“I want every single person, who is committed to living the life they truly desire,
to have access to the right tools, knowledge and capability,
so they can enjoy an ‘extra-ordinary’ and meaningful life”
Who is Phil Holder? (My Story)
The Intro bit
Well, it is probably going to be a lot easier if I start by telling you who (or what) I am not rather than who I am. I am not some young, good looking, smart-arse kid, who has technology at his fingertips and in his blood. Nor am I somebody who can so easily understand all of the online, social media, blogging, ezine, or for that matter any type of zine world!
[A zine is a magazine about a subject, written by people who are interested in that subject rather than by professional journalists] – See what I mean, I had to look that one up, online!
Likewise, because of my age (a very young 54!) I am, unfortunately, not someone who has managed to escape from an awful lot of life experience…..
And by that, I mean, that I am someone who has had to solve real life problems. You know, like big dilemmas and crisis – be those financial, emotional, professional, family and/or business related.
So, I guess that makes me just another middle-aged English bloke, with three adult kids, a wife, two Golden Retrievers, a black cat and a couple of fish, who just happen to live in a pond, in a garden, which is in a village, in the middle of the Hampshire countryside, which is in the mid-south of the UK!
I think you probably get the idea of the middle aged, middle class, suburban guru who is essentially me! (N.B. I am not really 100% convinced on the ‘guru’ part, but I will keep it in just because it sounds better,) who gave up his executive corporate life and a solid six figure income in 2016 to set up his own consultancy and training business (again) with the hope of continuing to make a significant difference to the lives of the people he works with.
The Life Story bit
Well, I am a pretty-normal I suppose. I originally went to technical college to study Engineering, during which time I had a couple of non-serious relationships with a few girls and then one of them Vicki, introduced me to her “new best friend” called Belinda – who, just as it happened, also became my “new best friend”, and has now been my best friend, partner, wife, lover and general pain in the butt for over 34 years! I think it is also great that Vicki and her husband John, are still our closest friends.
The Career bit
I finished technical college, did OK, not great. I managed to secure a couple of jobs as a Junior Engineer (electronics). One of which was designing underwater listening devices for the Navy and for the Fishing industry, which although interesting, proved to me that I was never going to be happy, or actually any good, as an Engineer.
I moved into technical sales for a few years, I learned how to sell products and services with a few different companies and then, following my Mothers’ acquisition of a local, secretarial, recruitment business. I moved into Recruitment!
I set up one of the first technical recruitment businesses outside of London, not knowing anything about technical recruitment at all.
I had a great teacher – my Mum – she is still a sharp-cookie even into her late 70’s. – I knew where to find great engineers, many of my ex-colleagues had become friends, whilst I was working around several of the bigger companies in my engineering phase.
Finding the jobs for people was also easy, there was massive technical growth going on in the early/mid-eighties everywhere, not just in the UK. We did pretty good for a few years until the first technical recession started to loom in the late eighties/early nineties, so I felt it was time to change.
I commuted to London, worked in the Recruitment to Recruitment space for a while, learned some good stuff and became quite a proficient head-hunter in a new and growing market.
I got headhunted myself by one of my clients! I worked with them helping to set up and develop over 270 high street (mainly secretarial and warehouse type) recruitment offices, then my son Giles was born and that changed everything.
I was not spending enough time at home to support my wife, I was not happy in my role travelling all over the country and it was certainly time to change up a gear, or two, in the earnings arena.
I had heard of a guy in London who had set up a Head-hunting business around the time that I had set up my technical business in my home town. And this guy was doing Really-Great! So, I had to meet him. I managed to get him to agree to a short meeting.
Ridiculously, in that meeting I stated that “I could put a million pounds on his bottom line within 3 months if he gave me a chance!” As you can imagine he almost fell off his chair laughing, as he knew as well as I did that, that I had absolutely no idea as to how I was going to achieve that.
He liked my confidence though and decided to call my bluff with a deal that was along the lines – that if I thought I was ‘That Good’, he would not have to pay me any basic salary, and if I could pull in that type of money in such a short period of time he would pay me 25% of everything I billed!
I was travelling up to London every day at my expense, I had a desk, a phone and an office to sit in and nothing else. I also had a wife, a new baby, a mortgage and well, not exactly a single clue as to how I was going to make it work.
The (more of the) Career bit
Well, I did. Four and a half years later I was Managing Director of a multi-million-pound Technical Recruitment division within the same company (How I got from 0 to Hero I will happily share with you at some future time).
Whilst I was working in London, we had two more children, Millie and Annie. Several months after Annie was born, I realised that I had spent less than a few days with her and her brother and sister – so I quit!
I set up another recruitment company closer to where I lived, with two business partners (who had both worked with me in London) and we grew, taking on more offices and more staff, and growing our business offerings to include my true passion (and calling) which was developing (training) other people.
Two years later in 1999 I started to also provide Business, Leadership and Management Development Training. We still had our feet well and truly in the recruitment world, as we were particularly good at that. So much so, that my business partners and I would often travel to a different European Country for a day, just to have a management meeting.
The nasty bit
Then, on September 11 – 2001, like so many other businesses it all started to change. Many of our long-term recruitment clients were in the financial and related business markets. Their world had literally been turned upside down. Several of the senior level hires we had been working with for months-on-end were no longer needed.
We even had to tell people not to turn up for their first day in their new jobs, because those jobs just did not exist anymore. Within 48 hours, our recruitment business had shrunk to the size of a peanut!
I had to make people redundant. A short while later my business partners and I went our separate ways. Unfortunately, we were no longer particularly amiable colleagues and friends, due mainly to the negative finance in the business, there was a lot of anger and recrimination between us, which was unnecessary.
In order to try to save what I could of our friendships and salvage part of our business, I choose to personally keep the company going and thereby, I took on all of the company debt myself.
My back was really against the wall (again). We had only just moved our family to a much bigger house and closer to the village I grew up in, and where both of my parents still live.
I had taken on more debt by increasing the spending on the credit cards, now I also had a huge mortgage and a seriously large business debt!!!
Looking back, it probably would have been easier for me, to have declared myself bankrupt and just started out again. Unfortunately, though, I am a man of high morals and high principles and as stubborn as they come. I was not going to give up, nor was I going to be defeated….
The Hardship bit
I focused primarily on the training business and built a solid foundation, from which I managed to first clear all my business debts, often though to the detriment of my personal finances and my family life.
We went without holidays, we cut back on expenditure, we just made do with what we had. Then after many years of working hard, developing a good brand and a solid reputation the Training business, we started to grow. I took on more staff, took on new offices and expanded, it was great, and we started to begin to see the fruits of our labours.
All the while our kids were growing up and I was now a real part of their lives, they would see me every day before and after school. It was fantastic: business was good, family life was good, we were genuinely happy, and we were beginning to start all the work that needed doing on our house.
The (other) Nasty bit
And then, one of the ‘trusted people’ I had recruited for my business turned sour. I caught him with his brother in my offices after dark, downloading (to a lap-top) all my company information, clients, customers, contacts, finances the lot. he had been through every paper file in my personal office and had photocopied many private documents.
Naturally I kicked him and his brother off-site, changed the digital lock code on the front door and started to salvage what I could of my business. After checking all the files, I found that this had been going on for a few weeks. Once everyone had left for the day, this guy and his brother (who I did not even know) would let themselves into the old converted barn, which is where we had our offices, and rip-me off by stealing my business, my customers and my money.
The following day, I had to go about salvaging my business (again) I needed to lay a couple of people off, as the damage he had done to the business was quite bad.
Sometimes you just adapt. I also managed to get out of the lease I had (at cost) on the old barn and after paying off some more of my staff. I researched and found a company in Holland that could build me a large log cabin, in my garden, at a ridiculously low cost, where I could move my business and feel secure.
A couple of my team came with me to our new ‘home’ office, and we started again, with less cost and a lot more action. We re-built the business.
We weathered the 2007-2009 recession quite well. By then we had multiple large-scale global accounts with many of the top companies, I was flying all over the world and delivering some of the most exciting training programmes I could create
The Family Bit
Just as things were going very nicely (and again possibly a little too comfortable for us). We had another big shift in our family-stability. Millie, (our middle child) who was then around 14 years old, became seriously ill. She could not eat. All the doctors told us it was because she had a condition called Anorexia Nervosa, Anorexia is an eating disorder and serious mental health condition. [People who have anorexia try to keep their weight as low as possible by not eating enough food or exercising too much, or both. This can make them very ill because they start to starve…]
I will save you all the long details of her terrible journey, struggling with a total misdiagnosis of a mental illness, instead of a real, physical, long-term condition, which was not properly diagnosed for another eight years!
I am sure you can imagine, the pain and heartache we all went through. Not least of all, Millie, who spent much of that time living (if you can call it that), sectioned, under the mental health act, in some of the worst psychiatric hospitals, (which were set-up for the certifiably insane people in the mid 1800’s) and due to the legal section, in UK law, we were completely helpless with regard to getting her out of hospital, or into the right care and attention!
Just so you know Millie, is now full-time, back at home with us, she has had some major surgery to her lower bowl and is now slowly starting to get back on with her life. She is a bright, intelligent, strong and a beautiful young woman who, like our other two (also now adults) make us very proud to be their parents.
The Stability bit
Yes, you guessed it right. I/We had to adapt again, I could not be travelling all over the world and being away from the family when my daughter was in and out of hospital. So, I quit my own business and I got a job, that ensured I was UK based and had stability and a regular income.
I went to work with a large technical training business in the UK who had a small Management, Leadership and Business skills division that was struggling. I helped turn it around from a mediocre, low income training division, into a multi-modal, multi-million pound and an extremely profitable business.
Fortunately, I got a few shares in the group, we did well, and the business was growing at a ridiculous pace, Over the next six or so years, I managed to pay off my outstanding debts and then by 20016 I had made myself redundant!
My team had grown to easily be able to take on everything that I was doing, I had done my what I had set out to do and was by then actually getting in their way. The company looked after me very well, we parted company on OK terms, and I kept my shares in the bigger group business for another year. Happy days!
I took a couple of months out to do a few D.I.Y projects at home (like dig and build 100,000 litre Natural swimming Pond in the garden!!) then in October 2016 I launched my new business, doing some freelance training, business and management consultancy, as well as growing an exciting on-line business.
The Final bit
Now, in 2019, looking back over the last few years, I have had the most fantastic time running my own show. I managed to spend more time on my boat, (more than I had done on any of my previous six boats – Yes, I am a bit of a boat fanatic!)
I have enjoyed being an entrepreneur, doing my own thing, exploring new markets and business opportunities. I have not been tied to a corporate life-style. I have not been at the beck-and-call of any other person (other than my wife of course ;). And, most importantly, thanks to the internet I am now earning considerably more than any previous (fixed) six figure Directors salary!