From millionaire to broke and back: A businesswoman's advice Featured
Beth Mathison has an incredible story of success, business failure, money tips and all the personal lessons in between. Recently, she shared it with our friends at Financy, and we've published it here to offer advice -- and hope -- to other women.
When you’re a multi-millionaire you want for nothing, cars, expensive clothes, even a castle but when years of living the high life end in you suddenly being broke – that’s when the penny drops, at least it did for Beth.
As a 2015 Telstra businesswoman of the year winner, Beth’s story is both humbling and inspirational. It’s also one she’ll be sharing at next month’s Resilient Women Summit in Sydney.
But opening up doesn’t come all that easy.
She blames herself for being complicit in her spectacular business failure, by allowing herself to be taken advantage of and manipulated by an ex-husband, and con-man business partner.
“Being in control is the only way women or anyone in a difficult situation can allow themselves not to be complicit. It would be wrong to assume that everyone in similar circumstances is complicit, but I had to come to terms with the fact that I was, by allowing others to take control for many and varied reasons.”
At the peak of her success, Beth had everything. Or so it seemed. She was running a multi-million dollar tourism business in Scotland at Cameron House, which today is a five star luxury resort.
“I wasn’t mega rich but very well off. I lived in a very beautiful castle, where I had staff working seven days a week looking after my personal needs while I also ran the business of the game park. Even though I worked intensely seven days a week, I had everything I wanted; interesting business, cars, clothes, everything, I wanted for nothing.”
Prior to that she’d had many successful businesses, including a holiday hotel, tourism businesses and very much had the fortune of a privileged upbringing by her parents, a private school education and university scholarships.
But on a personal note she admittedly found herself attracted to a man who abused her behind closed doors and yet was difficult to leave for a number of reasons, not least of which was her personal financial guarantees to the bank.
“It took three years for things to unravel in the early 90s,” she tells Financy.
“I call it the perfect storm, I had this difficult personal relationship where my only freedom was working in the business.
“At that time interest rates went from 5% to 18% virtually overnight. I needed to find an equity partner and being stretched emotionally as well as financially, I didn’t take the time to undertake appropriate due diligence.
“That led to a situation where my former husband gave an investor 50 per cent of the business without paying for it.
“As a result of all that, control slipped out of my hands, and I was forced to wind up the business because that was the only way I could see that we could get out of financial hardship and ensure that all creditors were paid.
“At that point I had my own child to consider, my ex-husband refused to get a job and his teenage son from a former relationship had come to live with us adding another emotional load.
“So I was trying to manage and support the family as well as being in a situation where we had no income or house, so that was very difficult.
“Being overqualified for most jobs, the best job I could get was at a supermarket. So I went from running a multi-million business to earning less in a week that I used to spend on pocket money.”
But Beth doesn’t regret her fall from grace, in fact she used it to rebuild herself and for the better.
“It was probably one of the best things that happened to me because it gave me a good dose of humility having grown up in a bubble.
“I went from all that success to having barely enough to afford the basics, and only enough for fuel to get to and from work.”
It took Beth about five years to find a better job that gave her the confidence to leave her ex-husband at the age of 42 years, and even then the divorce cost her $150 a week in spousal maintenance because he refused to work.
“What I learned was how important it was to walk in someone else’s shoes. If I found it difficult to get out of that downward spiral and turn it around, then how hard must it be for others who don’t have the education, skills, or the self-belief that they can do it.”
While it made Beth more understanding of others, it actually hasn’t helped her to be more frugal with money.
“I do still tend to give a lot a way. What I have learnt is that when you are fortunate enough to have a good education and financial skills you can always earn more money. So that’s why I think I am still a little bit carefree and generous with my money.”
Today Beth runs another highly successful business consulting company and last year was the recipient of a Telstra Businesswoman of the Year Award for Tasmania and Telstra Entrepreneur of the year.
She applies her personal learnings to great effect with her many clients by helping them navigate potentially damaging and difficult business situations.
Her advice to other women struggling financially in business or in abusive relationships is this:
“Make sure you are in control, realize that you have choices, and become financially independent – if you follow those three keys, you may still go through bumps and hurdles, but you will be able to get over them to achieve your own success.”
Beth Mathison will be a guest speaker at the Resilient Women’s Summit on November 25 in Sydney and is hoping to share and inspire other women with her story through these and other speaking engagements.
Financy is a finance publication for women, founded by journalist Bianca Hartge-Hazelman. Financy delivers personal finance content that taps into the female psyche, connects women with their goals, and uses tools of entertainment, engagement, education and style to inspire women to live their best life.