Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in business development but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Stefan Thomas, a Keynote Speaker, Corporate Trainer, and Bestselling Author, based in Witney, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
I’m a keynote speaker and the author of ‘Business Networking for Dummies.’ My customers are typically businesses with sales teams, franchisees, distributors, or channel partners who want to learn how to make more sales using networking, social media, and LinkedIn. Businesses such as BT, Lloyds Bank, Oqema, The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, and others hire me to speak at their conferences.
Tell us about yourself
Back in 2007, I had another business and was going to networking events. I was given the opportunity to run some networking events, and before long, it turned out I was more in demand as someone who knew how to get the best out of networking than I was for the business I was actually running.
People started asking me to speak at their business and networking events about networking and, by 2008, about social media too. Then, in 2012, the publishers of the ‘For Dummies’ series of books saw me speak at a London event and, that night asked me if I would write the book for them. 18 months later, ‘Business Networking for Dummies’ was published, became an Amazon bestseller, and the world changed a bit for me!
It turns out that I can help other business owners make more sales, so what motivates me is doing just that and seeing people whose sales had stagnated suddenly take off and know that I was part of that. Plus, for my wife and me, having a business that I can run from anywhere and be invited to speak in cities we haven’t visited before still excites me loads!
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
My biggest accomplishments are always the feedback I get from audience members who have taken my advice, acted on it, and actually made something happen. A LinkedIn connection recently wrote to me to say he had acted on something I had put out on video and made a really significant sale that afternoon.
Personally, speaking in front of 2,500 people at a conference for Telecom Plus Plc was a huge buzz - they let me come on stage to Motörhead’s ‘Ace of Spades’ too, with dry ice, so I was able to pretend I was a rock star for a few minutes.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
The hardest thing for me about being a business owner is learning when to switch off. I try to make a distinction between work and home, but the curse of the entrepreneur is that you can take time off whenever you like but at the same time can work all the time if you choose to! So making sure I take downtime is something I’ve not done enough of in the past, but at age 52, I have an absolute commitment to doing it going forward.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Build your network. Find Facebook Groups, networking events, and LinkedIn connections where you can start engaging with the people who might become your customers in the future. Build that network who will recommend and support you, as well as become your potential future clients. Every big opportunity starts with a little conversation, so start those conversations now and see where they lead.
- Start talking about what you do and your specialist knowledge. I’ve written thousands of articles online, created hundreds of videos, and appeared as a guest on many podcasts too. In 2022, as I’m writing this, your opportunity to start showing people that you know what you’re talking about is massive, and most of the opportunity is completely free, it just takes a bit of effort.
- Show up constantly. I get accused of just being in the right place at the right time, but the thing is, that is ridiculously simple. I just show up more than anyone else and create content all over the place. Anyone can do the same. You can, with a bit of time and patience, become the person who is best known for doing what you do by turning up and talking about it more than anyone else. You have LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, and Twitter and networking events and podcasts and Email newsletters, and you have a smartphone with which you can take photos and record videos and podcasts. The means to do it are literally in your hands, and the real opportunity is that most people won’t bother, so be the person who does.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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