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Every emotion has it's beginning, be it love, hate, anger or worry. On that early summer evening of 1967 I can recall for the first time the beginning of an emotion completely alien to me -- WORRY! I was in my brother Gordon's car and with us was a friend called Seymour Glue, an older man than us, but still a good family friend. The three of us had been playing golf at a nine hole public course in the Surrey town of Farnham and once again I had the bronze medal, or to put it another way, I'd lost. As we drove home, old Seymour amused us with exaggerated comments on his golfing prowess. I know he meant no harm when he asked me what it was like to be a perpetual loser, but on that night his comments struck a nerve. Perhaps I was at a low ebb, but I knew there was many a true word spoken in jest and a reality hit me which I did not like at all. I didn't give a damn about losing at golf but I did care about losing in life and, at that moment, I realised that my life was heading nowhere fast!
I can remember laying in bed that night with irritating niggles invading my mind. I thought of my shop assistants wage and how small it was. For years I'd earned roughly the same as of all of my friends but when they'd completed their apprenticeships their earnings had soared. Electricians, Carpenters, Plumbers, and Bricklayers were some of the trades that my buddies had trained in and now they were, quite rightly, earning the money that went with those jobs. My place of employment at the time was Jeffery's sports shop and the next day, after a night of festering resentment, I successfully asked director Reg Ashwell for a pay raise. However, in my mind I had forced the wage rise out of Jeffery's and so I felt no gratitude towards them. That was something I always remembered and, in later years, when I too became an employer if people deserved a raise they'd get it without asking. That way I obtained their gratitude!
I had also decided I needed to do more than just serve in the shop so I pestered the sports shop manager who was also my brother Wally, to let me to do so. He achieved this by putting me in charge of all the tennis shoes stocks and, within the limits he set, I was allowed to order more supplies. I didn't know it then but my future career as the sports trade biggest buyer had just been set in motion. My brother also allowed me to be by his side when he placed the larger seasonal orders and through this I got to know the various company reps. It now no longer mattered to me that my income was lower than that of my buddies for envy is no man's friend. What mattered was I was now learning 'my trade', and boy was I enjoying it.
It was not long before I discovered there was a Guildford based cash and carry wholesaler we did not deal with who sold tennis shoes. I approached them and told their boss, a man called Ron, that if he could beat the price of our present suppliers, I would ensure he'd have Jeffery's business for all of their tennis, squash, badminton and table tennis shoes. He agreed and so became our new supplier who was much more reliable than the old one. In the months that followed I could often be seen running down to Ron's warehouse to collect box loads of shoes to replace the items we'd sold. Lost sales became a thing of the past and my brother Wally was pleased enough to trust me with the ordering of other everyday items and I was a happy man.
At work things continued to go well until in 1968 an event occurred that was to change everything. It began with what should have been a simple varicose vein operation for my brother, but unfortunately complications developed so that his stay in hospital became longer than expected. Meanwhile, back at Jeffery's, stocks were still selling which had to be replaced. It was obvious to me that soon sales would be lost with customers forced to shop elsewhere if new orders were not placed, so I did so. For some time I had been ordering many of the everyday items delegated to me and so it was common sense to do the same with everything else. I had watched my brother ordering for almost five years and although I knew what to do, I still did so with extreme care, determined not to let him down. Then came the family news that Wally's health had declined and his stay in hospital would be even longer. Apart from my natural anxiety for my brother's well being I now knew my unexpectedly high work load would continue with no end in sight. It did so until one fateful afternoon when director Reg Ashwell said he'd like to see me in his office at 10'am the next morning. I was to experience on the morrow another emotion completely alien to me ---ANGER!
I had never ever thought of asking for more money for my extra workload but during the evening before my meeting with Mr. Ashwell, I convinced myself that was what the meeting was about. The firm was obviously pleased with me and would want to reward my efforts, how wrong I was! It was a stern faced Reg Ashwell who berated me the next morning, rebuking me for getting above myself and insisting I cease to order stocks immediately. I rallied quickly and I demanded to know of a single mistake that I'd made and when he had no answer I told him I had expected praise not abuse. I then heard my twenty one year voice absolutely demolish every argument my poor sixty one year old boss attempted to put forward. I didn't shout or swear or stumble over my words, I just informed him that Jeffery's had very badly let me down. Outwardly I may have appeared calm but inside I was seething with an anger that verged on rage!
That evening I lay in bed and reflected on the previous twenty four hours and the changes they had caused. I'd gone to work that morning fully expecting a big thank you for all my extra effort and I'd received the opposite. After the fiasco with Mr Ashwell I'd taken an early lunch and I found myself gazing in the window of a shop just six doors down the high street. I was looking at their advert for trainee managers and the branch manager, a man I knew slightly, approached me and asked if I was interested in the position. An hour later I gave Mr. Ashwell one weeks notice and, within a fortnight, I'd started working for the Guildford branch of Dolcis Shoe Shops. The five years I'd worked for Jeffery's sports shop and all the knowledge I'd gained, seemed to be part of my past.
They say that decisions taken in haste are often decisions regretted, but I never had any regrets on what occurred in that life changing twenty four hours for they led to success beyond my dreams. It led within months to my accepting the offer to help launch Supasports, an offer I know I'd have turned down if I'd still been working for Jeffery's. So, in the end, Mr. Ashwell's lack of appreciation helped me succeed in life and reminded me of a saying I'd once heard. "Your enemy is your friend for he makes you sharpen both your wits and your sword!" If dear old Reg Ashwell were still alive today I'd thank him and shake his hand!
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