Doing a Ratner…
We are probably all of the age to remember Ratner shops, you might like me even bought your good lady some of their, what you thought at the time was fine Jewellery!
What is more famous than the shops was the day Gerald Ratner back in 1991 gave a speech to a conference and described his own company products as “crap”. The speech went down in business history along with Ratner’s career.
I had the pleasure of hearing Gerald Ratner speak a few weeks ago and described the pressure and fall out from his off the cuff remarks. His business went into a fast down ward spiral and only 6 months later the bank contacted him to say that due to breaking covenants on his loans he now them One Billion Pounds, Ratner humorously comments that in 1991 a Billion Pounds was a lot of money.
He spoke of the 7 years he spent in bed watching Countdown and was in a bad way with depression. His wife then told him to get out of the house or she would divorce him, to which he replied, “My first wife divorced me because I was always at work and now you want to divorce me because I am always at home, you just can’t win!” This did not go down well with Mrs Ratner!
The first step towards recovering from the business failure was exercise. ‘I decided to try cycling,’ he says. ‘Apart from my talks, it is the best thing that has come out of what happened to me.
‘I cycle 28 miles every day. I don’t wear a helmet or carry anything because I like to be free, but it’s the time when I get my best ideas.’ Many of his rich business friends deserted him, but advertising mogul Charles Saatchi remained a friend after the speech, even though they have lost touch now.
When I was down he was very kind. He phoned regularly and even offered me an office if I wanted it.
Ratner began his business recovery by re-mortgaging his house and setting up a company running health clubs, which he sold a few years later for £3.9million.
He then set up Geraldonline in 2003, but no one was remotely interested in its launch. ‘I realised the only thing people were interested in about me was the speech in 1991. So I contacted the Institute of Directors and asked if they would have me back.
I talked in front of 5,000 people and all the papers picked it up. Someone in the audience then asked me to talk at a conference and it took off from there
‘I had spent seven years feeling a victim, denying I said what I said. I had felt it wasn’t my fault and I was in physical pain as if daggers were being constantly driven into my stomach. But once I started giving speeches I managed to turn the whole thing round and it’s no longer such a nightmare. I tell people that having a setback, whether it’s going bankrupt, being divorced or ill, doesn’t mean it is the end of you.
Getting my audience to laugh puts me on a huge high and people now realise I am no longer the arrogant snob they thought I was.’
Ratner is very different from his Eighties self.
‘I now realise that the vast amount of money I had made me feel hollow rather than happy, because I was on a treadmill of being competitive.
I was addicted to adrenaline and so busy making money and meeting targets set by the City that everything else, including friends and family, went out of the window.
‘I bought a helicopter. I drove a Porsche. I would always take the best suite in the hotel, fly first-class. Now I stay somewhere modest and fly by easyJet or Ryanair.’
I have become very careful with money in case it all goes wrong again.’
Today he enjoys a more leisurely lifestyle. ‘I go to my office in Bicester, Oxfordshire, only two or three times a week. I have 15 staff in the UK and everything is made in India. It’s all very different.
Now you have to know more about how to be clever on Google and the workings of the internet than you do about jewellery. I do know, however, that the website is getting three million hits a month.
‘The good thing is I don’t have to answer to anybody and especially not the bank.’
If you ever get the chance to hear him speak I would definitely recommend it, he just proves that even when we are going though a very hard time there is light at the end of the tunnel. In the pub and club industry we have all been though some hard times – smoking ban, recession, supermarkets and many more to the list but like Ratner we find a way to keep going! just don’t say that your local is CRAP!!!!!
Until the next time