The Powerful Questions | Episode 7 | Steven Quinn – Corporate Smarts


Nishi: Hi Everyone. So you’re joining us on the Unrelenting Drive podcast, and today I’m delighted to be joined by Stephen Quinn from Corporate Smarts. And he is gonna tell us a story about how, how he built up his career in business, the lessons he’s learned, and, um, the advice he’d give to other people. So actually, you know, a really good, um, starting point, Steve, is, um, how did we meet?

Steven: Yeah. How did we meet? Um, I remember seeing you on LinkedIn. Mm-hmm. We reached out, I think we connected. And then you got busy with Apex. Yes. Getting, getting things set up. But then I saw you at the gym. I saw you at the gym with Tommy Gunn, as I call him your pt. Oh, yeah. And, um, probably after about a month, six weeks, I recognize that you, you were still showing up.

Nishi: It’s, uh, yeah, you know what that I’m so glad you did reach out actually, cause. Um, but I, I, when I see other people, like on social media, I, they’re really trying to get that message out there. And sometimes, you know, they, they might have been doing it such a long time, not achieved anything from it, and then they just need that little bit of encouragement and um, and then it just gives them the motivation to, you know, keep going for another three months, keep going for another six months.

Steven: Or I just remember your purpose, why you did this in the first place. Yes. And just keep going because exactly as you said with social media. Um, although I’m far from being a social media guru or having any skill or experience with it, you know, you’ve ge persistence, consistency, and persistence I think wins.

And if it doesn’t, you learn from it, right? You learn from the experience of putting yourself out there and continuing to show up. I think that’s probably one of my, one of my favorite lines is just keep showing up. cause once you show up, Then the work begins. Right. Showing up is the hard part.

Nishi: It’d be really good for the audience to, to understand how you started off, um, it and um, and where, how you got to where you are now.

Steven: So it probably is relevant just for context, um, to share a little bit around uni, because I went to uni in 1999. Um, you probably remember Millennium and And, and, and how everyone was kind of freaking out at the prospect that really bug. E and everything would shut down. Um, cleaning that didn’t happen, but I, I started business computing.

Uh, at the University of Westminster. And when I came outta that, I had no idea what I wanted to do. Right. You know, I’d had con a few conversations with different people, but I knew what some of my strengths were. Sales was one of them. Interpersonal skills was, was, was, was something that I’d just picked up along the way.

I think naturally some emotional intelligence was there. I just wanted to earn some money. Ryan, I had, I didn’t have any choice. My parents had, uh, retired to Ireland. My brother had moved to Singapore and I was like, okay, well let’s start this life and see what happens. And so, um, the very first job that I got was in B2B telesales, uh, in Farringdon.

It was a, it was a sales floor with, um, seven tables of seven of, of groups of seven. And it was predominantly men and it was really kind of like uber masculine war for Wall Street. But kind of why

Nishi: that It was

Steven: two, 2002. Um, summertime, and I just needed to make a living. So within, within a couple of weeks, I, I, I got really, really lucky.

I just call a decision maker. I was selling, um, appetizing space in a British medical journal, and I used to make calls early and late. So I’d stay there all day, but I’d come in a bit earlier. Go home a bit later. And one evening I just happened to catch a chief oncologist and, um, he was just pouring his heart out to me.

Had a terrible day. And then he said, look, here’s my, here’s my cell phone number, here’s my mobile number. Gimme a call first thing tomorrow morning, and you know, let’s see what you’ve got to offer. And, uh, he agreed, uh, agreed to a 12, a 12 month, um, deal, which just put me from like complete novice and beginner.

It’s a number two in the. In in the pecking order. And um, so what I did was I waited until that paycheck came through and I resigned because at that point I quintupled my base salary cause it was such a good deal. Um, and he was a really great guy. But then I, I, I left that and I thought, right, what do I really want to do?

And I wanted to learn about money. So, you know, I didn’t have the skills or the interests I think really to, to get into something like accounting. But banking seemed like quite a natural for easy kind of first step in for me. And what happened was, I remember going to an a decade recruitment agency in, uh, Hammersmith in London, and they said, you know what?

There’s, there’s a NatWest bank across the road, isn’t that, um, and they’re really looking for someone as a customer advisor. Someone does open bank account, sell loans, mortgages, things like that. And I was like, sure. You know, I just wanted to, needed a job at this point. Um, so they sent me across the road.

They, they made the call, sent me across the road. An hour later, uh, whoever was recruiting me just said, look, we love you and let’s just call the agency cause we wanna offer you the job right there. And then, so I started like the next week, and within, I had the most amazing boss. His name is Jim Gory. Jim, if you’re listening, thank you.

Um, six, six, I, I think about six weeks in, I re I had no experience in banking whatsoever. And on a Friday he came to me and he said, listen, I want to manage the branch tomorrow for me. Um, and Hammersmith NatWest was huge. It was huge. They used to have like eight ATMs and all of this sort of stuff. It was, it was early, early naughts.

And anyway, fast forward and after six months I got, um, promoted, uh, to, to run the Notting Hill Gate branch, which again, was just a bit of a dream. That slowly turned into a bit of a nightmare, really difficult job, right. Being a branch manager. Yeah. Especially if you are understaffed. Especially if you’re in zone one in London.

And especially if you’ve got massively demanding clients. So we used to have celebs coming in asking for, you know, like 10,000 pounds in cash. Yeah. That only the branch manager could do behind locked doors and all that sort of thing. And anyway, um, what became apparent to me was I was spending 60% of my salary on, uh, red.

I was living in West Harrow at the time, in, in northwest London. And I wanted to get on property ladder. So, um, I literally opened up a, an old fashioned map cause this was pre-Google Maps and I didn’t have the internet at home. Uh, and kind of went like this. And landed on Northampton. Um, I then called a, a really good buddy of mine and said, you doesn’t assist.

Go to uni in Northampton. What’s it, what’s it like? He said, I think you’ll really like it. So I came up, I looked at a couple of jobs and then I realized, well, I still work for Out West, wouldn’t I just call the area manager? So I cold called the area manager. He thought we was a wind up. Um, and he said to me, listen, why didn’t you come up?

I’ve got four branches to show you. Uh, so I did. Um, we, we went round those branches. I chose Kings thought. Do you remember Nat West in Kings thought as it used to be. Now I think it’s a nail salon and an air salon or something like that. Um, and I moved up a month later and the whole purpose, cause you know, everything’s about purpose and your why and your reasoning.

The whole purpose was to get onto the property ladder. So I moved up, uh, I thought I was 23 at the time I ran this branch. I had no, I didn’t know anybody. I didn’t have any friends, so all I would do is work, so I’d stay back late. Yeah. Um, I remember sorting out a filing and then realizing there’s a whole catalog of clients here and customers.

So I’d call ’em up and say, look, you wanna come and meet the, the new bank manager, um, and find out if they wanted to borrow more money, if that savings elsewhere, whatever the opportunity was. But more importantly, let’s just connect. So, so was it your job to do that as a bank manager? It wasn’t my primary role.

But in the same breath, I joined a branch that was second from bottom. And you know, I’m, I’m competitive by nature, probably like you, like most people are, and to me there seemed no better way to spend my, you know, an hour or two in the evening than ringing rounds clients. So I filled up the diary.

Um, and, you know, within a, a few months, I think we were number two with the region behind the drapery. Wow. The, no, no one ever topped the drapery or western fable. It was, it was something like that. So, um, that’s 2004, three months in, um, found a property bought house, got in the property ladder, and I think I stayed in that branch for about nine months, a year, something like that.

And I asked the area director, how can I get into commercial banking? I’d love to find out more about business. So the, the gentleman at the time who ran the commercial banking arm in this region sat down with me, and I kid you not, this was his response to me showing my eagerness Right. Evidencing my performance.

He said, you’re too young and you want too much money. And I said, really? That’s, that’s gonna be your, your, your gambit. I was like, So I showed him the door. Um, and about three months later I resigned and went to HS vc who. He didn’t say any of that to me. In fact, they said, we, we like your youth, we like your energy and we can pay you what you want, but we want you in the city.

So, um, I commuted for about a year, year and a half, and I became a relationship manager for SMEs. Right? Small medium enterprises, startups. Fascinating. I had no idea what I was doing. I remember going into the job interview and the good cop, bad cop, and the bad cop had said nothing for about an hour and a half.

And, and what he said to me was, um, uh, Steve, you clearly have got zero experience in business banking. How do you think you, you’re gonna survive in this role? And I just remember kind of sitting there bricking myself thinking, mm. Well, I can learn all of that, can’t I? It’s a product, isn’t it? And process something along those lines.

And, um, so I I, I, I got the role. I met some incredible people. Uh, I spent two years as a commercial relationship manager. It really wasn’t the best fit for me. I was great with people, but there, you, you had to spin and you still have to spend so many plates in banking, especially in the commercial arm, to cross sell, to develop relationships, to lend, to get, you know, bring, bring live.

The team under you at that point? No, not about, I was 24, right. So I was, I was the youngest commercial manager I think in, in the city. And, and, and within 18 months I was already eager to move on. What was it

Nishi: like going from managing the team to not having to manage a team? Did, did you feel it, did you find liberating or did you feel there was something missing?

Steven: Um, I, I, I think I was so preoccupied by learning. The ropes and, and understanding what business was all about. Like at uni, I’d, I’d done a bit around business and enterprise and p and Ls of financial accounting.

being so young with relatively little experience, some people loved it, they felt great, you know, he was wet behind in the ears. He’s got the energy. Let’s, let’s jump on on the coattails others.

Saw the complete opposite, which was, well, he yelled, obviously he hasn’t been bitten by the corporate bug yet. Um, or, or he, he hasn’t got the savvy yet. Um, but going into it, I mean, that was the busiest job I’ve ever had, without any shadow of a doubt. Couple hundred clients. Which, if you think about it, right when you are, you are supposed to meet all of them, but a big part of the job was winning new business.

Right. So, persuading other businesses to move their banking from another bank So I’d moved from a OutWest to h s bbc and the real chap, I, I,

I worked with people and the real challenge was making sure that I was showing up every day in the best way that I could. And after about a year that started lapsing, i, I knew it within myself that I wasn’t showing up in the best way possible. I didn’t enjoy what I was doing. I was dis, I was disenchanted. I, I. At that point I was already thinking, cause I was meeting people, setting up new businesses and at that point I was already thinking, I wanna do this. Yes. Well see, I, I wanna take ownership of my own destiny. And, but I didn’t have the courage, I didn’t have the nowhere, I didn’t have the ideas and, um, you know, no excuses. I just wasn’t ready within myself to take that risk. I’d, you know, relatively risk averse.

Nishi: What, say, like back then, I guess you were an outsider looking into the business world, but what would he say these SMEs, the, the owners had in in common?

Steven: Courage? Uh, if I was to say in two words, and, and, and this is across all genders, but brass balls, thick neck, right? These people had incredible courage to get on with it. Right. And the, the way that I see it now, and I understand it now, is it’s not ignorant, but it’s, um, You know, it, it’s the ability to just jump in with both feet without really seeing what’s at the bottom, right.

So I heard a great story recently, which was, uh, a bu a horse stepping into a cave. And the boy says to the horse, I’m scared I can’t see the end of the cave. And the horse says, but can you see your next step? The boy says, yes. And he says, well, just take your next step. And while I think all of those, all of the entrepreneurs that I know have is the ability to not focus on the light of the end of the tunnel.

Even if you can’t see it, it’s looking at the next step. It’s like driving from, I don’t know. Um, LA Land’s end to Penza and realizing that I’m gonna do all of this drive at night. I can’t see the end destination. I can only see 20, 30, 40 yards in front of me. Right. With the headlights. It’s the same sort of premise, which, which I, I completely lacked.

I didn’t have any of that courage at this point. I was just like, I would love to do this, but I really dunno how,

Nishi: Hey, what you’re mentioning is, cause I’ve given this a lot of thought cause I, I I guess as a bank manager with some of these sme you might, you might have been working with more successful ones.

Maybe not, maybe not the less successful ones cause uh, there’s a lot of businesses out there where they just don’t wanna borrow money. Yes. And, um, and I I, I kind of, I was trying to get into the minds of what makes a business wanna borrow mo what we borrow running the past as well, but what makes a business wanna borrow money to expand?

And Alex h hop moey in his, um, interview on diary of the c. He, there was an, there was an amazing section in there where he was actually just talking about what are he, he, he believes in inputs. So what, what he talks about is when he, when there’s a desired, um, result he wants to achieve, he just thinks about the things he has to do, um, and, and the quantity of them.

So he’s like, I, I, I just have to make a thousand phone calls. And, and so, and he, he’s got this input theory, and I did a video yesterday and the video was essentially about, it was kind of looking at what makes people borrow money. And, and you’ve got two groups of business owners. That’s something I’ve observed called hundreds of business owners and one group who looks at everything as the worst case scenario.

And the other one looks at everything in the, the most likely scenario. And actually you get a third group that looks at everything in the most optimistic scenario. And, but it’s the, the most group in the middle that’s the most successful because. That to, to I, go ahead. Guests be successful in business.

Who gotta invest in, in the growth of your business? And if you look at everything as the worst case scenario, you can’t see a return. cause it’s like, okay, if I Pines members staff to grow my business and it doesn’t work out fine, I’ve lost six months of their salary. If I, um, pay the agency to do something and it doesn’t work out, I’ve, I’ve lost a set up fees and three months worth of their fees.

Y and suddenly you are always looking at everything as a cost. Uh, whereas if you look at something as a most likely scenario, you’re thinking, okay, well most likely scenario, like, um, I’d, I’d have to be really bad to spend 150 grand on marketing and not get anything back. So actually the, the cost isn’t 150 grand.

It’s, it’s the difference between that 150 minus what I, what I got back or, and. And it’s, it’s hard to configure your mind even, uh, nine years in now, I still struggle with that. And, um, but I, I, I, I’m very aware of it and I, I force myself into that other way of thinking, you know, the, the

Steven: most likely scenario I think as well, cost is one way of looking at it.

Um, an extremely savvy, probably the best relationship banking director, commercial banking director I ever works with. He said to me, never speak to a client about the cost happens. Right. Price. price. Um, even more challenging is talk about it as an investment. Okay. Because it is, you know, um, that cause banking,

Nishi: you’re heavily regulated aren’t, and you said you’re not allowed, you’re not allowed to use the word investment.

Steven: I, I mean, if you’re talking about something external, yes. There, um, but I think the key is, is the, it’s the mindset, Ryan. It’s the risk appetite. And most of those people, I don’t know what their backgrounds were, I can’t remember right, it’s nearly 20 years ago, but from the entrepreneurs that I know, um, it’s an unrelenting drive, um, to fulfill their potential.

There’s a ridiculous faith that some, not just entrepreneurs, but successful people that I’ve met have in themselves. And you know, when you, you talk about DIVE CEO in that podcast, I was listening to, um, Louis Hamilton talking to Jay Shetti, and he was asked, and you know, you go back through the ages and I’m a big basketball fan, two of my favorite grace of all times of Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and Lewis Hamilton’s a goat without a doubt.

And when they are asked, what’s the biggest challenge that you faced in your career? Um, the answer is having faith in myself. Right, because if you are a business owner and you don’t have that faith in yourself to be able to go on and do the thing that you want to do, who else is gonna have faith in you, right?

Yes. Um, if you don’t believe in what it is that you want to go out there and achieve, who else is gonna believe in you? So I think that’s a, that, that’s probably a key part of it, right? And though is very, you know, how do you maintain that? So you think about it with someone like Lewis Hamilton’s one over a hundred races, most successful racer of all time by the numbers.

So when he now loses a race, or, and, and perhaps a team isn’t de delivering the way that he want them to, what helps him pick himself back up and, and get back into that car and go race again. And it’s the same with, you know, like any business owner, I guess what’s, where’s the faith, right? Um, where’s the belief, what’s the purpose?

Why are you getting outta bed every day to do what you do? Is it just to earn a hundred grand a year? Because if you wanted to do that, you can go do that in a, in a job somewhere, right? A very well paid job. Um, or is there a deeper meaning behind what it is that you are doing?

Nishi: What was the, um, you told me a really good saying, uh, was it the, uh, the pain

Steven: pushes until the vision pulls?

Exactly, Pain pushes till the vision pulls. And, and for me, there, there was, you know, that, that’s from a, a, a fabulous guy called Dr. Michael Beckwith. And for me that, you know, from about 2004 TW 2005, it was generally a pain pushing, not always right. I found inspiration in working with some amazing people.

What was the pain? Um, wanting to do something else, uh, realizing that I was part of. I, I was a small cog, right? Yes. In, in a very big system. Um, and, and, you know, you change right over time. So when I first joined h s bbc, I remember walking into Canary Wharf. And, you know, bear mind, I’d just been managing a small branch in Northampton.

I’d go along to some training and, you know, like the, these, these banks really look after their people. They really give people up to represent them the best way possible. And I remember going into Canary Warf a c s thinking, wow, this is amazing. Right. I think eight or nine years later, I’m in the same organization.

I spent two years as a commercial manager. I then got, um, approached to take a, a specialist role in payment solutions payment sales, uh, which essentially meant I had my own p and l, I had my own balance sheet. To a degree I was responsible for, and I managed my own diary. And back in 2006, working from home was not a thing, right?

And we were told, look, you don’t have an office. You cover however many offices that you cover around London, but otherwise you work from home. It’s like, really? And so that was kind of revolutionary, right? And someone had faith in me to be able to deliver on this role. And, um, anyway, 1, 1, 1 of the things I found in doing that job, so I, I wasn’t su, I wasn’t as close to businesses as I had been previously.

I was going into businesses and essentially just providing them with a needs-based solution, right? Um, and straight away, I, I was into this very small sales team made up of four people, including our boss, and the other two guys were far more experienced than me, and they both had these fantastic strengths.

So, you know, I, I, I, I used to read a, uh, a lot and watch a lot of Bruce Lee and he talks about, You know, learning from people, taking what is valuable and discarding the rest. And so I spent a month with these chaps. I learned so much about empathy in sales. I learned so much about diary management, right?

All sorts of different things, structures and disciplines that I soon realized, you know, you can map into your own life as well. So, um, and, and then I, you know, I love that John, the first couple of years I did that, that role was fantastic. But then 2008 hit, right? And the whole banking industry completely changed in terms of regulatory environment.

But to give you an idea, you know, working in the city of London, a financial hub of the world, you relatively unscathed, right? You saw what was going on on the news. You, you read it in the papers, but you’d go out and you’d see businesses and. They’d be doing all right. Some of them be thriving, some of them are opening offices all over the world, need your help to, you know, set up banking facilities in those, in those locations and stuff.

So I, you know, I, I soon realized that there were, you know, there’s, there’s one narrative that we’re given. And then there’s a whole other narrative. There’s not even really being ed, which meant to me that how many other stories are out there, how many other truths are out there as well. Um, but I love that role.

Uh, and, and, but it changed right? As everything does. Uh, we had a great time working together. I learned loads, earned loads. It was fantastic. And, um, and then my, my now wife and I, uh, my, my wife got pregnant and. We couldn’t live in London anymore, right? So I said, look, I’ve got a house up in Northampton. I think this is really our only option.

Um, so we moved up here and I commuted for, I dunno, a couple of years, and then I was pulled out of the frontline sales, uh, team to become a coach for the European sales team. Um, which was, which was, you know, a fantastic opportunity. I was, um, I, I was called about it, um, not long after my father had died and I was asked, look, do you wanna take this role?

You’ve gotta make a decision by the morning because we’ve actually got someone else for it, but we are willing to swap him out for you if you want to take it. And I said, I’ll take it. No questions asked. Right? Um, two weeks offsite with six other incredible salespeople from around the world, um, offsite from pwc, just learning about getting onto the client agenda and so on and so on and so on.

And that opened me up to the world of coaching. And, you know, I got kind of bitten by the bug, realized that there was, there was an alternative perhaps for me, but this wasn’t, this was still like 2009, 2010. So, You know, at that stage it was, spend as much time with family as possible. How old were your kids at that point?

Well, my daughter was just born, she was born in 2000. No, I could probably do the math based on it. She, she was born at the end of oh nine and I, I immediately knew that I wanted to spend as much time with her as possible. So, you know, continuing to climb the corporate ladder didn’t make much sense to me at that moment because what, what I valued more was the time that I invested with her

And watching her grow. So, um, you know, I always had this thing from, I dunno, 15 or 16, which was Imagine you’re 75. What, you know, when, when it comes to a decision that you need to make, what kind of decision is 75 year old Steve Quinn? Going to regret not making and, and, and it’s a no-brainer for me.

It was spending time with, you know, a, a miracle that happened to be part me and part my beautiful wife. So, um, all, all, additional energy went on in into her. And

Nishi: I can kind of relate to that at the moment cause I, my, my kids are one and four and, but you know what? Either I do something you might find quite funny actually, like ev every time I’m getting impatient in business, I’m gonna do the next thing and the next thing and next thing I just get a cap laser out.

I put the number 65 in and then I deduct my age fort and it tells me how many years I bought left to work. And then I’m like, okay, fine. Still like 25 years or whatever. And um, and then I’m like, okay, do I, do I really need to push that thing right now? Could I, could I spend a bit more time with the family and then have 23 years to continue building my career in business?

And, um, I, and actually that just sound a little, I, I dunno what you would call that type of exercise, but actually I, I just do that and it. It recenters my focus.

Steven: Right? To check in with, With who you are, what you want. I think, you know, for me, um, there, there’s a phrase that I coined or an acronym called Roti, r o t I return on time invested.

Alright. And it’s also delicious food, isn’t it? Roti is delicious. Roti is delicious. I think I’ve mentioned this before, right? Yes. Yeah. Um, love, love a bit of roti, but for, for me, it, it’s a no-brainer. You, you’ve only got one currency in life and that’s time. Um, I, I, I think most people’s mindset is not connected to time.

it’s because, because time just seems like this abstract, um, you know, ethereal, misunderstood entity. But for me, It’s very simple. You’ve only got however many years, you’ve only got however many hours, and so on and so on. So if I’m gonna spend an hour doing something, if I’m gonna invest an hour doing something, which is only 4% of the day, but if you’re gonna invest an hour in doing something, you want it to be impactful.

And you, you, again, it goes back to purpose. What’s the purpose? What are the reasons that you’re doing this for? Um, you know, Simon Sinek, what’s your why? Yes. It’s very similar to that. Why is very emotional purpose and reasoning is much more logical and structured, right? Yes. Um, and, and you, you get better data from reasoning and purpose, whereas one, you get a lot more.

Well, because, just because Sun Sinek your favorite of both. Um, I wouldn’t say, I’d say it’s Tim Ferris. Tim Ferris Four Hour work week. And you Completely changed my life. It was a tribe, tribe, ment, tribe of men.

Nishi: I’ve downloaded that book on my, um, phone in fact, but I haven’t actually started listening to it.

Steven: It’s, it is, is one to have on the bookshelf, cause it they’re reference books. Really? Um, and, um, probably in 2013, so I, so what happened with, um, with my role was I, I ended up actually looking outside of the UK and I got offered a, a head of payments and cash management at liquidity role in Bahrain in 2000 and I wanna say 2011.

Beginning in 2011. And I kid you not, when I sat down to sign the, um, resignation papers with my boss at the time in HSBC UK on the tv, there was, um, news about an uprising in Bahrain. And, you know, uh, Whatever had, what was going on over there. So, you know, great guy, he took the papers from me and he said, I’ll keep his for now.

He said, you might wanna have a, a chat to your young family about this. Um, and I remember leaving that meeting and, and trying to get hold of all of the people in Bahrain who had told me, you’ve got 48 hours to make a decision. They forced my hand, great package and everything. Right. We didn’t negotiate a great position, but they tried to rush me into it and then I found out why, and then I couldn’t get a hold of anyone for three weeks.

And at that point I just sent an email that, that evening saying I’m out. Right. You know, this is not for me. And I, I’m really pleased and I, I’ll never forget my wife saying, cause at this point, you know, we were in, I was in debt to my eyeballs, just over geared, um, young family, uh, and, and just overspent.

Right. Um, I’d say a pr prosecco lifestyle of beer money. I was in their champagne iSTYLE. Yes. But it was, it was kind of like that, that, that way. Um, slanted. So, uh, my wife said to me, can’t you get that money here? Can’t you earn that sort of money here? And I was like, oh, I dunno, we’ll see. And I just remember a lot my heart sank because it’s tax free over there and everything else.

Um, but the, the, I think about a year later I was, I was approached by a few different banks and one of them was Lloyd’s and, uh, the hiring manager, uh, at the time, we sat down and he asked me a question that hardly anyone had asked me in the corporate world, which is, what do you want and what do you want?

Now, when he said, what do I want? I said, we, what do you mean? What do I want? I said, what do you want financially, but what do he want Ali? So, you know, we broke it down and I told him, you know, honestly, I said, look, I’d love to run our own business at some point, I just dunno where and what it will be or anything else.

I’d, I’d had loans of ideas, but analysis paralysis and put the brakes on and straight up fear had put the brakes on.

Nishi: It’s really, it’s really hard to start your own business when you got a family because. I, I was 29 when I started my own business, but I sometimes wonder if I could do it all over again now with two kids.

Uh, because it’s, it’s just, could I, how, how would I justify giving up a job to, to then earn nothing for like three years or two, two years until to get somewhere back?

Steven: I can, I think if, if, if you’ve got a very understanding partner who, who, who, you know, my and my wife before we got married, long before we got married, she was, you know, she, she’s amazing at what she does.

She’s a massage therapist, reflexologist, hypno, birthing consultant. And she had said to me, oh, these guys, she, she’d met some people running a business. She said, these guys haven’t got any of your intelligence. You could do this. Why don’t you run your own business? And I was like, you know when you’re so busy in, in, in your job?

And you are busy doing other things. So I was enjoying life where I was going out and drinking and pieing and enjoying myself and having a good time. Uh, you know, I was in my twenties and I wasn’t really focused on that. I was trying to live a full life. Uh, but in the same, at the same time, overspending, not really having a purpose, not really having a vision for myself.

And then once, once, uh, my wife got pregnant, that kind of changed cause I was like, damn, I better start taking life a bit more seriously Because genuinely nii in my twenties, my primary focus was, and my primary value was how do you be happy? How are you happy in life? Right? Like most people that I’d come across live life and they’re not particularly happy.

Um, and what I realized was, it, it, you know, for me and everyone’s different, but I put joy first as my value in my twenties. And that meant having a good time. Uh, but it also meant suffering. cause you, inevitably, you suffer, you don’t get enough sleep, you are hungover, right? You end up with no money and all of this kind of stuff.

Um, so I learned that quite early on, that there was, there was a mismatch, it was an imbalance between the two, but as soon as, you know, baby was, was on her way, the purpose changed, uh, or, or a purpose was created, and that immediately gave me a beacon to look towards. So, um, that meant, you know, as, as the primary earner earning more money, um, that meant having a plan.

And that plan was really around securing our future as quickly as possible. Um, so I moved banks, I went to Lloyd’s, uh, and I, I’d, I’d worked primarily in the city my whole life, apart from nine months spelling Northampton. And, um, they just said to me, look, where’d you, where’d you wanna work? I said I, I’d like to work as close to home as possible.

Right. Young family. And they said, sure. Um, but we’re gonna need you to cover half the country. So, so you, you won, you won one and a half was, I mean, it was a blur. It was, you know, it was 40,000 miles, um, in the car. It was meeting people. It was, you know, and then you realize how different two corporates doing exactly the same thing.

Compete at, in some ways it was like stepping back in time, moving from HSB to Lloyd’s. But then in other ways there was this fantastic culture around people at Lloyd’s and there was loyalty and there was, um, you know, in spells there was this real, um, sense of being valued there, being part of something bigger.

Whereas the culture that I had experienced, certainly in the last couple of years, In the city was much more cutthroat. Much more targeted. Very much so.

Um, you know, I was banging on for a promotion for a long time, uh, well I say a long time, probably a year and a half, two years. But I’m sure it was a pain for my boss at the time. Um, and new management came in and as a re I suppose a retention tool, it was as soon as I’d met my new boss’s boss, he said, look, I’m promoting you.

And what he doesn’t know is how much he doesn’t know. Cause we haven’t had a chance to sit down and have a conversation like this since, is how much that changed the trajectory of, of our lives. Um, and I say as mine, my wife, my daughter, and ultimately helped us, helped me gear us into a position where I could.

Step away from, from a, a job. Um, and it was just complete trust. Right? And, and where did, but where does that trust come from? We didn’t really know each other. And was it your reputation? Did he have a reputation at that point? Yeah, I, I did. I was fortunate, right. You know, I, I were really hard, got some really good wins.

Um, but, you know, for me the key was reciprocity. You know, um, when, when you are working in a corporate environment soap, there are so many players in the game, right? You just don’t, you, you’d lose track and you’d really lose sight of what it is that you’re trying to achieve if you didn’t check in with the right people.

And if you didn’t build the right relationships with the right people as well, and, you know, spending an extra five or 10 minutes with someone to see how they’re getting on, how their kids are getting on and genuinely showing some care and, and, and affections towards that. I wasn’t aware of what the trust equation was at that point, but that intimacy that.

I was able to build with a lot of people, ended up really, really helping me, um, in just getting really good at my job. Uh, so that’s what I focused on, was delivering as much value as possible, um, not just for clients and clients, which was a given, but I’d been doing that for years. But actually I started turning it inwards and saying, well, how can I add value for my colleagues as well?

And one of the things that I realized just through asking for feedback Which is really tough, right? I, I would ask people, where am I good? Where am I bad? How do I make you feel?

Where am I complete ass? Right? And under the third one, how do I make you feel? People would say, look, your energy’s just infectious. So I, I, you know, I thought about that and I thought, well, let’s conserve energy to when you’re really gonna need it in a day. Because a lot of people talk about time management, they don’t talk about energy management.

So I would, I would inject that energy wherever I thought it needed to be, to be placed. Um, and I’m really lucky, right. You know, a lot of people responded really well to that and entrusted me. Um, I became a confidant for, for so many people. And, and then probably in about 2017, I burnt out. Completely burnt out.

I mean, I was running all over the country. I was juggling too many things, but what it really boiled down to was that I, I had just felt, um, somewhat betrayed through, I suppose through nobody’s fault. I, I think what what ends up happening in a large corporate organization is there’s a message up here and then there’s a message in the middle, and then how that gets disseminated.

Um, I suppose it’s, it’s, it’s down to the individuals, but one of the things that I kept asking was, why, why, why? And, uh, well, just because, and then when I, when I started asking why and eventually the boss at the time said, look, I, I dunno. I just dunno. And I said, well, how the, how’s that supposed to make me feel?

When I’m running around trying to get business in. Um, you, and

Nishi: when you said why did you mean it in the overall bus direction of the company or those specific tasks you were being asked to do?

Steven: What’s, you know, the, the, the overall vision, um, and where is this all going? Was, was really my challenge and I couldn’t, I couldn’t really see that.

Nishi: Didn’t like, sorry, I’m gonna sound really, um, uh, condescend, but I’m, I’ll, I’ll say anyway. Um, didn’t the website for the bank have like a vision statement on it?

Steven: Helping Britain prosper?

Nishi: Okay. So that’s really vague. Is that the issue, the vision statement? It was too vague or,

Steven: I think for me personally, I just kind of outgrown it as well.

An Nish, you know, I’d been. Out there winning hundreds of millions of pounds Of what, what a bank calls liabilities. Right? So one of the things I learned about banking is that it turns a balance sheet on its head. So what you will see is a balance sheet as an asset. Cash as an asset. A bank sees cash as a liability because it’s a client’s cash and they can withdraw it at any time.

And an asset is a loan, but to a, a business. Uh, uh, a loan is a liability, right? So that, that, that, that, you know, when, when you understand that, that the, that that game is completely different. Uh, then, then you realize, well, there’s more to this, isn’t there? There’s a lot more to it.

So I got a lot of insight into things and I learned an awful lot about things, um, that I’d never intended to learn about, but I did learn about it anyway. And then, um, you know, pressure to do things that I didn’t believe in. Was one of the issues that I had. The, although there was a vision statement, and although you are, you are part of this great thing, helping Britain prosper, which it was, you know, and it still is an amazing aspiration.

The challenge for me was that I didn’t feel like I was being told the truth around my role and what was going on. Um, and there was a lot of confusion. There was a big powerplay at the top. And there was a lot of confusion around the future of where this business was going. And it was just chaotic, quite frankly.

So, um, I made a plan right, with my wife and I just said, look, I, I’ve gotta get out of this banking gain. I think I can do it by the time I’m 40 at this point. I think I was mid thirties. Um, but there’s some things that we need to solidify. First. We need to, as Richard Branson says, protect the downside. And the downside was, well money, you know, how are you gonna forecast?

How are you gonna pay for the property that you live in? How are you going to fund the gap that’s gonna be created through some sort of exit? And then, um, fast forward a few years, I, I completed a coaching diploma. Um, first time I’d funded anything. So substantial myself. But first time I’d sat in a room, uh, in 20 odd years that had nothing to do with finance and banking.

So I sat with some HR professionals. Completely outta my depth. I had no idea what was going on, but I loved it. I abs I loved it because I just felt like such a novice. Such a beginner. How long did the diploma take? Uh, about a year and a quarter.

Nishi: Oh, really?

Steven: Okay. So it was all pre covid. We had all of the class from pre Covid.

And I already knew that this was the path I was gonna take. I was like, all right, coaching, consulting, training, something like this is, is, is gotta be the path that I’m gonna take. Fantastic group of people, fantastic facilitators. And then I sat down with my boss and I said, look, the company’s going this way.

I’m going that way. This negotiated deal to get me out. Um, he was fantastic about it. So supportive. And then two, three weeks later, pandemic and lockdown. So we had a very honest conversation. He said, look, I really need you. I said, I totally get it. Clients need, need the bank as well. So I’m here for the clients

Um, but nonetheless, did, did what I could, did my part. And then, um, eventually after a few, uh, managerial rotations and a couple of managers later, I, uh, I was, I was given what I was, what I asked for, and, uh, I left, I left the bank in August, 2021. Okay. So it’s only, it’s like a year and a half cause I, I took the first couple of months just to.

Adapt to, you know, I, I’ve been employed since I was 15, 16. So to have no paycheck, to not be p a y e, to set my own website and set my own limited company and all of those fun things that I dreamt about doing for such a long time and all of a sudden I was doing it. Um, it felt really novel at first.

Corporate Spars is a really good name. Did he, did he get the domain for that? the.com and I got the dot code at uk. Um, how that came about was, uh, for years I’d been touting that phrase around Because to me it’s really simple, right? You learn book smarts at school. And depending on where you work, where you grow up, you learn street smarts.

I grew up in northwest London. There were bits of where we lived where you needed street smarts. where in your life before you start working in that corporate, are you ever taught about corporate smarts?

It’s not book smarts, it’s not street smarts, it’s corporate smarts. And you know, the kind of things that I’m talking about is communication, stakeholder management. I mean, what’s that to somebody who has never it, right? You go into a high school or a college and you go, who are your stakeholders? They’ll be like, I didn’t order steak.

It’s, um, so, you know, you’re talking about communication influence, right? Not, not just influencing clients, but influencing colleagues.

Nishi: But, you know, I, I guess corporate plus and business smart. I, I think they’re slightly different, aren’t they? Um, oh, they are. Because, but I, I actually, I, I, I haven’t really thought about corporate smarts for a very long time.

Cause everything I think about is business related these days. But actually, well, no, they’re very similar. In fact, I, I’d say cause you, you got the stakeholders in, in business anyway and you’ve got stakeholders in. The only thing is looking at your customers in different ways. So in business you have customers in the corporate world, you have internal customers, essentially. So the principles of being responsive, of being professional, um, building credibility, I think actually they’re applying both sit situations.

Steven: I, I I think the, probably the, the difference that you are relating to is ownership inequity, right. And, um, and accountability as well. Like, that’s a key theme that in a lot of corporates just disappears, is accountability.

Right. And that, that was, that was something that I really struggled with was, you know, knocking on the table and saying, what, who’s accountable for this? Right. Because you, you’ll look around and No, no one told me, they go, I’ll take responsibility for this. They’re just not, and that’s one of the scariest things of being a business owner, right?

If, if, if you want it to be, or it could be the most exciting thing, which is taking full ownership. Right. Having complete autonomy. Um, most people want that freedom and they want that autonomy, but you know, actually wanting it and doing it’s two different things.

Nishi: Well, with freedom comes great responsibility, I guess.

Me? Do you like Mark Manson and, uh, the not giving a fuck? Yeah. Uh, yeah. So me an area we’ve got like a, yeah, we, we always use a saying something might not be my fault, but it is my responsibility and we, we do that a lot in the business, but, um, and that’s the section of it. When, when you run a business you are responsible for everything.

Like, you know, someone sneezes in the salad, it’s your problem. Um, or like you could have had it, I dunno why I use that example, but, um, yeah, I did. It is, uh, I guess actually think about the corporate world. I, it’s been a long time since I’ve been in it, but yeah. Accountability is so important.

Steven: Definitely. It, it’s huge. And, and you know what? One of the things that when I look back, so I did 20 years in banking, um, and when I look back and I think about what, what are corporate smarts? So I used to ban this phrase around with a couple of my friends, one friend in particular who’s, who’s just been fantastic for me.

Um, through the years. He introduced me to Tim Ferriss. He said, I think now’s the time for you to read this book. I was 20, 20 13. I was running around the country like a lunatic, um, for, for, for the bank and for clients. And then all of a sudden, you know, you talk, talk about liberation and

Delegation and outsourcing your life and all of this sort of thing. I was like, put, what is this? They really got me thinking in a different way. Um, so, you know, big props are Tim Ferris for, for, for helping out there in the four hour body. You know, just a slow carb diet, for example. Is that Tim Ferris as well?

Four Hour

Nishi: Body for Our Bodies. I, I haven’t read that though.

Steven: It’s definitely worth a read.

Nishi: Do do you have, um, do you have rules that you set yourself now you run your own business?

Steven: I do, I do. It’s a great show. Um, what are the rules? The guiding principles? Um, I don’t generally have meetings before 10 30.

Because for years I didn’t spend breakfast with the family, so wife and daughter. So now it’s a personal point of pride. It’s a g get up and, you know, prep myself. So I’ll stretch in the morning, whatever else, but as you cook breakfast for the girls and have something healthy and nutritious and everything else.

But then, um, it’s about me putting on, you know what my great mentor and associate Steve Rush calls, who’s a great author. Um, he’s got a book called The Leadership Cake. Definitely worth checking out. He calls, uh, the Metaphorical Oxygen Mask, which is. If you, if you are incapacitated, You can’t help anyone, anybody else.

Nishi: Just like if, if the oxygen mask is hanging from the plain ceiling, put yours on first. Got it.

Steven: And the same applies to you being a leader in your business. Now. Look, it’s just, it’s just me in corporate smarts, but that means I have to lead me. And self leadership is a major part of that. So, um, what does that look like?

I look after myself. So when I was working in the ba I used to think I, I trained, I used to think I worked out, I used to think I was like robust and strong and everything else. And then, um, when the pandemic hit, everything changed because I wasn’t on the road every day and I was like, what? I’ve got all this time back.

So I was working out at home and all this sort of stuff, and that, that focus on my own health changed completely because health is wealth. Although time is your only currency to me. You could have all of the money in the world, you could have all the businesses in the world, you could have all the clients and all of the adulation and awards and stuff, but without your health, it’s meaningless.

Nishi: Well, health can give you more time there, can’t it?

Steven: A hundred percent. A hundred percent.

Nishi: And actually can give you more energy.

Steven: So it does give you more energy. Like if you’ve maintain your health, and you’ve probably found this right, working out regularly. Although at first you are, you’re zonked from it.

It gives you more energy, right? It gives you more physical energy anyway, you know. Um,

so I, I guess like I was watching like this, um, little interview with Jeff Bezos and I’ve heard it from loads of other people anyway, but it’s just like, I, I guess like a lot of people sell time for money, but then lot people value their time, so they, they essentially sell a solution for money.

Um, and which isn’t necessarily time linked, but I, I think the currency beyond time is energy. There is that, that is another level of, of currencies.

Nishi: But cause Jeff Bezos, he’s like, you know, my only job is to make two or three high quality decisions every single day. And this got me thinking, and I mean, ar will laugh about this anyway, but like about two years ago I got to a point where I was like, Hey, I’m, I’m, it, it takes the same amount of energy to make a high quality decision in the business as it does to pick what I’m going to eat or what clothes to wear.

So, you know, a lot of the podcasts, like watchers will be like, why does he was wear a blue shirt or a blue t-shirt or why does he was got the gray, uh, gray trousers on. But actually, you know what I’d Steve Jobs. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. And um, and Mark Zuckerberg do the same thing. Yeah. So, um, I, I did, I I I switched to just the same clothes, not the same clothes, but those are, that are different of the same clothes.

And then I, I just kind of get, got a bit depressed with this. So then I was like, I bought some gray t-shirts and then I bought some light gray t-shirts. Then I bought grey Jumper. So I’m kind of.

Steven: Dori, Dorian great with 50 shades of grays, put them right there.

Nishi: And then, um, so I, I went too far one way and now I’m kind of coming back to center line.

But really what, what I’m always trying to do is I’m always trying to preserve that energy making, uh, sorry, decision making energy. And it’s quite, um, that’s really important to me. So I try, um, but actually, yeah, it’s, um, I’m, I’m glad you mentioned it.

Steven: Uh, it’s, well, I think, I think energy management is, is, um, just never looked at.

Right. You know, when you consider the different types of energy that, that you can draw from As well. So you’ve got physical energy and exercises, part on that. Nutrition, hydration, sleep, rest, and recovery. Definitely. But then there’s emotional energy, right? So if you surround yourself with mood Hoovers and energy vampires Yes.

What’s that gonna do to you? And then on top of that, if you don’t enjoy the work that you do, or you’re not grateful for the job that you have in the paycheck and you receive, or the business that you run, That trains your energy. So if you love what you do, and you can find some gratitude in what you do, that generates more energy.

Right? So how many times have you, like when you probably sat down to do the Apex piece? But when you came out from that, you were buzzing, you’re probably bouncing off the walls. Right. And when you talk about it, because it’s your baby, your business, you probably find that there’s this energy that just comes outta nowhere.

But that’s because you love what you do. And then the final part is kind of philanthropic energy, which is, you know, something that I’ve found through coaching, through training people, which you get through sharing and helping others, and it feels good to help other people. Right? It’s, it’s kind of that simple.

And one of the things that, um, most people never do is manage your energy. They never think about it. They never think, well, I’m zt, I’ll just have a coffee. That’s what most people do. They don’t realize that coffee doesn’t give you energy, it just prevents your brain from receiving. Uh, a chemical called adenosine, right?

Which makes you sleepy. Um, instead, why don’t you just have a 15 minute nap or do some nons sleep, deep rest or something like that to actually recharge. cause you need to recover energy. Um, it’s not just gonna appear through a can of Red Bull or something, right? No. For some people it might do, but then the longer term effect on the, on your health is not great.

Right? I mean, look, I’m not a pillar for health by any means. I still like a beer and a drink and things like that. And, um, I’m ashamed to say, but it’s true. I’ll still smoke a cigarette after a few drinks, maybe sometimes. Uh, cause I used to be a smoker nonetheless. Um, managing energy is such a, a, a, a fundamental thing for everybody, but most people don’t address it.

And that’s, that’s part of how you lead yourself in the best way, I think. Right? You know? It’s instead of asking your team when you come in in the morning, how you all doing today? All right. Ask him how come you sleep last night, how you are doing. You’ll probably get the stock answer, because most of what we do, 90% of what we do is habitual.

So when someone says, how you doing? I’m good.

Nishi: You know what? That’s a cultural thing, isn’t it? Because I, I was talking to someone who, um, like they, they’ve got like a, a polish group in their family and like you ask a Polish person how they’re doing, they’ll, they’ll be really truthful. Whereas like a family, if you ask an English person how they’re doing, then you get the optimistic answer.

Sometimes, uh, yeah, actually, it’s,

Steven: uh, but you’re right, it’s cultural and, and culture’s built through habit and repetition. So, so habitually what do we, what do we ask people? The same thing. So, and, and, and it goes back to building intimacy, part of that trust equation, which is asking different questions.

cause you’ll get different qu qualitative and quantitative answers. So how was your sleep last night? Oh, I slept terribly. What, what do you already immediately know about the individual who’s just told you I slept terribly? Instead of them, them saying, I’m good.

Nishi: So what, uh, then you’re trying to figure out why did they sleep terribly? Are they worried about something or

Steven: immediately? Well, yeah, exactly. What’s, what’s, what’s the challenge for them in terms of sleeping book? What does that mean for their energy today? If you’ve only had five hours sleep on news to eight. What’s that gonna do to your regen? Right? I mean, you got young kids, so you know what it, what it,

Nishi: so I guess if, if my staff are watching this and I ask them, how’d you see last night?

And they’ll be like, oh, I only got terribly, you only got four hours. And then I give half their workload for the day

Steven: is, it’s interesting. You see the cost,

Nishi: I see the opportunity. No, you’re right.

Steven: Absolutely. Yeah. Understanding more about who it is that you’re working with. And, and you know, just again, understanding and empathy I think is such a pivotal part of leadership.

And a pivotal part of building relationships at work. For sure. So that’s another kind of corporate smart is actually what drives people. You know, if you, if if you see one of your colleagues, one of your team eating McDonald’s every day for lunch You know, it’s probably something not quite right.

Even if you’re 20 young

Nishi: and do have that guide. It’s

Steven: so, and, and you know, which is fair enough if he’s enjoying it and he’s, he’s loving that. That’s cool. Um, Everyone’s gonna be unique, everyone’s gonna be different. The real, the real challenge is what different questions do you ask? So, you know, um, at the end of the week, why, what I like to ask people is, what’s been a highlight of the week?

Or what, what’s been the biggest learn of this week rather than hours your week here, it’s vanilla. It’s lots of people are probably gonna ask, how’s your week? Um, one, one other piece around, around this and, and, and this just isn’t within the corporate environment, but it’s at home as well, is remaining present and asking the people that you live with different questions, right?

So, how’s your day? Now I’ve got a teenage daughter now, she’s amazing. But if I ask her how is it day? What do you think she’s gonna answer me? Good. Okay. That, that, that’s it. I love, it’s a bit, So I’ll ask some other, what was the, what was the most fun part of your day? What happened? Right.

And then, you know, try and create a bit more of a conversation, um, rather than, than just the classic Good. Uh, and then you’ll runoff upstairs a again, it is, you know, asking different questions, I think is, is is another reason why corporate smarts became, has become what has become

Nishi: as a re reeducate leaders to ask better questions.


Steven: And, and colleagues, right? Because I work with a lot of teams, and when you go into a team environment, um, the first thing that most people forget about is how much knowledge is around the table. How much experience is around the table? So, you know, I, I, I quote, um, Socrates, the as as I call him, the OG of Greek philosophy, right?

Um, and when, when he would walk around Athens, people would stop him and say, how is he, you’re the wisest man. Uh, in the Empire and in say, I’m not wise for I know nothing. And what he’s getting at is that every single person that you meet, you can learn something from. And when you sit down in a, in a team environment and you share that immediate insight, it’s fascinate fascinating to see people look at each other and they kind of recognize, right?

Like, you could teach me a ton about Apex, about your clients, about all sorts in your life that I’ve got no idea about. But when that recognition is there, you’re like, it’s, it’s almost like the, you know, in Avatar, that movie, they say, I see you. There’s almost a bit of that that goes on and it just helps build stronger bonds, right?

I worked in only a couple of incredible teams in my corporate life, and it was all about those bonds, and we built those relationships, not around the boardroom, not in the office, but when we were out doing other things, having a good time together, getting to know who each other really were. Those sorts of things are invaluable.

And again, I think some, some businesses do a great job with that. Others, they’re working with it, right? Um, so that’s kind of where corporate smarts came from. Um, and what it means to me is so many people in, in, in the kind of corporate world. So most of my clients are big financial services businesses, rice and Footsy 100 s and things like that, which is amazing.

Like, I never thought I would be where I’m at now, and I’m, I’m feeling immensely grateful that there are so many challenges that staff and employees. End up with the, are completely avoidable, I think. Right. So, and, and a lot of that is around, you know, um, the cheesy term mindfulness. It’s just being aware of what’s going on.

So I’ll give you an example where I was in a team, me, uh, a team meeting and we’re talking about prioritization. There was one young man in there expressing his frustration over whatever the situation was. And I mean, like, he was near tears, you know, and, um, he’s, he’s being very vulnerable in front of his whole team, but he’s, he, you know, he’s relatively inexperienced.

And I, you know, I I, I held up a mirror for him and turned on a flashlight and said, you know, the re you know, what’s the real reason here that, that you feel like this? Oh, it’s because this process is rubbish, or that system’s rubbish, or we haven’t got enough people. And I said, we. Look past the red mist.

Yes. If you can. And what you’ll see is that your suffering all comes from fear. Right. So you are probably a stoles fan as well, right? Yes. Fear leads to suffering and hate, and all fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering. That’s it. Yoga’s line. Right? And I, that, that, that struck me a good few years ago when I saw a colleague who was visibly suffering, right?

Lip trembling, just coming from a meeting, um, eyes watering. And this was all completely avoidable. It was, that was just their emotional response to it, right? Understanding the emotional responses part of it. And this young man, you know, um, afterwards took me to one side and he goes, I think you’re right.

Because he, he couldn’t see past the red mist of anger. Right. That stemmed from a fear. And the fear. And I just asked him and I said, look, is the fear losing face looking like you, you’ve done a rubbish job losing your conscientiousness, your reputation. He was like, is all of those things. So all of those things, Um, and that’s what happens in, in large corporates, right?

You know, uh, if you, if you are working in a footsy 100 You’re in, by default, you’re in the top 4% of employees in the uk Right? Because you’re working for the top hundred valued businesses in the country and you are one of the employees that works in there. So suddenly 4% of the UK population works in a footsy 100.

Break it down even further. What a lot of people don’t realize is if you are in a sales team, In a businesses, in a footsy 100, and that business is one of four banks, for example, or one of four insurance companies, well, how many sales teams are there? Right? So all of a sudden, from top 4% in the country, you are in the top 0.0 0, 0 0 1 percentile.

People forget how valuable they are. People forget what experiences that they’ve got. People forget, um, How special they can be. Since leaving the corporate world and meeting lots of different businesses and in, in lots of different, in lots of different teams, you realize like you get this incredible life experience

Through sitting around board tables talking to senior people. Learning

by osmosis as well. Like, um, and some of the best experience I’ve ever gone in my career was just sitting in a, um, in a business where I was surrounded by the financial director, the sales director, the managing director, and just overhearing their conversations.

It was, and I, I was quite a junior member of staff back then. But actually one, one thing, uh, like what you are saying touches on what Mark Manson says. Like, I, I guess say Mark Manson says, you know, if you essentially you, you can, uh, control your ha happiness by setting the criteria for your happiness.

So like, um, you know, mark Manson says, okay, well this guy was reassured and he was struggling to get. Like a girlfriend and he kept putting it down to the fact that he was short rather than, um, understanding all the other things that he had to give. Yep.

Nishi: And I, I think it, what I’ve noticed from the corporate world actually, like the criteria for your happiness are given to you and it takes a a lot to actually say, Hey actually I’m gonna create my own criteria.

Steven: Absolutely.

And maybe that’s why people start their own businesses because they want to create their own criteria or maybe they don’t understand it at that point, but that’s essentially what they’re trying to do,

Autonomy and control. Right. He’s trying to grab the control back with, of your own life. Yes.

So you don’t feel like, um, you are, you’re a piece on the chess board? I used to say to people, uh, when, when I was being quite pessimistic at work. I to say to people, just remember that the king and the porn all end up in the same wooden box.

Nishi: Yes, actually, yeah, that’s a good point.

Steven: Which is true. But in the same breath, you know, like you asked about rules, Um, you, you have to be disciplined, really disciplined to work for yourself and you know, although you have to be disciplined to get up and do a job that perhaps you may not want to do, right.

The discipline relates to, I’ve still got clients that I need to serve. Right? I’m still contractually obliged. You are disciplined by default because you’re still getting up every day no matter how you feel, and you’re showing up at work at 9:00 AM the, the opposite is true when you work for yourself because you can work whenever you want.

It doesn’t have to be a nine to five, right? It can be a, a 10, 30 till seven or whenever, whenever it is that you wanna work. Um, the, the interesting, uh, thing for me is I don’t feel nearly as guilty as I used to. Right? So if, if I, if I was exhausted by three o’clock And I still had three, four calls left to do and I was working in for a bank, I would feel incredibly guilty.

To, um, even suggest postponing one of them cause I was exhausted. Right. Whereas now if I have to do that, well I don’t because the rules that you, you asked me about, I make sure that I space out my meetings. Yes. I don’t have back to, back to backs, you know, like the, the, the researchers out there, the studies are out there that if you are having back to back meetings, your brain is just being drained.

Um, and by the time you’ve, you know, if you’ve got four back to back meetings, by the time you hit your third meeting, you are a half capacity if that. But actually having little breaks in between and you’re not talking about long, 15 minutes, something like that, which helps you recover a bit more of that energy.

Right. Just helps freshen the brain cells

Nishi: and more importantly, you write, write down the actions and

Steven: um, and actually maybe do something about it as well. Right. As opposed to just bouncing from one to another. Um, but that’s something again, that’s really common that I come across is a lot of people just feel really guilty about, you know, stepping away from their desk.

For lunch. Like even though we’re in, uh, you know, this fantastic modern world of being able to work from home. When I’m with teams or when I’m with a room full of people, cause sometimes I do some, some motivational speaking. I’ll ask them, how many of you raise your hands if you still eat your lunch at your desk at home?

And it’s a majority and I can’t understand the reasons. So why? Well, cause I don’t have time. What, what do you mean don’t have time? You work from home. You’ve just been gifted. How, how many hours are you spending traveling? You’ve just been gifted all this time back. What are you doing with it?

Um, then again, it goes back to roti, right? Return on time invested. How are you, you make it work for you, but also building rules in for yourself, like that’s really pivotal, right? Having that structure and discipline around your own life I think is really, um, it’s liberating. Although many people wouldn’t think that when you think of the word sru, structure and discipline, you don’t think, oh, that’s, that’s liberating.

I’ll feel much freer when I do that. Um, But in actuality, it’s true, right? You, you’ll find that within work, when you structure your schedule based on your priorities, you get things done. What I call G S D, get stuff done, yes. Or, or shit done, or whatever you want to call it. Um, that is pivotal, right?

Having that control. But that only comes from discipline. And that discipline comes from, you know, habit, which again, is culture, but habits also form your future use. So what, what you are doing now habitually creates you tomorrow, next week, next year, and so on, if that make sense.

Nishi: I mean, your, your history and your, your career is very aspiring what you’ve done.

Um, what’s next for corporates arts? Where do you wanna take it?

Steven: Global. Um, so, so unfortunate that I work with some, some fantastic financial services businesses and other businesses as well, so, There are some startups, SMEs, that I work with. But then there’s your Footsy 100 s that I work with as well. And recently I just issued my first U s d uh, invoice, which, which is super cool.

Um, and super complicated. So I’m so grateful for amazing. My accountants are amazing as well. They really helped me out. Um, but to go global to provide, you know, some web-based learning Uh, CPD accreditation is, is next. And provide some of these corporates with very simple tools that will help their people.

Um, because there’s only so much of my energy that I’ve got. So I’d love to be able to, you know, put things together. The corporates won’t collaborate with these large corporates.

Nishi: Why do you, why do you want to go global? Like there’s loads of businesses in the uk. What makes you want to go?

Steven: Well’s a big place innit. It is. I wanna see more of it. And if I can do that while serving clients Okay. Um, earning money and bring my family with me. Because, you know, it’s, it’s great doing it on your own. Better when you do it with your loved ones. Absolutely. Yeah. That to me is kind of a dream. Right? How do you, how is either you’re able to see the world, earn money, spend time with loved ones all at once.

Um, so that was part of the vision was to, was to be international with it.

Nishi: And do you think you would build a team and get them to go out and coach?

Steven: It’s a great shout. Um, I’ve thought about it and if I’m at that point, which is kind of coming close where I, I’m up to capacity, then I’ll have to bring some people in.

I I guess you gotta do it before you reach capacity cause Yeah. Yeah. Because you, you, you know, thankfully I normally get a heads up, you know, a couple of months before a project is about to kick off. Um, but if that’s the case, there are some amazing people that I’ve worked with in my career Who are great at delivering messages, who are great at sharing knowledge, um, and imparting their experience as well, because, You know, we, we buy stories, really not, not a theory.

Theory’s great. Knowing the path and walking the path is two different things. I want to understand how you walk that path, um, and what I can learn from that. It’s

Nishi: What advice would you give to someone who’s starting up in business based on what you’ve learned so far?

Steven: Uh, if, if, if I can speak candidly, just fucking do it. Uh, don’t, don’t, don’t be scared. G F D G G, GF D. Yes. Um, but, but you know, honestly don’t allow the fear to, um, To suppress you. To crush you, because I, I allowed that to happen to myself for so long. Um, I realized that I would have to become someone different in order to get totally different results.

And look my, you know, I, I love my banking career. It was fantastic. Um, but I also felt like there was, there was another path for me to take. Um, and in order to overcome that fear, it took years right. Of planning, but then hard work, and I don’t just mean on the business, but I mean on me as well. To, to become someone different.

But it also, um, was relying on, you know, friends, my wife having my back. I wouldn’t be here without her. She, you know, she really does make me a better man. But then having friends who have my back, who want, who, who wanted me to win, right. Having colleagues and associates who had my back and wanted me to win.

And I’ll tell you another one, having colleagues who, Belittled me and poo-pooed my ideas. I remember someone saying to me on a, on a group call, oh yeah, how’s that? How’s that bullshit management consultancy that you’re thinking and doing? Oh, right. Um, this is a guy in the twilight of his Koreans. You know what I, I’m not sure whether he meant to or not, but he fueled a fire in me.

Right. And I’ve never spoken to him since because that, that, that was the, that kind of like, turned me in a complete different direction. Um, but it was really, really helpful. So, you know, any naysayers use them as fuel? Any, any ideas that you’ve got? Putting ’em down. Right. You, you know, you, you’re better off just starting without a plan than planning and not starting.

I used to sit down and do the greatest plans in the world and never do anything with it. Um, I used to sit down and go through a spreadsheet of what the earnings potential would be. Never did anything with it. But when Corporate Smarts came about, I didn’t do any of that. Um, I gave myself some clear objectives, which was reconnect with network, right?

So I would say if you’re starting out in your, in your business, look back into your career, into your network, find out who you know and just share some gratitude with them. First of all for what they’ve taught you. cause without a doubt, you’ll learn something from them. And then just see what sort of conversation develops from there.

Uh, be honest with people around you know, what it is that you are looking to do. Know your purpose, I think is key as well. Know your why. Simon Sinek, um, and know what your vision is, right? You know, have an idea as to where you want it to get to. You mentioned 65, right? Retiring at 65, you know, reading a four hour work week, really.

Turn that on its head for me again and made me think, well, why can’t I have these many retirements as it talks about stuff like that. But I think that that is the, that is the, um, story that we told. You’ve gotta work till 65. Unfortunately, most people have to work longer.

Nishi: Y you know what though? I, I never want to retire. I’m gonna, I’m gonna work as all I can. But, um, I, I just put 65 cause I need a number for the calculator. Um, I could put 75 to put 85, but it’s just, I think it’s 65. I wanna keep working. I wanna keep adding value, but I, I do want to step it back a bit, but,

Steven: But by then you’ll, you know, you’ll probably be international by then and Apex will be, will be in in other territories as well. Could be in the first two, 100.

Nishi: Yeah. It’s, it’s been absolutely amazing having you all this podcast. Steven.

Steven: Thanks for inviting me. Yeah. So everyone, you’ve been listening to Unrelenting Drive, um, check out all of our other podcasts as well on our website.

And, um, I’ll see you the next podcast.

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