The trials and tribulations of going it alone

This is my 4th business. Well 3rd real one (I’ll explain later)

I started this one the same way I started the others, with almost nothing.

If I had 3 business prior, why did I start this next to nothing you ask?

To explain that, I first of all have to give you a brief history:

1st Business – The backpacking plumber.

It was 2007, I was travelling around Europe when I got a gig doing price work. Building plant rooms in London to be more specific.

I kept being handed larger jobs until a point where I had 18 plumbers working for me. Great stuff right?

One small problem, I’d just turned 20. I had no idea how to manage 18 plumbers & had no idea how to run a company. I hadn’t even been foreman on a job before. The only thing I had was audacity & naivety.

Enter a little known financial crisis called the GFC.

It sent me home with tail between my legs & no hope of ever seeing the outstanding receivables I was owed. Nevertheless, I am quite proud of what we achieved whilst my debtors were paying their invoices. I learnt many things that can only be taught by experiencing it firsthand.

2nd Business – The reluctant sole trader

Things were not much better back home. My dream of coming back cashed up and starting a 50/50 venture with my father were dead in the water, I was flat broke.

Things were not exactly gong well for him either. When I left for Europe my father had a plumbing company with >300 employees, when I got home he had <50 employees and had been haemorrhaging money for 6 months straight, developers where going belly up on his contracts left, right and centre. The bloodbath was as bad in Brisbane as it was in London. There was no chance of employment there.

Having only ever worked in commercial plumbing construction (an industry completely decimated in SEQ 2008-2010) I was running out of options. The only other skill I had was IT, I spent my whole life building/breaking/tinkering with computers.

With no formal qualifications, I taught myself HTML + CSS & built a website. I got a few local gigs, managing office IT services, websites etc. Make no mistake, this was a lifestyle business & a poor one at that, but to me, this was better than driving a haul truck out in the mines (which is what most other commercial construction workers where doing at the time.)

In 2014 the market had recovered & my father saw I didn’t really have much of a plan for the future (still reeling from my experience in London). He made me an offer…

3rd Business – The father & son joint venture

I was offered a 50/50 joint venture in a Pipe Relining business that I was responsible for setting up & growing…with essentially no start-up capital…again.

I was handed a barely roadworthy ute, a second hand drain jetter that we had paid cash for, a (hand-me-down) first generation black and white drain camera + my own hand tools.

Within 18 months we procured lots of new equipment, put on staff and had a balance sheet reaching new heights most months that passed. Everything was paid for with business revenue. My father (and business partner) didn’t have provide any equity, which was great.

I saw a problem.

As we are in a niche industry I could see us hitting a ceiling soon, we were already no1 on Google for our targeted keywords and I didn’t have much experience in any other form of marketing other than digital.

I always looked at national search data and could see Sydney as the A-league in terms of market size. My father had reservations, the Sydney market was very developed with well-established companies who have much bigger wallets than mine.

I was not deterred.

We sat down and I was informed in no uncertain terms that should I proceed with my plans to go to Sydney, I will relinquish control over the pipe relining business in Brisbane and I would have my shares bought from me.

Still not deterred, we negotiated a deal over the course of the next 3 months, where I would receive title of some plant and equipment (all the old stuff we owned outright) and a small cash settlement that enabled me to survive while I got things off the ground.

4th Business (today) – Maida

As I write this today, Maida just hit the front page of Google. An awesome achievement considering we only opened for trading 3 months ago, but being 8th on Google is about as advantageous as being 108th. Still a milestone achievement but a long way to go yet. Maida is only just getting started here, but for anyone interested I thought I’d give a candid account of how I started in Sydney.

I will update this article or provide pt2. as milestones come along.