I’ve been thinking about integrity a lot recently.
I’m not sure whether its my age, my business disasters in 2012/13, my experiences on The Island with Bear Grylls, my knock on the head – or what?
Life is undoubtedly good right now.
7connections coaching, MagicBox and Artisan (Lifecycle Marketing – done for you) going like a train.
Family in good shape.
Home a pleasure.
Health and fitness getting better.
Enjoying the job, the clients, most of the travel, the team, our work with Bridge2Aid, innovation, connection, networking and more opportunity than I can remember.
The future looks bigger, better and brighter.
There is one storm cloud looming – the Inland Revenue are slowly calculating back taxes arising from those earlier business disasters and there will come a time when I get a demand for payment of a very, very large sum of money that I just haven’t got.
Everyone around me, including professional advisors is advising me to simply pull the plug.
More than once I have heard:
“why spend the next x years paying off the Revenue, when you can declare insolvency, duck under the battlements for a while and then pick up where you left off and start accumulating wealth again.”
The liabilities involved are legitimate – money was earned, tax was due and a lot of broken promises from other people (with whom I am thankfully no longer connected) left me stranded on a raft (I’m good at rafts) after the ship had sunk.
I’ve spent over 16 months thinking about this.
The pragmatist suggests that the money involved is loose change to the Exchequer, that other people and organisations duck and dive and fiddle billions away from the Revenue (sat here with a Starbucks as I type) and that my future earning potential would be better invested in my own financial security and that of those around me.
But I have thought about it until my brain aches – and I simply cannot bring myself to do it.
I’ve concluded that I’m going to offer to pay my dues – no matter how long it takes.
Because, frankly, the integrity of that decision actually means more to me than the money itself.
Would I rather work my nuts off until I’m 70 and have a clear conscience – or – go bust, serve my time and then sit in a Greek holiday home for 3 months every year, knowing that I paid for it with tax money avoided?
I have recently been unofficially advising a friend on a business deal that involves him with individuals who I know of old to be without ethics or morals.
Fortunately, my friend is very much on the periphery of the “deal” and involved only to the extent that he may dispose of an asset and walk away. He actually cannot lose, thankfully, but we have watched in astonishment at some of the tactics employed.
Perhaps this has been the catalyst in my current frame of mind.
As I approach the autumn of my career and continue to simplify my life – the search for peace of mind has led me inexorably towards the conclusion that a self-imposed bankruptcy gives me a financial springboard after a period of quiet – but robs me of any moral high-ground when advising others or looking at myself in the mirror.
My soul wants to pay the debt to society, no matter how long it takes, so that I can hold my head high.
I want my children to remember me as a bloke who tried his best to be a hero.
When I advise my clients I want them to trust me based on my actions rather than words.
When I ask clients to support Bridge2Aid I don’t want an internal dialogue that the tax I have avoided could have trained a lot of health workers.
Of course, the decision may be taken out of my hands.
The same advisors who cry “declare” also tell me that Revenue Collections are highly unlikely to accept a repayment proposal that I would regard as achievable – and so they may pull the trigger on me.
If they do – my conscience is clear – I offered to pay and they refused.
The negotiations have dragged on since early 2013 – an elephant in the room whilst we have been building 7c (and I want to thank my business partners and fellow team members, who have shared ever step of the journey and offered support and encouragement that have kept me sane).
I also want to make it clear that my personal circumstances are separate from 7connections and will in no way affect the business or my friends within.
The denouement is likely over the next few months – I don’t know when but we seem to be moving into the end game.
I’ve thought long and hard about sharing this story with you here – and want to continue the tradition of transparency that has won me many friends over the years.
Rather that than some anti-Chris Barrow sociopath posting a “have you heard?” on the web or gossiping at a conference.
There is an old saying that you should never tell other people your problems, because 80% don’t care and 20% are glad. Cynical perhaps and I take that risk here.
I’m certainly not going to be asking for a hand out but hope that you will respect my authenticity and follow the story as it develops with more than just a morbid curiosity.
Perhaps wish me luck?