Thursday, 27 December 2012

The adversity paradox

The Christmas break has given me time for some introspection and to reflect on 2012 and it's highs and lows and the lessons learned. This year's adversity has tested me on all levels like no other year has before. I have survived and am more life and business savvy than ever.

The adversity I am facing right now, while very painful and something preferable to avoid, I am certain will actually be my making. I feel more equipped and battle-hardened than ever to accomplish extraordinary things personally and professionally. Therein lies the adversity paradox.

The concept of an "adversity paradox" was something that I learned while at MIT University undertaking the Birthing of Giants(BOG) programme. BOG was founded by my friend and mentor Verne Harnish and has been responsible for developing some amazing self-made entrepreneurs over the years. I graduated in 2004 and still regularly review my notes when I am developing ideas. I also frequently bounce things off my classmates to gain greater global perspectives. The lecturer that spoke to our class about the adversity paradox was J. Barry Griswell. He is a man that has overcome tremendous adversity and wrote and talked about the power of it in putting many of mankind's greatest achievers on incredible success trajectories in all fields of endeavour. These people consciously chose not to be a victim but instead to use the adversity as a source of strength to fuel their pursuit of greater goals. 

So how has adversity changed me and set me up for what's next? 

For starters I will continue to do my best for the people that have been hurt by what happened to Skelton Sherborne. I acknowledge adversity I have suffered has caused adversity for others which I am sincerely sorry for.

Apart from that responsibility the slate has basically been wiped clean and I have the opportunity to rebuild my life and future business model exactly the way it needs to be. I have much more clarity how to do this, what's most important, and who I want with me and who I don't. No victims, princesses or people wanting a free lunch allowed! I know who my friends REALLY are now by who stood by me and who didn't. I will be using the word "No" much more in all aspects of my life to preserve my energy for my main priorities.

The perspective I have gained will be invaluable. When you have endured the adversity and pain I have there isn't anything or anybody who can deliver you more of it than you already have experienced. As a result I am more resilient, resourceful, fearless(not reckless) and tenacious than ever. All I see now is opportunity and upside. The entrepreneurial passion and spirit is starting to flow freely again for the first time in about 3 years. The hunger is back and I am relishing the challenge.

There is no shortage of challenges to overcome. The business environment has changed and will keep changing faster constantly. The swing back to the East from the West is well underway even though some people in the West prefer to be in denial about it. In a truly global economy the West can no longer compete with it's high labor costs and high debt compared to the East. The internet combined with fast and modern shipping methods have enabled global competition. It's no longer a concept it's a reality and this is what is really driving change in the global economy.

The power in a sales transaction has shifted too. It now rests with the buyer, not the seller as it previously did. This is the new landscape and there is no doubt in my mind that it is here to stay and we are going to see many great companies' business models, particularly in the West, being challenged and many of them will fall by the wayside and whole industries will disappear.

I was talking to one of my Canadian BOG classmates about a week ago who pointed out to me that most people who are not business owners themselves view business like they do a game of football that you either win or lose. He said that it isn't like that at all because in a game of football there is a full time siren. In business it is never full time as the game goes on and on with no real end or respite. You have to constantly make the best of every situation, adapt, re-invent and keep your work rate higher than the competition to stay ahead of them. He is finding his business model being challenged by the new global economy and when he looks back over the last 15 years he says 13 of them were great and only 2 have been bad so the scoreboard is okay and he has received tremendous personal satisfaction in creating opportunity and prosperity for his people and all other stakeholders in his business for the risks he has taken. It's not about the money to him either.

As we head into 2013 I can't help thinking that the number 13 is considered unlucky by some people. It's not unlucky from where I am sitting right now and I think it will be a great year of re-invention, opportunity and proving J.Barry Griswell's adversity paradox theory.

All for now,

Brad Skelton

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

We lost our battle.

Sadly I have had to appoint a liquidator to Skelton Sherborne this afternoon.

The Deloitte receivership conducted on behalf of HSBC has been catastrophic to the company's future viability. Despite the great efforts of my amazing team to save the company post the receivership, we deemed it could not be successfully salvaged while the bank accounts, debtor book and statutory refunds were kept under the control of Deloitte. Effectively Skelton Sherborne's cash flow was cut off and as a consequence the company became insolvent. As a director I was compelled to appoint a liquidator.

Therefore Anne Meagher and Terry Rose of SV Partners have been appointed and will proceed to wind up the company. I am no longer in charge of the company's affairs. SV Partners office phone number is +61 7 33102000. They will soon be in touch with all clients and creditors.

I know many of our clients have been hurt and inconvenienced by what has occurred with Skelton Sherborne these past two weeks. I am sorry that we were not in a position while Deloitte were in charge to achieve the right outcomes for you with your cargo. For any clients with cargo stored with us at our Brisbane Terminal, we ask that you make arrangements to promptly collect it. There will be a skeleton staff staying on with the company to assist you and the liquidators for a short time with this and to help clients with cargo still on the water.

To my crew. Thank you! You have been awesome and I am shattered for you and your families that this company could not survive. The loss of your jobs so close to Christmas is dreadful. I am so sorry! I think we can honestly say we did our level best though. The professionalism and commitment you have displayed to our clients, suppliers and each other in very challenging circumstances has been truly inspirational and helped keep me going and fighting hard everyday. I am deeply touched that such was your determination for this great company to survive that you all volunteered your time and expertise these past two days without pay. I could not dream of more support than this and I want everyone to know what you did. I am sorry I have let you down in the end.

I am in disbelief that such a good and profitable company with a great track record can lose the support of it's bankers and end up in this position with so many innocent people hurt along the way. I am sorry to the people Skelton Sherborne owes money to and any hardship this has already caused you and may in the future as the liquidation proceeds.

Thank you for the tremendous support the team and I received from so many people.

This is a setback for my children and I. The five year plan just became a ten year plan I think so the job of rebuilding starts tomorrow. I will soon be back bigger, better and even smarter so stay tuned to this blog.

I'll chalk this up to another great entrepreneurial learning experience that you can't get at any university in the world. For entrepreneurs it's not about the money. It's about the journey and the best days are still to come.

All for now,

+Brad Skelton 


Sunday, 2 December 2012

I'm back in control of Skelton Sherborne but....

Just before 5pm last Friday afternoon Deloitte advised me they have been "partially" retired by HSBC as receivers to Skelton Sherborne and handed control of the business back to me. A circular was sent by Deloitte to clients and suppliers early that evening advising them of this. 

If you have read my two previous blog posts you know the team and I have been fighting hard to find a way to get the control of Skelton Sherborne back and the receivers out. I should be really happy as I am largely in control again but I have been handed back a company that has literally had it's heart ripped out as a consequence of HSBC's actions in unjustifiably freezing bank accounts and then appointing receivers who brutally carried out their task in getting the banks money with little or no regard for our clients and our ongoing relationship with them, the future security of employment of my team and payment of other creditors who are owed money too.

I fear that these actions may have caused the company to become insolvent and as any responsible director knows it is against Australian corporations law to trade while insolvent. I am urgently seeking advice on this and the exact financial position of the company to get clarity on this.

Therefore regrettably I need to put our clients on notice that we may not be legally able to resume normal trading and cargo deliveries right away and there are the other issues raised as a consequence of a partial retirement of receivers I need to urgently find a way to overcome.

So what does "partially" retired as receivers mean?

Deloitte advise that the only areas of the business they continue to maintain control over are bank accounts, the debtor book as at the 30 November and statutory refunds. All other aspects of the business are back under my control as the director. They have pulled their people out of our office on Friday so it is just my team and I there now.

So what does this mean to the operation of the business and can it start to resume normal trading? Breaking it down...

Bank accounts
The HSBC bank accounts remain under their control. This effectively leaves the business without a bank account to operate and any funds contained in the existing HSBC accounts Skelton Sherborne doesn't get the benefit of to operate the business.

Debtor book
Deloitte will be collecting all amounts owed to the company as at 30 November, 2012. Therefore Skelton Sherborne will not have access to these funds to allow us to operate with either. 

Statutory refunds
The company has a stamp duty refund due of about $86k so Deloitte advise they will collect this as well.

Therefore to run the business I effectively have no banking facilities, no cash coming in from past work performed nor the benefit of a stamp duty refund. Furthermore subject to the advice I am seeking, we may now be insolvent and therefore cannot resume normal trading unless this situation can be resolved within the law.

During the receivership Deloitte kept advising clients they were "trading" the business. Well as a business owner my definition of "trading" includes taking on new work. Many of our incredible clients have tried to keep supporting us through this period. Sadly we were instructed by Deloitte to turn this new business away so Skelton Sherborne has next to nothing in it's immediate pipeline to keep us going either.

I feel like we have just taken the hospital pass from hell with all of this but we are not dead yet. Anyone who really knows me will probably say I never give up on anything I believe in. I believe in Skelton Sherborne, it's people and know their families are worth fighting for. If we can find a way to keep trading, as HSBC should have sensibly allowed us as a profitable company to do, then the outcome for the Skelton's crew, our clients and our suppliers will be much better. 

My team and I are grateful for the many comments on this blog, some media attention, countless emails and texts of support. The words in one email in particular I love and have kept me going and smiling despite the seriousness of the situation. An old acquaintance of mine in Perth who said he has been through the same thing with his former bank said "Good luck and don’t give up until the bastards have nailed you to a cross". Well, neither Skelton Sherborne or I are on the cross yet let alone nailed. We will find a way to keep going and survive this as intact as possible.

I will keep posting a blog daily with important information for clients and suppliers and details of how this unfolds. For more immediate and frequent updates on cargo movements and the situation you can follow me on Google+ . I am sorry but unfortunately sometimes my key team and I are struggling to keep pace with the phone calls.

All for now,

+Brad Skelton