Follow your dreams

800px-British_Museum_Dome

I went to a business growth event recently at the British Museum. I wasn’t sure what to expect – sometimes these events can be very dull, focusing on how to set up a company, taxes and legal advice. Luckily I was wrong, very wrong, and this turned out to be one of the most inspirational events I have attended for a long time.

Two of the guest speakers told stories that were simply incredible – Michele Mone of Ultimo Lingerie and Richard Reed of Innocent.

No moaning from Michele*

Michelemone

In 1971 Michele Mone was born in Glasgow to very poor parents. A dyslexic, she left school at 15 with no qualifications to support her family after her father lost his job when he was paralysed by illness. After working in low paid jobs, she joined the Canadian brewing company Labatts as a typist. Two years later, at the age of 22 she was the Director of Sales & Marketing for Scotland. An incredible rise for someone with no qualifications.

However her success didn’t last as Labatts sold their business in Scotland and Michele was unemployed once again. One thing that always annoyed Michelle was how uncomfortable cleavage enhancing bras (brassieres) were. So she decided to design the world’s most comfortable bra. Three years later she had produced a bra that she was happy with. The next challenge was to find a buyer. Instead of starting at the bottom she decided to go straight to one of the most famous stores in London, Selfridges. She was 8 months pregnant with her 3rd child, she had only £500 left in her bank account and debts of £480,000. She refused to leave until the lingerie buyer agreed to meet her. They agreed to stock her bra.

This was Michele’s first success, quickly followed by Julia Roberts wearing her bra in the movie Erin Brockavich to create her characters large cleavage. Since then Michele has grown her business and has a personal wealth of over £40m, not bad for someone who left school with no qualifications.

What are Michele’s top tips for Entrepreneurs?

Network as much as you can because you never know when you will need someone. She almost lost her business when a supplier stole £1.2m in cash and 10 months of stock. Using her contacts she managed to raise money to cover the losses.

Think big. Michele always targets the biggest markets and the best retailers/celebrities to market her goods. She believes everyone should think big when building a business.

You can visit Ultimo’s website at www.ultimo.co.uk

* The title of this section is a play on words. Mone and moan (the verb to complain) are both pronounced exactly the same way (/məʊn/).

The innocence of youth

innocent-hats

Richard Reed was one of three friends who met at University and they always wanted to set up a business together. Many ideas were created and discarded, until one day they decided to invest £500 in fruit, make smoothies (100% pure fruit drinks) and sell them at a music festival. People were asked to put their empty bottles into one of two bins – ‘Yes give up your regular jobs’ and ‘No keep you regular jobs’. The yes bin was full at the end of the festival (Richard thinks his parents put a lot of empty bottles in the no bin!). So on the following Monday the three friends resigned from their jobs.

With investment from a business investor they developed their production facility and started to sell. Their big break came when a high-end supermarket, Waitrose, decided to test the market in 10 stores. Richard and his friends were delighted but also very nervous. How could they make sure the test was a success? One night in a bar over many drinks they realised there was a very simple solution. Go to each of these 10 stores and buy their own smoothies! So the next day, they went to each of the 10 stores buying their own smoothies. The test was a success (obviously) and Waitrose agreed to stock their smoothies across their entire network.

In 2008 they almost lost the business when three things happened – retail sales fell 30% following the economic slowdown, they tried to launch their products in 5 other countries and finally one supplier, who provided all their fruit , called on a Friday afternoon to say they weren’t opening on Monday. They recovered but they almost lost the business.

Coca-Cola bought a small part of the business in 2009 and in 2010 increased this to 58%, finally buying out Richard and his friends in 2013 for over US$500m. Richard and his friends now run their own venture capital fund, JamJar Investments to invest in start-ups.

What is Richard’s top advice for new entrepreneurs?

Be aware of risk in your business as you grow. Their major mistake was buying all their fruit from one supplier. When they went bust he almost lost his business.

Focus on one thing. Many new entrepreneurs they meet are working on too many different projects. Richard believes that you should do one thing and do it brilliantly.

You can visit Innocent’s website at www.innocentdrinks.co.uk and JamJar Investments can be found at www.jamjarinvestments.com


 

Warming up for an interview

When athletes prepare for a race they always do a set of warm up exercises, warming up their muscles and doing lots of stretches. Why? Two reasons. To make sure they don’t injure themselves when racing and most importantly to make sure their body is totally ready to perform at its very best.

Does this apply to language as well?

I think so. Many of my overseas clients can take 10-15 minutes before their English is at its best. Why is this?

It is very simple. You are speaking in your native language all day and then suddenly you have to change into a new language for an interview. It takes time for your brain to make this switch. Just like an athlete, it takes time to warm up. So you need to give yourself time to turn off your native language and turn on your English!

There is some debate within the scientific community about this process. However what is clear from my experience is that when switching into English you need to allow anything from a couple of minutes to 15 minutes or more.

Indeed the standard Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) methodology as taught by Cambridge University is that English language lessons need warm-ups to get the students engaged in the topic and the language. TEFL teachers are very strict when students use their native language in lessons, as this ‘turns off’ their English.

Is this relevant to interviews?

ABSOLUTELY! If you are going to do an interview in English you need to switch into English at least 30 minutes before doing the interview. This is particularly important if you are doing a skype/phone interview from outside the UK. How can you do this? Well here are my tips :-

  1. Talk to someone in English. Ideally this should be someone who is a native or advanced English speaker.
  1. Rehearse your answers in English. Practice answers to interview questions out loud. Yes it may seem strange to your friends & family that you are talking to yourself in English but by engaging the vocal part of your brain (the Temporal lobe) you are warming up your English. If you feel really embarrassed put on your phone’s headset and pretend you are making a phone call.
  1. Listen to something in English. If you can’t talk to someone then listening is a good alternative. At the end of this entry I have listed some places where you can listen to English.

So in summary, turn off your native language, turn on your English and get your dream job!

Peter Sheridan

If you have any questions on this or indeed any other question, then please don’t hesitate in emailing me at peter@englishinterviewtraining.co.uk I look forward to hearing from you.


Resources

tunein online radio stations
tunein – online radio stations

Listen to over 100,000 radio stations live and for free. tunein is available on PC, IOS,  iPhone/iPad and android devices. This is one of my favourite apps (yes even more than Angry Birds and Candy Crush).


Here are 3 stations I recommend to help you turn on your English. All of these are available via tunein and also have their own websites :-

BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4

UK talk radio covering current affairs, economics, arts, culture and comedy. Usually very clear pronunciation although the language can be complex at times.

WNYC
WNYC New York Public Radio

Local talk radio for the Big Apple. Perfect if you have an interview with an American or American company.

BBC Radio London

BBC Radio London

Local talk radio for London. Listeners ring in with opinions and so this is a very good station to hear natural English as spoken by Londoners.