What can you tell us about your new book Seller Beware?
The clue is in the two straplines: How Not to Sell Your Business, and One Woman’s Road to Ruin. It’s a book that I hope will appeal to two types of readership. One, anyone who owns their own business and might be thinking of selling, and warning them of the pitfalls, and two, anyone who enjoys a true human interest story about a woman who drops to rock bottom and manages to pick herself up and dust herself down…and like the famous song ‘start all over again’.
Tell us about building up your estate agency from the beginning.
I set it up from scratch in Pembury village in 1988 at the height of a boom (though we didn’t know it) in the property market. A few months later the UK began a 4-year recession where I almost lost the whole business. However, the staff and I turned the corner somewhere in the middle of 1992, and never looked back. Over the 17 years it spread to 8 offices and 50 staff members.
At what point did you realise that things were looking wrong?
Almost immediately after we’d signed the contracts. The buyers completely changed in their attitude towards me.
What is the best piece of advice you would give after your experience?
Never, ever, sell your business when you’re desperate. You’re not thinking straight. Any personal, emotional issues you might have only exacerbate the desperation and subsequent lack of focus on such an important transaction.
You make reference to the mental anxiety it can cause, so what did you feel through it all?
It’s not easy to admit, but I felt stupid for being so gullible, angry for being so easily hoodwinked, upset and somehow guilty that the staff all lost their jobs, frustrated that I was out of control, astonished that I was being alienated, furious that I wasn’t getting paid, despair that I had been betrayed, relieved when the buyers went into liquidation. There were a few more emotions that can’t be printed!
What do you hope to achieve by releasing this book?
I hope to warn anyone selling their business that even if you are a successful business person (I was), how easy it is to make stupid mistakes that can have terrible consequences.
Tell us about where you are at now?
I started another estate agency business with one of my ex-managers, and we have been going for five years now as Barnes Kingsnorth, winning the top award out of all the West Kent agents, as voted by the public. I act more as a consultant so have time to do my writing, which is why I sold up in the first place.
Even if you are not looking to sell you business right now, how can this book help?
If you own your own business you should always have a plan of your exit strategy. Even on the first day, though I didn’t think of it until I wanted to sell. But preparation is the key, and it’s never too soon to be aware of what can happen if you sell to the wrong buyers.
What was your biggest low point?
When the buyers changed the name and logo which had served me so well over all the years. As soon as I saw the cheap, corporate-like initials and garish colours, I knew instructions would go down, which would have disastrous repercussions. That was exactly what happened.
What is next for you?
I’m drafting book three of a trilogy of novels called ‘The Voyagers’. Book one, set in Melbourne 1913, is having its final polish before approaching the agents. So any introductions to agents and/or publishers warmly welcomed!