If the cap fits - the cap sticks !
A few years back I met someone at a training course who in time I came to consider a friend. For the sake of this narrative, I’ll call him ‘Judas’ which as you’ll discover, is rather apt. As the friendship developed, I grew to trust and respect him, sharing personal information, interests and ambitions along the way. One day, I mention plans I had for a small business venture. Like any good friend he listened. His interest seemed quite genuine so when he offered to help, I though, why not? It would be nice to have a friend onboard, someone I could relate to and trust. In time we became business partners as well as friends and for the next two years, the relationship flourished.
The business grew slowly but steadily. We were some way off becoming millionaires but income and membership increased steadily as we earned the respect of our customers. Unfortunately Judas was a little more ‘money motivated’ than I was, he felt that growth was a bit slow and suggested we recruit someone to help us with marketing and promotion. Although cautious by nature, I eventually conceded. I was not overly surprised when he suggested that another friend of his, that I’ll call ‘Mr Pincher’ for now, would be an ideal candidate for the role. I didn’t know Pincher personally but Judas assured me he’d known him for years and that he was a successful businessman with 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.
As the months passed, I became more and more concerned about Pincher’s value and 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 this, Judas jumped to his defence, insisting he just needed more time.
Over the following weeks, I became aware, that despite being the founder and senior partner of the business, I was actively being excluded from important discussions and decisions. Any queries or challenges I made were being met with denial and unfulfilled promises of full inclusion. Finally a situation arose that I simply could not ignore. The hosting account for the company website was due for renewal. Without a web presence we would immediately cease trading. I expressed my concerns to both Judas and Pincher who could not or would not, offer any assurance that the long promised new site would be ready in time to replace the existing one. Now less than a week away from potential disaster, I stepped in and renewed the hosting myself, thus ensuring the site would remain active and the business would survive.
Whilst you would think securing the continuity of the business would be applauded, Pincher (the ‘marketing guy), emailed 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 and I’m certainly not going to let the business fail because of him. Unbelievably, Pincher responded by telling me that there was no such thing as a senior partner. Without my knowledge or permission, he and Judas had colluded in changing the records of my business at Company House apparently making us equal partners. What’s more, he told me, the two of them (Judas and Pincher) now outranked me in any business decisions.
Angry? You bet I was. I hadn’t agreed to any of this. As for my friend Judas, well he simply refused to take my calls, clearly supporting what had been done. To cut a long story short, I had literally been ousted from a company I founded, created and owned because I had put my trust in a ‘friend’ who turned out to be nothing more than a conman.
Due to the questionable business practices that followed and what I consider to be nothing short of persistent bullying and intimidation, I was forced to resign as a director of my own company. I still held my share in the business but no longer had any influence on how it was run. Without warning the website I had re-established was taken offline and has remained so for the last year, effectively killing the business. Numerous unhappy customers contacted me directly for an explanation, but what could I tell them? They had been given no information and were simply left wondering what was going on. I should mention that many of those early customers were personal friends of mine, friends who had put their faith in me and my business venture, now it appeared to them that ‘I’d’ simply taken their money and abandoned them.
As if this wasn’t enough humiliation for me, I started receiving threats and demands from Pincher telling me what I could and could not say or do. As an ex-employee, I was ordered not to communicate with customers or even my original business partner Judas. If I did he would take legal action to stop me. He then demanded I send him various items and equipment that he considered to be ‘assets of his business’. Many of the items he demanded were bought with my own money but there were others that I’d never even seen or heard of. Clearly he wanted these things because they had a monetary value, unlike integrity, respect, or friends, which are things he cannot sell to satisfy his greed. Let’s be honest, physical assets are of no use to a business you have already destroyed, unless of course, you intend selling them. He warned me that if I didn’t agree to his demands immediately and in full, he would involve the police, take me to court, report me to HMRC and even tell my current employer that I am a potential risk. Just how low could this creep sink?
So what of my good friend Judas you ask? Well he lived up to the pseudonym I’ve given him, showing just what a true friend he really was. He’s proven himself to be a coward in denial, a fool who will likely become Pincher’s next victim, and in my opinion deservedly so. He ignored any attempt I made to contact him, he ignored the threats and harassment made by Pincher. He ignored the serious effect all of this was having on my health, mentally and physically. What he did was sacrifice a genuine friend, and for what? A failed business? A sense of power?
There are a couple of things about this saga that have really upset me, but surprisingly, losing the business is NOT one of them. What bother me most is:
- That those customers who supported a young business were betrayed. They lost their money and were completely ignored. That’s unforgivable. No self-respecting businessman would dream of doing such a thing.
- That I was gullible enough to let such unscrupulous and untrustworthy individuals into my life at all, let alone consider them friends.
- That there are still such evil people in the modern world, parasites that feed on the talent and success of others, that would rather stuff a few quid in their pocket than have the respect and admiration that comes with legitimate success. Believe me gentlemen, your wallet won’t help you when you need a shoulder to lean on.
Despite everything, I have come to terms with what happened. Unlike Judas and Pincher, I can still hold my head high. I did not fail, nor did I let anyone down, I was a victim of two dishonest and immoral individuals. I’ve gotten over the anger, stress and anxiety they inflicted and emerged from the experience a much wiser and more cautious man, comfortable in the knowledge that I did my best, not only for the company and it’s customers but for everyone involved. It would be pointless to brood over the fact that I was abandoned and betrayed by my friends. The fact is. they were never real friends, they pretended to be in order to satisfy their own greed, I now know them for what they really are. I’ve moved on to better things, but their shame and the knowledge that they are no more than common thieves will remain with them and their families forever.
In due course I will publish a full account of the circumstances mentioned. I will name and shame those individuals involved as well as their other business interests. This will not be to avenge what happened to me but in the sincere hope it will prevent it happening to someone else.