From rags to riches and the most expensive house in the world, one of the UK’s most successful entrepreneurs, Tom Glanfield, discusses the secret to successfully scaling a business.
Rags to riches, and the secret to success
Last month, business guru Tom Glanfield made headlines after being exposed as the new owner of ‘the most expensive house in the world’. Having purchased a much sought after bungalow on Sandbanks notorious ‘millionaire’s row’ for £13.5m, the property became the most expensive real estate on the planet, on a per sq ft basis.
The news was met with surprise after it was revealed that the new owner wasn’t a Premier League footballer, a wealthy oligarch, or a Youtube star selling sugary sports drinks. Instead, he’s a young local man with a true rags-to-riches story.
We were lucky enough to grab a sit-down interview with this genuine self-made multi-millionaire and business guru, Tom Glanfield, to discover more about his real rags-to-riches story, and the secret to his success.
Frying chicken in KFC to becoming the UK’s most successful Business Guru
These days, the internet is awash with ‘influencers’ projecting a false image of wealth, offering to impart the secret to their success for a small fee, or encouraging you to invest in their get-rich-quick schemes. There are also those ‘trust fund’ kids, painting a picture of astute business nous, after launching their latest unoriginal business venture (funded by father’s wealthy friends).
Even the established poster boys for self-made success, such as Richard Branson, were typically the benefactor of an extremely healthy ‘loan’ from the ‘bank of mum and dad’.
However, unlike most self proclaimed ‘self-made’ millionaires, Tom Glanfield wasn’t given a six-figure startup loan from his parents. He didn’t have a comfy nest egg to fall back on. Nor did he have a reality TV show or boast a million social media followers to help leverage his success.
Tom grew up in Exmouth, Devon, attending the local comprehensive school with his two siblings. His father was a public sector social worker and his mother a part-time nurse.
After scraping through school, Tom funded his degree at Swansea University by frying chicken at KFC and labouring on building sites.
Graduating in 2002, he made the decision to saddle himself with debt, borrowing as much money as possible using credit cards and a £9,000 student loan, to start a business in his friend’s attic.
Tom said “The moment I started working I knew I wanted to create a business of my own. Not only did I want to build something worthwhile, I wanted to make a name for myself and to make enough money to support my family. My dream was to pay back my parents for all of their love and support.”
Taking the plunge with a big student loan
After spending just over eight months working for a recruitment company after graduating, Tom decided to take the plunge, going it alone.
“I took out the biggest graduate loan I could get for the purpose of travelling around the world, but instead I got to work straight away.
“I spent all day, every day, on the phone for weeks on end. However, at the beginning I met a lot of resistance. Because I was very young, and the business was a small startup, I struggled to convince prospective clients and candidates to take me seriously.
“I realised I needed to give the impression that my company was well established in order for prospects to give me the time of day. I began playing a cassette recorder of loud office noise on loop in the background of my phone calls. I then renamed my company to make it sound familiar, large, and established. I even renamed my friend’s house to Harvey House at the post office.
Through this impression, together with offering an exceptionally dedicated service, clients started to come bit by bit, and in time Tom moved out of the attic and rented a small office share in London, employing his first full-time members of staff.
However, with the additional overheads came more pressure. He had to shield his employees from the fact he was investing everything he had into the business and couldn’t afford lodgings elsewhere. He was sleeping rough on the office floor. Rolling up and hiding his sleeping bag each morning before staff arrived at the office, and washing himself in the small toilet cubicle sink.
“Trying to make sure the staff were paid each month, whilst having absolutely nothing in my pocket was difficult.
“I did my best to shield the staff from this financial pressure, but my cover was blown pretty quickly. I remember once oversleeping and waking up on the office sofa, completely naked under my duvet, with a hot cup of tea next to me and ten staff tapping away on their computers.
“It felt like those difficulties would never end, but it made me more hungry than ever to succeed.
Years of struggle and hard work
After years of struggle and hard work, Tom’s business began to flourish and he was able to purchase the next office that he rented. He fell in love with and married his very first employee and they began a family, having two sons together.
The hard work didn’t stop and the risks seemed to get bigger. Tom found himself on the edge of ruin a number of times as he expanded the business very rapidly into the US and European markets.
However, Tom’s company went from strength to strength, winning numerous accolades. Aside from featuring regularly in the Sunday Times ‘Fast Track 100’ list and sweeping the board at international recruitment awards year after year, Tom’s proudest achievement was to see the company appear in the Sunday Times Top 10 ‘Best Companies to Work For’ list on numerous occasions, winning best in industry one year.
It is well known that the culture he created was exceptional. Such was the energy at the company, the workplace atmosphere became notorious, attracting all of the best talent.
It is even rumoured that a significant number of staff members voluntarily tattooed themselves with the company motto ‘LHi ‘till I die’. Never a better indication of their unbending dedication to this fast growing and dynamic company (author: although Tom remained silent on that point when we asked).
Tom says the company has matured significantly since those heady days, although it continues to expand and thrive, providing exceptional opportunities for its employees.
The secret to making a fortune in business
It’s over 20 years since Tom created LHi Group and the company now boasts 450 employees and operates across the US, Europe and the UK.
The hard work paid off for Tom. He recently sold the business to an employee ownership trust for a figure reported to be in the region of £100m, with the target of a second sale of £200m.
When asked what the secret to his success is, Tom said:
“My secret was to always be the dumbest guy in the boardroom.
“That may sound strange, but it means surrounding yourself with extremely bright and driven people who know more than you do. Too many bosses are ego driven and like to call the shots, but quite often they are covering up their own insecurities.
“Be humble and accept that you can’t possibly know everything. A good boss can recognise his own weaknesses. More importantly he can spot talent in other people and utilise that talent to its full potential and create a vision that all staff are driving towards.
“I believe that the most important skill I possess is spotting talent. The recruitment industry is obviously perfect to make the most of that skill. However, in every business, good recruitment is vital for success, it’s a skill that I bring to any company I advise now.”
“I definitely achieved my goal at LHi Group of being the dumbest guy on the board. I surrounded myself by a team of exceptionally bright and talented individuals. In turn, they drove the business forward and carried out my vision. All CEOs must adopt this approach, or else see themselves held back by their own ego.”
Tom Glanfield board advisor
Since selling the majority share of LHi Group, Tom is now putting his business guru status to good use and sharing his expertise as a business consultant via https://TEGCap.com. He’s already been helping a number of fast-growing businesses, particularly around how to scale, structure and sell their businesses.
Tom adds “I love working with business owners to help them achieve success and be really hands on with them in making things happen through my consulting business TEGCap.com.”
“My own business story may look like one of unbridled success on the face of it, but believe me, there were many important lessons learned along the way. I hope to be able to save businesses a huge amount of time and money by sharing best practices, as well as how to avoid common mistakes.”
If you would like to learn more about Tom Glanfield’s board advisory and business consulting service, you can find more information at TEGCap.com.