By late 2009 I had started a couple of ventures which were struggling. There was a guy called Mark who had been running a company called Presteigne – a private detective agency- for some time. Mark came to see me and suggested that it would be great if he could devote more time to marketing rather than carry out the day-to-day work he was doing at the moment. The problem he said was lack of finance. So if I could finance a venture then he could devote more time to getting sales and we would have a great company.
And so in January 2010 we set up a new company called Presteen (to be close to Presteigne) which would carry on the private detective work that the previous company had done. Mark could then collect all of the debts he was owed and I could invest in building the business. The actual business sounded glamourous but was actually mostly about serving papers on people. For example we often served court orders on husbands to stay away from wives. We also did a lot of copying of papers for solicitors.
Almost immediately Mark heard about the small private detective agency near London that was for sale. We drove down the and since the agency was so small we agreed to pay a small amount for the business and the owner would introduce us to his clients. No sooner had we handed over some cash than the deal fell to pieces.
We now developed a new website with a database that allowed customers to see what was happening in real time. Mark went to visit some clients and started to take solicitors out. It soon proved that getting new clients was very difficult. Mark kept slipping back to having to carry out the work.
The value of new sales was negligible and after a while I concluded there was no point in carrying on. Mark was perfectly capable of running his existing business as he always had and so I agreed with him that we would stop.
Mark formed a new company called Presteen B and continued trading as he had previously. I gave him access to the website and all of the assets of the company. The usual problem of lack of money now occurred and I agreed to factor the new company. By 2013 even the factoring had run its course and we agreed to dissolve Presteen.
So what did we learn? I learnt that solicitors are very difficult to sell to, and that they don’t pay their bills and that their business practices seem based in the 19th century. I learned that even developing existing business can be very difficult. With the benefit of hindsight would I do it again? Clearly the answer is no. However it was another chapter that was interesting and over the piece financially fairly neutral.