The Best Business Advice That I Ever Received Was…

Venturing into the world of being self-employed and becoming a business owner is scary. My first business was launched in 2003, and I look back now with fond memories thinking to myself how lucky I was to have met certain people along the way, steering me in the right direction. I have never told this story before, but let me share with you how I eventually made the jump from being employed to becoming self-employed, and to also share with you the best advice that I have ever received.

An award ceremony

I was working for a driving recruitment agency in 1999 and it was my job to launch a brand new division for an industrial and commercial desk. I remember sitting there on my first day with a desk and a phone thinking “what have I done?”. I had to go home and collect my computer as they had not organised one yet, but it was all very exciting. It was just like having my own business, but spending someone else’s money. The owners of the business were two ex-drivers and they had not really had much recruitment experience. They gave me a free reign, and I will always be truly thankful for that opportunity. I set up the brand, the terms of business, introduced procedures, and refurbished the office. Meanwhile, I was working silly hours, building a very busy and lucrative business.

I entered the business into some local business awards and we won numerous categories. One of those categories was “Investment Opportunity of the Year”, which was sponsored by a local, established, high brow accountancy firm. During the award ceremony, the old boy accountant (I will never forget him), approached me and whispered in my ear “Julia, if you ever decide to go out into the big wide world and go into business yourself, then give me a call first”.

Why on earth would I want to go into business on my own? I was earning the most money I have ever earned in my life, I had a free reign, and the business felt as if it was my own anyway. I was happy and life was good. Why change anything?

But life does change

I fell in love and got married. Then, twelve months later, at the age of 32 I fell pregnant. It was planned, and my husband was keen to stay at home and become a house hubby. It made sense, as I was the one earning the bug bucks and I am more of a career girl than a stay at home mum. I have never really been a maternal person and in my head it would be easy: I would give birth, and then go back to work within a few weeks, and everything was sorted. But it didn’t quite work out like that. It was not that black and white. I did not take into consideration how I would feel leaving my daughter at home whilst I continued to work all the hours god sends. My priorities changed and I started having the thoughts of “why am I earning all this money for someone else, when I could be doing it for myself”. I now have responsibilities for my daughter, and I need to think of her and her future. So, I gave notice and went to work in Coventry, whilst secretly planning my new business venture and working my time (I had a restrictive covenant, which was ironic as it was me that wrote the employment contracts!).

The best advice that I was ever given

My first port of call was that “old boy accountant” who came up to me at the award ceremony 4 years previously. He soon became our trusted advisor, and I will never forget his very first bit of advice. I was planning to go into business with a friend/client of mine. This friend had recently been made redundant, so he had excess cash in the bank, and this would mean that we could get all the things we needed to launch the business without me having to get a business loan. I was excited to work with this person, but the accountant strongly advised against it. His words were “Julia, you need to do this on your own. If you go into business with someone else, no matter how much you think you get on, it will not work, please take my advice and I urge you to NOT do this”. He was so adamant that I made the decision to pull the plug with my friend, and it was the best piece of advice that I was ever given.

It was scary though. I was paying temps from a credit card until the clients had paid me, and we were living hand to mouth for a good six months. By month four, we had landed the Wetherspoons contract and I needed help with factoring, and my accountant was there to help me along the way. The business escalated and we were soon turning over £1m, then £2m then £3m — it was hard work, but it was the best time ever. I was so pleased that I had full control over the business, and obviously the rewards of having a successful organisation. If I had gone into business with the other person, then 50% would have been his.

Those words of the accountant “never go into business with someone else, if you have a way of doing it on your own” was the best advice I was ever given. I will be truly thankful to Ian Barrie (who is now long retired from the accountancy world).

Did I have any regrets about setting up on my own? A few, but that is worthy of another blog.

Originally published at on August 4, 2016.

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