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Authors: Michelle Mone

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BOOK: My Fight to the Top
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Back then, material things turned me on. I thought that buying a bigger house and having a nice car were the key to happiness – because I’d never had those things. I’d seen Mum and Dad struggle and I thought they would have been happier if they’d had all those things that I was aiming to buy, all those things I was filling my book with. I thought you could fix problems by becoming rich.

We couldn’t afford to pay for a nursery so Rebecca was dropped off at my mum and dad’s every day. I’d still make time for her when I could. I’d feed her breakfast and do her bath when I got home. I probably didn’t have the balance right but I was working hard for her as well. I was doing it to get us a nicer house and I really wanted to give Rebecca the best education. I wanted her to go to private school just like Michael had done. I wanted Rebecca to have all the things I didn’t have growing up. Having Rebecca made me more ambitious. I wouldn’t have been so driven if I hadn’t grown up in the East End and I wouldn’t have been so driven if I hadn’t had Rebecca so young. No question.

Within four months I was promoted to a sales role and I kept working my way up. I got a reputation for being able to sell beer that was running out of date. I would do my hair and make-up, visit all the pubs and do deals with the guys. They now say to me, ‘Michelle, we didn’t need your beer, but you were so nice and we wanted to help you.’

I made sales grow by a factor of four. I was turning Rolling Rock and Labatt Ice Beer into something phenomenal in Scotland. I told my boss I was going to take on Budweiser – and I absolutely kicked their asses.

I think my secret was that I was being very creative, thinking outside the box. I’d organise party nights, I’d come up with deals. We had a budget for entertaining and I came up with the idea of using it to buy fridges. I paid a visit to Sir Willie Haughey, one of the big Scottish entrepreneurs, who is now Lord Haughey.

‘You’re the fridge guy?’ I said. ‘Do a deal with me on your fridges and I’ll buy a load from you.’ I wasn’t afraid to approach anyone. Everyone in the company was whispering, ‘She’s buying fridges – what’s she doing that for? She should be using that money to take these pub owners out to the football. She should be wining and dining them.’ But I thought, No, everyone else is doing that. So I did deals with the pub owners using the fridges to barter. A fridge was a lot of money for a pub owner so I’d turn up and give them the chat. Just as I’d done when I was an Avon rep.

‘Look, your fridge is knackered. You need a fridge for your business, it’s a major tool. If you buy a hundred cases of my beer, I’ll give you a free fridge.’ I did more and more deals. The fridge guy, Lord Haughey, liked me because I was buying all his fridges and he would invite me to the football and said I could bring guests. So I was actually doing a double whammy of selling and entertaining for the same cost.

Did I work my looks to make more sales? Absolutely. I lost even more of my baby weight and I felt great. I was right on my game. I would wear a tight dress with my hair and make-up all done. I would step out of the house in the morning looking immaculate. ‘All right guys, how are you doing?’ I greeted them with a smile. They wanted to spend time with me because people want to look at and do business with someone who is well presented. They don’t want to look at someone whose hair needs washing and whose fat is splodging out the side of their dress. A huge smile gets you a long way. If you smile, someone will smile back at you. If you’re miserable, then someone will be miserable back. It’s just simple, common sense.

I’m not sure what Michael thought of my tight dresses; he didn’t really mention it. Saying that, he probably knew I would give him a mouthful. I remember we were going in to see the bank and he tried to stop me. ‘You can’t dress like that, you are showing too much cleavage,’ he said.

‘I’ll dress how I want,’ I snapped. Just because I was going to the bank I didn’t see why I had to dress down. I’ve always liked to look glamorous, ever since my mum used to dress me up for my elocution lessons. I’ve always believed that women should use their femininity. All these debates about ‘Should we dress up for meetings?’ Absolutely – guys do it, so what’s wrong with a woman doing it? You should always make an effort because it shows you’ll make an effort in your work as well.

I was promoted again and again. I worked my way up through so many positions. I was head of sales for Scotland by the time I was 23. My salary had jumped from £12k to £40k, which was a hell of a lot in 1995.

As soon as I was earning decent money I did whatever I could to help my parents out. I bought them extravagant gifts like a state-of-the-art TV. I took them to Majorca, hired a disabled apartment and I paid for all the meals. It filled my heart with joy to see my dad enjoying the sunshine.

I was slowly ticking off my goals. But as soon as one goal was ticked, another ten would appear in my notebook. I worked so hard, night and day. At the weekends I wasn’t supposed to work, but I would still work.

Labatt was where I first discovered the ‘zone’. It’s a term I came up with to describe my new mindset. The zone is where you are at your most powerful because your brain is switched on so you are achieving so much more. It’s also a very calm place – you know what you are doing and when you have to do it by. Staying in the zone is hard. It takes determination and courage. It’s almost like what boxers do; they go into the zone to win. Training your mind is vital for success because once you get your mind sorted out you can do almost anything you want to do. You’ve got to spend time training. Tell your mind, ‘No, don’t give up. We are going to do this and it’s going to be hard but if we make it, the results and the rewards will be incredible.’

The more successful I became at Labatt, the more arguments we had at home. Things started to go a bit pear-shaped in my marriage around that time. It was nothing serious, just that sometimes Michael would make some cutting remarks – silly things that brought me down.

Of course it hurt, but I drew on the strengths I’d learnt growing up and tried to shrug it off. Instead, while Rebecca was asleep I’d put my energy into my paperwork. To be fair to Michael, he probably couldn’t get close to me when I was in the zone. I’d become a workaholic; I had to do as much as I could in waking hours. I suppose it must have hurt Michael that I didn’t need him as much financially or emotionally. I’m not telling you I’m an angel, because I’m not. But it was a bit chicken-and-egg – if Michael said nasty things about my background then I wasn’t going to show him love and attention. If I didn’t show him love, he wanted to be nasty to me.

It was just difficult being a young mum, a wife, and having a career.

5
BECAUSE YOU LOVED ME

When you’re happy you enjoy the music; when you’re sad you understand the lyrics.

M
ichael and I aren’t getting on very well, I thought, so maybe another baby will solve our problems? I came off the pill and within hardly any time I was pregnant. I don’t think I’m alone in having wondered,
Maybe it will bring us together?
A lot of people believe that having a kid will fix things. But more often than not it’s like sticking a bandage over a major wound – the wound will reappear if not treated properly.

I carried on working hard. I didn’t for one second think that having a baby would jeopardise my job at Labatt, mainly because I knew that I would never ever let a baby be a handicap. A baby isn’t an illness – having a baby is like taking a holiday, just a longer holiday. I appreciate that some women can’t leave their kids and want to be with them but I knew I could have both.

Of course, it wasn’t long before the cracks in my marriage started to show again. I was having a really bad pregnancy and I didn’t feel Michael was there for me. I was in and out of hospital with problems. I had unexplained bleeding and at one point I was scared I was going to lose the baby. I put on a brave face at work but behind closed doors I was crying all the time. All I wanted was for Michael to comfort me, to tell me he loved me, to hug me, but he wouldn’t. Or maybe he couldn’t. He pulled further away. I would sometimes lie in bed wishing Michael would put his arm around me, pull me close and tell me it was going to be okay. I’d quietly cry myself to sleep just like I did when I was a child, when I was terrified I was going to lose my dad.

I went along to one of his office dos to find the women were flirting with Michael and he was flirting with them. I ignored it but inside I felt awful. They were thin and beautiful and now I was fat and ugly carrying this big baby bulge.

‘Why is he being so nasty to me? Why isn’t he being caring when I’m pregnant? Why do my friends’ husbands treat them well when they are pregnant and Michael treats me like a piece of shit?’ I cried to my mum.

My mum told me she thought Michael had two sides to him. ‘He’s got his good points but he’s quite controlling. I don’t think he realises how controlling he can be,’ she said.

God knows how I managed to carry on working so hard or how I continued putting on a smile with my clients when both my body and my heart were in so much pain. I was always good at putting on a good show though. It was my mum who eventually warned me to stop doing it to myself. I’d had another fight with Michael and I needed her help. ‘You need to come over,’ I cried down the phone to her.

It was the middle of the day and my mum was helping me out with beer promotions. She had been going around the pubs that morning. ‘I’ll be right there,’ she said. She could hear the distress in my voice. Mum found me on my knees by the radiator in our spare room. I was sobbing uncontrollably and she couldn’t get a word of sense out of me.

‘I’ve just had a terrible fight with Michael,’ I eventually spluttered.

My mum came down hard on me. ‘You need to remember your baby, Michelle. That baby is going to get stressed out with the way you are right now. You need to calm down.’

Things did calm down until four weeks before I was due to give birth – when I got terrible pains down below. I doubled up and fell to my knees.

‘Michael!’ I screamed. Luckily, Michael was in the house and came running to my side. ‘I think I’m going into labour.’ I panicked. Michael carried me to the car and rushed me to the hospital.

‘It’s too early, it’s too early,’ I was crying the whole way there.

Declan was born a month premature on 30 April 1996, weighing a tiny 4 lbs 2 oz. He lay beside me and I screamed that there was something wrong with him. ‘Help, help!’ I cried. His heart was pounding through his chest. His wee tummy was swollen.

‘He’s fine,’ the nurse tried to reassure me.

‘No, he’s not fine, there is something wrong with him, please get the doctor,’ I insisted. The doctor came to look at Declan and his face dropped. The next thing I know they were rushing my baby away. ‘What’s happening? What’s happening?’ I cried. Declan was put into intensive care in an incubator to help him breathe.

It was just awful when my mum and dad arrived because it brought back all the pain they suffered losing my brother. Seeing them cry made me even more upset. Michael tried to put on a brave face. We got constant updates from the doctor but he wasn’t giving us any hope. The doctor told me he wasn’t sure if Declan would live.

‘It’s touch and go at the moment,’ he said as I watched over Declan’s incubator. I couldn’t take my eyes away from the baby. A few more hours passed before the doctor delivered the news I’d been dreading. ‘I don’t think he will make it through the night,’ he said tentatively. His words were like a javelin through my heart.

‘Oh, god, no.’ My mum clasped her hand over her mouth.

I was in so much shock I could barely speak.

We decided it was time to get the bishop who married us, Michael’s uncle, to come down to the hospital. We had to prepare Declan’s wee soul. I can’t tell you how awful it was having us all crowded around Declan’s incubator, praying, as bishop Mone gave my baby his last rites. He looked so helpless with all these tubes and wires coming out of him. I didn’t leave his side all night. I kept playing Celine Dion’s ‘Because You Loved Me’ to him, over and over. I chose that song because I’d heard it so much on the radio while I was pregnant. It was Declan’s song.

‘Please fight. Come on, Declan, stay with us,’ I whispered in his little ear. He miraculously made it through the night. I never left his side, I kept praying for him.

After a week, I wanted a hug from Michael. I needed that contact. Declan’s condition was stable so I jumped in a taxi and went home. I turned up unannounced.

‘Hi! Surprise!’ I said to Michael with my arms open. I was so happy to see him. But he went nuts.

‘What are you doing out of hospital?’ he yelled.

‘What?’ I was confused. ‘Please, Michael.’ I reached out to him.

‘Get back there now,’ he said. He was just going mental, absolutely mental.

I burst into tears. I was already feeling so weak. ‘Why are you doing this to me? I’ve just had a baby,’ I cried.

‘It’s not all about you. Get back,’ he ordered.

I wasn’t trying to be selfish. I just wanted to feel human again and have a bit of normality. Maybe it was his way of dealing with the stress and heartache but it was so hurtful. Again, I was reaching out and he wasn’t there to grab me.

‘I’m taking you back right now,’ he insisted, leading me back to the car. He dropped me at the hospital. ‘Get out, stay there, and I’ll speak to you later,’ he said before speeding off.

I couldn’t believe it. I was so upset and I felt so alone. I dried my tears and went back to Declan’s side. I clasped my hands together and made a little prayer.
Okay, I’ve got my mum and dad, I’ve got Rebecca but I want my husband back. I can’t cope with the arguments any more. Please look after me and I’ll look after you.

I didn’t sleep much. I stayed by Declan’s side the whole time. And then it was like the cloud lifted and Declan pulled through a week later. I took him home and for a while things were calm. I was constantly checking up on Declan though. His crib was beside my bed and I would get up throughout the night to see if he was still breathing. My anxiety levels were probably sky-high, although I didn’t realise it at the time. Then, as if I hadn’t been through enough suffering, I got the news that I’d been made redundant. Labatt had sold out to Whitbread.

BOOK: My Fight to the Top
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