Phones 4u Founder: The Pain Of Becoming A Billionaire: John Caudwell | E124 | Transcription

Transcription for the video titled "Phones 4u Founder: The Pain Of Becoming A Billionaire: John Caudwell | E124".


Note: This transcription is split and grouped by topics and subtopics. You can navigate through the Table of Contents on the left. It's interactive. All paragraphs are timed to the original video. Click on the time (e.g., 01:53) to jump to the specific portion of the video.


Intro (00:00)

Could you do me a quick favour if you're listening to this? Please hit the follow or subscribe button. It helps more than you know, and we invite subscribers in every month to watch the show in person. - I grew for nothing to 12,000 employees, 2.4 billion turnover. - John Caldwell, the billionaire founder of Phones For You. As it relates to his wealth, he has it all, but it's come at a real cost. - I was sitting on the edge of my seat nearly every day for 20 years, facing threat after threat, after threat, after threat. - It did nearly finish me. I think anybody's would, you know, because you can't work 22 hours a day. Wondering mens pressure. It was a monster deal, the biggest that ever been done in the marketplace by anybody. You know, I don't mind fair competition, but it was very unethical. If I didn't find a solution, it was instantly terminal. You know, my turnover was going to drop the meat of them, the most stores were empty. Nothing, I'd have been bankrupt, and I wouldn't be here talking to you today. - Without further ado, I'm Stephen Bartlett, and this is the Diaries CEO. I hope nobody's listening, but if you are, then please keep this to yourself. - I suppose if I'd had a little bit more love, I would have been happier.

Personal And Professional Journey

Your early years (01:10)

Do you remember saying that? - I don't actually, but I can understand why I might have said it. - Why do you think you might have said that? - Um, yeah, it would certainly be to do with my childhood. Because my father was not the kindest to me. Not abusive, but in a way, I'd know, in a way, maybe was abusive, but not abusive in the way normal sense of it. He just wasn't very fair with me, and certainly not very affectionate. And I think my mother was struggling through all those early childhood years. So I understand completely why I might say, if I'd had a bit more love, I might have been happier. I'd say it's quite a true point. - When you say your father wasn't so kind to you, was that because he was suffering with something, or he was, did you ever diagnose why he wasn't kind to you? - Not at the time, but in more recent years, probably came to understand it. I think certainly one of the points was that I was quite a rebellious child. We were brought up in the back streets of Stoke-on-Trend, in the terrorist haisies, and it was football in the streets, and your mother coming down the road, shouting for you, and I'd go hiding. And all my mates would say, when she asked where I was, oh, we don't know, we haven't seen him, and I'd be hiding behind somebody's front courtyard wall. So it was a nuisance, and I was difficult as a child, and very adventurous, wanted excitement all the time, and that for parents is very, very difficult. So I think that was probably one of the things, but I think also, we had been brought up with certain strange values, really, that didn't really work very well. He hadn't made a transition to yet a different generation. So he put me on an old army and navy shoes, from the army and navy store, which crippled me. And so I was out in the streets, you know, playing football and so on, and I expected to keep these shoes perfectly, like you might be in the army, and when I came back with them scoffed, I was in serious trouble, and I couldn't stop them from being scoffed. At the same time, my feet were crippled. It just got some strange values. I mean, I suppose in today's age, you would say that was child abuse, but it was just the way he was, and I think when I've spoken to some of his friends over the last 30, 40 years, they think that he came back with PTSD from the war, and of course it was never diagnosed in those days. And he came back and he got a lot of wonderful qualities. He would never see anybody in trouble. He was almost the first day, he was there to be paid for, because he was an engineer, very capable, very ingenious, and any car broken down on the roadside where people were in trouble, he'd just stop and help them out. I'd be quite grateful for that on one count. I'd have to wait in the car for an L while he fixed the car, but I knew a couple of shillings or a half a crown was gonna come my way as a result. So, you know, as a sort of this child or where I'd got a lot of respect for my father in some ways, but in other ways, the way he treated me, it was very unfair, and not in a kind way on many occasions. - And I realised that you lost your mother recently, so I wanted to first say, I'm sorry for your loss. And I know that it can't be easy coming in doing this so soon after, so I also wanna thank you for coming in doing this, because I know that. Well, I can't imagine the difficulty of all of that. When I was doing the research on your story, I was reading about your relationship with her and your father and that dynamic, and there was a lot of things within your relationship that really resonated with me. So I wanted to ask about that relationship and those dynamics, 'cause I know that's really, really formative in your story as well. So what was the relationship like with your mother and your father and you as a three? - Well, in the early days, we lived with my grandmother. My grandmother didn't like my mother. I think she was a very jealous person. She adored me, so my relationship with my grandmother was amazing. She would do anything for me, but at the same time, she treated my mother very, very badly. And there were lots of rows in the household, so it was not a happy place to be really. It was a place full of, for me, fears. And almost at times, no, terror is too strong a word, but certainly fears and insecurities because I never really knew whether my mother and father were going to survive the experience. So it was very, very tough days and very formative days. But, you know, and you can loop back and say, "I wish it had been different," and your listeners might expect that I would say that, but I absolutely don't. I would never have changed it because it taught me a lot. And failure or difficulties teach you a lot more than success because if you're analytical and you look at what went wrong or what the situation was, you can learn so much from it. And what I learned from my father was that I would never, ever be unfair to another human being if I could possibly avoid it, especially to my children. And I also learned to make sure that all the people in my life that mattered felt extremely loved by me and that I told them that on a daily basis because the Kamakama point when it's too late. - When you come to understand in hindsight why your father might have been the way he was, or when I sit here with their guests and they kind of, they talk about their parents. A lot of the time you see these kind of generational cycles where their parents treated them in a certain way. So they kind of inherited those values or that way of behaving. And then they've kind of, they've treated their children in the same way. I sometimes worry, especially as I've got a little bit older, I see certain patterns in my behavior that I didn't love from my parents. Small things. It might be my temper sometimes or it might be other things. Do you ever, when you've gone through an experience like that in a home where it was a little bit heated and as you said, your father had a little bit of a temper, do you ever worry or catch glimpses of your childhood reoccurring today and think, "I need to not pass that on. I need to not repeat that cycle." - So very good question. I'm a long, long way off perfect. So I do recognize characteristics of myself very regularly that I don't admire. But I've learned a huge amount from my parents' mistakes and in many respects gone to do the opposite. And by and large, I do achieve the opposite. I do have my father's temper. I do have characteristics of my father. But by and large, I'm very comfortable with who I am because I do a huge amount of positive things in life for everybody in my life. And it's actually the biggest sense of satisfaction to me. So yes, I made lots of mistakes. I made one yesterday. I was irritated with my partner because she interrupted the meeting and then got a bit off with me because I couldn't take the call. And I got angry with her. And then I rang up later and said, "Look, you were wrong to take that attitude with me, but let's just forget it now." - Yeah, we all make mistakes. I think if you've got spirit and character and drive and passion, you're always gonna be full of human failings. And the trick is to minimize those human failings and to maximize what a human being should be with acts of kindness and looking after people. And what I taught my children was those two things that were very, very important in their lives or important to me for what they became. And it wasn't success, not in the normal measures of success. It was just two things. Be happy and leave the world a better place than you found it. And if you can do that, I as a father, I'm gonna be just the happiest man alive. And your happiness might mean that you have to be successful. It might mean that you have to be a hugely successful business person or whatever. But that doesn't matter to me. What matters is that you're happy and leave the world a better place. As you've gone on that journey of self awareness and understanding who you are and striving to be better in various areas, was there something that helped your journey to self awareness more than anything else?

What techniques have helped you become self-aware? (10:06)

What was it? Was it feedback from others? Is it journaling? What allowed you to kind of look yourself in the mirror or from a bird's eye view and say, "This is not good and I wanna improve on that thing?" - Do you know, I think there's been no epiphany. I think the epiphany was when I was young, learning that lesson about fairness, that fairness is crucial. And I think it's the number one quality people need. I mean, there's lots of other important ones, ones like loyalty and favorfulness and so on and so forth. And morality, there's a huge amount of important qualities. But I think it starts with fairness. And that was sort of traumatically imposed upon my psyche as a youngster. After that, it was all developmental, recognizing the mistakes I was making, one after another feedback from, and understanding those mistakes, understanding that what I'd done might have been hurtful or damaging to another human being, and realizing that I didn't want to be that person that caused difficulty. And running the business, it was a very, very, very tough environment. I grew from nothing to 12,000 employees, from zero to 2.4 billion turnover. And I was a hard taskmaster, and I've never regretted that, but at times, my hardness turned into unfairness. And that I was upset by. And I'd usually recognize it afterwards. Maybe not always, maybe there's people out there that say, oh no, you're a terrible boss. A lot of people say I was a great boss, but I'm sure there's going to be people out there that were damaged in some way by me being too harsh and possibly unfair at times. But it was always something I was striving to avoid, but I am only human. We all as humans make mistakes, especially when you're growing an empire at the speed that I was growing it in one of the toughest and most aggressive environments has ever been. - So, 'cause I can relate to that sometimes, I feel like I'm a little bit hard, and it's usually after the fact when I leave the situation or spend some time alone or I go to the gym at night, and I think, I think I should handle that situation with maybe a little bit more empathy, or my reaction probably didn't get the best out of the people in that situation. Was it those reflective moments on your own where you look back on it or was it years later? - Do you know, I think almost immediately afterwards. - Really? - If I was angry about something, I've always been one to level out very quickly, no matter how angry and frustrated I am, five minutes later, I can be calm and reflective and maybe regret my actions. So I'm very, very quick to be self admonishing, and then sometimes I'd say, well, I think to myself, well, I didn't behave correctly there, but the end result's still the right result. So I can't really do anything to put it right 'cause it's just, it's just, it has to be that way. But I'd still be self-critical. I mean, I think criticism, especially self-criticism, is one of the most powerful things in life. Every aspect of my business, I was criticising all the time, looking for better ways of doing it, looking for how we could be bigger, better, higher quality, how we could capture more market share. And for that, you've got to be different. You've got to do things differently. I very much believe that don't do anything the way anybody else does it. You know, always be contentious, not necessarily contentious in the way you approach people, but contentious in the way you approach situations and systems or methodologies. So I, one of my absolute edicts in life was try and do something very different to everybody else. Now, we've all seen the chief executives who've come into a business and they need to do something different than the predecessor. And they make change for change, you say, and that's destructive. So when I say something, do something different, it has to be different, but so intelligently different that what you do is make a quantum leap forward. So one of my rules for every employee, I used to say, never, never change. It's the destruction of business, but I'd immediately follow on by saying, but if you don't change, you will fail. Now that's a mixed message, I know, but then I would explain it and say, look, if the change is going to make a massive quantum leap forward, make the change. If you're uncertain about it, it's not worth the risk because the change will be detrimental because you've got to retrain all of those people. And what's the point in making small changes for the sake of them? Don't do it because you think you've got to achieve something. Do it because it's going to make a big difference to the business model. And I could get that message through to some people, but it is a difficult one to understand. And of course, also judgment comes into it because you've got an impeccable judgment to try and see through what the end result might be to whatever you're trying to change. - And that drive that you're talking about to be bigger and to be better and to change, as you reflect, 'cause in the moment, I am imagining that, especially when you're younger in business and you started the car dealership and you were selling toys and books, the drive you had at that moment, I imagine it's almost a little bit subconscious. You just wake up in the morning and you just want to change your life and you just feel driven. But as you reflect on your life and that drive and hunger you had, does it feel to you like it was probably, in fact, insecurity? - Life's complicated, doesn't it? When you analyze yourself, it's a complicated mix of lots of component parts. But I think first of all, I was born to be an entrepreneur, stroke salesman. I was born to be that. There is no doubt about that whatsoever. And these early attributes showed themselves when I was four or five. But I do think, to your point of insecurity, that having that insecurity does drive you on a lot further. I hate failure and love success. And is that born out of insecurity? Well, I think to a point, but it's also born out of pride. It's the pride of wanting to succeed, the pride of wanting to change things for the better. Whether it's my charitable interests or whether it's business, I feel the same about everything in life. In fact, people find me very difficult to live with because my attention to detail is immense. And I pick up on the tiniest things. One of my directors once said to me, in frustration of my dad, it wasn't complimentary. 'Cause I'd picked up on something. He said, you know, he said, I could build you the best house in the world. And one of the tiles might be missing on off the roof. And that's all you'd focus on. And we can all focus on our successes, but it's not our successes that make us successful. It's our failures and what we get wrong and putting them right. But that's sometimes very difficult for the recipient to live with. It's not difficult for me to live with for my failures 'cause I take it on the chin and I put it right and move on. But for the recipients that might be being criticized at the time, as much as I might do, try and do it in a constructive way, it's still a criticism. And I think that can be very difficult for people when I pick up on every last detail where they've not actually got it quite right. - I was just saying to my manager yesterday, I was saying, I think the balance that I need to be better at striking is I spend too much time focused on possible improvements and not enough time celebrating current progress.

Criticism vs recognition with employees (18:01)

So I'm always trying to find how we can be better and dwelling on that as opposed to dwelling on the progress that's been made. And sometimes I think for some people that can make it feel like you're not giving them enough recognition or you're not praising as much as you're criticizing, right? - And that does. - Have you found that there needs to be a healthy balance between the two or is that okay? - I've always been criticized for not praising people enough. Always been criticized for that. But what I know in life is that if you're in a very, very aggressive, competitive environment where you need every last ounce out of a person, you do need to give them incentives and motivation and they do need to feel good about themselves to an extent. But if they feel too good about themselves, then their ego goes up and ego is always a source of destruction, ego is never a good thing. And it's this balance between making them feel valued but not letting their ego get out of check. And this was a huge problem for me in the mobile phone world because we were the leaders in the UK and I was reputed to be a hard taskmaster and drive people to achieve the very best. All of my people were poached by the competitors. They all wanted them. So I had this really difficult balance to drive between not giving them too much feeling of self-worth because that would make them more likely to accept a job somewhere else. I mean, this sounds a bit negative, but it was reality. It would give them too much for feeling a self-worth and make them too likely to jump ship. But then the contrary to that was making them feel part of an enormous winning organization that they could never get that satisfaction anywhere else and putting wealth creation schemes in that rewarded them for long-term loyalty and long-term performance. And I did lots and lots of innovative schemes like that to make people feel valued. I'd run competitions, I'd do all sorts of things. But one of the smartest things I probably did, I've never told anybody this before really. I mean, my employees know it. So they come to me like every managing director does with the budget and this is the business plan for next year and what do they always do? They always try and sell you on the lowest achievement possible because A, that makes them look a success when they bust the numbers and B, they get the full bonus. So one of my classic styles would be to say, yeah, it's not really ambitious enough for me. I said, but if that's all you think you can achieve and you're lacking the ambition to do any better, then fine, I'll accept it, but you certainly won't be getting a pay rise on your basic. Now these guys might be on 250k basic and 250k bonus, say. So the bonus was really important to them, but so was the basic. And so I played basic versus bonus and versus ambition. So they knew if they came in and tried to blag me with low numbers so that it got the full bonus, they wouldn't get a basic pay rise. So the basic pay rise was linked to their ambition. But it's a really difficult thing in a market as volatile as the mobile phone business was because it was co-hostily, co-hostily volatile. And it was really difficult if you made £5 million this year on one particular business. It was very difficult to say, whether we can achieve this growth and we can get to £6 million next year because there'd be things coming at you from left base that could decimate your business. And one of my businesses, a mobile phone distribution, had 20 businesses within mobile phones. The distribution business, which we were selling handsets all throughout the UK and just the handsets, motor at a roller dropped the price on me overnight, having delivered a huge amount of stock into my warehouse and dropped the price overnight in the marketplace by £50. It wrote off £15 million off my P&L when I'd only expected to make six. So there was all of those issues all the time. I mean, it was really at the fight to the bitter end to grow my business. So it was a very, very tough environment.

What skills made you great in business? (22:39)

- I really want to get on to that, which is how tough it was scaling that business to the tremendous valuation it reached and the exit you had. I was just thinking then as you were speaking, you were talking then about kind of your ability to understand people and get the best out of them, which was so evident there. And it made me ask myself the question my head, like what were the skills you had in business that you were really good at and the skills you had in business where you weren't good at? Like I can look at myself and say, "Okay, I'm like very uniquely good at this stuff, but I know I'm terrible at X, Y and Z." And I asked that question in part because entrepreneurs sometimes fall into the trap of believing that they need to be good at everything to succeed. But when you look at the greats, like Sir Richard Branson and so on, not actually good at that many things according to a lot of people, but very, very good at what he was good at. So what was your sort of... - Well, I think first of all, one of my unique points with the opposite of what you just said, it was that I was good at everything, but not great at everything. So I was good at everything. I was usually the best at any one of the areas of my employees. And what my goal was always to have somebody in a discipline that was better than me that I could admire. It was difficult to find, but of course I did find those people I had to do because I wasn't good enough at all of those disciplines to grow the business to where I did. So I had to find those people. But initially the reason for success was that I was good at everything. - Oh, okay. - I put everything, but I wasn't great at everything. Now if you then look at when I then later on as the business grew, identified my weaknesses and strengths, my commercial intellect was the real, the real massive attribute along with resilience. If you look at my six critical success factors, ambition, drive, resilience, passion, commercial intellect and leadership, of all of those, commercial intellect was probably the number one quality, but with huge resilience. And it's that resilience that enabled me to fight when everything was collapsing around me and to still fight through the depths of despair and just keep going. And my health, mental health and physical health to hold up and to keep going. So it was definitely those two. If you look at my weaknesses, I managed to plug those because whilst I was a great innovator and I'd say, right, that's what we're gonna do now, go away and do it. I was dreadful at following up and I would never follow up properly, I plugged that by having somebody that was really into the follow up detail. So he would hold the people to account. He was my right-hand man. He would hold the people to account where I'd set the task and the challenge and maybe innovated a whole new way of doing something. He would then follow up and make sure that they did. I was very poor at that for whatever reason. I don't know. I think I was just onto the next brainwave, you know, and onto the next creation. Whilst I have got an amazing attention to detail, spontaneous detail, I'm not very good at just going back weekend week out to look at something and check it's being done properly. So I did need somebody to do that for me. Quick one. For many years, people have been asking for a coffee-flavored heel and quite recently, heel released the ice coffee caramel flavor of their ready-to-drink heels. And I've just become hooked on it over the last couple of weeks. I've been on a really interesting journey with heel, which I've described and talked about a little bit on this podcast. I started with the berry-ready-to-drinks that I moved over to the protein-salted caramel because it's 100 calories and it gives you all of your essential vitamins and minerals, but also gives you the 20-odd grams of protein you need. And now I'm balanced between them both. I drink mostly the banana flavor ready-to-drink. I've got really into the ice coffee caramel flavor of heels ready-to-drink. And now I'm drinking that as well as the protein. Make sure you try the new ready-to-drink flavors, the caramel flavor is amazing. The new banana flavor as well is amazing. And obviously, as I said, the iced coffee caramel flavor has been a real smash hit. So check it out. Let me know what you think on social media. I see all of your tags and Instagram posts and tweets about your back-to-the-pot-cost. - One of the things you described earlier is one of your sort of strength factors, or success factors was this word resilience.

How does one build resilience (26:59)

Now as you look at your life, before we go into the key moments where it was important for you to be resilient, and all of the turmoil you went through across your business career, where did that resilience come from in you? And where do you think it comes from in people generally? Because I know there's an argument to say, I was born with it, but for me, when I look at your story, I think it was like you went through a bit of a tumultuous childhood, and there was a lot of stress put on you which you learned how to deal with, which having sat here with a lot of people and people that had a certain resilience to them, it tends to be the case that they've been through quite a tough molding tip to build. That is that accurate? - Well, I absolutely think that I was born with it. It's a characteristic that you're born with. You're born with a, you can see all around the world, you're born with a degree of physical resilience and mental resilience. And now when I'm watching train somebody, you're not going to put the level of resilience in that somebody might need. Whether the upbringing adds to that resilience or detracts, I wouldn't really know. And some people it will detract. There's an old expression, isn't there? What doesn't kill you makes you stronger? Clearly it's not true. But in some cases it is. Now in my case, I would say, I was born with that resilience and that's a real look of birth. If you've got these characteristics that are positive, that that's just pure look of birth, but then you can do with them what you wish. And of course the external environment or in this case my upbringing probably added to that resilience and strengthened me even more. But another person might have weakened and left them scarred. So it's a tricky one really. But I would never want to see anybody have the challenges that I had and hope that they would survive because they might not. You know, and I wouldn't want to gamble but that would make them stronger. Because it might not make them stronger. And in a lot of cases I know it wouldn't. You know, I've seen it amongst my 12,000 employees. I always remember the day when one of my guys he was under immense pressure, rang me up from the car sobbing. It was about seven o'clock in the morning and said I can't come in today. I won't mention his name because he might be embarrassed by it. I said, "Where else, what's happened? Where are you?" He said, "I don't know." He said, "I'm in the car halfway to work and I just can't move. Can't drive, can't do anything. I just can't come in." And I instantly thought, "You know, something very serious is going wrong here." So I said to him, "Look, just sit in the car. Where are you? Just send me a, send me, give me your address and I'll come to you." And I went to him and it was clear that he was having a bit of a nervous breakdown. Now, that didn't make him stronger. What, fortunately, I gave him about two or three months of work and he did recover. And when he came back to work, I took a load of responsibilities off him, put those into other areas and let him have an easy entry back into his role. And he did become a very valuable employee again. And it was one of my success stories on the multiple level. A success story that you've rescued somebody. But those sorts of pressures I was under every day, and I never cracked. Now, why was it because of my upbringing? Was I just gifted at birth? And I think it's this birthright that, you know, just so lucky if you're born with those qualities. And then you can try and make them the best that you can do after that. - I resonate with what you've said there in terms of, I think the science also supports the idea that many people are predisposed with a certain level of resilience and the way they process information is a little bit more, protects them a little bit more from the external world. I think one of the flaws in that when you're one of those people tends to be that it becomes harder to empathize with those that are suffering. And I struggled with that because I do feel like, you know, I went through fairly stressful, my company went public and I grew up from my bedroom when I was 20 years old. And I struggled for a while with understanding why people didn't think the way that I thought and couldn't deal with the things that I could deal with. And I came to maybe an understanding at 23 that that was a real risk if I couldn't emphasize with the fact that people's brains went the same as mine and they didn't have the same level of drives. Do you relate to that? - Oh, absolutely. I'm still struggling with it now. I'm pragmatic about it because, you know, the way I look at that, and I did learn that in my 30s, I guess, but didn't really ever accept it. I couldn't understand why somebody that's a bit brighter, bent walks bridge didn't get it. And there's me, you know, giving up a levels band and, you know, not consider myself to be an intellectual at all, could see it crystal clear and why couldn't this person say it? And you're right, it does cause a lack of empathy, lack of an increases frustration. But pragmatically, it had to be that way because if everybody could see it the way I'd see it, I'd just be one of the crowd. I would never have had the success that I had. So the qualities that I was born with and that helped me to succeed, if everybody was the same, well, I'd just be one of seven billion people on the same path, you know. So you then look at it in a different way that you just feel very lucky that you've got those qualities. And rather than criticising other people that haven't got them, try and look at it that you're very lucky to have them and to look after those people and get the best out of them that you can in their particular area. - And try and limit the, I guess, try and limit the downsides of having those qualities. Because for me, like the obsessiveness, the drive, the lack of empathy for why people couldn't see the world and didn't see the world the same way I saw it. Not saying that I saw it in a better way because as I say, there's lots of costs to seeing the world in a certain, in any way, no matter how you see the world as a cost, whether that's you become incredibly lonely or you abandon romantic relationships, whatever. On that point of resilience then, can you take me to the first time in your business professional career where you genuinely, the first hard moment, the first moment where you thought this is it, we're finished.

Your hardest moments in business (33:29)

- Oh my gosh. I mean, I've had thousands, but they were all at a different level of crisis. I'll deal with the first, that really worried me. I was a Michelin tire company engineer, was a foreman in the time making department on the engineering side. And during that time, I started selling cars and I sold them to all my Michelin people. But I was trading from home and the neighbors complained because they saw all these cars coming and going. I kept it as discreet as I could, of course, but they saw them and they complained and the planners came down and told me I got to cease. So suddenly I panicked because this was the start of what I saw of my future to try and create some wealth and some success. And so I panicked into this car sales site and opened up this car sales site, but I hadn't really got enough money to stock it properly. So I went to my mother and I said, "Could we mortgage your house, Mom?" And that'll allow us to buy another 20 cars, I think it was, from the mortgage that we'd be able to get. And don't worry about it because I'll never, ever fail you. You'll never lose your house. And furthermore, when I make money, I'll relocate you to where you want to be on the side and the Marvin Hills, buy your lovely house there. And so you'll do well out of it. She didn't even hesitate, which is remarkable really, because I got no real proper success history there for it to judge from. She just did it out of love and did it instantly. So coming to the answer of the question of the trauma all went well during the summer, but as November came, sales dropped off a cliff and we started losing money, hand over fist, because there was just no sales. It was a very, very grim November and December and all the cars were frozen up. You know, it was one of those winters that were just horrendous back almost before you, but it probably was before you were bought actually. - 92? - Sorry, 92? - No, it was before then. It was about 18, 19, 18, two, perhaps. But they dropped off a cliff. Now, we weren't in financial difficulty, but the trajectory would have put us on it and I started really, really, really panicking. And there was not much I could do about it, 'cause every time I went to a car, you couldn't even open the door, it was frozen solid. The batteries were always flat. There was no customers anyway. We couldn't clear the frost off or with the great difficulty. If you hosed it down with water, the water would freeze. I mean, it was a nightmare, a complete nightmare. And I started having visions of letting my mother down and failing her in a bad way. And it really drove me. At the time, I was still working at Mitchell entire company. I was doing 50 hours a week there. I was doing probably 70 or 80 hours a week at the car sale site as well and going out and doing all the buying. I remember for a period of six months, I worked 22 hours a day, one week and three, 'cause I was on night shift at Mitchell in that week. And on that night shift, I'd get home at 7 a.m. I'd have two hours with my, well, one and a half, two hours with my wife. And I'd be going to the auctions buying cars during the day, running the car sale site at night until I went to work at 11 o'clock on the night shift again. And I did that one week and three for about six months. It did nearly finish me. I was on tranquilizers because I was retching and I was so disturbed. I was in a real mess, but I was able to function. - When you say tranquilizers, you mean, like anti-anxiety? - Yes, I think there were, if I remember rightly, I think there were librium, just a car, a sedity that the doctor had given me. I wasn't feeling anxious. My nervous system was just shot. I just got so much stress and pressure to save my mother's house. Even though it wasn't under immediate threat. But I've always done that. I've always seen the threat a long way in advance, which is what keeps you safe because then you react. But it didn't keep me safe physically because it put me under enormous pressure to try and make certain that day never came. - Have you seen throughout your career how your body ends up holding the score? There's the book written about how our body, even if our mind hasn't acknowledged the threat, hasn't acknowledged the fear consciously, our body will quickly tell us through symptoms like the one you've described there that we are under threat. 'Cause I noticed in my business, whenever we had payroll issues or whenever cash got tight, I would get sick. Like the only time in the seven years that I ran the business where I would get a cold or a flu was like 48 hours around the time that I'd found out that we had a cash issue. And although I thought I was just like tough guy that he could just, he was dealing with everything. Clearly my body had its own mind. Yeah, I've sort of been quite lucky mostly 'cause that's the only time I can remember my body, rebellion. But I think anybody's would, you know, because you can't work 22 hours a day, one's immense pressure. You just cannot do it. I get an hour and a half sleep, you know, doing that for seven nights, seven days. You just, you just, no, I don't think anybody could probably do it. And it's probably the only time that my system started to fail, but then with the odd tranquilizer, I was able to keep going, you know. So it calm, you know, calmness, whatever with this retching, was it calmed it down? I was okay. And then I'd know other symptoms. And this is just pure luck of life. You know, it's just the luck of life that nothing's been able to cave me in. And, you know, there was a, I was thinking when I answered that question, do I tell you about my mother? Well, I told you that because it's very topical for me at the moment, I mean, I lost my mother and feeling very emotional about that. But that was a very emotional occasion to make certain that I didn't let her down. But in the early years of cellular, we had probably 90% of our business was through Motorola. Motorola were world leaders by a long way. And the other 10% was a bit here and a bit there, the odd Panasonic, the odd Nokia, but really almost inconsequential because Motorola had the entire market share. And the relationship with Motorola was always very tenuous because although we became to sell vast volumes, it was a bit of a, well, they always referred it as the tail wagging the dog. You know, when the tail wags the dog, they don't like it. So when they're encouraging you to do huge volumes for them, that's wonderful. As you gain volume, you gain power. As you gain power, they feel vulnerable. And as they feel vulnerable, they want to cut your power. I mean, this was with every manufacturer, with everything in my life. I grew these people and then they wanted to chop me down because I grew too powerful and they didn't like that situation. Anyway, this, the Motorola had been threatening me for a couple of years. It was very weird because on the one hand, they would encourage me to do something. Then they might get a plane because I'd exported to China, perfectly legitimately, but I'd exported to China and they didn't like that. So then they get a complaint from the Chinese, you know, and the people that were in those territories. The English guys were very happy because I'd done the volume. The Chinese guys were complaining to head office. The complaint came back to the UK and the UK, they're not to come and say, well, you mustn't do that again. But then they'd still encourage me to take big volumes, which they knew I couldn't do without exporting around the world. So it was this very tenuous relationship. Anyway, eventually a new manager took over and he came to see me, took me out to lunch, which was a very rare occasion, but we went out to lunch and stoke on Trent and we talked about the business model and so on. And he said, you know, we don't really like this distribution model of yours. And we really hate the fact that you're undercutting, hate the fact that you're competitive and it's doing us a lot of damage around the world and in the UK. And if anybody was going to do that, I'd be doing it. I naively at the time took that to mean Moatero wanted to take my distribution off me. A month later, he terminated my distribution agreement. Don't forget this is 90% of my business. By then I got 60 or 70 employees, huge overheads, and Moatero was 90% of my business. He terminated my agreement. And one month later resigned from Moatero and set up his own distribution business on the south coast of England with Moatero as his supplier. So he went from general manager to my competitor but having stripped me of all of my turnover. How would you deal with that? You tell me? Well, the way I dealt with it was every challenge in life, whether it's business, personal or anything, is just that's a challenge and there's always a solution. And you just got to put your intellect towards what the solution is. So what was the solution here? Well, I just looked at the marketplace and there was lots of service providers who are the people that sold the airtime on behalf of Vodafone, Selnet and so on. And these service providers were distributing Moatero of course, 'cause that was 90% of their business. And they were getting discounts according to the volume they took. So I went and had confidential conversations with a couple of them and said, "Look, why don't I buy from you? "And what I can do is I can add my massive volume "on to your volume and you'll get a huge "retrospective discount and much better buy in price. "We'll have to keep it secret from Moatero "because otherwise they might cut your supplier off "but we'll just do it very, very secretively. "You supply me and I can go out to the market "and continue doing what I'm doing. "And I managed to get two suppliers "who bought into that and supplied me with a kit cheaper "than I'd been buying it before "because Moatero had always manipulated me "and given me a price that was far worse "than I should have had for the volume that I was doing. "So I managed to keep going immediately on that "but that wasn't the answer "because I didn't want to help Moatero all of it." So another situation occurred where I asked Nokia to come in to see me. They were actually quite reticent to do so. The guy Chris Jones, who was their sales director, eventually did come and see me. We got on like a house on fire in spite of his reputation for being a real bit of a hard nut. We did just get on very, very well. Nokia had only got 1% market share and I said to Chris, look, we can build this business. You'll have my heart and soul and passion because I want to kill Moatero all of it. I want to destroy them in the same way that they've tried to destroy me. And we did a deal with one of their old stock items that they'd failed with completely and I bought 3000 units, which doesn't sound much now. I mean, I bought that every second almost in the later days of Cordwald, but at that time it was a monster deal. The biggest that had ever been done in the marketplace by anybody and I bought these 3000 units at a phenomenally low price and I was able to put Nokia on the face of the map with these units. Now that wouldn't have saved the day for me had it not been for a bit of a stroke of luck as well, which was that Nokia had decided to get aggressive. They decided that they didn't want to be a nobody of the mobile phone business. They'd got a new phone coming out the 101 and they really wanted to capture market share. Well, it's music to my ears 'cause it was a lovely little phone. It was once again before you were time really, but it was a lot of listeners will remember, especially the older ones because it was a really famous phone in its day and I managed to do a deal with Nokia from huge quantities at a phenomenally advantageous price and my goal was to take Motorola's market share off them to the nth degree, not just as a vendetta, but 'cause that was good for my business and I was really, really upset with Motorola because they tried to kill me. And if I hadn't been able to find solutions, I would have been bankrupt. I wouldn't have survived. So we got this Nokia 101 and we absolutely blasted it out through our rate retail premises, through our airtime retailer services and through just pure wholesale. And we built Nokia up to 20% market share in a year and commensurately at the same time, Motorola's market share started dropping. They were world leader until iPhone and Apple came out. So we helped Nokia get to world leader, well, we helped them to get to UK leader and helped Motorola's massive decline. And listeners might think, oh, that's a bit harsh, but it was not harsh because what do you do if somebody wants to destroy you like that in an unethical way as well? I don't mind fair competition, but it was very unethical. They'd helped me build up to what I was. I had helped build their market share, then it didn't suit them, but it was mostly on an ethical general manager who just wanted to kill my distribution and remove my distributorship so you could settle upon his own. - On that day where you get that email, whatever it was, I don't know, I don't know how people were communicating back then because it wasn't alive, but you get that message that Motorola are terminating your contract. What is the, and you've got 70 employees, you've got this great business that's growing quickly and it's probably really taking you out of, it's giving you a new life potentially, right? And you get that message that they are terminating your contract on the day when you read the message, how does it feel emotionally? Take me through the range of-- - Otter, Otter, despair. Otter, despair on the one hand and fires up the lion and me on the other. And I have got a lion and me, you know, and my brother once wrote a poem about that, that I could be the kindest and best friend but don't make me an enemy. But just for clarity for you all this, I don't hold gritties against anybody ever, you know, but if somebody really, really goes at me, they better beware. And so it was a combination of these two aspects. - Sleepless nights? - Oh, absolutely. I don't have sleepless nights, but I did on that because it was terminal. If I didn't find a solution, it was instantly terminal. You know, my turnover was gonna drop immediately, my stores were empty, nothing, no future. And all those employees would have been out of work, I'd have been bankrupt and I wouldn't be here talking to you today. I had to find a solution and I did it with ferocity and passion, drive, you know, and I would not sleep a moment until I found enough solutions, not just one solution, enough solutions that gave me insulation. And what I always say to people going into business, follow my 10% rule about everything. Never have more than 10% of your supplies with any one supplier. Never have 10% of your sales with any one customer and never have 10% of the responsibility with any one employee. Now we can't all achieve that and I certainly couldn't achieve it and have never been able to achieve it since. But it's a goal to have in mind because that insulates you from any catastrophe whatsoever. So, you know, if people in business have got any business that was similar to mine where you're relying on customers and suppliers and so on, the 10% rule. That I sort of innovated as a consequence of my experiences is an absolute goal and real to try and emulate. - I love that. And the reason I really dwell on the point of like having those moments of like existential terminal risk is because I feel pretty much all entrepreneurs, especially if they go on for long enough, will encounter a moment like that. And I did in my life, many of them. And in hindsight, you realize how you respond in those moments ends up being really, really defining. And also I view those moments as inevitable, regardless of what you do. And thirdly, the risk is that entrepreneurs will think those moments are evidence of their own inadequacy and that this is a sign that they should give up. Whereas, you know, having read through your story, you go through moments of kind of like existential risk and crisis over and over again. And you know. - It was just the nature of the business. - Yeah. - You know, it was a horrible business. It really was a horrible business. I mean, it's created all my wealth. And I'm very grateful to the business, but it was a horrible business. It was, I was sitting on the edge of my seat nearly every day for 20 years, facing threat after threat, after threat, after threat. There was never a day went by there. I didn't face a fairly significant threat. Not of the significance that I've just talked about, but there were just endless threats. And, you know, it was really, really actually very tiring and not enjoyable at all. A lot of people that I know have said, "Oh, business is so enjoyable." Well, not for me, it wasn't. I mean, I enjoyed the success and I enjoyed some moments and some victories, but it was almost like, I can't imagine really how a heroin addict feels, but I think I was a heroin addict, you know, I'd get my shot of heroin and everything would be wonderful for an hour or two. And then the rest of it was despair. - Isn't that so bizarre that you would choose that? You would choose the pain and chaos versus just, you could have gone and done something else, John. You could have gone and just worked a nice 9-5 job and been comfortable. Why are you choosing struggle and pain just in my DNA? - In my DNA, you know, I visualized when I was seven or eight years old and it was an immensely strong visualization of being in a chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce and a chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce because my father admired them and said they were the best coy in the world and only rich people had them blah, blah, blah. So I'm in a chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce driving around the streets of Shelton, which is the back streets of Stoke-on-Tran and handy-five pound notes out to poor people. That became, I don't know why, but it became my destiny. That destiny sat over me like a damically sword, you know, you've got to achieve that destiny, or you've just failed completely in life. You have to do it. You have to do the wealth and then you have to give that wealth away to make people's lives better. So I didn't have any choice. I know it sounds bizarre, but I had no choice. It's like now a lot of my life is stressful on the charity work, but I don't have any choice. You know, I give up and sacrifice, lots of personal things to do the things that I'm doing from a charitable perspective. I mean, don't get me wrong, I have a great lifestyle. I don't want any sympathy on that, but I'm just saying, I do, and it's my destiny and I can't give it up. You know, people say, "Why'd you do all this? "Why'd you miss out on things that you could be doing? "Why don't you just take it easy? "Why don't you earn that?" So I've got no choice. It's just written into my DNA. I must do it. And so I do. You know, it's just who I am. I can't explain it really.

What was the cost of building businesses? (54:33)

It's just who I am. - Being dragged by that sense of mission towards that north star of the Rolls-Royce given out the £5 notes, or even now with all the charitable work you do, you describe it as not being a choice, which kind of means that it's just like, you're being pulled in that direction. The cost again, which I always like to shine a light on, as well as you've described is, you said at the time you didn't have any friends throughout that period. And then you described, you know, those 20 years as 20 years of grief, talk to me about the loneliness point. I heard you say, I think it was on Desert Island Discs. You're interview there that you didn't have friends. - No, but it wasn't lonely. I mean, I had a wonderful wife. Eventually went on to have two children during that time, well, three eventually. And I wasn't lonely at all. I lived for the business, and I'd got some great relationships within the business with people who, you know, I was really close to, create Benny to as my finance director, as they want that monitored. I felt like he was my brother, but my brother was in the business as well. So there were these close relationships within the business, not very many, but enough to not feel lonely. And then I got my wife and children at home. So the loneliness never came to fruition. I wouldn't ever want to go back to that, because I've now got huge number of friends and some very special friends and a lot of loving relationships. So I would never want to give that up. But actually the charity is part of that because some of the children that we've helped and called all children immensely successful in their own right. I was telling somebody on a yesterday that one of the children we helped when she was three years old, it was Tilly. And Tilly had type two musket atrophy, which stops all the muscles working. She actually won of her own absolute brilliance, an effort, a scholarship at Stanford University. I mean, it's unbelievable. Now, I'm not responsible for that. I helped because we supplied her with a wheelchair that she could not have probably succeeded without it. But her and her parents and other support groups around her, we all as a team, but her mainly, more than anybody, made this happen. And I visited her at Stanford University. We went for a coffee together and she's in a wheelchair, the one that we supplied with a little joystick buzzing along the pavement. And there on my bike, I'd cycle down from a son's house and they're cycling along. She's in a wheelchair. We get to Starbucks, I go and buy her coffee and she's got this Starbucks coffee on her tray in front of her wheelchair. And she's got a support mechanism on her arm that gives a little bit extra stiffness. And this coffee's quite a big coffee and she lifts it up. But I'm thinking, I didn't really know, understand how she was doing that, which clearly I didn't understand how this wheelchair worked. And I said, "Tell me, I thought your arm "was too weak to lift a weight like that." She said, "It is." I said, "Well, how are you doing that?" She said, "Oh, I've got two foot pedals there." And one of them, well, the foot pedals motorize. This bracket lifts her arm. So she got power assisted arm and she's drinking this coffee. And I'm thinking that the absolute trauma that she's gone through in life. And yet she's done everything with grace, with spirit, with enthusiasm, even ending up at Stanford University, 6,000, 5,000 miles from home. It's amazing. And joy like that can never be replaced by anything. I can have all the boats in the world, all the helicopters, all the trappings that I do have which are lovely and wonderful. But without that, there wouldn't be much to me. And it's that sense of spiritual satisfaction from changing a person's life, especially a child's, that you'll never get from restaurant meals or boats or holidays, you should just never get it. Yeah, you enjoy it and I take all my friends and I have a lovely time, really enjoy it. But does it really go down into my heart? Like the 60,000 children we've helped and the tilies of this world? No, can't even begin to compete. Quick one. This is maybe a good segue to talk about a little bit of an announcement I have to make, which is we have a brand new sponsor for the podcast. And some of you, if you've seen my social media posts, will know that I often wear a lot of jewelry. And the brand that I'm wearing is a brand called Crafted. As you can see on the table in front of me if you're watching this on YouTube, Crafted are a brand that sell really meaningful, affordable men's jewelry. So I reached out to the founders of Crafted, Alex and Danny and asked them if they wanted to sponsor the podcast and they said they did, they listened to the podcast, they like what we do here, the podcast is a place of meaning and their jewelry is all about meaning. And so we forged a new partnership. The piece of jewelry I wear the most, I wanna introduce you to the pieces and why I wear them, is this Sand Timer, unsurprisingly. And the thing for me about Sand Timers, is probably the most clear reminder that our time here on Earth is finite. So as the episodes go on, I'll introduce a piece of jewelry and I'll tell you the meaning it has for me and why I wear it. We get to the end of your story at phones for you and you've had this tremendous exit which makes you a billionaire.

When was the moment you decided to give away your wealth? (59:48)

What was there a pivotal moment where you, the penny drop for you that your next sort of source of meaning would be setting up cold world children and doing so much sort of philanthropy and the pledge you made to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to give away your worth and the initiatives you've launched with the Great British Entrepreneur Awards to support young people into their career paths. Was there a pivotal moment where you decided that this was now your new meaning? - There was absolutely, I mean everything that you've described there was evolutionary, but there was an absolute pivotal point because during the years of growing the business, I've already tried to describe the difficulties and challenges I faced in that. I was all consumed and charity was the last thing on my mind, but the destiny was still written in stone somewhere in my DNA. It was just buried by the need to maintain their success and keep the success and not lose it. And there was so many threats that I had to be a hundred percent focused. One day the NSPCC came to me and said, there's a Lord Tavenner's cricket. I don't know why I held this meeting, but I did. It was a charity meeting and I said, there's a Lord Tavenner's cricket match in stone. Would you sponsor it? And they gave me the details and I thought, well, it's not gonna raise a lot of money. And somehow I evolved in that meeting to taking over it and being largely responsible for running it and making it successful. And it was celebrities that were playing cricket against other celebrities, you know, and just a fundraiser that was in the local cricket. It didn't make a massive solo money, but that was the moment that really got me involved. But then the NSPCC, realizing I could be a useful asset, got me to come down to a centre and have a, an understanding of the work they did, which I didn't really understand. I knew it was to help children, but I didn't really understand. And when they showed me videos and taught me through, it was young children, sometimes as young as three and four and five, sexually abused. Often my reality, maybe the father, maybe the mother or an uncle or a friend. And they were sexually abused. And I'm looking at this in horror. But what was even more horrible, if anything could be, was that the child then couldn't do anything about it because daddy would say, you don't want daddy to get in trouble, do you, for showing his love? Daddy will go to jail and you don't want that, do you? So this sexual abuse would just continue and continue and continue. And at the old of the child would get, the more the child would think, this is horrible, horrible and feel guilty and dreadful about it. But the same threat that the father would go to jail was sitting over them. I thought, just how horrendous is that? How horrendous. So I got really bought into the NSPCC, then I immediately fired into action. And he'd up as president of the North Staff's branch for a short period of time. What happened next was, I mean, that was the pivotal moment really, but what happened next was, the NSPCC is a fantastic charity, but I wasn't getting enough satisfaction out of hands on seeing the difference I'd made, and I knew I could do a lot more. And so I decided to found my own charity, which was called Old Children. And with the objective of helping every child in the UK that needed help, and the only qualifier wouldn't be anything to do with what illness or what, the only qualifiers that the parents couldn't get the help anywhere else. So any child with any illness, serious illness, we would be there to help. And that's what we've done. And up to you, it helped 60,000 and still growing enormously now. And to avoid the criticisms that the NSPCC had, which was that the overheads were high, and I'm not criticizing the fact, because I'd have to really understand the nuts and bolts of everything. So I'm certainly not implying any criticism of that, but they were criticized for the overheads being too high, like a lot of charities are. I decided that the Caldwell group would pay every single running cost of the charity. So all the wages, all the cars, all the telephones, everything. And not only that, but every single employee would be involved in the charity in some way, either by donating themselves or by fundraising to try and raise money for these kids. That's what we did. - It's just deeply tremendously inspiring. And as I read through your story, there's a bit of almost a cruel irony to the fact that then your own child was in need of the services that you were and the support that you were giving to so many other children.

Your child falling ill (01:04:48)

Your son, Rufus, got sick with Lyme disease. - Yeah, yeah, it was a huge irony, really, because all of my kids were very, very healthy. And I felt hugely privileged and even more privileged when I got involved at the NSPCC and saw these tragic cases of abuse. And then when I set up Corral Children's for all these children that so desperately needed help, and who'd been born with nothing, in a traumatic situation. And I felt unbelievably lucky. And that luck lasted for, I suppose, six years, I think Rufus Fellale, no, seven or eight years. And then Rufus Fellale with Lyme disease and pandas. And we didn't know any of this at the time because none of the doctors knew anything about it. He just fell ill with anxiety. - I think with anxiety. - He collapsed, don't we? I was taking him back to school on a Sunday night. He was at boarding school, which was all my children went to boarding school, but as their request, it's never something I wanted them to do, particularly, but they wanted to do it. So Rufus went to boarding school, he was home for an ex-year. And on the Sunday night, he said, "Dad, I don't want to go to school." Well, I'd add that with all my children, 'cause as much as they wanted to go to boarding school, after we came at home with the family, they'd feel emotional about it and wouldn't really want to leave the family home. And I knew I had to be quite hard and firm and cold about it, you know, and say, "No, of course you do Rufus." You know, it's always like this. You get this pain in the pit of your stomach that you're leaving the family home and you're going to school, but it's fine. You know you'll be fine once we get in the car and we just go, he said, "No, Dad, this is different." I said, "What do you mean?" I said, "Don't be silly." And I tried everything in my power to be persuasive, inspirational, hard. I tried every emotion to get him in that car. Almost to the point of physically dragging him, not that I did, but I was feeling like, "Come on, Rufus, please get in the car." You know you'll be fine once we get on the road, 'cause I'd had it with my other children, I knew exactly what was going on, or so I thought. Anyway, I never didn't get into school, and I actually never got into school again, not properly. And the next day he's still in a dreadful state, it wasn't really anxiety, it's just that he couldn't leave the home. Well, it must have been anxiety, but I couldn't explain it. And we took him to a therapist. The therapist started doing all the retrograde looking at his life and blah, blah, blah, blah, with their own traumatic events and the wazoms, and just going through everything. Nobody over the next few years could find anything that was causing this illness, nothing. And eventually, and this was only about seven or eight years ago, after it had been suffering already for about probably the best part of about eight, nine years already, we found out that it got Lyme disease, we didn't know about Pan's Pandas then. Now Lyme disease can show as a set of physical conditions, but also neurological. It can attack the brain and cause neurological situations where your brain isn't able to respond appropriately, normally because of this bacterial infection. We treated him for that, but he just deteriorated, carried on deteriorating to the point where he was utterly suicidal. It lay on the bed rocking all day, pulling his hair out, screaming, screaming, he just wanted to die. And he's since told us that the only reason he didn't kill himself was because we were there fighting every second of the day to keep him alive and fighting with the authorities and the medical people to try and find a solution. And he was like my mother really surrounded by love. And if he surrounds somebody by love, it makes it more difficult for them to do something, not that that would stop everybody, but you know, he, Rufus said that's what kept him alive and we kept him alive. We had to have 24 supervision in the bedroom in case he jumped out the window. I don't know whether he ever would have done that, but that's the way it was. And it was a very traumatic period of my life for many, many years. I'm lucky because my ex-wife was utterly devoted to him and looked after him. And when she was then no longer able to, my eldest daughter took on the mantle and became an amazing, amazing carer for him and just looked after him to the, to her own self-sacrifice, massive self-sacrifice actually, 'cause she lived Rufus's life, even though she'd got a husband and a life in America, she just lived Rufus's life with him. So we had a lot of amazing support and then we found out about Panzpandas. And nobody knows about Panzpandas, so it's one of my great big campaigns over the next few years to make sure all the medical authorities understand Panzpandas, understand that it's a real illness, understand the symptoms and start working out what the very best treatment is. Anyway, we found some experts and they had been treating Panzpandas for a few years. So we took Rufus over and Jenny Frank Vich, this expert on Panzpandas, started treating him. Anyway, he still didn't really get a lot better. He had ups and downs, but it got these horrible, horrible symptoms that Panzpandas people get. They get a whole range of symptoms and I hope your listeners will go on to the Panzpandas, the website and look at these symptoms because some of your listeners will have a young child who are suffering from Panzpandas and they won't be getting the help that they need or the diagnosis. So I really hope they go on and look at this because it might transform their lives and their lives with their child, but this is a big challenge I've got going forward to get this out there, this message out there. And it's quite easily identifiable at first because it's the same thing. It's a collapse of somebody that's fairly sudden, unexpected and for not really any identifiable reason. And there's a whole range of symptoms, but some of those are absolutely anxiety fear. Now in Rufus case, he went on to develop all sorts of symptoms like air hunger, which is horrendous. And air hunger is best describing, I can't describe it really very well because I've never, I don't really understand it, but Rufus has described it as like somebody puts a plastic bag over your head and seals it and you're gasping like this for every last breath until it passes. And that's one of the symptoms and the things that happen as one of these anxieties, agrophobia, hermetaphobia, a whole range of symptoms and lots of others as well. Anyway, eventually we ended up moving Rufus down to, from Stanford down to LA where we'd found a whole psychiatric team. We wanted to put him in a clinic first of all, but in a very many couldn't travel. Every time we moved him even, five miles from the house was traumatic. Traumatic for him and traumatic for us. Anyway, we did manage to get him to, I actually bought a 200,000 pounds American motorhome, put wifi in it to try and make the journey tolerable to him in concept and in reality. But it was still traumatic taking him down in this, when he'd bego. And anyway, we got him under this team of people. I'm not gonna tell the story from there on because it's a bit long and also, there's a lot more trauma to come, but he's now in really great shape. He's not cured, but he's living a good life and a happy life and can liaise and relate to everything. And he's inspiring other people. So it's, I hope that the trauma that we've been through, that he's been through more importantly, we can turn to making him the biggest ambassador for Pan's Pandas and for using his dreadful situation to help hundreds of thousands of the children around the world to avoid it or understand it and deal with it better. - It's wonderfully inspiring and it's also really incredible to hear that he's living a life where he has found happiness and he's able to create a life, despite not being fully cured, that is, has meaning to it. So, and we hope, we are hoping for a folk here. You know, we hoping that he'll be able to travel one day soon, but for the moment, he can just go down. We got in this house specially right on the side of Beverly Hills. I mean, also wealth comes into this. You know, we're so lucky to have the wealth because when you get a child like that, like our children with cord while children, you haven't got the resources to help them. It's devastating. You've got the most devastating situation with your child, but you're unable to do anything financially to do what you need to do. Anyway, we bought him this house on the side of the field of employment to give him proper satisfaction. That might just be spreading the word of Pan's Pandas, and I pay him a wage to do that, you know, but whatever it is, I think he's definitely on the pathway to a fulfilling life. And that's thanks to my daughter, my ex-wife, and all the effort my family have put in alongside Jenny Frank of it in Stanford and the psychiatry in LA. So it is quite a happy result. And I think that there's an old expression where there's life, there's hope. And there is really hope for those Pan's Pandas kids, but we need to get the message out. When I hear that story and I reflect on another experience which we haven't talked about, which was you getting almost critically injured on your bike last year, when you were cycling and you broke, I don't know, was it 12 bones?

What have you learnt about what actually matters? (01:15:30)

And I mean, that was a near death experience for you, the loss of your mother recently. What have you learned about through these moments of grief and, you know, near death experiences of your own and, you know, the situation with Rufus? What have you learned about what actually matters in life? Well, I think I always really knew I just wasn't very good at implementing it. And that's just, I think, loving people, caring for society and making the world a better place. And I think if you can do that, no matter who you are, no matter how little money you've got, if you can just contribute to society in a positive way, the feelings are immensely positive. But there's the obvious lessons that health is critical. I mean, I did nearly die on that mountain road in Italy. I could have had a death from four or five different reasons because the injuries were so severe. And health is utterly vital. But that's an obvious statement. But I think when you experienced as much health as I have, mainly with my family, but also these accidents I've had, which have been an endless stream of accidents over the last 40 years, which are self-imposed, you know, entirely my own fault. It's the way I live my life. I live my life for thrills, you know, as well as making the world a better place. I have my own world, which is, you know, fairly adventurous and risky. And the last thing I wanted to ask you about is, I guess it's a bit of advice, I guess, because I, in running my businesses over the years and being a very driven, ambitious man, have sacrificed and not been very good, historically, at sustaining romantic relationships.

Romantic relationships (01:17:15)

You've had, you know, you reference your former partner there with such admiration and you have, you know, an amicable relationship with her. But over the years, what lessons have you learned about how to strive and be driven, whilst also trying to maintain a romantic relationship? And also, I'd say that the sub-question to that is, are romantic relationships important? - I am male. - Yeah, yeah. I think the first thing is that I wouldn't change anything on that, and I was utterly focused on business to the detriment of my wife and family. But I say detriment self-critically, because I'm not really sure that's true, because I was always as kind as possible, always as loving as possible, and always would put important events forward. So my children would probably say, if they said, did you get enough of Dad? And then say, well, we didn't get that much of him, but when he mattered, when it mattered to us, he was there, when we'd got a problem, he was there. And I would always, if there was a significant problem, like that employer told you about who was broken down up, when somebody really needs me, I'm absolutely there for anybody important in my life, but I wasn't able to be a devoted, doting person. But it's who I am, and I don't, you know, I probably wouldn't change it. But so this work-life balance, I don't believe it. Look, if you want to run a business, make sure that your wife's on board, make sure that she understands the potential sacrifices, and make sure you do, and make sure you've got the six critical success factors. And if all of those are ticks in the box, go for it. If there's a lack of ticks in the box, be cautious, because there's more people damaged by going into business than there is those people that are pleased that they did. It's not this romantic notion, oh, I'll run my own this, and we'll be wealthy, we'll have a lovely house and a beautiful car, it's not like that at all. It's hardship and graft for most people. Make sure you want it, make sure your wife and family want it. And then if all those boxes are ticks, yeah, fantastic, go full steam ahead and give everything you've got, make it a success. But just don't get yourself into a huge mess that you never really thought that could happen to you. Well, that's a perfect note to end on, and that's really why I started this podcast at the end of the day is to shine that much more realistic light on the pursuit of business and being a CEO. I want to thank you for not just the inspiration, but really also, as I got to really dig into the philanthropic work that you're doing now, it really inspired me, and as someone that has managed to have some relative success in my life, it got me thinking about the fact that I need to be doing more. And you're pledged to, you were one of the first Britons to pledge to the Bill and Linda Gates Foundation that you'd be giving away 70% of your wealth in your life, which again inspired me really, really tremendously as a young entrepreneur, and to hear that you found such meaning in this philanthropic and charitable work now, in the same way that you did your business venture, again, is tremendously inspiring to me as a young businessman. We have a closing tradition on the podcast, which is the previous guest, asks the next guest a question.

Closing Remarks

The last guests question (01:20:39)

Okay, I read it now, so this is the first time I read it. When you are older and looking back on the next chapter of your life, what would it need to include for you to look back and smile? Well, firstly, I am older. But when I'm older still, it's more of the same. I need to love and respect all those people around me. I need to change a lot more people's lives than I'm already doing, a heck of a lot more over the next 10 years if I'm lucky enough to live that, and drive everything forward for the benefit of people, but also make a success of my businesses. So all of that, I'm quite greedy, you see. But also probably to get Stephen Bartlett to come to my next charity ball, take a table and be supportive of all these children that we help and bring in some of your amazing clientele and connections. That's a promise, okay. Thank you so much, John. Appreciate it, it's wonderful.

Could not load content

Great! You’ve successfully signed up.

Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.

You've successfully subscribed to Wisdom In a Nutshell.

Success! Check your email for magic link to sign-in.

Success! Your billing info has been updated.

Your billing was not updated.