The billionaire who can barely read or write
By Michelle Roberts, Deputy Editor, Creating Wealth
Chris Dawson wasn’t what you’d call an academic child.
In fact, he was the complete antithesis of academic — he suffered from dyslexia and often skipped school altogether.
Even when he did turn up, he wasn’t there to study but to make some money.
When he got caught stealing scrap metal from his metalwork class to sell on to a dealer, his teacher told him:
“You’ll either end up in prison or very rich”.
When Chris left Plymstock Secondary with no qualifications, it looked a dead cert that the former would happen.
After all, Chris couldn’t even read or write (he says he finally learnt to read at the age of 27).
Further education was out of the question and so was a ‘respectable job’.
Instead, Chris began selling random goods from the back of a truck on the streets of Plymouth and the surrounding towns.
Here’s a picture of Chris in action, selling goods from the back of a lorry in the 1980s:
Chris sold anything he could get his hands on, from watches to cheap perfume, cookware and socks. He even sold suntan lotion and sunglasses to sunbathers right there on the beach.
A real-life ‘Del Boy’
Chris was a wheeler-dealer, a real-life Del Boy. And he had the personality to match!
But the big difference between Chris and his fictional alter ego was that Chris was actually good at selling.
His passion for trading — buying the goods at a good rate and selling them for a profit — gave Chris a buzz.
And it also made him a pretty decent wage.
In 1989 Chris used the profits he’d saved up from his market stall, together with a small bank loan, to purchase an out-of-town discount home and garden store in Plymouth.
The store was called The Range and operated under Chris’ business, CDS Superstores.
The store was an immediate hit and profits were good.
But Chris was never one to sit still. He had big ambitions (much like Del Boy) of building an empire and being a millionaire.
And, with his natural-born talent and passion for business, Chris achieved that ambition.
Soon Chris had a number of stores throughout the southwest of England, making him his first million.
But his ambitions didn’t stop there and nor did his eye for a good deal…
In 2009, Chris purchased stock worth £98m from MFI for less than £3m, and went on to make tens of millions from it.
It’s this kind of skill at doing business that has led to Chris now owning 118 Range stores across the UK.
And having a net worth of £1.65 billion.
That’s not bad at all for a man who admits: “I’ve never written a letter in my life or read a book.”
And a man who doesn’t even own a personal computer or an email address!
The key to success
GCSEs, A –Levels, Business degrees, or a completely original idea for a product or service…
That’s what you’d usually think it would take to become successful, right?
What Chris shows us is that you don’t need any of that.
You don’t need a smart, original idea (there were already home-and-garden stores around when Chris opened The Range) and you don’t need fancy qualifications.
What you do need is:
And Chris has it by the truckload.
As he says — it’s the key to his success:
“If you want to succeed in business, then business must be the thing that makes you want to get out of bed in the morning”.
Passion for getting a good deal and making a sale — ‘the love of the game’ you could say — is what has driven him his whole life.
It’s what gave Chris the dedication and energy he needed to put in all those long hours on the market stall…
And it’s this un-fading passion that still drives him out of bed at 6:30am and off to work every day.
You see, despite his huge success Chris has absolutely no plans to retire.
He has a reported 30 more stores in the pipeline for the UK and is also eyeing up expansion in to Europe — with a plan to open a mammoth 1,000 stores across the continent.
Interviewed for a recent documentary, Chris was asked why he doesn’t give up the stress and hard work, hand over the reins and enjoy the vast wealth he has made.
His cheeky Trotter-esque response: “I will have a go at being a trillionaire!”
Chris is constantly on the go, travelling the length and breadth of the country each week to personally visit each store.
And he’s always thinking of his next deal. Even on holiday in Bermuda he couldn’t relax.
“By day two I was like a bloodhound looking for someone to do a deal with. I find it hard to stop”.
Chris still gets a thrill from getting a good deal and still has the same level of passion for business he had when he started out.
That is the key to his success and it’s the key we all need to unlock success for ourselves.
You’ve got to love what you do
It’s one of the fundamental ideas that Creating Wealth is based on:
That in order to succeed at something you have to love what it is you are doing. If you don’t then you’ll just see what you are doing as “work” and you’ll resent it.
By loving what you do, it won’t ever seem like “work” you don’t want to do but have to. You’ll want to be doing it all the time.
Like Glenn with writing. He can be found writing articles late in to the night if he has an idea he wants to share.
He does it because he loves writing, not because he has to. It’s just a bonus that he gets paid to do what he’d happily do for free anyway.
It’s the same with me and my fitness regime. I used to hate sports at school and hated doing exercise.
Until I found an exercise I actually enjoyed doing — running. For me going for a run isn’t something I have to do, it’s something I want to do and look forward too.
And my passion for it has led me to finishing several half marathons in not-too-shabby times.
Passion is the key for success in all parts of life. If you don’t love what you do you’ll eventually get bored and give it up.
Or you won’t have the determination to overcome obstacles or pick yourself up and try again when things go wrong.
Now, we aren’t all born with an instant passion for something. And for many, our childhood passions don’t carry on in to adulthood.
Unlike Chris who got the bug for buying and selling as a schoolboy, many of us don’t realise where our passions lie until we are much older.
Glenn didn’t realise his passion for writing until he was in his 20s.
It can be hard to know what ignites that passion within you but one way to find out is to try as many different ideas as possible.
You see, success in any field takes hard work, risk, dedication and commitment.
But it’s passion that drives all of that…
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