10 July 2016

It’s incredible how inspiring it is being around like-minded people.

Speaking at the Entrepreneurial Spark event.

Speaking at the Entrepreneurial Spark event.

Entrepreneurs are an unusual type of person and when we get together, the energy is extraordinary. There’s something special about a room full of people who have taken the keno and thoughts: ‘I am going to have a go at this’.

This week I spoke at one such event, the RBS NatWest Entrepreneurial Spark series. Events like these, that bring people together are one of my favourite types of event to attend – both as a speaker and a guest.

I believe that the best way to learn is to teach – that doesn’t necessarily mean teaching in a classroom; sharing ideas and experiences is quite the same. When it comes to speaking at this type of event, I approach the preparation in much the same way I would if I were teaching a class about the UKFast journey.

It forces me to stop and reflect; to take stock of where we are now and how far we have come. I have to think about who the audience is and what they want to know from me, and what will help them to know.

Unfortunately, the statistics say that the majority of businesses will not reach their tenth year, but I hope that events like this and hearing from business people who’ve been in their position will help more of the business people in that room to succeed. I can guarantee that within that room of people at the NatWest event, there were a few real gems that we will be hearing a lot more from over the coming years.

It is these small and growing businesses who lead our country. They make the real difference. The big national and international businesses are the same businesses who send their profits off-shore, who don’t pay their way in the UK and who simply don’t contribute what they should to our economy. Because of this, it comes down to the great small businesses of Britain to lead the way and keep our economy thriving.

Even more so when the government is setting such a poor example of leadership. The business world must set the example here too. It’s incredibly sad to see the leadership example currently being set by our government. When the going gets tough, you certainly don’t just go yourself! Unlike business owners, politicians are able to jump ship and they will be fine, they will still get their pensions and plenty of opportunities to make more money and continue to thrive. They simply don’t need to go to the efforts that business people have to.

Getting back into the mountains, a reminder after the avalanche of just how precious our time is.

Getting back into the mountains, a reminder after the avalanche of just how precious our time is.

However, as business owners, we can’t just walk away, its us who have to resilient. It’s up to us to hone our path to ensure that we get to where we need to be.

I believe that we should teach in schools what we learn as business people. Imagine if we could take that knowledge, resilience and confidence into schools at an early age. If we could teach young people that fear is not something to be ashamed of, it’s something we have got to look in the eye and stand up to. If you look at how much Warren Buffet, for example, has lost along the way, yet he carries on regardless. He wins more than he loses. He learns from his mistakes.

If we could teach this simple formula that a few people have learned on their journey and have become extraordinary business people, we’d have a bright future ahead.

We have to learn from the lessons around us.

Another event that I look forward to each year is the Digital Entrepreneur Awards. True talent is scarce and we need these initiatives to encourage and celebrate it. We have been involved with the DEAs for more than a decade now and I would say that its the longest-standing tech entrepreneur awards of its type.

It is always be a melting pot of the best talent across the north and an important ingredient to progressing as a business person, to share ideas and collaborate.

Alongside this, selling online is all about customer confidence; having award-winner logos on your site reinforces and highlights that you’re trustworthy, successful and at the top of your game. It’s an incredible achievement and one that reaps rewards.

The DEAs and how far we’ve come in the days since we first began to be involved with the awards played a huge part in preparing for the NatWest event. This reflection ultimately, I believe, makes us better business people. I was forced to consider the whole journey – from running a tuck shop in school to the business that I sold to Granada, to the early years of UKFast and our first big event involvement – the DEAs. It is quite extraordinary to look back on it all.

I remember, many years ago, bragging to my uncle that I hadn’t taken a holiday for 9 years. He was so shocked and told me to get out there, to see how the other half lived! That was the beginning of looking at how other people are doing things and setting benchmarks, but the biggest lesson I ever learned came with the avalanche.

Facing up to the fact that I had reached the end, this was it, it was over, I realised that at the end of the day it is family, it is memories and it is time that matters. Nothing is more valuable to us than time. UKFast would not be the business it is today had I not had that experience; it simply couldn’t be the same.

Time is a factor in everything. We all have the same amount of hours in the day. We have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.

That’s the secret of success and that’s what I share at these events. Nobody knows how long we have got on this planet. Are we doing enough?

NB. If you want to enter this year’s Digital Entrepreneur Awards you can submit your nomination here until the end of the month.

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