For the past few months, I’ve been writing a column for Growing Business Magazine which you may have spotted. If not, here’s a taster of them below. I’ve pasted a paragraph or two, which then links to the main piece on the Growing Business site. I would love your feedback!
“I thought I might see you here.” For anyone thinking of founding a charm school, may I suggest this phrase is covered in term one, under: ‘Things not to say to someone at an event’. Why? Because it lowers your status.
There is no surprise or pleasure expressed – “I thought”, not “I hoped”. It’s also condescending, suggesting you are predictable, while implying some sort of repeat offence. Like seeing someone in a cake shop and saying: “Hello piggy, I might have known you’d be here.”
A couple of years ago, a clever company called Naked Apes taught me that business is really all about status. Every conversation you’ll have today, every meeting you’ll chair (you see, I’m trying to flatter you already), you’ll be raising or lowering your status or someone else’s.
On ‘Freecycling’ your Inbox;
One rainy Saturday night five years ago, I made my way to a friend’s birthday party in North London. Across the room I caught sight of a girl I hadn’t seen since my school days.
As luck would have it, she introduced me to her best friend, and the two of us got talking, eventually moving to the bar. A shared love of languages revealed itself and, because I was working on language start-up FriendsAbroad at the time, I presented my business card.
Two days later, I received an email and three days after that, we met for dinner. The moral of the story is about the power of following up. This networking thing really does work you know. Verity and I got married this month.
On the benefits of altruism;
I first discovered it in a downstairs loo in America. Which, I’ll grant you, isn’t as glamorous as a bejewelled cave in The Goonies.
Life’s Little Instruction Book is a pocket full of wisdom, written by a father to his son. It contains all manner of advice, from how to stop bread going stale to other, less profound insights. My favourite idea was that, once in a while, you should pay for the car behind you at a toll booth just to cheer them up. Something about this random act of kindness must have appealed to my teenage brain. I’ve been thinking about it ever since.
As a warm up question, I start with the foreign secretary. An easy one, I think, but the roomful of students stare at me, unconvinced.
“Jack Straw!” they cry.
Good, but not right. We move on and score a direct hit with Ed Balls as children’s secretary.
“What if,” I ask the guests at careers event Bright London, “the prime minister decides he’s fed up with the politicians in the cabinet? Who should he replace them with tomorrow?” This, I know at once, is a more interesting question.
“Richard Branson, Alan Sugar,” come the replies.
“What if it could be anyone, though?” I ask.
The answers start to fly: “Will Smith! Beyoncé!”
Finally, the question I’ve had in mind all along: “What about YOUR cabinet? Your special group of advisers? Who’s in, who’s out?”
For all of my columns, have a look here.