Archive | September, 2012

Interviewing Sir Charles Dunstone and Sir Michael Bibby – 25/9/12

26 Sep

Successful business leaders get a terrible press at the moment. But what a joy it was to interview Sir Charles Dunstone and Sir Michael Bibby as part of the Prince’s Trust North West Leadership Team’s annual interview. The format was to quiz Charles first, then Michael, then get the two talking together. I’ve done something similar with Sir Michael before at an event for BDO, but have never met Charles.

He has a reputation for being a laid back friendly sort, and sure enough he was really up for the event. He was happy for me to ask him anything. Obviously I wasn’t going to waste time talking about his recent wedding, the shareholder structure of his US joint ventures, all stuff that I’d read up on him. But it was a chance to dig into his motivations – why did he start Carphone Warehouse? Who inspired him? How much did he thrive as he was part of that disruptive golden circle – along with Luke Johnson and some of the Virgin guys. But more importantly, what does he wish he’d known then that he knows now. He was great value, really warm and inspiring to the 120 or so people in the specially invited audience. You have to think of what they want, not what a nosy journalist like me would like to poke around in. It is for the moment, for the experience on the day.

My own foray into less comfortable areas for them both came when an audience member asked about government policy – I took it on a step – should business people risk political engagement? Charles was photographed on holiday once with Tony Blair, he’s also said to be part of the Chipping Norton set along with the present PM David Cameron, but he’s wise enough and streetwise enough to know who that suits and when.

The other important element was that we were there to support the work of the Prince’s Trust. The event wouldn’t work if it was just an appeal. Equally, it would be a missed opportunity if I didn’t ask the simple question “why?” the simple act of supporting young people in a tough spot to start a business means so much to these guys.

I love these kind of events. They provide a different kind of challenge and I think I’m more comfortable with such people the more I do them. It’s that Malcolm Gladwell theory of doing 10,000 hours of something makes you great at it. I’ve a

lot of live interviews to do before I reach that milestone, but October’s looking pretty busy.

Private sessions for private clients

26 Sep

You may have noticed some gaps in here. You may have concluded that things have dried up for me on the events side. I am happy to reassure you that they have not. I’ve done talks and sessions at a number of events through the summer for private clients. I can’t say who they are, what they were about, what their people got out of them or what was discussed. Some were very small and very interactive and involved me doing what is often called “media training” but that barely scratches the surface to be honest.

For one of them I’ve even signed a detailed Non Disclosure Agreement, such was the sensitivity over the products I was working with the team on. It involved engaging with over 200 people in a team and setting them an exercise for the day. I then went back the next day to present the results and give them feedback.

I have enjoyed these sessions, there’s a different level of challenge involved. There’s certainly a lot of thinking on my feet required and making sure the audience are sufficiently excited and inspired. Often though, I’m part of a delivery team with their own skills and complex technology to deliver to a client.

Downtown Manchester – survey results 17 September 2012

26 Sep

Monday morning is a tough gig. Tough to get people to start their week out of the office. Tough to get people to engage. But by jove we did it. Downtown events are very engaging, they are much more likely to involve the audience and see people genuinely debating. The point of this event was to look at what members had reflected in a recent survey. The glass was half full and there was an acknowledgement that the world will be like this for some time.

My panellists were two headhunters of this parish, Gary Chaplin and Steve Bennett. They aren’t afraid to voice an opinion and they aren’t likely to say anything for the sake of it. That always help to make a debate spark from there.

Another great success. I was pleased with the turnout and pleased with the level of debate.

City Session with Ian Simpson 11 September 2012

14 Sep

Interviewing architect Ian Simpson, September 2012

The second City Session I hosted was an interview with Manchester’s eminent architect, Ian Simpson. The bright spark event organiser, Siobhan McGoff from CityCo, turned the room at Marks & Clerks around so that our backdrop featured Ian’s best known work – the Beetham Tower – where he also lives.

He was on excellent form. I asked him a range of questions about his upbringing, his personal style, what it is like to work in different cities, how Manchester compares. Sounds good? Still interested? Yes, I also asked him to clear up some myths about himself and to tells us all what he really thinks about certain councils and developers.

I opened it to questions from the 50 strong audience of city centre businesses. They were very smart and challenging interjections.

Why am I not telling you the answers and replies? Chatham House rules again. You really had to be there. They apply on Twitter too.