Alfie Best is one of the most successful businessmen in the UK. As a self-made man, he appears on Sunday Times Rich List and is known for his multitude of successful businesses. His core focus being the park home industry.
He serves as a chairman for various businesses including Europe’s leading Wyldecrest Parks, Kyoto furniture, East Thurrock Football Club, Best Park Home Finance, Sapey Golf Country Club and Vaaroom Motorhome hire. Alfie’s entrepreneurial success has seen him generate millions, allowing him to enjoy a luxurious lifestyle. However, it is evident that his success is well earned from hard-work and dedication, keeping him level-headed and humble.
When you think of a self-made millionaire you may think that their success stems from luck. But yet, although there may be moments he identifies as lucky breaks, it is actually his tenacity that helped him achieve everything he has today. Meeting him has shown one thing for certain, he is definitely one of the most industrious individuals you will meet with an inspirational story behind him.
You can read Alfie’s story about how he went from very humble beginnings to building a £700 million pound property empire in his new book called ‘Can anyone build a property empire – yes!’ which you can find online .
We wanted to hear more from one of the most successful park operators in Europe, so we asked him a few questions.
How long have you been in the park home industry?
I have been in the industry, physically working in the industry for about 21 years. But from a heritage point of view, I have been involved and around caravans all of my life. Whether it be caravans, static caravans, or mobile homes. I have been around that all my life.
How did you start your business?
Okay before I started this business, I ran many other businesses. At one point I even got to a point where I thought I was going to retire when I sold out a business. Which was mobile phones. Starting Wyldecrest Parks was the very first mobile home park that had come up for sale in Romford. It was a bit of an anomaly because you were collecting pitch fees or rents for about £120 off of about £130 people. And the price of the park at the time for £1.7 million. We are going back in the year 2000, so that was a lot of money to invest. Mobile homes parks have been dismissed as good investments because the returns do not look that promising. But, if they are managed right, they’re better than blue chip.
What is your greatest achievement and your proudest moment?
On a personal level, I would say it’s raising my children. That would be the great achievement. Seeing your children do well. And on a business level, without this sounding obnoxious. I have had so many great achievements. When I was 25, I built a company that had 18 stores in the mobile communications market. Mobile phones at that time had only just come out within the 5 year bracket. My greatest achievement was virtually going bankrupt but managing to claw myself out of it. Because that either destroys you or builds you. I think it did both for me.
How do you think you got yourself out of it? What would your tips be for someone who is going through such struggles like bankruptcy?
Anybody that has struggles, remove yourself from the situation that you are in. Try looking at it from outside the box as supposed to being inside the box. If you are inside the box, it’s like you’re firefighting. Look at who and what is the most important thing to pay. Normally it’s the bank. And the first thing to do is be honest with the bank, do not try and hide anything. Because the banks have seen recessions, they’ve seen booms, they’ve seen busts. They have seen people that have gone under and they’ve seen people that have thrived. They’re sometimes the best people in the world to help you, even if their only concerned about their money. They have the experience there. And the next thing is, don’t panic. What’s going to happen is going to happen. Your job is to keep your hands on the stirring wheel, keep driving the car forward. You just have to drive a little bit slower.
How do you think the industry can be improved as we move forward?
I think the industry can be improved massively. It come a long way in the last 50 years and it’s got a lot more further to go. It’s through companies like us, it’s through new associations like the park home and holiday park association who are challenging how people perceive caravan parks and mobile home parks. It’s changing the stereotypical perceptions of many and showing that the park home industry isn’t just about the caravan site. It is the solution to affordable housing. Companies like us, get a lot of criticism because tall trees catch a lot of wind. So it’s us that takes a lot of criticism from the public. I’ve got broad shoulders, I will continue lobbying for what I believe is right.
What are the 3 most important principles you live by in terms of managing your business?
It is that you must have a goal. And everybody within that business must share that goal. Everybody must understand the end goal. Because that gives everybody a solid purpose to work towards. That’s number 1. Number 2. Only have people around you that are committed to the business, not committed to you. Thirdly, do what you love and make sure you love it. If you love it, you will not work. It will just be your glorified hobby.
Can you tell us about one of the biggest challenges that you have faced in your career? What did you do to overcome it?
Biggest challenge that I ever faced was again, to stop myself going bankrupt. And I would say there’s not 1. There’s 3. Second is, trying to balance your personal life with your business life. I can’t say that I’ve been particularly very good at that because all my life I have lived, ate and breathed whatever business that I’ve done. That has a profound effect on you. It has a profound effect on the people that are around you and it is often hard to find the right balance, but it is essential that you do. Third principle would be, understanding how finance really works. Understanding how you can grow your business, that it is not about cash coming into the business. It’s a model of saving cash, investing cash and making sure that you’re borrowing money at the right figure that you can afford to pay back.
What is the last thing you think about when you go to sleep and the first thing in the morning?
Can I improve on my goal of where I want to be. And how could I improve the systems that are in place on getting us to that goal. I also think of the people, and this is what goes through my mind basically on the nightly basis. I think about those around me and the people that are loyal to the cause, to the business. Because my job is to create a dream that they can share.
Do you have any tips for start-up park operators?
If you’re starting the business, don’t be frightened. Be nervous, but don’t be frightened. Absolutely join a good association that can help you. Then you can gain knowledge about the industry, and you can become an expert. It is very important to become an expert in the industry that you’re in.
Would you say people are born leaders or are they trained and coached to be a leader?
Both. Nature or nurture. Some of us are born leaders and some of us are trained and coached to be leaders. Now if I put this into perspective, I was a reasonably half decent boxer. On a scale of 1-10, I was a 6. As a coach, I was terrible. The reason I was terrible was because I was trying to relive my own youth through the boys I was coaching. Now that is a bad coach. A good coach should realise that he has had his time and it’s now time to pass on the experience. And that is the same in business.
Do you have anything new and exciting coming up that nobody knows about yet?
We are in the process of starting to locate and put together our own manufacturing of park homes. We are also bringing a new team together as we speak to open up our regional office in America. And once that is done, within the next 6 to 8 months we’re going to be going to America and expanding what we do here and there in the US.
How do you think an association like the PHHPA can help your business move forward?
It is not so much that I look how it can help our business. But I believe it can help everybody. And I believe that it can give us all a true voice for the park operators without being frightened to speak up. I can often see that many park home operators are too concerned that if they say the wrong thing, it will be taken out of context and will be harmful towards their character and their business. I believe how it can help us and all other operators is certainly by the training that is being brought on board. But also, by bringing us together, allowing park owners to feel like they have a true association for the park only.
In your opinion, what are the things that stand in the way of growth?
Small-minded people. Small-minded people that have never been in a business. That have never put their house on the line. That have never put their possessions on the line to grow a business. And yet they are there giving plenty of people advice. They are the people that are holding businesses back.
And lastly, what would your tips be to someone struggling to grow their business?
Step outside the box. Reanalyse your finances. And make sure you have at least a 2-year plan in place. On paper, look at past history of how you’ve grown your business. You reimplement that and then look at it on a board in front of you. Analysing where you went wrong and how you can improve – your finance, the team around you. So most importantly, business plan.
On behalf of the Park Home and Holiday Park Association we would like to thank Alfie for taking some time away from his busy schedule and speak with us. We wish you every success for the future and we can’t wait to see what’s in store for Wyldecrest Parks.