Numero P

I’m very fortunate that there are many times in my life that I look back on and chuckle to myself. One of those times was when myself and one of my friends set up a company called ‘The Joe Mangel Associates’.

It was the school summer holidays. Neither of us could get a summer job and the bank of Mum and Dad had dried up. We sat down over a few beers and brainstormed what could we do to earn us a bit of cash to see us through the holidays. We pretty much said that we would do anything for £10 an hour and the title ‘handyman’ seemed the most fitting for two lads with no skillset or craft whatsoever.

We mapped out where all the big houses were in our area. Our thinking back then was really simple. If you could afford to live in a house that big, then you could afford to pay a couple of likely lads a bit of cash to do some odd jobs that you haven’t got time for or can’t be bothered to do yourself. We also thought that the owners were most likely to be successful business types who would probably appreciate our entrepreneurial spirit.

We called ourselves ‘The Joe Mangel Associates’ because at the time, there was an Australian soap on TV called Neighbours. It was on every day after you got back from school and it was incredibly popular, helping to shoot the likes of Kylie Minogue, Jason Donovan and Guy Pearce to stardom. One of the main characters was a handyman called Joe Mangel. We knocked up a couple of flyers in my bedroom, photocopied them a couple of hundred times at the local library, then mail dropped every house in our local area that either looked big or had a nice car parked outside it.

Being two testosterone fueled teenagers who had recently discovered a thirst for beer and lust for women, we were absolutely convinced that it was only a matter of time until a ‘lonely house wife’ was going to call us up to ‘clean the pool’ or ‘see to the lawn’, only to be offered a light refreshment and invited into the bedroom. We had watched so much porn back then that we convinced ourselves that statistically, we had a 1% chance of this scenario actually happening. By printing 200 leaflets, that meant each of us could make the job worthwhile, so to speak.

Two jobs will always stick in my mind.

The first was a call to ‘mow the lawn’. It was a huge house with a massive back garden that must have been at least a couple of acres. The owner had two lawn mowers; one was a sit-down mower that you drive and the other was a petrol-powered push and pull mower. My friend / business partner convinced me that you required a driving license to operate the sit-down mower (which he had, and I didn’t), so I ended up with the push and pull mower, sweating my nuts off for hours whilst he ended up leisurely driving round the garden getting a sun-tan.

It was only after the job was almost complete, during one of our many ‘breaks’ that the bastard told me he was lying. So I commandeered the mower, made a race track out of piles of cut grass and started doing time trials. Unfortunately, what we hadn’t realised was the owner had been looking out the window the whole time and refused to pay us for the last hour, deducting our hourly fee to pay for the fuel we had consumed.

The second job unfortunately turned out to be our last. I’ll never forget turning up to this huge farm, thinking to myself, “hold up, we’ve struck gold here”. I couldn’t even remember posting one of our flyers at a farm. It turned out his daughter lived down the road and was one of the fortunate few to be on the receiving end of our marketing efforts.

We get to this farm and it turns out the farmer wanted all the fences surrounding his fields and his barn Creosoted. It was probably a week’s worth of work, possibly two if we could drag it out. The only snag was that it was boiling hot. The UK had been experiencing one of its occasional heatwaves.

The farmer insisted that we wear protective overalls. Unfortunately, we didn’t own any protective clothing, so we had to borrow two of his. The only problem was one overall was paper thin, and the other was really thick. To get my friend back for making me believe you required a driving license to operate a sit-down lawnmower, I insisted I wear the paper-thin overalls and paint in the shade, and he wear the thicker overalls and paint in the sun.

I don’t know if anyone has ever worked for a farmer before, but the one thing I can tell you is, no one works harder or has higher expectations of hard work. If they are paying you, they want their pound of flesh. When the farmer came back to inspect our progress after a couple of hours it was no surprise, he stuck a rocket up our arses telling us what he expected in return for his money.

Naturally we panicked, assumed the farmer was a psycho with a shotgun and picked up the pace. The problem with Creosote though is it’s not like normal paint. It’s watery thin and splashes everywhere. And therein lay the problem. I was wearing the thinner protective overalls and was literally covered head to toe in Creosote. It soon seeped through my ‘protective’ overalls and on to my skin.

When it came to our lunch break, we naturally stripped off to sunbathe in the midday sun. What I didn’t realize was the sun caused the Creosote to react on my skin and my skin started to burn. Feeling like my skin was on fire, my friend naturally tried to help me by throwing buckets of cold water on me, only to close my pores trapping the Creosote inside them. Two hours later I was in hospital covered in blisters. And that was pretty much the end of the infamous Joe Mangel Associates. After my little incident with the Creosote I ended up getting a part time job down at our local supermarket.

There aren’t many take outs from the Joe Mangel Associates that you could take seriously, apart from the fact that you can always make opportunity happen. At the time, we couldn’t find any work with any local employers, so we became our own employers and found work for ourselves. Be prepared to get your hands dirty. Don’t be too proud. There will always be people out there who are either too lazy or haven’t got the time to do the jobs which you are prepared to do. You’ve just got to find them to make money. And even if you don’t make any money, you might get a good story out of it.

But you’ve also got to find out where the money is. It’s no surprise that 1% of the world’s population has 99% of all the wealth in the world. If you want to earn money, you’ve either got to be in the 1% or find the 1% and persuade them to spend their money with you.

We brainstormed where all the wealth was in our local area simply by identifying all the areas by house size. They became our target audience. We promoted ourselves with simple flyers that we door dropped. Nothing complicated. We took our marketing into the homes of our target audience.

It didn’t matter that we didn’t know what we doing when it came to gardening, painting or decorating. We both knew that when it came to the crunch we could always talk the talk and whatever challenge we were faced with, we’d laugh about it and find a way of (trying) to get it done.

Finally, I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so much as I did whilst working for the Joe Mangel Associates. It just shows you, that no matter what you do, it’s who you work with that makes work fun.

Copyright © Matthew Parkes 2020

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