20 QUESTIONS: Rob Halliday-Stein, BullionByPost

The entrepreneur on how he presented his rivals with a golden opportunity, and why a partner with a head for figures is worth their weight in gold.

by Kate Bassett
Last Updated: 10 Jan 2014

1. IF YOU HAD DONE SOMETHING ELSE, WHAT WOULD IT HAVE BEEN?

If I hadn’t set up BullionByPost I think I would still be involved in selling something online, but it would probably have been along the lines of property or fashion.

2. WHAT ELSE WOULD YOU NAME YOUR BUSINESS?

Now I know more about copyright and trademarks, I would have called it something less generic. I’d call it something more protectable like 'Purple Bullion'. The wackier and less descriptive the name, the easier it is to prevent competitors from jumping on the bandwagon.

3. IF YOU COULD BE BASED IN ANOTHER CITY, WHERE WOULD IT BE?

Copenhagen in Denmark because the people are friendly and there’s lots of culture. There’s a more even wealth distribution so it feels a safer city.

4. WHEN YOU STARTED, HOW DID YOU RAISE MONEY?

My mum died in 2008, and I decided to invest a proportion of my inheritance in bullion – which is how I came up with the idea for BullionByPost. I used this money as start-up capital and the business grew organically, so we didn’t need to raise any further money.

5. WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR MOST IMPORTANT DECISION SO FAR?

Deciding to bring in Anthony Smiley – who was an old school friend and qualified accountant – as finance director. That enabled the company to have someone who was focused on keeping all the numbers right. It was a big decision because it meant giving away equity but also having someone to share the pain and benefits of running a business.

6. WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST MISTAKE?

In 2011 when the price of gold rose sharply, we were exceptionally busy and struggling to meet demand. We made the difficult decision to stop taking orders. This was a mistake because it gave our competitors a golden opportunity (literally) to increase their customer base. With hindsight, we should have continued to accept orders and increased delivery times.

7. WHAT IDEA DO YOU WISH YOU HAD COME UP WITH?

I wish I had come up with Google!

8. HOW DO YOU HANDLE STRESS?

I think I normally deal with stress quite well, but I find a glass of wine helps...

9. WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST JOB?

When I was 16, I worked in McDonald’s cooking and selling burgers.

10. WHAT WAS YOUR WORST JOB?

When I was about 18 or 19, I got a summer job at Marks & Spencer sorting coat hangers. Whenever you buy a piece of clothing in the store, the hanger is chucked into a huge box behind the till. This box is then emptied onto a conveyer belt and my job was to pick out the different types of hangers and put them onto the right rail. I think I lasted aboutthree hours.

11. WHAT WAS YOUR BEST JOB?

I once worked as a runner for the catering team at the test cricket at Edgbaston Cricket Ground. I seemed to spend most of the time standing around and watching the cricket. It was great fun!

12. IF YOU WERE ON THE APPRENTICE, WHAT WOULD YOUR TEAM NAME BE?

It would be something egotistical with my own name, although ideally I would be on the other side of the table!

13. WHICH COMPANY WOULD YOU INVEST IN RIGHT NOW?

I almost invested in a company last weekend: the shares were 42p each but when I went back a few days later, they had gone up to a £1 each! The company is Lightwave RF and they create remote control light switches and radiator thermostats, which you can control via an iPad or iPhone.

14. APART FROM PROPERTY, WHAT IS THE MOST EXPENSIVE THING YOU’VE BOUGHT?

An Aston Martin, which I bought for £85,000. But now, after five months, I’m looking to sell it because my girlfriend is pregnant and it’s not practical as a family car.

15. SUITS OR JEANS?

Jeans.

16. FLEXIBLE WORKING OR OFFICE HOURS?

I like to have flexible working, but office hours are important for the rest of the staff, as I think that the workforce is more productive with a more structured routine and our customers need to be able to contact us.

17. WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE THING ABOUT YOUR OFFICE?

We recently moved into our new office in Birmingham city centre and I really appreciate the space. We’re also on the 16th floor.

18. WHAT APP CAN’T YOU LIVE WITHOUT?

I use my iPhone purely for the key functions of phone calls, emails and the internet. I just don’t have time to mess around with apps.

19. WHO IS YOUR BUSINESS IDOL?

I wouldn’t say he is my business idol, but I think I learnt a bit from Felix Dennis who owns Dennis Publishing. I read one of his books, 'How to Get Rich', and it gave me some good insights into setting up and running my own business.

20. IF YOU WERE PRIME MINISTER FOR THE DAY, WHAT WOULD YOU CHANGE?

I would put a stop to predominantly US companies taking the mickey on UK tax. This applies to online companies such as Google, eBay, PayPal and Amazon. Take Amazon: it sells absolutely everything, but then says it’s based offshore to get tax breaks. As a result, you can’t walk into a shop to buy a CD anymore because the UK high street is dying. The independent retailer can’t afford to pay business rates and taxes, and yet Amazon qualifies for subsidies when it opens a new warehouse. It doesn’t make sense. 

- Find out more about BullionByPost

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