Michael qualified as a Chartered Accountant with KPMG in London in 1978. In an audit environment, he became somewhat cynical of the ‘true and fair view’ practising accountants signed up to and frustrated by his inability to influence the results on which he as an accountant was reporting. So he leapt out of pure accountancy and into the world of commerce. Typically thereafter employed as ‘Finance Director’ he worked for a number of companies in the UK, often for US parent companies in a variety of industries including vending, telecoms and software.
This allowed him to work in cutting edge areas, such as the first Internet on TV and was able to make contributions as varied as inventing a vending system – which within a year was selling 7m cups to simply finding a buyer for a business when the immediate alternative was closure. For software companies, as well as keeping the books and creating tax-efficient employee share option schemes, he was frequently involved in software sales with value ranging from as little as five pounds per month up to multi-million pound sales which would completely reshape household name insurers’ back-office processes.
Cutting edge also often meant working with poorly financed companies, where as part of the solution Michael would occasionally find it expedient to make himself redundant for the good of the rest of the business.
In 1990 Michael set up Coffee Direct to sell fresh coffee systems to offices and became the first supplier of coffee products to Viking Direct. On the strength of that deal alone he sold the business to a Vending company. In 1998 Michael established Growth Phase Europe to provide a service to rapidly growing US dot com companies seeking to establish a presence in Europe. Following an unsolicited approach, this was sold two years later to a Belgian company which went on to become part of Gorilla Park in the Netherlands.
With a taste for independence, Michael set up eFactory in 1999 to act as a vehicle for both some of his own initiatives and as a conduit to provide assistance for start-ups and SME businesses. eFactory has since worked with over fifty clients. A typical client has looked to Michael for help with business planning, fundraising, share option schemes, quiet advice for the CEO or perhaps simply some interim FD type assistance.
Through eFactory, Michael has been involved in a softwood to hardwood conversion process in New Zealand; acquisition of some coal mines in West Virginia; sales of other entrepreneurs’ businesses in lighting, emergency control software and email; working with both The Erotic Review and Scarlet magazines; winding down an interim pub management company; supporting a group of comedy clubs; being CFO for a holiday parks wifi company and for an internet back-up systems business; and friend and mentor to Friendly Triffids – a flowers and plants business, amongst others.
Many would-be start-ups have approached Michael. Whilst interesting in terms of what they were planning to achieve – machine tool manufacture, vodka importing, dating parties and premiere mark car sharing being among the more memorable – Michael was constantly surprised at what they didn’t know about basic business matters to the point where he found they often couldn’t ask the right questions. To address this in 2004 he wrote ‘It’s all cobblers!’ intended as a complete guide before setting up in business. Published by Management Books 2000 it was in fact more semi-autobiographical (in a business sense) but also took swipes at red tape and government.
Recognising the deficiency in not addressing the core business need both in his own work and other so called ‘business start-up’ books, Michael penned ‘Take the plunge – 101 things you need to know before starting your own business’ in 2010.
Michael continues to run eFactory from his home base in West London.
T: 020 8741 0710
M: 07985 467 881