Why People Are Not Interested In Your Business They Are Interested In Your Story

4 Aug

story

People are often interested in your story rather than what your business actually does.  Have you ever read a book that gives you that uplifting feeling? It is almost like having an epiphany. If your brand’s story can give this feeling to your audience then you’re well on your way. People want to know what you had to go through to get there. They would like to understand the sacrifices you made. Essentially they are expecting you to show a human side. People are constantly looking for originality and inspiration. I always stress that the most important inspiration has to come from yourself then from others around you. Nevertheless your audience is craving this information from you so why not give it to them?

You don’t need to share every single intimate detail if you’re uncomfortable. At the same time if you want people to embrace your business they must first embrace you. What are you really about? ‘Successful’ entrepreneurs rarely make it overnight  and I use inverted commas here because we all have different definitions of success. You don’t see the hard work, tears, sweat and exhaustion. What you see is the result. One of most popular questions I get asked is how did you get to this stage?

I had to worked for it. I am sure you have heard the saying work smart not hard. In order to work smart we must work hard at some point. Be weary of people who give the impression that never worked hard at any point to get to where they are. The truth is they needed help and they got it from somewhere. They must have come up against the odds and failed too. We all fail. I fail all the time. People are sometimes not as interested in your business and instead they’re interested in your brand’s story because they want to be able to relate and take confidence from you. The below quote by Dr.Maya Angelou summarises my point very well.

‘I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

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Young Entrepreneurs: Define Yourself Today Or Be Forgotten Tomorrow

28 Jul

young

One of the biggest lessons I have learned in my entrepreneurship journey is defining what role I would like to play and the means to get there. If you’re a young entrepreneur right now you may have a clear idea of your business idea (s). You think you have what it takes. But you need people to help you connect the dots. To get from A to B means you need a good network to support you. In your quest for that network you are also susceptible to giving up what makes you unique, your true passion and even your talent. I would say young entrepreneurs experience it because of naivety and over enthusiasm. Sometimes this enthusiasm turns into desperation.

Desperation is a dangerous thing for an entrepreneur because it throws you off track. It can destroy your dreams and dampen your confidence. The moment you act due to desperation it is often a que for you to get out of the situation QUICK. I am far from a pessimist but in business you have to choose your partners and the people you work with very carefully.  The risks you have decided to take means that the stakes are higher if things go wrong. The most obvious one in is financial risk. You must also think about the kind of reputation you would like to build. You don’t want to ruin a reputation you have yet to build.

If you involve yourself with questionable organisations or individuals then obviously it will not end well. Another obstacle is having the confidence in yourself and your business when you’re faced with a tough choice. Lets assume your business is viable and has a market. You’re asked to work with a more established individual. However you’re asked to sacrifice a core aspect of what you do or how you do it (and it will come inevitably). The consequence of doing the latter gives an impression that you do not have faith in what you do. It sad to say that there are people who will take advantage of this when they sense it in you.

It may also signify that your counterpart doesn’t really value what you or what you do. I am not saying that when you’re negotiating a working relationship that there should not be a bit of give and take from both sides. It is up to you to clarify your intentions as best as possible. If you’re expecting things to be handed to you on a plate then don’t get into business find something else to do. The warning that I have is that you should not be taken advantage of or used. So one of the first things you need to do is be sure that the people you are working with truly value what you do. Is this sincere? Is it genuine? To be clear you need to define yourself and follow your instinct. Position yourself well. As a result you will minimise bad decisions on your part.

I always say this quote to young entrepreneurs who attend our workshops ”Define yourself, what you stand for and what you would like to do or people will do it for you”. Therefore times will come where you have to put your foot down. I learnt the hard way by hoping and wishing that one day the individuals I was working with would appreciate and the reward would come. Despite something not feeling quite right I stubbornly went ahead. This is madness. It is a waste of time, effort and a whole lot of heartache. It simply won’t get better unless you do something. So if you’re in this situation right now please consider why am I doing it? Where is it getting me? If you do not like the answer change it. You can do it. You either define yourself today or you will be forgotten tomorrow. I know which one I would choose.

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Social Media Can Galvanise the Next Generation of Sport & Leisure Professionals

22 Jul

It is cliche but I have made great connections on Twitter. There are some exceptional minds out there and I always aim to learn from people. Through my Twitter feed I have access to people in my industry in a way that I would not have ten years ago after completing my GCSE’s. In a sector where climbing the ladder is part and parcel of your career. Knowing the right people can sometimes determine how far you go. Social Media and going digital can make a difference to this.

Back in April I attended a Sport & Recreation Alliance event in central London. It was the launch of their Directors’ Club. The only reason I was able to attend this event was because a tweet was sent out. I had no other link or contact so I took initiative. The lack of access to information about these events for the younger generation is a challenge that has to be addressed.  It was also a chance  for me to meet the Editor of The Leisure Review whom I had written a couple of articles for without ever meeting. That is the funny thing with Social Media, you can admire what people do from afar and just know that you connect on a number of issues. Social Media has enabled us to collaborate with people we have never seen face to face. I feel it is still underestimated in the sector.

Of course real human interaction can never be replaced. It is why I decided to go to the event. Attending industry events like this can often be intimidating. You’re scared to say the wrong thing or feeling like you have little knowledge in comparison to attendees. I am a fairly confident person however to someone young in the industry who is starting out it can all be a bit overwhelming. A good example was the event held by Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport & Physical Activity at the London Aquatics Centre.

The event invited members and non-members to network and to listen to presentations by Mark Sesnan GLL Chief Executive, Tara Dillon, interim chief operating officer, CIMSPA and Carl Bennett, CIMSPA interim chair and senior health improvement specialist (commissioner), Stoke on Trent public health team. This is a pretty impressive line up. Although I had previously communicated with Carl Bennett over Social Media again we had never met until this event. How do people of my age operating in the industry get to someone like Carl if he is not on Social Media? How can we have an idea of what he thinks and expects of the industry if he did not reach out? The gap needs to be closed.

Social Media is not the only way to encourage the next generation of professionals in the sector. I asked Carl what where the changes the industry needed to make to impact the lives of people. His answer was compelling and you just can’t replicate a response like that over Social Media. What you can do is lead the next generation towards it and allow them to make a decision on their next steps in Sport & leisure.  I understand that many of my peers are searching for direction and support to get ahead. A lot of them will indeed be on Social media but are unknown and are not being engaged. I would not be surprised if a lot claimed they had never heard of Sport & Recreation Alliance or CIMSPA. I was not aware of them during my studies. This generation is extremely hungry. The will is there and Social Media could be a key tool to galvanise the next generation of sport & leisure professionals.

Check out Sport & Recreation Alliance  @sportrectweets

Check out CIMSPA @cimspa

Key Points You Must Cover On Your CV (Part 1)

27 Jun

cv

A Curriculum Vitae (CV)/resume is like a written paper report to your Teacher or Examiner. In this case the Teacher/Examiner is the employer. So your CV has to produce relevant answers to the questions the employer is asking. When you are just starting off in the job market or going back for a long time to find a new position it can be really scary. Where exactly do you start? Who you speak to? What jobs can you do? When will you have enough time to do the searching? These are all questions you want the answers to. One of the places you should definitely start with is your CV. Your CV is the first point of contact potential employers have with you prior to any human communication. Therefore it has to evoke the positive first impressions when an employer looks at your CV no matter how inexperienced or unskilled you are. Just like when you first meet someone first impressions of a CV also count. So you have to make yours count. Here are a couple of simple rules to follow to help you create a CV.

Rule 1:

Keep It Simple, Short & Succinct

The first way to ensure your CV is giving the best answers to potential employers is that the format and layout must be simple, short and succinct. To make a simple CV means you need ensure the sentences are easy to understand and the information displayed is actually relevant to the position are applying for. Avoid using too much jargon. You need describe your key skills, experience and personality in a way that is clear and interesting. The sentences must be short and to the point.

Do not make long winded explanations as chances are that you are going off on a tangent and wasting valuable space for other significant information. More, importantly most employers are not going to read it anyway unless you are lucky. Dani Fankhauser wrote an article for Mashable called Can Beautiful Design Make Your Resume Stand Out?. The piece stated that a recruiter spends approximately six seconds looking at your CV. So it is most likely that your CV will be browsed through very quickly depending on who has been given the responsibility of overseeing them.

Rule 2:

Highlight & Describe Your Main Skills & Qualifications

Once you have began to build an industry focused CV highlight the key skills, qualifications you have. If you have decided to apply for a job in an industry where you lack the requirements you have to try to explain how your existing skills can be transferred and used in the industry the job you are applying for is being offered. This is really important. Once again you must apply the keep it simple, short and succinct principle. If your CV fails to convince the employer how your current skills are relevant to their industry they will not even take a glance at your CV. That is reality.

Many job hunters are naive and prone to believing by simply stating that they have performed specific duties it is enough is to convey that they are able to complete the job requirements. Explain it even if you think it is obvious. It might be obvious to you but it is probably not the employer as they might have much knowledge about your previous jobs roles. You must highlight the key skills, qualifications you have that are needed for the job. There is no point emphasising that you have a plumming qualification when you are applying for a role as security guard unless they employer is asking for such a qualification or you are able to justify how this relates back to the job they are asking you to do. Look out for the second part in the next coming weeks.

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Two Cups Don’t Make A Right. Are Coffees a Waste of Time?

14 Jun

coffee

Are coffee meetings a waste of time? That depends entirely on why you are going for a coffee in the first place. If you’re in business you often receive a lot of invitations for coffees from people you meet. I don’t look too much into it a part from the fact people are friendly and may want to have a conversation over a coffee. I always agree to go for coffees with clients, partners and associates as this could be their preferred method of working together. There is a reason to meet in this situation.

However if it is with an individual I don’t know and they are in business I am a bit more skeptical. Unless we have agreed to meet over a coffee to discuss something very specific about business and how we can move forward I am less inclined to say yes. If people ask to meet over a coffee just to get to know you or find out about your what you do then you might as well go to the cinema or a museum. Most of the time it is quite innocent and suggestion for a coffee is a sign they are interested in you and your business.

Is it the kind of interest you want? That is the question you have to answer. If this is your way of networking then of course there’s nothing wrong with that – it has a purpose. But if it supposed to be a business meeting from your point of view then I would suggest you at least try to iron out the aim of this meeting with an agenda on the table. Inform the person of your thoughts so that you’re on the same page. If you don’t you could be wasting your energy and it will be your responsibility. No one likes meetings about meetings. Two cups don’t make a right.

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Top Pitching Tips To Get The Room Buzzing

12 Jun

The Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) hosted a pitching event which was led by Opening Doors Network. This competition consisted of impressive young entrepreneurs who wanted to put forward their product/service idea in front of an audience. I was invited to be one of the judges alongside Tim Campbell MBE, First Winner of The Apprentice and Founder of The Bright Ideas Trust, Olga Astaniotis Analyn Haswell Finance Officer Greater London Enterprise and Robin Landman OBE Sisonke Partnership. In light of this event here are a few top tips that I would focus on to leave the room buzzing when you’re pitching.

Opening Doors Network

 

Whenever you’re before a potential client, business partner, associate, fellow entrepreneur or anybody you are pitching. It doesn’t have to be a full sales pitch neither. You are pitching because you’re talking about you and your business. You’re pitching to show you’re credible, interesting, reliable, different and that you can actually deliver. Every time you speak you are pitching. And people are always subconsciously questioning you: is she/he speaking the truth? will this work? can I trust them with my network? is this product/service really solving problem? why should listen to you of all people? We all behave in this way as human beings even outside of business. We are constantly judging if we want work with this and that individual. It is how we make choices for us and people around us. The question people want to know in your pitch is can you deliver? And you have to answer in a way that resonates with the audience. Get them buzzing and talking about you for days, weeks, months and event years. Here is how to:

First Tip: Read up on your audience and adapt

If you are to perform a proper pitch to take your business to the next level you must learn about the audience you will be pitching to. The audience can consist of the judges, onlookers, fellow entrepreneurs and other key decision makers. The most important people to research among the latter is the people who are be making the decision. That decision can be whether to invest, offer funding, become a partner or introduce you to your most lucrative customer. If you don’t research your audience you are potentially cutting yourself short. Who are they? What industry do they work in? Who do they know? What their general views on key issues? What are they interested in? The better you get to know them the better you can adapt your pitch. Be aware of making assumptions. Google is your friend!

Second Tip: Crisp, Clear & Concise

You’re pitch has to be crisp, clear & concise because people’s attention spans are short. The more you waffle on the more likely they will switch off and this could at a very critical point of your pitch. Decide on the key points of your pitch and what you would like to put across. Avoid repeating yourself. You have to give enough information to intrigue and make people believe. If you’re pitching time is short than bear that in mind. If it is long you really have to nail down every single point your audience will be looking for. If you fail to do it they will question you on it. Try your best to anticipate questions the audience might pose to you. You can do this by practicing with a person from a business background. Ask them: what have I missed? What is making sense and what isn’t?

Third Tip: Break Down your pitch

Break down your pitch so that you can deliver a 30 second, 60 second, 5 minute and 10 minute version of it. Breaking down your pitch in different time scales means that you can adapt it to people. We live in an age where people have little time and often want you to get to the point. If you have delivered a full sales pitch members of your audience might want to follow-up with you by having a private chat. You need be prepared because now the person might only give you a few minutes and they are not going to sit through a 10-20 minute presentation.

Fourth Tip: Ask for Feedback

However your pitch went you must ask for feedback afterwards. How else will you improve? It is especially important you do if you’re in the presence of key decision makers because it is unlikely you will have face to face access to them anytime soon. Ask them how you did and what you can improve. If you don’t ask for feedback then it’s another missed opportunity. It take you longer to correct something when it could have been dealt with right away.

Sixth Tip: Enjoy it

Remember to enjoy it. Pitching can be absolutely nerve wrecking but do enjoy it. The best way to enjoy it is to prepare and practice as much as possible. Once you have mastered your pitch you should feel a bit more relaxed. It is very normal to be nervous as it shows you care.

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9 Points To Encourage Young People

29 May

CareerPathsOnline

Career Paths Online held a conference called Improving Access To Apprenticeships for BME Young People. The event covered a number of different issues. One of the key points I made in this conference is that before we can fully address what would encourage young people we need to address what would discourage them. You may have heard of the term millennial which refers to the general perceptions and attitudes of young people born circa 1980 to early 2000’s. Although it is a very general theory that cannot be applied to every young person it is important we understand the mindset of many young people of this generation and the reasons.

1. Establish what the young person REALLY wants to do. This has to be done by actively listening without any assumptions and bias: ensuring you give impartial advice. They must be allowed to talk without any interruptions or questions. It can can take time for them to sit down and trust you enough to talk. You have to be patient. Whilst there are young people who know what they want to do with their life by the time they leave school others take much longer. Keep this in mind. I was not certain what I wanted to do until I was 23.

2. Asking difficult questions is a must when you’re helping young people reach their potential. That is asking difficult questions about yourself and your organisation. Is this apprenticeship/job/course etc what this young person really wants? If what I am offering cannot help them who can I connect them with? Is my offer still appealing? With so much pressure from an early age to do well in school and be expected to be ready for the world of work there is a danger of young people going along with something just because they have been expected to do so by society. 

3. Let your young people take lead and express themselves. Lets the assume that the millennial point of view about this generations young people has some weight. They may often not be keen on being told what to do without an explanation. They are much more skeptical, independent and not big fans of authority. The best way to engage them is to get them involved in the decision making process. Make them feel valued by showing that actually care about what they think and their ability. That doesn’t mean you have to pander to young people as there must be a balance between conformity and independence. 

4. Raise awareness of opportunities that are out there.There are a lot of things available which is offered by across sectors. One of the biggest challenges is getting this information to young people. Bridge the gap as much as you can. This is way to demonstrate that there is choice, variety and a different avenue to get to where they want to even if it doesn’t work out the first time.

5. Allow enough time for people to fail and regroup. I mentioned this in my Report Review by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. By giving people who trying time and space to get it wrong and showing that is okay they are more likely to be encouraged to keep going. Be the safety and support for when they are down and want to go at it again.

6. Help young people expand and build their own network. Right now young people can feel that the world is a very closed space. They might only have their friends and family as their network. This can also mean they feel that their options are restricted and there is no way out. You have connections and the contacts to people who can open doors: share them. 

7. Involving parents and people of influence is a cliche when it comes to engaging young people. It has to be done.

8. Become more than agent for young people to encourage them – it can be difficult but if you can provide a support system they need.

9. Build relationships and collaborate with emerging small businesses. Small businesses might not have the capacity employ young people at the moment but 5 to 10 years time they may do. By building relationships with organisations now your offer to young people could be much more attractive because you’re able to offer a pool of other opportunities.

 

Final thoughts about encouraging young people to discover their potential: Continually re-consider how you can make your offer better. Is it still appealing now? Find out more about www.runfunstarz.com

How To Build Your Confidence Back Up Into To Being Active Again (Part One)

22 May

belly

So you have been away from your once favourite sport or physical activity for a while and you would like to get back into it. This is a great decision on your part because it can be a difficult one to make when your motivation has gone. You might have stayed away because of your roles and responsibilities have increased (family, work), the times activities are on conflict with your lifestyle or you have simply fell out of love with being active.  This is okay as it is never too late to start back up again. As long as you have the willpower then you are half way there.

Find Your Activity

One of the things that many people mention when they are asked what took them so long is that they did not have the confidence and they needed something to push them. To build your confidence up into being active you really need to find an environment that is best for you. Try as many different places as you can to fit your preference. Some people would rather play indoor Football (Futsal) than 11 side outdoor and others prefer a women only fitness class than a mixed one. There is an abundance of choice out there. You have to ready to try them out to find what’s comfortable with you.

Go with a Friend

If you feel apprehensive in trying different activities out by yourself it is always a good idea to ask your friend or family member to come with you for support. If you haven’t already explain why you want to get involved. They are very likely to be understanding and become staunch supporters of your personal cause. Who knows your friend might even want to join as well? Even if it means they are standing at the side lines to watch it can be a great boost for you. Don’t be afraid of asking for help as it can do your confidence a great deal of good knowing someone is there for you when you need them and reduce the anxieties you may have.

Find an Activity To Your Level

One of the most important aspect of going back to your activity is to remember not to put too much pressure on yourself. Remember that if you have been away for a while you will not be as fit as before, you might have forgotten some skills/rules, you are less familiar with the surroundings and for some of us age has caught up with us.  All of these things can cause you to be rusty. So try to find an activity that is to your level and that doesn’t demand too much of you in the beginning. You don’t have to prove anything. This way you are gradually able to ease your way into the activity without feeling the pressure to cope with people who have been participating on a regular basis. Don’t feel embarrassed to start with beginner classes even if you know that you can do much better than that. When your confidence is low you need whatever opportunity to build it.

Explain Your Needs/Background

Part of building your confidence is also about shaping your needs/background so those who are going to assist you are able to understand what you want. Since you are just starting out again it is essential for you to explain your needs to the facilitator of the activities. You might have had a serious injury in the past that is going to affect your reactions. If something like this is significant to how you think you will do during the activities then it is significant enough for you to at least mention it. The reason you should inform them is so that they can give the best support you need and to address concerns you may have.

You are an individual so should understand that you also have your own personal goals and specific reasons why you have made the decision to being active. The facilitator may have a form, suggestion/comments section on registration asking if you have any specific requirements. This is where you should take opportunity to outline them. If you feel uncomfortable sharing those details on paper find out if you can speak to someone on a one to one basis instead. Remember that you don’t have to share it with the facilitator straight away – there is no obligation to do this unless it affects health & safety. Take your time until you feel comfortable and that you can trust the person you are going to speak to.

 

So this is part one of how to build your confidence back into being active again.  Find out more about www.runfunstarz.com

 

Entrepreneurs: What can we learn from them? Report Review

15 May

cipd3

On Friday 9th May 2014 Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and Young Enterprise published the Entrepreneurs: what can we learn from them? report. On that same day I joined a panel hosted by the authors along side Samuel Kasumu and Cicely Elliott-Berry. Chief Executive of CIPD Peter Cheese chaired the discussion with great expert input from Michael Mercieca Chief Executive Young Enterprise and Benedict Dellot Senior Researcher RSA. 

Self employment saw the largest growth in the economy from employment and many are young people. In the report Samuel Kasumu excellently highlighted the fact that a degree is not suited to all in search for employment. I share his view that it can be very frustrating as a young entrepreneur when there is little option for support. I found this to be the personal situation for me in 2010. I do believe there has been an improvement but much more needs to be done. A more coherent and clear path to enterprise and entrepreneurship is the way forward.

At the moment the market can seem confusing to someone young who is new to entrepreneurship. Where do you ‘officially’ turn to when you want to be an entrepreneur after leaving education? If you don’t have the family support or network it can be extremely difficult. When young people look for work Job Centre Plus is one of the most obvious places young people recognise in search of employment. We might need something similar for entrepreneurship.

In my perspective the report demonstrates the importance of allowing young people the space, time and support to experiment and explore. Within this space there must be room to fail and regroup to do better. This is part of your development as a young entrepreneur. When you read the report you can see these is a clear theme from the case studies of entrepreneurs like Jason Gibbs. There are the inevitable trials and tribulations which you face as a young entrepreneur that would probably not face as an employee so early in your career. This is a great advantage as you acquire skills that would take years to gain as you would probably need to be promoted or take years to work yourself up the ladder to be given that kind of responsibility.  

It is refreshing to see a report that show the real journeys and stories of young entrepreneurs. I believe it will hit home much more as it did for me because the focus is on people that are approachable, easy to relate to and the message will be communicated with all whom are concerned with youth enterprise. Research like this needs to continue and the documenting the progress of young entrepreneurs could begin to create a template for future generations to follow as source of reference and encouragement. Congratulations to CIPD and Young Enterprise on this report.

Find out more about www.runfunstarz.com

 

 

 

 

Are You Exploring Enough? Curiosity Feeds the Mind.

28 Jan

I love walking. It gives me a sense of tranquillity and peace. The more walking I do the more interesting things I discover. I lived in the Royal Borough of Greenwich for pretty much most of my life. But there are so many things I have not seen in the borough. It is only by being curious and exploring I found out about them. I think this very similar in business. It is vital to be inquisitive and curious. You never quite know how will it will benefit you or how even you could make a difference to someone else. Here are some photos I took recently walking through Greenwich Park whilst on my lunch break.

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One of the adjacent entrances for Greenwich Park.

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Walking paths…

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Made this image large because I especially like walking in & out of these trees.

On the right of this path there’s a huge hill I walk up. But the dogs are faster getting up.

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This is where I usually start my jogging from. On the right is where the National Maritime Museum is located.

Would you like to explore a bit more of your surroundings? Find out more about www.runfunstarz.com

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