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The monthly magazine providing news analysis and professional research for the discerning private investor/landlord

Mike Clare Interview

Kelly Lemon talks to the founder of Dreams who likes to do property investment differently

One of the mistakes made by the man often referred to as 'Mr Dreams' is that he didn't buy back the company that made him a multi-millionaire when he had the chance. The more time I spend with Mike Clare the more I understand why he feels that way.

At the age of 30 Mike started his own company, the household name Dreams. After twenty one years of growing his leading bed manufacturing and retailing company to more than 200 stores he sold it for a reported £222m. It was at that point Mike became a property investor.

I first came across Mike's property journey after attending the Bucks Property Meet where host, John Cox, was able to persuade Mike to share his story. However, the question on everybody's mind wasn't necessarily property. Instead, how did he manage to start, grow and sell one of the UK's best-known brands? For Mike it's quite simple, you just need to get good at selling things for more than you buy them for. He always knew that he wanted to build his own business and like many entrepreneurs he 'started off doing it for the money, but it was also about trying to prove something and getting that recognition.' Mike's older brother was academically successful and in Mike's own words, "I'm only academically average". That sparked this entrepreneur's competitive edge. Although it's "not just about trying to be the richest man" for Mike "it is also about giving back because that's what you do when you have a lot of money."

When starting his business he knew it was important to specialise in something and he chose beds. After all, "you spend about a third of your life in bed". The other reason he chose to specialise in beds and sofa beds he told me was because "it is an average industry so you only need to be slightly above average to be successful at it." Mike is a firm believer that it comes down to hard work and his main focus in the early years was opening new stores and making them profitable. "We would open a store every two to three months and perfect the formula every time we opened a new store. It became a no-brainer really as stores were profitable within three to six months of opening." That's how the company we now know as Dreams began and continued its rapid expansion.

Mike managed the company for 21 years and he also managed to retain 100% control of the company. Instead of giving away equity in his company Mike used bonuses to keep his staff motivated. In 2008 Mike and his wife, Carol, decided to sell the company he often refers to as his "fifth child", (he has four children of his own). Mike says "timing is everything" and he believes that all entrepreneurs need a little luck. After all, just a few months later the economic climate significantly deteriorated. "I'm surprised we didn't sell earlier to be honest, my wife would have had me sell at 50 stores."

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