So far in this Business Confessions series I’ve heard about the time someone got evicted, a conference speech nicked from an overheard conversation, and an extraordinary incident involving a wild animal in a boardroom!
My latest secret comes from a highly successful entrepreneur who writes to get this confession of his chest…
“I built our business on spam.”
“Way back in the early days of the web (mid 1990’s) the world went crazy for SAP professionals (you may remember the Big 4 running full page ads in the Sunday Times [at £70k a pop] each week.) The demand for SAP skills far outweighed the supply and these folks were desperate, given that a typical Sunday Times ad generated 4 applications…”
“Being a web veteran in 1998 (with all of 2 years experience), I was aware of SAP professionals congregating on ‘Usenet’ – which hosted various technical forums at the time (the hardcore tech community are still there). After a few mins of desktop research, I had I identified 7,000 global SAP professionals lurking in the ether..”
“Thirty minutes later I had downloaded e-mail address harvesting software (A snip at $29) and had harvested the majority of the community participants’ details.”
“That day, we secured a deal with one of the Big 4 to *Guarantee* at least 100 hundred SAP application for a mere £40k. Within 48 hours they had 1100 applications…”
“We repeated the exercise several times over the course of the next three months banking a cool £250k which gave us the capital to launch or ‘proper’ business, and the rest as they say, is history…”
“A dirty little secret? Sort of. Am i proud of turning $29 into £250k on the back of several meetings and a few emails? Yes I am.”
“Oh for the good old days of web 1.0…”
This week’s final Business Confession has arrived….
“I was pitching for a new advertising account. The product brand name was the same as a wild animal. We came up with the seemingly clever but really obvious creative solution that the advertising should feature the animal. I then came up with an even cleverer idea that at the pitch we should wheel in a tame version of this animal at the point we exposed the idea.”
“Everything went very well in the pitch until the part where I was meant to open the conference room door and an animal handler was meant to bring in our star….only to open the door and find nothing there. However I could hear the sound of breaking glass and screams as most of the agency was chasing a very frightened creature.”
“Filled with adrenaline I rushed up to the poor creature and grabbed it by the scruff of its neck and marched back into the conference room to reveal all. Unfortunately the clients got a little more than they bargained for as the animal jumped out of my grasp and into the lap of the senior client and defecated all over his designer suit….we didn’t get the account. ( The animal’s and brand’s identity must be kept confidential or I might be sued!)”
Since yesterday’s admission, my Confession Hotline has been buzzing with several colleagues keen to share tales of past adventures. Today’s instalment comes from an entrepreneur whose identity must also remain a secret…
The Time We Got Evicted:
“Our business had grown to become a 30 person company in prestigious, central London offices. One day, completely out of the blue, our landlord went bust. Not our problem we thought, so we cheerfully went to meet our landlord’s landlord to pay our rent directly to them. That’s when the trouble started. There was an overall shortfall for the building (we’re talking hundreds of thousands of pounds) which they wanted us to pay. We politely declined. As legal eagles will know, we were at that moment considered squatters (we had no contract) – and bailiffs could board us out at any moment, even though we had paid our rent.”
“The catch was, they could only swoop if the building was empty. So I had to make sure someone was inside 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for the next month. I didn’t want our staff or clients to find out – so I slept on a pile of bubble wrap in a cupboard for the whole period. As staff kept discovering me and my girlfriend in the building at 7am (not my usual start time!), we had to make up more and more obscure excuses. Three and a half weeks later, thankfully, we found an office on the same street. With the deadline looming and the lawyers being slow, I resorted to camping in their reception during the day and in our office at night. At 4pm the night before D-Day, we finally signed the contract and began packing. By 11 pm we were out and the cleaners began work to make it spotless. By 5am the new office was ready. I would love to have seen the top landlord’s face, convinced that he had us over a barrel, when he walked in to evict us and found an empty building.”
Tune in for tomorrow’s tale, where a high-powered executive will reveal all in a story involving an ad agency, an unfortunate accident and an animal….
I have set up a Confession Hotline for entrepreneurs and other business people to get true stories off their chest. 100% discretion is guaranteed, and my first entry has just arrived…
An Entrepreneur Confesses…
“I once spoke at a high profile event to 1000 plus people on a topic where I had nothing valuable to add… having greedily accepted a last minute invitation.
Nervously walking up and down in the coffee break before the big moment, I overheard a well known entrepreneur give a brilliant overview of my ‘chosen’ subject over a coffee.
10 minutes later the audience enjoyed a verbatim recital of his opinion, courtesy of yours truly, with no accreditation given (I was too young and inexperienced to understand the classiness of highlighting others).
I lapped up the credit for the rest of the afternoon. “Such a wise head on young shoulders” etc. Shameless really!”
I will be publishing more confessions over the coming weeks. Just don’t ask me who they’re from. I couldn’t possibly comment…