2014 – I want to tell the stories of entrepreneurs

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On Thursday I fly out to San Francisco. I’m going on the Uncollege Gap Year.

I’m doing it because I want a change of scenery.

I want to explore the world. I want to meet people who think differently… and didn’t do the conventional thing of school, uni then a job.

I want to be living with people who make their own destiny.

I’ve set up my own marketing business in London for 6 months. I found myself clients. I worked with them.

But I don’t want to be doing marketing forever.

What really interests me is entrepreneurship… and how people did their own thing. I also love connecting with people, interviewing them and getting to know them on an emotional level.

I think being entrepreneurial is the highest state of living. Because you take control of your future. You persuade. You have ideas. You act them out. You feel the fear. You do it anyway. And you get a rush when it works out. You create things in the world that benefit people.

So I want to use this year as an opportunity to create films that focus on entrepreneurship. I’ll create business documentaries and have interviews with famous entrepreneurs. I might talk to shoe shiners on the streets of Brazil. I’ll find something that works.

I really want to create films that inspire.

That'll be me next year

That’ll be me next year

It might put a smile on your face. Or make you gulp with tears. What I want to create are films that shine a light on an unusual type of person… and tell stories that are rarely told.

Now, I’ve got lots of learning to do. Things like how to make a film and what equipment to get. I’ve also got to make friends and influence people.

At this moment in time, I’m a complete numpty really. I’m reading one good book and have been watching and making notes on lots of documentaries on Youtube. But I’ll learn.

I’ll be writing my story and learning journey here. That journey might be painful. It might be exciting. I might completely fail. But whatever happens – I hope you enjoy it.

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The most inspiring words I’ve come across

He’d set up his own business when he was younger.

He’d made millions and lost them… then made them back again.

He’d been driven to drink and drugs. He was now clean for 6 years.

He’d been involved in politics, and odd bits of TV.

And here he was in front of me, over dinner. Very humble.

“What is the most inspiring thing you’ve ever read?” I asked.

“A poem by Rudyard Kipling called ‘if’. It’s always guided me in what a man should be.”

I’ll let you read it for yourself below…

IF you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!

You’ll only remember when you were loved

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We were sat in St Pauls Cathedral.

It was the perfect environment to talk.

It was peaceful. The ceiling was high. We watched the candles flicker.

“When we get to our deathbed, I think we only really remember the times we were loved.” my friend said.

We had a long pause to reflect.

It was a comfortable silence… I like people who don’t feel the need to fill every silence with noise.

Nothing else really matters.

Not money.

Not a career.

Not a car.

Nor anything else that you can tie your identity to.

“It’s the sparks between people that matter.”

“Because you’ll only remember the love you felt from your friends and family.”

Care and you will sell

I just got a sales call.

A self-published book company,  Authorhouse, that was following up with me.

I’d requested information so that’s ok.

But the telemarketer was diabolical, because he wasn’t personal.

He just said “we can publish your book”.

Then talked and talked and talked.

At no part did he ask what I was writing about.

Nor did he ask what inspired me to write anything.

He did ask how far it was… Which isn’t  very far.

He just had NO EMPATHY.

He told me all about their discounts.

All about their company and the packages.

But he just didn’t care.

He talked for 3 or 4 minutes without letting me get a word in.

He didn’t let me think. It was just blah blah blah!

I had to cut across him 5 times. To ask a question… Then said he was just getting to that point.

Finally I told him how to do a better job.

Pause.

Ask questions.

And focus on the other person’s needs not how you can sell to them.

Although  I said you should be personal and ask about what book the person is writing… He still hadn’t asked me what I was writing about.

Him him him. Authorhouse Authorhouse Authorhouse.

So I put the phone down.

Empathise with the human being at the end of the phone and you will sell.

13 things I’ve learned from my entrepreneurial friends under 25

It’s amazing to talk to young entrepreneurs because they’re so bright, so driven and nothing holds them back.

They tend to have so many insights.

My friendship circle has become full of these people. Here’s a few really interesting things they’ve said…

alexandre

Alexandre Dubrowolski is 23 and according to one French newspaper, the 6th most influential person in France. 

He runs DailyGeekShow… France’s most popular site, with over 5 million visitors a month. He invited me to spend the last three days hanging out with him in Paris!

He’s amazingly positive, happy-go-lucky and really fun to be around.

1.How to hire. Unlike most people in France, Alexandre ignores CVs

He invites every candidate for an interview and plays Xbox with them.

Mid-game he’ll ask questions. Because their mind is distracted… they answer truthfully.

For him, hiring people is about motivation and what drives somebody. Not what they write on paper.

2. Work smarter, not harder

DailyGeekShow has 3 journalists and they write 6 stories a day in total. They’re the most popular news site in France.

Other sites have teams of 20+ journalists cranking out 4 or 5 stories daily… yet they’re not as popular.

By being smarter with the content, they create  emotional news that people want to read.  And get a bigger audiences.

3. Raise your profile

By knowing people and helping them, his app agency has picked up France’s biggest telecoms company as a client.

He’s also co-manages a games company in Luxembourg because people he worked with, mentioned his name.

4. School means nothing

Alexandre left school at 15, went and lived in Malta, Italy and Barcelona to work. “Everything they teach you is out of date by the time you leave” he said.

“I got 80% of my knowledge from Google” he told me over an amazing Lebanese lunch. It’s so powerful

chris-monti

Chris Monti, 20, went to my old school. He was always in trouble with the teachers, and they didn’t think he’d go anywhere.

But that didn’t stop him.

He hopped between several jobs, created his own sportswear brand In The Zone and is now a buyer at Tesco’s head office. He wants to be a millionaire by the time he’s 28.

5. Things will probably go wrong, but you can pull yourself out of it.

When creating his sportswear brand, all kinds of things went wrong. Manufacturers created T-shirts where the ink leaked… and lettering came off in the wash.

But he dealt with the problem and changed suppliers.

6. It’s all about connections.

Building relationships and networking is key in business. It’s not what you know, but who you know nowadays that matters.

7. People appreciate your drive

If you visit the office of a buyer, people will acknowledge your drive and will give you some time.

If you want to speak to the boss somewhere and get yourself a job… go ahead and ask.

The fact that you show up, and most people don’t, separates you from the rest.

8. Grades really don’t matter

Someone we knew had A*A*A at A-level, but didn’t get even get an interview for a job. Why? Because they hadn’t done anything outside of academia.

9. Find a winning business formula, then scale it

While working in a cafe in Herne Bay, Chris got chatting with the owner who told him “it’s all about floorspace.”

The owners were making an absolute killing in the summer months. They gave customers what they wanted and turned over customers quickly.

They then replicated this winning formula to another 7 cafes in Kent.

Now the brothers who had that business, own 8 properties between them.

10. Learning outside your comfort zone

“I want to run before I can walk” he said. If you just dive into something, learn all about it you can get the best education in the world.

11. It’s impossible to make money in Kent.

If you’re outside a big city, people tend to be quite stingey. Chris told me about me about people in Kent moaning about paying £10 for a t-shirt.

Whereas in London, you could easily charge 2 or 3 times because there’s so much more affluence.

12. You go into a job interview/sales meeting etc. knowing you’re going to win.

Whenever Chris goes into a meeting, he has a mental checklist. He aims to make the person laugh, impress them and take the initiative.

It works.

I find myself in similar situations where you just know you’re going to get a sale. You get them begging to buy from you … so when they hear your price they think it’s really cheap.

13. Focus on results.

Don’t talk about uni. Don’t talk about X years experience in a job. It doesn’t matter about you age… it matters about what you’ve actually done.

Results are all that matters, we’ve both found.

Finally,

Chris is writing a book about how teachers said he’d never go anywhere… and how he’s proved them wrong. He wants to set up his own business once he has made enough contacts.

Alexandre is planning to keep growing his businesses before moving to San Francisco and possibly China.

I love being around young entrepreneurs because you know their drive is going to make these people wealthy, give them exciting lives and lots of stories to tell!

If you’re in a similar situation as a young entrepreneur, get in touch: alexclifford93@gmail.com It would be amazing to hear what you’re doing, and I can connect you with people I know who can help you.

“What do you do?”

Little words can make a big difference when you introduce yourself to someone.

Typically within the first minute of meeting somebody that inevitable question will come up…

“What do you do?”

By carefully picking and testing the words that you use, you can spark better conversations

Once upon a time I’d say things like

“God knows… I’m a marketing executive interested in technology” – which would usually switch people off.

“I do marketing” – That was a surefire conversation killer.

“I’m a copywriter.” – That usually led to the person assuming I was a patent lawyer who trademarked things.

But then you test things out

“I help geeks explain themselves better”… which usually leads to a few questions about what I really do.

“I’m an astronaut”… which is always fun to pretend to be.

“I put complicated software into plain english. Translating from Geek to English”… which usually makes them laugh.

When you start talking to new people you typically have 5 seconds to engage them I found…

You have to dangle a carrot and make them jump for it…

The more people you meet, the more chance you get to test these responses.

Then you refine them until you know exactly what to say, to get someone to react how you’d like.

The same principles apply in copywriting. Because it’s the written word equivalent of communication.

Whether that’s emails, brochures or anything else… if you test what you’re saying on a person first, you’ll get a better response.

Before I die…

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There’s a piece of art on the Regents Canal where people write what they want to do before they die.

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Some are travel related. They want to see the world.

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Some are about family… Getting married, having children.

Some people said before they die they want to be happy.

It’s like taking a snapshot of everyone’s thoughts.

If you boil down the main desires… Its comes down to a few simple things.

We all want health, excitement and love… and to just enjoy living.

So before I die I want to help people have more of that.