Jeremy Harbour is what many young men aspire to be: he is good-looking, confident, and although he wouldn’t be so vulgar as to mention it, probably very wealthy, too. Yet at 38 years of age, he has suffered more ups and downs than many of his age on his way to becoming a very successful businessman. Unlike many so-called entrepreneurs, Jeremy was not born with a ‘silver spoon’ in his mouth; whatever he has achieved in life he has done it himself.
Born into a loving, middle-class farming family in Dorset, southern England, the Harbours were rocked by a tragic death. “When I was about 10, my older brother, Christopher died suddenly and for no apparent reason,’ he recalls. “Nowadays they label it sudden adult death syndrome.”
Soon after this body blow, Jeremy’s father lost his farming business. He says: “My parents were forced to sell the family home and we went from being a happy family to having our lives turned upside down and starting again from scratch.” I wonder if these incidents made a long-term mark on his personality. “I suppose in hindsight it was a great lesson in resilience, independence and how life can sometimes throw a curved-ball at you,” he says.
Never a bright scholar in the traditional sense, and suffering from a mild form of dyslexia, Jeremy couldn’t wait to escape the dull confines of school and get on with his life. As his parents taught him a strict adherence to a work ethic (he never had pocket money and was only paid if he earned it) Jeremy was soon “trading” with school friends and making his first mark as a tyro business tycoon.
At the age of 18, he managed to persuade his bank to lend him some money and set up his own amusement arcade, using second-hand gaming machines. I notice a wry smile on Jeremy’s face. What happened then? “I lasted about a year,” he says.
“I lost everything and moved back in with my parents. I had failed, every would-be entrepreneur’s worst nightmare.”
Rather than be downhearted, this, his first but not last business failure, seemed to have invigorated young Jeremy, and it wasn’t long before he was pouring his efforts into other ideas and schemes. Did failure cripple your confidence? Doesn’t failure destroy your morale? “No, it really shouldn’t,” he says. “Look, no child can walk straight away, it will fall over many times and that’s how it learns. What someone needs to do while striving for success is to embrace failure, celebrate it… make it work for you. There is nothing more debilitating for a business than the fear of failure.”
I’m not convinced but Jeremy is very persuasive; however, if someone striving in business didn’t have Jeremy’s natural confidence and ebullience, I suspect that they might crumble under the pressure of expectations. I have never read a self-help book in my life, and certainly not a business self-help book. It makes me shudder just imagining all those meaningless clichés and pompous pronouncements crammed into 500 pages of tedious prose. And yet I have just completed Go Do! Jeremy’s 200-page tome and it is simply brilliant.Apart from reading the book in one sitting, I actually understood it; and dare I say it, was inspired by it.
Reading Go Do! I wondered if Jeremy has missed his vocation. I know that teaching is hardly a glamorous career choice; but my word he is a natural. Another of his projects was the founding of the Harbour Club in 2009, which provides training for entrepreneurs looking to learn how to acquire and sell businesses.Jeremy comes across a free-market liberal to the very core of his being. He believes passionately in small government, he hates state-reliant bloated public sectors and despises politicians whom he see’s mortgaging our grandchildren’s futures. During a career spanning 20 years Jeremy has started many businesses and has grown an organization to 130 plus employees with $15m plus revenues. He has recently completed more than 30 company acquisitions.
Jeremy calls his villa overlooking Port Andratx ‘home’. He skippers his own boat and is currently training for his private pilot’s licence. What makes him happy? “Mallorca is home for me; I love it here,” he says. “I live a slightly nomadic existence, so when I’m here I am happy to have hot and cold running visitors; I never seem to be alone.” As an anonymous contributor was quoted as saying in Go Do! “Jeremy does not just think outside the box, he doesn’t have a box.” He also has my admiration and respect, touched with a large amount of justifiable jealousy!
GO DO! By Jeremy Harbour is published by Capstone and is available in book shops and online.