Giles Cleverley is not prone to speaking in business school jargon. And he looks slightly embarrassed when he admits one of the many things that motivates him is his BEHAG.
I glaze over, expecting the acronym to represent something unintelligible. But am delighted when he reveals it stands for Big Hairy Audacious Goal.
Giles is a fan of Formula One and his aim is to attend every Grand Prix around the world. So far he’s been to four.
But the BEHAG? ‘My ultimate goal, and this might sound arrogant, is to sail my own yacht into the harbour at Monaco to watch the Grand Prix.
‘Every business should have a BEHAG and this is mine. I will never go to Monaco unless I can do it this way. I might never achieve it, but you have to have the goal.’
Giles does not sound arrogant, simply determined – driven would be far more apt.
At just 32 he owns a chain of shops – Syn-Star – selling and repairing computers and installing IT systems
for businesses large and small.
He also has ‘a few’ buy-to-let properties on his books.
He’s proud of his roots. Born in Keydell Avenue, Horndean, he went to first, middle and senior schools in the village.
And that’s where his entrepreneurial skills were honed. He was 10.
‘Me and a friend went to Halfords and bought a load of car washing stuff – buckets and sponges – and went around on Sundays knocking on people’s doors.
‘At Christmas I’d go carol singing, they were brilliant earners, unbelievable,’ he says. Now living in a house close to the top of Portsdown Hill at Widley, he puts much of his success down to his parents’ determination to make him stand on his own two feet.
‘When I left school they said if I wanted to go out to work that would be fine, but I’d have to pay them rent. If I chose to go to college they wouldn’t charge me rent but said I’d have to support myself.
‘So, I thought “college and girls, or rent?” Hmmm, it wasn’t difficult.’
The same rules applied when he moved to the University of Portsmouth to study business and economics.
‘I worked in the fruit and veg department at Waitrose from 6am until 5pm every Saturday.
‘Rushed home, had a bath and then went straight back out to work, first in a Southsea bar and then in a club.
‘I’d get home at 3am or 4am.’
But during the week Giles was preparing for a life in the world of business.
‘I’ve never been academic and the only thing that interested me at university was business and economics and wanting to work for myself.
‘My dad loved his job but hated who he worked for so I was determined to work for myself because then if I didn’t like the boss I’d be stuck. That was a pretty good motivator.’
And while he was
studying in Portsmouth he developed a liking and talent for playing the stock market.
‘My dad had dabbled a bit and I was reading the Financial Times a couple
of times a week and got familiar with different markets.
‘It supplemented my income and I got quite good at it.
‘I did really well on a couple of companies. One of them gave me my biggest win when its share price went up 700 per cent in six or seven months.
‘Of course, you have to be prepared to lose too, but I’ve never been afraid of taking risks or failing.’
Giles is also the chairman of the Portsmouth and Southsea branch of the Round Table and one risk he is about to take is with other members when they abseil down the civic offices in Guildhall Square to raise money for the Rainbow Centre at Fareham, a charity close to his heart.
But his stock market gamble paid off and within a week of gaining his degree he had invested £7,500 of his winnings in his first shop and was painting it.
It was a music and
computer games store in Petersfield and he’d gone into business with a
‘He’d borrowed his share from his parents, but I’d got my own,’ adds Giles.
‘The plan was that once the business was running I’d go off to London and be a stockbroker, but that never happened.’
The pair fell out and Giles bought out his partner before acquiring a second shop in the town and began specialising in IT equipment.
This was all 10 years ago and other Syn-Star shops have followed at Liphook, Albert Road, Southsea, a base in Chichester for that city’s corporate clients, and a large store in London Road, North End, Portsmouth.
Statistics show that half of new businesses fail in the first year and most of the remainder do not get past the second. Only the smallest fraction make it to a decade.
Giles continues: ‘I still work six days a week, but my other goal, apart from Monaco, is to get the business to a point where I don’t have to work and if I decide to take six months off, it would make no difference. But that’s a long way off.’
HELP FOR GOOD CAUSES
To mark Syn-Star’s 10th anniversary Giles Cleverley wants to give away equipment or services to a deserving cause.
Starting next month, and for the following 10 months, he is offering goods or services up to £500 to a charity, school or new business.
He says: ‘It could be a laptop, a PC or £500 of printers. Or perhaps one of these organisations, for example a school, might want us to service 10 laptops for them.
‘I’m very keen on mentoring new businesses and I’d be delighted to hear from any of them that we could help.’
· To apply e-mail Giles at Giles@syn-star.co.uk.