What is your current position and where?
I’m self employed; my company is called Forward Thinking and it’s a business advice and consultancy company. I currently have a contract with Centre for Business; a business support agency for South East Wales.
How long have you been doing that role?
I’ve been working for myself for two years.
Is this role representative of your career to date?
I’ve been in business support roles for about about 6 years. However, previous to that I’ve worked in several different types of organisation including telecoms, banking, health economics and agriculture doing different roles including product and relationship manager roles.
Although I’ve worked in different industries, the fundamentals of the jobs I’ve done have always been the same; there’s always a commercial angle to what I’ve done.
How did you start out; get to where you are now?
I started out by studying for a BA in Economics at Cardiff Business School. Following that I worked in Aberystwyth carrying out farm business surveys focusing on business in the rural economy.
Then I did an MBA at Bath University; mainly because I wanted to gain the language of business and a broader outlook of marketing, accountancy, strategy.
What’s the biggest day to day challenge you face?
Although what I’m offering is a free service and I’ve got a lot to offer clients it’s not always straight forward reaching people who are just setting up a new business. It’s a complicated environment for businesses where they have to negotiate with new technology, banks, relationships with customers and suppliers.
What’s been the biggest challenge in your career?
Setting up the business has been the biggest challenge of my career.
I’ve learnt how not to do things such as my internet strategy.
The other things that are challenging are how to promote the business and advertise and dealing with people’s expectations.
Mobile phones have changed how we do business and made interaction with customers much easier.
The other challenge I have is getting customers to think about who their customers are and targeting those customers.
However, in business I’ve found you have to make your own mistakes.
I’ve dealt with the challenge of dealing with customer expectations by relationship management and learning to say no and set expectations.
What’s the best training you’ve ever done and what was good about it?
A four day presentation course led by psychologists that I undertook while working for a US Telecoms company.
I learnt how to overcome the “death by Powerpoint” trap focusing on how to plan, present, dress, layout of the room and really use selling skills to get a point across.
What’s your favourite business book and why?
My favourite business book is Crossing the chasm: Marketing and Selling High-Tech Products to Mainstream Customers by Geoffrey A Moore.
I liked it because it’s process oriented and helps you question things we take for granted and makes you think about it differently.
Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t by James C Collins.
This book should be read.
I’m looking forward to reading the new biography about Steve Jobs.
Do you have and how do you maintain work life balance?
I think the key to work life balance is to be flexible. It’s possible with mobile phones and laptops. Sometimes I work evenings and weekends.
People expect responses; so there’s no real downtime. Even on holidays I’ll check emails and keep in touch; otherwise there’s an overwhelming mountain to return to.
That’s what it’s like when you own your own business.
What are the key challenges you think people have in working in England / Wales today?
Finance; banks are still reluctant to lend unless you have an impeccable credit record with customers lined up and they often expect 50% matched funding.
What’s been the best piece of business / career advice you’ve ever been given?
Someone told me you don’t need to come up with anything new in business; it’s about doing whatever you do better than the competition.
There’s a little anecdote I like about two people going for a walk in the forest on a beautiful sunny day. Suddenly they hear a grisly bear and one of the hikers starts putting on his running shoes. The other hiker says “what are you doing? You’re not going to be able to out-run a grisly bear”. Running shoes hiker says “It’s not the grisly bear I’m running away from. It’s you!”