What was your inspiration to create the course? Was it a specific event or a long-running idea of yours?
MF: One Sunday afternoon my wife and my two sons Hero and Zack were going shopping. I kissed the boys goodbye and got on the phone to return a call. My wife was in the car on the driveway and I could see she was acting erratic. Moniqe is usually calm and collected, so I could not understand what was going on in the back of the car.
I heard her screaming. I hung up the phone and realised she was screaming for me. I got to the car and saw the situation was serious. My baby son Hero who was two-years-old was non-responsive. Moniqe handed him to me from the car seat. He started to go blue. I asked her if he put anything in his mouth, or if he maybe swallowed something he should not have and she said no. I checked his airway as I thought he was choking and felt the last breath come out of him. He fell unconscious and started to go blue and floppy.
I told my wife to dial 999 and to let them know our son is unconscious and not breathing and to send something straight away. I have been trained in CPR and commenced mouth to mouth on my son to keep his heartbeat going. It was a tough time. The paramedics arrived 21 minutes later. He was rushed to hospital. We have no explanation as to why he stopped breathing. Although when the story hit the media we have thousands of messages from parents who had lost their child due to the same thing. They encouraged me to use my profile and contacts to educate them. It was, I found out, a huge problem like cot death. My mission through MF Hero First Aid is to provide a programme to enable as many parents as possible to learn these essential life-saving skills.
Do you think the general public are adequately equipped to provide first aid in an emergency? Do you think the government needs to do more to encourage spreading health and safety knowledge?
MF: From my experience the parents tell me they leave hospital after having a baby and are terrified of what to do in an emergency. I do feel the government need to do more to help educate the parents in essential first aid. It should be taught in schools.
How will your experience as a teacher and mentor help you to prepare parents and carers for the potential of responding to life-threatening accident?
MF: Well I have been educating students for 22 years now so I know how to turn adults and children into confident individuals. How to get things across in a “easy to learn way.” I worked with a top consultant to write the MF Hero First Aid exclusive curriculum. It is unique and tailored to life threatening situations aimed a children. No broken ankles or arms – you go to A&E for that.
How will this launch of a franchise differ from previous ones for you as a businessman? What are some lessons you can take as a businessman from other franchises to this one?
MF: It’s really the same thing but with a different subject. The marketing, customer service and power of the brand will all work hand-in-hand. I am making all my instructors take the course too. There has never been anything like it.
Do you find it difficult to balance your different business franchises in your day-to-day work? What have you learnt over time to help this?
MF: I dedicate my day and segment it to working on each business. Depending on the demands which I review weekly on a Sunday night. My property portfolio is managed by the same letting agents, for example. So it all works quite smoothly. We have built a great team over the years.
What are some of the most memorable moments in your role as Michael’s bodyguard, whether it is a key piece of advice he gave you, or a standout event?
MF: Michael taught me how to set and achieve goals, about staying focused and to never give up on your dreams, that we are capable of anything no matter what our backgrounds are. Michael taught me about franchises; when I first met him I had about five Matt Fiddes Martial Arts schools and I thought that was as far as I could take it. Michael taught me the concept of franchising and I have now 1,008 locations within the MF group.
Michael gave you the advice to franchise your business. Just how important was this piece of advice, and what other key messages do you take from Michael that you use every day?
MF: He was a PR genius and lived and breathed show business. Marketing is a key part of any business and he understood that well and prepared me for jealousy and criticism, which would follow. He was a mentor to me, and to be surrounded by an inner circle of super successful people at 18 years old (which included Uri Geller, Britney Spears and David Blaine, amongst others) really impacted my life.
For example, while most were out drinking and clubbing I was hanging out with MJ and billionaire Mohamed Al Fayed, the former owner of Harrods.
Despite being bullied at school, and forgoing the higher education route that your brothers went through, you were able to earn your first £1m by the age of 21: What would you say drove you every day to be a successful businessman, and what would you say to your 21-year-old self if you had all of the experience that you have today?
MF: It was my childhood that created my drive to succeed. I wanted to prove the bullies wrong. Make something of myself. I am the eldest of four brothers. Nathan went to university and has done very well for himself. He was always the academic one of the family. Nick went in to do his own business. And Josh followed his dreams and works as a musician and advisor. My Mum was a solicitor and she qualified when we were children. She became the breadwinner of the family and my Mum and Dad swapped roles. Seeing Mum study with four sons and achieve something so big was so motivating for me. My Dad never really believed I could achieve anything out of martial arts and wanted me to get qualified in a normal trade. Oddly enough he ended up working for me for 10 years! My Mum was one of 14 children and they have all done well academically. And most have been to university. So I was the odd one out!
For any other budding entrepreneurs in the martial arts/fitness sector, what key messages would you give to them to allow them to achieve their full potential?
MF: Don’t try and reinvent the wheel. Find someone who has been there and done it and model them. My recommendation is to buy a franchise but check out the history of the business. With the internet nowadays there is so many ‘self-proclaimed’ Gurus out there who appear to be successful and they are not. It is easy to create an image of success with social media.