Be human

Does this person care about me?

Whenever someone communicates with us, that’s the question we ask ourselves.

Whether it’s an email, phone call, meeting us in person or an advert.

Is this person treating you like a computer? Or are they seeing you as an individual and asking about what you like and showing how they can help.

Be human – it’ll take you far.

What the Carribean taught me about business

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The suite cost 3000 Euros a night.

My sister was installing artwork from her gallery there.

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We had the island’s equivalent of the Chuckle brothers to help us put it up.

“To me… To you. A moi… A vous.”

Now it was a nice room with a great view over the harbour in St Barth’s.

But is it worth that much?

You could find a better place that would cost much less.

So why do people book it way in advance? And pay over the odds.

Guess.

Its something you and I care about subconsciously.

Brands will pay millions to improve it.

It’s a trigger that makes people buy without thinking…

Reputation.

Usually being very good at something is good enough.

But the thing that makes it that much more valuable… Is what people say about it… And who knows about it.

Staying in that suite says more about the person who stays there… Than the room itself.

They have bragging rights. That’s very important to the mega-rich who stay there.

How does this apply to you?

It’s better to spend more time on marketing yourself and developing your network than making your skills marginally better.

Because business is all about reputation. And who knows you.

Because you could have the best hotel room in the world, the best violin skills in the world or be the world’s best chef.

But if you don’t interact with the world and build your reputation, you won’t get discovered.

We all need good marketing.

Host an event

I co-hosted a networking event on Sunday.

It was supposed to start at 3.

I was worried nobody was going to turn up.

It got to 3:10. Nobody.

3:15. Nobody.

Oh no.

It’d seemed like the longest few minutes of our lives.

Oh well at least we had 6 bottles of wine ready between the two of us.

Then 3:20. 3 people turn up.

Then another two or three.

Then some more.

You mingle people about. You make sure everyone is speaking to everyone and they’re topped up on drinks.

People were laughing and having a good time.

At the end lots of people swapped numbers

The thing with events is you create a melting pot for everyone. You get them chatting to each other, helping each other and making friends.

You create value on a massive scale. You connect people. You make people feel like they belong.

That’s the key to modern world… creating value.

You create social capital – people want to spend time with you and trust you.

You create financial capital – people recommend your services… and buy from you.

And you also just get a really warm glow from it (as cheesy as that sounds). We got this email afterwards…

Hey thank you to you and Alex so much for hosting such a great Sunday social. A very lovely relaxed bunch. Sorry was a bit tipsy so hope I didn’t offend anyone! I had fun and so did Ankur. 

What kind of event could you host?

Everything happens for a reason

I sometimes think of the time I was applying to uni.

I applied to Cambridge. On my AS-level results day I was miserable.

I got AABB grades, but I knew that wouldn’t be good enough to get in.

On the day I got rejected, I was really really low. I didn’t ever consider that I wouldn’t get in.

So I sulked around. And felt awful… because I’d pinned my identity on getting that achievement.

But it’s in those lowest moments of soul-searching that the best things come out.

In fact it made me question the real value of university at all.

And in fact, it led to a chain of events where I’m a lot happier than I would have been if I went to Cambridge.

What I have now is real freedom.

I don’t have to turn up to boring lectures/lessons.

I don’t have exams that bore me to death. 

I can choose which set of people I spend time with.

I don’t have a boss to answer to… I have clients (but I can choose them, and the projects I take on)

I don’t have lecturers to answer to.

That freedom of time and energy and choice is beautiful.

And it makes you think… everything (even if it’s really bad) is probably happening for a reason.

Don’t work in an office… work in a pub

I was on my second pint… writing some kind of sales letter.

I’d had the breakfast deal where you get a coffee and bacon sandwich for £2.15

The wifi was free.

Then there was lunch, where you get a massive burger, onion rings, chips and a pint for £5.69.

It was marvelous.

I love Wetherspoons.

Then it hit me…

Why don’t more people work in pubs?

How much do companies waste on ugly office space, fluorescent lighting and uncomfortable chairs?

How much do people hate working in such buildings?

Then when people need lunch, they have to walk through the rain for a cold, limp egg mayo sandwich from Sainsbury’s.

Why don’t pubs market themselves as office space?

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For employers: you won’t have to pay for office space. You save thousands and thousands a year.

For employees: there’s drink on tap, decent pub grub on tap, entertainment on tap (fruit machine, billiards, darts) and there’s wifi for all the work you need to do.

For the pub: you have punters all day long. Especially during the day, which is typically a quiet period.

The thing is we’re more productive when we’re happy. And most office environments aren’t conducive to happiness.

I understand that most employers wouldn’t want to buy into it because they’d think their teams are slacking off.

But when you look at what most people do in their jobs… they rarely do more than 2 or 3 hours of productive work.

And if they have something to look forward to, and they’re in a jovial environment… they will get those things done.

OK – you’re not sold on it yet?

Well, a bar in Spain has already bought into the concept.

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We stumbled across La Oficina Taberna in Madrid.

“The Office Tavern”

Inside, freelancers, creatives and office workers were crammed in…working away on their laptops with a cerveza next to them.

It’s a working concept.

I got talking to a guy called Manuel whose English was rather good.

“I can work in a shared office space but it cost €90 a month to go.”

“Or I can come here, I have tapas, drink and people… very friendly”

So why don’t we bring this concept over to the UK?

Why don’t we liberate the UK’s depressed office workers?

Alright, there may be a few more typos in our emails…

and you might have to BYOP (Bring Your Own Printer).

But don’t we deserve to be merry?

Happy people are productive people.

What’s more, The Office Pub will save companies skiploads of money.

Don't be these losers who actually pay for office space

Don’t be these losers who actually pay for office space

It will reinvigorate the economy… lead to thousands of new jobs in the hospitality industry and rescue Britain’s boozers.

What’s not to like?

Let’s create The Office Pub now.

16 things you learn from running a school newspaper…

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That was me

I’m reading Piers Morgan’s autobiography at the moment. He was the youngest editor of the national newspaper at 28.

When I was 15/16 I ran a school newspaper called News of the Plebs (NOTP). I called it that because the News of the World never contained any world news – so I might as well be honest with my paper.

As I read Piers’ book it dredged up some really strong memories about what it’s like to be an editor of a newspaper…

1. You play God.

You have control of people’s lives in your hands. One girl didn’t want me to write a story about her because she didn’t want people to think she was a “slag”. So I dropped the story because she made a heartfelt plea.

Piers had a story about a call-centre woman who sexually harrassed a bloke on the phone. Then she was threatening to kill herself and her story stacked up because she had a history of self-harming herself. Piers dropped it.

Those were just a few of the headlines

Those were just a few of the headlines

2. Just listen… and people will tell you the story.

Ask a probing question… look them in the eyes and be silent.

That way you get an honest answer.

It’s a skill that’s helps you connect with people. It’s helped me a lot with my work and socially since.

3. Boldness.

Piers sent Rebakah Wade to go to the Sunday Times print press, and steal a copy of their first print run, so they could nab a story.

So she got dressed up in a News International cleaner uniform and hid in the loo for 2 hours. She then stole the copy and ran across the road to the News of the World where they reprinted the story. That’s bold! That’s balls.

I had similar times when I eavesdropped on other people’s conversations when I shouldn’t have been. Then wrote them up.

4. You learn how to write well

You learn the art of expressing yourself in a funny, informative, and concise way.

Otherwise people don’t read.

5. People will try and shut you down… and they will.

After 10 issues of NOTP, one teacher Mr McIllroy came across it. He took me out of the lesson and spoke to me in the corridor as though I’d murdered his mother.

“Have you asked people about writing about them.”

“Yeah, duh! I got everyone’s permission – which is more than the national papers do.” I said

He was surprised.

“Don’t you know it’s been going for 10 issues now”

It eventually got censored. They put too much pressure on me.

Funnily enough so did the News of the World a year or two later.

6. Gives you a reputation (not necessarily good)

“Got any gossip?” I became famous of asking.

Some people will confide in you, and you’ve got to respect where to draw the line. I could have written some great stories, but they didn’t let me print them.

Other people don’t trust you at all. They blank you.

But on the whole, people respect you and find you amusing.

7. You realize that everyone’s such a voyeur.

It’s like when people drive past slowly to look at a car crash.

They hate having themselves talked about, but they’re happy to gorp at everyone else’s unpleasant business.

8. You don’t sleep well sometimes.

My front cover had a picture of class wildchild Kat with her middle finger up. I knew this would get me into trouble… and there were rumours that she might be pregnant… but it was my best story of the week. So I ran with it.

Needless to say, I was right. I did get into trouble. But you just have to run with what will get you the most buyers sometimes. It was funny reading that Piers had “big story insomnia” too.

9. You can get lonely.

I remember being on the bus home one day, just feeling really empty. There wasn’t anybody who I could confide in… and there wasn’t any funny or feelgood stories I could write about.

And I just felt a bit alienated.

10. You can get into arguments with your family.

One girl got food poisoning from the local Chinese restaurant. She was absolutely certain it was from there.

I was going to run with the story but then my parents got into a row with me about libel. And they were worried that the Chinese triad gangs would come and slit our necks or something…

They’d dice us up, and put us next to the egg fried rice on the buffet… and we’d poison the next batch of customers…So I changed the story to her “alleging” food poisoning.

Piers also faced arguments with his family. Mostly because he was incredibly stressed.

11. The stress is immense

Needless to say, when you’re doing something like that there’s a lot of pressure.

Very often you find yourself in “win-lose” situations… where you can never keep everyone happy. If you have a good story, it’s at the expense of laughing at someone.

You might have a good story that most people are OK with, but one person involved isn’t happy. So you have to weigh things up.

Gaining enemies is never fun and you’re always worried about getting a tirade of criticism from someone.

12. You cock-up things.

Max Clifford & Piers were negotiating on a story.

“He’s such an idiot he could have got double for that story” said Piers.

Piers’ colleague had forgot to hang up.

“You’re going to have to pay me an extra £40,000 for what you just said. He’s not that much of an idiot after all!” joked Max afterward.

13. It’s hillarious sometimes. You get the inside scoop on great stories.

We were on a coach on a school trip to Paris.

This old man in a car alongside us, he smiled at the girls at the back.

They smiled back. He seemed like a friendly chap.

Then he flashed them… causing the entirety of the bus to go yuck and look at his saggy Parisian bits.

14. You have to work really hard.

I remember a lot of late nights. Times when my printer at home broke down.

Times when the printer mucked up, and it printed upside down.

Times when I was desperate for material and just made up stories from what I saw on Facebook.

It was really hard work… really hard. Piers found it the same… you never relax

15. Some people love the fame too much.

Not to mention any names… but Max/Maccie was notorious for getting front page spreads for his escapades with girls and being cheeky.

It’s the same in “showbiz” – some people will do anything for publicity.

16. The highs are very high

Mrs Lawrie hugged me… she was so pleased. She was over the moon.

“This is what makes teaching worthwhile” she said.

She was the front page and I’d called her a superteacher for organising the trip. She was brilliant.

Likewise I had people who loved hearing about what I wrote. It was so good to make people feel that way… and be the hub of a group.

Was it worth it?

I guess that’s the question it comes down to.

Yes it was. Very much so.

You learn so much about people… how they think… how to entertain… and how to tell a good story, that it’s one of the best things you could possibly do.

You learn about managing a project.

You fail, you learn. You fail again. And then you ultimately become very nuanced in the way of being good with people and writing.

That’s what made it worthwhile.