HE left school with no qualifications or prospects – but businessman Stuart Wischhusen has just relocated to California after his company’s profits grew 6,000-fold.
And he says he owes it to a course, advertised in the Echo, which taught him how to sell things when he was unemployed and drifting at the age of 19.
His company, BPak360, sells patented packaging for mobile phone SIM cards throughout the EU, the US and Asia Pacific.
He recently moved with his wife and two children to Santa Barbara, where he will oversee the expansion of his American business, which recently won T-Mobile as a customer.
He is keen to encourage young people who are in the situation he was in when he left St Peter’s School, Southbourne, aged 16, in 1984 without taking any exams.
He was fired from a trolley-pushing job at Tesco Ferndown at the age of 18 and had a string of jobs, mainly in factories but with a short stint as a panel-beater in Verwood.
“I pushed trolleys at Tesco for a long while. I was an apprentice panel beater. I was drifting from job to job to unemployment to job but I was quite good at being bored and picking up the Yellow Pages and ringing up to see if they had any jobs,” he said.
“By the time I was 17, I was the lowest I could possibly get.”
He said life changed when he was 19.
“I was working for a double glazing firm in West Howe. It was hell. My mum phoned this course advertised in the Echo. She wrote them a letter saying ‘please let him on’.
“There were people in their 40s. People started telling me things in this course that I didn’t forget. I kind of had a rebirth. It made me think I could be different.
“I had a new life at 20. I had been told what my positive qualities were, rather than being told all my problems.”
The course in sales was held by Wessex Training and, he says, it was run only once. After the boost it gave him, he went to work for Xerox for about a year.
Later, he moved to Australia, where he was to start a dotcom company in 1996 and founded BPak360 in 2004. He is now involved in packaging supply and design and property.
He remains passionate about sales but says most people have the wrong idea about it – and that it shouldn’t be about call centres harassing people out of the blue.
“Ninety-eight per cent of people buy on emotion.
“They buy from people they like. I’ve always tried to have a more friendly sales pitch, which wouldn’t work for certain clients,” he said.
BPak has built up a client base of household names including Vodafone, T-Mobile, Asda, Westfield, American Express and Virgin Australia.
“It’s the ultimate goal, to get to the States where there’s the biggest western market – 320million people that mostly speak English. It’s the ultimate place to expand your business,” he said.
He is now keen to find a way of giving something back to local young people, to see if there is a way he can support a training programme like the one he went on in the 1980s.
“I haven’t had a particularly remarkable life in any way but it’s been so far beyond anything I could have imagined,” he said.