“So, what do you do?” asked the woman I’d just met at the conference. I told her what I did, but then thought I should have given the real answer: “I just do ME”.
You see, I was never going to be the kind of person who would do the same thing his whole working life. In fact, the idea of sticking to a single specialism or a job-for-life scared the hell out of me. I was adamant that wherever I worked I would carve out my own role.
After leaving school I spent a year juggling a photography course with a freelance gig for BBC local radio and a part-time job at a record distribution business. That was the year I first went plural. I spent much of the 1990s in and around broadcasting: my first job after university was as a runner in a TV production company, by the end of the decade I was managing director at an audio production business. But with the new millennium dawning, it was time for a change. I didn’t want to follow a linear career path, I didn’t want to climb a ladder. Instead I decided to take the plunge into a world of self-employment, one with no walls and no rules.
For the last fourteen years, my career has been led by curiosity. I’ve advised creative companies on launching new ventures, launched a marketing services business, authored four business books, helped client businesses capture and tell their story and written for The Financial Times. I've worked for a wide range of clients: from big corporations like Benetton and MTV Networks Europe through to marketing agencies and startups.
Never on a single project or assignment for too long, I trade on being the outsider, the explorer, the nomad. Constantly learning, experimenting, trying new things, adding new strings to my bow, crossing borders. I’m like a traveller constantly getting new stamps — experiences, people, businesses, cultures, places — in my passport. I like to observe, to bring my unique outsider point of view to look at business differently opening people’s eyes to new ways of doing things. It’s that nomadic mentality that provides value to my clients — whether the client is a newspaper editor or a business leader.
I’m building a business, and indeed a way of life, on who I am, on what makes me tick, on what fires me up. And all these years later, I still haven’t found it any easier answering the ‘what do you do?’ question.