Decisions: Jamie Waller

Founder and MD of bailiff and debt collection firm JBW Group on his best decisions - and the ones he regrets.

by Hannah Prevett
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

My best decision...

... was to leave my job at another debt recovery firm in 2002, because one of the bosses was a thug and a bully. I put up with it for a long time, before telling him that not only was I quitting, but I was also going to set up a bailiff firm in competition. For two years after that I had all sorts of threats - from legal action, to my life. I was even stabbed on my doorstep.

This led to another of my best decisions: rather than being a good East End boy, I got the police involved. There's this idea that you shouldn't 'grass' anyone up, so I just dealt with it. But my way of doing so was to work harder. Before I knew it, I'd spent two years working 15 hours a day, drinking in the pub for five hours a night and sleeping for four. Then I got a call from someone saying they had paid members of the IRA to kill me, which I recorded and took to the police.

More recently, I made my first acquisition, a business in Darlington, purely because I liked the owner. He's running our collection operation now and has increased revenues by 30% in eight months.

My worst decision...

... was acquisition number two. As the first one was an absolute dream, I thought I was something of an expert and went straight out to find another business to buy. Six months after agreeing to buy it, we've just finished collapsing the company and reversing most of the deal. It has actually turned out ok - we've paid £50,000 for contracts worth £600,000 a year to us. But I cannot put a value on the amount of time I've wasted.

One of my biggest mistakes is holding on to people too long. If you're paying £100,000 a year to someone who's not very good, you've got to be able to make the decision very quickly to get rid of them. And I've been bad at that in the past, because I like my colleagues. One guy I had to get rid of was a friend. He was spending two-thirds of his time getting drunk and not bringing in any business, but, because I socialised with him, I decided to turn a blind eye to it. Eventually, I called him into the boardroom and fired him. We spoke for 15 minutes and then went out and got drunk together.

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