MY BEST ... 'To expand the business. When I started Phase Eight it was exactly what I thought I wanted - a shop that I loved, only five minutes from my home. It fitted my married-with-two-children lifestyle perfectly.
But after a couple of years I found I actually wanted rather more, so I took the plunge and opened another branch. Sales increased steadily, which gave me the confidence to open more stores, and now we have 30 dotted around the country. I didn't realise it at the time but that second store was the point at which the shop stopped being my plaything and became a proper business.'
MY WORST ...
'To finance the business from cash-flow too heavily for too long. For years, I put in no capital. Trading conditions were good but I knew nothing about business and didn't appreciate the problems I was storing up for the future. When the early '90s recession arrived, we were dangerously under-capitalised and had to find cash quickly. Banks and venture capital houses weren't for us - they wanted unrealistic returns. Instead I raised about £600,000 private capital from friends and acquaintances. Since that cash injection the business hasn't looked back. We've had 60% growth for two years running and we turned over around £12 million in 1998.'.