Written by Dave Gannaway
Davy was a young ambitious boat builder whose dream was to rise above the struggle of everyday life as a craftsman. He recollects very clearly times of being out of work, many years ago, (unemployment isn’t anything new!), and taking stock of his situation. He had served an apprenticeship as a boat-builder and as an employed craftsman, life was a succession of jobs. Each employment lasting just as long as it took to build a boat. As the boat was launched and the new owners excitedly took delivery, so the men who built it were ‘paid off’, and looking for a job.
He was often depressed at the constant struggle just to survive and support his wife and children. As he took stock of the situation it became clear that the person earning the most out of his labors was his employer, the man who did the least ‘work’. He could see clearly that he was only an organizer. Sure, he knew how a boat was built but he couldn’t build it, he didn’t have the skills to actually ‘do it’. He could also see that, so long as he was a good organizer he didn’t need to be a ‘good hands-on’ boat-builder. He could employ others, like himself, who were good boat-builders, to do it for him. And then reap the lion’s share of the rewards.
So, Davy questioned himself, why can’t I do it for my self? It all seemed so simple enough. All he had to do was to find a customer who wanted a boat and organize it. “I’m not a dummy, I could do that,” he reasoned. The customer would pay over a deposit to get the show on the road and then ‘stage payments’ throughout the boat’s construction period. He could see that he was sitting in the wrong seat. He thought about it, “I was a sheep, a worker bee, just like the other guys. We had the skill to do the job but presumably, not enough savvy to organize it for ourselves! Why didn’t I find my own customer and become the build AND the organizer?”
That was his start, the spark that started the fire, his lift-off point, the seed of an idea that was to transform the rest of his life. He still had no money to finance the project of building a yacht – thousands of dollars would be required for that. But he knew his trade and was determined not to let a little thing like money stop him. He became excited at the prospect.
Keeping his ‘nose to the ground’ and his eats open, Davy let it be known, on the ‘grape-vine’, that he was looking for a customer who was in the market to have a new boat built. That he wanted to go it alone. He didn’t know exactly what to do about setting himself up in business, but the thoughts wouldn’t go away. “I’ve got to take my chance and try!”
Davy, like everyone else had bills to pay and a family to provide for. So this interim period was a difficult time. To keep money coming in he tackled any job that came along. Anything that earned a dollar! He, with the help of his wife, made garden gates, fitted wardrobes and kitchens, made children’s toys and much more. These were the times when he had to overcome the doubts – “am I doing the right thing or should I go and get a job and play it safe like all the others?” And it was as much his wife Sue’s encouragement and support that kept them going.
Within a few months Davy eventual, found his first customer. After explaining the situation, he negotiated that he would build his new boat for him at a considerably reduced price if he would co-operate by purchasing the materials as we went along and put a little money up front for his expenses. Then he would build the boat in the usual way, only now Davy was self-employed. He was on his way.
This became a very difficult time for Davy. Problems came out of the woodwork, things he had never thought of. He needed machines, premises in which to build the boat. There was the constant worry as to whether the customer would arrive with the money, not only to by the materials but to enable him to pay the mortgage and feed them selves. Even though the customer was getting a bargain-priced boat there was always a reluctant to part with his money. This, Davy soon learned, was the way-of-life in business. No one ever wants to pay their bills until the very last moment. And the bigger, wealthier and more powerful they were, the more difficult they seemed to be.
This became the cause of many problems. Very often progress was slowed down and even stopped altogether because of the cash flow difficulties. But an understanding wife, who had a gift for stretching money to make it go around, did wonders to help them keep afloat. They were bumbling by, nothing more than that. But there was no way out now, they were committed, they were in business, there was no turning back, they had to see the job through.
Davy with his wife’s help, made many boats in this way, and as the cash situation slowly improved so they began to buy items of machinery and equipment that would make life easier and produce the boats more quickly.
Again, at this stage, Davy stopped and once more took stock of the situation. The biggest problem they now had was in securing those final and biggest, checks from the owner. The stage payments were easier to handle because if they did not pay up, then the work stopped until they did. But with the final payments it was more difficult. Everything had to be finished; the boat had to be in the water and everything working perfectly; all extras completed and trials run. That’s when the problem of securing that final check would begin.
With a sea worthy craft complete and ready to sail off, it would be so easy for the new owner to just take off without paying the final check. And it was also not uncommon. Often the new owners were already living onboard awaiting the many final details of construction to be completed. If Davy were to insist on keeping the boat locked up until the check was handed over it would offend the owner, but on the other hand, if he allowed the owner to use the boat, then he could sail off into the sunset and never be around to make that final, usually the biggest, payment.
In the end, Davy decided upon the first method as the only way to handle it. Just lock it up and hold onto the boat until the final check was paid over and cleared at the bank. Davy reasoned, “Where else can you take delivery before it is paid for?” Nowhere, unless special arrangements had been made, so that is how it had to be, even though it was destined to ruffle a few feathers. That was often a problem for a Mr Nice guy!
Taking Stock Again
After several years working like this, Davy began to take stock again. He realized that the guy who was doing the best business was the manufacturer and designer of the glass-fiber hulls and moldings, the basic outer shell. Once the moulds were designed and made, then it was simply a question of waiting for a customer to place his order, taking a deposit, making the moldings, collecting the final check and clearing it, then the goods could be delivered. That was straight forward business and more the sort of thing that Davy was looking for. It avoided much of the confrontation that he found so distasteful.
That was Davy’s next, and what proved to be his biggest, and boldest step. He researched the type of boat he thought would be most popular and went to work designing it himself. Gathering all the help and advice he could muster Davy set to work.
At that time Davy’s total savings amounted to $800. The estimated cost of the project was $10,000, more than ten times that amount!
Davy was faced with two major challenges, money and premises. To begin with, he found a backer with cash available, at a price of course. Then he needed premises in which to complete the work. Negotiations with a farmer near by who owned a very large barn solved that problem. He agreed to put up the premises as his part of the bargain in exchange for a percentage of the action. Everything seemed fine for a while, but as the two other partners became more aware of the high risks involved they each dropped out leaving Davy totally on his own again. His project seemed dead in the water, and he was feeling pretty flat and dejected again.
Later, when a close friend asked him how the boat project was coming along, Davy explained. His friend Charlie Brown, said,
“Why don’t you do it on your own?” I explained that the project would cost an estimated $10,000 to compete and my total capital was only $800, plus I had no workshop or premises!
Davy was expecting Charlie to be sympathetic to his cause and was more than a little surprised when he said, “How?” he began, “could you expect anyone, private, bank or financial institution to make you a loan, an unknown designer producing an unknown and untried boat without premises, who wasn’t prepared to first spend, and risk, his own money first?” Davy reeled at the stark truth of his words. He was right of course. His dilemma became, should he start the project with his mere $800, knowing the project to need $10,000?
Charlie’s words ingrained themselves on Davy, since they changed the course of his life forever. “If you have not got the faith to gamble your last $800 on the project, how can you honestly expect anyone else too?” And with those words still echoing in his head, Charlie offered him the loan of an old aircraft hanger in the middle of a sand-pit, free of charge for a year. “Get yourself out there and get on with it!” he said without remorse. Those were his parting words.
That was exactly what Davy and his wife Sue did. They used their meager $800 capital to get the project under way. So basic was the aircraft hanger that was to be his new premises that almost half of their capital was used in installing electricity poles and getting them selves hook-up. There no water supply, so they collected rain-water from the roof, and took water with them each day for drinking.
By the time their personal money had run out they had a structure that vaguely resembled a boat standing in the middle of the hanger, looking like the skeleton of a giant stranded whale! With less than one-tenth of the building program compete they were completely broke and feeling very vulnerable.
At this stage there was no other choice than to seek a loan from the bank. Charlie Brown helped them understand how to approach the bank and what to expect. The bank manager was interested and was amazed at the enormity of the project and bewildered by the timber ribbons that hugged the skeleton to give a resemblance of a boat. More importantly though, he agreed to help them with a loan: as security the bank paid off Davy’s original mortgage and held the title to their little house, which was the only asset they had anyway! In face it was more than just security, the bank then owned their home, lock-stock-and barrel. But the money they required was now available and work was able to continue.
The Point of No Return
From that moment on there could be no turning back. All bridges had been burned. Any escape route was now securely cut-off. There were no options left, the boat had to be a success, no questions. If anything went wrong now the bank would sell out home to offset any debts we incurred and they would be on the street and penniless. To think of failure now would only be courting disaster. There was only one possible direction to go or to think, and that was up – and to success.
Davy was in that ‘free’ hanger for two and a half years. The building program kept running into problems creating more delays. They just had to keep on going or we were ‘lost’. So vast did the project turn out to be, that at times the whole thing seemed impossible and many nights they cried them selves to sleep out of sheer desperation. But, when morning came, they were back out and ready to go once more.
When they felt low, which occurred more and more frequently, other doubts began to creep in: what would they do if, for some reason, the boat did not perform properly? What would they do if people were not interested and didn’t want to buy it? These negative thoughts served only to inspire positive action and the gritting of teeth, and determination to make it all come right. There were hundreds of things that could go wrong and many of them did, but the situation didn’t change, there was no option but to get over the problems and get-on-with-it. It had to work.
At long last the first boat was finished. The bank manager and his wife, who showed a personal interest in the project, arrived at the launching with a bottle of champagne. The craft was tried and tested at sea and everything went well. Another hurdle was over and they could breathe a little easier. But there was still a long way to go.
Although they now had a good tried and tested product, still more problems were to come, selling the first boat to square themselves at the bank being the greatest. Over the two and a half years of building the boat, Davy had been missing from the water front and all the many contacts he had were now cold. On top of this the economic climate of the country had sunk into recession and was far from healthy. There was an oil crisis, which created big problems in just about everything else. The boat-building industry had hit an all-time low, and was compounded with Davy being so out-of-touch. What they thought would be the start of the ‘good times’ was turning out to be anything but that!
Davy was hawking around trying to sell a boat worth upwards of $10,000 dollars (approx $100,000 at present values.) like a door-to-door salesman selling brushes. The demand was zero: it was like trying to sell swimsuits to Eskimos. But there was no other way: he had to keep going. The boat had to be sold to repay the bank who, by now were beginning to breath heavy!
Finally there was a chink of light at the end of the tunnel. Davy found a company who liked the boat and were interested in buying it. Hopes were suddenly running high but, as always, there were strings attached. The company wanted to market Davy’s boat ‘under their name’. Negotiations went on for many weeks, because for his part he had to sell this first boat for cash to clear himself at the bank. The situation was becoming desperate with the bank. Davy would agree on almost any deal so long as he got $10,000 dollars for that first boat and was able to square the bank. Once the bank had been paid, then they would be able to breathe again.
After a long period of negotiations, Davy won his battle and proudly took a check for the full outstanding amount to the bank. A satisfying feeling he was never to forget. He and Sue had made the project work. No one in the world could ever know how good that feeling was after tramping that long and often painful road. At last things were beginning to work out. This was a very significant step in those early days and he felt so good! All those worries and struggles were suddenly worth while. Then it suddenly dawned on Davy that not only were we out of debt and clear of the bank, but everything we owned, our house, the boat-moulds, tools and a mass of materials and equipment, were all now totally paid for. For the first time in their working lives they were worth something, and they owned a healthy boatbuilding company of their own.
One of the conditions of the sale of that first boat was that Davy join the company as technical consultant, which meant that, among other things, I had to answer any questions that were thrown at him regarding how the boat was design and built. Eventually the company, having full boatyard facilities, took over the complete building operation of the boat and negotiated a royalty agreement for Davy based upon each craft that was built. Every time a craft was sold, he would receive a royalty check. This afforded them the opportunity to upgrade from the little cottage to a larger house close to the river.
Now as Technical Director of the large established boatbuilding company, life was looking up. Davy laughed at the thought that he must have been the only Technical Director who had a smart office, secretary and company car, who did not have a single academic qualification to his name! But, most importantly, it made him feel as though he had really achieved something, and it didn’t worry him a bit that he lacked qualifications!
Many of his boats were produced and went on to sell in many countries and provided work for that particular company for many years. Davy freely admits that just daring to think it possible back in those early days was the seed that was now his reality. It truly was his life-off point, that elusive first step that so many wonder about. I have covered only the outline of Davy’s story. There were a great many other problems, both technical and personal issues he had to deal with and overcome. For instance they had two young sons growing up whilst all this was going on, which meant that for them there were many disadvantages.
You have probably already guessed that this is my story; I (Dave Gannaway) am Davy. And I must be honest, it was a considerable struggle and very stressful at times, but it need not be. Sometimes it happens with the greatest of ease, but you’ll never know until you try. Just become resigned to ‘do whatever it takes’ to get to where you want to be. The sooner you get started the sooner you’ll arrive. As painful as the experience was without it I would not now be financially free and living in a very different world to that of a working boat builder.
As I have so often said, starting is the most difficult part of all. There are few who will reveal how they, truthfully, made their start. It is often very difficult and far from a story-book affair – if it wasn’t, there would be an even greater glut of millionaires!
To become prosperous and successful you must go through this starting period if you really want to make that transition and get your feet on that ladder of success, then my advice to you is to START - DOING – IT – NOW. It worked for me just as it will work for you.
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