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Archive for November, 2011

Photos from Marseille 2

I went to Marseille earlier this year and it was my third time in France with short trips to Paris and Lyon before. Here are some more pictures continuing on from my previous blog. I am also working on a youtube video.

View from the other side of Notre dame.

A football pitch and a view of the sea.City view.A cafe in one of the streets in the city.

A view from near the water front.

Next to the water front.

Water front.

People speaking and walking next to the water front.

Boats.

Boats with Notre Dame in the distant background, top left side.

 To be continued.

 –  Jahan Choudhry

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Photos from Marseille, 1

This blog is not exclusively about me giving advice and information it is also at sometimes merely sharing pictures, opinions and other things with my readers.

Today I want to speak about my trip to Marseille, and share some of my own personal photos. I will be posting pictures over the next few days in a series of blogs.

Marseille, the second city of France.

Marseille is the second city of France, and its main port city. It has a population of over 0.8 million and is located on the Meditteranean coast. 

Below are some of my pictures are from Marseille.

Fountain, Marseille.

French grocery shop, Marseille.

View from near the Notre Dame.

Street just below one of the entrances to the Notre Dame.

From the stairs leading to the Notre Dame.

The Meditteranean sea and Marseille from Notre Dame.

 

Marseille city view, blue sky and Mediterranean coast.

I will continue posting more pictures in other blogs.
 
– Jahan Choudhry

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Business Start up exhibition, final blog

To conclude my series of blogs on the Business Start up exhibition in London.  It was definitely worth visiting and going to. 

Speed networking.

There was a speed networking event sponsored by T-mobile which I would recommend people to go to.

Posting business cards.

Also there was a wall at the back of the exhibition where visitors could put up their cards or details and explained what they were about, and those who were interested could contact them and therefore network and develop business relationships with them.

The area reserved for posting your business cards on the wall, so people could look at them and contact you.

 

A photo from the exhibition.

There were as I mentioned before lots of stalls, talks, seminars and so on from companies and speakers from a huge variety of backgrounds, so it represents a fantastic opportunity to network and interact with successful business people or people wishing to start one up. It was definitely the place to be that week for those involved in business.

The final talk that my friends and I went to in the exhibition was one by James Caan. For those from other countries outside of the UK not familiar with James Caan, he is a British business man who gained national fame and prominence from appearing in the BBC TV series “Dragons’ Den”.  This was after he had started off from humble beginnings and made himself a millionaire through starting up his own recruitment firms, first of all Alexander Mann and then Humana International. He is also actively involved in a number of different charitable projects. The following youtube video will give some idea who he is:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EfyxQ5uiP18

James Caan

There was a very long queue of people lining up to see James, the biggest I saw during the whole of the exhibition. This is only natural since unlike some of the other speakers he is a well-known TV personality now known to millions in the UK. Because of such a big number of people we found it hard to find seats but managed to find space in the back, from where some of my photographs were taken including the one below.

James Caan speaking by telecast to a packed audience at the Business Start up exhibition.

The seminar did not involve James being there in person but was broadcast live through a camera. Caan was witty, with a sharp sense of humour and it was quite evident that he was a very shrewd and sharp man, but not too serious and stuffy. The audience laughed to his jokes. A variety of different people in the audience asked him questions including one young lady wishing to start up a recruitment firm, and a young man seeking to start up an organization to help young people in less developed areas of London. Caan gave good answers and in a diplomatic and jovial way addressed some questioners who wondered if he would invest in them, or even mentor them.

Above all what a seminar like this demonstrates, is something quite obvious to most, but the power of the media, the power of fame and celebrity. We could say many people are superficial that they will give indiscriminate preference to someone merely because of his or her media profile, over someone who may have something just as good to offer but less well-known. That however is not James Caan’s fault but the way many ordinary people often work. This is only natural and normal.

Overall the exhibition was a great event in that not only was it a place where you could meet many new people, share ideas, exchange contact details, even pick up some books for free, but the general positive vibe of the whole place. There were people of all backgrounds, genders, social status, ethnicity and so on. However one pervasive feeling which I got is that people at the event were markedly different from others outside on the streets, in that they were more positive, open minded and keen to be more successful in comparison to many other people that you might meet elsewhere who are more negative, jealous and narrow minded. I would encourage anyone who is in London to attend this event, and the very least you may get apart from valuable knowledge, experience  from successful people, useful contacts is motivation, since the people at the event were very much active people, “doers”, and their enthusiasm and vibrancy was something I found infectious.

The next Business Start up event in London will be on 17th-18th of May and will again be free.

Business start up exhibition, Source: Lth-hotels.com

The website is www.bstartup.com

If anybody wishes to contact me with any further questions please feel free to and my email is:

Jahan_choudhry@hotmail.co.uk

–          Jahan Choudhry

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From 0 to 70 million, Chris Cole

The third speaker I will cover from last week’s “Business Start up” exhibition in London is Chris Cole.

From 0 to £70 million in ten years, Chris Cole.

For those of you who don’t know Chris. He is not the famous skater with the same name but skates (metaphorically speaking) through obstacles and problems of a completely different kind, in the business world. He founded Hydrogen, a recruitment company in 1997 and from 0 floated it at £70 million company 10 years later.  Hence the title of his seminar which was “From 0 to £70 million in ten years”.  Despite this staggering achievement he has not gained the recognition which he perhaps deserves.  This was reflected in the beginning of the seminar when a couple of people in the front row (we, me and my friend, were seated behind in the second row) bluntly told him that they had come expecting to see “James Caan” (the famous entrepreneur on British TV’s “Dragons’ Den”). Chris was somewhat disconcerted by this but me and my friend said don’t worry we’ve come to see you. This is an important point to bear in mind, because regardless of how successful you become or how high you reach there will always be people with a not so positive attitude, something which of course someone like Chris, who is obviously experienced, probably knows.

From 0 to £70 million in ten years, Chris Cole's seminar.

After creating Hydrogen alongside others, Chris started his most recent company in 2007 which is called “Makeitcheaper.com”, which which aims to save businesses money by finding them the cheapest deals for services, equipment, deals that they need. Thus there was a move in to a completely different sector and industry from that of finding the right staff for companies to finding the cheapest deals for companies including SMEs (Small to Medium size Enterprises). This is something to note as certain entrepreneurs only stick to one sector which they know, whereas others are able to move on to a different field and succeed in it such as Britain’s famous, Richard Branson who has run companies in air travel, music and other industries.

Make it cheaper's logo.

Legendary British businessman, Richard Branson who has companies in mobile phones, music and air travel. Source: Forbes.com

Chris, like many other entrepreneurs I’ve heard in seminars, was down to earth as well, and spoke about his experiences including his setback when for instance he encountered problems with his business and had to end up selling his beloved Aston.  He also spoke about the sacrifices required when wanting to be a successful business person, and this is a key ingredient that people must realize. There is no substitute for hard work and sacrifice.  Another point which he made was that he personally didn’t really believe in a strict division between the “work/life” balance since in his eyes when we all die it was all part of the total experience which we call “life”. At the end of the seminar in his presentation he summarized some key points and also gave a list of books which he recommended for reading.

My personal photo during the seminar, Chris in the front speaking about his summary.

Makeitcheaper.com has come at the right time for many British businesses struggling to survive in the worst economic recession in recent history. The company made a profit of £2.37 million last year, in the middle of the recession, and will probably only grow from strength to strength. Can Chris equal the 0-£70 million in ten years he did with Hydrogen? Well it’s been 4 years, soon to be 5 since the start of Makeitcheaper.com so I think he and the rest of his team can do that in the remaining 5-6 years, as word will probably only spread, though we will have to wait and see. However whilst doing this they can have fun by helping struggling business owners to survive and provide for their families by saving much needed cash. Chris believes he has already saved businesses, £100 million each year.

Makeit cheaper’s website is www.makeitcheaper.com

–  Jahan Choudhry

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The Sultan of Social Media? King of Shaves, Will King

 

My blog today is about someone who I am going to coin the “Sultan of Social Media”, if this term sticks and is used more often then remember it’s 24/11/2011 and it was coined by me, Jahan Choudhry. Anyway the person who I am covering in this article has the name of another royal title, King. This King’s first name is Will which would be the reverse of prince William if he ever becomes King, who would be known as King William or “King Will”. I am speaking about Will King also known as the “King of Shaves”.

"King Will", the name some might use forPrince William if he ever becomes King of England. Image source: Askmen.com

 

Will King, or "The Sultan of Social Media". Courtesy: Daily Telegraph.

I arrived at Will King’s seminar in the Business Start up exhibition in London midway through so I might have missed some key things in Will’s speech and therefore would not be able to do it justice or an accurate reflection of it. I will start by giving some background information.

The King of Shaves.

Will King used to work for a marketing company, but one day he was made redundant. Despite this in 1993 he founded his own company, the King of Shaves, a company which produces and sells razors and has achieved such phenomenal success that now it is seeking to challenge international giant, Gillette. To fully appreciate the sheer scale of such success you must understand that besides the glamorous luxury items that dazzle people with their glitz and glamour, it is basic every day daily use items which are less susceptible to fluctuations in the economy and guarantee constant money. People will always buy household items whether they are as rich as Bill Gates or a street cleaner. Gillette for example were worth around £37 billion when Proctor and Gamble bought them in 2006. Will King is engaging in direct competition with such an absolutely huge organization whose items are bought by hundreds of millions of men throughout the world every day.

The other thing to bear in mind is that this is not a specialist market which very few people know about and if you do the right research and the right things you can make money from a limited amount of clients. This is a mass market where everyone will know about you and be able to instantly scream out to the whole world how bad you are if everything goes. Most men do not use luxury yachts but most men do use razors. Therefore Will has also got it right in terms of the quality of his product, and it is this probably more than anything else which has secured his success.

So after starting the company in 1993 he secured one of his first major deals with the glamorous London department store Harrods. The road to success is nearly always paved with difficulties and Will faced his share too with ups and downs, in his first year Will sold £300 whilst losing tens time more that amount with a loss of £30,000 however this did not stop King. The following year things got better as he made sales of £58,000 which is almost twenty times more or 2000% more than the year before. If someone were to meet an entrepreneur who told them, next year I will sell twenty times more than I do now, and know this was going to happen for a fact I am sure 99.9% of people would invest. However though Will increased his sales, he ended up making a loss of £70,000. However the very fact that he not just doubled, not just triped or quadrupled his sales by four but by times twenty I feel vindicates all the confidence and self belief he had in himself. If King, and I believe he will, goes on to making his company, “King of Shaves” a direct competitor to Gillette he will join the list the names of famous British business men and entrepreneurs such as Alan Sugar and Richard Branson, the latter whom he has cited as an example, as well as American and other international businessmen. I believe he has the potential to become a billionaire.

Millions in the US and UK watch the TV series, “The apprentice”, however King of Shaves has actually won real life prizes such as the CBI’s (Confederation of British Industry, Britain’s main business body) “Growing business” of the year.

CBI, Confederation of Business Industry

Sultan of Social Media?

Though Will King plays on his surname, and in the seminar we attended we even saw on image of him with a giant card similar to the King of Spades, the question now is can he be given the title “Sultan of Social Media”, because it is this tool which he will be using amongst others to compete with Gillete including utilizing facebook and twitter, whilst Gillette pour millions in to advertising in mainstreammedia to promote an already established and well known global brand. King’s talk was delivered in a style different to others and he himself admitted he is a serious person, though he did not seem arrogant or pompous. He mentioned a number of interesting things in the time I was present including the following.

Social media

 

“Word of mouse not just word of mouth”

Traditionally it is known in sales that word of mouth recommendations are the strongest forms of marketing, as people trust their friends and their opinions. However in this increasingly more digital age there is also “word of mouse”, whereby a single click people can recommend a product or company to their products using email, facebook, twitter or other things online.

In the future if King successfully manages to compete with Gillette than perhaps his company will be studied in business books as a prime case study of the emergence of the digital age and social media.  To repeat what I said, razors are not a strange and exotic object known only to the priviledged elite, they are every day items that men use, and their female partners are familiar with too, I myself used one yesterday!  Therefore this will not just be some obscure company or sector but one which we are all familiar with.

“Digital Dialogue”

The recurring phrase which I heard in King’s seminar, for the duration I was there, was “Digital dialogue”, which he explained is an increasingly two-way relationship between companies and customers in the digital age. Now with internet customer forums where ordinary people can say how good or bad a product is, they have far more power over the popularity of a product than in the past when advertising men merely launched a marketing campaign with lots of TV adverts saying how great they were. The consumer is being empowered.

I am happy that I attended the talk and if Will King does succeed, which as I said before I think he will, in his goal to rival Gillette then I think he can perhaps become more famous than British businessmen such as Alan Sugar, James Caan or even maybe Richard Branson, unless he decides to retire or sell his company.

King has also written a book “How to Build a Great Business in Tough Times” which is available on Amazon.

The King of Shaves website is http://www.shave.com

– Jahan Choudhry

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Bill Morrow and Angels Den

I visited the “Business start up” exhibition in London last week and one of the key talks I visited was by Bill Morrow of Angels Den, which is a company matching entrepreneurs with great ideas with business peope with lots of money.  I will first give some background to Bill, then his company Angel’s Den, and then the talk.

Bill Morrow

Bill Morrow, founder of Angel's Den.

The first thing which is evident from when Bill speaks is that he is a Scot and it seems to me like many other Scots very much wears his Scottishnes on his sleeves. It was from Edinburgh University, in the Scottish capital, where he graduated with a degree in business investment.  He started off working for Virgin as an accountant and then went on to Morgan Chasein the City of London, Europe’s biggest financial centre, where he became chief executive.

Morgan Chase

City of London.

What was nice about Bill was that despite having such high-level credentials, we found him very down-to-earth and approachable, with some humour thrown in.  He also lectures in business in the academic world in London Metropolitan University for example where he is a visiting lecturer. London Metropolitan University seems to be the only British University with  a site in the very heart of the city, with their Moorgate campus.

London Metropolitan University, Moorgate campus in the city.

In his talk he mentioned that there is often a big difference between the theory taught in business schools and the real, actual, business world itself which at times tends to ignore text-book rules. I have found this to be the case with many fields, where practical experience actually means more than theoratical knowledge.

Angels Den

He founded Angels Den in 2004 and it is now Europe’s largest private equity firm, what means for those not familiar with the term is simply that entrepreneurs with good ideas can work with wealthy investors who provide them with money to start their businesses. In return the investors get a share of the profits. The wealthy businessmen and investors who work with Bills company are called “angels”, an interesting choice of wording as  it intends to signify they are benevolent and are there to help as opposed to terms such as “sharks” or “dragons” (the word used in the hit BBC programme, Dragon’s Den). The term “angel” with its connotation of being empathetic and approachable is also better in my opinion than “millionaire”, which would create a mental barrier for some as very few people are millionaires, and not everyone knows them, and it would feel more difficult to speak to a “millionaire” than an “angel”.

Angels den

I feel this is very much with the value that in my opinion Bill seemed to represent of being approachable, there to help and not to appear important and only able to be contacted if absolutely necessary, whereas the BBC programme as its title suggests is very much about the potential entrepreneurs finding a diffiult time, and grilling at the hands of the “dragons” i.e. potential investors.

The 5 questions

The five questions which any entrepreneur must address, according to Bill in his talk, are the following:

1. What is your business?

This may seem glaringly, and mind blowingly obvious, it isn’t. It gets rid of anything between a 1/4 to 1/3 of potential entrepreneurs. Simply because they cannot explain in simple terms what their business is and instead use over-complicated and long-winded language and jargon which puts investors off, who believe it or not, are very much human like the rest of us and like things to be explained in simple terms.

There is a principle of advertising called “K.I.S.S”, it is about what you do with your lips, but instead what comes out of your lips when you speak. It sometimes stands for “Keep It Sweet and Simple” (or often Keep it Short Stupid). Many people fail to pass this first question as they cannot explain in basic, short laymen’s terms what their business is about.

2. What pain do you solve in the market place?

What problem do you address, what need do you solve? If everything is fine in the market and customers are happy, why would they come to you?

3. How do you go about solving that pain?

How will you address this need, what strategy do you have or what is your solution?

4. Tell me about your competition

Bill said everybody has competition whether they realize it or not.

5.  How much money do you need?

This should be a specific amount with a detailed explanation of what things the money would be used for. No investor would give their own personal, hard-earned cash to someone else without a valid reason. Humourously Bill mentioned that whereas men tend to be more vague with general figures, women are more specfic with their sums and explanation.

However Bill did say, the proposal should not merely be about details and well-written word, but should have an excitement and passion about it that would appeal to investors, as many investors do this to do new exciting meaningful projects even more so than to just make money. You will also be asked how much you think your company is worth.

Angels Den is active internationally but also within the UK with events in places such as Stockport, St Albans which is quite refreshing and admirable given the often London-centric nature of many companies, and if not London then the other major UK cities. Their successes include City Golf in Singapore, whereby two entrepreneurs in Singapore “pitched” (delivered proposals) an idea in an Angel’s Den event in Singapore. A week later they recieved just over 1/5 million pounds to realize their idea.

Another person who received help from an “angel” was Sue Acton the founder of Bubble & Balm, who has been featured in ‘The Independent’ newspaper (one of Britain’s main national newspapers) and the BBC.

Sue Acton, founder of Bubble & Balm, courtesty: Coventry Telegraph.

There were quite a number of interesting points and anecdotes which Bill mentioned in his talk. He delivered it in a straightforward manner without trying to sound too technical or trying too hard to impress. Angels Den has around 5,000 angels each of whom recieve access to Angels Den’s list of new business proposals. For a venture capitalist, Angels Den is great because it allows them to save time and find out about the best new business deals. So for instance as Bill said if an investor goes to an event and hears 8 pitches,  he in reality might have heard 100 because for every 1 that is accepted a dozen or so may have been rejected, thus saving the investor time.

This touches upon an important principle.

MONEY DOES NOT EQUAL WEALTH, BEING RICH.

Ignore what I said above, lots of money does mean you are rich. However if your money stays in the bank you are actually becoming “poorer”. Why? Prices always go up. A coffee may cost £2 now (in Central London), whereas roughly ten years ago it may have cost £1, so having £2 now is equivalent to having £1 ten years ago. The same principle applies to having a $1 million (notice how I changed from pounds to dollars, why? The dollar is still the world’s main currency and this blog is for an international readership). So instead of a “millionaire”, leaving his money in a bank to decrease in real value, it is better for him to spend some of that money to gain handsome returns, doubling or tripling their initial investments, this is maybe why Bill said investors “love us”.

Entrepreneurs

For all you entrepreneurs out there,(and I mean “all”, notice I don’t use the commonly used “young entrepreneurs”, why? Well, partly in the past when I used to work for a company training people to get jobs, I delivered a course called “50+”, which was for people specifically over fifty facing hurdles in the job market) I would recommend checking Angels Den out providing you have a credible business plan, a specific amount you want and don’t waste anyone’s time, most importantly yours.

Angels Den is willing to help find finance for you at a time when banks won’t, so are in some ways providing  a valuable service for entrepreneurs in this difficult time. They are international including in the quickly developing gulf  in Qatar for instance, which currently has huge finance available and seeking to invest. Qataris for example have bought Harrods.

Harrods bought by Qataris from the Gulf.

Etihad airways, sponsors of Manchester City football club, image: courtesyof Etihad airways

They also work with investors in the far east, and when we spoke to Bill after his talk he spoke of expanding to countries such as Tunisia and Morocco.

Their website is: www.angelsden.co.uk

Bill Morrow’s twitter is: Twitter.com/Billmorrow

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Business start up exhibition in London

Last week I attended the Business start up exhibition in Earl’s court, Central London. The event was packed full of people of all ages, backgrounds, male and female and with business from a wide variety of different sectors. There were under 300 organizations present in the exhibition with their stalls including:

– Advertising companies.

– IT companies.

– Estage agencies.

– Law firms.

– Governmental bodies

– Media companies.

– Construction firms

These included globally recognized names such as T-mobile and Vodafone.

T-mobile

Vodafone

It also included organizations with a presence abroad or based abroad such as Barcelona City Council.

Barcelona city council

Barcelona

There were also over 140 seminars and included well-known speakers such as James Caan, famous in the UK from the BBC television programme “Dragon’s Den”, which involves people with business ideas presenting their proposals to a group of successful millionaires.

James Caan, millionaire investor, writer, speaker and business mentor.

Will King, who was made redundant over 17 years ago and then went on to create a successful shaving company despite the huge competition and which has made millions. He also wrote a book “How to Build a Great Business in Tough Times” which was the no.1 business book being sold in Whsmiths (one of Britain’s main bookshops) in September 2009.

Will King, who successfully launched a multi-million pound shaving company selling millions of razors.

Bill Morrow, founder of Angel’s Den, Europe’s largest equity funding firm helping wealthy investor, “angels” to provide financial support to people with great business ideas, as well as co-founder Lois Cook.

Bill Morrow, founder of Angels Den, also a business lecturer in universities with years of exerience in working in finance in the city of London.

Lois Cook, an experienced business coach and co-founder of Angel's Den.

 Chris Cole, founder of www.makeitcheaper.com (a site to help businesses save money by finding the best deals) who delivered a talk on “From 0 to 70 million in 10 years”, sharing information and advice on how to be successful in business and some of his experiences.

Chris Cole, founder of Hydrogen, a recruitment company which went from nothing to being floated for £70 million.

Rachel Elnaugh, another business person who appeared on the hit BBC show, “Dragon’s Den” was also present there and spoke to one of my friends.

Rachel Elnaugh, who started a company at the age of 24 from nothing which went on to becoming a multi-million pound success.

There were also politicians and members of the government there to deliver seminars and provide information. Below are some of my pictures taken with my mobile from the event. I will also be writing in more detail about some of the seminars I attended.

– Jahan Choudhry

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