I went along to the New Start Scotland exhibition today at Glasgow’s SECC. Held every year, it’s a two day event which provides advice & info for existing businesses & people who are planning to start their own business.
Unfortunately, I missed yesterday’s seminar by Doug Richard of SchoolForStartUps – and former dragon from BBC’s Dragons’ Den. His seminar was on “why 2010 is the best year in history to start a business“. That’s one seminar I wish I could have been at. Nevermind, hopefully I’ll be able to attend one of his SchoolForStartUps events this year – fingers crossed he’ll hold one in Scotland.
I attended New Start Scotland last year, and I was pleased to see that yet again there was a great range of seminars on offer. The most interesting seminar I went to today was by entrepreneur Shaf Rasul, who entertained the crowd with his numerous business success stories (however he did admit near the end that he has had a few failures as well… so he is human after all.)
The funniest story Shaf told was how he got involved in the optical media business – which over the years has earned him millions. It turns out a supplier first contacted Shaf desperate for him to buy a cancelled order from them. The suppliers salesman, a guy called Kieran – (who later ended up working for Shaf) was incredibly persistent in trying to get Shaf to buy from him.
Kieran kept phoning Shaf’s office, but Shaf told him he wasn’t interested. Kieran then flew up to Scotland from London, turning up at Shaf’s office uninvited – again to be told Shaf didn’t want to speak to him and was out of the office anyway. Despite Shaf telling his PA not to tell Kieran that he was at the gym, Kieran somehow managed to track Shaf down to his gym, where he walked up to Shaf – who at the time was running on the treadmill! Kieran then started walking on the treadmill next to Shaf….
Unsurprisingly, Shaf was not pleased with Kieran’s interuption - again telling him he was not interested. But Kieran offered to buy him lunch – Shaf agreed and then in the end came to an agreement to take some of the optical media stock off Kieran.
To Shafs surprise the optical media stock sold out in only a few days, he then bought the whole lot off Kieran and from this experience discovered a profitable business which had a huge demand.
One of the questions from the audience directed at Shaf, was how small businesses can get to the “decision makers” of companies they want to sell to. Shafs answer was “persistence“ – and sighted Kieron as an example.
A self-made multi-millionaire it was fascinating to hear how Shaf made his fortune. He claims he’s been very lucky – that may be partly true, but I think he’s just being modest. He’s obviously a smart guy who has a talent for spotting opportunities and then taking action.
Online Dragons’ Den
It turns out that Shaf is an “online dragon” too, for BBC’S Dragons Den. I’ve watched a few of the TV shows, but never the online versions. Shaf mentioned the online version has proved so popular that’s its now being shown on TV. When I’ve time I’ll definitely check out the online Dragons’ Den.
Shaf has written a book (which will be on sale next month) Secrets of a Serial Entrepreneur: A Business Dragon’s Guide to Success. After hearing him talk for 30 minutes I can’t wait to read it – if it’s half as interesting as his talk, then it’ll still be a great read.
Shaf owns & invests in a number of businesses including Ship It Direct – which had a stand at the exhibition. It specialises in internet fulfilment and logistics. I know a company which uses their services successfully, so I was pleased to speak to their MD John Abate to learn more about what they can offer. I was very impressed with them. I think they could be a huge help to many online businesses – saving a lot of time, money and hassle for business owners.
I went to a couple of seminars on business planning and marketing run by Business Gateway – which is a great organisation providing practical help, advice and support for Scottish businesses – all for free.
Brad Burton – Get Off Your Arse
One of the most entertaining seminars was by Brad Burton – author of Get Off Your Arse and MD of Business Breakfast Network www.4networking.biz. He spoke about how he started off his business – working in his underpants in a box room! It was an inspirational story and I look forward to reading his book.
I had spoken to one of Brad’s colleagues at the http://www.4networking.biz/ stand earlier on in the day and to be honest I didn’t think his networking events would be suitable for reaching the type of companies I work with. However, after hearing Brad explain how his events work, I have since reconsidered and think they could be worth attending for me.
The last seminar I went to was by Alex Ogilvie of Web Wise Business. His seminar was titled ‘Sales are easy and marketing is free’ – which caught my interest… “sales are easy, eh??” Turns out I already knew most of what he talked about – which was mainly about online promotions/marketing, etc – but it was interesting to hear his experiences of using company newsletters and I picked up a few tips which made it worthwhile. For anybody new to online sales, it he would have taught them a lot of valuable lessons – a good example of how useful the exhibition seminars could be.
All I need to do now is start putting what I learnt today into practice….