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Ep 1 | The Sage of Stockport: From the Stock Market to Car Sales – The only way is Ethics!

Ep 1 | The Sage of Stockport: From the Stock Market to Car Sales – The only way is Ethics!

Well, I suppose we can summarise it in 2 parts
really. For the first 20 years or so of my career, I had the dubious pleasure to be involved
in the Stock Market. I started off at an old traditional firm in Manchester and then in
1984 along with a partner, I went to a small investment management company and gradually
over the years we built that up into a very substantial concern, and by 1996 we had about
500 million pounds under management and 4 or 5 offices, about 120 to 130 staff, but
by 1996 as you can imagine that happens to be career that by then at the age of 41, you’re
pretty much burnt out! Frankly, when a management buy-out team came to me with what I felt was
a pretty generous offer, I decided to take early retirement. But that wasn’t the only
reason, it wasn’t just the money it was the fact that to be honest with you, I got fed
up of wearing suits! so I thought a career change was about due, so following on from
that I became part of what was, dubiously called, Business Angels and busy angels really
is a group of people, from different backgrounds in life, who are looking to help and mentor,
not just with financial backing, to make small business’ grow into something worthwhile.
You have to understand that in the world of business that the bigger you are, the easier
it is to borrow money. To borrow a million pounds, is a lot easier than to borrow ten-thousand-pounds.
So business angels seemed a good move to me so I could get into something that was completely
different. Obviously, buying a garage, in 2001, you couldn’t get any further removed
from the Stock Market! but it wasn’t simply to invest in that business or invest in those
people. It was for me to have some sort of participation where I felt the skills that
I’d learned in all my years of working in the stock market would be put to GOOD use,
into something that while it was different, that fundamentally it had the same principles
of customer service, identifying opportunities, making sure that you have stringent financial
control. So those are all principles that apply regardless of what the business is.
Whether it’s a big multi-national company like Sky Television, or simply a newsagent
on the corner of a street. So that’s how I arrived at the garage trade. In essence, there
was 1 other reason that like lots of people, I’d always had a keen interest in cars. I
didn’t have a clue how to mend them, or how they worked, but they were always a fascination.
Particulary those models of my youth in the 60’s and 70’s! so the Capri’s, The Cortinas,
The Mini’s, and the Austin 1100, those we’re always a great fascination. In the stock market
there are various guru’s that you’ll come across. Most of them frankly, aren’t worth
the time of day, but there is one that has always had my uptmost respect and that’s Gentleman
called Warren Buffet, and Warren Buffett is referred to as ‘The Sage of Omaha’. Now to
acquire that title that over the years he’s given to us all words of great wisdom and
one of those principles, as far as Warren Buffett was concerned, is only invest in business’
that you have an interest for and that you’ll understand how it works. To some degree I
did have an interest, because I was interested in cars, and I did understand the basic principles
so that’s how we arrived at the garage business and ultimately, how we’ve arrived today at
Littler Belters. The stimulation for Little Belters really came along some years ago now,
when my own 2 daughters passed their driving test, they were going to go off to University,
I needed to get them a car, I didn’t want to pay a fortune for it, I didn’t want to
pay massive insurance premiums, but I did want something that was reliable, I wanted
it to be safe and I wanted to know that I was going to get it from somewhere that would
look after me, that wouldn’t just have an initial urge to sell me a car, and then not
take any interest after that. So that was the motivation, I didn’t do it at the time
– but over the years I’ve got something that I think is now commonly reffereed to as ‘Brain
Itch!’ so ever since then I wanted to do something where we can expand on the knowledge and the
facilities and also the experience at Leigh Autos and I knew that the car business was
something that we could look to explore and certainly I spent a good 6 months doing the
research, the background before we actually launched Little Belters. So that’s how we
arrived at Little Belters, as it is today!

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