Similar to the journey that’s seen The Business Show become the largest exhibition of its kind in Europe, these speakers all have incredible tales of battling against the odds to establish some of the world’s most recognisable brands.
This rags to riches story perhaps applies to no one more than keynote speaker at May’s show, Simon Woodroffe OBE – the inspirational founder of the global Japanese sushi franchise, YO! Sushi.
Recently divorced, unemployed and running out of money at 40, Simon was left battling depression. So what did he do? Used a loan against his flat to open a sushi bar, of course!
Now 21 years on from that first Soho site opening, YO! Sushi has more than 90 restaurants worldwide and has been joined by a number of affiliate brands in the YO! portfolio.
And having sold the last of his stake in YO! Sushi in 2008 – in a deal which reportedly earned the now 66-year-old £10m – Simon now spends his days using his story to inspire thousands of entrepreneurs and business owners at events across the globe.
Recently, The Business Show caught up with Simon on his houseboat in Chelsea to pick the brains of the multimillionaire:
TBS: How important is it to network as an entrepreneur or business owner?
SW: Really important. We’ve all got to meet people and tell them what we’re doing – that’s what networking is. But more importantly, it’s learning how to be somebody who others can trust and who can inspire others to come along with a vision. It’s learning to be a leader.
TBS: What’s the most important element to starting a business?
SW: Inspiration. It’s about inspiring other people, but also about inspiring yourself. When I meet somebody who truly believes in what they’re doing, I want to follow that person. But how do you become somebody who really believes in what you’re doing? That’s the question – and we’ll be addressing that during the seminars.
TBS: What are your tips for wannabe modern entrepreneurs?
SW: Firstly, start now! You can start anything by taking a notebook and writing your ideas down. So many people sit around going ‘shall I? shan’t I? Where shall I go?’ Start immediately and spend money, small amounts of money which you are willing to lose. Develop things. Have several things on the go at once in that notebook but be willing to let some of them go. Eventually that’s what happened to me – Yo! Sushi came way out in front and at that time, I got to believing it.
Secondly, ban yourself. I call it the three-second rule. Ban yourself from thinking about whether it’s going to work or if it’s not going to work. Ban yourself from thinking about whether it’s gonna happen or whether its not gonna happen. Instead, put the research in. If you do that over a period of time, incrementally you start to believe it and that negative voice in your head is completely gone.
Thirdly, practice promoting yourself. When you believe something and you have confidence – it’s infectious to other people. A modern entrepreneur is someone who can appear on TV and talk to other people while being themselves, not being some fake person that puts a voice on. I actually try to use non-business, childlike words to help me connect.
I’ll always remember the outgoing president of the Institute of Directors saying to me: ‘When I was a young man I believed that if you actually put business plans together and argued your point in business, you’d persuade other people. As I go out at the age of 75, I realise that if you can touch people emotionally, you can change them and bring them around.’
I’ve never met a person who went out to do what they really dreamed of and regretted it – regardless of whether they succeed or failed. But I’ve met many, many people who have looked back later in life and said: ‘I wish I’d taken more chances when I had the chance.’
TBS: What are the risks involved in becoming an entrepreneur?
SW: People say I’ve taken lots of risks, and I guess I have at times, but I don’t like taking risks. I want to reduce the risks as much as I possibly can, which is why I get up early every morning with the passion to de-risk things. I’m never going to walk blindly forward, I know where I’m going. But sometimes you have to allow the world to unfold in front of you and know if something does come up, a ‘showstopper’ as I call it, you can find a way to go around stone walls and build golden bridges.
On 16 & 17 May, Simon’s seminar will be one of 250 educational talks taking place at The Business Show 2018 at London’s ExCeL – with the rest coming from the founders of organisations such as Poundland, Mallet Footwear, Grenade, University Cribs and more.
Go to here to register for your free ticket.
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