“I lost my £ 5million business but got it all back working from my garden shed”


In 2004 Jeff Dewing inserted his card into an ATM and selected a withdrawal of £ 10.

An error message appeared on the screen, along with Jeff’s bank balance: £ 7.60. The minimum he could withdraw was £ 10, meaning he couldn’t access the money he had left.

“I will never forget this day as long as I live,” said Jeff. “This £ 7.60 will never leave my mind.”

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Money was tight. After EAC, the facilities management company Jeff owned, became insolvent, his life changed.

Jeff had gone from living in a “nice big house” with £ 300,000 in cars on the way to losing his fortune. “It cost me my house and my livelihood – and everything,” he says.

After moving into rented accommodation, Jeff signed up for benefits, with his family – his wife and their three children – now living on £ 68 a week.

“I can’t even describe it. It was the biggest sign of failure any adult man dreads – you have a young family who depend on you, you have a woman who trusts you to make the decisions. just wanna go hide. “

Jeff (right) with former rugby player Clive Woodward

Jeff’s bankruptcy was the culmination of a series of events. Born and raised in East London, he founded the EAC in 1992.

Previously, he was a director at a company called Airstream where he learned to write software and designed a program that streamlined business operations and xxx business inefficiencies.

He pitched his idea to Airstream for the modest sum of £ 900. The answer was a categorical no.

“They changed my life,” says Jeff, who then decided to use the program he designed to start his own business, EAC, which installed air conditioning systems in offices.

In their first year, the business made £ 900,000; and three years later it was worth £ 5.5million.

“At the time, I was a young businessman – I had taken this business from zero to five million. We lived like kings: beautiful big houses, big cars – all the things you can think of. to aspire.

“But when I got to five million … I started to get frustrated.”

Jeff says he struggled to find the people he needed to grow the business, and his motivation began to wane. “I quickly started to lose interest. I was bored – it’s very lonely running a business on your own.”

Clapton FC was established in 1878 and is now a community run club

He bought out Clapton Football Club, a struggling Newham-based semi-professional club at the time. Jeff bought his shares for a ‘face amount’ in exchange for a detailed business plan and invested £ 500,000 in running the club.

“Clapton put me on steroids. I was alive, loved every minute of it. I spent 40 to 50 hours a week there.”

It was the solution to Jeff’s boredom – but it came at the expense of his business. “The result was that I totally and completely took my attention away from the business,” says Jeff.

Without Jeff in charge, EAC began to suffer. They couldn’t get big, lucrative contracts and repeat orders, and they struggled to get paid. Finally, 12 years after its creation, EAC went into liquidation.

Jeff stayed for nine months to make sure none of his suppliers got paid: “The only thing that gets me to sleep at night is all of these suppliers got paid.

Clapton FC, meanwhile, was handed over to a new owner with Jeff returning no money back on his investment.

“I was bored with the business – seriously bored,” says Jeff

Jeff was bankrupt – and that fateful day at the cash machine marked a crucial moment of recognition.

Gripped by feelings of guilt, responsibility and shame, Jeff says he was “in a dark place” for three months, not feeling like himself.

“One day I woke up with energy in me and said, ‘Okay. Enough, I have to do something.'”

Jeff started applying for jobs, and within four weeks he was back to work, this time as a contract manager for another company, with a salary of £ 60,000 a year.

“I was obviously happy to find my way back and earn an income to support the family,” says Jeff. “At the same time, I was now nurturing my ambition and driving again.”

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As he had done at Airstream, Jeff began to find ways to improve the business, which put his employers in the wrong way.

“After two years I was asked to leave this business with a nice healthy check. I realized they owned it; I didn’t. I had some ideas about it. that they should or shouldn’t do, and they felt threatened by it, so I moved on. “

This cycle – Jeff wanting to be involved in the strategic decision-making before he finally left – repeated itself before Jeff decided that the best way forward was to work for himself again.

“I realized that I was never going to change the world unless I could control my destiny,” he said.

In 2012, Cloudfm was born – a new facilities management company providing air conditioning to restaurants that Jeff started from his garden shed.

Its goal was to promote transparency – to work with customers to solve problems.

“Our job is to influence the industry to change,” says Jeff. “That was the nature of our business – to be the most transparent organization to work with.”

The hangar from which Jeff launched Cloudfm

By 2017, Cloudfm had grown to £ 70million, backed by contracts with top clients who Jeff said were drawn to Cloudfm’s reputation.

At this point Jeff was nowhere near that fateful £ 7.60, having once again become ‘financially free and comfortable’.

In 2019, before the pandemic hit, Cloudfm employed 400 people and operated from seven offices around the world.

“[Covid] almost destroyed us, ”Jeff said. “70-80% of our clientele were restaurants, and of course all restaurants were closed. .

With 200 employees at risk, Jeff had to find a solution. “Members of my management team were like, ‘How are we going to survive? And I said, ‘Our goal is not to survive, our goal is to prosper.’ “

“We had to reinvent the whole business,” says Jeff. They used their resources to start three new businesses, reducing their workforce to 125, but making sure no one was short of work. “We have created this incredible lean machine that we never would have made without Covid.”

Jeff with cricketer Ronnie Irani

This time around, surrounded by “great people,” Jeff says there is no danger that he will become disillusioned again. “The reality of Cloudfm is that I absolutely live it and breathe it.”

Jeff’s dramatic changes in fortunes have forced him to reassess what’s important in life. “All the things I thought at the time demonstrated success – [I] suddenly realizes[d] that none of this matters; none of this affects anyone’s life. You are chasing the wrong bunny. “

He adds: “You have to collapse to realize it, but once you realize it, you never go back.”

In January of this year, Jeff published a book, Doing the Opposite, which tells his story and shares some of the lessons he has learned from his experience.

“What is the meaning of life? Why do we exist? Why are we born? Every being longs for the same thing: fulfillment,” says Jeff.

“These are the core values ​​of life… family, doing the right thing, humility, integrity, vulnerability. If you can truly believe in these values, you will never go wrong. “

He adds, “It’s not about how much money you have in the bank.

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