Updated: Apr 12
MMIII - Crazy in Love
We all have those pivotal years in our lives. For me, for some reason it always appears to be years ending in 3. I have no idea why, but a lot of my significant life events have happened in one of those years. A disruption in the space time continuum or just amazing coincidence, either way 2003 was going to be no exception. It was the year I was to marry my amazing wife and have some big career changes.
Things were getting really frantic. We were really busy, lots of projects on the go and the business was expanding quickly. Warren James had moved to live in Runcorn via Newbury and Ballsall Common. Now out of the 3 I think I would have stayed in Newbury, but the lure of the Runcorn nightlife was just too much for him. I remember his little house there well. Playing cricket with a rolled up sock in the hallway and crashing out after more than a few scoops in 'Chambers'. 'Chambers' was amusingly named after the fact the building used to be a police station or bank or something. Amazingly, it is still open 20 years later and the drinks are still the same price. It seems that all the clocks in Runcorn stopped long ago, if you have been there you will know exactly what I mean.
For me I was no longer able to dance into the early hours to 'Benni Benassi' choosing instead to learn how to use a drill and breaker properly by watching the music video to get my 'Satisfaction'. I like to party, everybody does. Make love and listen to the music, you cant wait for the weekend no more. Staying out late, drinking, and having fun were all to come to an end if I was to be married. Not because the future Mrs Rambridge didn't want me to, but because I was just getting to the point where I couldn't hack the pace any more!
Not only that, I had a wedding to plan, a house to finish renovating, new staff to hire and a new office to get up and running. Life lesson 1 - enjoy yourself when you are young and have the energy.
Anyone working in the industry knows how hard it is to recruit, train and retain good people that you can trust to get on with things and have the same level of commitment as you. It was no different back then, I decided to hire a mixture of experience and new blood.
The first recruit was a young local lad. I was going to train him to take over all the CCTV investigations and field surveys. I spent a month or so out in the van training him. He was a blank canvas which just makes life so much easier, no inbuilt bad habits and he would do things the way I wanted them done. I have adopted this approach a lot over the years as a result. Many of the young lads I have hired with no experience have ended up being the best engineers. They were always keen to learn and grateful to be given a chance. The majority of them succeeded. So I would anyone to explore apprenticeship opportunities in your area and give young people a chance.
I have said it before, most of us end up in the industry by accident, and I really would love to change that. It is a great industry and very rewarding, with a lot of opportunities if you apply yourself. Some guys just need a bit of guidance and training and if they have the right attitude will excel. It doesn't have to be a last resort or a crap job, and it isn't, its what you make it. I know plenty of engineers that have gone on to earn fantastic salaries and they fully deserve it. If the industry can attract more talent and make it more attractive with better training and support there is no reason why it cant be as credible as other trades. DrainSafe is going to help to start moving the smaller contractors in the right direction.
I hired 2 guys for my repair team, experienced and from a well known company. Guess what, they were not as motivated as my young lad and well, let's just say we didn't last long together. One misty morning there was a knock on the door of the new office, it was on an industrial estate out of the way so the man (lets call him Norman) couldn't have known we were there surely? But as luck would have it he had drainage experience. 'Gis us a job mate, please', he said. I wont let you down. I have to admit, I wasn't that impressed by his forwardness and found it a bit irritating. However, I learnt a valuable life lesson (2) that day - never judge or go completely on first impressions.
He went on to become one of the best engineers I know. I hope he reads this as he knows who he is. He still is one of the best engineers and hardest workers I know, and I am impressed with what he has achieved. He is still working in the industry and with a long time friend and colleague of mine and is now managing his own crews.
I was still young and still learning, working and managing in the industry at a young age is tough, you learn fast and you have to stay one step ahead. The people I worked with and hired had taught me a lot, possibly more than they realised. Life Lesson 3 - listen and learn from your employees.
I completed the team with the office staff, they were there to manage claims and deal with the customers queries. We had a close knit team and things were going really well, thats when the lure of bigger and better things came a long. When you are at the top of your game, other people notice and the vibes you give off are attractive to others - life lesson 4 right there.
I had been tapped up by another company, the archetypical 'better offer', more money, bigger status bigger things, more opportunity. Just like Bobby Zamora who signed for Spurs that year leaving legend status behind at Brighton. How could he refuse Premier League football right? Of course, just like Bobby, who ended up only playing 16 games for 'Tottingham', I too had made a mistake. Life lesson 5, all that glitters is not gold.
I was caught off guard, a few people had left, including Warren and Chris, and with a great offer on the table it felt like the right time. It even aligned with getting married so I was able to start with the new company when I returned from my honeymoon and leave my current one just before and have some time off.
In August we tied the knot, we were married in a lovely little church in the Hampshire countryside. I married the best woman I have ever known, kind, funny, strong and an ice hockey player for England. She has been the best wife I could ever wish for and we would not have the business now if it wasn't for her. I love you Natt. Life lesson 6, marry someone nice.
Our wedding day was truly the best day of my life, everyone we loved was there to share it with us and those memories will last forever. We stayed in a hotel with everyone else, and late into the night the bar had closed and run out of beer. 'Its ok' said my best man, we have got those beers that Natt and Dave bought us as a thank you, so the ushers and the best man all went to their rooms and came back with the bottles. They carried on drinking for a few more hours. It was my wedding night so we had decided to turn in a little bit earlier.
I cant remember what time it was when the banging on our door started and the flattened box from the bottles was rammed through the gap under the door. We were of course fast asleep, it was our wedding night after all! So in the morning at breakfast I asked them what their bloody problem was. Well it turns out they were drinking into the early hours before they realised the beer was 'non-alcoholic'. To be fair to Natt who got the blame it was hard to see it on the label! Well I said, it saved you a worse hangover. It didn't go down too well. Life lesson 7 - read the small print.
I had a bigger hangover to deal with myself. I had made a bad decision, the company I went to were not what they appeared and I knew it instantly. I went back to my previous employer and they agreed that I could go back, after a suitable level of humbleness had been adopted. Of course that was a mistake too, life lesson number 8, never go back (are you listening Neil Warnock).
Things would never be the same again at Druants, when you make mistakes you have to learn from them. It's good to make them, if you learn from them. I was young, I forgave myself and moved on. Did I make the same mistake again? Sadly yes. 20 years later I would be lured away again for money and a new 'exciting' challenge. It is only when you finally realise that its not about the money that you are set free. I didn't know it then I didn't know it 4 years ago either. It took losing my parents to wake me up to what is really important in life. I guess we all have those 'pivotal years' in our lives as I mentioned at the beginning. Life lesson number 9 - realise it before you run out of time.
As 2003 came to an end, we waved bonjour to Del Boy and Only Fools and Horses forever. I really don't think it has ever been replaced. We need laughter and smiles in our lives now more than ever. Seeing all the actors (and the writer) die off one by one is horrible, a sad reality of getting old yourself. 'Gary'
Life lesson number 10 - don't look back.
I was looking forward into 2004, I had seen a really bright orange advert on Yahoo! by a Swan in Surbiton looking for help. It looked interesting.