Three True Stories by John P. Williamson

Editor's Introduction: this week you are in for a special treat and some lasting words of wisdom from John P. Williamson, a highly qualified and multi-disciplined professional, who has earned the sobriquet, "The Wealth Coach" in England. John's impressive biography would fill more pages than the stories, but I think you will find that his three personal and true stories - His Life Was Too Short; Just a Visit With Friends; and Are You Banging Your Head on Your Ceiling? - will give you an idea of what a business "heavyweight" John is. Read on, learn, and enjoy!

His Life Was Too Short

It was about 6:30 in the evening when the telephone rang. I left my office to answer it. A man asked if I could give him a price on some printing work.

At the time, some 30 years ago, I was nominally the Group Financial Controller and Assistant Managing Director of a vertical group of companies in the printing industry.

In actual fact I had been consulted a year previously by the company's Managing Director, Mike, to plan the expansion of his company, and to organize the necessary finance. Once that was successfully achieved, he and his wife asked me if I would work with them as a full time consultant to implement the expansion program. I liked them both and readily agreed.

I returned to my office, crunched some numbers and phoned back our enquirer. In the discussion that followed, it turned out that the piece of work he wanted done could only be done using particular features on the brand new Web-Offset Presses that we had imported and recently installed in the new factory. I quickly revised my estimates, but our enquirer was so keen to get the work done that he made me what seemed to be an outrageously generous offer on the price. I was highly delighted, and said that I would get our Production Director to call him the following day to finalize the details.

Just then I saw Mike, the Managing Director, going into his office at the other end of the long open-plan office. I trotted over, and showed him the figures.

"Look at this Mike." I said. He read my notes carefully, and then said, "No! We won't do it." "But Mike," I said, "Look at the profit margin on it." "Still not interested," said Mike, "I know that man and I do not like him. MY LIFE IS TOO SHORT TO DEAL WITH PEOPLE THAT I DO NOT LIKE!"

You know, Mike's wise words struck a chord with me, and they have been one of my business principles ever since.

Just a Visit with Friends

It was a winter's evening as we hurried into the warmth of the Insurance Institute's main Hall in the City of London. An elderly insurance broker was speaking about his very successful business life and experiences.

As the broker neared the end of his presentation, one of the audience members broke in with a question. "Just how many hours a day do you work?" she asked incredulously. "Oh, I don't work," smiled the broker. His business partner half rose in his chair, turned and said to the audience, "Excuse me for interrupting, but he is the hardest working person I know."

"No. No." said the elderly broker," I used to work very hard, but I became very stressed and ill. My work was killing me, so I took a few days off to consider my future. As I thought about what I was doing, I discovered that I was just doing it for the money. I had a load of crap clients that I certainly would never have wanted for friends. They were petty, argumentative, complaining. They were hard work and they were making me ill.

Yet I still believe passionately in what I do and its great value to society. I decided that day that my life would be different. When I went back to the office, I fired most of my clients. My new philosophy became, "My business is visiting with friends and helping them along a bit, and that has been my philosophy ever since. That is why I say that I don't work. If I were on holiday, I would be visiting with my friends, but that is what I do anyway. So each day for me is like a holiday. I wake up each morning full of the joys of spring and can't wait to get to my office and spend time with my friends."

I was in my mid 20s when I heard that old broker speak. I never knew his name but his words have stayed with me and been my own philosophy ever since. "MY BUSINESS IS VISITING WITH FRIENDS AND HELPING THEM ALONG A BIT." Thank you, old man.

Are You Banging Your Head on Your Ceiling?

Do you have cash flow problems? Do you always just have enough to get by, but sometimes not? Do you wish for a better life, but then accept what you have?

Well, certainly in most cases there are structural things that can be done to improve sales, improve efficiency, smooth cash flow, etc., all the many "business development" techniques that we know so well.

For many years, I acted as a "Turnaround Man" or "Company Doctor", and had great fun going into businesses that were insolvent and trading at a loss, and turning them around. Of course, then I was in the driving seat.

But I have seen some interesting results recently, where I have only been consulted in an advisory capacity.

Peter is a self-employed Librarian. He prefers to call himself an "Information Technologist," and I don't blame him. He became a client of mine about ten years ago. Originally from Ireland, he lived in London with his Nigerian wife and their small baby.

They originally consulted my company about some insurance protection for the family and pension arrangements for Peter.

I had a chat with them and discovered that Peter was earning about £25,000 a year. Hardly enough to bring up a family on, I thought. So I gave him some ideas, and the next year he earned £45,000. Now I gave him some more advanced Ideas, and the next year he earned £75,000.

He was delighted. He asked if I would advise him on forming a company, and going on to the next stage of wealth creation that we had discussed. It was a very friendly meeting and I really did not give sufficient weight to his parting comment, "This had been an exceptional year, I don't see how I could ever have earned more that £25,000."

The next day, the proverbial hit the fan. Peter faxed me to say that he wanted me to cancel the company formation, and enclosed a copy of his complaint to one of my professional institutes about how I had tricked him into paying for a company formation.

Now the price of a company formation is peanuts, and his complaint was thrown out by the professional institute's complaints department. It just did not hold water, except as a way to distance himself from me. It's an old trick, if you want to create space, engineer an argument. But why?

I thought back over the events of the previous day, and then his parting words came back into my mind. You see, he had hit his head on his glass ceiling. He was a £25,000 a year man. That was where he was comfortable. That is what he perceived his market value to be. That is the circle of friends and family that he associated with.

He had shocked himself when he had followed my ideas and earned £45,000. When he earned £75,000 he was now totally outside of the league of all his friends and family. This was scary country, and he was very far outside his comfort zone. So he panicked.

Now the problem was that he concealed his worries. He did not communicate them to me, or I could have coached him through, like so many other clients, before and after. No, he panicked. The last I heard, he was still earning between £25,000 and £45,000 a year. That is his comfort zone.

Are you banging your head on your glass ceiling? If so, why not consider getting a personal coach to get you through it? You may need a coach more than you need a business consultant.

John P. Williamson started his first business at the age of eight and bought his first house for CASH at the age of 21 as a gift for his new wife. John and his wife Shirley have been married for 38 years. In the last 20 years alone, they have built, and now disposed of in excess of 22 businesses, including a multi-national group, and a Public Limited Company. They closed their longest surviving business recently after some 24 years. John's earning can be counted in £millions, but being British, it is not something that he talks about. For many years he has coached others in successful Wealth Creation and Business Building. He is happy to make new friends, and you can e-mail him at

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