“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
As you can tell I am not some young, good looking, smart-arse kid, who has technology at his fingertips. Nor was I somebody who can so easily understand all of the online, social media, blogging, ezine, or for that matter any type of zine world!
Likewise, because of my age (a very young 55!) 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 chap, 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!
The Career bit
I finished technical college and 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 – I knew where to find great engineers, many of my ex-colleagues had become friends. 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. Then I got headhunted myself by one of my clients!
Ridiculously, in the first meeting with my new boss 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. I did though, and four years later I was Managing Director of a pretty big technical recruitment business.
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 left….
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.
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. 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. We had only just moved our family to a much bigger house and closer to the village where I grew up. Now I 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.
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 start 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.
I 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 Stability bit
Then in 2010 one of my daughter became seriously ill, with a long-term and life changing condition. I could not possibly 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 more stable job, that ensured I was UK based and closer to home.
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.
My management team had grown to easily be able to take on everything that I was doing, I had done what I had set out to do and was by then actually getting in their way. The company looked after me well, we parted company on good terms and I left with a few shares and a nice redundancy package.
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 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 again. 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, 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!