Thank you for being part of my trusted community. I appreciate you taking the time to read my musings. I hope they occasionally provide you with insight and inspiration.

I’m currently working on the final draft of my first book, ‘Where’s Dad?’, and wanted to share the first chapter with you.

The book is a story about an overwhelmed businessman, Ben, going from stress to success.

And, if you enjoy reading this it please let me know as it may well inspire me to share further chapters as I continue on the journey of bringing the book to market over the coming weeks.

Love and wellness,

David.

Ps. The chapter and front cover are not fully edited/designed … they may have some ‘polishing’ required …

Chapter 1

Monday morning.

I’d been in bed trying to sleep since 11.00 p.m., but I couldn’t. My bedside clock read 1.15 a.m.

My mind wouldn’t stop thinking about work, family, money.

Each night I went to bed aiming to have a restful sleep, but then I would start thinking about money, family, the business—and everything that was wrong with them. I’d forgotten what a great night sleep felt like.

After what seemed like an eternity, I finally felt myself drifting off. I’m not sure I’d even fallen asleep when I heard a little voice by my side.

“Daddy?”

Freddy, my two-year-old son, stood by the bed, holding his teddy. I checked my clock again: 2.13 a.m.

I groaned to pretend I was asleep and rolled over, away from him. I knew I shouldn’t, but I hoped my wife would hear and take him back to bed.

It worked.

“Come on, Freddy, come and see Mummy. What is it tonight? Why are you out of your bed?”

I mumbled, “Thanks, babe.”

Rebecca replied quietly: “I need my sleep too, you know,”

She put Freddy in bed and made her way back into ours, sighing as she turned away from me. “It’s not easy doing this when you’re six months pregnant.”

I sighed back and tried to fall asleep. I was so tired. It should have been easy. Then it started again. My mind began whirring through all the things I needed to do the next day at work. There always seemed to be an endless list of my own tasks plus everything involved with running a media agency.

Nobody ever tells you what it actually takes to run and grow a business, everything just keeps coming at you day after day. Staff to manage, calls to make, orders to track down, fires to put out . . . a constant feeling of never being caught up and always being behind. After a few minutes, I realized sleep was a lost cause. I reflected back to when I’d started my media agency a few years back; it had seemed so simple then.

It was just me and my clients, it was far easier, more creative and much more fun. Now I had a full team with their own responsibilities; mortgages, families, and they all depended on the business being successful. And that was the problem, it wasn’t. And, they still wanted to be paid at the end of each month even if the money wasn’t coming in. Now, with tomorrow looming, it felt complex and heavy. I had the bank on my back and a team of people who were becoming increasingly disengaged.

What’s more, the new business had dried up. I felt like we were struggling to inspire clients the way we used to and that this was reflected in the numbers. This wasn’t how I imagined it would work out when we grew the business. Quite the opposite.

I got up and put on my dressing gown.

“Where are you going?” Rebecca asked.

“Can’t sleep. Going downstairs for a few minutes.”

Outside it was pitch black; the whole world was asleep—apart from me. I checked emails on my phone to see if anything urgent had arrived. Nothing. I ran through my notes for the next day’s meeting before finally crawling back into bed to get some rest before another week on the treadmill.

***

“Ben, wake up, it’s nearly eight o’clock. Didn’t you hear the alarm?”

Rebecca finally succeeded in waking me. I groaned, “Hmmm . . . Wait, what?” I woke abruptly and realized what she’d said. “Did you say eight? Damn!”

I showered and dressed as quickly as I could, rushed downstairs, and was on my way out to the car when Rebecca asked, “Don’t you want some breakfast?”

“No time! Running late for a meeting!”

She caught my eye. “Don’t forget to say goodbye to Freddy.” Rebecca’s normally radiant brunette hair was tied back as she had yet to get herself ready for the day. Even though she looked tired, her beautiful hazelnut eyes still dazzled me.

I glanced around at Freddy, sitting in his high chair awaiting his cereal, and was struck by how angelic he looked with his big brown eyes and curly brown hair. He smiled at me and I felt a flicker of guilt.

“Oh, yes, sorry. Bye darling, love you,” I said and quickly kissed the top of his head. “See you later, Rebecca, have a good day.”

As the door was closing behind me I thought I heard Rebecca say, “When are you home?”
But I didn’t have time to answer. I started the car and pulled out into the street, catching a glimpse of my tired, unshaven face in the rearview mirror. Where did that extra chin come from?

My stomach was rumbling. I needed food and I headed for my usual spot. The cheery attendant at the drive-thru served me my usual coffee and chocolate muffins. Why, I wondered, are the people working here so happy with such a mundane job?

I answered my own question when I thought back to the days when I just went to work and got paid like clockwork each month. Things seemed much simpler then. They were very different now.

I pulled up in the car park, realizing as I looked down I noticed that the floor of the passenger seat was littered with junk food wrappers and it was getting harder to position the food on my disappearing lap whilst I unwrapped it. I suddenly understood what health gurus meant when they said, ‘You are what you eat.’ I was beginning to look more like a muffin each day.

I made a mental note to try and go for a run that week.

Holding my food in one hand, I started the car, and headed to work, trying not to make too much of a mess eating.

Even though I was late, I was still the first one in the office. I felt a wave of frustration come over me. It never used to be like this when we first started the business. There was so much excitement, energy, and vigour about the place. Now it felt like an empty library.
I gathered some papers for the meeting and sat down alone in the conference room, waiting for everyone to show up. After a few minutes, I heard activity in the office.

My right-hand man, Tim, stopped in the doorway of the conference room. He looked like he’d just gotten out of bed too. “Morning, Ben. Sorry I’m late. I’ll be with you in a minute—just need to go to the toilet.”

“Okay, not a problem,” I said. “Have you any idea where the rest of the guys are?”

“No, sorry. I’m sure they’ll be along soon,” he said cheerily. “You know what we’re all like with starting meetings on time.” A minute later he shouted at me from the bathroom: “Do you want a coffee?”

“No, I’m fine,” I said. Ready to get started when you are.”

Over the next few minutes, everyone finally arrived and followed a routine similar to Tim’s: some went to their desks to drop their bags off, some made breakfast to bring into the meeting, some stopped at the toilet—and some seemed to completely forget we had a meeting.

I looked at Tim, who had joined me at the table and was making a slurping sound as he sipped his coffee. I said, “Tim, do you think you can rally the troops and remind them we have a meeting that started fifteen minutes ago?”

“Oh, yes, of course. Leave it to me.”

He got up and sloshed some drops of coffee on the table without noticing. His tall frame wandered off and I heard him asking everyone in his usual friendly and indirect manner if they wouldn’t mind coming to the meeting. I often wondered if he had the right kind of management style. He seemed to let people walk all over him, he was far too soft.

I sat and waited, all the time getting angrier and more frustrated at my teams’ inability to manage their time. Why is it, I thought, that these people can’t seem to read a clock? I briefly considered expressing my annoyance to them but decided to avoid rocking the boat. I needed to keep them onside.

Eventually, they came in looking a little confused.

“Great to see you all this morning. Thanks for making it.” I tried to keep the sarcasm out of my voice, but I suspect my face said it all.       “We’re here to prepare for the month ahead.     Last month wasn’t the best, but that doesn’t mean we can’t improve on the numbers. Let’s start by going around the room one-by-one. Each of you can tell me what your sales prospects are like this month. I’ll start with you, Tim.”

Tim looked surprised, even though this is what we did every month. He fumbled through his phone and notepad, saying, “Erm . .   Okay, right, yes. This month’s prospects. Okay, one second. . .  So, this month. Okay. Right.” He looked at me blankly and I realized he had been surfing social media and hadn’t heard my request. “What was your question again, Ben?”

If you hadn’t been so busy checking your Facebook and emails you’d have heard me, you Muppet! How can I run this company if my second in command has the dynamism of a snail?

At least, that was what I wanted to say.

“Not a problem. I asked what your sales prospects were like for this month.”

“Ah, okay. Good question. I . . . errr . . .  have been thinking a lot about this month. And, I think we should put more effort in and pull together as a team to turn things around. Don’t you?” This last question was almost inaudible as if even he realized how cheesy it sounded.

I responded with a forced smile. “I know we have to turn things around. That’s why I asked the question. What have you got up your sleeve to help?”

“Ah, I understand. Thing is, I could do with a bit more time to prepare as I’ve not had a chance, yet, as I’ve been so busy with the usual stuff. Day-to-day, you know how it is,” he looked nervous.

What am I paying you for? Your incompetence? In that case, you need a pay rise and a bonus because you’ve just hit new levels of poor performance! If you spent half as much time worrying about the business as you do on your bloody phone we wouldn’t be in this mess. No wonder your team is underperforming.

That’s what my face said. My words came out differently.

“Of course. How about you check in with me before the end of play today and give me your prospects. How does that sound?” I tried to keep my voice positive.

“Err, great, yep. I’ll come and see you later.”
I looked around the room. Everyone seemed to be half asleep, drinking coffee, on their phones or eating breakfast. I’d introduced these Monday morning meetings a few weeks ago after reading a blog on the Success Magazine website, but they clearly weren’t working. I realised I needed another book to help me learn about how to motivate my people. I made a mental note to order one from Amazon’s website later that day.

I wrapped up the meeting at 9.43 am after receiving similar responses from the rest of the team.

“Let’s call that the end for today. If we can try and be here on time for next week’s meeting that would be great,” I said, with a weak attempt at both being firm and encouraging.   “Maybe do some prep beforehand if you have time? Have a great week! Go get ‘em!”

After they’d left I sat in the empty conference room and wondered, What is wrong with these people? When I had a job I was always the best prepared for meetings and always looked to shine and impress my boss. This lot just doesn’t seem to care. I was doing my best to motivate them but felt about as effective as David Brent.

I returned to my desk, ready for another day at the coalface, and opened my emails—secretly hoping to find a big order or some good news in my inbox. Nothing other than people chasing me for money, a few customers complaining about delays with our service, and endless emails from thought leaders telling me everything I should do to improve my life and business.

I ignored the business emails and started to read the newsletters. I always got something out of them and knew that if I just kept on learning things would improve. That’s what the books all said. And I always felt better after reading a few hints and tips on how to get the best out of your team, or how to manage your time and improve sales.

There was a knock at my office door.

“Come in,” I said, closing my inbox.

It was Tim. “Hi, Ben. Sorry about earlier. Have a lot on my plate and I forgot to prep for today’s meeting,”

“That’s okay. How can I help?”

“Well, it’s the situation with Stevensons.”

“What situation?”

“They want to know when they’re going to get their bill paid for the printing of those brochures. The one that’s been overdue for two months.”

“Can’t you just stall them?”

“No. I’ve done that loads of times. And, they won’t let us have any more printing services until we settle with them. Which means we can’t finish the Johnson job.”

“Right, don’t worry—next time they call put them through to me. I’ll sort it.”

“Great, thanks, Ben.” He said, walking back to his desk.

The endless questions, I thought. All-day, every day. Why couldn’t people think for themselves? It’s not surprising I never get anything done. Was it that hard to stall paying someone? Especially when you knew, as Tim did, that our cashflow was tight.

My dad always said, ‘If you want a job doing properly, do it yourself,’ and I could see what he meant. It seemed that I always ended up doing most of the work as it was quicker and easier that way.

I carried on with my day in this way, answering questions, calls, emails. I looked at Facebook for about an hour and then found myself watching more videos on YouTube from business experts.

The phone rang.

“Hello, this is Ben.”

“It’s me. Where are you?” Rebecca sounded upset.

“You know where I am. I’m at work,” I replied.

“Do you know what time it is?”

I looked at my watch. It was 8:00 p.m.  “Sorry, I had no idea of the time. I’ll be back soon as I can. Just have to lock up.”

She sounded tired. “Freddy was asking for you again when I put him to bed.  Do you know what’s it’s like to listen to him ask for you every night and not know what to say?”

“I’m sorry. I’ve had a really busy day. I’ll do my best to be back by 8.30.”

I shut down my laptop. Looked down at my desk. It was littered with paperwork everywhere. I always felt so disorganised even though I’d read loads about time management and promised myself that each night I’d end the day organized and planned for tomorrow. It never happened, always too much going on.

Each night was like this, and I’d always commit to cleaning my desk tomorrow. Tomorrow never came. I glanced around my office. Boxes everywhere, waste paper bin overflowing with rubbish, whiteboard scribbled with text from three months ago.

The place looked like I did: tired and unkept.

I needed to get home.

***

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“Most great people have attained their greatest success just one step beyond their greatest failure.”
—Napoleon Hill, author of  “Think and Grow Rich”