POWA down, Zapp and CurrentC next?

powa downSo we’ve started to see the power houses fall. We first had the multiple failures of Google Wallet using NFC. Then we had the telcos club together to create Softcard (formerly ISIS) and Weve, both using NFC and both struggling. Softcard was eventually sold to Google for $100m, god knows why, and O2 have taken complete control of Weve since their O2 wallet, also using NFC, crumbled. We’ve now started the demise of the less institutional mobile payments companies with POWA (QRCode based), which is all but dead and buried, it’s now time to start thinking who’s next? and guess what they’re not start-ups.

First we start with Zapp in the UK. Zapp was launched in Autumn 2014 looking to take advantage of both QRCode based technology and NFC. They re-branded a number of times, each time doing a shoddy job. Vocalink has invested more than £33m in to Zapp with further investment from institution and private investors, taking their overall investment up to £75m and yet they’ve produced nothing! As mentioned they were originally taking on retail alongside Paypal and co, but now they’ve changed their plans to allow customers to basically pay online using a button that connects directly to their bank account and thus bypassing the card schemes. And the success? None, all this money and they’ve basically got a payment gateway that no one uses. £75m, hundreds of employees and they’ve produced something a coder in his back bedroom could do in a couple of months between masturbation sessions. Really…

Now we have CurrentC in the US. Great name by the way guys! The major retailers in America were being bent over a barrel by Apple, Google and the card schemes, so  7-Eleven, Alon Brands, Best Buy, CVS Health, Darden Restaurants, HMSHost, Hy-Vee, Lowe’s, Michaels, Publix, Sears Holdings, Shell Oil Products US, Sunoco, Target Corporation and Walmart clubbed together. The initial retailers that are part of the new company account for about $1 trillion in annual sales, because of this ‘This will be the success story’ I hear you cry, WRONG! What happens when you get so many chiefs around the table with egos the size of the universe, bugger all, that’s what! They all want things their way that no decisions ever get made and everyone leaves the room in a huff. So much so Walmart has put two fingers up to the rest and created their own version with Walmart Pay. Other reports suggest, CurrentC (trading style of MCX) are in big trouble. They’ve had tens of millions invested, they’ve struggled to get a solution that works and they’ve delayed launches more than 3 times. They’re now trialling a scaled back version in a hand full of stores, but it’s not even receiving lukewarm success.

downloadFor me the only real innovation to come out of mobile payments is LoopPay. These guys created an incredible product allowing users to use their mobile device to pay at more than 10m merchants, or 90 percent of retail locations in the US. LoopPay’s technology uses a metal coil to emit a magnetic field that can communicate to most card terminals. This basically means that holding the phone up against the part of the terminal reader where you usually swipe your card, it transmits a frequency that means the terminal thinks the cards has been swiped and the transaction goes through. Now for me…That’s innovation! In early 2015 Samsung bought LoopPay and has integrated this in to their new devices. Samsung bought LoopPay for roughly $250m and what a bargain they got themselves.

I’d love to know the nitty gritty of why these companies, who raise such big amounts, can’t tell their arses from their elbows. The frustrating thing, because of who they are, the businesses they are associated with and their friends at VC’s, Private Equity and Private Investors they are absorbing all the cash out there that real innovators and start-ups need. Just with the companies I’ve mentioned above there’s more than $700m invested and they’ve all produced absolutely nothing that’s changed the payment world. It’s about time investors, whether VC, Private Equity or Individuals pulled their heads out their arses and look at whether a business has a product rather than what a company is associated to or what someone’s done in the past at big companies. Maybe then mobile payments will see some real innovation rather than the flat joke it is today.

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POWA’s demise

Powa Technologies, the London technology company once valued at £1.8 billion ($2.7 billion), has collapsed into administration, putting over 311 jobs at risk.

Deloitte confirmed over the weekend that it has been appointed to take over the business, which has run out of cash and can’t pay its debts.

The company has raised $175 million (£122 million) to date, but had only $250,000 (£175,200) in the bank at the start of February and debts of $16.4 million (£11.5 million). That’s despite $50 million of investment in 2015 and a loan from its biggest investor, Boston-based Wellington Management, as recently as November.

Despite the huge sums invested in Powa, which has partnered with the likes of Adidas and L’Oreal, CEO and founder Dan Wagner told staff in a video that the company was “basically pre-revenue,” according to a video seen by the Financial Times.

Since this ‘Unicorns’ horn and wings have fallen off everyone is running for the hills making the technology the excuse for the demise. This is simply ludicrous! People have jumped on the bandwagon slating QRCode technology without a thought of what actually happened at the company.

I’ve personally been in mobile and cross border payments for the last 5 years and know some of the guys very well over at Powa and trust me it’s not the tech.

QRCodes aren’t the problem, if it was Starbucks, Zapper, YoYo, Levelup or AliPay wouldn’t be as successful as they are. In Q3 2015 Starbucks did more than 9m mobile only transactions. LevelUp has more than 14,000 merchants using on a daily basis. AliPay is the biggest and fastest growing part of Alibaba and it’s only QR based.

Rather than blaming the technology or adoption how about people focus on the management and the investors. I set up my first business at 17 selling advertising space in 2001 and grew this business rapidly employing people all over the UK, so know how to grow a business. There’s lots of people in the payment’s space who have had success in the 90’s and since then have struggled with the rate in which technology is moving. They all claim to be the fathers of the internet and all claim everyone is dying to work with them and yet they’re all complete failures! The real question is Dan Wagner joining that heap? The more popular mobile payments got the more con-men turned up to take advantage and ran companies in to the ground with promises they couldn’t keep.

Website Glassdoor lets current and former employees leave anonymous reviews of companies. Being anonymous it’s hard to sift out the people with an axe to grind or from someone giving genuine feedback. But, taken in aggregate, they give interesting insight. Business Insider reviewed the 133 public reviews of Powa on Glassdoor. The most common rating of the company is just 1 star, with 50 reviewers giving this rating.

Staff consistently complained of the following:

Uncontrolled spending
“Company spends outrageous amounts of money on travel and parties for potential customers and vendors, yet leaving hundreds of unpaid bills and invoices stack up leaving people to scramble just to keep the lights on and not get evicted.”

“That a start-up with no revenue needs offices in the most expensive buildings in each city is one example of poor management at this company.”
(N.B – It’s estimated Salesforce Tower (Heron Tower) cost £2m p/a in rent alone)

“This company spends money like the world is coming to an end.”

High turnover of staff
“Most people get fired (more than 60%).”

“REDUNDANCIES!!! This is kinda a company tradition. Just to warn you, it happens every quarter of the year.”

“Senior leadership instability (supervisor changed 5 times in 10 months).”

“People that have done an outstanding job have been basically fired. I have no idea why this keeps happening but it does.”

Bad management
“Management with no vision, lack of competence.”

“They do not appreciate your work, management use different excuses to destroy your years of work, re-design and ask you to rebuild it so that they can take over the control.”

“We all sit back and watch rolling our eyes as senior management changes direction.”

“Complete new management is needed. As long as they are there, nothing will go forward.”

High employee turnover, high spending, and poor management go some way to explaining the current turmoil at Powa, valued at $2.7 billion (£1.8 billion). We also need to look at the fact that the management team at Powa paid $75m in an all share buyout of MPayMe Ltd the creators of Znap, which had $120 in sales. Where did the insane price tag come from? I understand technology has a value, but $75m?

We also need to look at its biggest investor, Boston-based Wellington Management. What have these guys been doing whilst Powa has let it’s money go to it’s head. In November 2015 they were aware of Powa running out of money and gave them a loan of more than $16m, surely at this point it was time to come in and take control, consolidate, close offices, and get back to it’s roots and take one market at a time. Why did they not interview every employee to find the route of the issue or simply just read Glassdoor. No…. they just gave more money and buried their heads even further in to the sand.

With all this in mind and you still want to blame the technology? I think not.

Google should buy Twitter

At present Jack Dorsey, new CEO of Twitter, is facing a real up hill struggle to get people to see things his way. He rejoined Twitter October 2015 as CEO and since then he’s been sacking people left, right and centre trying to reduce that 3,800 unnecessary headcount (Think the ego has gone to his head a bit with the long shot comparisons to him and Steve Jobs). He’s been culling hundreds (more than 700) of jobs to cut costs at the over inflated Stock Market listed company. At present Twitters stock is a in a dive (and so is Square, Dorsey’s other Stock Market listed start-up), so much so that he’s now gone from Billionaire status to just multi, multi milionaire decreasing from $2.2b to little more than $800m. Tough time for Dorsey (I think not ;-)).

In my opinion Dorsey doesn’t have a problem with product, even though at present they keep trying to change the layout and features, which recently caused the hashtag #RIPTwitter. His problem is the fact that Twitter has no real source of income. Even though the company has never made a profit, never showed any real return to shareholders it still managed to list for Billions, yes BILLIONS in valuation (more than $33b), with the preconceive notion that it will one day make billions from advertising like Facebook. The reality has been extremely different with still no profits and no real way to advertise.

Google on the other hand has now admitted what a pointless endeavour Google+ has been. Although they have 2.2b registrations, which they basically cheated to get if you had a googlemail email, only 9% post on a regular basis. That’s only 198m posting on a monthly basis, which sounds a lot, but when you compare that to Facebook, which generates 4.5b likes with 300m pictures added per day and Twitter generating more than 320m monthly users and more than 1b unique visits monthly to sites with embedded Tweets, the 198m doesn’t sound very much any more.

Google usual purchases are around the $1b mark. As of December 13, 2013, Twitter had “a market capitalization of $32.76 billion” so buying Twitter would be a little out of their comfort zone. If a deal were to happen, it would be the second-biggest ever acquisition in technology, well ahead of Facebook’s $19bn (£13bn) purchase of WhatsApp in 2013 and behind only the $106bn AOL-Time Warner merger of January 2000.

Google has around $60bn in the bank, though a lot of that is stashed overseas to avoid taxes on repatriation; a share- or debt-funded acquisition might be simpler. Eric Schmidt, Google’s chairman (and chief executive through its fast-growth years), told Bloomberg in December 2014 that “the biggest mistake that I made was not anticipating the rise of the social networking phenomenon”. He added: “It’s not a mistake we’re going to make again. In our defence, we were working on many other things, but we should have been in that area, and I take responsibility for that.”

Some think Google’s problem with “social” is that its data-driven culture tends to be blind to the tweaks that make people love social networks. As mobile use is now dominant, social networks offer the most valuable advertising space. In the fourth quarter, 69% of Facebook’s advertising revenue came from mobile ads, up from 53% a year before; and revenues were up 49%.

Google, by contrast, has seen its cost-per-click (what advertisers pay when someone clicks on an ad) decline by 30% over the past four years as mobile use has grown, limiting its potential for revenue growth. Google, of course, relies on advertising for 90% of its revenues, and perhaps more of its income.

With social dominance, social data and everything in our lives becoming social from taking a picture with instagram and sending money with my new start-up Cendit Google has to do something to make sure these social giants don’t chip away too much of its market share to the point where it becomes a scary future for Google. This is a protection exercise more than money generating. Below are 5 things I think each party brings to each other, which would enable them to match or even surpass Facebook.

What Google brings to Twitter:
1) huge number of advertisers already using Google AdWords and AdSense
2) global reach
3) potential inclusion by default in Android mobile software
4) integration with YouTube for short and long video
5) resilient systems

What Twitter brings to Google:
1) highly engaged social network
2) users’ instant “sentiment data”
3) different dimension to “search”
4) mobile-optimised platform for advertising
5) positive reputation on privacy

I believe Google has made three attempts, thus far, to buy Twitter so they obviously see something there for them. I personally am a huge fan of both Twitter and Google. I use Twitter more than Facebook and use Google search a lot more than Bing at present. Having been lucky enough to have been around both campuses and know/met various ‘high ups’ at the companies they have a lot in common with their cultures, unless Dorsey has set about changing that as well. I believe Google would be a wonderful fit for the unprofitable Twitter and think the shareholders should embrace the opportunity should it arise seriously. Otherwise the question is: Will Twitter be here in 5 years time????

Continuing with Continuum

Had a play with continuum these last few days and the verdict: It’s cool, but I don’t get it!

As I’ve said in a previous post Microsoft aren’t the first to try this trick of turning your phone in to your laptop or PC and for me I don’t see the point. The idea, I think, is to make your PC smaller, more versatile and flexible meaning you can take it anywhere. Reality is you need your phone, a mouse, keyboard, a monitor and Continuum plus all the wires that connect them. Not sure how Microsoft think this makes the phone easier to carry around?

Connecting Continuum up was super easy and it all powered up with no issues at all. I thought the idea of using your phone home screen as your start display was great. The dynamic twisting and turning of the app tiles worked perfectly and I was super impressed when loading and shutting down apps.

The big sell for Microsoft, at the moment, is the professional programs like Word, Excel, Powerpoint, etc. You get a scaled back version of these desktop apps, but you still get everything you basically need to do anything you want. I personally ran large files with over 15 years of financial forecasting connecting more than 6 spreadsheets and it work swimmingly. Something I didn’t expect it to be able to handle.

The multitasking was really quite buggy though. As the above image shows, whilst you have something on the big screen you can play around on the phone accessing other apps and continue what you’re doing. I found that if I tried multi tasking like this the Excel, Word or Powerpoint file would crash. One time I was on Skype on the phone discussing the spreadsheet in front of me and the phone completely froze and I had to reset the whole thing.

The first time I used Continuum I had a few user error issues with the mouse and the phone. You can use the phone as the mouse if you wish, but if you put the mouse and phone too close together things get confused very easily and the portable mouse wont work. It took a few curse words before I figured that one out. Very red faced!

For me one thing Microsoft has never struggled with is hardware. Believe it or not Microsoft have been in the hardware game a lot longer than people realise, nearly as long as Apple. They just didn’t make huge volumes of laptops or desktops. The devices they’ve always come out with have always had good looks and appeal (other than the Lumia 950XL that’s been hit with the ugly stick like the 1520). And again they’ve always had great software, but because Microsoft are so late to the smart phone/device market they’ve been left so far behind that they are really struggling to catch up. Even though they deliver great software and are trying to make developers lives easier with their cross platform technologies developers are still not really interested. And I feel this could happen again with Windows 10. With Windows Phone 7 and then 8.1 they still didn’t have many of the big apps and looking at the apps coming out no one is developing for Windows Phone and I don’t understand why developers are doing this. I’m involved in three big apps coming out this year in Fintech and Insurtech sectors and each one of them I’ve made sure will be available on Windows Phone. Though the numbers may not be as high as Android or iOS the users are loyal and deserve great apps.

Overall Continuum is a great concept, but reality is very different. I’d rather a good looking, solid and robust phone (which the Lumia 950 has in abundance and I recommend) and a fantastic bit of kit like the Surface Book or Pro 4. They’ve made these two so great I think that they’ve already made Continuum redundant.

Houston we have a problem…

Screen-Shot-2014-04-18-at-4.25.13-PM

As mentioned before I’ve been in the Windows Phone ecosystem from the start with the HTC Titan running Windows Phone 7, the Lumia 1020 and now Lumia 930. Both the Lumia’s had serious over heating issues. I sent the 1020 back once and the 930 back twice all for overheating. Seems like that overheating bug isn’t being sorted as Wednesday, travelling back to the office from meetings, I pulled my shiny new Lumia 950 out of my pocket and wow was it hot. It had obviously been sitting doing something in the back ground working over time for a couple of hours, which is strange as there were no apps working in the background. Before I knew it I’d gone from full charge that morning to 30% battery within 4 hours. I’m surprised it hadn’t burnt a hole in my pocket it was that hot.

As mentioned I’ve sent a few phones back and they all eventually get fixed, but looking through forums on the net and talking to a few contacts it seems this issue isn’t really being taken seriously at Microsoft and now there is a large amount of people having the same issue, but starting to make a lot more noise.

Being so late to the smart device/phone party and building from the ground up like they have with Windows 10 I would have thought needless things like this would happen. A lot of people are blaming the Snapdragon processor for overheating, but Qualcomm are disputing this heavily. However, looking at the other devices running this processor not all are overheating. I think Microsoft obviously knew that there could potentially be an overheating issue as they went for liquid cooling for the XL, but even this device is getting too hot looking at the amount of threads opened up about the issue.

Overall, this is not the school boy error I expected on the new flagship device. I’ve done a hard reset so I’ll keep you in the loop as the test continues.

The test goes on… 🙂

Ciao

 

Social, Messaging and Taxis…

Social and Messaging apps were the fastest growing downloaded apps of any sector. Investors see it as completely irrelevant that the likes of Twitter, Facebook and YouTube do not make money as this will come later. With billions of conversations going on every day it fills that void of becoming indispensable  in our everyday lives and payments has to ride on the coat tails and make money social to have a chance of faster mobile developments.
 
The proliferation  of taxi applications has done the same thing. We look at the black and mini cab industry before the likes of Hailo, Uber and co it was cumbersome, long winded and needed reviving. It was the perfect market for applications to revolutionise and bring in to the 21st century. However, with Uber being valued at over $50bln, yet losing $19mln per month even taxi apps have crazy valuations like our previously mentioned social market.
I personally do not like the new taxi apps popping up, with all the negative press surrounding the drivers I much prefer to go with something I trust like a black cab in London, yellow in New York or white in Rome. This doesn’t mean they’re not a good thing though, quite contrary. Reality is the negative press these apps are receiving are things that have always happened they’re just in the press more because there’s an app behind it and these apps are making so much money.
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I’m also not a huge fan at the fact these apps increase their prices when the local transport like trains go down to take advantage of the customers. This is something the non-app cab services don’t do.
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It’s just not cricket Mr Uber.

It’s all about tuck shops

It’s been over a year since I last blogged and wow what a year it’s been. Life has changed at the speed of light with new horizons and sun setting on old stories.

I believe last time I blogged was about my youngest business experiences!

During the time I was selling umbrellas, like Dell Boy on a street corner, I had a friend come to me about starting a tuck shop at my secondary school. My secondary school, Marshalls Park, was split over two campuses. One had the first three years in, which was situated at the top of my mum and dads road and the other was a mile away and it had the top two years.

Both schools obviously had a canteen, but no vending machines or tuck shops. In my third year of school my friend came to me and said he’d had permission from the headmaster to start a tuck shop, he said his dad agreed to front him the money and they knew where they could get the sweets. The problem he had was he lived 4 miles away from the school, his dad left for work so early he couldn’t help him deliver the sweets to the school every day. This is where I came in, he wanted to use my mum and dads garage as a storage facility. With the experience I was gaining selling the umbrellas I learnt quickly how to haggle and learnt everything has a price. So I told him to make me an offer of how much he was going to pay me to use the garage.

Initially he offered me silly amounts like £5 per week and eventually he went up to £5 per day. Being in the stronger position of not needing the money and having the home ‘advantage’ I got him to draw up his potential sales, which of course he didn’t really know how to do and told him I’d charge a percentage on his income rather than a flat fee. Going by his numbers this turned out to be approximately £10 so he was bemused, but he agreed and off we went.

For a boy making the odd £50 here and there when he wasn’t in school and it was raining it turned out to be very lucrative. In it’s first week I made over £35 and this continued to grow. For over 18 months we had the tuck shop going to the point I’d often make over £150 per month. This from doing nothing. I was very pleased with myself.

During this exciting time the school was keeping very close tabs on what we were doing and saw the money he was making. No one knew I was housing all the stock as I made sure we agreed no one would know. If they had I’d have everyone trying to burgle my house for a mars bar.

They eventually invested and built out their own tuck shop and closed us down, but it was great fun whilst it lasted.

It all starts with a bit of rain

Lately a few people have asked where I started, so sitting in a hotel bar in London bored of writing emails and presentations I’ve decided to take 10 minutes and tell the first part of my story.

Growing up my mum and dad had terrific work effects. My mum worked two jobs as a carer and a mobile hairdresser whilst being a full time mum to 2 lunatic children. My dad worked for British Telecom (BT) at the same time worked for his brothers leather cutting business. Eventually this was shut down as time went by and shops started buying leather from Asia and India business quickly dried up. Fortunately as this was drying up my dad progressed fast through BT to be able to support us with my mum.

At the age of 14 I started to understand what a pound meant. Being from a hard working family who kept an eye on their money I was only given £5 per week in pocket money, which I had to work for. In the holidays I used to go out with friends everyday, except the days it rained. It was one afternoon, cheek leaning on one hand with me staring out the window with the rain rolling down the window I had a flash of genius. I was going to sell umbrellas to tourists. With everything I was learning from my business studies classes I went to my room and started writing a plan of action. The first I had to figure out was, where were all the tourists?

The next day in the overcast summer weather I went to our local shopping centre, found the pound shop and bought 10 umbrellas with the money saved in my Natwest collectable piggy bank. I then waited for the next rainy day and carted all these umbrellas up London on a £2.50 rail ticket.

By this point I was out of money so this had to work. I then sat on the edge of Hyde Park corner with my mums small hairdressing chair and started chanting, ‘UMBRELLAS, LOVELY UMBRELLAS, ONLY £5 EACH’. God knows where this came from, I’d never worked on a market and all I had to go by was my favourite tv show ‘Only Fools and Horses’. By mid morning I’d sold all 10 umbrellas for £5 each. It was the most money I’d ever seen in one hand, 50 whole pounds.

The first thing I did was tell no one 😉 I knew if told anyone they’d all want in. Plus mum might start charging me rent 😉 which would never have happened.

From then until I was 16, I’d watch weekly weather reports, go buy up all the umbrellas and get selling. In the end I stopped putting prices on the umbrellas and when people asked for one I told them to make me an offer. I found people paid far more than I was originally selling them for. People would often give me £10 to £15 each. They thought they’d got a great deal because they made the offer and I was laughing because not long ago I was selling them for £5 and bought them for £1.

This was a fantastic experience for me and to this day they are some of the best memories of my life. Memories I wouldn’t trade anything.

Investors aren’t just about money

One of the difficult things about starting a business is finding the right investors. Many people sit there and think they can achieve anything as long as they’re given a bit of cash. Well, I’m here to tell you that’s simply not true. An investor isn’t just a pound note, they’re an important part of the cog that makes a business tick.

I myself really enjoy liaising with investors even during the hard times. They bring clarity and sometimes a lot more understanding than people give them credit for. I personally like to keep in touch with my investors on a weekly basis, whether that’s a simple ‘hello, how are you?’ Or ‘this is the challenge this week’ or ‘this is the success this week’. A good investor wants to know and a great investor cares about you.

So many people take people’s money and run. Don’t be one of them. You treat an investors money like your own, take care of it, even sleep with it if you have too and your investor will take note. Remember you never know when you might need their little black book, or their advice or even a follow up investment.

Find the right investor and the world is an easier place. Remember people aren’t just pound notes.

The need for mentors for all business people and entrepreneurs

It’s been a long time since I’ve blogged. Lots going on, with lots of new developments.

I’ve had inspiration lately to blog about the need for mentors in life. In my line of work I meet a lot of young entrepreneurs and a lot of aspiring people and very few, when asked, have ever thought about having a mentor. Many have egos the size of Steve Jobs and don’t feel they need one as they know it all and others never thought they could ever get close to people in the know to draw upon their experience.

In my opinion mentors are one of the most important things in life whether that be personal or business. A mentor can be anyone whether it’s a person you get to know through books, such as autobiographies and/or social media or someone you know in real life. They help us grow as human beings.

I personally have a number of mentors, some from autobiographies I’ve read and then followed up by following these mentors on the likes of twitter and in the media. Then I have a number of people in real life I can pick up the phone to and ask a question any time, day or night.

For me business is the most important place for me to have a mentor and I don’t just have one mentor, I have a number. Different people, with different points of view. This allows me to consider all sides of the story before making the right decision. Being in the tech industry I obviously look up to guys like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Eric Schmidt, Larry Ellison and Larry Page. Five guys who have built five of the top tech companies in the world. I’ve read all their books, read books on the origins of all their companies and even own shares in them. I’ve followed who I can on twitter and always make a point of knowing what’s going on in the media about them.

You can learn a lot about people this way, especially reading, and I’m not talking about reading silly books like ‘how to get rich’ by so and so. Reading autobiographies allows you to understand that person much more than you ordinarily can. You learn about their history so you understand why they made the decisions they’ve made with the life experiences they have. It allows you to compare your life experience to theirs and see if you still admire that person enough to try and do the same thing.

You’ll also discover that all the guys I’ve mentioned all had mentors. Just because you’re a success doesn’t mean that you didn’t have someone to get advice from. You will be a lot more successful in life with mentors.

Its always vitally important to also be able to pick up the phone and give someone a call and get their advice. Whether that be a family member like your dad or mum or a business professional.

I personally have four people I look up to, my dad, Hratch Ogali (He owned an holistic business called the Mind Clinic with an entrepreneurial past), Mike Rutherford (He owns the UK’s largest impaired travel insurer AllClear), and American friend Tom Brannigan (Runs a charity called the Green Bag Project after being in the mortgage sector and selling a few businesses).

My dad was a huge source of information for me over the years and yet he probably didn’t even realise it. He wasn’t a captain of industry, he was just a great guy working for British Telecom making sure he could put a roof over our heads and food on the table. He provided both my brother and I with a fantastic life, whilst working extremely hard with both my mum and him working two jobs on occasions for us to get by. He taught me so many things in his lifetime, but some of most vital were the importance of hard work, dedication and importance of listening. Sadly my dad passed away nearly 2 years ago now, so unfortunately never got to tell him the importance of his wisdom in my life, but even though his gone I still have the memories to draw upon whenever I feel I need his opinion.

Hratch was a great guy. Stubborn in his ways, but always someone you could turn too to give you the inspiration to persevere when everyone else thought you were crazy. Before he sadly passed away, he was a soul who gave you confidence and always made you feel like everything was going to be alright. His attitude, perseverance and smile will always teach me new things as I draw upon our memories to help with the future decisions.

Both Mike and Tom have been friends for over a decade now and both have brought great knowledge over the years of past war stories in the business world. Both have experience of working for major corporations and building their own businesses. Both have taught me the value of listening and caring about others on a wider capacity, not just friends and family. It’s amazing what you can learn over a coffee or meal table if you just listen. Everyday I’m still learning more and more from these guys.

One other element I have in my armoury is LinkedIn. It’s such a great tool for any business person or entrepreneur. It gives you access to some really top connections and allows you to connect with these people and start asking questions. I suggest you use LinkedIn to its full capacity, but a word of warning; don’t spam, you’ll piss a lot of people off if you do.

Business, especially networking and deals can be a lot like dating, when you meet the right person or come across the right deal, you just know.

From all four of these guys I have a lot more to learn, all I need to do is be humble and keep my ears open. Never let the ego overshadow and make you think you know it all. There’s always someone else out there who has been through something similar who will be able to advise you.

Life is simpler when you have people you can call upon.