I was the only son born into a working/middle class suburban London family. I have two younger sisters. My early years were spent in Sydney, where my Dad worked for an Australian bank. Dad later accepted a position as Partner of an Australian stockbroker, heading up their European operation. He achieved his life ambitions of becoming a millionaire – and the very best version of himself. We returned to England from Sydney and the family took up residence in Surrey’s stockbroker belt. A workaholic, my Dad was often away. Mum didn’t work and was content with her roles as mother and wife. Life was modest, but comfortable and safe.
I had a ’difficult‘ relationship with my dad, and as a result, often with my mum as well. These relationships were the source of numerous negative subconscious patterns. However, my desire to not be like my parents also resulted in me behaving in ways that developed certain strengths.
The wounds I suffered from my relationships with my parents took many years to understand – and heal. The process was painful. There were tears and anger. It took a lot of hard work, bravery, compassion and forgiveness to undertake the journey of healing myself. Although I’d accomplished a great deal of success in many other areas of my life, it was only at age 51 when I truly arrived at a place of peace in relation to my parents. Now they have both passed away – and I am grateful for all they ever did for me.
A BROKEN HIP…
In the summer of 1977 I left Surbiton (a state) Grammar School (where I had been accepted via an interview, rather than passing their entrance exams) after achieving A levels in French, German and Economics. Even at an early age, I wanted a life less ordinary.
Throughout my early formative years I dreamed of becoming James Bond. I dreamed of joining the Army; of joining the Intelligence Corps; of learning and using foreign languages; of using my athletic and sporty physique; and of playing rugby for the Army. And I dreamed of saving the world from seemingly imminent cataclysms, in Bond’s patented death-defying, spine-tingling, oh-so-cool, how-did-he-do-that? fashion. Needless to say, the dream included swaggering up to the bar with a Bond girl on each arm and ordering vodka martinis – ‘shaken, not stirred’ – of course!
However, an upper femural osteotomy – caused by two slipped epiphyses (in layman’s terms, a big hip operation, and not exactly the kind of ‘oh-oh’ that had the Bond ’7′ behind it), brought an abrupt end to my most cherished dream – that of being a professional rugby player. The surgery also shattered my dreams of becoming an Army officer, the first step on the path to becoming a double 0, like my hero 007.
… AND THE DREAMS THAT SHATTERED WITH IT
My parents offered little solace to a young man with shattered dreams and a broken hip. I can still hear my mother saying to me, “You’ll figure it out”.
Although I longed for encouragement from my parents, as any child naturally does; although I yearned to be showered, at least occasionally, with positive affirmation; and despite the fact that I had no idea how, I was determined to do exactly that – figure it out. And, I am happy to report, I have figured it out.
YOU CAN GO YOUR OWN WAY… BUT NOT FOREVER
Some Buddhists, and adherents to certain other spiritual paradigms, espouse the belief that we choose our parents before incarnating on this material plane so we can face specific challenges that allow us to learn some things we have not learned in previous lives.
Because of my parents’ ’hands-off‘ approach to parenting, I have learned to be strong and independent. Independent when necessary, I should say, for none of us can ever truly be independent all the time. We need others in our lives. We are all interdependent
WHAT WAS I THINKING?
I attended Kingston University, for one term, in an ill-advised attempt to become an accountant. Looking back, I have no idea why. I think it was to conform with my parents’ wish that I get ’a proper job’.
After spending my grant on a new squash racquet and a few decent dinners, I got engaged five weeks into my university ‘education’. A marriage that was to last for 18 years.
It may have been that I was already subconsciously aware of the veracity of Mark Twain’s oft quoted assertion that one should never let one’s schooling interfere with one’s education; it may have been that I figured that I was going to need a proper job (as my mum would put it), if I were to be a proper husband; or it may have been a combination of both, but I decided to suspend my formal education.
As you’ve already seen from my CV, I went into banking. It quickly became apparent to me that ‘hands-on’ learning was far more interesting and real than the theoretical abstract of lectures and textbooks. My hunger to learn, to truly learn, kept me in the banking sector for ten years.
My career took me to America where I was very fortunate to spend a year living in New York and a second year in San Diego. I also worked and lived in Hamburg, Jeddah, Dubai, Hong Kong, and Geneva. I learned all about LBOs and private equity. I studied business models. Perhaps most importantly, I learned what made successful executives and entrepreneurs tick and this has been a subject that has fascinated me ever since.
Despite Mum not really understanding what doing LBOs was really all about (‘making money’ didn’t do it for her), at least she thought I had a proper job. I wore a suit and tie, had a wife, two kids, a dog, a Volvo Estate, and a mortgage. I commuted on the train to Waterloo each day – and worked in the City! This made Mum happy. The problem was, it made me miserable. It was not a life less ordinary.
I couldn’t see the point of what I was doing. Find a deal, agree a deal, kill yourself for six months closing it, collapse, rest, find another one, repeat. So, despite the ridiculously great salary, bonuses and carried interests, I decided to have a go at being an entrepreneur. I wanted to sit on the other side of the table. I wanted to receive the financing to turn my ideas into profit, rather than approving the funding for other people’s ideas.
Although a colleague insisted that businesses were ’for buying and selling, not building and running‘, I wanted to know if I could do it, rather than talk about it.
Well, 25 years later, I am still afloat. I’ve had sublime successes, a few failures, and one or two near disasters, including a narrowly avoided personal bankruptcy. It’s definitely not been easier than being a finance guy. But I have learned so much more than I would have, had I continued on the path I was on. I have learned more about business, about people, about life. But most importantly, I have learned much, much more about who I really am.
I started up two golf and country club businesses. One was sold. The other was floated on AIM. The latter was famous for being the best performing share on AIM. It was also infamous for being the worst performing share on AIM. Annoyingly, the latter title was earned at year-end, and the press took note. Two months later, when it had become the best performing share, no one noticed.
Then, after 17 years together, my wife left me – for a woman! I was the CEO of a public company. I was a single parent to a seven-year-old daughter and a three-year-old son. That was when my education really started. That was when I began to learn who I really am.
STARTING FROM SCRATCH
I started Merryck & Co. on 27th January 1997. I was £¼ million in debt. I had £2,111.11 in cash to my name. I had a £2,000 rent payment due on 1st February – four days later.
Over the following 14 years, Merryck & Co. became the world’s leading CEO mentoring company, with offices in the UK, the USA, Europe and Australia. During those 14 years as the head of Merryck & Co., I mentored CEOs from all around the world. They came from different business sectors, different cultures. They had different personalities. They each had their own unique issues, which presented various challenges for me. More than 50 of these clients remained with me for more than a year.
I sold the business, in September 2010, to the UK management team, in an MBO. I had taken it as far as I could – or wanted to. I was ready for the next version of me.
Following six months of sabbatical, study, soul searching, mentoring, therapy, solitude, meditation, reflection, an unsuccessful attempt to rescue another marriage, and a well-deserved rest – all part of my life quest to be more of who I really am – my journey continues as THE MENTOR.
WHAT QUALIFIES ME TO BE ‘THE MENTOR’?
The following accomplishments in my personal life and career, and what I’ve achieved with my clients attest to the depth and diversity of my skills.
A quick glimpse at some of my career highlights would include:
• working in two major multinational banks in M&A and Private Equity and serving those banks in the UK, Europe, the Middle East, the Far East, and the West & East Coasts of America
• starting up two leisure businesses – selling one and floating the other
• being involved in the sale or purchase of more than 30 businesses (including four I started from scratch!)
• creating alliances and joint ventures
• building strong teams
• launching new products
• establishing offices in the USA, France and Australia (from a UK base).
When I started Merryck & Co. I vowed that I would devote 25% of my time to improving my mentoring skills. Continually ‘sharpening the sword’ and adding value to my clients is what my brand of mentoring is all about. I have kept that vow. Year after year, for the past 20 years, I have fed my insatiable hunger to better understand what makes successful people successful. The dividend on my investment of 14 years at the helm of Merryck & Co. is profound. A price cannot be put on the lessons I learned and the experience gained.
However, it’s more than just business that has contributed to the enviable arsenal of skills I’ve acquired during the past 35 years. Raising two children, almost single-handedly, taught me the gift of unconditional love and loyalty. Facing down a near bankruptcy, in 1997, taught me how to remain calm and rational when hurricanes of anxiety and uncertainty swirled all around me. In the ten years it took me to claw my way back to zero, I learned the value of perseverance. The wisdom I’ve accumulated over the course of my life has enabled me to continue to lead a fulfilling, purposeful and fun life … no matter what.
It’s not only my business understandings and personal insights into the human condition that I offer clients – it’s being able to quickly cross-reference my tens of thousands of ‘mental files’ to share what’s most relevant for them in a manner that’s compelling enough to keep them on course, even when they are in strange, unknown and sometimes uncomfortable territories.
Amongst the strong, enduring relationships I have forged over the years are clients who are nothing less than brilliant; consultants who are at the top of their fields of expertise; and many ‘gurus’ with whom I have worked. At any time, I can turn to my partners and personal network to assist my clients with any particularly challenging problems they may have.
In recent years, my mentoring has jumped beyond the orbit of those top-level CEOs who turn to me with their professional and personal challenges. I now work with celebrities, politicians, heads of nations, philanthropists, artists, entertainers, and some brilliant young ‘movers, shakers and shapers’ who will ‘WOW!’ the world in the next 20 years.
My personal philosophy is that unlike material assets, intellectual assets can be shared with zero loss to the holder. I can teach you everything I know, still know all of it … and in the process, continue to learn more! Every client I mentor, and each passing year, can only hone my craft more.
My final observation, however, is that any MENTOR (or ‘wise advisor’) must live by, as well as share, his own counsel. My commitment to ‘walk my talk’ and become that ‘better version of myself’ is what raises the bar and ultimately draws forth that ‘better version’ of every client I work with. Making that difference with those who have the power to make a difference in the world leads to an ‘even better version of life’ for everyone!