Simon Barbato is the founder of Mr. B & Friends, which has been going for 17 years with major clients like Lego and Intercontinental Hotel Group. 

Today, Simon takes us far back — to 2004.

He heard a news broadcast about SARS, an air-born respiratory disease sweeping across Asia. 

And this is what marked the beginning of the undoing of his first agency. 

At the time, Simon was running a business called The Field, they were based in Richmond, England with a £1 million fee income. The biggest bucket in their client base was adventure travel tour operators across Southeast Asia. 

At first, the news report didn’t flag it as a new business risk for him. But in the weeks that followed, tour operators started reducing their offers. To the point that, although they didn’t say at the time, the adventure travel market in Asia was closed. 

They eventually cut off the supply chain, and within 3-6 months, irreparable damage was done to his business. 

What Do You Do in a Situation Out of Your Control?

Simon was on a downward slide. With very little that he could do to stop himself from slipping. 

The biggest cost of his business was people. He sold time and expertise. So when they were not being used, the business was pressurised. 

No one knew how long it was going to be. 

Acting to Reduce the Business Risk

Simon first thought of trying to trade his way out of the situation. 

His industry was very competitive, you’re only ever expected to win 30-45% of everything you go for. On top of that, his agency wasn’t well-known yet.

He quickly realised that there wasn’t enough time to try and find more business. 

So his next action was to reduce spend.

At this point, Simon was thinking of the worst-case scenario. He’d already started having conversations about being acquired or selling his well-trained team, with a client base that would bounce back.

He had 10 people to support with no revenue. He was burning cash at an alarming rate. For him to continue, he knew he would bankrupt himself. 

In this episode, Simon talks through his options in this moment, and the timeline that he gave himself before he had to pull the plug. 

We discuss

  • His thought process and mindset at this time
  • The importance of resourcing and having a broader perspective
  • His learnings from what was a very new situation

Tune in as Simon shares how he planned to save the business and what his final actions were.