Decisions: Will King

The King of Shaves founder talks us through his sharpest business decisions - and the ones that left him bleeding...

by Hannah Prevett
Last Updated: 17 Jan 2014

My best decision...

... was forced on me when I was made redundant. It was the early '90s and I had a really great job working in corporate events and production. The nice TVR sports car, nice girlfriend and nice expenses account all went. I decided to start my own business. I also met my business partner Herbie - he was the principal at the management consultancy firm brought in to close the company down. So he effectively made me redundant.

Another decision I'm proud of is to sell 'shaving bonds' in the company. The idea came to me in 2005, but the company was too small then. I bought up the domain shavingbonds.com and sat on it until 2009. The timing was really good - we were offering 6% when interest rates were 0.5% and the public were unhappy with the financial sector. We were a safer bet: people could see our products on the shelf and we'd been around for 15 years, so we were a trusted brand. We sold £630,000 worth, which gave us a certain amount of liquidity. Hotel Chocolat and Ecotricity have copied the idea since.

My worst decision...

... was being taken in by a conman in 1995, just as the company was starting to get publicity. I was approached by this older man who told me that he was well connected internationally and could make the business massive very quickly. When he asked for a few hundred pounds to cover expenses, I gave it to him. Shortly after, he turned nasty and said I'd signed a distribution deal giving him worldwide rights to the brand. I hadn't. So I set the Rottweiler lawyers on him and he ran screaming into the night.

We made another mistake in 2003. The other side of the business, which licenses other brands' toiletry products, was doing really well. We were pitched Speedo, which we decided to roll with. When we launched in the UK, it didn't sell. After a 15-minute discussion, Herbie and I decided to get out of the contract. I naively thought they'd be quite nice to us. But, of course, we had to buy ourselves out of the contract and deal with all the stock winding-down issues. We came through it a lot more circumspect, that's for sure.

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