Guest blog by Cedi Frederick
Whenever I’m asked to share my story, I ask for just a moment or two to contextualise everything that follows as I feel it’s really important, so I hope you the reader will indulge me, and more importantly as you read this, I hope you will agree.
My career story started before I was born in 1957. How so? Well, my parents came from Grenada, in the West Indies in 1955, during what could be described as phase 2 of the Windrush Generation. My father arrived first, and my mother followed 6 months later. Like many who arrived during that period, my parents felt honoured and privileged to be here and despite the many daily personal challenges they faced and through sheer hard work, they built a very good life for themselves and us, their three children. I’ve described my father many times as a ‘Sunday afternoon philosopher’ as Sunday was THE family day, when we attended church together, eat together and the one day of the week when we children were allowed into the front room. Sunday was the only day of the week that my father would allow himself to have a scotch, sit in his chair and share his thoughts on life, the universe and everything with us! His messages to us of ‘Get a job, keep a job’ and ‘Being as good as (a white person) will not be good enough’ and ‘You have to give back and make a contribution to the country that took us in’ were repeated again and again, reflecting his world view, values and experiences and without doubt shaped my career path.
My career started in the London Borough of Camden’s Housing Department where I stayed for 14 years, progressing to a 3rd tier senior management role. Not quite ‘Get a job, keep a job’, but staying with the same employer for 14 years was pretty close! But after 14 years, I knew I had to leave as the spectre of becoming a ‘Local Authority Lifer’ was starting to loom large on my horizon. But by this time, I was totally committed to public service, and ‘giving back’ as my father described it, and while my career path led me to the dizzying heights of becoming CEO of a housing association and then social care organisations, all were in the ‘Not for Profit’ sector, where the term ‘shareholder value’ has a very different meaning to that within the private sector. Looking back on my career, I can now see that the ‘Being as good as…’ mantra from my father led me to becoming a workaholic, the result of a subconscious belief that I had to keep proving myself, to the point that for many years, my role became my identity. I saw myself as a CEO first and foremost, above being a husband, father, brother or son. Work was everything to me. Then, in early 2016, my wife almost died and my whole world, along my view of what was important changed! Since then, it’s been all about balance, priorities and listening to my heart not my head, which has led me to a portfolio career of remunerated Non-Executive roles, running my own consultancy and coaching practice. Yes, I earn a lot less money than as a CEO, but I’m happier, more relaxed and more complete. I spend more time with my wife, family and friends. I enjoyed my CEO life, but I love my life now. I love coaching as I’m able to help people be their own difference makers. Coaching is perhaps the most personally rewarding of what I do now.
At the time, my father’s advice was right on so many levels, and I’m sure if he was alive today, he’d be proud of how my life has worked out, what I’ve achieved and how I’ve at found an inner peace through my portfolio career.
Guest blog by David B Horne
It was the 4th of July 1987. Independence Day in the USA. I’m from Canada so we don’t celebrate that. In fact, we sometimes tease those treasonous former colonials who broke away from their mother country, proud of the fact that we’re a part of the Commonwealth and they are not. But I digress.
That afternoon, my wife and I embarked on the first of three flights, which would take us from Victoria BC, on the west coast of Canada to Zürich, Switzerland. Both sets of parents and most of our siblings lived in or very near to Victoria, and they came to the airport to say goodbye. We were venturing out into the big world. We had one-way tickets and I had a two-year employment contract with the global accounting firm, PwC in their Zürich office. I remember my nephew saying to his mum at the time that he was three years old and would be five when we returned - clever chap, he’s now 35 and is a maths teacher!
We never returned. At least not to live there; we go back to Canada every summer for a month to visit friends and family, and to re-charge the batteries.
Life offered us opportunities, and we took them. At the end of my two years with PwC Zürich, my largest client made me the proverbial offer you can’t refuse. I took it and began the next stage of my career which lasted for 8 years and brought us (including our two daughters who were born in Zürich) to London, where we’ve lived since 1993. London: the coolest city on the planet, and one that I’ve been in love with since my first family holiday to Europe in 1974, aged 12.
Other opportunities came. My next two roles were advertised in the jobs section of the Financial Times. I remember it was always exciting to get the Thursday FT and see what jobs were on offer. Bear in mind this was before the advent of online recruiting. Interestingly, I was made redundant from both of those jobs – one due to a restructuring of the company and the other because our company was taken over and merged into the acquiring business.
The second of those jobs was with a very acquisitive PR agency group, and it was my first exposure to the world of M&A. When my role as European CFO was made redundant, I decided to launch a consulting business. I had never been a consultant before, never worked in sales, but hey, I was young and ambitious. After a couple of fallow months, I got lucky and had a couple of opportunities referred to me from people in my network. One led to a non-executive director role for 7 years and ultimately a sale of the business. The other led to me being CFO of a company listed on London’s Alternative Investment Market (AIM). There I learned about fundraising and really got to hone my nascent M&A skills. A few years later, I moved to be CFO of another business listed on AIM. We raised more money and did a huge global acquisition. Right before Lehman Brothers went bust and the global financial crisis hit. That was a very challenging time in business, and I learned a huge amount. I also burned out, had a mid-life crisis and launched a wine business.
Wine. What a wonderful product and so many wonderful people, but one of the worst business models I’ve ever come across. Nine years later I still have the wine business but it’s a hobby business and I’m its largest customer by some measure! As one of my best friends says, it’s a tax effective way to enjoy my hobby and I get to drink really good wine at wholesale prices.
After a couple of dark years when I was in denial about the wine business, I re-launched my consulting business. Looking back, for several years after the re-launch it was more like a collection of part-time jobs. That is often reality when building a portfolio career, but it wasn’t what I wanted. As ever, opportunities came and went. At the end of last year, I finished a long-term gig with a client that had been running for more than six years. What felt like a big blow at first turned into a great opportunity. Funny how life works.
The income shortfall was a drag for a few months. More importantly, I had time to re-purpose my professional life. I finally had time to write the book I’d been talking about for four years. Amazingly, in the first few days after it was released it became an Amazon #1 bestseller! Here’s a link to the book. If ever I wanted a sign that I was on the right track, this was it. As of today, I’ve terminated all but two of my part-time jobs, and these two are different because I have equity in both businesses.
Now I’m focused on building my consulting practice around the theme of my book. I’ve developed a methodology called FACE, which stands for Fund, Acquire, Consolidate, Exit. I work exclusively with founders who want to scale their businesses by raising capital, buying other companies, putting them together and ultimately exiting. Everything in my career to date led me to this point, but I could never have predicted it. That’s the way life happens. You can only connect the dots backwards.
Here are my three takeaways from this journey:
Guest blog by Gagan Singh
When it comes it having a portfolio career, I could talk to you about marketing, confidence on camera and public speaking. But without a healthy foundation, my words would mean nothing.
Have you ever tried to find balance in your life? If so, you’ll know that it’s difficult because the moment you focus your attention on one task, the others get left behind. So what do you do?
Many people will cut back on sleep, drink more caffeine or simply procrastinate. But there are a few things you should know before you fall out of balance. This post will tell you what you need to know to make sure you select a balanced approach that will let you successfully prioritise what is most important to you.If you're looking for balance, the best method is to ensure that you end up with something that resembles a good life, is to start by looking for these things:
Ensure your body gets enough sleep so you can perform at your best. Human beings are the only mammal that voluntarily sabotage our sleep hours. Ensure you get 7-8 hours of sleep and if possible, use a sleeping ring or a smart watch for a few weeks to track how much deep sleep you’re getting.
Since leaving school, I’ve always pushed myself by taking on new habits in the morning and squeezing in every ounce of work during my waking hours. After all, this is what the motivational gurus tell us to do, to push ourselves to the limit, to work hard and never give up. This however is a recipe for failure; sure you’ll be able to get a lot of R.O.I on your working hours but the long term impact could be a serious illness. According to sleep expert Matthew Walker, Usain Bolt slept for over 12 hours to rest and recover. If the world's most famous athlete can get away with sleeping so much and still keeping on top of his schedules, you and I really have no excuse.
Make sure your mind isn’t lost in too many hypothetical scenarios. Worrying about the past or being anxious about the future doesn’t help solve anything. If you can control the outcome, jump in and take action. If you can’t control the outcome, just let it go. An antelope doesn’t get in front of a cheetah and start worrying about what ifs- it just runs. Get some headspace and clear your mind from any baggage from the past, worries in the present or anxieties about the future. Worrying is a waste of time and only leads to you being unhappy twice. Try mindfulness using an app like ‘Headspace’ or following free professional yoga training from ‘Yoga with Adriene’ on YouTube.
Finally, your phone is not designed to make you more productive. Endlessly scrolling through social media does not get the work done. We cannot consume and create at the same time. Control your attention by minimising your screen time. Use Screentime on Apple devices or AntiSocial on Android devices. They ensure that your phone goes into a standby mode hours before you sleep, letting you sleep well.
Striking the balance is not an overnight task but by focussing on sleeping, thinking and minimising, you can mindfully live a healthier life and keep your batteries charged ready to support your clients, friends and family. Having worked on these three things in my life over the last few years, I’ve noticed the confidence and clarity that have become the backbone of everything that I do in my personal and professional life.
Happy mindful living,
Gagan Singh is the author of ‘Smart Public Speaker: Present with Confidence, Own the Stage and Resonate’. He is a public speaking coach and a current Area Director and Ex-President at Toastmasters International, responsible for four public speaking clubs. Over 2,500 students have enrolled in his online courses and he also holds a full time position as a Head of Marketing.
Guest blog by Angela G Horne
Recently I had coffee with a friend, I’ll call her Jane. She had just turned thirty. When she was born, I was twenty-seven years old. I couldn’t help admiring her for her intuitive abilities and her passion for a very difficult profession: she is a highly trained actor and works for an understanding media/branding company. I mentioned that at her age I was too concerned with how my career path would look to prospective bosses and peers. I didn’t really follow my heart. I didn’t know how. I needed the reassurance of knowing my moves ten steps ahead.
Maybe I am being too hard on myself here (not a first). I did make career changes when I became disenchanted with a sector or organisation’s aims; when it became all about the money and power – when it became about what we could take rather than what we could give; who we could use instead of who we could serve for a purpose greater than ourselves.
Don’t get me wrong, money and power are important. If money doesn’t flow properly through your business, it will die. If you do not have the power to persuade the right people at the right time to do the right thing, your business will die. If your business is all about you, your money, your power then, Sweetheart, your business deserves to die.
Today, I am working on my novel-memoir. The most challenging thing I have ever done. The main character came to me in a dream exactly sixteen years ago after a visit to Kew Gardens on the outskirts of London. Clara’s story has haunted me ever since. She won’t leave me alone. But, I love her. Without being dramatic, if I don’t get this book out of me soon, I will die. I’ve been pregnant with this book for far too long. My focus this summer is editing and rewriting the entire book. I’m even setting up a website soon to share the process with weekly updates for public accountability. (No. People are busy. No-one will care. Right?)
Last week I attended a talk by the author, Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott, about her spell-binding debut novel, Swan Song, published recently. Kelleigh wrote screenplays for fifteen years. She is a seasoned professional but it took her fourteen years to write Swan Song. And, she confessed that ninety percent of the time she did not know what she was doing. Hearing this fabulous lady speak, liberated me.
I had tried and failed to write like a banker; you have to know exactly what you are doing because millions of dollars are at stake. And, it’s not your money. Mistakes may cost you your job and your career. Writing a book meant I had to be completely rewired for creativity: screwing up daily is business as usual until one day the final word is written and then, and only then, does the book make sense. (I know, bloody nightmare.)
For the first time in my life, I have the courage to fail in public. If no-one reads my book when it’s published, that will be fine. My duty is to finish and publish the book the best way I can. However, if just one person reads the book and finds the courage to live from the heart, then the sixteen years of heartbreak to write this book would have been worth it. Hell, yes.
Like many of you, I believe that entering contests is about challenging yourself, no matter the outcome. As the experts say, ‘The biggest person you compete with is yourself’.
Ha ha ha … did I just write that? Ha ha ha!
If that were true, it would be only ME in the competition, judged by ME and I’d crown ME the winner and congratulate ME.
Imagine Usain Bolt breaking the speed record, doing his signature move in front of a mirror and saying, ‘Good job Usain! Keep this to yourself’.
Common folks! Let’s get real here. Competing is about testing our skills against others to see if we are the best. I’m usually not. The best I mean. Sometimes I’m the worst.
Don’t get me wrong, I follow the noble strategy of ‘doing my best’. The problem is, everybody else is ALSO doing their best, and their best is often better than my bestest best! Tongue twisters aside, I usually lose, which hurts and is quite embarrassing, as anyone who’s lost at cards to their own child will tell you.
All my readers out there (who by the way are 100% winners – just reading this makes you one), may be asking WHY I lose so much.
Well my Mom (mother hen) says, ‘Those judges don’t know anything! Don’t they know my daughter is wonderful?’
My Dad on the other hand, (PhD, engineer, mathematician) says it’s down to statistics, in other words the detailed analysis of past events. He reminds me that most competitors lose. In fact, EVERYONE that enters a contest (except for one) loses, because there can only be one winner. From the Oscars to the Olympics to the World Ironing Championships, you need a lot of losers.
This is something contest organizers want everyone to forget. After all, they can’t really say ‘We have A winner! The rest are a bunch of losers!’ NO. That would be very bad for PR. So inevitably they fail to mention this small (but fundamentally true) fact and go for the ‘don’t worry be happy’ lingo. Also known as ‘Make sure those losers don’t start crying’. Again, bad for PR.
‘Everyone is a winner!’ Really? Then why isn’t everyone receiving first prize?
‘I wouldn’t want to be a judge!’ Actually, I would LOVE to be a judge. I’d vote for myself and win.
‘It was so close!’ No it wasn’t. Otherwise it would have been a tie.
‘It’s all about enjoying the experience.’ If I was seeking enjoyment, I’d be in the bar drowning myself in a martini. Or two. Or three.
Which is where I end up after they announce, ‘… and the winner is …’ not me. Not even close.
It’s not fair! After all that hard work! Thing is, contests aren’t always fair. The competitor who spends hours and hours preparing and deserves to win doesn’t, while the one with the smug smile who always takes first prize, wins. Again.
Which begs the question, why compete at all? Why not just cut out the ‘middle man contest’ and head straight for the bar?
Why? Because you can. There are only so many contests you can enter. For example I’d love to race against Usain Bolt but that’s unlikely to happen, not least because people say I run like a toddler, including arms in the air when I’m happy. I would also like to compete for the Nobel Peace Prize, but I haven’t done anything peaceful …
Why compete? Because as sure as death and that money the Inland Revenue will always find, if you don’t compete, you’ll never win. And sometimes you win. Yup. Even me!
Recently I won a pretty big deal speech contest. Not boasting, just celebrating success (OK, a bit of boasting). It was an incredible learning experience. I learned that winning isn’t everything, but boy does it feel good!
Sonia Aste will be up against 7 contestants in the next heat. Her Dad says she has a 12.5% chance. Her Mom says she will win (unless the judges don’t know anything).
At the end of last year, I was encouraged to apply for a role. Let's be clear, I'm happy with my current portfolio of work and didn't see this role as part of my career, however I come from a place of recognising that our areas of focus change and on paper, I met the criteria. It's a role that I was considering doing in the future so out of curiosity more than anything else I began the process.
The application process was relatively simple. Evidence that you meet the criteria, submit a short bio with photo and complete and sign a few forms. So far, no major drama, however many people fall down even at this stage - reasons may include filling in forms incorrectly or saying too much or too little in their bios (more often than not it is the former)
For the most part, the application process was clear. If invited to interview, two possible dates were published in ample time, and candidates were given the chance to advise which would be a better date for them. When invited to interview, we were asked to answer and submit ahead of time a list of questions that would form the basis of the interview. We knew it would be a 30 minute panel interview and a presentation + Q&A.
Why am I sharing this with you? In the last 15 years, I can count on one hand how many interviews I have been to and yet I have interviewed well over 1000 people.
The application/interview/presentation process is a skill in itself and needs practice also. As individuals, we don't put ourselves in these situations enough or prepare our career moves ahead of time. Often, we let circumstances rule and when in interview situations, we may start on a back foot for lack of practice.
Some key tips/reminders on applications & interviews
Written by Rupa Datta
Lead Agent Portfolio People