Back in 2005, I sat down for a couple of drinks with a young entrepreneur. He was trying to find his way in London building an IT business, when IT meant making sure peoples’ dial up was working and the huge server in the corner of the room was saving your emails correctly. I was quite fascinated by this pal of mine – on his Myspace profile he seemed to be having the most adventurous London life, visiting the best restaurants and bars. He was not part of my social scene, but we met every so often to catch up and to encourage each other on our entrepreneurial journeys.
Over this one glass of wine, he started to talk about how difficult his current financial status was. He told me that he was living very much hand to mouth, and he would only able to stay for a couple of glasses of wine because of his financial situation. I wanted to dig deeper as this came as a surprise to me. The impression his online profile gave was one of a young guy about town with a fantastic knowledge of London’s great restaurants. It wasn’t consistent with someone who was counting the pennies. Then, he explained how he had been living his life for the last 6 months. It really was hand to mouth for large parts of the month. He would ensure he got the bus to his office as it was cheaper than the Tube; he would take homemade sandwiches to work and he would shop in Sainsbury’s at 9.30pm at night to benefit from late night food mark downs.
He did this all this for one reason. The last Friday of every month was his absolute focus. He would be careful all month, saving all the money he could so he could live like a king for one night only – or at least like an affluent Londoner. On the last Friday of every month, he would put on his suit, brush his shoes and visit the likes of Maze by Gordan Ramsey, Nobu, The Ivy or The Wolseley.
He then explained to me that he did not come to London to eat in Pizza Hut and went on to say that there’s no point in being here if he can’t experience the best of what London has to offer. The experiences, he said, he took from visiting such places kept him going for the rest of the month and also gave him things to talk about when networking or meeting people. I understood why he was doing this. There was a part of it that was, I think, ‘fake it till you make it’ but, that said, in my opinion everyone at some point should be able to experience the good things in life and especially London. He simply had a very disciplined way of achieving this.
Sometimes the London Lifestyle Awards have faced a charge of elitism, with only luxury expensive businesses making it onto the shortlist for public vote. I would disagree – and so would my friend in this story. He made sure that great experiences ranked very highly on his list of priorities and was willing to make the sacrifices he needed to in order to make sure he could continue to enjoy them, even in the leanest of times.
The great news is that my friend only had to keep on living this way for a few months longer. He had an unbeatable skill set and work ethic that made him very much in demand, so much so that, in 2015, he sold his IT company for £8.9m.
I think he visits Nobu a little more often now.