2007-2016 3rd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment
Springtide Property Ltd
What inspired you to set up your own business?
When I left the army, I went into private security contracting, mostly on the African continent, which afforded quite a bit of time for reading and personal development during downtime. One day, during our task of training anti-poaching rangers in the Congo, the lads were passing around a battered copy of “Property Investing Secrets” by Rob Moore and Mark Homer. The book discussed investing in property and leveraging it in multiple ways for short and long-term financial benefit. I was sold on the idea of taking ownership of my own prosperity and working towards my financial freedom, rather than working for someone else. The notion of not having a boss and answering only to myself and my chosen responsibilities were powerful ideas for me at the time. The extra time afforded to me now, thanks to not having to work full time hours, also allows me to work on projects which I’m passionate about like the Sea Company surf therapy group that we’ve established at South Shields.
How did you find the transition to becoming self-employed?
It was a huge challenge. I landed in the UK and, a couple of days later, the country went into COVID-19 lockdown. I thought, “What am I going to do now? I have no income, and I’m not even allowed to leave the house.” Luckily, I had saved a fair amount of money since leaving the army, so I decided to enroll in some online property training courses and get my business started. It was hard work, a massive learning curve, and one of the most stressful things I have ever done. I made mistakes, faced unlucky situations, got lucky at times, won some battles, and lost some. However, after 6 months, the investment of my time, money, and heartache began to produce a return that gradually grew into an income I could live off—I was hooked.
What were the challenges and how did you overcome them?
I’d say the biggest challenge for me was loneliness. In the forces, you have all your mates around you, so no matter how tough the situation, you can look at your pal next to you, and nine times out of ten, you’ll be able to overcome whatever obstacle is in your way. When you’re starting a business by yourself, you don’t have that support network right next to you to get you over the initial hurdles, and I’ve found that can be the difference between success and failure. To overcome this, I made sure I engaged with a core of like-minded, supportive individuals—family, friends, business acquaintances I met, mentors, and more. Their support was crucial.
As a veteran, what traits and skills did you carry forward into business?
The number one trait that comes to mind is resilience. It’s with us all from basic training and is required in bucket loads to keep the show on the road and get you through the tougher periods. Other characteristics that helped are self-discipline and motivation, courage (it takes guts to put yourself on the line and start a business), the ability to communicate succinctly, leadership, and the list goes on. However, there are also some traits that don’t translate well to civilian life, and I’ve needed to keep track of them. One of them is self-sacrifice. In certain areas of the forces, there is a culture to run yourself into the ground—where the mission is everything. When you’re out on your own, it can be easy to keep going until you crash and burn because there is no one above you to tell you to chill out or take a break. Taking care of myself physically and mentally is now my number one priority. There’s no point in being successful in business if it’s at the cost of my health and well-being.
What would you say to other veterans thinking of setting up their own business?
Absolutely do it, but only if it’s either something that you are passionate about or something that you are passionate about what the results of your hard work will give you. Otherwise, I think it would be hard to find the motivation to make it work. For example, I don’t get excited about property or going to viewings, but I do love that I answer to no one, can take control of my finances now and in the future, and that I’m not simply swapping my time for money as in a salaried job. The rent comes in whether I’m in the office or out surfing! Oh, and it has to be a business that’s actually going to work; not all ideas make good businesses. It doesn’t matter how much you enjoy whatever niche hobby or interest you have; it’s not necessarily something that you’re going to be able to sell to other people.
For more information about Matt’s business Springtide Property Ltd, you can find them on Instagram @matt_springtide_property and @themayfieldapartments Alternatively, you can contact Matt directly on email@example.com
To find out more about the Surf Therapy Group, search @sea_company_veterans on Instagram.
If you’re a veteran and considering starting your own business, get in touch to find out about the Veterans RV programme at the North East BIC.