It seems like a lifetime ago when I arrived in Manchester. What a city. What an era.
Bloxham was selling posters in Afflecks Palace, Ferguson had just arrived at United, Tony Wilson was giving the Factory a whole new meaning. Tim Bacon was a barman in JWJohnsons and Oglesby was at Cheadle Hulme where, only weeks earlier, I’d been playing against him on the great British rugby fields.
Bruno was holding centre stage at the French Restaurant, at the then Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza, Midland Hotel. I was the cheeky piano player busking my way through life.
I had never been so poor but I felt certain that something good was just over the horizon.
I learnt pretty early on that it was never going to be that simple. I took a hundred wrong roads and, although I had the belief that “one day” I’d be successful, I had not found my direction.
That direction came after a trip to New York when I realised that the next era had to involve the internet. I was now 30. I had tried and failed in so many areas and I knew my venture had to be the right one. Without time on my side, there was no margin for error.
There is a saying that behind every successful man is a good woman.
This could not be truer than in my case. My chance meeting with my now wife, Gail Jones, was undoubtedly a great Manchester partnership. 200 yards away from where Rolls met Royce in Albert Square, we instantly hit it off.
Many people ask me, “How do you work with your wife?” I have never had an issue with it. We both focus on different areas of the business and whilst it is sometimes hard to switch off when you live with your business partner, I have had the benefit of a soundboard for every major decision that has ever been part of the shaping of UKFast.
Has the last 10 years been an easy ride? There is no such thing! Every week, there is something new. That’s the nature of business and life in general. It’s full of ups and downs. 3 days ago, I had the first of 2 operations on my thumb after trapping it in a door and slicing clean through the bone. I was told that they were going to amputate it the next morning.
Not quite the holiday on Necker I was hoping for. But after another operation and a great deal of determination, I am told now that it will survive! And whilst the holiday has been somewhat interrupted with emergency hospital trips, the kids are oblivious to any disruptions thanks to Danielle, PA-cum-Mary Poppins.
So, I’m sat here on Turtle Beach where my daughters found 2 baby turtles yesterday, fighting for survival, less than 10 minutes from hatching. Today, Charlie, one of the Necker team, has just helped to dig out another 72 other turtles that would not have made it. And what about my thumb? Well, I am managing to type and, inspired by just hearing the news that I have been very kindly awarded the EN Entrepreneur of the Year title for 2011, I am reminded that around every corner is another exciting challenge and the pain you feel gives you a bench mark to truly appreciate the great moments in life.
I know my children will never forget today and the freeing of what seems like hundreds of turtles as they swim for safety around the girls’ ankles. I will never forget this day for very different reasons.
I haven’t won many things in my life and it’s typical that I am not there to celebrate with my colleagues and friends, without whom I’d be average at best. However, being awarded this accolade was just one of those moments in my life where I stopped, took a sharp intake of breath, filled my lungs and had to brace myself.
I am honoured to accept such a title. Do I deserve it? Not in a month of Sundays. What does it mean to me now? If I thought there was any let up on the road ahead, I was mistaken. I now have an added responsibility to live up to all those kind people who have belief in me. Thank you. I am truly honoured.
It seems doubly special that I find this out on Necker Island, home of a great inspiration, friend and in my opinion, Britain’s greatest living Entrepreneur.
If you don’t mind, I have some turtles to attend to.