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Independent resettlement & recruitment guide for serving Armed Forces & Veterans

Feeling lucky?

Feeling lucky?


15 Jun, 2018

‘This is for you, if you are thinking about starting a business,’ says regular Quest contributor, Steve Bulleyment, director of Lincolnshire-based specialist auto locksmith company Car Key Man, ‘Especially if you’re thinking about using your gratuity to fund it. Or maybe you don’t have a gratuity and you’re going to borrow the money, like I did. Either way, this article is about getting your best odds at the gambling table.’

Let’s be honest, it’s all about odds …

Crossing the street, driving your car, choosing a partner, and so on. The odds that our choices will work out well guide us as to whether we try and make a go of it. We don’t think we’re calculating the odds of making it safely when we cross the road, but it’s all done in an instant, and most of the time we choose correctly.

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The problem comes when our emotions take over from logic. A child gets excited and runs across the road when they see grandma. They lose control of logical thinking because emotions take over. Likewise, we go to the car sales to buy a family car and drive off in a two-seater. Emotions again, driving our decision making.

We have the same problem when starting a business, as we set out down the resettlement path. I believe our emotions lead us as much as logic does, and this can be a real problem when large sums of money are involved.

Gambling with your gratuity

If you told everyone you were going to the casino to put your gratuity money on the roulette table, how do you think they’d react? Especially if you chose to put the whole amount on one spin of either black or red. What do you think they’d say?

Logically, it’s a completely stupid decision. There’s a 50% chance you’d lose everything. However, did you know that these are better odds than those you get when you start a business?

First, a few facts …

If you’d started a business in 2011, the chance of you still being in business in 2016 would have been less than half – just 44%.* Think about it. If you took a big chunk of money in 2011 and had a fantastic business idea, worked really hard (like all business owners do) and gave it everything, more than half of the people that started with you would no longer be in business.

The sad thing is that, when you stop being in business, all that time, money and effort is gone for ever. The shop gets a new sign. The letterheads and business cards that were so important go in the skip. What you are left with is some experience – and a hole in your bank balance.

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That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t start a business. When I write these articles, it might seem that I’m trying to put you off. Well, I am: £40,000, or your gratuity, is a lot of money to lose. However, if you understand the odds, and are honest with yourself and your family – the people who matter – you stand a much better chance.

What can you do to stack the odds in your favour?

Here are a few ways that will help your business idea stand a better than 50% chance.

  • Sell something that people need. I was very lucky when I chose to sell car keys. Although I knew that people needed them, I didn’t realise that the market is as large as it is. So I now have a successful business because I’m selling something that people need. Will people pay you money for your idea? Ask your friends and family, sure, but then ask your colleagues. These are people who don’t mind hurting your feelings! Do they need it? Have they ever needed it? Those left-handed bottle openers that seem like a bargain to get hold of – does anyone actually want them? Are you solving a problem that no one is bothered about? 
  • Have you got the money in the bank that will give your business a chance to succeed? Can you live off your partner’s money? Do you have a pension that will get you by? If you get two years down the road and start to get the business working well but run out of money to live on, you may as well not have started at all. It’s the single biggest reason why people give up. We all need money to live, so you have to give up and get a job.
  • Do something that’s been done before. There are no special prizes for coming up with a brand new idea – Facebook, Uber, Apple and YouTube, there aren’t many of them. Being the first to make it work is overrated. The fairy-tale is magical, but the reality is that if it isn’t already being done successfully, then probably no one wants it. This flies in the face of other advice you will get and isn’t the romantic idea that people have about business, but it’s the truth. Its OK to copy a successful business – in fact, I believe that’s what you should do. It’s all about increasing your odds of success.
  • Last, but not least, choose something you love. Although loving your work won’t guarantee success, hating it will end in certain failure. Even though having a business is about making money for your family, there will be many times over the first five years when you’ll feel like giving up. Believe me, it’s as certain as the sun coming up. This is normal, just like going through training in the Forces. It doesn’t mean you’ve failed, it just means things are getting tough. If you love what you do, the odds that you’ll keep going increase. However, if you’re just doing it for the money, then go and get a job. When you start a business, you invest so much of yourself in it (alongside the money), it’s not easy to just change direction. 

There are so many good reasons to have a business. I love it – not always, but most of the time. I don’t do anything I don’t want to do, I can never get the sack, and when I put in extra work the rewards are for me and my family. So if you are thinking about it, give yourself the best odds possible. Come to the roulette table with a plan and know the odds. If you do that, you’ll be better prepared than most businesses at start-up.

And, lastly, just like with roulette, good luck!


Steve’s business, the Car Key Man, is a specialist auto locksmith company covering Lincolnshire. Launching in 2004, Steve spotted an opportunity to solve the problem of replacing lost and stolen car keys. The company now offers workshop facilities as well as a mobile service. Recognising the needs of concerned vehicle owners, it offers free consultations to find an affordable solution to the growing number of car key problems.

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