YOU get the thrill of the challenge for Mark Blayney as he talks about his passion for buying broken businesses, fixing them and selling them on. “Lifting rocks is the name of the game, and seeing what crawls out,” he said.

He must be worth his salt at a dinner party, so entertaining are the two decades of stories he has tucked up his sleeve.

Take the one about the company that threw him and his business partner not one, but two curve balls.

“We discovered that the managing director’s wife was on the payroll, although she never turned up on site for a day’s work,” he said. “She wasn’t paid during the year, so there was no visible cost, until suddenly it was a case of ‘my annual bonus is due’.

“It transpired she had an employment contract that gave her quite a substantial bonus every March, with no conditions attached– so essentially just for being alive.

“But under TUPE (Transfer of Undertakings Protection of Employment regulations) you have taken over the employees and their existing contracts, so there was a cheque to write.”

They subsequently had to go through the rigmarole of making her redundant from a job that didn’t exist.

Then they discovered her managing director husband was trying to hole the business below the waterline. They’d kept him on after buying the company out of administration, only to find he was talking the business down to clients.

Mark said: “I realised he would rather the company failed, and was sabotaging the very business that paid his own mortgage, rather than see someone succeed where he hadn’t.

“Human psychology is so interesting! At the end of the day, business and running businesses are all about people and trying to understand what their motivations are.”

Mark has harnessed his experience to write five ‘how to’ books. The fifth, entitled Your First Job, takes a different tack to the others in that this time around, he is addressing young people on how to ensure their first year is a launch pad for a successful career.

“There just seemed to be a lot of advice out there on CVs and interviews, but what about when you get the job?” he said.

“It came out of a conversation with someone who was new at a firm and was frankly struggling. He had got to end of week four and people had stopped being nice, in the way you are to new starters, and started dropping huge piles of work on his desk.

“It had never occurred to him to ask how to prioritise the work and no-one volunteered any advice.”

While the book is at the opposite end of the spectrum from a memoir, its content is distilled from what he has learned in his own career – and his trajectory has been nothing but carefully planned.

Despite studying politics at university, it was the experience of watching a managing director turning around an ailing business during a gap year job that caught his interest.

That was what he wanted to do, he decided. “So I came up with a little check-list of the qualifications and experience I’d need and then set about ticking them off.”

MBA, tick. Chartered accountancy qualifications, tick. Insolvency practitioner credentials, tick. Experience working abroad (turning around a Tanzanian factory producing boxes of matches, as it happened), tick .

Twenty years ago, he turned away from the insolvency side of things and towards rescuing businesses instead.

Nowadays he aims to buy one failing business a year – they can be in just about any field, he says – and currently has three on the go.

The first one is a manufacturer of aluminium screw caps, the second a software company and the third a kitchen and bathroom fitting company.

They can be anywhere in the country. One business he bought was on the south coast, but a 5am start at his home in Carrshield, a train to Newcastle and a flight to Gatwick had him in his new office by 10am.

Once there, the aim is to get under the skin of the business to find out what’s gone wrong.

“There are two reasons,” said Mark. “Either it’s the underlying recipe, and people don’t want it any more, or it’s the production process.

“You have to look at its raison d’être and how to fix that with the cash you have available.”

They bought the kitchen and bathroom fitting company for one single pound. It came with 60 staff and a turnover of £3m to £4m a year, but also a decade of losing £250,000 a year and a deficit of around £2m.

The source of the rot, they sharp realised, was a very modern and very large premises that was both far too big for them and far too expensive to run.

It had also become something of an orphan, overlooked and largely left to its own devices, as management looked to other businesses in their group.

Nobody had looked at what jobs actually cost to do compared to what they had been priced at.

When it came to the screw cap business, they had to start pretty much from scratch. The administrators had cancelled the contracts with the aluminium and tin suppliers and laid off all the staff.

“The first thing we had to do was go out and hire all the staff back,” said Mark.

“There was a lead time of six to eight weeks (for production) and because we were a new-start company, the suppliers wanted cash on order.

“It’s very tricky to manage and all the time you have to try to keep existing customers happy, while getting back on track.”

l On April 2, Mark is launching a Crowdfunding campaign designed to raise the £10,000 to £15,000 it will cost to send free copies of his book, Your First Job, to college and university libraries and careers advisers across the country.

He also aims to turn the content into an educational resource that can be used by teachers in the classroom.

“The book is never going to be the day job, but having written it, I’m keen to get it out there to be used,” he said.