We talk a lot about transparency and being open, the need for it in this social world, and why if you’re not telling everything to the world then someone else will. We also talk about personal brand and corporate brand, and why you need to be authentic and honest. I agree with these points mostly, but sometimes it is not so easy to balance the branding with the transparency. I have certainly experienced both sides of this during the last 12 months, which have been the toughest of my professional and personal life.
Up to September 2008 I ran a successful and profitable training and consultancy business for recruitment companies in the U.K. and mainland Europe. We didn’t have a lot of customers but we did have customers working with us all the time. We employed 5 associates who were interim managers and largely enjoyed the lifestyle that came with it.
From September 2008 the work started to stop quite dramatically as recruiting businesses felt suffered from significantly dropping revenues. They were cutting their own staff, so there was no room for spending on outside consultants or trainers. Up to this date we had won all our business on reputation and had done very little selling. (I had always had plenty of exposure in the UK recruitment press up to this point.)
The solution to this was to increase our spend significantly in marketing activity and change the offering. I also went out and met with lots of recruiters, as well as speaking at a whole range of events. With more time available, I also ventured in to social media channels via Linked In.
With cash tied up in unpaid invoices, on the advice of the bank we moved to factoring. This released short term cash but had later implications. Going in to 2009 I remained positive that with the right marketing and sales activity we would be able to hold out till the market turned. We did lots of different things that generated interest but little that generated anything other than survival revenue.
Towards the last quarter of 2009 it was clear that we could no longer fund the business. We had a couple of clients go bust. We were also involved in a profit share agreement with a client who wrote a 5 year old C.V.A. in to this years account, writing off the profit share we were expecting. The downside of factoring is that if you have invoices that go beyond 3 months then you have to recover the sums paid out. This means in effect that all you are trying to do is play catch up, working, invoicing but receiving no real cash.
In January 2010 we had no choice other than to take personal and commercial bankruptcy and close the business. This has taken a strong emotional toll on everyone involved. My wife has had a period of time in hospital with the stress of the business. I have had to keep a positive outlook while seeing a business I built over 4 years disappear. There’s also the strong feeling of personal responsibility and helplessness about what you can do about it. Behind every business failure, and there have been many over the last 12 months, lies a human story that few consider.
I’ve had to look at the schools my children go to, we’ve cancelled holidays and lost all of our assets. Our family home has been under threat and you become fair game from anyone who enjoys spreading the story of someone else’s misfortune.
Over the years I have known quite a few businesses that have used this route as part of a tactic, they call it pre-packing. This enables companies to close and start again without meeting their liabilities and has become a common tactic where acquisitions and mergers are involved. We did not choose to employ this tactic during the year and although we eventually went under, I still believe this was the right thing to do.
My creditors, (those I owe money to), have largely surprised me. The majority have recognized that they have earnt well from us in the past, and whilst any loss of revenue is painful, understand that it was not intentional. I have been overwhelmed by the help and support they have given me with words of encouragement, support for what we are trying to do with #tru and recognition that things will turn around in the future. I have always had the same generosity of spirit in people, and hope this is some kind of payback. Only one creditor has chosen to go on the offensive, threaten to be all over twitter and taken to e-mailing contacts and being very public on-line. I understand this reaction, and desire for some kind of retribution, it’s just not the route I would take.
I’m thankful that most people recognize that with a family, I need to work and recover the situation. I can’t just crawl under a stone and never come out. I’m entitled legally to operate a business and that is what I have done.
The contacts I have made on-line and in person have also been tremendously supportive, and I’ve made no secret of my plight. I have been able to rebuild things through #tru, and hope that I give as much to my network and connections as they give to me. Everyone deserves the opportunity to rebuild and start again. My on-line network and friends have enabled me to do that. I hope that you will continue to support #tru, and what we do. I still believe I understand recruiting; HR, social-media and networking as well as most people, and have plenty to offer.
With everything in the open, I understand and respect those that may wish to stop being associated with me, to avoid the events that we do or get involved in any of the on-line activity. You may choose not to follow me or be connected with me and I understand that. For those that stay, I thank-you and think that you recognize that a friend is not just for facebook!
Keep being ambassadors in all you do,