Friends !

If the cap sticks - wear it !

A few years back I met someone at a training course. Someone who in time I came to consider a good friend. For the sake of this narrative, I’ll call him ‘Judas’ which as you’ll discover, is rather apt. As our friendship developed, I grew to trust and  respect him, sharing personal information, interests and ambitions along the way. Whilst chatting one day, I mentioned an idea I had for a small business venture I’d nicknamed CaravanID. Essentially it was an initiative to prevent caravan and motorhome thefts and help recover those that were taken. As a caravanner myself, this was something quite dear to my heart.

Like any good friend Judas listened. His interest seemed quite genuine so when he offered to help, I thought, why not? It would be nice to have a friend onboard, someone I could relate to and trust. So, in time we became business partners as well as friends and for the next couple of years, that relationship flourished.

CaravanID.com grew slowly but steadily. Granted we were some way off becoming millionaires but as we earned the respect of our customers, income and membership increased steadily. Unfortunately Judas was a little more ‘money motivated’ than me, he felt that growth was a bit slow and suggested we recruit someone to help us with marketing and promotion. Although cautious by nature and quite content with the gradual but steady growth, I conceded. I was not overly surprised when Judas revealed he already had someone in mind for the role, an old friend of his that I’ll for the moment I’ll simply call ‘Pincher’. I didn’t know Pincher personally but Judas assured me he’d known him for many years, that he was a successful businessman and had contacts in the right places. A ‘friend of a friend’, sounded safe enough and eventually I agreed to bring him onboard, purely to help with our marketing mind you.

As the months passed, I became concerned about Pincher’s commitment to the company. He had promised us a brand new website within four months but after eight, all he had delivered was a poor copy of my own site with a few cosmetic changes and a bill for several thousand pounds. When I challenged him, Judas jumped to his defence, insisting he just needed more time. Clearly questioning Pincher’s commitment had struck a nerve as over the following weeks, it became very apparent, that despite being the founder and senior partner of the business, I was deliberately being excluded from discussions and decisions. Any queries or challenges I made were met with complete denial and unfulfilled promises of full inclusion. 

Finally a situation arose that I simply could not ignore. The hosting account for the CaravanID website was due for renewal. There was no question that without a web presence we would immediately cease trading. I expressed my concerns verbally and in writing to both Judas and Pincher who could not or perhaps would not, give me any assurance that the new site would be ready to replace the existing one. With less than a week remaining, I stepped in and renewed the hosting myself, thus ensuring the website remained active and CaravanID continued trading.

Whilst you would think securing the continuity of the business would be applauded, Pincher – the marketing guy, had the audacity to email me, insisting I had no right to do so, demanding that I cancel the subscription and unpublish the site immediately. Hang on I thought, this is my business, I’m the founder and the senior partner, he’s nothing more than an under-performing hired help. I certainly wasn’t going to let my business fail as a result of his incompetence. What happened next literally stunned me. Pincher, the hired hand, telephoned me to, in his words, ‘give me some good news’.  That news was that there was no longer such a thing as a senior partner. Without my knowledge or permission, he and Judas had colluded in changing the legal records of ‘my’ business at Company House, apparently making me, him and Judas equal partners. What’s more, he told me, the two of them (Judas and Pincher) now outranked me in any business decisions. If I didn’t like it then I could ‘F*** Off’ and play caravans. – I think this may have been his way of inviting me to resign and give him my business.

Angry? You bet I was. I hadn’t agreed to any of this. A younger me would have been right down there putting him well and truly in his place, lucky for him I grew up and I respect the law. Obviously though I spoke out and challenged the legality, never mind the morality of what he was telling me but he simply laughed, said ‘good luck proving it’ and hung up. As for my good friend and business partner Judas, well he simply refused to take my calls, clearly supporting what had been done. To cut a long story short, I had quite literally been ousted from a company I founded, created, owned and loved because I had put my trust in a someone I considered a ‘friend’, someone who turned out to be anything but.

Due to questionable business decisions and practices that followed and what I consider to be nothing short of persistent bullying and intimidation by Pincher, I was forced to stand down as a responsible director of my own company. I still held my now diminished share in the business but no longer had any influence on how it was being run. At least I could not be held responsible for any dubious activities they had planned.

Without warning the CaravanID website was taken down and has remained so ever since, effectively killing a viable business. Numerous unhappy customers were now contacting me directly looking for an explanation, but what could I tell them? Judas and Pincher took great pride in telling me I was now an ‘ex-employee’ and that they would sue me if I even spoke to anyone related to ‘their’ business. Quite simply, members were abandoned and left wondering what the hell was going on. I should mention that many of those early customers were personal friends and acquaintances, fellow caravanners, people who had encouraged me to create CaravanID, and had put their faith in me by joining and investing in my venture, It would now appeared that ‘I’d’ simply taken their money and abandoned them. Believe me, nothing could be further from the truth, that’s simply not how I treat people. I was as much a victim as they were.

We’re now more than a year on. The original CaravanID.com website remains inactive but a crude copy of it has recently appeared with a slight change in the name. A subtle difference but make no mistake, this is a direct copy of the website I created with a few new graphics. Indeed there may be some legal implications including Data Protection Act violations as personal information relating to members was also copied.

Although to this day, I continue to be harassed by Judas and Pincher, I have put the whole sorry matter behind me. Yes, I still believe my company that I worked hard to establish and dearly loved, was stolen from me, but believe me, I’m over it. The fact is, I do not want to participate in any venture associated with unscrupulous and immoral individuals like Judas and Pincher. They may have the business I created but I have something the can never have – self-respect.

Whilst I respect every individual’s right to ignore what happened to me and continue using the services of Judas and Pincher, I would ask that you please bear this in mind. The company you have chosen to protect your property was itself stolen from me. That those responsible are now running it and looking for your investment. By their own actions they have very clearly demonstrated what they think of values like honesty, integrity and trust. Taking someone’s business from them is not an accident, it has to be planned, it is how those people have chosen to do business. If you think they won’t take advantage of you as a member, that’s your prerogative, but remember this, I was the founding member, I considered them to be friends, associates and business partners, but that didn’t protect me from their greed!

For the present, I have chosen not to name names. This is purely a personal decision and nothing to do with threats from those involved. Everything in this statement is verifiably true, I am prepared to swear to it in it’s entirety. But I will say this. Should Judas or Pincher persist in their harassment of me, my family or anyone else acquainted with me OR if I believe they are attempting to take advantage of any other vulnerable business, I will publicly disclose their names, details of their other business interests and how I believe they, jointly or severally, may present a significant risk to other vulnerable business the deal with.