Back to the UK with a tremendous team spirit, which remained for the rest of the year. We were figuring out as we went how the new business model was actually going to work, including setting up one big telesales operation in HQ. Our managers inevitably became salesmen again, with the leads just going to the best closers wherever they (the leads) came in from and from whatever source (other than previously sold personal add-ons). We did try to minimise their travelling time.
So far as business administration software was concerned, we had nothing. All we had were the 13 spreadsheet reports and the accounts software. An old school friend Roger Ash and I had connected up again; he had become a software programmer. He coded in MS-DOS (Microsoft Disk Operating System). PCs with that operating system were becoming the industry standard – indeed, the Apricots (that we had been encouraged to buy) had become unserviceable as the company had gone bust.
We were left with a Unix server and some dumb terminals, some accounts software used by our accounts team, and a software (database) platform called ‘Informix’ – which, however, required specialist training in what was called 4G programming to turn it into useful applications. (I know I’m losing the will to live as well).
We paid for Roger to train as a 4G programmer and he returned to start the process of computerising our admin procedures. This was slow and painful, as he had his own company with existing long-term clients, who had to be fitted in with our requirements; and he was also having to come to terms with this new programming language. We carried on waiting.
The year turned out to be our most successful ever. Something had been lost, however, in the hard years since the introduction of VAT in June 1984. A lot of key individuals had left and started up in competition to us; plus we had virtually ditched our own unique ranges, and a lot of core beliefs. We were not certain of our culture or ethos anymore – it was all a bit soulless.
We still held the very successful – and drunken – cricket tournament in the summer and we still had amazing Christmas celebrations, but something had changed and it was as if we were just going through the motions, albeit very successfully.
I had lost my creativity so far as the business was concerned, and was looking for excitement elsewhere; I found boating. In October of 1989, I bought my first cruiser: a 45-foot twin engine motor boat that slept 6 and did 28 knots. It was a Princess 45, and was my new passion.