Updated: Jul 1, 2021
A brief(ish) introduction to me.
During my short-lived career as a Financial Advisor, one of the first things I was taught was:
"There are two guarantees in life. The first is fairly obvious – none of us are immortal. The other is less obvious but has significant impacts on our lives. The second guarantee is that “THINGS WILL CHANGE”.
The first guarantee is a hook to sell life insurance, the second is used to sell pensions.
WOW, I've finally got a ROUND TUIT!!. it's here, MY FIRST EVER BLOG
Well, I'm still mortal, so as the title hints, I must be writing this because something has changed...
The 40 odd years since I left school in 1977 have been far from plain sailing. The first 20 years lacked any direction, I just went with the flow. If my uncle hadn’t got me my first job, an engineering apprenticeship, who knows where I might have ended up. Those four years were the second longest job I had until I joined BT in 1998, 21 years later.
If I say so myself, I became an accomplished engineer. I moved from Merseyside to Milton Keynes after my apprenticeship. In MK I was on my second job in five years when I was asked if I fancied moving back up north to take on a supervisor role. My relationship had broken down, all my mates were paired up and settling down and redundancy was on offer, so the time felt right.
Everything was hunky dory for a couple of years, but as intelligent as the business owner was, he didn’t have a clue about quality assurance. It got to the point where he opened a second business and transferred all the assets to it because he knew he was going under. Two significant cockups later the writing was on the wall, and Maggie Thatcher was in full flow, ripping the heart out of our manufacturing industry.
Around 1993, I felt I needed a change of direction. By now I’d been made up to Production / Quality Manager and had been dealing with tooling salesmen for a couple of years. I could, and still can, talk the hind leg off a donkey, so decided sales was the thing for me. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Four years later, having tried everything from insurance, advertising, door knocking, telesales, and even multi-level marketing (network marketing) I was on the bones of my backside. I was in debt, with no fixed abode and on the verge a nervous breakdown. To keep the wolf from the door, I was temping, taking on any work I could get. When I couldn’t get engineering work, I’d take on warehouse work and even had a stint on slurry tankers.
There’s a lot of irony in what I’m about to share
Before I briefly go into how I was affected by my experience, let me say that in hindsight, in the right hands the network marketing business model can be sound. Avon and Body Shop At Home, are examples of this model. I know of other lines of the same business I was in who built their business by selling the product. I also know of people who have built and are currently building successful businesses using similar models.
However, while researching for this blog, I've also learned that typically, only the people at the top of the pyramid (around 12%) will make any money, and as described very succinctly by Alice Beer on This Morning, this is BEFORE costs.
The issues I faced were due to the cult-like nature of the individuals driving the leg of the particular business I was in for nearly FOUR YEARS. I had "Build the Dream - Visualise the Dream" drummed into me with the assertion that if I did everything they said, my dreams would come true.
While I was spending money I didn’t have chasing the dream they were selling, they must have made millions out of selling motivational ‘tapes of the week’, ‘books of the month’, ‘monthly seminars’, and 'six-monthly weekend rallies' that were attended by thousands. Barely a product in sight. It was at one of these rallies in June ’95 that I finally cracked.
Now, I'm not a Soap fan, but every now and then, a storyline resonates. If you want to know where I’m coming from, catch up with Sean Tully’s current storyline on Coronation Street. Like Sean, EVERYONE around me had been able to see what was happening, but I was hooked.
Anyhow, this blog is an introduction to me, it’s not about the pros and cons of network marketing, or Corrie.
This is where the irony kicks in...
The scheme I was in for nearly four years, contributed both to my near breakdown, and to much of the knowledge I'll be sharing with you.
They said in tapes, books, meetings and rallies, that “you only realise you need to change something in your life when you hit rock bottom”, which I certainly had. Their intent in that phrase, was that when you finally hit rock bottom, that will be the trigger to motivate you to work harder to achieve your goals and dreams. And this is a prime example of where the learning was good, but the intent was bad.
A couple of days after I bombed out at that rally, I was given some of the best advice I’ve ever been given. Ironically, from my sponsor, the guy who got me in in the first place.
He simply suggested I should “STOP AND SMELL THE ROSES”. And that’s what I did. With the help of family and friends, I stepped back from what my life had become. The same principle was applied, “you only realise you need to change something in your life when you hit rock bottom”, but I applied it with a polar opposite action.
I retained the learning but walked away from the business.
I also acknowledged I was never going to make money as a salesman - I’d taken on board what I’d learned - I just couldn’t apply it. I couldn’t sell! Which I’m sure you’d agree, is a prerequisite skill for any salesman. My character got in the way. I was too nice, too keen to answer questions, and too prepared to take no for an answer. With the best will in the world, and some awesome coaching, it just wouldn’t sink in.
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I took a couple of weeks off to get my head straight then did more temping. Not ideal, but there are times when you just have to realise your needs outweigh your dreams.
It wasn’t all bad though. I like to learn. Most of the lessons and principles I learned were sound and I've applied a lot of them to help me move on. I’ve only recently got rid of some of the books and tapes I bought. And, as you can see in my ‘why DNAY‘ web page, I still have my notebooks.
So, what happened next?
I’m up north in the middle of a recession, engineering is on its knees following the Thatcher years. I had no plan, and I didn’t have a pot to pee in. What I did have, though, was supportive friends and family. As is typical in cases like mine, they could see it coming but weren't able to help until I acknowledged I had a problem.
Two of those friends, Paul and Sharon, lived in Milton Keynes. They invited me down for two weeks in July ’95 - another mate down there needed a fence erected round a construction site, so it was more of a working holiday, but it was a break I desperately needed, and it paid for itself.
While I was there, I registered with a couple of recruitment agencies. Back up north, I took occasional calls asking if I wanted to be a cleaner at a pet food factory, but at around £3.00ph it would have cost me more to get there and pay for digs than I would have made on the job.
By November, I was desperately in need of a break again, but still potless. Paul said I could stay with them for a couple of weeks, I contacted an agency that came up with a couple of weeks engineering work, so in November 95 I returned to Milton Keynes, and never returned home again, except to visit family and friends.
A couple of days before I was due to leave, the agency rang me. The conversation went something like this:
Agency: “Hi Dave, you have some experience on computers, don’t you?”
Agency: “How long are you staying in MK”
Me: “How much are you paying?”
Me: “How long do you want me?”
Three months later, I was lodging with Sharon’s sister, Lindsey, who I also knew very well from my previous stint in MK. This job came to an end, but I’d managed to get myself a full time (unsurprisingly, short-lived) door-to-door sales job. I’d also found lodgings where I pretty much had the place to myself. Then history repeated itself, and when I lost the sales job I went back to temping again. I recall counting around ten temping jobs that year.
Then came my next turning point.
As I’ve touched on, as bad an experience as my sales ‘career’ had been, it wasn’t a complete disaster. I’d learned some good stuff that I’ve never forgotten, as I did from my engineering career. The key point here is that I didn’t just ‘learn’ stuff, I ‘applied’ what I learned. And I’ve continued learning, and applying what I’ve learned, which is one of the reasons I now have something close to a ‘success story’ to share with you.
As you may have seen from my website, DNAY Enterprises was already something I thought I could do. I was now back in Milton Keynes, I was settled, I had a social life, new friends, and a fairly regular, if paltry, income. So, I had ideas where I wanted to get to, but I didn’t have a plan, and how could I realistically spout self-improvement principles if I hadn’t been successful myself? I needed direction…
I was still potless, spending everything I earned. I’d sat through a few business planning sessions thinking I could make something of DNAY, but I didn’t have skills, money or collateral.
What I had picked up though was that if I was unemployed, I could get a free one-hour career planning session, and I wouldn’t have to pay for college courses. So, I became officially unemployed for the only time in my life, for about 3 weeks.
I had a very tight window, because a couple of months earlier I’d sat in the cellar of a local agency for three hours and learned enough Microsoft Excel to get a 90% plus pass mark on the tests. On the back of that, the agency had lined up a job for me that started in a few weeks.
If I hadn’t stopped working for those three weeks, I may never have gone back to college.
I got my P45, registered as unemployed, booked an appointment and met with my advisor. We discussed my issues and my options – the second-best thing I’d done since stopping to smell the roses because within an hour of meeting him, I had a plan.
I didn’t want to go back to the shop floor but couldn’t get into management as I wasn’t qualified, and my experience was nearly five years out of date.
My CV was a complete mess.
Including my apprenticeship, I’d had six engineering jobs in 18 years
Followed by half a dozen sales jobs in less than 5 years,
Interrupted by, then replaced by, more agency jobs than I can count
I had tons of experience but no qualifications.
High level plan
“Dave, you need stability!” (the job I already had lined up, turned into a 2 year assignment – the timing couldn’t have been better).
Two things stood out from my past that I could be good at:
I’d been a manager in my last engineering job, I’d also been responsible for quality and had trained and coached my teams.
Everyone I knew thought I’d be a good teacher. I picked things up quickly and could explain things clearly. I agreed but couldn’t really see me teaching in schools.
We agreed I should look into getting qualifications in:
Teaching in Adult Education or
The next day I was in Milton Keynes College discussing my options. There was a fly in the ointment though. Although I was able to sign-on to courses for free, if I got a job (and I had one lined up) I would have to contribute.
Sometimes you have to speculate to accumulate, and this was one of those times. I had one shot at it!
The Adult Education Teachers certificate was a no brainer, a 12-week course, and it wasn’t expensive. Business Management courses on the other hand, were expensive and way out of my price range. However, year-long QUALITY Management courses with the Institute of Quality Assurance were only around £120 per module (x5 modules for the full Diploma). So, I signed up for two modules in the first year.
I skipped the introduction course as I already had some experience and went straight in for the ‘Quality Management’ and ‘Computers in Quality Assurance’ modules. At the end of year one, I sat and passed the exams for these two IQA modules and the Introduction course. I now had my Adult Education Teaching and three Quality Management certificates under my belt, and I was nine months into what turned into a two-year contract as a Sales Analyst where I had already moved on from Excel to using Microsoft Access.
The following September (1997), with proper experience with computers, I got my first night school assignments with Milton Keynes Adult Continuing Education (MK ACE) teaching basic computing skills, a part-time career that would last 7 years, and I went on to complete my Quality Management Diploma.
More Ch, Ch, Ch, Change
Around September ’98, something changed, again… The company I was with no longer needed my services. They helped me to whittle down (rip apart) my five-page CV, and I re-joined the cattle market.
Some people say: “if you get to interview but realise you don’t want the job, just ask what the sick leave allowance is”. For me though, there was another question that kept tripping me up. If it isn’t clear by now, there are a couple of things you need to know about me:
I’m not scared of hard work
I’m comfortable with change, to a point that I thrive on it
I like challenges and variation in my work
I like to learn and progress
Interviewer: “Any questions?”
Me: “Yes, what are the progression opportunities?”
You’d think that would have been a positive question, but no! It appears they just wanted someone to do their job. Eh ho, back to temping – OR WAS IT?
Sometimes we need to take a step backwards to move forwards…
Paul stepped up yet again. He’d been working for BT as a field engineer for 10 years, and they were recruiting. But it would mean me going back on the tools.
Did I want to do it? No!
Did I NEED to do it? Yes, I did!
Paul put a good word in for me, so the hiring manager was already aware of my ‘history’. His response to my question was “provided I get my pound of flesh out of you while you’re working for me, you can go anywhere you like in BT”. Woohoo – stability achieved :-)
I started on contract in October 1998 – £7.50 in the bank, over £3000 in debt, and lodging in a box room. I was transferred to a permanent contract in ’99.
I worked my privates off, working away a lot of the time. Over the millennium weekend, I moved into my own (shared ownership) 2 bed semi-detached house. I’d bought my first motorbike, made new friends, took up golf, and I still had money in the bank. Within 15 months, I’d been seconded onto a team travelling the UK coaching operators on a new job build and allocation program – the first of many role changes in BT.
Moving forward 20 years, after around six department changes, and having worked on more than a dozen distinct projects, BT are making those pesky changes again… They are moving their core functions to locations that are not practical for me to work in.
So, here I am, redundant at 60, six years short of retirement age with a pension pot that won’t fill the gap. Once again, I have choices to make: Get a job or take some time out (and it can’t be long) to see if I can make DNAY Enterprise work. I’ve chosen the latter.
Success happens when preparedness and opportunity come together
DNAY has been on the back-burner for far too long. I’ve tinkered with the concept on and off since joining BT, but work and life generally have got in the way. I worked all day on computers and just couldn’t concentrate of an evening. So, I’d been ‘prepared’ for years.
With freedom, though comes ‘opportunity’. I’ve settled down with Lorraine, sold my place, we’re nearly debt free, I’ve got shed loads of stuff to share, and if I don’t do it now, it could be my one opportunity missed.
What next? What does the future hold?
It would’ve been great if I’d got another two or three years in at BT. That would probably have been just about sufficient to hit one of my goals, a comfortable early(ish) retirement. Then I could have set DNAY up as a hobby site. But that was not to be, mainly because I didn’t start my pension until I turned 40. So, I still have to make some money…
I physically stopped work on the 9th Feb 2021 at 12:10 on a Tuesday, taking leave until my contract ended on the 28th Feb. I took a one-hour lunch break, then began work on www.dnay.co.uk, not the first website I’ve built but far and away the most important.
It’s my hope that through the website and associated social media, that I will:
Pick up consultancy and/or contract work
Be able to sell some of the concepts I’ve conceived over the years to developers who can bring them to life
Monetise my knowledge through YouTube, Instagram, and writing books
So, that’s it for now folks, the end of my first ever blog / podcast.
I hope you’ve found this little tale of the ups and downs of my life so far interesting. And I can assure you, there’s shed loads more to follow, 40 years-worth!
If you found it interesting. If you’d like to know more. If you’d like to hire me, or you know someone who would, you can…
Register at https://www.dnay.co.uk/get-in-touch and give me feedback
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Thanks for reading