a sales candidate’s gone up disproportionately to pretty much any other, um, any other, uh, type of, uh, employee. But, um, did you, did you struggle to recruit back then?
Um, recruit good people?
No, as I say, and I remember. Okay. So with regards to using employment agencies, yes, we did. Okay. Um, and so just going back to some of the things that my original mentor Pete taught me, it’s a case of right, if stuff been happening, then. Go and make it happen. Yeah. So I used to then go, I remember doing it, I used to mystery shop here in Northampton.
I’d go down the high street and I’d go into the banks, I’d go into the appeal societies, um, and I’d line up just loads of appointments with the mortgage advisors. And then, um, one of them actually, I remember, uh, she worked at the Coventry Building Society, and I, I was blown up. I thought she was absolutely amazing.
I thought she was brilliant. And, and we ended up getting her. And so it was a case of like mystery shopping, the competition, finding out who was good and then, um, and then approaching them. I had actually thought of that before,
but that’s, uh, that’s a really good, that’s a good way to go.
Ricky: Like I said, it was, it was because of that grounding that I had.
It was, and I’ve always had that if things aren’t happening, then think outside the box and go and make with them and work and then just yeah, go and make it happen.
Nishi: Take some kind of action. Yeah. That, that makes a lot of sense. And, um, Are, are you comfortable talking about the, I, I guess what happened after 2007,
Ricky: up until 2007, things were going great and, um, uh, the, the credit crunch, uh, hit and I do, you know, I remember being on holiday in France, south France, uh, and I remember I got this paper, this newspaper, like my little boy was only ly young and he was in the like, paddling pool area and I was on the sunburn and I was like, I can just remember the early signs.
So this, this would’ve been se August, September time, 2007. And I was reading stuff there about banks. A bit like, no, actually, isn’t it? It’s just almost like history repeating itself at the moment with everything going on with Credit Suisse and that I was just reading these early signs in the financial pages and I was just, and this before it became like, blew up main mainstream.
And I was just thinking, this doesn’t look good. Um, and b bearing in mind that, I dunno if you’ve seen the, oh, I’ve, what’s the film? Um, the Big Short Oh, absolutely. Yeah. Amazing film. But, but if you can imagine. Uh, you know, when they, they head down to Florida and they check out the, um, they go and interview.
Yes. And, and you’ve got these strippers that are talking about all of these mortgages that they keep getting and like self certifying their mortgages. Cause it’s just like, you know, how many mul multiples of your incomes aren’t enough to do that? Just signed to say I could afford it. Yeah. That was us.
Like, that’s how easy things were. Yeah. Not all of the time obviously, but, um, you know, if you had a, you had a good enough deposit then, then if you didn’t have deposit there, 125% loans that we were arranging. Yeah, it was, and it in Northern Rock. Absolutely. Yeah. Did plenty of those. And, but, but everyone was doing it and, and so it was, it was crazy time.
But going back to what I was saying before, there was no, there was no real skill in that. It was a bit like order taken. The market was rising, the demand was huge. People were just banging your door down to get an appointment to get the house of their dreams. Even if they didn’t have a deposit, we could sort it out for them.
And, and as I say it, it was, it was an easy time to grow and make money, and that’s what we were doing. So I remember our outgoings were like a hundred grand a month. Um, and so that’s fine when times are good and you’re arranging loads of mortgages and loads of insurances and you’re getting all this money pour in.
But as soon as that mark, cuz it, it was literally overnight. And then no one’s lending money. No one’s buying houses. Everyone’s freaked out. And it was, it was really tough. So we weren’t then arranging the money, have the income coming in, couldn’t cover the expenses. And so the only. We had to get rid of staff, cuz that’s obviously a, a, a big, um, fixed cost.
So we did that and, and then it got to, I think it was the March or the April, and, um, a few of the other senior team had already left. Um, there was only me and Mel, the CEO that were left. And it got to the point whereby I, I then had to go as well. Um, and he advised that I go, uh, just for him to sort of try and, uh, keep it going as well.
So, um, so yeah, I, I ended up having to, uh, then go, uh, as I say, it was like the March of the April, 2008. Um, and, and, and, and the thing is that that’s all that I had really known, uh, financial services and that was not the time to. Go to try and find another job in financial services that banking crisis in 2008.
So again, going back to the stuff I’ve learned before, uh, about Right. Think outside the box. I was like, well, this is what it’s like in the uk. I’m gonna think outside the box now and I’m gonna go overseas. So yeah, went to Dubai and um, that was a really interesting experience. Um, this is like the May of 2008.
Okay. Uh, flew out to Dubai and were, was, was working under the umbrella of a company called Global Light out there. Um, that’s still like going now, but it was a case of, um, you, you’re self-employed, you gotta get your own leads and then generate your own appointments. And this is what I’m talking about, the Wolf of Wall Street Empire.
It was a, it was a great experience. I, I, I. I, um, made sales during that time. I was there, got great commission on those sales while I was there. But then when I started to realize I would have to sell the same question, okay, would I buy this myself? Yeah. And no matter how good I was it actually selling it, if I, if, if I wouldn’t go near it, if I wouldn’t take one, out my self then integrity wise, it just, it just doesn’t sit Right. And, um, that, that was really difficult because I want, I desperately wanted it to work, desperately wanted it to work. I wanted to, uh, uh, to get to a point whereby, um, there was, I, I got the contacts. There was regular money coming in. Um, I could then move my wife and the kids out there as well. Okay.
And we could then you went ahead of them? Yeah, I went, they weren’t there. I was there on my own initially just to make sure it would work just to get it all set up and so that, that’s what we wanted. That, you know, we wanted to get out of the UK with everything that was happening and go and set up, you know, somewhere like Dubai where it’s only at SRU and beaches and there all the glitz and glamor that comes through Dubai.
Um, was your wife working
Nishi: at the same time? She
Ricky: was on maternity.
Nishi: Okay. Alright. So there’s pro a lot of pressure on you like to actually perform. Yeah, massive. Massive. How do you handle that threshold? What,
Ricky: um, it was, it was definitely one of the toughest times of my life because it wasn’t just me and her, it was, it was with that extra responsibility of young children as well.
Also, I realized that, okay, this isn’t a good fit for me selling these products. I was then thinking, what the
Nishi: hell do I do though? Hi everyone. You’re listening to the Unrelenting Drive podcast. I just wanted to let you know I started this podcast because over the years I’ve had hundreds of the most inspiring conversations of my life with small business owners, and they really helped me grow and scale my own business and get my mindset right, even when times were really tough.
I wanted to capture those conversations and make them available to other small business owners who are following in my footsteps. And I’ve just got a small request. If you enjoy this episode, if you find it. Really inspiring. If you find it helps you and your own business, then please just like it and subscribe to our YouTube channel.
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Ricky: I’d always, I’d always not only had a job but being good at the job and then all of a sudden I was just thinking the thought of going back home. Daughter was born in the November, because of everything that had happened, we’d have to get rid of our cars.
we have to move outta our house. Okay. Um, so while I was living in Dubai, Alex, my wife with our son, she was, she’d moved in with, uh, back in with her mum and dad.
We owned, we owned the house but then rented it out.
So we knew that the mortgage would be covered, but we just couldn’t afford cause we didn’t have any money coming in. We couldn’t, couldn’t afford. So it literally gone from having like the big executive car and nice house, all these nice things and then all of a sudden it’s the space of a few months, like nothing.
Nishi: so how did it affect your family, like back then, like when, when you did have nothing, was it, was it a lot of tension in the house or was it, did you all come together?
Ricky: Yeah, so for Alex, my wife is, is a. Unbelievably support. She was unbelievably and, you know, continues to, to be so, but, um, she’s, she, she, she helped me to get through it.
She was the one Yeah. That said, you can do this. Mm. So the crazy idea of going out to Dubai, I floated that idea by her and she was like, yeah, go for it. You can do it. Okay. So the support was there because I think she realized that we were very limited for options here in the uk. And so she, she, it’s not like there was any blame or anything like that.
It was, we, we were, we were, I hate to use the word victim, but we were, we were definitely subject to the external conditions of the economy. Um, so, but it, it, it made it because of that. Backdrop it made. Yeah. The, the, the importance of me making the success of it in Dubai, it, it, it did make that, um, uh, like yeah, a, a really important thing to do.
But then when I realized that I’m gonna have to come home here, cause there weren’t any other options out in, in Dubai. So I came home in the November, um, so made it for in Ty when my daughter was born. Mm-hmm. And she’s 14, I’ll say. Um, yeah, did, did that. And then I was going for job interviews for basically just financial as far as the jobs down in London though, uh, because there was still demand in London for those sort of roles.
Um, So, but I wasn’t getting them. I wasn’t getting them. It was tough having to deal with that rejection cuz as I say, I wasn’t used to that. Um, I hadn’t had that in my working life up to that point, so I would’ve been like 32 at this point. Um, so it was a case of I was just gonna have to start in another business.
Like, I literally had no choice. I, I’d just get rejected from everywhere and that was so destroying. So I was like, right. Gonna have to again, sort this out myself. And, and, um, I ended up, I remember, so we, we were living with Alex’s mum and dad still, uh, it was winter freezing cold. They had a garage that had been set up as a bit of an office, but I was out there with one of these portable heaters.
I had a phone. Yeah. Uh, this portable heater. I was wrapped up. It was snowing outside. Yeah. And I had. An old database of like old clients that we’d had at the previous company. And so I, um, I hit that list and just the old basic thing of got appointments and from the back of appointments and started, um, selling insurances, more insurances than anything else.
Yeah. Um, just to sort of try and get cheaper insurances for people because they might have been sort of struggling with their own bills and that. So I’d get in the foot prop through the door would be, look, lemme try and save you some money on your insurances. And yeah, and, and literally just kicked it off like that.
Um, started that. And then one of the old guys from the senior team with the previous company, I contacted him, um, because I was aware as, as, as good as I am at like, getting all those bits done, um, going out, generating, basically generating money. Um, I, I’m not great at the other bits that come and running the business.
Um, the, the, the um, the sort of more technical bit and especially in financial services, the compliance side of things and all of that. So Partner network at that call? Yes, we were. Yeah. Um, and so I did, I contacted him. I said, look, Doing this do fancy going in together. We can like set up, set up a new business.
And, and so we, we did that and actually that, that went really, really well. We were, we were affiliate, we were one of the partners with Money Supermarket and so we, we were like one of the, uh, people that we get in our leads from there. And, uh, therefore all of a sudden, because it was insurance, we transitioned then from what we were doing before where we were in offices doing stuff face-to-face transition.
This new company was, we could be national with this. And all we’re doing is we’re just dealing with leads. Yeah. Uh, coming in. We pay for those needs, obviously. And then we, yeah, just called them quickly and we do our normal thing over the phone and we, we were broken, we’re tried to save money. And so that was, that was good for a few years.
Okay. Um, but do you know what, I’ll tell you what happened. It was, it, it, it’s me. Insane. When I wanted to get that there, there might be, when it comes to marketing, there might be something that is topical, that’s news sensitive. Yeah. And I would want to try and get some marketing message out there that was relevant to something that was Yeah.
Going on in the news. Okay. And we, we were part of a network and so I remember getting these adverts put together and then it would have to go and get approved. And that was taken 10 days to get this approval on an advert by which time when it came back approved. It’s like, well, it’s gone now. And, and that was almost like the, the straw that broke thel camel’s back.
I. I didn’t really want to set up another business in financial service if, if I’m completely honest. But that’s all that I knew. And after a few years, again, we were earning good money again and moved back into our original house. And so things were going well again, but, you know, so by this time I’m like 35.
I was just, I was so down, I was so, so down because I hated financial services. I, yeah, I honestly, with all the compliance as well and things like that. Factual, yes. No, that’s, yeah. Um, and I just, I didn’t know what to do to get outta that. And, um, Alex, my wife again, really supportive. She was like, well, what if you do anything?
Like what would it be? And. At the time I was into my running in my fitness or I thought that’s, I thought that’s, that’s something that would be good. But you know, you try and just start out as a personal trainer and Yeah. You don’t really earn much money from it. And here we were. I, I did want, I did wanna risk glue the nails again.
Yeah. Um, so, uh, I, we, we, we chatted about it and we thought, right, let’s just give it another six months and gave it another six months. And it was just, it didn’t get any better. It got worse. Yeah.
Nishi: I mean, there, there was a point in my business, like, um, I was about a year in, so about, this was about eight years ago, and then we, we almost ran our money and, um, and well, I said we, I was the only one there at that point, and I, I was thinking, okay, I’m gonna have to go get a job now.
And then I, I, I had a few like, states of luck, although in hindsight I recognize him as just me doing enough of the right things, paying off. Um, but it took, it took long enough to start paying off. And then just before it was about to go under, I, I, I started to get the cash in the bank and it became sustainable again.
And, um, and then, but I, that thing back then sticks with me all the way now, and I kind of, and I, I wonder like, you know, accountants especially like more than most people that we’re aware of the impact of compounding, like, you know, getting a client like. Five years ago is better than getting client today because you’ll have had that client for five years.
And, um, and I, I kind of think like, you know, if I, if I was a bit riskier with, with the money or took, took more educated risks rather than, you know, sat on it and built that war chest and then now I’m, I’m kind of ma overcompensating, but, um, you know, part, part of it as well is there’s, I think there’s a book, um, sorry, I know that there’s a book and it’s called Profit First.
Yep. Yeah. And this is one of the things that really gives me mixed signals cuz like, I, at first I believe like, don’t, don’t. Um, use up your cash flows to invest in business. I know it’s a stupid thing to believe in hindsight, but that’s probably what h held me back a bit. Then I, then I got to a point where I was actually comfortable spending money and, and growing the business using that money I’d, I’d built up.
And then, you know, you read profit first and then it, it essentially says, okay, own, pay yourself first and then only grow out of your profits. And it’s a, it’s a bit of a, a minds game because, uh, uh, you know, part of you, you know, see stories of all these entrepreneurs where they’re getting loans like, you know, you, you’ve got a loan for, for, to buy your first business and do that management buyout and, but if it’s, if they’re there wasn’t that recession, it, it probably would be really successful.
And so, you know, you’d ask the question, was that the wrong decision to make the time? Well, maybe, or not necessarily, but, or maybe it was there was a halfway house. But I, I think, you know what, what you’re saying, it really resonates with me cuz I, I’ve been there as well and you’re always, uh, and I think part of it is no one wants to be that guy with a failed business.
Um, or I mean, like, I, I know you had to because of ex extenuating circumstances, but there’s always, there’s always this pride or ego thing and, and you, you’re trying to think what would people on the outside looking and see it as. And um, that, that, you know, that plays a part in it as well. So I, I, I do kind of get what you’re saying.
Ricky: it does completely, as I say, especially given now, My ego was in my twenties and I, I wasn’t used to failure. And so all of a sudden for it to go the way that it did, um, I dunno if there’s a little part of me that was using it, using it conveniently to sort of say, I gotta get out the UK to, um, go and set up overseas where perhaps they’re riding out this, um, credit crunch recession a little bit better.
But whether there was a part of me that was just like, I’ve gotta run away from this. I dunno if there, maybe there was a bit of me just like, this is like really embarrassing situation and I’ve gotta run away. Yeah. Um, I don’t know. Maybe, but, um, when, at, at the age of, cause I don’t know, Nisha, you might, you, you, you might be able to answer this with sort of the people that you’ve come across, um, over the years.
Uh, I don’t know very many people that are, that are. Been a career that they’ve been in for say, 20 odd years, that love it. Whereby that they, they so many of the people that I know feel very trapped when they get to that middle and kids and mortgage and cars and all of that stuff. Rap race, if you wanna call it.
Yeah. And like, I, I don’t really like what I do, but it earns me good money and what else? I, I can’t do anything else. I’ve just gotta see this, see this through.
Nishi: Yeah. I, I think, you know, when I think about that, I, I, I totally agree, but then when I look at the first, sort of, my first part of my career, I guess, like I, my father was an accountant in business and, um, and I.
Saw that as, as a, a, something I could do as well. And it was something I was interested in. And I, I do sometimes wonder how much of that influence led my decision into that. And, and then cuz I, I guess when you’re, that, when you’re younger, it’s, it can be really difficult to pick a career and, and, you know, esp especially if you got that get up and go, you just wanna do something and see if it works.
Like, I, I, I know the o the opposite side of that is I know some young people who are just like, you know, spend all day researching about what their next career would be and then, you know, five years later they’re still working at Starbucks, but trying to make that choice to get to that right career and, you know, their peers who started just, you know, got, got that job straight away in any anything they, they’re, they’re much further ahead and, and I, I think.
You know, when you work your way up a career, it’s a lot easier to do a sideways move into another career or industry. Cuz when you, when you build up those soft skills, you know, you’re not just relying on your education and your your grades anymore. You, you know, you can go to an interview, people can see your, some of that present and they can see the different uses for you.
So I think, I think it’s a normal thing to do, especially if you’re the kind of person that, you know, initially just got into something. Cuz you are the kind of person that just wanted to
Ricky: do something. I think it can become really difficult as well if it is your own business then. So, as I say, this is, this was my second business specifically within financial services.
I’m 35 years old. I’m hating it. I, I am feeling trapped, but got all of those. RU racing, uh,
Nishi: what, what did you hate about it? Cuz one thing I, I have realized is if you, even within an industry, there’s so many different careers and opportunities. Like I, I guess initially I was an accountant in, in my business, and then I, now I, I focus more on staff development and, and the client, um, generation and, and, and client advisory.
So my, my role over the last nine years, if I was still doing what I was doing nine years ago, I’d be like blowing my brains out. And I, I really struggle with that. I’d be insanely bored, but because I, I’ve managed to move around the business, uh, over that period of time and, and, you know, explore new things and, and I, I, I mean we, we know each other, so you, you kind of know my journey to, to redevelop, but our, um, offering as well.
So going from more traditional accounts to the offering to, um, to the Apex program where it’s more rounded and and nurturing in terms of helping people rescale up. But. If, if I was just doing what we were doing before, I, I would probably be at a point where I was, I’m just completely bored now, but I, I, we’ve got this vision and I, I think it was, is it Michael Beckwith?
He, he said the pain pushes you until the vision calls. So may maybe the, if that can be, in fact that’s a fitness quote as well. I think it relates to the fitness industry. But, um, it, but I think when I applied to business, I, I realized like, you know, I started my business because I wanted that freedom. I, I had that pain of not having that freedom and, and I wanted that recognition.
And then eventually I got to the point where I’d got those things and. Um, I, I, I needed the next thing and then, then that’s where the vision really came into it. And I think I’d say I, even though this business is like nine years old now, I, I only really developed that vision about two years ago or a year and a half ago.
And that’s where, that’s where that pain, uh, where it took over from that pain and now it’s stuck pulling me along. Cause I know, I know there’s business owners that need to benefit from my experience building my own business, not just my own, my experience as an accountant.
Ricky: I think the, so answer your question.
What, what was it I hated about it? This, so this is, this is what I, so I’m 17 years in and, um, I, I, I was, it was board, board of board of talking about insurances board of just com as I say, compliance. How slow things got done. I was quite, quite impulsive. If I see a good idea, I want to implement it quickly and I, I hated feeling that I couldn’t implement my ideas quickly.
Yeah. Um, do, is
Nishi: that, cuz you, you were constrained by the FCA regulations and Absolutely. That’s exactly, yeah. How, how is it going without you like, as
Ricky: I think it’s fine. I think it’s fine. Yeah. I just, I, I just got out, I just said to my business partner, that’s it. I’m done. I’m gonna, he honestly, I thought what was happening?
Midlife crisis cuz I was like retrain as a personal trainer and, and, and, and that was it. And that’s what I did. And I remember cuz it was 2012. Yeah. August. Yeah, I started just before the London Olympics started. Okay. And I was just in this field near the opposite at Tesco in Hansbury and, and Northampton.
And I was just, They’re in a field with some crappy equipment that I’d bootstrapped. Yeah. That got out the boot of my car. Yeah. And I was delivering these sessions and I know I got rid of the traditional suit and I was then in a tracksuit and, um, it felt good. And, but that honeymoon period soon wore off.
We just weren’t owning it with money. It was, oh man. It was terrible. It was,
Nishi: it sounds like my first year of business year.
Ricky: Wow. It’s all those, all those doubts then coming again like, you done, you know, this, this, uh, this is irresponsible. Putting yourself first before the kids and like all those, those things were coming into my head because I was, I was, um, I don’t know.
It makes, it does make you. Look at the world differently, doesn’t it? When you become a parent and when you do have that extra responsibility. And there I was doing something as reckless, even though Alex, my wife, she was supporting me all the way. Um, and, and the plan was like, she, like she, she came in with me as well to help, uh, get things set up because like she, that’s where her passion was as well, uh, regarding fitness.
And she’d gone through, since the birth of that, our second child, she’d had hell of a lot of weight that she struggled to lose. And there was nothing out there. The, the, the like personal training was, was not something we could afford. Um, one-to-one personal training and just joining a gym wasn’t an option just because it was crap and it was intimidating.
There was nothing out there that offered. Like this small group personal training type of thing whereby, so it’s like something in between whereby you, you still offer the, like accountability, the nutrition support and setting goals with clients and all that kind of thing that you would get with a one-to-one personal trainer.
You still get all of that, but because you’re delivering the actual session in a small group whereby everyone’s similar, similar age, sim, uh, same sex and all that sort of thing. We, we chose ladies over 30, but because of that, um, you can bring the cost right down and so therefore make it a a lot more affordable.
So those that, that really wanted personal training but couldn’t afford it, then this is, this is something that kind of, that they can help.
Nishi: So you could scale it. Yeah. Reuse materials. Yeah. Or leverage materials even.
Ricky: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. And, and so, so that’s what we decided to do and it seemed like a great idea.
And I remember the way that I got people to come and just try it out initially was like using group on offers, just just putting offers out on group on it was like, can we get 10 sessions for 10 pounds or something like that. And of which we would get like 45% of that I think it was. So I get four pound 50 for someone signing up to come and do 10 sessions, but it was getting people through the door, yeah.
Through the door, onto the field that I could then try and convert into a paying membership. Um, and whilst it was working, it just wasn’t moving quick enough. Certainly not enough for us to be able to, again, just pay for all of our outgoings, which we TriMed as much as we could because
Nishi: I, I guess you were at that point building up virality, weren’t you?
Because I, I was watching the, an interview, uh, was it, uh, I can’t, Nick Jenkins, who the founder of Moon Pig, and he was, uh, he had essentially said that he got to a point where he’d put a million pounds of his own money. He, he had nothing left and the investors were pulling out and saying, Hey, stop, stop putting money into it.
You, you’re gonna need to pay rent and, and live. After this. And he was like, well, I’ve got no more money to put in. I just put it all in. But he, he’d put a million pounds of own money cuz he did really well working out in Russia. Um, and then he, he came back with all that money, put it all in mooning, and it still hadn’t made a profit by then.
And, and he was like, you know, we were trying all this, all these different types of marketing and they just weren’t working. And then he said, but one thing I noticed was I was looking at the numbers and for every person that bought, um, a card, another one third of the person would then come and come back and buy another card.
And we were growing by that just because of that little logo on the back. And I, I guess all you’re describing there is that like, you know, I think business owners, you can get to a mindset where you can just advertise, advertise, advertise, um, but sometimes you, you’ve gotta, you’ve gotta understand like, yeah, you’ve gotta build that virality through marketing and, and just through your existing client base.
And, and then the rest, all you can do is send Batten down the hatches. Wait two years, keep, keep everything going consistently wait two years and then suddenly, like, you know, it’ll all pay
Ricky: off. But the thing, looking back, that, that came along at just the right time, that I then completely, I am talking completely immersed myself in.
Yeah. Was Facebook apps OK? That, that, and I was ahead of the curve because I felt I had, I was desperate and through desperation, I, I had burnt the ships. Okay. Uh, there was no going back. I could not go back to financial services and through desperation I was just, I’ve got to find something else that’s gonna speed up this process because like, these bills are just stacking up.
And like, it was, it was incredibly difficult. Um, but at the back of my mind as well, I was thinking I can’t have another, Failure here, I can’t do this again. And Facebook ads. Well, there were nothing, what they’re now, certainly with regards to this sort of stuff you could put out, and I literally put out anything before and after photos and everything, which you definitely can’t do now.
Um, but that’s what I was doing and I was, I was, and I, I paid money to, um, mainly in America. It was like guys that were teaching how to do Facebook ads, like a bit like getting out with TikTok stuff and, and that accelerated everything. I was like, didn’t have that much money to spend. But any money that I did have went on that because I could see that that was something that could accelerate, uh, growth and yeah, just completely immersed myself in it to the point where I all of a sudden then felt like a marketer rather than a personal trainer.
Yeah. And when that happened, That changed everything because then I could see the power of paid advertising. And so I started to then just monitor, right. You know, click through rates and um, how much is it costing to get a, not only a lead, but then someone on the phone and then what’s the conversion rate of people that I spoke to?
And, and all of those, once I realized that it was a case of, so for every hundred pound that I spend, I’m getting, it was 10 times I was getting a thousand pounds back. Wow, okay. But that was, that was just off the front end program. Yeah, that wasn’t the Exactly, yeah. Onto, onto longstanding membership. You still think Facebook
Nishi: ads a really effective, I mean, they cost a lot more now, don’t they?
Ricky: Yeah, yeah. But so in answer to your question, yes, because once, once we’ve kind of cracked that, Um, and don’t get me wrong, tho, those first two years were still incredibly hard work, but because of that predictability, it just felt like it was impossible to fail. It was. It was just as long as we keep doing this.
Yeah. Then, and we managed to, on a, once I’d moved out of that unit actually, uh, off that field, and we got our own unit then in Northampton, big 3000 square foot unit. Yeah. And managed to negotiate a deal on that, whereby it was staggered. So for the first six months, I don’t think we paid any rent. And then it was staggered after that it was, it was like, uh, 50% and 70%, then 8%.
Then after the like 11th month, that’s when we paid the full amount of rent. Okay. And because of, then, because of the way that we managed to negotiate that deal, And because of the predictability that came through the Facebook advertising, I could see that that tied in really nicely with, I was like, well, in six months time, that’s where we’re gonna be membership wise because of what we get from the ads.
And so that allows us to just grow into this unit. And so we did that and it worked incredibly well. And, and, and then, and then after the two years, I remember I said to Alex, I wanna franchise this. Yeah, I wanna Fran, because as I say, because of that predictability, all of a sudden then we were getting our systems right with regards to how like conversions and how to keep people and Yeah.
Service people and everything. And so I remember sitting down with franchise consultants after two years and sort of, you know, different hotels and certainly wanted to franchise it. And you know, some of them were actually sort quite keen just to get you on board straight away, get your money and everything.
But, uh, there was, there was one that was just honest and said, if I, if I were you, I’d give it five years. Okay. Um, and so that was, that was our plan to get everything right in the first five years and then look to franchise it then. So how long ago was that? Where did you actually Franchise First franchise was 2017.
It was five years. It was five years later. Um, and leading up to that, we put it to the test. We put, we had some stress tests along the way, one of them being that we’d go away in the summer for six weeks and just see how the business ran without us being there day to day. Uh, we did that and, and, um, we then decided to put it through a serious stress test.
We decided to move overseas and, uh, we, we moved to Marbella in Spain in 2017 and uh, which was amazing, like. Since we’d been traveling, we’d always wanted to live abroad. And like the Dubai thing obviously didn’t work out. Uh, but we still wanted to live abroad, so, so we did that and we set up our first franchise while we were living in Marbella.
Okay. Um, cuz I’d, what I’d done is I’d set up another business, which was like a side hustle, which grew to a point, they’re still going out by the way. Um, which, which we’ve got a lot of our franchisees from, which was a marketing company purely for personal training. Q All I did was I would find campaigns that worked, I would then record the videos.
Were five, 10 minutes long, no more than that. Okay. And I’ll just record how, exactly, how I set it up, the exact wording, the exact images, what was working, uh, the stuff that didn’t work, stuff that did work. And then I would just upload them to a library. So a member suite. And I did all of that and then just grew this, this side hustle business that had tons of personal trainers and gym owners that, that were paying a monthly membership fee.
Oh, amazing. To, um, to just learn that stuff. So that first franchisee came from that group. Okay. So there was a lot of trust that had already been built up, uh, with regards to that. But like I say, it just seemed like a sensible thing to do regarding franchising because of, because the, the advertising part was so predictable.
It was a case of just trying to get this across to people that, yeah, we’ll do the marketing bit for you. You don’t have, have to learn that bit. We’ll do that and we’ll help you get this predictable growth from nothing to here in this space of time. Um, that takes a lot of the stress, uh, it takes a lot of the stress from.
When you first set up a business? Yes. The other reason that I felt strongly about franchising, even though lots of people were advising me not to do it, was because I wanted to grow the business. I wanted to have multiple locations. We both did around the country, but we did not want to borrow money. Okay.
Yeah. To fund that growth because of everything that had happened in the past. So franchising was the obvious, the. Route to go down. Yeah. We’ve got
Nishi: clients where they put so much effort into raising money. It’s, and I, I think yeah. You know, and sometimes, you know, they put a lot of effort into just raising a small amount of money and, and I’m like, just get a personal credit card and just, just get a personal loan.
There’s no, no need to do, got all that effort to do it through your business. Yeah. Just for that small amount of money. But, um, yeah, it, it does it. That’s why like a lot of these larger businesses, they’ve got finance director and finance team just so they can get the numbers right. Just to, um, raise that money.
And it’s, you know, maybe in, in some ways it’s massively inefficient, but in other ways, I guess, yeah, there’s probably businesses where the finance director is raising money just to pay their own salary. I did a video yesterday and it was about should you, um, borrow to grow your business? And, and one, one thing that I’ve realized over time is, and this is from my own mistakes as well as things I’ve observed, is if you, if you don’t have a strategy that works, Borrowing to grow your business is just throwing the money away.
But you, you know, then what you’re talking about, the Facebook stuff at the point where, you know, the Facebook stuff works, then borrowing to, to back that knowing, then you’ve gotta return, then you know, pretty much what you’re gonna get out of what you borrow. And it’s, and I think maybe some of the lessons I’ve learned, although I, I, I wasn’t as extreme as some other people were, but, you know, early on I hadn’t quite got something that worked and I was still throwing money at lots of random stuff.
Whereas really, um, there, there’s a really good book which talks about, you know, um, starting your business on a shoestring and it’s just about like finding that minimum viable product and, and, and that idea where, where you can just find something that works on a really small scale before you start scaling it up.
And I, I think, you know, if I was starting all over again, I, I would definitely go down that route and, and have the patience to, to test things. Um, but. No, you’re right. But, uh, but I think what, what you’re saying with the, the franchise, it, it makes a lot of sense
Ricky: and, um, for us, yeah, for us, it, it did, it does continue to, uh, make sense.
That’s how we’ve, I think, managed to grow The way that we have on the franchise business is because of the, uh, because we are so confident in the marketing strategy that we’ve got in place. And for most personal trainers, fitness professionals, they, they join the industry because they want to help people.
They want to help pe they, they, they, there’s a nice feeling that you get from a lot of job satisfaction that you get from helping someone go from A to B. And, uh, just, just, you see that changing. It’s not, it’s not just the obvious transformation. Body composition. It’s everything that comes with it. It’s the common, yeah.
The problem is that you got a lot of fantastic personal trainers that have no idea how to market themselves and so therefore they, they get a chance. They, no, no, absolutely. So when we come along with our proposition of, look, join us, we’ll take care of that marketing bit for you. Yeah. We’ll make sure that not only are you getting leads, but you’re getting qualified leads that are from local ladies over 30 that complete an application form telling you why they need to do this broker.
Honestly, look, it’s so refined now cuz we’ve tried and tested so many things over the years and it’s not just Facebook now, but it’s Instagram and now we’re sort of like trying to do some stuff on TikTok as well. You know, you kind of have to evolve, uh, with the times. But it is a, it is a space that. That works well with social media.
Yeah. The sort of fitness space. So
Nishi: It’s just crazy at the moment, isn’t it? Because Alex was telling me about the, the video she did about how to put your coat on to go for a walk and then, uh, she got like 15,000 views or something. Uh, and it was just her putting a coat on and, uh, and some gloves and a hat and, uh,
Ricky: TikTok compared to the others, it’s almost like people are tuning in to be entertained.
It’s a little bit like if you were to put this started out on TikTok, you’d have to take a 22nd, 32nd snippet. Yeah. And jazz it up and, uh, and, and, and like use that if there’s any bit in here whereby, I dunno, that would, would work on TikTok whereby it kind of just stirs someone a little bit, even if it just agitate someone a little bit.
Uh, the agitation is a good thing with Facebook and Instagram. You can localize it, you can just. Do that pin drop when you’re doing your targeting and you can say, right, that’s four miles of that pin drop where the studio is. We’re gonna focus on marketing, just people that live within four miles that are female, that are between 30 and 60.
And you can really like being able to do that. Like if you, compared to what, like what marketing used to be like. We used to sort of taking out ads in magazines and stuff like that. Like this is so targeted, it’s, it’s amazing. And right now TikTok doesn’t have the ability to do that. TikTok is more national stuff and you almost rely on the algorithm to localize it.
But. In America right now, they’re, they’re beta testing the local stuff. So we know that the local stuff is coming for TikTok and when that does come, we are gonna be all over it when we have the ability, cuz actually they’re behind the scenes. If you look at their Ads manager, it’s set up very, very similar to Facebook, but you don’t have the ability, as I say, to, to localize it.
So I think this year, six months or so, when we have that ability to do it, then, then it, it will be so good for us to be able to have another platform to use. Because as good as Facebook is, it’s not nice to feel too dependent on one lead source. No, you’re
Nishi: absolutely right. Um, I mean, this, this has been really insightful.
I, I’d like, I’ve, I’ve just learned a lot of stuff about you I didn’t know before, but, um, yeah, I, I guess like it to, to sort of end things off, what, so what’s that one bit of advice you’d give to someone starting out?
Ricky: If there’s one thing, just one. Okay. Learn how to sell. Got it. Whether it’s you sell, whether it’s a product, a service, learn how to sell regardless of what happens.
If you know how to sell, you will always be able to earn money. It’s a little bit like in the old days, it’s like having a trade, but selling you can use in any industry if, and, and, um, you, whether that’s in financial services, like it’s just like we are doing it in a completely different industry now, and just having that ability.
A lot of people, they, they think of selling as like the traditional. Yeah. Used car salesman and it’s, it’s not if you are, if you believe in what it is that you’re selling, yeah. They just learn how to articulate, articulate yourself in a, in a way whereby others are gonna, uh, wanna buy it. Alright,
Nishi: Well, Ricky, thank you very much for joining us on the started.
So you’ve been listening to Unrelenting Drive and I’ll see you at the next episode.