"You have six months to repay £500,000 before we foreclose."
The bank manager sat there as cold as ice as he made his declaration.
It felt like the walls were closing in around me and my heart began to beat out of my chest.
Was this actually happening?
Two years earlier we had peaked at an annual revenue of just under £4 million (around $5 million).
Not bad for a market trader's son from Liverpool. Now I faced an impossible task.
I protested that although market conditions were against us, we still had a very profitable business model.
Despite demonstrating profitability and optimism until I ran out of breath my words fell on deaf ears.
“The bank are no longer happy with this level of borrowing. You have six months to repay before we foreclose” was the stern reply.
The guy was only doing his job, but I get the feeling he enjoyed his role as destroyer of lives. Banks had been hit hard by the financial crisis a couple of years earlier. Credit was being withdrawn from small businesses with ruthless abandon.
There was no way we could meet the bank’s demands. Not a chance.
My first thoughts were to the loyal team I had built around me. They were good people. How would they provide for their families? I felt the weight pushing down on my chest.
Then I held my head in my hands in despair as I considered my own fate and the implications of my failure.
Everything I had in the world was on the line here.
This wasn't how I imagined running my own business would feel like when I got my very first sale online.
Watching sales come through on my website was thrilling. I couldn't believe I could do business virtually like this. I knew then somehow, building businesses online is what I am called to do. I am good at it.
But that moment with the bank manager felt very different. My stomach turned with anxiety. It still turns over thinking about it as I write this.
Six months later, in September 2013 the business went bust.
I escaped bankruptcy by the skin of my teeth and in the aftermath held down three jobs to keep food on the table. It was painful and rocked the core of my being.
All the time my heart was calling me to create an online business that would allow me to spend more time with my family and loved ones.
I love to teach. I love to help and serve others. I love marketing. I hate the hard-nosed, money-first attitude all too prevalent in the world of business. And I never wanted to experience that kind of pain again.
It is in the fires of hardship that we forge resilience.
The painful lessons learned rocked me to my core but fuelled my determination to do things differently.
I would pick myself up and learn to live by the Marcus Aurelius quote: "The impediment to action advances action. The obstacle is the way."
I have a deep desire to serve others and was determined this time it would be different. I would be in control. Not the banks.
I would be guided first by love, compassion and service to those around me.
I had a lot of real-world experience building an online business. I had lectured in marketing communications for the CIM (Chartered Institute of Marketing) and had a Masters Degree in Marketing.
I thought I already knew how this stuff worked.
Boy was I wrong.
If you’ve tried building a business and reputation online, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.
You quite often feel like throwing your laptop out of the window in frustration.
Not to mention the knot in your stomach every time you pay for another online tool or course you can’t really afford.
Hoping it will have a magic effect – And it never does.
For almost three years I hauled myself around networking events, picking up the odd client here and there… Hand to mouth, hand to mouth.
I consumed every book I could lay my hands on. I re-educated myself in this new world of marketing that was emerging. Still, nothing stuck.
I immersed myself in it. I became addicted to tools, tactics, and courses. And trying every new shiny marketing object that came my way. I hoped my next 'investment' would be the one that got me on track.
Sure I managed to scrape an income and feed my family. But I was miles away from the financial and time freedom that I dreamed of when I set out to create a new online business. I wasn't serving anyone in the way I was called to do.
Driving to yet another networking event in Liverpool one day I heard something that would change my life and business forever.
I had downloaded audio files from an online summit (I am a digital marketing addict and love geeking out over this stuff – in case you hadn't guessed). But at this point, everything I hear from the 'gurus' is just blah blah blah.
They all say the same stuff, trying to sell you on their latest shiny object. There is nothing new under the sun.
Then I heard this American guy talking, and everything changed…
This guy was talking about how after trying everything just like me, it was a shift in his mindset that got him amazing results.
Then the light turned on inside of me. It was blinding. I had to concentrate to stay on the road.
I had been chasing one marketing tactic after another. For three years I had been like a dog chasing its tail. I had missed the most important thing in all of this.
The key that would unlock the transformation of my business was right in front of me all this time?
I don’t remember a thing from the networking event that day. I had this guy’s words running through my head. I finally knew what I needed to do.
I had been bumbling along trying everything that came in my path but my efforts had no clarity of purpose.
No focus. I had lost touch with the reason I started my coaching business in the first place. Love, compassion, service.
I hadn't connected with the most important part of the puzzle. My clients.
I needed clarity, personally, and focus professionally to succeed online.
I listened to the recording three more times on the way home and decided to reach out on Twitter to learn more about his approach. He became my coach, mentor and friend.
Working with a coach was one of the best business decisions I ever made!
With the help of my new coach I had found the missing piece of the puzzle – I found my why!
Suddenly, all the tactics and strategies I had been absorbing started to make sense.
My academic grounding as a marketing lecturer, and years in the trenches creating, growing and failing epically in business fell into place.
I knew where I was heading in ALL areas of my life.
I was like Neo at the end of the Matrix when he gets shot, and just as you think he is dead, he opens his eyes and says “no”.
He looks around and is able to 'see' the green code of the matrix. He defeats the impossible-to-beat agents without even trying.
I began to be the same with digital marketing strategy and growing online businesses.
I could see connections that I couldn't see before. I could connect the dots. It was like my brain had been re-wired.
My fascination with learning philosophy, psychology and storytelling all began to make sense.
I could connect the dots between the psychology of persuasion, my academic background in marketing and practical knowledge building (and losing) a 7-figure online business.
Within six months I was pushing six-figures online by simply sharing my experience, knowledge and philosophy to help others market themselves in meaningful ways.
I felt like Neo.
I am no guru. I don't pretend to have all the answers. And I am still on my own journey of self-discovery, figuring stuff out and learning new things every single day.
I am on a mission to extinguish the myths about marketing.
To help as many marketers and mission-driven entrepreneurs as I can on their journey of discovery.
To serve inspiring people like you, so, in turn, you can inspire and transform the lives of others.
LET ME SHOW YOU HOW THE ART OF MARKETING REALLY WORKS TO ATTRACT, ENGAGE AND CONVERT MORE CLIENTS IN YOUR BUSINESS!
I was born and raised in Liverpool, England. I spend my time outside of work with my family, Kayaking and hill-walking in the English Lake District. God, family and relationships are the most important things in my life. I love to learn new skills, I play acoustic guitar and sing, I have a second degree black belt in Japanese Jujitsu and a brown belt in BJJ.
I run a marketing coaching business, Marketing Incubator Masterminds, and the Awaken Creator program. I help mission-driven entrepreneurs find their spark and never let it go. I create marketing strategies and systems that build businesses… The marketing engine does the heavy lifting so you get to focus on what you do best.
Having built and lost a multiple 7-figure e-commerce business I realised I wasn’t happy ‘playing the game’. I had a realisation that I wanted to do things my way. I wanted to create a business around conversations. Conversations where I help people avoid the pitfalls I had fallen foul of. Conversations where I help people to connect with the infinite possibilities the universe holds for them. And from that genesis my coaching practice was born. I coach mission-driven people, helping them to focus on their zone of genius and change lives doing what they love to do.
Seeing hope and joy in people’s eyes when they give themselves permission to be happy.
All of the time. One of my favourite quotes is by Jordan Peterson: “Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today.” I remind myself of this quote when I find myself feeling unworthy and comparing myself to others who are further ahead on the journey, or when that little voice in my head whispers: "Colin, who do you think you are?"
Daily practice and lots of inner work has given me a resilience and grounding that means when the flaming arrows of doubt and hardship come I am more resilient. Doesn't make it any easier, but I have the drive and purpose to keep going. The ground may shake but the foundation is strong. I work on strengthening the foundation daily through prayer, meditation, journalling, exercise, and nutrition.
Prayer, meditation, journalling, exercise, and nutrition are the foundation. Time-blocking, the Eisenhower Method, and the Pomodoro Technique along with alpha wave music are some of my secret productivity ingredients to get more done in less time.
Connectedness, and awakening of the higher self. I didn’t realise I had emotions until I hit 40, I’m still learning how to connect with them. 40 was the age at which I felt like I woke up for the first time.
As the Chinese proverb says: “The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago, the second best time, is now.” The moment you are in right now is the only one you have. It is in this moment that you can choose to make a difference.