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Episode #5 (NEW!)

Guest - Dr. Josephine Munthali / GBO Edinburgh president

Episode #5 Transcription

Richard Wickström

Dr. Josehpine MunthaliWelcome to A Taste of the Club, the podcast for business owners from the Global Business Owners network of business friendship. This is where you get the insights from founders and investors on their career and personal development. Hello dear podcast listeners today, we have John with me and this is Richard. Don't forget to subscribe on any platform that you have, moving forward and click the alarm button, so you know when a new episode is coming up. We have a very special guest today who has, from my experience, a very interesting travel from where she began and where she is today. So without further ado, Josephine Munthali, tell us who are you?

Dr. Josephine Munthali

(Laughs) Okay. I'm Josephine Munthali, I'm based in Edimburgh, in Scotland. I'm originally from Malawi, that's in central Africa. I came to Scotland many years ago and now actually I'm a citizens, so I traveled between here and in Malawi. I did my PhD in education at the Edimburgh University. So since then, I've worked in development countries, like I was working in 18 programs in over 10 countries in Africa, on the girls situation, supporting girls to be in schools and also influencing government policies on girls education. And also I do some research work with the University of Glasgow and I've published some more academic articles. Why I came into GBO is because I'm also engaged in my charity; I'm the founder of the charity Child Support Project, and they help children, especially in Malawi. In fact, it was a direct result of my PhD findings. So that's why I came into GBO. For me, it's a charity and also trying to explore ways in which I can raise money for my children, as we know is very difficult to raise money for my charity. So for me, I came in fact with a business mind that I'm exploiting opportunities and to see how I can get into businesses, but I can also raise money for my children. So that's some small pieces of my background,

Richard Wickström

The short version. I'm going to penetrate that a little bit more, but what's your main line of business today?

Dr. Josephine Munthali

Ah, okay. I was exploring, I tried into real estate because in Scotland there is lot of shortage for housing. In fact, there were proposals by the government of Scotland to construct a lot of houses, so I was coming in that mind. So it's just that coronavirus has distracted because we're really getting into that, so that's the area which I'm exploring at the moment.

Richard Wickström

Did you have a background in real estate or was it new for you in this when you started?

Dr. Josephine Munthali

Well, it's not very new, I mean, I'm very interested in real state because in Edimburgh I've been engaged with the property investment, like I've got my own property, but even in Malawi, but here I was coming, like the first thing, like it's very new in a way, but I've been very interested in following up in the investments. Yeah. It's been in the construction area.

Richard Wickström

Okay. John, I'll let you in. I just have one more curious question. For me, starting in Malawi, ending up in Edinburgh... that's not the common thing. Can you tell us a little bit about how did you, why Edinburgh? Malawi is obvious, but...

Dr. Josephine Munthali

Oh, okay. In fact, Scotland and Malawi have very, very strong historical links. So when I was in Malawei... historical links between Scotland and Malawi becuase of David Livingstone. So in fact, it was the government of Malawi who sent me here to study to do my PhD and to do my degree. So I ended up doing three degrees in Scotland. That's why I ended up here in Scotland. There are strong links between Scotland and Malawi. So in those days, the were trying to get students from Malawi to come to Scotland to study.

Richard Wickström

You said something that you think that I understood obviously about the connection between Scotland and Malawi. What was that?

Dr. Josephine Munthali

Very strong, very strong because of David Livingstone. Many years ago, David Livingstone went to Malawi and in fact, Scottish missionaries went to Malawi and they set schools in Malawi. And also...

Richard Wickström

David Livingstone, I presume...

Dr. Josephine Munthali

Yes, exactly. So it was in Malawi, so we have very, very strong links with Scotland, very strong. So you see a lot of students that come up here to Scotland to study,

Richard Wickström

Remind me, did he find the source of the Nile?

Dr. Josephine Munthali

(Laughs) Well, that's very interesting because he even found Lake Malawi and we are saying, local people, it was there already, so how did he find Lake Malawi? I've always thought that... excellent finding Lake Malawi. I'm like Lake Malawi? It was always there!

Richard Wickström

Josephine. I didn't say discover. I said find. If I go and look for something and I find it... I find it! It's a discovery!

Dr. Josephine Munthali

All right, OK, in that context I'm in agreement with you, yes. This guy, he found Lake Nyasa and also the Nile. if you say found it, then I'm going to be in agreement with you. But if you say discover, then...

Richard Wickström

I know...I'm very careful with my words... John, I'll let you in.

John A. Ball

I'm a little upset, Richard, that you think that you don't understand why someone wants to live in Edinburgh. It's a very beautiful city and definitely understand why anyone would want to live there. Although it is quite different to...

Richard Wickström

Did it came through that I didn't understand why to live in Edinburgh. It was just travel from Malawi to Edinburg, which is not like London to Paris, exactly...

John A. Ball

They are not identical. That's for sure! Josephine, it's delightful to meet you. And I sometimes work with people who are looking to start up charities. What for you was your decision to go into that sector? And how did you get started?

Dr. Josephine Munthali

Ah, okay. As I say, it was a direct result of my PhD findings. So what happened is when I went to Malawi for me, I was brought up in urban area, but I lived with the communities in very rural areas, in three areas in Malawi and women challenged me when I was there. And they said, okay, you come here and you are interviewing us. Many people have already come here and they have gone back. So what are you going to do for us? So for me, it was a challenge where they were saying, okay, you are interesting, we have heard your problems. You're going to write your thesis. And then what, and then for me, I took it from there. In fact, what I did right there in Malawi, I bought a lot of artifacts, a lot of locally made things. So I took with me a lot of stuff back to Edimburgh, then one of the churches, they give me a table during Edinburgh festival. So I started there and I sold my stuff. I raised 30 pounds and that was my start of raising money for my charity. And in the end, the people in school, they told me, okay, if you want to raise money, then you register as a charity for accountability. So that's when I registered as a charity. So for me, it was initiated by women, themselves in the villages. They challenged me and I thought, it's true. Researchers come here. They take information. And then what next?

John A. Ball

It's great that you rose to that challenge. And I love the simplicity of how you got started as well. It didn't need to be anything complicated. You just found some stuff you could sell, you got a table and you started selling stuff, you raised some money. That's wonderful. And where did it go from there then? I mean, you registered your charity, what came after that?

Dr. Josephine Munthali

What came after that is that, of course we formed a small working group with some Malawians and also Scottish people. Then we formed a small constitution for the charity and then registered as a charity. Then from there, we already engaged the Scottish public. I gave speeches in schools, in the churches. And also at one point they Scottish government funded our project, even the First Minister, Jack McConnell went to Malawi for project and just to find out why the Malawian live in Scotland and get in Scotland in Edinburgh, in Malawi. So he saw the work we're doing there and they gave us money. And in the end he really did a lot of work in Malawi for the charities. A lot of work. Yeah,

John A. Ball

That's fantastic. Now, I train and teach presentation skills and public speaking to people. And I know that for a lot of people, when they go into doing something like this, the realization probably is there at some point that you're going to have to stand up and speak about it. As you mentioned, you had to give some speeches and presentations in various places. How was that, how did you prepare for that? How did you have experience or are you naturally extrovert? What was your experience with having to do these presentations?

Dr. Josephine Munthali

Well, I started this in a small way. Like I would go to women's guild. They would invite me, especially churches go to women's guild and then I'll give presentation. So I started in various small way, what for me, I cannot say that I was a very confident person speaking, standing in people in Scotland and conveying messages, but I started very small. And then in the end I saw that well, major schools that were inviting me to speak. And then, of course, in Scottish Parliament, at one point they invited me to talk there. And in the end also in conferences because of my work, I've traveled a lot speaking in the conferences. So I gained confidence. So I can say that from there, then I could stand and then present, you know, my guests, which are, but also for me, I saw that I had to research and see what the public want to hear. So I knew exactly what the public wanted to hear so that they can see that the work we are doing on the ground. And I found that presenting small, small projects, which made an impact, that's why public wanted to hear. So the more I give such type of speeches that the more people were coming in and say, Oh, well, this project is what I know impact in my life.

John A. Ball

Right. They want to know what kind of difference your project is going to make.

Dr. Josephine Munthali

Exactly. People are tired of people just giving money, they are very tired without seeing any impact. What they want people to see is what is the money doing on the ground for the people? Is it making a difference?

John A. Ball

Right. And did you mention any of that you were also going for corporate sponsorships as well?

Dr. Josephine Munthali

Yes. At the moment, actually, what I was saying is actually I'm exploring different ideas, business ideas. How can I engage in a business where I can find my projects? Because what I find is that like, let me give you an example, like a Scottish government, what is still their grant from their budget? To be frank with you, it was very limited of what I could do with that grant, there were conditions in each. So they saw the end of it. I couldn't go to their community and see what, you know, other things I could have supported. So for me, I'm saying, no, this is my area. And I'm really very passionate about my projects. So I'm saying if I have the money to stand on my own, they're not going to go there and really impact upon the communities and do their work, which for me, is wanted me to do.

John A. Ball

So it sounds like it could be, if you're not already doing it, it could be that you are a very good candidate for the GBO Think Tank to come up with more ideas and how to get that movement forward as well.

Dr. Josephine Munthali

Exactly. Yes, definitely. Yes. Yeah. And that's why I'm looking for, getting support to see how to get engaged in something very, you know, which can bring in finances. And also I'm looking at sustainability. Most of the projects, they are not sustainable; for me, I'm looking at sustainability. Even I support communities, you know, it is very difficult to support communities like in Malawi, they are very, very poor. So it needs at least engaging with them for some time until they can stand on their own. And for me, that's what I'm looking for, sustainability.

Richard Wickström

Josephine. I like to understand more of your business side. I mean, real estate is such a wide array of different businesses. What do you do more exactly, and is there any correlation with what to do in Edinburgh that you can help in Malawi or vice versa?

Dr. Josephine Munthali

Okay. For me, what I'm looking for, as I said, is that in real estate, there are a lot of government proposals of constructing buildings. Like, well, let me give an example. Just two, is it two months ago? I think it was in February, there was a very good outfit and it was about the way saying that, okay, here is the land. And also here is the infrastructure and want someone to come in and invest in that construction, you know, they had all their plan to construct 11 flats, and what they wanted is someone to bring in 500,000 pounds to construct it, that one, and the end product was going to be 2 million and something, something like that. Well, by now, if I get people to come in and me and construct in engaging the construction businesses, something like that infrastructure for me, that's something which I'm really interested in. So there are the opportunities in Edinburgh, whereby there are infrastructures, but they are dilapidated and the government wants to come back into residential or something useful. And they're inviting you this task to come in and engage with that thing. That's what I'm interested at point. Yeah.

Richard Wickström

So it's mainly your real estate businesses mainly within, in a public subsidized building idea. I mean, we have that same thing in Sweden. Is that a thing in Malawi or it doesn't have that kind of infrastracture?

Dr. Josephine Munthali

Oh yes. Even in Malawi so much so, in fact, one of the government's proposals is infrastructure, because in Malawi, we don't have good infrastructure and the government is really proposing that people going in and getting land and develop, especially the urban areas. That's what the government wants. Oh yes. In Malawi. There is a lot of opportunity, very much so.

Richard Wickström

And what is the setup do you have, I mean, the government is only doing part of things. Where do you find the rest of the funding for the projects? So you use your own money or do you find funding?

Dr. Josephine Munthali

You're own money, as I'm talking now I've got to land already and which I want to develop very much so, but I need finances. Oh yes. Yeah.

Richard Wickström

I mean, there's a good, there's a great opportunity to try to find that kind of the knowledge and possibilities in the GBO network.

Dr. Josephine Munthali

Yeah.

John A. Ball

Good partnerships can help as well with that kind of thing too. Sometimes maybe a joint venture could be a good thing to explore.

Dr. Josephine Munthali

And that's what I've been looking for, a joint venture. That's what I've been looking for. Yes. And that's why I even engaged with, what's the name of... oh dear, Louis? Yeah. Louis. That's why I was engaging. I had to find out if I can find a joint venture with someone and say, okay, here I am, for Josie doesn't have really capital to start this, but why I'm bringing this issue, like I'm bringing in opportunities for you or land or anything, and then how can we engage together in a joint venture? That's what I'm looking for. Exactly. That's spot on yeah. Spot on.

John A. Ball

Money's never really the issue. It's always really resourcefulness, isn't it? So it's always your willingness to make something happen. And really that starts with having the vision. And I think it also starts with having passion for it. And we get a sense of the passion that you have for the things that you do.

Richard Wickström

Every time I talk with venture capitalists, so people with private money or whatever people working with this, they always say money is not the problem. We need some people who really wants to do the job.

Dr. Josephine Munthali

Ah, okay. Yeah. I think sometimes it's their commitment and their passion.

Richard Wickström

Yeah. So I'm a little bit curious of Malawi, because obviously it's not Congo or South Africa or Egypt, and it's not a big country in Africa. Tell me something about Malawi, what's unique, what's special, what's different.

Dr. Josephine Munthali

Well, as you can see, Malawi is the warm heart of Africa, you can see in me (laughs). Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world. Very, very poor. When I say poor, I mean, GDP is very, very low. Every time I travel in Malawi you can just see how underdeveloped the country is, so that is one of the issues. Secondly, is the country, which has been peaceful for a long time. And a lot of investors want to go to Malawi because it's a peaceful country and there are a lot of opportunities there. So I can say that in fact, the government has produced even a booklet, or something like a booklet, which has outlined investors who can go to Malawi and invest in their country. So I've got the booklet, which I got last year when they presented it in Edimburgh, the President himself visited Edinburgh, I think 2 years ago, 2018, and I was there, and he's encouraging Malawians to invest in Malawi. So they give us a copy of a booklet. So I've got that one with me, where they are outlining opportunities, a lot of opportunities in Malawi! That one is for sure. I mean construction for clinics, if any schools, a lot, even in the agricultural program, a lot mining, a lot of opportunities in Malawi because that's what I can say. And the third, we depend a lot in Malawi from the donor aid, very much so Britain is one of the donor aid, which helps in Malawi at the moment.

Richard Wickström

Yeah. I find this super interesting because I mean, it's located in between Mozambique and in Swedish called Tanzania. How come it has become, it has stayed peaceful, because that's not what the history of the region suggests?

Dr. Josephine Munthali

I know, because we had an autocratic president who was there for 40 years and it was very tough in Malawi, in fact, a lot of us were even scared to speak about Malawi because he was very autocratic. So people, I think in Malawi, they are so disciplined because of that. But also we must remember that if there is a lot of influence of the Scottish missionaries, they did a lot of tremendous work with cristianity in Malawi. So somehow we have never had like a war in Malawi, never! It's a very peaceful country apart from demonstrations there and there of course of elections, people demonstrate it, but not war as such, no, we have never had such things; and it's true, People there say Malawi is an exception. There've been war around it, but not in my land. Very peaceful up to now.

Richard Wickström

The reason is the national tradition of being very disciplined. Is that what you say?

Dr. Josephine Munthali

Yes. It was, the president was very autocratic. And enphasized on discipline and if you messed about... Oh my goodness! You're going to pay for it! (Laughs) For forty years! So I think that people lived in fear. So after, and from that, I think people now are coming out. Now, you see Malawians at least they kind of come out and speak out. Otherwise Malawians are very quiet wherever they went. So it has remained peaceful. But also, as I said, it is one of the poorest countries in the world, and we depend so much on donors aid. So, around 85% of people live in rural areas, only 15% live in urban areas. So 85%, are in rural areas, they're living in rural. So you can imagine what's going on.

John A. Ball

How big is Malawi?

Dr. Josephine Munthali

You mean population or what?

John A. Ball

Well, population and size.

Dr. Josephine Munthali

Okay. I think three quarters is land and one quarter is lakes, we've got a big Lake there. So in fact we are famous because of Lake Malawi. That's one of the things we are famous about in Malawi, but the population at the moment is about 14 million. And Malawi depends so much on agriculture.

Richard Wickström

So the main source of income is agriculture. There's no oil, or minerals, or diamonds...

Dr. Josephine Munthali

Yeah. There are mineral minerals; in that pamphlet, which I'm talking about, they have already mentioned about the minerals, the way or exploring minerals in Malawi. So they're exploring that. I think they'll find that we have good some minerals in Malawi. Yes, definitely.

John A. Ball

So there's definitely opportunity there and an opportunity for fiscal growth as well. I wanted to ask you that I'm a big believer that giving is a really important part of life, essential for life balance. And yeah, I regularly come across people who, you generally don't take time to think about it, and a lot of people do stand for it or they have a direction towards it, but not always giving or putting stuff, not that regularly and really thinking about the service and contribution. And they might be interested to find out how they can get involved with some of the work that you're doing. How would you encourage somebody to get involved? How could they get involved and support what you're doing?

Dr. Josephine Munthali

Well, for me, what I would like people to support me, which I have mentioned, in Malawi, of course, I encourage the local communities to volunteership. And also just to get people to be interested to engage, not only with the money resources, I mean, sometimes we use local resources, but not with money, but volunteership in Malawi, but also in Malawi to influence the policies with the government. In many times, I've worked with the government trying to influence policies to help some of their projects in rural areas. But you see that you're talking with the government, but it's still a clinic scientists... That's where now donors from external donors, they come here to help. But at the same time, it's the government schools, so we have to work with the government. So at local level, I work with the government and the communities. At international level, that's where I come now to advocate about the needs of people in Malawi. That's where I come up to speak about the projects in Malawi and then to get people to help with financially. That's what I've been doing for years on end. But as I've mentioned, it's not sustainable at all. And I've seen that today, a lot of challenges around, and this is very difficult to raise money. And that's why I keep on going back to my work. And then you do some work and then come back to my charity... It's like, I'm going to do my work, then I come back to my charity. Of course for me, my passion is my charity. Even if I get into a good job, my passion, where I feel happy that I've done something, is my charity because that's what's important for me. It's my ministry. So for me internationally, I want people to support me raising money for my charity. But for me, I'm looking at sustainable and that's why joint ventures for me, it's very, very important. Then I'll be able to stand up, put the money. Then I can go there and support people on the ground. And that's what I'm looking for. And that's my passion.

John A. Ball

And I think it is a lot of your passion for what you do that makes it an attractive prospect to get involved and want to help there as well as what I said, that the commitment and passion from the person leading is one of the most important elements in that.

Dr. Josephine Munthali

Exactly, exactly. And to be frank with you. I mean, most of the times I've used my own money. Just last month, I sent some money to the elderly people because of COVID-19, whatever, these people, they are in urban areas, but living in a dire properties. I've got even some videos, which I can send if you want, and I said, okay, this something you can give to the people. So for me, to be frank, that is my passion. By the way I do need to get money to do that! (Laughs) That's where the challenge comes in.

Richard Wickström

Let's see if we can find anyone listening to the podcast in GBO or otherwise to support you. You came to Edinburgh to study. When was that?

Dr. Josephine Munthali

Oh, that was many years ago when I got my PhD. So in 1991 that's when I got my PhD. Yeah. So it has been a long time.

Richard Wickström

And from your experience, did you visit Scotland before? as that the first time?

Dr. Josephine Munthali

No, it was the first time. In fact I visited England at one point, but Scotland it was the first time. So when I came first time, I ran to Blantyre because in Malawi we have a Blantyre city that was named after David Livingstone. So there's also Blantyre in Scotland. So when I arrived here, my goodness, I saw some Scottish missionaries and visited a lot of places.

Richard Wickström

Because, for me, it's always interesting when you do that kind of life journey to see, because my perspective having worked in 30 different countries over my career is that we have a tendency as human beings to look for differences. But if you try a little bit harder, the similarities are far, far, far bigger than the differences. Having that said just for fun, what was the biggest difference when you came to Scotland and what are the biggest similarities? Let's start with the difference because they are usually more fun.

Dr. Josephine Munthali

Oh, a lot of things. In fact, I'm writing a book for my life in Scotland. Oh yes! No, I mean things are different culturally, coming here, culturally things were very, ver different. I'll give an example: in Malawi. We are very free people, and usually we just visit one another, we are very warm, things like that. Then I came here one day, I stayed for 48 hours. I had nowhere else to go. I rang one of my friends and she looked in the diary and she gave me two weeks appointment. This is a friend, close friend, a two weeks appointment just to visit her! And I wanted to visit her the same day. I said, Oh, let me check my agenda... Two weeks! I just went back to bed and slept. Those are some of the shocking things I found when I came (Laughs). And of course I see that in Scotland, people are not like in Malawi, when you talk about poverty, is real poverty. Now you come here, people are saying "we are poor" and then I looking at them and said, do you already know what poverty is? You're are still eating. You got a nice house! You're sleeping" And you're saying you are poor? Those are some of the things, honestly, that really shocked me so much. In Malawi, when you say poverty , it is real poverty, and here they are saying, "well, we are poor". What! You are poor? (Laughs)

John A. Ball

Is always relative, right?

Richard Wickström

It's still always relative. So I had a conversation with some of my Italian and Spanish colleagues in GBO because this corona situation, and there's this new rule in Sweden. I mean, I know we're a bit different from everyone else, but there's this new rule that you are not allowed to go closer than two meters to each other, but for a Swedish person, culturally, that's very interesting, because it means that you will come three meters closer than you usually are.

Dr. Josephine Munthali

Hmm. And that's very, very interesting because in Malawi, the government preseding was adopting the same system of the West, whereby they said, okay, we are going to lock down people for 21 days. And people are saying, you're going to lock down in communities where people are very poor, is every day that they're looking for survival. How can you lock down a child with heavy famine? We've got children here in households who are children staying on their own. You are looking them in for 21 days. There was a bit of, a lot of uproar and a lot of demonstrations until it was canceled. Until, you know, they canceled the lockdown. They canceled it because people, they said "you're going to lock down poor people". What incentives are there? Here is different. People are receiving some incentives. There are some food banks... In Malawi there's nothing!

Richard Wickström

No, I never thought of that because locking down means, just go to the store, you buy stuff and then you stay in for two, three weeks.

Dr. Josephine Munthali

Yeah. But people in rural areas where they're going to their fields to get food to their mouth, every day, you know, things like that, you cannot lock them down, where they're going to eat? Hunger is going to kill them more than COVID-19. You know, in Malawi you can't do that. Otherwise you have to come up with a package. We're going to lock you down, but this is the food for you for 21 days.

John A. Ball

And at the moment there isn't the infrastructure to support that there, by the sounds of it.

Dr. Josephine Munthali

Exactly! There's no money enough to support that type of thing. So they scrapped the whole thing, because the government, they couldn't handle people. They protested. They say, how can you look down people with poverty? What are they going to eat without any incentives without any food?

Richard Wickström

But did you culturally find things that are very similar, except for the obvious?

Dr. Josephine Munthali

Oh, of course, I'm in the church of Scotland. This way, very similar, because in Malawi there is the church of Scotland. Even the hymns are the same, thats what a Scottish minister influenced in Malawi. So I go to a church in my English service, you will find a Scottish hymns, even Scottish minister, some of them, they are in Malawi. And then the school system is the same, as education system we adopted the colonial education system, which is the same. So things like that, they were similar.

Richard Wickström

Is English the second language from all the other languages in Malawi?

Dr. Josephine Munthali

Oh yes. And in fact, in primary school, you learn English. Definitely. And our curriculum is in English and also local language. So yes, they adapted the colonial system of education.

Richard Wickström

Yeah. Because it's like 20 or 30 different languages in Malawi.

Dr. Josephine Munthali

No... only seven, it is a small country.

Richard Wickström

It's a lot of languages. I read it once, and I was really surprised by that, that Swedish is one of the, I think one of the 50 biggest languages in the world. And I was thinking, Sweden is small, it's just 10 million people. But then I realized that there are over 2000 languages spoken in the world, that is why you end up high in statistics.

Dr. Josephine Munthali

Yeah. And in the Nigeria, I think there are more than 200 languages.

John A. Ball

And I wonder if we just to change path a little bit, if you could share with us, you mentioned about your transition to living in Edinburgh. You are very well established that now, but what are the things that you love particularly about living in Edinburgh, in Scotland?

Dr. Josephine Munthali

Well, I find that the people are very friendly for me. I have met very, very good Scottish people. In fact, two of them even sponsored for my PhD program in the end. So I've found very, very good Scottish people, very friendly, very supportive. That supported me very much with my charity. Very, very much over the years, giving money, supporting in different ways. That's one of the things which really touched me so much. Very, very supportive. That's one of the things I like about Scotland. And also I'm used to their way of life. I really liked living in Scotland than living in England. Very much (Laughs).

Richard Wickström

You also share the hesitance to being pro English.

Dr. Josephine Munthali

(Laughs).

John A. Ball

Easy now, easy (Laughs). I might not live in England, but you know...

Richard Wickström

It's acceptable if you don't like it, John! Where in England are you from?

John A. Ball

I was born in Manchester, but I lived all over the UK, mostly lived around the London area for most of my life, which is why I don't sound like I'm from the North so much.

Richard Wickström

Yeah. That's great. Sorry for that, John. We're just trying to make some fun!

John A. Ball

(Laughs) It's OK! I didn't get too upset about it.

Richard Wickström

I'll try harder next time. (Laughs) Josephine, when you don't work, what do you do for fun?

Dr. Josephine Munthali

Oh, wow. Well, I like going to the gym, I like meeting friends, I like reading a lot, I like writing, like now I'm writing my book. I'm a person who engages so much with people.

John A. Ball

I'm always interested when someone says that they're going to write a book about writing a book or they've written a book, the process of that because you know, many people have the experience of wanting to do that. Maybe even starting to do that. But I don't think so many people have the experience of actually finishing it. What has been your process to making that happen and getting it done?

Dr. Josephine Munthali

You're making me laugh because you kind of believe it. I started, I think in 2016 writing the book, coming with the ideas and writing the book, but then I got demotivated and then I picked it up again. I'm seeing it also as my fundraiser because the book is going to sell. So that's my fundraising as well. So for me, I've got also this mind that, Oh, this book, if it sells, then at least I'll get money for my charity. So it's also in my projects. So I'm always exploring ways. (Laughs)

Richard Wickström

Josephine, your inspiration. I mean, where do you find inspiration from? People? Who do you listen to? Who do you read? What can you recommend?

Dr. Josephine Munthali

Oh, okay. Well, I've got very, very good people in Scotland. I mean, there are some Scottish missionaries, some universtities, some of my friends around whom we have done a PhD program. So that's where I get my inspiration from. But also some people also who have been engaging in good work. I know that there are some people in Scotland, Annie Clark, who has been involved in charity work. So I also get inspiration from them because I've met some of the high profile people in Scotland. So they have also influenced me so much. In fact, one of them, at one point, she was a patron of one of my projects. So I know that my friend may be thinking of him! But some of very influential people that really supported me and if people supports me, it means they're seeing that there is something valuable in this, what I'm doing.

John A. Ball

Well, for me, I've done a lot of international travel in my life. I spent 12 years as a flight attendant with British airways. So I saw a lot of the world and always one of the most interesting things for me was different cuisines from different cultures and countries. What's some of the cuisine that would be maybe traditional from Malawi, that maybe stuff that if you were having a Malawian evening to introduce people to that, you might make yourself?

Dr. Josephine Munthali

Malawian cuisine! Well, we have this maize meal, which we will make it into a stiff porridge. And then we eat with beans, we eat with meat, we eat with whatever vegetables. In Malawi, when we are cooking, we don't put a lot of spices in it. It's very plain, but a lot of tomatoes and onions... But the traditional food is maize meal flower, that's our traditional food. So if I come to Sweden, I'll make that for you. (Laughs)

John A. Ball

Before you start, Richard, how do you get on with traditional Scottish food?

Richard Wickström

On that subject. Have you tried haggis?

Dr. Josephine Munthali

Well, yes, I've tried haggis, but I've also tried other Scottish places. Yeah, I've tried haggis, but also with my project, actually, we used to have African breakfast, which raised funds for my project. So I cook African dishes and invite the Scottish people have one each and then they will donate money and it was very, very good. It was an annual event. It was very good. So I've done all that. I have done that for fundraising. Yeah.

Richard Wickström

Maybe for transparency. Can you explain to our listeners what haggis is? So they know the level of what it is?

Dr. Josephine Munthali

Oh, haggies, I think there are lots of things in there. Some they say there is pigs inside pigs. Some they say they put ears, nose... So you don't want to know what you eat when you eat haggies! (Laughs) You just have to eat it!

Richard Wickström

Can you be more precise, John? I just have an idea of what it is...

John A. Ball

Yeah, it's awful. I mean, it's kind of a minced awful. So with seasoning, with spices... For me, I really like it, but you're probably right. If you knew exactly what was in it, you might not eat it. But I think that's true. That's true. Although there is a beautiful coffee-bar-restaurant in in Edinburgh that does a vegetarian or vegan haggis. And that is actually really nice, that may be preferable to some people...

Richard Wickström

That is like vegan sausage, or vegan beef. There's no such thing! (Laughs) I mean, I would say we have a similar dish in Sweden actually. It's you mince everything that you don't want to eat whole, but in Scotland, I think you means everything and then you cook it inside a pig's stomach. Is that it?

John A. Ball

Yeah. It's kind of, it's cooked inside a sort of bare skin, like a sausage skin.

Dr. Josephine Munthali

Yeah. No, I ate that haggis just once, I don't eat it, because you know, I'm not sure what they put inside. I've heard different stories! (Laughs)

Richard Wickström

Did you have any knowledge about the strange Swedish food?

Dr. Josephine Munthali

No, I haven't.

Richard Wickström

Have you heard about Surströmming, sour herring?

Dr. Josephine Munthali

No...

Richard Wickström

Look it up on YouTube. It's really interesting because there is a whole group of YouTube videos where Americans or English people, or people from other countries, open a jar of sour herring, which is herring from last year, or for the connoisseur, from the year before that, or before that, which is fermented inside of a can. So sometimes the real connoisseur says they like it when it's like a football, like this. And you open it, and, let's say any French or Swiss cheese is an amateur compared to the fragrance you get from opening the jar.

John A. Ball

My mouth is not watering Richard.

Dr. Josephine Munthali

I will check on the Internet.

John A. Ball

It could be one of those challenges they do on that jungle show. Right? That you have to eat weird foods.

Richard Wickström

I'll send you guys some links and maybe you can put the link down to the YouTube thing or something where you can have the sour herring experience. I'll send the link to you. (Laughs).

John A. Ball

I'm not sure I would be doing that!

Richard Wickström

My wife loves it and I hated it from the beginning, but I conquered the process. And I said, I'll be in command of the process. I'm going to be the one opening the job, because before she opened the jar and I went to the table and the smell of the thing came to me. But when I opened the jar, the scent, I mean, the way you feel fragrances or smell, actually, it goes away after a couple of minutes. So if you open the jar, you neutralize this, and then there's only the taste left, that makes it much more bearable.

John A. Ball

Josephine, if someone's visiting Edinburgh for the first time and that maybe as your guest, what's the one place that you would take them to, that they have to see? And where's the place you would most want to take them out to eat?

Dr. Josephine Munthali

Well, I'll take them to Edinburgh Castle, so they can see the Edinburgh Castle and the Holyroodhouse, and also the Parliament. Those are very interesting places to see. Eating places.... There are a lot of nice eating places in Edinburgh. I used to like Chinese, but no, I think there's one place which I'd take them. What is this place... whereby they have like over 20 dishes at one go. So you taste different dishes, but I'll take someone there because they will love it. Different dishes from different countries. 20 dishes. That's the place where I would take someone.

John A. Ball

That sounds fantastic. I'd love myself. But what about if someone is visiting Malawi and is it somewhere that people might go as a tourist and, if they do, where's the place that they should definitely go?

Dr. Josephine Munthali

Oh, definitely, they have to visit Lake Malawi. They have to go to Mangochi. That one... oh, they are going to enjoy their cuisine, enjoy the lake. And they are going to enjoy the famous, popular, delitious fish,¡chambo. That's the place I will definitely take them, lake Malawi. Definitely, something you can't miss. No, that will be a good experience. Fresh water.

John A. Ball

So your descriptions of food, do you have my mouth watering... Richard's description of this sour herring? (Laughs)

Dr. Josephine Munthali

I'm going to check on Internet but... uh uh (Laughs)

Richard Wickström

Let's say, to put it mildly, sour herring is an adquired taste.

John A. Ball

Yeah. I hear that about many foods that are kind of revolting, but I'd say that caviar is one of the things that I have discovered is become a bit more of a adquired tase. It's not that i get to eat it very often, but when I have, it's something that I would've sput out years ago and now I can enjoy it. So it's true in some cases.

Richard Wickström

Hmm. Well, it's so sad for you that you have to train to eat caviar.

John A. Ball

(Laughs) I wasn't, I didn't come from that kind of background where it's already in my palette.

Richard Wickström

That's great. So Josephine, it's been great to have you on the podcast, you made an amazing journey and we're really happy to have you with GBO in Edinburgh. So thank you very much.

Dr. Josephine Munthali

Thank you!

Richard Wickström

And to our listeners, don't forget to subscribe and hit the alert button. So you would be notified when a new episode is coming up.

Dr. Josephine Munthali

Thank you for inviting me. That was lovely!

John A. Ball

It's been a joy, an inspiration!

Richard Wickström

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Episode #4

Guest - Robert Gaskell / GBO London vice president

Episode #4 Transcription: In this episode, Richard and John talk with Robert Gaskell about blockchain, cash cards, Lithuania blockchain center, AI regulations, The Great hack is just 1% of what is going on in reality, electric plains, etc.

Richard Wickström

Welcome to A Taste of the Club, the podcast for business owners from the Global Business Owners network of business friendship. This is where you get the insights from founders and investors on their career and personal development. Hi all! Welcome to the Global Business Owners' podcast, A Tastes of the Club, where we each time bring in an interesting GBO member as a guest. We who are hosting the podcast are John A. Ball, an influence coach and trainer in presentation skills. John also has his own podcast called The Loqui Podcast, that focuses on public speaking, but John is also our president in our GBO Valencia chapter. John, how are you today?

John A. Ball

I'm really good and really happy to be here with you again today.

Richard Wickström

Thank you very much for joining with us, John. My name is Richard Wickström. I'm the global president of GBO and I also hold a position as president in our Stockholm chapter. My background is in the cosmetic business where I've held several positions from sales representative to CEO over the past 30 years. And today I'm investing and consulting in startups and cosmetics and experienced business on a board level. Usually with us, is also Maitén Panella from Valencia, who is a psychologist specializing in business psychology for entrepreneurs. But today she's a little bit sick. I hope it's not corona! We'll see... She was coughing this morning, so she can't be with us because it would really disturb this podcast, but you have to cope with only me and John today. The format of this podcast is the same as a regular GBO meeting, where we meet regularly based on the founding idea of GBO, business friendship. The idea with GBO and business friendship is to start with the friendship part, not the business part, thus to find people you want to work with rather than the ones you have to. Today's very special guest is Rob Gaskell, one of the GBO London members, and also the vice president in the London chapter. Rob warm welcome to the GBO podcast, A Taste of the Club, and let's start basic. Rob, who are you?

Rob Gaskell

Well, first of all, thank you, Richard. And thank you to everyone listening. Yes, I'm Rob Gaskell. I have been a GBO member since August of 2019, and what I'm most experienced in is finance and technology and operations in various different businesses. And now more recently in startups. I started my life in the hedge fund industry, then moved into asset management and other areas of wealth management, as well as family offices, family office work and services in for around six, five years, actually in Switzerland, I was based there for just more than six years. And then in the last three years I've been working in the blockchain artificial intelligence areas and two startups and I'm now in my third startup, which started two weeks ago and that's an advisory business.

Richard Wickström

Great. So I see behind you a new logo, I haven't seen with you before. Appold could you tell us a little bit about that?

Rob Gaskell

So Appold, the new business that I launched, that is an advisory and investment business to the emerging technology sector. The emerging technology sector, what is that? That is technologies that go through these hype cycles. Many people or many listeners will understand what those are, but they are cycles of technology that people get very excited about, but don't necessarily go to mainstream for some time. And this is what I define as emerging technology, technology that is reaching out towards mainstream, but is not there. And you can think of things, the data technologies and things like blockchain, artificial intelligence, quantum computing, very advanced medical science, biotechnology, other areas of technology even going down to clean technology. We're seeing some amazing technology come through for clean initiatives and food technology. And we started the business a couple of weeks ago. We have five high quality clients already that we're working very hard for. And the idea is to take these emerging technologies in these companies and take them to mainstream. And that's really the focus of the business.

Richard Wickström

So the things you're letting me know that you do now is flying pretty far above my head at least. So artificial intelligence, you hear about that all the time, blockchain, new currencies... Is there a possibility to explain it to me like I'm 5 to 10 years old what blockchain is and what artificial intelligence will mean for future business?

Rob Gaskell

Sure. Well, I don't think it'll worry a five-year-old what will happen in future business necessarily, but I understand that you need... I'm not going to get technical terms. That's something that a lot of our companies that we deal with and the founders in those companies that come from academic backgrounds do chat. Our challenge with that is actually trying to communicate to investors or to their customers, the technologies, and that's something that we help with. So I'll try my best. So blockchain is a technology that allows for a five-year-old... what's important for a five year old? Maybe one of their toys, let's think about that. So their toys are important. And imagine if for some reason you lost that toy, that would be pretty bad. You wouldn't be able to find it again, but imagine if that toy was copied and duplicated in many different locations around the house, or even maybe at your next door neighbor's house, or maybe at your grandmother's house, that toy was replicated. If you lost it, you could find another one and it'd be the same. It would be exactly the same. Blockchain is something similar to that in that it keeps a distributed set of toys, or even in this case in business, it'd be a set of transactions, and it copies them and keeps them in sync, synchronized, so that they're exactly the same across many different computers, and this is where their computing technology comes in, which allows for some nice features. One is that it can never be deleted. So your toy could never be thrown away. Your transactions could never be thrown away. This is very important for anti-fraud measures and improvement of the way we handle our data in the world. And also there's other advantages of just speed of transactions, you know, speed of movement of data. And that can also mean money. And this is where the currencies come in. And that's why there's this term cryptocurrency and for the five-year-old that might be that they're using at the moment some coins and some notes to maybe buy things from the local shops, with their parents and so on and their grandparents, and they maybe get some bit of money for birthdays and things like that, and that's in the local currency, or as things are evolving and in some countries and where you are Richard in Sweden, that country is very advanced in digitizing money. But some countries aren't so advanced in that. And what you'll see with these cryptocurrencies is that they will come in and digital currencies will come in to digitize all of our types of currency, and you won't necessarily need to handle these notes and coins anymore. That will be something of the past. As we move into this world of everyone having a device like a mobile phone that can be used as a means of payment, a method of payment. And then finally artificial intelligence is a whole area that's been around for a long time, much longer than the blockchain technology. Even going back to when I was at school, a long time ago, I remember lots of exciting things about robotics and artificial intelligence coming that was going to change our world, and we were going to have robots in the home that would help us in our daily lives. That hasn't really come in as quickly as many people thought. And there are some huge challenges with artificial intelligence, but it's starting with the advent of these very, very fast computers, very, very fast calculation computers that are able to calculate, understand information, understand data, again, data being a very important thing in the world right now, understand it, it could then start to learn from it and you have these, what we call "learning computers" and these learning computers can use different terminology, there's machine learning, deep learning, other types of technologies that artificial intelligence, this band of techniques that people are going to use to create things that can learn, give insights to business. So this is where it's important to business and they can create efficiency in business. If you're, say trading, your trading and you use artificial intelligence to learn how the trade works, that could be automated. So there's an automation; automation that can happen. I mean, you're in the cosmetics world, Richard, you're in the maybe the hair world and things like that. I mean, imagine if you could take a, take a picture of someone and then with the artificial intelligence, it learns from your picture and your complexion, the perfect type of makeup, the perfect hairstyle, and can show you immediately what that's going to look like before you buy. So that's something that would be speed up the sales process and take that process potentially online, which is something we're seeing with the lockdown that we're in at the moment with the COVID-19 world crisis, is something that we're seeing digital technologies running at a faster pace into mainstream. Those are some of the applications and AI can be used in so many different ways to to help and accelerate in the sales process.

John A. Ball

What other things do you see that as doing to... I think we probably do see the AI and the digital revolution is transforming the business landscape. So what do you see being the most significant changes there?

Rob Gaskell

Well, there's a number of... world impact wise, there's going to be shift in the way people work. There's no doubt about it. Major impact. I mean, I think rather than going to the specifics of AI and what it might do to, sa,y one business sector or something like that, I think that's not for this podcast. What I am saying, and I did write for a newspaper recently, it was about the accelerating use of emerging technology. And what we're seeing is that the way that the world is changing and the way, the way the world has moved already from the high street to the online, the way the world has already moved to already moving to, you know, that physical medical connection to telemedicine and virtual connections to medicine and services, that's already happening. And I would say digital cash that's happening. It's already happened in Sweden. It will happen around the world. We'll move towards these electronic things much faster. And so that's the big changes we are going to see on a world level. You know, everyone's shifting towards use of technology much more and much faster than we have seen at this growth of technology now.

John A. Ball

Do you think there's going to be any kind of resistance to that from people who maybe aren't willing to embrace technology or perhaps are in a position to be able to take content on?

Rob Gaskell

There's always resistance, but the thing is that resistance becomes smaller and smaller when they see the benefits. The example on the medical side is a nice one, because, you know, anecdotally, my wife, she's registered with the local GP, which is a doctor here in the UK, and normally to get a medicine, you would have to go book an appointment, come see the docto,r consultation, and you then get a a piece of paper that would allow you to go to the pharmacy to come pick up your drugs. That process has been changed into electronic process. And my wife came back one day and said, this is amazing, it is on my mobile phone, I got my prescription. I can walk straight to the pharmacy. I can pick my drugs up. I haven't seen the doctor because the consultation has been done online. This is amazing! I don't have to wait weeks and things to see the doctors, so already people are starting to see there's a benefit to this and streamlining some of the services that you consume. So, of course, there's going to be some resistance. Of course, there's going to be "well, that's terrible. You should be going to see your doctor every time", "we should go back to manual processes". But generally the population shift to things that are easier, cheaper, easier, faster; generally people pick up those and they become the mainstream technology. The mainstream process.

John A. Ball

I have concerns with things like becoming cashless, that there's already a high incidence of homelessness in many countries that's increasing. And those are people who are not going to be able to take advantage of technology, if you like, and people who are maybe asking for money on the streets and in a cashless society, that's not going to work. And I do have concerns that an already vulnerable group is going to be made even more vulnerable. And there may be some other instances along that side as well. I'm not asking you to have the answers to that, I'm just sort of saying that is something that comes up as a concern that I've heard from a few different places before as we progress, whilst this is all convenient and great for everyone else, there are problems that it could lead to as well for some very significant groups.

Richard Wickström

Well, actually, maybe you can answer that Rob, but I do have some knowledge about that myself; I've had a friend in Sweden that actually started a cash card for people who cannot have a bank account. So it's basically like a gift card that you buy in a store and you can pay with it in visa and MasterCard, and people can give to them over something in Sweden called "Swish". So coming back to the digitalization in my home country, where today 92% of all money transactions is digital. Cash is not even existing anymore. People who are on the street actually do have a cell phone or a cash card, and you can "Swish" them, which is basically you give them a hundred of some currency to their telephone number, and then they have the money. So actually the people who are homeless are digitalizing in Sweden as well. So it's an interesting development. And there are really cheap ways from entrepreneurs to help, especially immigrants who don't have a social security number yet, or can have a bank account, they can still have a cash card. So life will find a way, what do you say about that Rob?

Rob Gaskell

A hundred percent. That was going to be similar to my answer, but I was going to base it on some of the knowledge I'm getting from Africa, where you have people that you would imagine would never be able to own a mobile phone, but the way that mobile phone technology has pushed into all parts of Africa, where you have people that you'd just seen couldn't afford the phone or even the contract from a Western point of view, they've got that technology, they're using that technology to improve their lives. And I think, whatever, there's always a way, there's always a way that these cash cards or these cards can be very sophisticated. So you could even maybe walk up to a card if it's a card you're giving and top it up. So if you wanted to give someone some money to go and buy a, you know, a hot drink or some soup or something like that, if they need that, that could be something you can do electronically. There's all kinds of methods to get around this and charities are aware of this technologies and they're working with these technologies. So there will be a way, and there's also this other thing where another bit of discussions I've had, I'm involved in the Lithuanian blockchain center there, I'm a board advisor to the Lithuania blockchain center in Vilnius. And we've talked with the government about technologies moving into... Across Lithuania and the resistance there is... well, what about people that don't even have computers? We have some elderly people in our society that don't even have a computer, when you're working in technology, you just assume everyone's got a computer. And of course, they came out, and this was, they were talking about that e-voting strategy. So moving towards a digital voting strategy, rather than just having, and also digital government services as well. And they were like, well, what do we do when we don't have everybody having this access to a mobile or a computer, because obviously they will feel excluded from society if everything goes digital? And and what the government was talking then was maybe creating central connected to local mayor offices, or libraries or other services where people could go to get those services and they'd have a digital login. And then they get round the system. So at least they would have the ability to carry on the citizens, but move away from all the paper and all the other manual issues that the government was handling. And there was a big pressure to do this from the youngest society. The good thing about Lithuania, it's interesting country, is that the politicians are very young. Some of them are in their twenties and they're really embracing technology and trying to push the old guard out and the new technologies and pushing on with new ideas that the population is quite excited about.

John A. Ball

Yeah. It's nice to know that there are people who really are caring about this stuff. And I do think that, you know, certainly and I don't include myself in the younger generation anymore, but for those who are younger in their twenties, and it's very much in many parts an activist generation, which I think is, in some ways exciting some ways challenging as well, of course, but I think it's generally a big positive that people seem to care more and more about the world, about the environment, about vulnerable people, about each other, at the moment about black lives matter and things like that. It's great that there is so much activism happening that people actually are caring about these things, where I think that has come out of previously a very high level of general apathy. So for me, it's a very positive shift. It's really interesting, I mean, I'm fascinated by the area of AI. I don't know much about blockchain, but I have some understanding or some knowledge about algorithms and how really the world is going to be run on algorithms, if not already, really. And certainly social media science, marketing and things like that, is all reliant on that. And that we don't probably would be scared if we actually understood how vulnerable we are to being understood by algorithms and how good they are at predicting our behaviors.

Rob Gaskell

Absolutely. It is quite a scary area. And on various AI groups that I belong to, we discuss ethics a lot. And ethics in this area is an important thing to understand and an important thing to put into the computer science of artificial intelligence. But we've talked a lot about bias. You know, the AI is being used to help with the recruitment process in some corporations. And there's a bias towards certain groups of individuals getting jobs, that was well documented by by some large tech companies, I won't name them, but you can imagine who they are and they've switched off some of those systems.

Richard Wickström

Did you say that the algorithms has developed a bias?

Rob Gaskell

No. Well it's, yeah, it kind of, but it all comes from code at the end of the day.

Richard Wickström

Yes, of course. It's manmade in the beginning,

Rob Gaskell

So it's manmade in the beginning, but there's a... and they're not trying to do a bias, it's just that it starts to learn a bias, because there is actually a bias in society and this is what...

Richard Wickström

But this, this is super interesting. Could we penetrate a little bit into bias because, I mean, from my point of view, you have to really work with your experiences because your experiences can be really valuable for looking at the future. If you know the history, that's what I always say, you can, in a way, predict the future, but also your experience from past is full of things that are not applicable for the future. And, I mean, you really have to work with yourself and how you how you look at things to not become biased, because everyone is biased, that's in a way built in our nature. How does that correspond into artificial intelligence that is from the beginning manmade, can it be taken away and be more neutral?

Rob Gaskell

Exactly. I mean, what we've discussed in some of the AI panels is actually having an ethics, AI solution that sits along all side and is monitoring effectively and checking for any biases, and then recommending that the code is changed effectively to try and neutralize it. This is some way to go about it, but there's other solutions that people are talking around.

Richard Wickström

Because I remember when I was in sci-fi when I was younger, I read Asimov and that was the first time I got into the rules of robotics, I mean, the basic five, four or five rules of robotics. Is there anything like this developing for artificial intelligence as well? Not to hurt people... and I mean, you know, those rules, I don't exactly remember them, but...

Rob Gaskell

In some groups no, and this is the danger, and this is why industry has to come together and and rethink about coming out with solutions that are better for human. Not necessarily worse

Richard Wickström

Because the area of artificial inteligence is not at all regulated, is it?

Rob Gaskell

No, it's not, you can''t regulate code. Really, anybody can create code. I mean, I think that there's two dark areas that concern me, it's the way that AI is used by companies in the social media space and also governments. And I will mention the country, and I'm not anti any country, but China especially has taken a lot of movement towards digitalization. They're the first country to launch the digital Yuan currency in four cities. They're the first country to use facial recognition payment systems and facial recognition for things like social scoring. And if you took social scoring and the facial recognition technology into Europe now, I think you'd have a backlash and everyone would be very, very scared, very scared, but they've pushed on. And they using a lot of artificial intelligence. And if there are biases built into the system and there are some biases for religious groups that have already been discovered by some of the people that analyze, the experienced technical people of the world analyze what's going on in certain areas of technology, and they've started to see biases against certain religious groups. This can be built up and imagine if it's a social scoring system that allows you to take certain services. And if you're from a specific religious group, you would be biased, not allowed to take those services. You wouldn't be able to take a train, would not be able to book a hotel, you wouldn't be able to go and eat and eat and drink in a cafe. Imagine if that was taken away from you, just because of your religious belief and this and that. And they can hide it by a social scoring system. So they can say you're a low score because you did some bad things, but you don't know why you've done those bad things.

John A. Ball

And if those kinds of things are introduced slowly enough, there may not be so so much resistance, we might find ourselves in that situation. I think it is a very real concern. And the ethics around all of this is fascinating, and maybe hasn't had enough attention paid to it. I mean, these are all things that ultimately are affecting democracy are affecting elections in countries. And you know, we've seen this, I don't know if you saw that documentary, The Great Hack on Netflix. It was just really interesting that we are so much open to manipulation than we realize.

Rob Gaskell

The Great Hack is 1% of what's really going on. I promise you! It scares you from the outset, but if you really know what's going on in the way that technology can be used to manipulate voting, that's nothing compared to what they do.

John A. Ball

Why do you think that isn't being talked about as much as maybe it should be? If that's just scratching the surface, who's actually having these discussions about what really is going on and why do you think it's not so much in the public domain?

Rob Gaskell

Who controls the media? Why is it not in the public domain? The media aren't going to report on this the they're owned by the same people that control who goes into government. They support an individual into government. The government gets into power. Thanks that media person. And they use technologies that they're not going to report on.

John A. Ball

I'm aware from just my general reading and from what I see going on in the world, that AI is something that is going to be replacing a lot of people's jobs. And that was one of the reasons why I asked about why you see some of the transformation, where, where do you think work is going to head for people as this becomes more, the normality, the AI revolution really takes hold and probably business, as we recognize it today is transformed?Where do you think there's going to be new jobs, new work coming in for people, or do you think that is going to be something that mostly does start to disappear?

Rob Gaskell

Throughout history, I mean, if you look at any technology that's come in and then people learn new skills and they get work somehow. And then of course there will be a change in the workforce for any current function that is replaced or disrupted by a technology. And you can go back through thousands of years and see some element of something that comes along that disrupts someone doing something, and they end up doing something else. They don't all just lay about and do nothing. There's always something that happens in history that, and I think history will carry on repeating, and there's a lot of we'll carry on repeating itself. And like that there's, doomsayers, there's always going to be doomsayers that say a technology is going to come in and change the world, and then that's it, that's game over, nobody's working anymore. But they were saying that when they were breaking the spinning wheels in England, you know, the time of the cotton, wool production and so on, and they were saying it in in the times of... There was always the good anecdote around the the whip manufacturer, you know, they're coming out with the best whip manufacturer for horse riding and the horse and horses and carriages and so on. And then of course the motorcar came in and totally disrupted that industry. Well, of course people just change their jobs. They moved into different... they moved along with the technology, they moved along and moved into something that supported that. And in AI, I think it is, it is naive to say that we all should all just sit back and kind of wait for it. And then when it comes, we should think about doing something. I'm actually very vocal and very pushing that we should, everyone should think about their technical skills and understanding of this because to be able to find work in this future, you need to have some of those technical skills.

Richard Wickström

This is super fascinating. And I think we could go on for hours and I will call you later outside of the podcast, Rob. It's great. But I'm also a little bit curious about you. How did you end up in this world of artificial intelligence? I mean, you told us a little bit about your working background, but you as a person, how have you developed from school to this, to come into this very, I mean, it's a high level technical position, or do you come in from the managing and investor side?

Rob Gaskell

Managing an investor side. I'm not an experienced coder. I learned coding when I was at school and university, but not to any high level. And I didn't really enjoy coding that much. I can read elements of code and I like code, and I like really high quality code. I enjoy that sort of thing, but that's just like reading a language, isn't it? It's the same as reading another language, but I'm not an experienced coder. This is something that I like the business application of, I like to explain it to people and that's why Appold is there, my business to really help take these technologies into businesses, as well as investors come in and see opportunities. Because if you invest in a technology that is going to be the future and is going mainstream, then obviously you, as an investor, can get a nice return off the fact that you're going along the journey. And you're not investing in old technologies that you think that can just keep repeating themselves. That never happens in history, all technologies and all processes, never repeat themselves. We always move on. We always move on. Well, the difference now is it's moving at a faster pace. So people feel out of control and hopefully they can come to me and say, Rob help me, help me with my business, or help me, how do I get these technologies? Or...

Richard Wickström

Yes Rob, help me. I'm 58 years old. I'm so happy that I might even disappear before all of this is happening. Rob, tell us a little bit about your GBO story, where you come in, you became a member, vice president. What's happening in London, and how have you benefited in your business from the GBO membership?

Rob Gaskell

Well, I would say, yeah, it's been a really interesting and nice journey. I was introduced to GBO in July of 2019. I became a member in August. I attended the first meeting of one of the London chapter and it was a lovely lunch we had, and I met the president, ambassador and other people that were there as GBO supporters, as well as some members that have been there for a long time as members, as well as some new members that had only been there for a month or two. And the thing that struck me because I am very much in, I mean, the name Appold for my business is a straight that's right in the center between the tech capital of Shoreditch and the finance capital of the city, you know, I'm based there and I'm right in front of technology and in finance and doing that every day. And then when you step out of that and you go to something like the GBO group, you're then with people from all different backgrounds, industries, all business owners, but all having similar problems, similar issues, and it's fascinating. And it was real refreshing for me, that that was super exciting, and I joined straight away. I joined straight away because I wanted to carry on going to that and meeting people. And also I was introduced to people like you, Richard, and other people on a more global scale. And of course, that is fascinating for me. I love people from around the world. I love meeting people from all around the world. I love all the different cultures and businesses that are going on around the world. And GBO gave me the opportunity. And also, I like the fact that it's a small group that's growing, and I didn't want to join a large organization that wasn't personal. GBO right now is very personal. And I have now made good friends in GBO. And I want to make more friends in GBO.

Richard Wickström

I had the same experience when I started a little bit earlier than you. I mean, I had my network and all the people I knew, but they were all in my business. And when I left as the CEO, I wanted to widen my horizon. And when I was invited to the first GBO lunch, I realized that this is a great opportunity to build new networks and meet people from all other areas. And it took me to this situation. And it's been the story of a lot of GBO members. What about you, John, what's your GBO story?

John A. Ball

I was I was invited to GBO through LinkedIn, back when Peter Redrin was still running the show. And I was in my coaching work, I do a lot of professional coaching, I always talk to my clients about the power of networking and that, if you really want to make things happen, you need to expand your network, and often in the right kind of people. I work with some clients who are particularly looking at specific areas of investment in creating passive or residual income streams. And one of the things I'll always say to then, in order to do that, is get into the right kinds of networks, where you're going to connect with people who can help you do that, and who know what they're talking about because, you know, I work in the personal and professional development industry and there are, I hate to say it, but there are a lot of scanny people out there who are selling investment advice and development work at very high prices, but not actually delivering anything of any great value. And this is why I say people really need to get a good network where you're going to get connected or put onto the people who will give you good information, who will advise you of what's coming up and connect you with opportunities, or they'll know someone who is the right person to connect you with. And GBO for me, my very first GBO lunch that I went to, was kind of a busy lunch, but everybody there was fascinating for different reasons. And I was blown away by the difference that it made for me and the fact that it felt very different to other networking things that I've done. And it wasn't just "take my business card". It was making friends with people, making real connections. And that has been my experience with GBO ever since, it's one of the reasons why I stay, one of the reasons why I'm delighted to be the president here in Valencia, because it is business friends. And, you know, at home, my husband doesn't want to talk about my business. He doesn't want to hear about it, so I can talk about it with my business friends in GBO. And so for me, it's incredible value and well, the additional benefits that come with it, a cream in the coffee really is. It has huge value even without that.

Richard Wickström

Great, John, thank you very much. Rob, on a personal level. We talked a lot about your, your background and what you do on and things, but what do you do for fun?

Rob Gaskell

Well, before I started this...

Richard Wickström

You color up Excel sheets or something.

Rob Gaskell

I mean, of course, I mean, some of my passions sort of that I've done in the past, but I would like to get back to when we are out of lockdown is I have a real passion for sailing and technology around sailing, flying, I used to be a pilot, and I love that. And I love following technology around that. And the electrification of flight is something I'm very passionate about. Then I also like golf. I played I used to play a lot of golf and I'm really planning to get back into that when the when the lockdown is over. So yeah, I like a lot of things and like generally sports that I play, I don't watch a lot of sports and I don't...I like watching a bit of rugby and things like that, but not, I'm not an avid sports fan, but I do, I love following technology. I'm a geek,

Richard Wickström

But I guess that's the benefit in, in, in your line of work. If you would recommend someone a book or a podcast or anyone who has inspired you an author or someone that we could recommend to our podcast listeners, who would that be?

Rob Gaskell

I would like to have had a bit of thought on that one. There's so many people that that I like and so many people that I follow. I think, just anything in the the technology space is something that just, I wouldn't like to say a certain name or anything like that.

Richard Wickström

Let me ask you a straight question then. Is it bill Gates or Steve Jobs?

Rob Gaskell

That's a tough one. Both of them have done quite amazing things.

Richard Wickström

Absolutely!

Rob Gaskell

Bill Gates has an incredible foundation that is trying to do better for the world. So I think I'd say Bill Gates for what he's doing now. Not necessarily for the Microsoft, Microsoft was incredible, what it's done, taking technology to mainstream and anything that does that I love, but what Steve jobs did was incredible, certainly in the mobile world and in and the computing world and making things so much easier and nicer and beautiful to look at. And that is something I like about what Steve did, but in terms of management manager wise and people wise, Bill Gates is a extremely smart man who has, with his wife, has done incredible things with the money that he's accumulated. I know people that worked with Steve Jobs and he's not the easiest person to deal with

Richard Wickström

Entrepreneurs. I've been there. I'm there, I'm there now as well, but I I've always found, I worked in the cosmetic business and especially in the hair care area. And of course I worked on with a lot of hairdressers. I mean, hairdressers are not considered to be a high level skilled people in the academic world, but I've found a lot of really interesting people with amazing people knowledge and amazing networks, because some of the high end hairdressers I met over the world, they have had billionaires entrepreneurs, politicians, celebrities, everyone in their chair. And if they're smart enough, they've had conversations with these people about where they are and who they are. So some of them were intellectually on an absolutely high level, but in combination with their creativity, lot of emotions as well, but that combination is a fascinating thing with this line of people. Now, I worked with quite a few entrepreneurs in area and they were more "Steve Jobish" than "Bill Gatish" in a way. So, and I'm more of a structured fact-based person. So that's where I come from. And do you use an Android or an iPhone?

Rob Gaskell

I use an iPhone

Richard Wickström

Okay. So do you think everyone understands that Siri is artificial intelligence?

Rob Gaskell

Does everybody understand it? I don't think people know. I mean, this is another thing that I see with technology blockchain, which I was trying to explain as a five-year-old is very difficult to do. Nobody is going to really know about blockchain. Blockchain is just going to be the backend technology to a lot of things that you don't know about. Siri is another thing. Siri is just a front end with a ton of stuff behind it that uses techniques for you to interact more easily with technology. That's all it's doing. And it's not sophisticated AI. Alexa, which I shouldn't say that... She'll jump on my screen! The Amazon's version of this is, you know, using elements of artificial intelligence, but it's not very sophisticated. Really. There are some most sophisticated systems out there,

Richard Wickström

But from my point of view, I'm an Apple fan. Everything I have is that, I've had PC when I was working in other areas as well for 10, 15 years, but I always returned to Apple because of the user interface and the ease and the way it's very human, but one area where I think Apple is failing is with their artificial intelligence in Siri, where other other technologies, as for example, Alexa is better. And I think I read and heard that this is about personal integrity and Apple is more strict on that than others, do you have a comment on that?

Rob Gaskell

A personal integrity? I don't think that's related; again, it's all about getting products to market. And Amazon was very smart in buying a, actually a UK based company that built it. And they took a jump on the technology and I'm sure if Apple could have got a hold of that, they would have done or Google with its own competing project, wanted to have that sort of technology. But, now actually going back to someone that I do follow, and I do like, and I'm amazed with what he's doing is Elon Musk, he is someone that I do follow, but he's not a prolific writer, so I can't sort of point to any books, but he is an amazing businessman and scientist and technical person, and the ability for him to run these organizations then think about the future and how that's going to work in the future... he is someone that could be bigger than the Bill Gates and the Steve Jobs of the world. And you don't know this yet, because a lot of people think he just runs a electric car company, and he runs a rocket company. Well, there's way more stuff coming down the line... Way, way more stuff. He is going to be someone that controls a lot of our... and has a business interest in a lot of the things that we do day to day, way outside rockets and electric cars.

Richard Wickström

It's interesting you mentioned him because for me, he is like Jules Verne with money, I mean, he has an imagination of what can happen in the future that is limitless, and now he has a lot of money with him as well. So that's a great advice from you to keep an eye on what Elon Musk is doing. Thank you very much for being with us, Rob just for our podcast listeners, if you have any comments or suggestions or you want to communicate with us, please send an email to podcast@globalbusinessowners.com. And depending on what platform you are listening or seeing this on, please subscribe, give us reviews and let us know what you think. Rob, it's been fascinating. Thank you for having us with you. And I hope you have great success with Appold moving forward, and we look forward to when we can meet physically again after this COVID situation next time. Thank you very much.

Richard Wickström

Fantastic. Thank you.

Richard Wickström

Are you a game changer? A startup founder? A high impact investor? Entrepreneurial minded? A business owner with a global mindset? Welcome to the world of Global Business Owners. I'm Richard, global president of GBO. We are a rapidly expanding international business networking club with established chapters in 24 cities and more 650 members worldwide. Among our esteemed members are many accomplished business owners, which include partners at prodigious law firms, founders of high tech startups, elite brokers and experienced investors to name a few. We created GBO to help people like you facilitate lifelong business friendships to give leaders a platform to share knowledge, to allow for the open discussion of ideas and to create business opportunities for GBO members around the world. Experience a different kind of business network. One that doesn't come with strict membership rules or expensive club fees. GBO offers a relaxed social environment that connects people with knowledge, knowledge, with ideas, and ideas with opportunities.

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Episode #3

Guest - Isabell Aakervik / GBO Stockholm

Episode #3 Transcription: about woman in tech, Ecommerce, presenting skills, skiing and more

Richard Wikström

Welcome to "A Taste of the Club", the podcast for business owners from the Global Business Owners network of business friendship. This is where you get the insights from founders and investors on their career and personal development.

Richard Wikström

So welcome to the Global Business Owners podcast "A Taste of the Club", where we each time bring an interesting GBO member as a guest. We who are hosting the podcast or John A. Ball, an influence coach and trainer in presentation skills. John also has his own podcast called "The Loqui Podcast", that focuses on public speaking. John is also our president in our GBO Valencia chapter. John, how are you today?

John A. Ball

Really good, thank you. It's a beautiful day here in Valencia.

Richard Wikström

Same here in Stockholm. My name is Richard Wickström. I'm the global president of GBO and I also hold a position as president in our Stockholm chapter. My background is in the cosmetic business, where I've held several positions from sales representative to CEO for the past 30 years. And today, I am investing in consulting and startups in the cosmetics and experienced business on a board level. Usually with us, it's also Maitén Panella who is a psychologist specializing in business psychology for entrepreneurs. But today she has other pressing engagements, so you have to cope with only me and John today. The format of this podcast is the same as a regular GBO meeting, where we meet regularly based on the founding idea of GBO, business friendship. The idea with GBO and business friendship is to start with the friendship part, not the business part, thus to find people you want to work with rather than the ones you have to. Today's very special guest is Isabell Aakervik, one of the GBO Stockholm members, but also one of our members who have traveled the most and visited more chapters meeting outside of Sweden than in her home chapter. Isabell, warm welcome to the GBO podcast, A Taste of the Club.

Isabell Aakervik

Thank you. And thank you for having me.

Richard Wikström

Isabell, let's start basic. Who are you?

Isabell Aakervik

So my name is Isabell Aakervik. I'm based out of Stockholm, Sweden, working for a company called Sitoo, providing an mPOS and omnichannel platform for global retailers. I do have a background with an extensive international background within both retail and software. So I have pretty much in depth, deep insight into understanding how the IT and digital solutions can benefit business and how to grow kind of pretty much a startup with tech business into larger businesses.

Richard Wikström

So, what is your position today in the company you are working with and how did your weeks and days pre-corona look like?

Isabell Aakervik

So I'm head of partnerships and marketing, so I'm responsible for that on a global level. If looking into before the corona situation, I was very much traveling, so I was a part of heading up the UK office, which was stablished on September last year. So my days and weeks very much looks into traveling. So, I think I was traveling on a regular basis during the autumn, definitely, approximately two to three days a week. I had a couple of weeks back home, but most of the weeks I was traveling, UK, of course I spent a lot of time when we open up the office and hired new people there, and try to establish the business and so on. And that's why also I think is so interesting with GBO that it is a global network or community where you can meet other members in other countries.

Richard Wikström

What different chapters have you visited?

Isabell Aakervik

So, I've been of course in Stockholm those only a couple of times. But in London I think I visited London the most. I've also been in Mallorca, visiting those a couple of times. Then I did aim to visit New York, once in the beginning of this year, but I couldn't make it, I think... but those are the ones that I've been a part of.

Richard Wikström

Really interesting! And you have been in the tech business for two, three years or more?

Isabell Aakervik

I started off in the tech business in 2000, so it's actually 20 years. So yeah, that's a while ago.

Richard Wikström

That's true. And how did you... what was the development from start or education up until where you are now, where you are partnering in a company and doing this high level work?

Isabell Aakervik

So, actually, I came out of school, I was working in retail, so I was working in retail store, became like... I was involved in the store management, bits and pieces of it. And then we installed a new point of sale system and that company hired me by 2000. So I was a part of a tech business providing point of sale solution for 11 years from 2000 to 2011. So that was where my journey started and I have a pretty huge interesting in tech and computers and so on. So I think that's why also I got the opportunity to join the company, but I'm pretty much learning along the journey. And then I think it was by the end of 2009 or 2008 or something, I started at IHM business school. So then I took my marketing economic and that's it, more or less. Then it's a self experienced, self knowledge. But what I, like right now, this is the first tech company I'm a part of helping out going on an international basis. This is actually the opportunity I have to do it in the way that I thought could be even more successful at doing it. And I can definitely see the benefit out of being able to do it in third time and also being able to do it your way.

Richard Wikström

So your, your educational background it's LHS, "life's hard school".

Isabell Aakervik

I have to say that!

John A. Ball

I love the school of life. Isabell, it's nice to meet you. I don't think we've encountered each other yet in GBO and I'm sure we will at some point. And you're very welcome to come and visit us in Valencia at anytime as well. I'd like to ask you what it is about GBO and networking that you like or love and is important to you?

Isabell Aakervik

There are several things. One thing is definitely that it's global, since I'm traveling so much, so you have the opportunity to meet new people that know about your industries and other chapters and countries and also the friendliness, which is within the GBO, how everybody's helping each other out and how we can share knowledge and experience and so on. And that's I think is a huge advantage.

John A. Ball

Excellent. And where, where would you like to go next when you are allowed to travel? What's the first club you'd like to visit outside of your home club?

Isabell Aakervik

I think it will be definitely New York, it would be great to visit that one. I'm also happy to go down to Spain to see more chapters over there. I mean, we are right now looking into where we're growing the business ourself, because we're aiming to become a world leading company. So it's a little bit, now we try to understand which countries or which markets are mature to grow with a tech solution. So a little bit depends on that one. But otherwise I think the Dubai one is pretty interesting. I've been working with Dubai in the past, so I have a pretty good network over there. So it'd really be interesting to come back to those countries as well.

John A. Ball

Yeah. What's the state of play in your industry looking like at the moment?

Isabell Aakervik

Oh, it's challenging, definitely. I mean, retail is suffering a lot at the moment. And since our solution is targeting the non-food retailer, those are definitely the most suffering. But what we can see is the retailer which has done their digital transformation journey, they are suffering less compared to the other ones, because what we do provide is real time data and you can see where you have your stock. A lot of stores outside of Sweden, they are locked down, so they are closed, which means like you have a huge, massive amount of stock in store, which you can't get access to. You don't know what you have. But the ones that do have real time data with our solution or similar, they have an easier journey to provide the customer needs. But we see, I see light at the end of the tunnel. We see new opportunities popping up and we definitely see that things are starting to roll again. So I'm pretty positive.

Richard Wikström

That's great to hear Isabell! John and Isabell. Have you heard of the concept called ELI5?

Isabell Aakervik

No.

Richard Wikström

ELI5. Okay. I's spelled out "Explain it like I'm five years old". So what I would like you to do Isabell, since you're in the tech business, for our listeners, in just a few words, explain it to us like we were five, what is it that your company is actually doing?

Isabell Aakervik

So what we're doing, we're providing a mobile point of sale solution, which is like the checkout solution that the cashiers in the store use or you can use it at a self checkout solution, so if you're going out to the store, you can scan your item yourself. But it's not just that. We do have also the unified commerce platform, meaning you connect the online world with the physical world, so independent of if you are at a store or if you're online, you see the same data, you see the accurate stock levels. So you know that if you buy something online and let's say like it should be five in the stores, you will actually turn up having that. So you can buy online and pick that up in store. Or you can go into store and say, I would like to buy that particular shirt within certain size, but the size doesn't exist in the store. Then the store staff can see like, yes, but this size does exists in that particular store, do you like me to order it to send it back to your home or would you like me to reserve it for you to pick up on your way of your home? So to me, the customer expectation, because you as a customer, you would like to go there, you would like to buy the item. For you, it doesn't matter what it is... You want it. So it's more like, you as a store staff, you should be embraced with technology so you can help serve customer independent of where they are.

Richard Wikström

One question that I'm curious about and that you and I have talked about before is, what has been the biggest challenge for you over the years during your career?

Isabell Aakervik

Oh, the biggest challenge! I think, to be honest, to be a women in tech can be pretty challenging. Definitely looking back in the past from beginning of the twenties, the market wasn't so mature to have a woman, to be a woman in tech position, you were pretty much, as the lady, you needed to have more knowledge compared to two other ones. You needed to show that you actually, you know what you're talking about. You need to be more skilled, you need to be more experienced. You needed to always to prove yourself. It's a lot better today. But if we look 20 years in the past, it will definitely a tricky world. But it's challenging! And I love it how it is.

John A. Ball

Did you get a lot of mansplaining going on? People explain things to you, you already kind of probably knew better than they did, right?

Isabell Aakervik

Yes. Yes. You needed to.

Richard Wikström

Hopefully less people thinking that you don't know so much these days. Right?

Isabell Aakervik

No, definitely. I mean sometimes you pop up with the same situation, but you know how to manage it. So it's always easier. It's always, I mean, it's still the same thing. I know that I need to know a lot more compared to the ones that I meet or have a dialogue with the fellow. Definitely within my kind of expertise, and based on the matter of fact that I've been working with this for more or less 20 years, I think I have a huge amount of expertise. So it's pretty good too.

John A. Ball

Right. Are you seeing more women come into tech now?

Isabell Aakervik

Definitely. Definitely. I see more women coming to tech, but it's still... I think the amount of men in tech is still higher compared to women.

John A. Ball

What do you think would encourage more women into the industry?

Isabell Aakervik

Oh, that is interesting... I think it's also the matter of what you are interested in. Not all women are interested in tech. And doesn't that the style and they're not curious about it. So to be honest, I don't know!

Richard Wikström

I heard someone, I don't remember the source now, but someone vaguely I remember said that, on a general level, women are more interested in people and men are more interested in things. But, since knowing you Isabell, you have combined the interest in people and in tech. Isn't that so?

Isabell Aakervik

That's true.

Richard Wikström

So what would be your advice to someone, I mean, you were not only a woman, obviously you were also young and I have that experience as well. I had my first sales manager position when I was 24 handling guys who were 10 years older than me. And I believe that I had a little bit of the same situation as you had, because being young is similar to being young and a woman. What would be your advice to young people, not only women, when they enter new businesses or tech business? What's the strategy if you want to move forward fast?

Isabell Aakervik

I think, definitely, show... I mean, be very much engaged, be passionate in what you do, try to learn even more, dig into things, try to understand, try to help out. Definitely, I mean... Show your teeth, kind of say, and believe in yourself. Because the knowledge says very much what you need and if you show that you can help out and you grow and you learn things along the road, then it's easier to take on new positions and to grow in the company. And that's what I did also with the first company where I was doing 11 years. I mean, I changed several places along the road there. So it's a little bit... work hard!

John A. Ball

I live very much in the world of presentations and the delivery of presentations. I coach people in doing that as well. So I'm assuming you probably give a fair amount of presentations yourself and have done over your career. Is that fair to say? And what has been your experience in delivering presentations and how have you developed and grown that you might be able to offer some insights and maybe even some tips to other people because this is an important area in business?

Isabell Aakervik

Oh, that's good. I mean I think I enjoy talking to people, I'm very happy. I get a lot of energy when I get up on stage, being able to do a presentation and not everybody has that advantage, which I have and I think that makes life easier for me. And I'm pretty relaxed in what I do and, if something goes wrong, something goes wrong. So it's more like, a little bit like stay calm and believe in yourself. Everybody's doing wrong things. But also be prepared. Don't show up with a presentation that you haven't worked through. Be prepared and ready and then you will get more self confident presentation when you have it. So, preparation, definitely. And also try, I mean, it a little bit depends on how... if you're new in doing presentation or if you've done it several times, but you can also do a presentation in front of your colleague or somebody else that they can give you some feedback into it to say like, okay, maybe you can change this or this or that. And also, there are a lot of good also insigth, if you Google on internet, how you can build up staff, so you can follow the right flow, if you don't have the experience, and that, so...

John A. Ball

You mentioned that sometimes things go wrong. What kind of things have gone wrong for you? What have been some of your, maybe, more interesting experiences?

Isabell Aakervik

I mean, sometime, oh, that, that was a good one. I'll try a bit to think about it... No, but it's tipically... if you're going to have a demo or a presentation, is always the matter of something is going wrong with the technology. Even if you've tried it out and prepared everything, it's like it's 99 times out of a hundred that something goes wrong, you know? So it's more like, okay, it wasn't according to plan. It could be some hardware is not working according to what you expected or is the network is locking down or whatever happened. But, unfortunately, I don't have any good one that that pops up in my mind.

Richard Wikström

John, it's interesting, because Isabell and I earlier talked about this, how do you handle that, John, when you have an extrovert like Isabell or an introvert, believe it or not as me? I hate public speaking. I do it pretty well, but I hate it. Isabell does it really, really well and she loves it. How do you handle people, give us advice, from an introvert and extrovert position?

John A. Ball

Well, I'm on the introvert side as well, Richard, which some people might be hard to believe, but I can be a little socially awkward sometimes.

Richard Wikström

It just means we shit our pants before we go on stage, right?

John A. Ball

That's certainly used to be the case. I think, really, the main difference is that it's probably just easier, the extroverts are just a little less inhibited and that really is any difference that the introverts are going to have to work a little bit harder to get to that stage, because you can and you will. You know, Isabell very rightly mentioned about the energy when you're giving a presentation, which is super important and we need to have a really good strong level of energy. It doesn't need to be like really super high and it means, if it's too low, people are going to be falling asleep in the seat, so it needs to be a good energy, but maybe a bit higher than you might naturally have. Pump yourself up a bit, because the energy that you're in is going to be infectious to the people who are listening to you as well. So put yourself in a really good state. You'll more likely go on stage and remember you're doing it for them, not for you. You're giving them knowledge, you're giving, sharing information with them. That's the reason you're there, not to make yourself look better. So it doesn't matter really if you make some mistakes, if you mess things up and it's a bit, when I've done that, early on you said, well that would screw everything up and would end up have falling apart in the presentation. But now with some experience and practice you can incorporate that. But I loved that Isabell said the practice is the key as a trainer, that is essential. One of the reasons why so many people are not confident in their presentations is because they wing it and because they think they can just get out there and speak and maybe even have an expectation of being able to do it well and the practice is really critical, that introvert or extrovert, you still need to practice.

Richard Wikström

Yeah, that's true. I mean, I remember from, I used to be in the cosmetic business, we have sales conference every five, every six weeks and lots of presentations for distributors and customers. And my kids always said to my wife that, mommy, why is daddy talking to himself all the time? Because I was brushing my teeth and then I'll say this, then I'd say that and I'll go on. I was practicing and practicing. That was the way for me to move forward, because when I do a presentation, I give energy, but I lose it. But you are different Isabell, aren't you? Yes. How does it work for you? I'm bringing this up because I want our listeners to understand there are different strategies. We are different. We can do the same thing on the same good level, but it affects us as persons differently. So how is it for you?

Isabell Aakervik

No, but I mean, if I do a presentation, of course I do prepare, I do practice, but I can't write like a full document of, this is exactly what you're going to say. I only write bullets, so I do have an understanding of what I'm going to talk about for each of the slides. But then it's more like kind of a feeling, if you're passionate about something, it's easy to talk about it because then you have the knowledge, then you feel confidence in what are you talking about as well. But I do love having a speech. I think it's nice, but also afterwards I do get a lot of energy and of course it's a little bit by the way it went as well. But also to get the feedback from the audience, try to maybe ask them some questions, to interact with the audience also during the speech and give the energy which you were talking about as well. I think that is important.

John A. Ball

One of the biggest differences I find isn't so much to do with presentation, but to do with the introverts and extroverts and the differences around that, is how we recharge, reenergize ourselves. The extroverts have a tendency to want to be more surrounded with people and get their energy from social situations. Introverts prefer a bit more to recharge, a bit more privately to have time by themselves. We have elements of both for sure. But how do you like to relax and recharge, Isabell, and what do you do to maybe let off steam?

Isabell Aakervik

No, I think, for me it's really a bit of both. I mean, of course I need to recharge, sometimes when you have had a very high workload, you need to recharge. I do travel even when I'm networking. So I'm traveling a lot even in my spare time. But however, if looking into, when I went to, for example to Dubai a couple of years ago with one of my friends on vacation, I anyway connected with a couple of partners. So I met a couple of partners, and we were having dinner together. That is more just because I think it's so fun to meet people and to interact with new people. Even if I'm on vacation, I can go for connect with my business partners and that is how... I need a combination of it. And I do have, and of course you have days when you don't want to meet people. You would just lock the door and then stay in bed or something. But I think it's, for me, if I would be in a position in Sweden where we would have been in complete lockdown, that would have been very hard for me. I would go insane, I think. So I'm pretty happy that we have been opened. So I've been able to meet people and been able to talk to people even if some of them is through Zoom or other web meetings. But just to be able to meet people is great.

Richard Wikström

It's a super interesting difference because, I mean, we live in the same city and I haven't been on lockdown, but for me being on lockdown wouldn't be a problem at all. I could be on my own for three months, not a problem. So it means we're quite different. But on the strategy of connecting to an audience, I always try to, instead of getting people into somewhere where I should speak and get on stage when everyone was in, I was always trying to stay at the entrance and say hello and shake hands. You can't do that nowadays, but shake hands with as many as possible to get personal connection with as many people as possible before I got on stage. Have you tried that?

Isabell Aakervik

No. I mean, sometimes I've had, if there've been less people in the audience, it a little bit depends of where we are in the preparation for the speech and what we're going to do, if you still have maybe some sound check or something that we need to prepare. So it's been a little bit different I have to say, but I've done it when it has been a smaller kind of an audience.

Richard Wikström

Yeah, I've done it with 150 people. But it depends how you organize things, but I think it's because I am an introvert. I need to get that connection and energy before I get on stage. Is that something that you have been into those thoughts as well, John?

John A. Ball

Yeah, absolutely. I think, if you have the opportunity for giving any kind of presentation or speech to mix and mingle with the audience beforehand, then it's going to be really advantageous because giving any kind of presentation, even something like this, requires some level of connection, some level of empathy going out towards the people who may be watching and listening. So, yeah, when you're giving a presentation, particularly if you are feeling like you're connected to some of the people that you're speaking to, you're going to make it that bit more personal. So you're not just reading a presentation or delivering something, you're actually talking to some friends, to some people who, you know, and that does make us psychologically for us a big difference in how we deliver, but also a difference in how the presentations are received. So yeah, I really get what you're saying.

Richard Wikström

Oh, that's great. Isabell, you mentioned that oddly enough, though you travel like every second week, three to five days before corona and probably after, one of your private interests in life is to travel. So I guess you have the perfect job. But aside from that, on a personal level, if we would ask you, the secret skill of Isabell, what is that?

Isabell Aakervik

The secret skill of Isabell? Well, yes. I do have some interests that might not... I mean I grow up in the Northern part of Sweden, so I do love downhill sky. I haven't done that this year. I didn't have a time before the corona came, but downhill skiing is definitely one of my favorites. Otherwise I do also, it is very much interesting, into motor sport. Like Formula 1 and so on, even if I don't think it's the same thing anymore since they did do regulation changes. But I think those are the interests that people doesn't know about me, and also from the past when I've been playing the flute in an orchestra.

Richard Wikström

Okay. So have you done that for long? Is it the side flute?

Isabell Aakervik

Yes, it's a side flute. But I did it, now I stopped doing it, it was plus than 20 years ago or... no, it's 20 years ago, I stopped doing it, but I was pretty good at that point in time.

Richard Wikström

Oh, that's interesting. I mean, you slightly remind me of a Finnish flute player. On a great level. Do you know who? I'm Oh... what's the name? I'll come back to that!

John A. Ball

Do you think you might ever return to do some musicality, Isabell?

Isabell Aakervik

I mean, I've been also been a dancer. I've been drawing paintings and so on. So I think I do have the creative side of me as well, very much, but I don't have the time for it. But... yeah.

John A. Ball

How do you involve that creative side of yourself in what you do now?

Isabell Aakervik

Oh, I think it's more like looking into how you can do things differently and how you can go outside the box and not doing exactly what other people are doing, so you get more attention, and definitely into marketing purpose, how can you do things smarter and in another way, so you're not doing exactly the same as the other one to get more attention. So I think that's how I use the creative side right now and also looking into how can we present some the things and so on. So yeah, definitely.

Richard Wikström

So I just had to Google, the person I was thinking about was playing the violin. So forget about it.

Isabell Aakervik

(Laughs) It was an instrument though!

John A. Ball

And what about you, Richard, do you have a creative side, are the musical at all?

Richard Wikström

Well, actually I do, my secret skill is woodworking. Yes. So I have a full shop in my summer house where I make furniture and that kind of thing. So it's a little bit of a secret skill in a way. I come from a background where my father was in the construction business and he built our lake house starting in 1962. So I've been there all my life in the summers and now all weekends. And we've built more or less everything on our own. So the last thing I built was a sauna. I think you've joined me once virtually. Do you think that the podcast listeners and viewers wants to join us? Join me in a virtual format?

John A. Ball

I need an audio.

Richard Wikström

Yeah. So... there we are! I built this one. So that's my secret skill. And I'm odd in a way because I never had any vinyl or CD records and I never listened to music while working, like a lot of people do. But I'm quite good at guitar and singing. So, well, that's my secret. Isabell, two things you love and two things you hate.

Isabell Aakervik

Oh... I have to save looking into the situation we are in definitely, I will say being kind of a lockdown mode where we can't travel, I'm such restless night now. I've been home for soon three months. And I don't know which year that happened.... I mean...

Richard Wikström

Torture for you!

Isabell Aakervik

It's torture for me, so that is like a frustration. But I try to stay calm anyway... Two things that I like. I mean, traveling, I have to say that, because I love meeting new people, be outside, definitely be outside and meet friends and family, do training and so on, but the matter of fact that being in a lockdown and not being able to travel, that's definitely torture.

Richard Wikström

That's the two easy questions. Now the too difficult ones. What do you hate? Two things.

Isabell Aakervik

Oh, but, except for being in lockdown, two things that I hate... Oh, pessimistic people. I'm so much of a positive people. And I think like if you meet a challenge, you try to solve the problem and just pass through, and if you stop and say like, yes, but this is probably we can't do, we can't do, we can't do. And it's like, okay, but how can we find a way forward? I don't want to go back and look into who did what and what was wrong. It's more like, okay, now we're here. How can we move forward? And, I mean, of course I'm frustrated not being able to travel, but we are in a situation that we are. So it's just like, okay, you just get it and try to go for it as easy as possible, but stay positive.

Richard Wikström

So to put it mildly, you don't like people who thinks that the glass is always half empty.

Isabell Aakervik

No! Correct!

Richard Wikström

That's nice. But it's also interesting with looking forward, and not looking backwards and the non-blaming culture that you can build. Because what I always said, and I tried to train my people when I had a lot of employees, was to really move forward in a way where you look at opportunities and I always said that the difference between a good organization or company or a bad one is how you solve problems, because problems will always show up. So what's your take on that? Could you elaborate on that?

Isabell Aakervik

I completely agree with you. I think like, okay, you will always meet challenges. You will always meet problems. It's just a matter of how you're solving them and how you're tackling them. And you don't... I can have a discussion and be pretty upset, but when we have discussed and gone through things, I can leave it behind and then I move forward. So, I'm not the person that go into that and become angry for a long time period. It's like, okay, well we discussed it, I'm over and out and then I move forward and take the next step. We looked into, okay, what should we do right now? How can we navigate from where we are? So, definitely, completely agree with you.

John A. Ball

I'm a big believer in education and lifelong education and I tend to find that most people in business, most people who are doing really well, also are. So what's your take on educating for yourself and what are the things you might recommend for someone who's looking to follow a similar path to yourself?

Isabell Aakervik

I think today, definitely, education is beneficial because you will learn things that you might not, don't know how to Google or have to find, but there's a lot of information out, I read a lot of articles, I listen to some podcasts, sometimes I get news, I'm on subscription of different newsletters, some emails. So I try to stay up to date of what's happening in our industry and so on, so we can try to navigate. But still, it's a matter of fact, but also in terms of management and skills, that definitely one thing that I would like to look into more like management leaderships training ,that I think you can always evolve, you can always be better and you can always get tools to help you become better and to be able to navigate more easy. So I think from a personal perspective, that is something that I'm going to look into when I get some more time.

John A. Ball

What for you is the maybe your top most important business skill?

Isabell Aakervik

I think that I can do everything. If looking into the team that I'm having right now, is more like I'm working on a strategic level, but I can also do stuff on an operational level. I can sit down and write something. So I do have the entire bandwidth of doing things. And of course what I do as well, I try to hire people that has a better knowledge compared to myself to complement, because I can't have all the skills. So in terms of the marketing team, the colleagues, who are working with me, I don't have their skills at all. So they need to complement us in order to be able to deliver on the pool. But I need to understand, have an overall picture in order to try to navigate wherever I'm moving. So in terms of hiring people, definitely hire people, which is greater than yourself. But then also you need to have an understanding. So, you can't just be kind of a manager. You need to understand your employee and you need to be able to help out and try to solve problems and so on. But then navigating, moving.

Richard Wikström

You mentioned before that you've been working in Dubai, right? And I know you've been working in the US and the UK and you're a Swedish and you come from the same background as I do. If you look at the management styles in Dubai, in the US and Sweden, how would you see the differences and how would you compare, and is there a difference between how we do things and how you've seen things in those areas of the world?

Isabell Aakervik

I mean, it's definitely on a cultural lever, it's completely different. I mean, it's more hierarchy in the States, is more admin. You need to do all these admin work and so on. If you're looking to Dubai, Dubai and the Middle East regions, those, I think the business over there, it's more based on relationship and networking. So on a very high, very high level, those are the biggest differences I've seen in those two countries. But you need to be able to adapt to the different cultural changes which are in all the countries when you're traveling and working with different market,s otherwise you won't be accepted by the market itself. So you need to understand and you need to try to navigate the way they are navigating.

Richard Wikström

I always said in the selling stage, I mean, I've been a distributor for brands in more than 30 countries and for me the most important thing has always been to build rapport. I mean like the way I described it, you say hello to as many people as possible when you do a lecture or you do a presentation to build rapport, you need to understand where they come from and then you can adapt to that. Which is... because sometimes I feel that it's a little bit from the American side, sometimes also from the Swedish side, it's a lot of insight now; this is how we do it and this is how you should do it too. But all businesses local, how do you see that?

Isabell Aakervik

No, I completely agree. All businesses are local and you need to have your ears and feet on the ground and understand how they are working in and what they're doing. And of course they were pretty interesting sometimes when you showed up at a meeting in Middle East or... I was in Sharjah, which is in North of Dubai. Those are, if looking into Dubai itself and Sharjah, those are like if traveling to two completely different countries at least when going and entering a meeting. So that was interesting.

John A. Ball

One of my favorite books is by Ray Dalio and his book on principles. I wonder, for you, what are some of your leading guiding principles in life and business?

Isabell Aakervik

I definitely think, stay positive. As we were talking about in the past, you will end up always having challenges and problem but, but keep calm and stay positive. You know, as matter of fact, if you asking for help to keep going, like a little bit above that and you know, you will solve it and it will come something better, also with talent as well, so that is definitely something that I've, both from a personal perspective but also in a business perspective, I very much bring with me.

Richard Wikström

It's a good philosophy to have. Keep going, keep taking action, even when things are getting tough. What's something that you, quantitate or not, what's something you can't live without?

Isabell Aakervik

Oh... I will say music. I mean, you can put yourself into different modes with music. And sometimes you need more positive energy, maybe, depending on where you are and then you can put out some positive music that gets you a good feeling. So no, I was music based and all that.

Richard Wikström

I think it's a proper thing, also to ask John now, what's your secret skill?

John A. Ball

My secret skill. Well, I am musical as well. I play piano and I play the trombone and the euphonium, although I haven't played those for a few years.

Richard Wikström

Maybe we can have an orchestra.

John A. Ball

Yeah, we could perhaps do that.

Richard Wikström

A Trio!

John A. Ball

So those are things that people don't know so much about me, but trying to think of other ones. I have a black belt in two different martial arts as well, so I guess not too many people know that. I used to do kickboxing. I'm too old for that now. And I've more recently been doing ninjitsu, the art of ninjitsu. So I guess not too many people would guess that, looking at me.

Richard Wikström

Why not?

John A. Ball

I don't know... I don't look like most people imagine a martial artist to look, perhaps.

Richard Wikström

Well, you don't sound like one, but...

Richard Wikström

NO! (Laughs)

Richard Wikström

You sound so nice!

John A. Ball

Very peaceful and relaxed.

Richard Wikström

It means you have a lot of Zen and that kind of things as well, because it's part of the philosophy.

Richard Wikström

Yes. I love meditation and Tai Chi as well. Another martial art, really good, but yeah, I'm very...

Richard Wikström

Isabell, on the same more philosophical level, is there any direction that you have been into, or testing or trying?

Isabell Aakervik

No...

Richard Wikström

Just being positive.

Isabell Aakervik

Yeah! (Laughs)

Richard Wikström

Well.. That's actually a good start! On education, if you would recommend... Which one is your go-to author, book podcast, YouTube or whatever for inspiration and education?

Isabell Aakervik

It's "On purpose", with Jay Shetty, because that one is both from like a personal level, but also sometimes I seem to tie a little bit to work life and so on. But I think, I don't know if you know the guy which has been a monk in the past. Yeah. So I think, "On purpose" I think it is called. I think that was pretty inspiring and it gives you some insight , because it's all, as a matter of fact, always about yourself and you can always affect things yourself and to strengthen yourself. So you need to build up your own self confidence and stay... yes, right where we are within yourself.

Richard Wikström

If you would, with your experience now, if you would just say a few words on why should someone join GBO, what would you say?

Isabell Aakervik

Definitely, connecting with people to share experience, knowledge with each other, but also to be able to meet people within new markets, new countries. Because it might be an opportunity for your business to enter another market. And definitely now also, when we do have the virtual meeting, it's also easier to connect with other people in new markets to understand who they are and then you have this site where you can login to search for a different skill if you need other people, so there is an opportunity and you don't have to look only into your local market to work in. It might be that you can expand your business on another level with this community.

John A. Ball

Excellent! So are we going to be having GBO meetings in your sauna anytime soon Richard, is that going to be... (laughs)

Richard Wikström

I'm not sure that's a politically correct o appropriate, but John, if you come to Stockholm I will definitely offer you a sauna.

John A. Ball

That's very kind and I look forward to it.

Richard Wikström

And for me, being Swedish. My wife is half-Finnish. We do it all the time. Actually, one of the Finnish traditions that she has is, sometimes, when we have very good friends over for dinner, we do it Finnish style, which means that people come over, the sauna is warm, we have already done our sauna, we do the dinner while we offer our guests the sauna and then they ccome up to the house and have dinner, which is a Finnish tradition. So that might be one thing. Do you have an experience of sauna, Isabell? Is that one of the things you do?

Isabell Aakervik

Only when you do downhill skiing when you're up in the mountains. But it's typical you do a sauna, but otherwise it's not that common.

John A. Ball

You like the après ski, yeah?

Isabell Aakervik

That is good as well. After you've done the downhill skiing, then you do that as well.

Richard Wikström

Or as we call it now a "Corona moment" (laughs).

John A. Ball

If you are rewarding yourself, Isabell, and this is for Richard as well, if you're rewarding yourself, what would you reward yourself with?

Richard Wikström

Isabell, you are to start.

Isabell Aakervik

I think, as a matter of fact, I'm pretty good in engaging people and stay passionate, so I can get people working along with me and then I stay positive. And this is typically a thing that people use to say, you're always smiling, but as a matter of fact, I think that I do that 99% of my time. It's a little bit keep happy, and be happy in life. So I think I'm pretty good in trying to see the light out of things.

John A. Ball

I mean, more in the lines of what would you give yourself if you've done something really well, like a rewarding gift to yourself?

Isabell Aakervik

Okay. I think maybe buy something nice or maybe maybe travel somewhere, a trip.

Richard Wikström

I have to say John, that that I had time to think when Isabell was explaining her ways of looking at the question, how to reward yourself. I'm not very good at it. I have to be better. But I get more rewarded by doing something for someone else, to be honest. So doing something for my kids or for my wife, that's very rewarding for me. For example, I cancelled my own birthdays 25 years ago and said, I don't want to have any gifts, so I'm an odd person. Wrong question!

Isabell Aakervik

Possibly you don't do it because you're just moving onto the next thing to do. So that is the easiest way of doing it.

Richard Wikström

But okay. I will make a promise. I will, up until the next podcast, I will give myself a reward and I will report next time. Is that okay?

John A. Ball

That sounds good to me.

Richard Wikström

That's really great. That's really great. So I think we will be wrapping up. Isabell, it was great to have you with us. Thank you for sharing. And to the audience. John, thank you for being here. Sorry Maitén couldn't be with us, but she had other, more pressing engagements. Sometimes it just like that. I mean, she's an entrepreneur. She has to put business first, sometimes. So to the audience, if you want to comment or say anything or give us a tip or a lead on who to interview in the podcast, please email podcast@globalbusinessowners.com and Isabell, thank you. We'll see you guys next time.

Isabell Aakervik

Thank you too, thank you for having me!

Speaker 9:

Are you a game changer? A start-up founder? A high impact investor? Entrepreneurial minded? A business owner with a global mindset. Welcome to the world of Global Business Owners. I'm Richard, global president of GBO. We are a rapidly expanding international business networking club with established chapters in 24 cities and more 650 members worldwide. Among our esteemed members are many accomplished business owners, which include partners at prodigious law firms, founders of high tech startups, elite brokers and experienced investors to name a few. We created GBO to help people like you facilitate lifelong business friendships to give leaders a platform to share knowledge, to allow for the open discussion of ideas and to create business opportunities for GBO members around the world. Experience a different kind of business network. One that doesn't come with strict membership rules or expensive club fees. GBO offers a relaxed social environment that connects people with knowledge, knowledge, with ideas, and ideas with opportunities.

Miguel A. Reyes Riera:

We invite you to join us in building a significant global business network, with the goal to forge a community of 50,000 global members in 500 city chapters all around the world, as GBO becomes s key community in the global business environment.

Richard Wikström

Begin your journey today and join us as an honored guest, at one of the next local chapter meetings in your city to experience the spirit and philosophy of GBO.

Michaela Feudtner:

Simply complete the guest's request form on our website and one of our dedicated guest managers will be in contact with you to assist you in booking a guest seat and to answer any questions. I hope to see you at the next GBO event.

GBO members:

Welcome to GBO!

Episode #2

Guest - Andrew Hughes / GBO Madrid

Episode #2 Transcription: about multicultural nomads life, tech industry, investing in startups, cooking and more

Richard Wikström

Welcome to A Taste of the Club, the podcast for business owners from the Global Business Owners network of business friendship. This is where you get the insights from founders and investors on their career and personal development. Everyone, very welcome to the second episode of the GBO podcast , "A Taste of the Club" with me Richard Wikström who's the global president of GBO, John Ball president in a Valencia and Maitén who's also a member in Valencia. The idea with the podcast is, as the name suggests, to get a taste of the club. So the setup is that the panel, me, Richard, John and Maitén who are already members, is inviting another memberas a guest, so that everyone who is watching this can see what is a GBO meeting about. And today we have our guest, an experienced CEO, from the tech industry, a tech founder and investor, Andrew Hughes with us. Welcome, Andrew.

Andrew Hughes

Thank you very much for having me. Good to be here.

Richard Wikström

Yes. And what we're doing is we're going to do this podcast as a GBO meeting, which means that everyone shortly introduces themselves. Then of course we will dig deeper into who Andrew is, because you are our guest today, and also a member in Madrid since many years. So let's start with that. John, who are you?

John Ball

Well my name is John Ball and I'm a presentation skills trainer and coach living in Valencia. I teach the tools of influence and persuasion from the platform and from online presentations and the creation of online products and services for service business owners.

Richard Wikström

Great, John. Maitén?

Maitén Panella

Hello everyone. My name is Maitén Panella. I'm a psychologist and psychotherapist. I work mainly as a business psychologist as I'm also an entrepreneur.

Richard Wikström

Great, thank you, Maitén. And I'm Richard and as I said before, I'm the global president of Global Business Owners. I've been in the cosmetic industry for over 30 years on different positions. I started in sales and ended up in marketing in a quite big distribution operation. And then I handled as CEO, in a Scandinavian Swedish brand, and took it all out on the world market. And since a couple of years back, I'm trying to do as little as possible. It's not working really well, but I'm working with startups and I've done some investments and I do some advice on my areas of expertise. Just before we get into who Andrew is, because this is the main thing of this podcast, to understand more about who the member is, let me present a little bit about what GBO is. GBO is a business club founded on the idea of business friendship, which means that we meet each other regularly for lunches and dinners, we bring in guests, we make presentations. And the idea with Global Business Owners is to get to know each other before we do business, because quite often it's the other thing around. So to build real business friendship relationships is the idea of Global Business Owners. But of course the whole situation with corona has changed it for us to the negative of course, but also to the positive because we had to get into the virtual world. So one of these things we're doing is this GBO podcast, A Taste of the Club. Other things we're doing now is international virtual meetings on topics over Zoom and video conferences. And we hope to start again with our physical meetings now when the world again is opening up, I believe that Stockholm in Sweden where I am president as well is going to be the first one on Tuesday next week. That would be the 19th of May. And we had a presidents and vice presidents conference today over Zoom, one and a half hour ago where I get a report from lots of countries in the world and we are now opening up physical meetings as soon as authorities allow us to do so, but of course following all the rules and regulations, so that we do this responsibly. That's a little bit about our situation and what GBO is. But now, Andrew, our experienced tech CEO, tech founder, investor, member in GBO Madrid since quite some time. Let's start with shortly who you are and why did you join GBO.

Andrew Hughes

Who am I? Wow, that's an interesting one. I am a tech entrepreneur first and foremost, and an investor second. That's what I do. I have built four tech companies, on or around mobile, mobile content, mobile internet. Way back since 1998 was the first first launch of my first company. So I've been in this world of tech for quite some time and I've seen some tremendous changes and incidentally, the world of tech is as varied as the real world is. It's just a phrase that we use that tries to explain that we are pushing as much as we can forward the technology to enhance our lives wherever possible. So I've been involved in multiple sectors within the technology area and I have lived in quite a few countries all around the world. I grew up in Asia. I think you might be able to tell... I am British. I'm from London originally; three out of my startups were based in London. One was actually based in Greece. Would you believe? Originally? Not that I've ever lived in Greece... And I have led a nomadic life through the ages living in all these countries. And for me, interestingly, technology has been the enabler for me to do that. And I'm not seeing any change to my normal pattern of worklife with this lockdown. For me, I've worked from home, built companies remotely for the last, let's think, about 20 years. So I think I'm number 39,000 and something on LinkedIn. So I was one of the very earliest adopters of LinkedIn because it really served the purpose of being a remote entrepreneur. So now I find myself here living in Madrid and a member since I moved to Madrid, which was about a year ago from Lisbon. So I've been a member of GBO since the early days here in Madrid. And you know, the reason why, answering your second question, it's just a friendly bunch of guys and girls trying to get together, trying to find ideas and share ideas through friendship first. And I think that is a unique platform as well. And it's something that was missing in almost every location I've lived in, for whether it be Italy. in Rome or Lisbon in Portugal, London, or even here in Madrid. So it really has been a terrific platform to meet and share ideas with likeminded people.

Richard Wikström

And yes, Maitén, you were on the way to say something?

Maitén Panella

Yes. Sorry. But I want to jump in because that multicultural part of Andrew interests me particularly; being a multicultural person, myself being born in one place, I have another nationality, I have lived in four countries... So I'd like to ask you, Andrew, well, first of all, welcome. I'm delighted to have you here and please let us know more about this, this multicultural experience that you have, and what is the thing that you value the most from that experience now, if it is some more things that you can elaborate for us?

Andrew Hughes

Yeah, sure. It's an interesting topic and it's a topic that I've been, you know, having a conversation about right through the whole process. And I think what one of the takeaways for me and my sisters when we were younger is that we got to see different cultures and learn of different cultures, which gave us an open minded approach to the differences of people and of the planet. And that is, I think, one of the big blockers that humans have is the ability to, or not to have the ability to be tolerant, to be open-minded, to explore and move away from the idea that you're born in a country, and that is the most important country. We are born on the same planet and every culture and country has its own merits and backgrounds and histories, which are all fascinating. So that has led us to be hungry, to learn and adopt different habits and cultures and traditions from each of the areas that we've lived in. And I think that's also, in a way, GBO is a microcosm of that attitude for me. It is a gathering of open-minded highly diverse cultural individuals, not just in the local aspect of GBO, but of course right across the globe. The GBO is open to us all. And I think that is exactly how I've lived my life. And the negative side to all of that, cause there's always balance in life, has been that we lose friends along the way because we've moved from one country to another. And as best as well as we can, technology has really helped improve that process. Look at us all today on on this Zoom, and Skype before that and before that, you know, just basic telephones. But I remember when I was a kid, we were living in Hong Kong. We had to write letters back to UK to book a time for the phone call that would happen in two weeks time with our relatives. So the world has changed thanks to technology. And that has allowed us to...

Richard Wikström

My God, Andrew, you're almost as old as me.

Andrew Hughes

I think I'm much younger than you, Richard.

Richard Wikström

That's true. But it's very interesting. This, this question about cultures and experience different cultures. I mean, I haven't lived in a lot of different places, but I've made business in more than 30 different countries with the cosmetic business. And it always struck me that people are looking for differences. But if you look a little bit more, there are far more similarities between people in all cultures than differences. What's your take on that?

Andrew Hughes

I think we're all human and that's the bottom line. Yes, there are different different religions, different colors, different ideas, but we are all human and we have traits and habits and communication skills. All the same! And it's a question whether you look for the differences to criticize or you look for the differences to learn, so as you can get closer. And that's just an attitude that is different from person to person, not from culture to culture. And I think that that's the key point, right? I'm always, I'm always hungry to to explore the differences and actually expose my differences, you know, and that's courage, right? It's the ability that you get from going from one culture to another that you can say, look, hey, I'm different too. I'm the odd one out here. I'm the guest here, not an invader, right? So we have to come up with that approach that, you know, we have to be respectful and open to the predominant culture that you're joining.

John Ball

Excellent. Andrew, I'd like to ask you how you got started in your industry and maybe why, what drives you?

Andrew Hughes

I got started in my industry because we had an idea that something wasn't addressed and we spent a lot of time looking for people already doing what we were doing, and there wasn't anybody. So, the big challenge at that point, quite young, much younger than Richard at that point was, why not? Why not me? Why not us? Why not have a go? Let's go try this thing! And the culture then, 20 odd years ago, wasn't entrepreneurial. Now it's rockstar stuff, right? Everyone wants to be a tech entrepreneur, right? It's sexy. It's more sexy than banking or law, you know, which used to be the big money generators. We've gone through a cycle of the biggest bull run in history, where money is cheap, it's almost free. Ideas are accessible, because technology... The barriers to entry are not there as they were 20 years ago. Think of cloud computing, cloud storage you know... a guy can, can launch a billion dollar company from his back room, you know... So the barriers to entry are no longer there. So it's become very, very exciting. But back then it wasn't like that. It was like simply we wanted to do and deliver this idea. It was very tough. VCs were not present as they are now... so money was through the three F's, right? Friends, family and fools and you go begging and and that's how, that's how I got started. I guess the Genesis of every startup is based around that. Can you do this? Is anybody else doing it? If they are, can you do it better?

Richard Wikström

And what specifically was this project about? What did you do? What did you deliver? What did you develop?

Andrew Hughes

We developed a an IP project, so an intellectual property project around technology. Back then, there were about four and a half million mobile phone users in the UK. Imagine that four and a half million phones, right? And there were a plethora of billing companies, right? They're all fighting for this growing cake that they wanted a slice of. And there were only two network operators, so a duopoly, which is why the billing companies existed to ensure that it was fair play. But what was happening is that there were a lot of bills that were getting unpaid because people... it was very expensive back then. It's not like today. So there's a lot of, you know, default on mobile phone bills at the end of the month. And that cycle was very similar to credit cards. So you buy a washing machine and, at the end of the month, you can't pay, so you were allowed credit. But the mobile phone companies weren't allowed to give credit. So they were getting defaulted by these expensive bills. So, we saw that in America there was one credit card company who had an association, an alliance with "Save the children". So they were going after the charity donors. Why? Because they had access to that had excess income that they were giving away to charity. So therefore that credit risk was much, much lower. Very smart move by that company, that credit card company. And we went... Hey! Wait a minute! The billing companies are suffering in mobile phones here. Why don't we borrow that model and put it onto the billing model of mobile phones? Let's go out and get all the charities we can convince to be this tripartite. So every time you made a phone call, 3% of your bill, every single month will go to that charity of your choice. The charity would market it to this donor because they were less of a credit risk. The mobile phone billing company said, we're in, we'll give 3% of the bill, because we actually, you know, default much more than that. So everybody wants, so we had 45 charities raising money every single month from a consumer that didn't come out of his pocket. It came out of the marketing budget from the mobile phone billing company. So we grew this over a two and a half, three years, and it was acquired by one of the billing companies. And you know, we had charities like Save the children, Great Ormond Street children's Hospital donkey charities, which are really big in the UK, animal charities, you know, Whizz-Kidz, which was a fantastic company that built amazing wheelchairs for children to make them funky. These kinds of projects were really benefiting from that kind of a tie up between consumers the mobile phone billing company and our company, which owned the intellectual property around that. But that was my first...

Richard Wikström

Yeah, that's an amazing start of a career to do good and make money at the same time. What's your educational background, Andrew? How did you come into tech?

Andrew Hughes

Oh, literally it was that idea. I mean, it was not that... I'm not an engineer. I don't have an engineering degree. I'm, I'm commercially minded, that's my background. I will share with you, I was the managing director of a lingerie manufacturing organization out of Switzerland and Austria to the big client of Marks & Spencer in the UK. So I ran the UK office. I was MD, the youngest MD supply Marks & Spencer. And my job was going around the world buying lingerie and manufacturing lingerie. So, that was a complete different background to technology. But that was big industry, you know, where you're producing kilometers and kilometers of fabrics and pieces and the margins were tight. And so it was a very interesting six, seven years that I spent on the textile manufacturing side of things. But I understood, one thing, Richard, that I, and I think that this is key to flipping, is that I understood that manufacturing was moving from Europe. It was becoming too expensive for middle class Europeans to work in factories. So it began to move out to Eastern Europe, to Turkey, to Portugal, and then further afield to Ceylon and then further afield to... as it was called then... and out to Indonesia and then China. So all those jobs moved out and that was something that became very clear to me. And what I did see on the rise was technology. So I was always looking for a way to enter this new world of technology. I guess that's a sign of an entrepreneur, right? It's seeing the decline and the rise of different markets and able to go from one to the other at the appropriate time.

John Ball

Cause there's a lot of men that like to get into the lingerie business, right?

Andrew Hughes

Well, yes, it was tough.

Maitén Panella

I was just about to ask you, Andrew, something that is related with ideas and technology, mainly in these times we are all living in, and you are a man of ideas and that's pretty clear for us. What is your take on this situation and the technology we already have and the technology that we are going to develop, let's see, in the next three, five years? What about this time?

Andrew Hughes

Are you asking about what I think the the next wave of innovation will be?

Maitén Panella

Yes.

Andrew Hughes

Yeah. I think we're already seeing a remarkable mindset change from what technology provides in certain sectors and the appetite, which is always the other side of the coin from either government's regulations or consumers. So there are a lot of moving parts around this. And one of the things that I'm beginning to notice, which is a great catalyst for technology sectors, is the healthcare sector. And in particular, this is a very highly regulated area by governments for protection, for consumer protection and medical protection. I think it's right to have these safeguards in around technology, but I've often found that the protocol for selection of technologies has been an inhibitor to growth. And what we're seeing right now across the globe is that the governments, who have been hit hard, both financially and strategically to cope with this COVID-19, they haven't got the technology in place to fight it at the speed that is now required. And technology allows speed. It allows scalability at a dramatic scale. So we are seeing governments reduce the protocol and the red tape to allow technology to take over sectors in a rapid way, where ordinarily it would take three years for that to be approved. We're now seeing this happen in a month. And that is a huge step change in the way that technology has been allowed to help to find cures and/or to find communication pieces to the whole chain around our own care for and safety for society. So that's one sector. I do see a significant change around FinTech and around this kind of "Neo banking facilities", because banks currently are shutting down their consumer services. We can't go to banks anymore. And if you can, there aren't that many left. And the whole model of banking has changed dramatically. And now we're seeing 25-26 year olds come up with Neo banks and getting valued at 4 to 8 billion euros or dollars and changing the financial models. And I think that cascading through various sectors will be very impactful and very important. And I'm also seeing in digital marketing, there's a big change for the standard way that brands and big companies, but particularly brands, FMCG brands in particular, that are getting really interested in what their consumers are thinking and wanting from their lives. So this relationship between big industry and society and the consumers has become much closer. And I think companies that are enabling that, and one of my investments has enabled that, is to get real time insight from what we care about. You know, why do I care whether you are burning a rainforest down? Why do I care if you're polluting with a HDPE plastics in the sea? Why do we care? Because we are becoming much more aware of society, of the impact we've had on the planet. And if we look at the kind of big consumer brands, the FMCGs, they have a huge part to play in this. And we are getting more powerful as consumers, our power against these companies, and anything that could enable that kind of communication to empower the big brands to be doing responsible things in society, I think is a generation millennial and a generation Z kind of empowerment. And I think that's important too. And I could go on, there are many sectors, but those are the ones that immediately come to mind.

John Ball

But what's important to you personally then? What, what would be your top values around business and doing business?

Andrew Hughes

Well, I'm pretty keen on what we call impact investment currently. And an impact is a sense of responsibility. Does it enable lives to be better? I remember my first company was all around empowering consumers to choose a brand that respected causes that they support already or wanted to support. And this I think is about selection. We will choose the companies we want to do business with because of the ethical stance. And I think we haven't had the power to do that like we have now, like today. So this change is upon us and it's happening more rapidly. So I'm looking at companies to have an impact. Now, there's always a balance. There's always a balance between commercial reality, viability, profitability. They're all healthy things. They employ people, they, they provide a opportunity. We all need to feel that we're doing something. So employers have a responsibility now to have an impactful mindset in the business, because employees are choosing that. So that's also impacting the way that I look at how I invest in the companies that I want to be involved with. And if they have a an 80- 20 rule, you know, 80% of their businesses is core and what they do, but the 20% of business is trying to move their profits into areas that are doing much better, that's fair. I think there has to be a balance in life and in my own life, some of my investments are pure money plays, you know, I want them to make as much as I want. But if they've got the 80-20 rule and I've got the 80-20 rule, you know, we are beginning to move the needle in terms of influence of what we do. I don't invest in stock markets very much. But if I were, I wouldn't be investing in Imperial tobacco... you know, these are profitable companies. I wouldn't personally want to do that. And I think that's choice.

John Ball

Yeah. Do you think we've reached a tipping point with a sort of move move to ethical business and investing? Or is it on its way? Where do you feel we are with that?

Andrew Hughes

I think we can split that into geographies and sectors. So yes and no, right? But the overall cycle I think is absolutely here and it's been here for a while actually. And I think Gretta is a great example of how the youth is driving that. I got to remember, I'm, you know, I'm older than I was 20 years ago. And my decision making processes went as refined as Gretta's and her kind of group really. And because it's changed, you know, there is a need for change and there is a need for a mindset that is understanding the impact. We can't go around as we did when I was starting my career with a blasé approach to flying and cars and stuff, you know. I don't own a car anymore and one of my greatest passions is driving, you know, but I've decided that that's, you know, we'll see how it goes, but it's two years now. I have another car and I've just bought a bicycle, so I'll be in hospital in about a week. But yeah, I'm trying to do these things and I think that's a reflection not of me, but of everything,

John Ball

Not even an electric car?

Andrew Hughes

No!

Richard Wikström

On the top of doing good, Andrew, friendship is one of these things. So do you have any example of interesting things that have been developed into business from your GBO membership?

Andrew Hughes

Absolutely. Quite surprisingly, actually Richard, I mean, I wasn't in that necessarily to do this, but one of my investments in the UK of which I'm a strategic advisor on the board is doing great stuff. And actually they've got the 80-20 rule. They do work with the Syrian refugees as well. So there's a lot of interest around that. And I was able, through a couple of conversations here in GBO, to find an investor who was really keen to join me and my syndicate to invest in this company, which I wasn't expecting, because the company is in London, right? So that was extraordinary. And in addition, another contact that's come through the GBO who is, you know, a good friend now and you know, got a great business down here in Madrid, you know, he introduced me to another professional investor. Again, not in Madrid, this guy is outside Madrid, outside Spain. But we got chatting and we got sharing our pipe and said, look, this is what I'm doing, what are you doing... He came in as well! So, you know, it was extraordinary that somebody, not even the GBO Madrid, was able to understand what I was trying to do with this business. And he came in with a considerable investment as well. So I was able to kind of see that this friendly approach lays open to an element of trust and openness that, you know, it would be, Oh, I haven't experienced it in such a rapid progresses as that. So yeah, absolutely. GBO has been extraordinary successful on that basis.

Maitén Panella

You said the magical world, "trust", because without trust you cannot build absolutely anything, anything at all, so yes, I agree with you, that GBO gives us this.

Andrew Hughes

That starts in the family, doesn't it? It starts in the family and goes to friends and then goes to business. Trust is the currency of which humankind operated. And GBO has representative kind of fast track trust environment. You know, it doesn't come with everybody. It doesn't come as a defacto, but the basis, the DNA of trust is what the GBO I find has really demonstrated. And I think that's a natural process. You can't fake that.

John Ball

Yeah. People are always going to prefer to do businesstwith people that they like and trust as well, I would think, and I do hope that we're moving to a world where the bottom dollar isn't the only consideration, that that more and more people are thinking a bit more with a global consciousness rather than just how much money they can make right now. You are in the investing world. I'm really curious to know. I don't know that much about investing and I would like to know more.

Andrew Hughes

Me too!

John Ball

But how do you start learning more about these things? And what was your path to actually becoming an investor?

Richard Wikström

I'll give you an idea: trial an error!

Andrew Hughes

Yeah. I mean, you don't want to error too much on investing. It's probably better to error on the entrepreneurial side because you learn so much more from failing than you do from winning. It's an irony. And it's not as satisfying as winning, I can assure you, but actually there are takeaways that you're going to win if you fail. Whereas, you know, there are some guys who were extremely lucky. I know some great teams who have built a company and gone straight to a billion dollar exit or whatever, you know, without making any errors along the way, but they're rare, OK? Entrepreneurship is about making mistakes during the process and after; success is there at every level, even if you fail, that's the bottom line. But investing is slightly different. Investing is a numbers game. I'm able say that I'm investing because I'm an entrepreneur, not because I'm a financial, you know, whizz-kid. I haven't risen through a banking environment straight into well-paid VC role and learn from that aspect. I look at the team, you know, really, really closely rather than the idea. The idea is important of course. But what happens if an idea is failing with a really, really good team is that you can learn to pivot, and pivot is where you kind of change the idea and roll with the mistakes and come through the other side. And I've known companies that have pivoted three, four times and ended up, you know, a really valuable company, but unless they have the intelligent team around that and the advisors and investors, hat they wouldn't have made it. So I'd rather invest in a really good team with a poor product than a really great product and a poor team. So that's for me an essence of what makes a good risk or a bad risk in terms of investment. Through my last and most recent... I've invested in my companies that I've founded of course. And I've exited all four, so all four of my companies have been acquired. Well actually one of them twice, which was quite interesting, but each one has gone to the full cycle of a PowerPoint, hustling for investment, hustling the product, pivoting, getting out there, building the reputation, finding the strategic exit partners, working hard to build that trust in that relationship. And that's allowed me to come out and try another one. But pure investing in other startups is a very different game. And it's actually difficult for me. I typically invest in a company that I want to help, but I can help, right? So that's also something, if I don't understand it, don't invest in it. Number one, no matter what everybody is like, "Hey, this is going to be the next big thing, you have to get in right now!" If you don't understand it, don't invest in it. And have some ability to give advice. And it's very important for me as an entrepreneur to bring that experience. I'm not a retired lawyer who has no experience of entrepreneurialism and okay, I'll put some money in it. That's not where I'm at. So there are different types of investors, to answer your question around that but I predominantly invest in the people.

John Ball

You're not just investing money, then, you're investing your time and your knowledge and experience and connections and wherever else. Right?

Andrew Hughes

Absolutely. To the level that I can, right? So I haven't had a billion dollar exit, sadly. So, you know, as a company grows to that level and gets higher level institutional investment, B rounds and above, that's not really where I can leverage my experience. And I acknowledge that, you know, it's horses for courses and they're going to get better advice and hopefully take my investments far higher than I could. But that initial stage, right the way through to say A rounds and what have you, I absolutely have to get involved. Yeah.

Richard Wikström

John another good answer to your question, of course, to understand more about investments is to our listeners, of course, join GBO to meet people like Andrew. And there are quite a lot of people who have been into entrepreneurship, are into entrepreneurship, have gone into investments. And what I usually say to guests we have is that, when I did business that way and when I did it before as a CEO, I did due diligence on companies; with GBO, you do due diligence on people. And that's for me a big game changer, because I want to work with people that I like to hang around with. That's what I want to do the rest of my life. Not fight with people who are having another target in life than I do. And doing due diligence on people is a great thing and GBO is an amazing possibility to do that. But on a personal note, Andrew, I know you and I talked about it, but if you would recommend someone to listen to in your area, read a book or listen to someone on YouTube, who would you recommend?

Andrew Hughes

Hmm. Yeah, and I've thought about that conversation quite a lot, Richard, because it was very thought provoking. And I think my first reaction to you was Bill Gates. And I think I'll stick with Bill in the context of entrepreneurial and investment. And I think he's probably the one of the most profound characters that has come through tech right the way through to investment, right the way through to philanthropy and actually looking at the, you know, COVID and other diseases, in malaria particularly, in his philanthropic work with his wife at the foundation. And I think that is a journey that everyone can aspire to. I mean, it is the ultimate success story. And actually his intelligence is one of a quiet, instilling, motivating type of intelligence. I always like to listen to him talk you know, in many Ted talks or similar on YouTube. He's profound and, and you know, he's one of my heroes of your like, particularly he's gone the full cycle, you know, right the way through. And, you know, more so than let's say Steve Jobs for example, who I think was an incredible visionary, sadly taken from us too soon. So it is a bit unfair to compare the two in terms of philanthropic approach, but his very style of business was very different. And I just think Bill Gates is one of the smartest guys in our generation, in our time. In terms of books, I don't read industry books, because there are so many and they're all a bit dry actually. And I like to get away from the industry, right? I like to be entertained and whatever. But I think one of the books that I shared with you, again I think I'll stick with it, is "One hundred years of solitude" and I think right now it feels absolutely right. It feels absolutely right.

Richard Wikström

Maitén likes that!

Maitén Panella

García Márquez! Who doesn't like him?

Andrew Hughes

He's wonderful. His turn of phrase... I think is very, very different to a British culture. And I think that's also wonderful, the way it's been translated. And the turn of phrase is just so charming and it's a great insight. You know, from the Spanish speaking world to be now living here, being a Brit, I think it's a beautiful book. Beautiful book. And we're all in lockdown for a hundred years!

Richard Wikström

That's great. We're closing in on our podcasts now. Andrew can you allow me to be a bit more personal?

Andrew Hughes

Yeah, go on Richard. It's just us, right?

Richard Wikström

What do you do for fun, Andrew?

Andrew Hughes

I love cooking. I know I'm a Brit and I'm cooking, right?

John Ball

Beans on toast. Yeah?

Andrew Hughes

Something like that, John. Yes! No, I love cooking.

Richard Wikström

Interesting. When you're going to impress guests, what do you serve?

Andrew Hughes

Oh gosh. It's been a while, I guess. I enjoy cooking for my family first and foremost, right? I think the idea of breaking bread around a table for my kids' busy lives from my wife's busy life, from my busy life, from all different ways. We come at one point to the table at the end of the day and it's a great time to try and forget everything else. Talk about each other's days and bring ideas around the idea of breaking bread. So I like the idea of the diverse cultural experience. And actually when we were beginning the lockdown, what I was doing, I was going from one country to the next every night. And we talk about that country and cultures with my children and try to help them understand the different flavors and... It's too hot for me! That's too spicy! Or... You know, we liked that. And I think that that's just a tool that we use to communicate. But you know, if I was trying to do something special for people, I would revert back to a beautiful beef Wellington. You can't beat a fabulous beef Wellington and all the history around that. So you know it's a crowd pleaser, but I love cooking. That's what I do. But also I love to meet new people. And I know that sounds like a cliche, but that's exactly why I joined GBO, to link it all together, Richard. You know, it's been a really, really great experience because I've met people I wouldn't normally meet. I can do that everywhere, but with a common goal. And that's been brilliant. So I miss that. And, you know, I can't wait till the next physical meeting because it's going to be great to see some old faces and some new.

Richard Wikström

Well, it is going to happen. We're doing all we can. As I said, we had a Presidents and Vice Presidents meeting just a couple of hours ago. We're opening up now in Stockholm. We're opening up in Mallorca and as soon as the authorities of Madrid allows us, we will do with that as well. But, finally, I have two questions. One of them is if you would recommend something, Andrew, what would that be?

Andrew Hughes

Is there any guidance on that?

Richard Wikström

Absolutely none. I want you to recommed something!

Andrew Hughes

I would like to recommend that we look at this experience that we've collectively gone through in the world, which is unprecedented. And I know there have been illnesses, including in my own family, but let's try and use this experience for the best. And that means looking for the best things in this life, right? Looking for the best experiences, enjoy your family, embrace your friends, look at new challenges, find the new spikes that are succeeding right now in terms of technology to, in terms of experiences about what you want to do in your next stage of life. We all have got a lot left in us to contribute and to receive. And let's try and all be positive. Let's not revert back to type, and whatever that means to you personally, everybody's different. Just be kind, you know, smile a bit. That's all we want.

Richard Wikström

That's a very good recommendation. And finally, Andrew, before I let John and Maitén have a say to finalize this as well, who would you like to see to be interviewed on the GBO podcast?

Andrew Hughes

Well, I think there's a chap down here that some of us will know, is Claudiu. Claudiu is a remarkable human being with a remarkable story in the background and he is a force of nature. And he has demonstrated the true spirit of GBO and I think he was very key to welcoming me with open arms, big bear of a man, but also during this terrible crisis... He's involved with manufacturing here in Spain and you know, he's shown great resolve to solve some of the issues that have come his way. And I think he's a great inspiration and a great, a great character. I'd like to see him interview.

Richard Wikström

Great! Thank you very much. John, Maitén, anything to round this up?

John Ball

Well, I think Richard has asked some really nice questions. I would really just like to ask you on a personal level, what have been the best or worst things about the quarantine period for you in Spain?

Andrew Hughes

The best is that I spend time with my family and my kids and I've watched them develop in this two months incredibly. And I think that's a profound and an absolute bloody privilege frankly. And I think the worst is that in UK I have family that I haven't been able to see that have been hospitalized and that has been really painful and we still have no idea whether or how I can get back to UK safely and then back here safely. So that sense of quarantine is really real to me. And that's been the worst.

Maitén Panella

Okay. I have a question, but on the business side, and maybe for all the entrepreneurs or entrepreneurs-to-be who are listening to you now; you talked earlier about trust, about adaptability and also about the importance of the team for any business. What else could you add to this magic sauce to be productive, to function and to be the right path for any entrepreneur?

Andrew Hughes

One word, hustle. Hustle, hustle, hustle. And that's the secret sauce. And that's about not giving up. That's about not finding an answer that is immediately available. So really try to find the answer. Try to network and network. That's the key. If you hustle that room, if you hustle LinkedIn, if you get on a plane and go and speak to somebody in a hustle, tell them, tell them the true story, show them, you show them your idea. That's the idea of her for hustling for me. And I think a second piece of advice is if you managed to raise money and somebody pledges you a figure look disappointed, obviously inside be really happy, but look disappointed and say, look, you know, a guy I like you? I thought you'd be coming in for more. You know, you've done very well and I, you know, I was expecting double, you never know it's worked for me. And that's hustling. So always be hustling.

Maitén Panella

Thank you! Fantastic!

Richard Wikström

Great Andrew! I agree. Never stop selling. That's the key thing to move forward. So thank you very much for being our guests today, Andrew Hughes. Together with me, Richard, John and Maitén with this global podcast, "A Taste of the Club". And to the listeners, I would like to say that if you want to contact us with feedback or comments or anything, please send an email to podcast@globalbusinessowners.com. That's where you can reach us. Andrew, thank you very much. Enjoy cooking, enjoy time with family and I hope they let you out soon. Thank you very much.

Andrew Hughes

Yeah! Thank you very much everybody. A real pleasure! Bye. Bye.

Richard Wikström

Are you a game changer? A startup founder? A high impact investor? Entrepreneurial minded? A business owner with a global mindset? Welcome to the world of Global Business Owners. I'm Richard, global president of GBO. We are a rapidly expanding international business networking club with established chapters in 24 cities and more 650 members worldwide. Among our esteemed members are many accomplished business owners, which include partners at prodigious law firms, founders of high tech startups, elite brokers and experienced investors to name a few. We created GBO to help people like you facilitate lifelong business friendships to give leaders a platform to share knowledge, to allow for the open discussion of ideas and to create business opportunities for GBO members around the world. Experience a different kind of business network. One that doesn't come with strict membership rules or expensive club fees. GBO offers a relaxed social environment that connects people with knowledge, knowledge, with ideas, and ideas with opportunities.

Miguel A. Reyes Riera:

We invite you to join us in building a significant global business network, with the goal to forge a community of 50,000 global members in 500 city chapters all around the world, as GBO becomes s key community in the global business environment.

Richard Wikström

Begin your journey today and join us as an honored guest, one of the next local chapter meetings in your city to experience the spirit and philosophy of GBO.

Michaela Feudtner:

Simply complete the guest's request form on our website and one of our dedicated guest managers will be in contact with you to assist you in booking a guest seat and to answer any questions. I hope to see you at the next GBO event.

GBO Members:

Welcome to GBO!

Episode #1

Guest - Miguel Ángel Reyes Riera / GBO Madrid

Episode #1 Transcription: translation business, business start, mountain bikes, Covid19 and more

Richard Wikström:

Welcome to A Taste of the Club, the podcast for business owners from the Global Business Owners network of business friendship.

This is where you get the insights from founders and investors on their career and personal development.

John Ball:

Welcome to the Global Business Owners podcast for A Taste of the Club.

My name is John Ball and I am the president of the Valencia chapter of Global Business Owners.

I'm joined on the panel by Maitén Panella who is also a member of Global Business Owners and we are also joined by a very special guest, Miguel Ángel who is going to introduce himself very shortly. He is the president of Global Business Owners.

Let's first of all, have our panel introduce themselves. Maitén.

Maitén Panella:

Thank you John. I'm delighted to be here today. My name is Maitén Panella. I'm a psychologist and a psychotherapist and I work mainly as a business psychologist. So I work very closely to business owners and entrepreneurs and also corporates. But besides that I founded some 15-20 years ago as society for arts and culture. So we had the chance to represent artists and besides selling and buying art to organize exhibitions around Europe and be in touch with so many members of the art industry. So for me it was a nice experience that combined the passion with the business and gave me the chance to really understand the challenges that business owners have.

John Ball:

Thank you, Maitén. Then, I'll tell you a little bit more about myself. I'm not just the president of Valencia Global Business Owners. I am a trainer and coach in presentation skills and the tools of influence and persuasion. That is my work, teaching and training people in business, business service owners all around the world and running trainings, online webinars and all sorts of other events as well. And also being a part of Global Business Owners as an active member who enjoys networking and connecting with other people. Let's also introduce our guest panelists then who is going to come and be our guest and our additional panelists. Miguel.

Miguel Ángel Reyes Riera:

Thank you John. And thank you, Maitén. As you guys said, I'm Miguel, I'm a chemical engineer. I'm from Spain. And, once I finished my studies as a chemical engineer, I started, also doing some translations as a freelance translator. And at the same time, I started working in Repsol, the petrochemical company, as sales manager. Five years down the line I decided that I had to quit one of those jobs because it was too much for one person. And I decided to quit Repsol; my mom was not very happy about that because I was starting my own company. But, 16 years later I can say that, that was a really good decision.

 So now, I run OneDocument, which is a translations company and I'm really happy of being an entrepreneur, because that gives you lots of freedom and you take lots of responsibility and the decisions you take can make a change in many things, not only in your company but also in society. So, I'm really happy I took that that decision. And now since a couple of months. I'm also trying to lead GBO and that is also a great challenge, but I'm really happy about it.

John Ball:

Excellent. We're really happy to have you doing that as well. But let's get things started as well by talking a little bit about what Global Business Owners is about. And I think Miguel, you are the best person to give us that introduction to the club.

Miguel Ángel Reyes Riera:

Global Business Owners or GBO as we want to call it, it's all about business friendship. That's the key concept around what everything is constructed. We really believe that business is made once you have trust in the other part. So being all entrepreneurs, the goal that we have is to join in meetings, be it a personal meetings or virtual meetings that now we are forced to have. And around those meetings we like to build trust, to get to know the person you have in front of you, to shake hands, to exchange opportunities, ideas. And from there, once you have established that connection, that personal connection, we really believe that it is easier to go farther ahead and make business together or be friends or just introduce a colleague or refer someone to another partner or whatever and everything goes smoothly. So that is the key goal of GBO: joining people together, bringing ideas together and bringing opportunities together.

John Ball:

Fantastic. And I'm not only a president in the club, I joined the club to be a member. I didn't join as a club president. I just haven't stuck around, and I really love it. And the reason why I love it, like many business owners and people in the business world, is that I've been to many, many networking events through my life and generally have hated it. I mostly hate networking events because it just kind of things like business card bingo and people is generally not very memorable. People aren't really there to make connections. They're there to make sales. It feels like for the most part, and Global Business Owners has a different vibe to it, that people are there to create relationships, to create longer lasting relationships and build and grow and develop with each other, help each other out as well, and connect with each other on a deeper level. And that for me is what, you know, when I discovered GBO, I discovered the networking that I wanted to be doing and wished I had been doing for the last 15 years or so. Does that make sense?

Maitén Panella:

Absolutely. And for example, my experience, I joined just for a month because we initially do that. So you're invited as a guest and you join the club for a month and after month... well, I was hooked. Tell us your first experience about joining GBO and the feeling of that.

Miguel Ángel Reyes Riera:

It didn't take me that long. It didn't take me one month. In fact, it was just a matter of some hours or even minutes in the club. I was invited by Peter Redrin, who is the founder of GBO. And at first I was kind of a bit wary of what was that about because I got an invitation and I was invited to go to Madrid to a call, to a meeting and a lunch. And I said, well, let's give it a try. So I was just exploring what was all that about. And then, in the lunch, we were like 10 people, all of us entrepreneurs. And I found a really amazing atmosphere. The conversation just started flowing, you soon start making connections in a personal level with the people around you. And after that first lunch, when at the end, Peter asked me if I wanted to become a member.,I didn't hesitate. I said, yes, I like the concept, I like the idea. Well, after all, what can I lose? The membership fee? Well, it's just 500 EUR, this is something I can live with. So, I gave it a try and and I think I made the right decision because from there on,I discovered lots of very interesting people, not only in the local chapter but also in other chapters all around the world. I have friends, I have clients, I am the provider of some other people and I make business with lots of people and I've seen lots of connections, interchanges, business, partnerships being made... So I think is a great idea. So it, it just hooked me from the very beginning.

John Ball:

Yeah. Likewise for me. And I really enjoyed initially. Now, people tend to be a bit nervous when they turn up to a networking event for the first time, with people who they've never met before, not everyone's always super confident in those situations, but just sitting down and having a chat initially before going to eat together as a group and having the format explained and getting some ideas about what the club was and the different kinds of people that were there, that to me, it was intriguing my way. But even in my, my very first experience of the club, I was meeting fascinating people and I love meeting fascinating people and having those conversations and learning things that I sometimes never even heard of before. And sometimes even being connected up with opportunities as well as developing relationships into different areas of business that I wouldn't otherwise get connected into or have any awareness of. It does give a huge amount of potential there. One thing that I think is particularly good in terms of the club is that it gives people an opportunity to introduce themselves to everybody, not just have to do that one to one, but then to actually go and have those conversations or the opportunities for people to jump in. Maybe for Miguel, what has been one of your favorite experiences from being a member of the club or something that stood out for you as being a memorable experience or connection even?

Miguel Ángel Reyes Riera:

I can say just one thing, but I can say one thing that happens in every lunch or dinner we have or in every meeting, is that I always learn something, just by listening to other people with lots of experience, with other views, with other kinds of background and industries. The club is so rich in the people that is a member of the club that you just have to sit there and listen. And with that, you learn. And that is very interesting because it's like you get out of your comfort zone and you get out of your industry and your business and your employees and your partners and your clients. And then you go to GBO and you start learning from the moment you get there, you start listening, interchanging ideas. And that is really enriching. But if I have to say one anecdote, I love that meeting, in which a new guest was coming for the first time and then there was a member, and at the end of the conversation on the meeting, they told me a couple of weeks after that, that the guest is now the CEO of the company, of the other member. So they just met there and now one is the CEO of the company of the other. So that is the power of meeting and networking. It's amazing... but it happened.

John Ball:

Yeah. I certainly had some clients come through through the club, but one of the things I think that can be particularly impactful as you say, it's the stuff that you learn. Have there been some particular things that you've learned from other members, that you've been able to benefit from in your own business, then?

Miguel Ángel Reyes Riera:

I think that everything that you hear from entrepreneurs is valid for your business. But I could say that looking at the biggest picture of business is something that I learned from GBO. That we need to stop being so focused in your own bubble and look around. And when you look around, you discover new tools, you discover new ways of doing business, you discover new ways of approaching clients, new ways of giving something back to society and employees. And that is the most important lesson I learned from listening to other entrepreneurs in GBO.

Maitén Panella:

Let me ask you a question and let's go back a little bit about your your own business. So let's put aside a little bit GBO and let's talk a little bit more about you now. You mentioned that you got some clients also from the club and talking about clients, what it would be your ideal client? How do you feel working with different people from all around the world? Tell us a little bit about it.

Miguel Ángel Reyes Riera:

I think that we should have clients as partners, nor just as someone that purchases a product or a service from you, but a real partner. If you treat clients or prospects or leads as partners, the benefit for you and for them is much bigger than if you just see a quick opportunity, like John mentioned that happens in those networking events in which you just get lots of cards from people that just want a quick sell and you don't call them back, they never call you... Or if you just show hesitant about their business or their services, they just lose interest and stop talking to you. I don't think we should act like that with our clients or with our prospects. Even if you see and you know, because this things you know, that you're never going to make any business with that client because he is not there to buy your services or to buy your product, you should treat him equally. You should try to help. You should try to do whatever is needed so they get what they are looking for. And in the end, I think that that pays off one way or another. So I like to treat my clients like that. For example, I when I was starting, some of my friends told me, well, those clients that send you just two words translations, don't do that. Just focus on the ones that send you a 10,000 euros translation. And I said, no, because you never know. You never know what the client can order in the future or who that client may know or what that client can tell about you to others. And I've always treated my clients, not on a ranking, like these are the top clients and these are, well, the peanuts projects that I don't care if they go away, but I wanted to keep all of them and that in the end has proven that I was right in treating them all the same, because some of those two euros clients now are my best clients. So you never know. One of the things I like to say about this way of doing business is that, in the end, they do the marketing for you. Because I could say that 70% of my current clients are referrals. Somebody that worked with me as a client referred me to another client, or when they left the company, they called me from the new company or whatever. So, if you build trust and treat people equally and with respect, that pays off. And that's a client for me.

John Ball:

Excellent! It's often said in business that success is about who you have to become in order to be successful. Who did you have to become to become successful? What did you have to learn and apply yourself to in developing your own skillset, to reach your successes?

Miguel Ángel Reyes Riera:

I think that I had to become someone that cares for what he does and who cares for the people that works for him. So I had to understand that business is not just making money or having a successful revenue or company, but in the end, it is trying to build something that you can feel proud of. So that is what I wanted to become, and I think that is what I became, someone that is proud of building in which he believes, and that looking back, I don't have to regret anything because I think I did the things right. And maybe I didn't earn all the money I could have, or maybe I don't have the biggest company in the world, but that doesn't matter. I can say that I'm happy about what I did. And that's the most important.

John Ball:

Okay, great. And if somebody wanted to replicate your success in your area of business, what, in addition to that would be the skills that they would need to focus on to be able to develop that?

Miguel Ángel Reyes Riera:

It's not about the skills you have, it's about the attitude you have. Of course you need a set of skills to do certain things. You cannot be a translator if you don't have a technical knowledge and language knowledge. But it's the attitude towards the work that you have to perform and the passion you put on it that really sets you apart from your competitors. So I would recommend to anyone starting a business to give everything you have. Don't keep anything to you, don't ever stop trying new things and don't ever let anything kill your passion. If you work without passion, I think you are dead or you will be dead soon. But if you want to keep your business running and keep growing and being successful, give passion.

Maitén Panella:

Wow! That speaks about big values! Right John?

John Ball:

Absolutely!

Maitén Panella:

It is a really important part of any business, the core values.

Miguel Ángel Reyes Riera:

And I think it's not just talking, it's something that we often hear here and there, and it's really important, because we are all humans and we are not treating with companies. What is a company? A company is nothing. A company is a group of people. And when you treat people, when you have a connection with them, all these things play a part, because we are all humans and we feel attitudes. We feel that we have a feeling of what they are looking for. We have a feeling of the other person in front of you. What are their objectives? Their target. Is he trustful? Is he's not? And that is also business; business is not just having a good product and having a good service, it is all about relations. And you have to take these things into your skillset, so to speak. So, in the end we are all persons and you have to bear that in mind.

John Ball:

Yeah. I think the person who focuses on getting the sales, may well get the sales, but the person who focuses on long-term business relationships will be the person who gets lifetime value from the customers and the relationships and being of service is a huge difference.

Miguel Ángel Reyes Riera:

That's it. And many times you hear people being worried about selling at a loss or something like that, but maybe you have to do it. Maybe it's not just winning every single battle, is winning the war, so to speak. So maybe sometimes you have to do little steps that you can think, well, this hasn't any value or I'm losing money here, or this is not profitable at all, or I'm taking 10 hours on this client and maybe he never comes back. But all of that plays a part.

John Ball:

There's a lot going on in the world right now and a lot of people having to make some changes in their business. Things with COVID-19, is it affecting your business? And if so, what, what kind of action have you been taking in face of that?

Miguel Ángel Reyes Riera:

Obviously everything is affected by COVID in one way or another. But in terms of the translations industry, it hasn't been really badly hit. There are several factors that play into that. One of them is that most companies have already done the transition into the digital world. Of course there are big players who have big offices and lots of staff there. But normally, a translations company doesn't need that presence, it's not a shop that someone has to go there to order a translation. Everything is online. Everything is in the cloud. So in that sense, we didn't have to adapt our ways to the new situation. But it is true that some clients have been affected. Many industries have been very hardly hit. And of course, if those were your clients, those clients are gone or the volumes are getting very, very low. And especially for us, we have clients in the tourism industry, and those are gone for now. And, apart from that, we have many industries that send translations, because you know, every industry needs translations if they are working in an international market and in the end somehow they compensate. So more or less business stays the same. And our biggest concern now is that the crisis that is going to follow, the financial crisis and all the unemployment and all the credit crunch and all that, may mean that we start having difficulties and people start stopping to pay or something like that. And that can bring problems down the line, so to speak. But so far we're okay.

John Ball:

That's good to hear!

Maitén Panella:

We are listening to some children in the background...

Miguel Ángel Reyes Riera:

Yes! This is one of the consequences of COVID, you know...

Maitén Panella:

So let's know a little bit about you, your family, your personal life, and how do you combine this personal life with your business.

Miguel Ángel Reyes Riera:

The good part of being an entrepreneur is that in the end you're your own boss and you can kind of schedule things to make them fit to your personal life. I have two small kids. I'm married and I live in a small town that is just over 1000 people living here. I'm close to Madrid, which is a big city, so that makes it easy to make business too. But I have both things. I have the good things of being in a small town and the good things of the big city. And what I always try to do is to have certain order in what I do, certain schedules and try to give time to all aspects, all spheres in your life. So I always try to combine taking care of my kids, because I take them to school, I make lunch for them, I take them to activities after school and so on. And I combine that with working with sports, whic I love, and with my wife and family and friends. So when you are the boss, you have to, to be very organized. If you don't put a schedule in your life and you just let things happen, they get out of control. But the best, the best way of doing this, in my opinion, is to have clear, separate spheres. Like from this time to this time, I'm going to work,and and I'm going to work. And if I have to do sport, I have to sport, because that is also good for me. And if I had to take care of the children, I have to take care of the children. But you have to know that you have to know when and how to do that.

John Ball:

What are yyour passions and what are the things that you most love to do outside of business?

Miguel Ángel Reyes Riera:

I'm a very social person and I love to be with friends and family to hang out and just have a drink and then have long conversations. Some of my friends say that I speak a lot, that sometimes I just should be quiet and listen to others, but it's because I'm outgoing and I want to share things, everything that can be shared with others, I love to do that. And I love sports and nature. So I try to combine that with with the perfect sport to do that, which is mountain biking and that allows me to be in a good shape and also being in nature, and I'm in a town, I have the mountains nearby and everything is clean and not polluted by any kind of noise or pollutant or whatever. And that is what keeps me alive.

John Ball:

Right. So, now that some of the restrictions are lifting, you can get back out on your bike properly again.

Miguel Ángel Reyes Riera:

Yes. I'm looking forward to tomorrow at seven, locked in my agenda, in that agenda that you have to keep, that is marked in red tomorrow.

John Ball:

Jumping off the bed, I'm sure!

Maitén Panella:

I hate to change the subject, but I'm very curious about... well this is my nature to ask maybe odd questions, but what about the challenges that you had to face, not necessarily now and the due to the COVID-19, but in the past in your business or in your private life and how did you manage those challenges then and how would you do it if you could face them again now?

Miguel Ángel Reyes Riera:

The biggest challenges I found in my personal life and in business, because I think they are really connected, is treating with people. You never know what is going to happen or at least I never know what is going to happen. When you have a personal issue with someone, or someone has a personal issue with you, or someone has a personal issue that you need to address, that is the most complicated things for me. Maybe it's because I'm an engineer. I'm a man of science, so to speak. And when you sum two plus two is always four. But when it comes to people, it's completely different. And managing teams, when I started to manage teams and to organize tasks and to have to deal with with personal feelings and interests, that is the most challenging thing I had to do, I have to do and I will have to. When I started taking care of GBO, that went up exponentially, because it's not that you have a team, is that you have members and you have to take care of those members. And every member is different. What you can apply to one, you can't apply to the other. This is not a template that you can say, okay, I have this template.... everything is solved. I design this and now it will run smoothly. No, every time is different and it is also very enriching, but it's very tough and sometimes I honestly don't know what to do and how can I solve that a certain situation. In the end, it's another person who you have to take care of. And that is that it's very hard because your decisions can affect in many ways.

John Ball:

Of course, I think every business owner is felt like that at least once or twice a day.

Maitén Panella:

Oh yeah... tell me about it!

John Ball:

What sort of size is your own company then and how does that compare to maybe the size of GBO?

Miguel Ángel Reyes Riera:

The size of the company is it's a small business or medium sized business. And, in the translations industry, there are lots of of companies like this. There are just two or three very big multinationals. And then there's a myriad of other small companies, like boutique translations company, that take care of translating, they specialize maybe in one industry or maybe in one language pair or things like that. What we did from the beginning is to specialize in life sciences. And now, we are also working outside of that, but our main focus is still there. So when you specialize in a certain niche, I think that the chances are that, if you're not tourism, for example now, which obviously is heavily impacted, but if the industry goes well, if you're a specialized in that and do not cover everything and grow too fast and try to do everything that you could do, I think the result is much better because you have built a certain expertise over the years that helps you overcome all difficulties.

John Ball:

I think that a lot of people are wondering what to do and where to go. And they're aware that there may be some challenges ahead still that we may or may not have even really seen the most of it. There's going to be some economic challenges and perhaps global economic challenges as well. And so we can't control that, but we can control what we do about it. But, and this isn't just for you, but for all of us on the panel here as well, what you would advise people to be thinking about or taking action on right now to position themselves? For whether they're still going to be opportunity, and there's still gonna be a ways forward and ways for growth and development.

Miguel Ángel Reyes Riera:

A crisis is always an opportunity. It's always damaging, of course, it is always threatening and it can just simply finish your company or finish your economy. But in these situations is where you have to stop, think and take that opportunity that the crisis brings and positioning yourself for the future. So I would recommend everyone to, now that we are all kind of slow, so to speak, because we can't do all the things that we should do or that we used to do in the past, take some time to think about all the things you were doing, why you were doing it, and if you want to keep doing them in the future. Maybe you now discover that certain things didn't matter and that you shouldn't do them moving forward. And maybe you'll learn from other entrepreneurs and from other companies situation, what has to be done or what you could do to make your world change, so to speak, and be more ready for what comes, even if we don't know what this coming.

John Ball:

I think, for some people, this has been an opportunity to realize that they want to make some changes and do some things differently. Maitén, what are your thoughts?

Maitén Panella:

Well, I think that particularly in this situation, it is a fantastic opportunity to, as I always say, to stop and think and think about the past to learn things from the past, but to really, really concentrate in the future. Ask ourselves if we are willing to continue doing the things in the way we did it until now, if we are going to change that and how, and how in a very realistic way, is this possible, it is not possible and if it is not possible, how to adapt and change things to make it possible anyway. And, talking about this and talking about possibilities, is there something that you wish you had known in the past before beginning your own business that you think that might help you in the past and how does that compare with the future that we might think that is going to be?

Miguel Ángel Reyes Riera:

I think that the more you know, people and you know different ways of doing things, you're better prepared for the future. So I don't know if there is something, a particular thing that I would have known in the past that would have made me done things differently. Getting to know the longterm strategies, looking at the longterm, is the most important thing that I have learned during the years. Maybe when you start, you just are too short term focused and trying to to make your first bucks, so to speak, and to survive and to start building something and sometimes that can lead you to forget your longterm goal. And over the time I have learned that, if you have a clear point where you want to get to, it's easier to get there than if you just keep the ball rolling to see what happens. And, also, if you have a clear goal, you can be better prepared to, to overcome crisis like this one, because you can always have a plan or two or three plans, alternatives. If this happens, I will do this. If this happens, I will do that. And that, maybe, when you're young and unexperienced, it's something that you don't have in mind. Maybe you do. But in my case it wasn't that clear. So maybe that's the most important thing that I would have loved to, to know in the past.

John Ball:

What's been the best thing about the lockdown for you?

Miguel Ángel Reyes Riera:

There always have to be something good about it. Always. Maybe I got even more connected with, with my friends and my family because you felt like somehow forced to to call that friend that you maybe didn't talk to in the last two years. But now, well, you're in lockdown, he's in lockdown. So, well, we have to make a call. So yeah, I think that everything has been more close in our relationships with others. Not only not only friends or family, but also with clients and with providers. I think we felt that urge to connect with people, because being in a lockdown very bad, it's very lonely and sometimes you just feel that you need to see a face, even if it's in a computer. So I think that's the best thing.

John Ball:

GBO has risen to that challenge, right? I mean, it's been for someone maybe a bit of a lifeline as well, that we've been able to connect with not only our own sort of clubs and regions, but the whole global network has been able to come together and have new industry groups and have a global meeting as well. So we're connecting with members that we might otherwise only ever meet at some of the international events. And that we're going to keep these, some of the online elements going after after lockdown as well, because there has been value there. So there have been opportunities that have come up through this that perhaps maybe they were there before but not everyone was not everyone was in that environment and now that people are moving, shifting so much to digital environments that we have more ways to connect and I don't think it's going to go back to business as usual. I think it's going to be a new usual, a new normal, because everyone's kind of saying that, but it is going to be a new version of things and more people on Zoom now than ever before and other sort of online channels. I think it's going to be really interesting to see, see where all of that goes.

Maitén Panella:

Absolutely. The new normal, as they like to call it, is knocking at the door right now. So we need to be prepared. I'm talking about phases and all that stuff. Miguel, what do you think about this life-work balance that many talk about and, you know, I'm sure that you have read a lot of blog posts and maybe also listened to other podcasts talking about this. What is your take on that? That is really a thing? Does it exist? Is it possible? Is it something that is attainable in the real life or not?

Miguel Ángel Reyes Riera:

Are you specific asking for entrepreneurs or for employees too? I mean, or for humans,

Maitén Panella:

In your own experience. I'm interested in your own experience.

Miguel Ángel Reyes Riera:

It's always hard to have a balance between life and business. I think it comes back to what I said about schedules. You have to have a clear line between work and life because otherwise it's always easy more for entrepreneurs to just work because it's always there. It's so easy, I don't have to go to the office. I myself work from home. So my house is my office and my phone is my work. So you're always one click away or one tap away from work. But the same that happens with sport, for example, that you need to set aside a time for sport, because you need it or you want to do it, you have to have your life and that can interfere with your, with your work and vice versa. So you have to keep everything separate. The moment you just don't have a clear line, at least in your head and in your ways of doing things, between what is life, personal life, so to speak, and what is work, you can be just like this all day. I have a phone call, I have an E-mail that I have to answer... And that of course is not good for you, but it's not good for the ones around you because they don't want to talk to your hair, so to speak. They want to talk to you.

John Ball:

Just some healthy boundaries, right?

Miguel Ángel Reyes Riera:

That is right. And I think that is also a sign of respect to the others. If I'm talking to John or to Maitén and thinking about other things, or I have the phone in my, in my hand and I just peek at it slightly because I'm waiting for an for an email or, or if my WhatsApp just beeps and I feel tempted to have a look about what can that be? That is not respectful with the one you have in front of you, because you have to give them full attention, at lease for the 10 minutes that you are going to talk to them.

John Ball:

I'd say that's about being present with people, right? It's about really being there in the moment with them. Like we are now here on this call. It is super important, I don't think the amount of time you get to spend with certain people or doing certain things is nearly as important as being fully present in those moments in your life. And I think the greatest gift you can give in any relationship, work or home, is the gift of presence. So I love it. That's what I love what you're saying there already. I really relate to that.

Maitén Panella:

Absolutely. We psychologists like to call that "contact", which is not the physical contact. It's the real contact and the contact happens through a camera, live, in any situation, on the phone... when you are fully present, as you said.

Miguel Ángel Reyes Riera:

And that is hard. It's hard to do it and it's hard to find, because I would say that these days with all the technology around us and with all the stress and rush, well, we used to have, I don't know if we are going back to that again... but all that busy life that we have being put ourselves to leave, because we are so busy, I think that sometimes prevents us from that "contact" that you mentioned, from being just focused in one thing. And even if it's five minutes, I'm going to be five minutes with Maitén and forget about the world. I'm going to be three minutes with John and nothing else matters. It's just you and I give you these three minutes because you'll give them to me too. And in those minutes we have, it's just us.

John Ball:

Well, what's the best book you've ever read relating to business that has helped you, that you would recommend to other people?

Miguel Ángel Reyes Riera:

I don't know the name in English because I read it in Spanish, but it can be something like "Where's my cheese?" Something like that.

John Ball:

"Who moved my cheese?", it's called.

Miguel Ángel Reyes Riera:

"Who moved my cheese?", that's right. And I really loved that one because it was one of the first business books that I read. And I remember that I read it during a trip to Thailand that I had to be there once when I was in Repsol because I was selling dyestuff for leather. And then I had to go to a trip, and I read it during that trip in the plane and in the hotel and in the plane back. And it taught me about change and how things can dramatically change from one day to another. Like we are living now. And when somebody moves your cheese, you have to be ready. There's a shock, there's a trauma, but you have to be ready to move on. And, as I said before, if you had that goal, longterm goal, and you have thought about different ways of getting there, it is easier to change when somebody moves that cheese. So I really love that.

Maitén Panella:

Food for thought!

John Ball:

Absolutely. So I one of the things I do a lot in meetings, is I read a ton of books... and I always want to start talking to them to other people, and I always start getting recommendations and things of that. So I love getting other people's recommendations for the business books that have meant a lot to them and mattered to them. Fantastic stuff! So if there's one thing that you would hope that people would do after listening to us chatting today, what would it be?

Miguel Ángel Reyes Riera:

I would like, and I would recommend every entrepreneur, to get to know others. And when I mean get to know is really get to know all the people like, doing this "contact" that we spoke about recently and what we are doing now. Have the time o meet people and to build trust, to get to know who's the person behind the client or who's the person behind the provider or who's the person behind the employee. Try to establish that connection. And when you cross that border and move from the job title to the person, you start to learn lots of things and I think that is really enriching and I would recommend that for sure.

John Ball:

Absolutely. That's some nice thoughts to wrap things up on today I think. And I think we can all agree business is better with friends, right?

Miguel Ángel Reyes Riera:

Really, really everything is better with friends.

John Ball:

Everything's better with friends. Fantastic!

Maitén Panella:

It's the perfect time and it's the perfect conclusion. I think that it was these last words that Miguel said were really deep and really important, and a lot of things to think about after this podcast. Which I like a lot!

John Ball:

I think you should always have something to take away. If you're going to invest some time in listening to a business based conversation and getting to know people, invest the time in it and don't just let that be wasted time. Do something with what you've heard today. Even if it's just checking out some networking possibilities with Global Business Owners or other places as well and within your own network. Take some action. If you had something or you want to check out, like we talked about a book that was really good, maybe go and check that out, but take action on the things that you hear and that you're learning and keep things moving. Momentum is a very powerful force in business.

Maitén Panella:

Yeah, absolutely. And let us know your questions, your thoughts, share with us! It is important.

John Ball:

Yeah! We want to hear from people who are listening to what they get from the podcast, what they like, a feedback on the format... this is going to be, this is for you, for people listening, as much as it is for us. We're here because we're, we enjoy this, we enjoy connecting and networking, but it's the feedback, your feedback, that is going to help us grow and develop and make this podcast into something that's really worth listening into.

Maitén Panella:

How did you feel about the whole thing? Did you like it? Did you enjoy it?

Miguel Ángel Reyes Riera:

Yes, I really did. I really did. It was nice and I really appreciate the time together and it was really, really nice.

John Ball:

We really appreciate you giving us your time Miguel. So thank you for joining us today. It's been a real joy to speak with you and we've got some insights. I've got some stuff to take away and think about. I realize I haven't read "Who moved my cheese?" ever, so I'm going to go and take a look at that and it's in my ever growing list of book recommendations and... it just brings me to thank you, thank Maitén for joining us as well, to thank Richard who's here in spirits at least... and to say that we'll see you on our next episode.

Richard Wikström:

Are you a game changer?
A startup founder?
A high impact investor?
Entrepreneurial minded?
A business owner with a global mindset?

Welcome to the world of Global Business Owners.

I'm Richard, global president of GBO. We are a rapidly expanding international business networking club with established chapters in 24 cities and more 650 members worldwide. Among our esteemed members are many accomplished business owners, which include partners at prodigious law firms, founders of high tech startups, elite brokers and experienced investors to name a few. 

We created GBO to help people like you facilitate lifelong business friendships to give leaders a platform to share knowledge, to allow for the open discussion of ideas and to create business opportunities for GBO members around the world. Experience a different kind of business network. One that doesn't come with strict membership rules or expensive club fees.

GBO offers a relaxed social environment that connects people with knowledge, knowledge, with ideas, and ideas with opportunities.

Miguel Ángel Reyes Riera:

We invite you to join us in building a significant global business network, with the goal to forge a community of 50,000 global members in 500 city chapters all around the world, as GBO becomes s key community in the global business environment.

Richard Wikström:

Begin your journey today and join us as an honored guest, one of the next local chapter meetings in your city to experience the spirit and philosophy of GBO.

Michaela Feudtner

Simply complete the guest's request form on our website and one of our dedicated guest managers will be in contact with you to assist you in booking a guest seat and to answer any questions. I hope to see you at the next GBO event.

Welcome to GBO!

The GBO Podcast will be available on iTunes, Spotify, Deezer, Soundcloud, Twitch and other popular platforms soon.


Send your suggestions for new guests to the Podcast team podcast@globalbusinessowners.com

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