Join Donna in conversation with Stephen Fear, The Phonebox Millionaire™, British entrepreneur, businessman, philanthropist and author with 50 years' international business experience.
Stephen first went into business at the age of 15 after reading an article in the Financial Times that would affect the way industrial ovens were cleaned. He used a red phone-box on the council estate where he grew up and persuaded an American firm to send him their product to sell in the UK. Before he knew it, he was trading with a number of large industrial companies under the brand ‘Easy Clean’. Four years later, he sold his first business for £100,000 and invested the money in property.
From those first days as a young boy, Stephen has had a legendary career, which included being Entrepreneur in Residence and Ambassador at the British Library from 2012 – 2016, a position formerly held by the late Dame Anita Roddick, founder of Body Shop.
Now he is Chairman and Founder of Fear Group, an international organisation he runs with his son, Leon Fear, which has interests in strategic land promotion, international property development and investment.
In 2013 Stephen was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Business Administration from the University of the West of England for his continued services to entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship over the past 40 years. Recently, he received a lifetime achievement award presented by The Bristol Post and was a member of the Bristol Education and Skills Commission. He is also a valued judge for the Great British Entrepreneur Awards and last year was inducted into their Hall of Fame.
Donna O'Toole is CEO of August, she has had the pleasure of supporting entrepreneurs, business leaders and teams to win the most prestigious awards in the world. Seeing first-hand how receiving awards and recognition has motivated teams, solved problems, supercharged brands and raised their profiles, helping businesses to grow and do even more good things for their employees, their industry and their community.
Hi, I'm Donna rohtul, and you're listening to my exclusive winning awards podcast. Over the years, I've had the pleasure of supporting entrepreneurs, business leaders and teams to win the most prestigious awards in the world. I've seen firsthand how receiving awards and recognition has motivated teams, solve problems, supercharge brands and raise profiles, helping businesses to grow and do even more good things for their employees, their industry and their community. In this podcast, I'll be sharing valuable awards, insights, tips and inspirational stories to make sure that you get the recognition that you deserve, so that you can go on and achieve your dreams. So what are you waiting for? It's time to start winning. Hello, and welcome to another episode of the winning awards Podcast. Today I have with me the wonderful Stephen fair. Steven is an entrepreneur, a businessman, a philanthropist and an author with 50 years international business experience, known as the phonebooks. Millionaire Stephen first went into business at the age of just 15. After reading an article in the Financial Times that would affect the way that industrial ovens were cleaned. He used a red phone box on the council of state where he grew up and persuaded an American firm to send him their product to sell in the UK. Before he knew it, he was trading with a number of large industrial companies under the brand EasyClean. Four years later, he sold his first business for 100,000 pounds and invested the money in property. So from those first days as young boys Stephen has had a legendary career, which included being entrepreneur in residence and ambassador at the British Library. Now He's chairman and founder of the fear group, an international organisation he runs with his son Leon, which has interest in strategic band promotion, international property development and investment. In 2013, Stephen was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Business Administration from the University of the West of England for his continued services to entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship over the past 40 years. Recently, he received a lifetime achievement award presented by the Bristol Post, and he is a value judge for the Great British Entrepreneur Awards and other awards. And last year, he was inducted into the Great British Entrepreneur Awards Hall of Fame. So Wow. Welcome, Steve. And thank you so much for being here today. What an amazing guy. What an amazing introduction. Well, I don't know about that. Good. Good to see you. Anyway, Donna. Yeah. Ah, lovely. I was thinking through that. What a brilliant surname you have for your role? Yeah, I know. It's, it does. Growing up as a boy, I used to think, Oh, God, you know, when you say the name fear, people say, you know, other kids would either laugh or go, or thought it was great. And then, funnily enough, as time went on, people would say to me, that's awesome. I love you, particularly Americans, you know. So anyway, there you go. It is it is what it is. Well, you've got such a great story and your reputation really precedes you. But for anyone who hasn't followed your journey. Can you give our listeners a whistle stop tour of your story, like how you started off in business, obviously, we know you're a very young boy, and then how that's evolved to where you are today? Yeah, sure. Well, it was very simple, really. I mean, I grew up between my my mum and dad were divorced when I was perhaps four and a half, five years old, and quite an acrimonious divorce and my mum went to live in a caravan parks in a field in Malmesbury we didn't have any money we lived on what would be termed today a sink estate a council estate in Bristol with at the time was, was, you know, not not very highly thought of by many people. My mum went off to live in a caravan. An old caravan in a field in Malmesbury, my dad stayed in Bristol in the council house where I'd been born. And then my dad moved to a one bed Council flat because then I stayed with my dad initially when my mum left and then I ended up with moving to see my mum again a year or so later and go and live with my mum and we lived in the caravan. In fact, someone funnily enough I've been I was in Malmesbury, it was in mom's been wheelchair, and it was in Malmesbury just recently and I bumped into an old couple who were late 80s And the guy was in 92. And I was just getting out my car in the cross haze which is a park a car park in Malmesbury, but in my day as a as a young boy, he was actually a lorry park it was before the motorways were built. And I know people think I'm not opening it's but lorries used to park there and I was getting out the car and this old lady came over and she said, You're Steve NERT. You can't react. And I said, I said, Yeah, you know, she said, do you know she said, me and my eyes, but he came over by that. And she's a me and my husband, you said, we were saying to ourselves, I can't understand why you were always smiling when you were a boy living in that caravan in that field. And I said, Well, you know, why don't you? And she said, No. And I said, Because I always believed in the future, I always thought the future would be better than the present or the past. And so where I was, it didn't matter to me where I was, it was where I was going in my mind that matter. And that's a piece of advice I give to entrepreneurs today message. So it doesn't matter. Doesn't matter where you are today. It's about where you're going, that counts, not where you've been, or where you are, where you're going. And so I you know, they live there. My mum loved them, eventually met someone else who was a very nice guy, but couldn't really read or write very well. He'd been a farm labourer. And we lived together in that caravan. My mum and her husband had the pull down bed in the caravan. And I actually had it sounds terrible, but I had a bed in a cupboard. So I slept. So they made a cupboard. They made a cupboard for me. I quite liked it, actually. Someone from one of the national newspapers said to me recently, they said, Oh, you know, that was a form of abuse. I said, No, I never looked at it like that. It was, it's where I slept. And I was fine. You know, but that's what needed to happen at the time. Well, I mean, we, we we had, you know, that was where we lived, and we didn't have any choice. My mom was always a worker, and her husband was always a worker. So they did go to work. So I didn't starve, you know, but they work because they work so much. I was on my own an awful lot, even from when I was four or five. And my dad stayed and eventually moved to a one day Council flat in Bristol, and I subsequently I would then live between the two. So they, so I used to avoid school basically on the I ran them ragged trying to sort of, because I was the only negotiator between my mom and my dad. They never spoke really for the rest of their lives. And so all through my childhood, one would speak to me to pass a message on to the other. And from the age of four and a half, five, maybe I would get the bus from Bristol, I used to walk from the Council of State where my dad's still live, walk into Bristol City Centre, which was about four miles and then get the bus to Malmesbury, which was 30 miles on a bus that took nearly two hours. And then I'd get off at the Cross haze when I've just mentioned. And then I would go from the crowd walk from across haze to my mum's caravan that was about a mile away. So from four and a half, five, I did that never really that was just the way it was. And because I was on my own quite a lot. I learned to cook. And I was an expert pancake cooker. I could cook pancakes for pastime when I was there, but you know these days you'd be you know, kids are five and six cooking pancakes on a stove. Can you imagine? I yeah, my, my grandson says to me, mum won't even let me do that now. And I said, Well, no wonder you became so resourceful, then, you know, to be able to drive yourself forward. At 15 Well, yeah, what happened? My I always I was always doing things, you know, I was always trying to make trying to find a way of making making money. I had this sort of idea that if you had money, you had some form of independence. Funnily enough, I never really wanted necessarily want to be rich. I just wanted to be independent. You know, I mean, I thought independence was richness. And, you know, I often say to people today, you know, it isn't about how much money you've got this the way you treat other people, that's the most valuable asset that you have. And generally, I found, you know, people sort of help those that help them so it's anyway, but basically, I What happened then, I was always chopping logs, buying logs, building anything. And then, when I was 10, I managed to persuade my dad to buy me a German Shepherd puppy I was always dogma and still am I still am I, you know, and but to persuade my dad's by a German Shepherd puppy for me, and he did and then I turned up on the bus in Malmesbury with this German Shepherd puppy, my mum nearly had a fear, who's gonna keep him who's gonna pay for his food who's gonna? So I said, I will. And she said, right, that's okay. Then no problem if you pay for his food that he can stay. So I said bye. Then we'd move we We'd lived in the caravan from when I was five ish until I was 10, just before 10. And then we move to a prefab, which was really fantastic. We suddenly had this what, you know, was essentially like a bungalow as far as I was concerned. But it was a prefab. And in fact, we could never open the windows, and my mom's husband and because they were old style crystal, her window, sorry, Crystal hope but they were very good in those days. Brilliant windows they make now but they used to, they were an anodized or anything, so they would rust. And the only way we could get air into the house into the prefab in the summer was to either have the windows open, which was dodgy if you went out we fell or lift the roof. So as a young boy, my mom's husband used to stand on the chair and push the roof up in a corner, and I would wedge this bamboo, bamboo underneath, and that was our air conditioning. So we did all sorts of things like that now, you know, because I then managed to get hold of a German Shepherd puppy. My biggest desire in life wasn't making money at 10 It was training my dog and even today, even today, in Malmesbury, I bumped into someone in a supermarket in Malmesbury a couple of years ago. And this guy came from behind the sort of I sometimes visit the town I don't live there now, but I do have a house not far from there. And I, I was in the supermarket and this guy is sort of following me around the supermarket peeping around the corners. I thought, maybe he's a store detective, he thinks I'm shoplifting. So in the end, I walked around, and I sort of stood in front of him. And I said, are you following me? And he said, Your Steve fair? And I said, Yeah, he said, You don't remember me do and he gave me his nurse. I said, Well, funnily enough, I recognise your face. And he said, that Dory, yours was amazing money. And that was that was, well, he died, the dog died 55 years ago. No, sorry, I'm 45 years ago. So there you go. And so I spent a lot of time so I didn't want to that made me even less likely to go to school. That's the point. That's where I'm coming to is just giving you a sort of way it was. So I would get up in the morning and my mum be gone off to work. And if I was staying with my mom, and I would then sort of, you know, I would avoid going to school and disappear into the fields with my dog. And so I avoided an awful lot of school. In fact, I've only ever received maybe two or three years of any type of education including including junior and senior school, any type of education because I managed to avoid it by sadly. So that was the that was where it was. So when I was 12. My dad desperate thing then I had a fantastically well trained dog that could have been ringtone tin, but unfortunately, I was struggling to keep the find jobs to make the money to pay through. So I went wandered into wh Smiths, which you know, people will know as newsy. Well then it was more of a newsagent. Now they know it's a newsagent plus, and asked if I could have a paper round. And I thought I get a paper round and they said, How old are you? So I said, I knew you had to be 13. So I wasn't I was 12. So I said 13. I said nearly 14. And the guy there Roger Howard. Remember, in fact, he's a Buddhist now and I still know him to this day, all these years later, but he's a Buddhist, Buddhist monk now. And he's he said, he said, You really? I said, yeah. Okay, so he said the right. Okay. He's so bright. This is how much we pay. Well, I can't do every day. Because sometimes always with my dad. So I he said, I can't take you on then. So I, I went home and I thought about it. And I went, so what I did, I waited, and it was absolutely as November it was November it was lashing with rain. And I got to my dog and I got on the no I didn't I walked to the thing. So I didn't have a bike. That was the whole point. The reason I wanted to do it Smith was they gave a company bike, and I found a bike. And I sort of I get this paper around the WH Smiths they give you a bike. So I've got saying why. Yeah. So I went to I went to Wh Smiths and backup there and Roger was but this was 20 but I went 26 in the morning I can remember my dog looking at you thinking we're gonna have at this time but anyway, we we went there and I said you had any paper boys not to nap. He said, Oh, we've always got people but he's not turnout. But I told him I can't take you on because not unless you can guarantee at least doing five days. And I said we've got any not turned up today. He's no yeah, we've got three knots wind up today slashing with rain. And he said, we always get that, you know, raining. So I said, Well, I'll do all those three rounds for you. I haven't got school today. And he said right. Okay, how are you going to assemble? I haven't got school that's it might take me a bit longer to do them. I can do all three. So he's I said I have a bike. He said we got a spare bike is this big, no gears, this great giant bike you get with a pannier bags, no gears. I had dinner with a director of WH Smith some time ago. And in fact, they're looking. In fact, I had an email from someone the other day saying we think we found your the bite you used. Wh Smiths were looking for this by anyways. That's another story. So I said, Okay. So he said, I said I can so I can have a fight? And he said, Yeah, I said, that's great. So he said, we put the papers in. So got it already. And then I said, How much do you pay? And he said, what it was that I saw? No, I charge three times that. And he said, No, no, no, we're big company. That's our standard rate. I said, No, no, no, that's a standard rate for somebody that isn't here. I am here. He said, Oh, no, no. He said, I can't pay you any more money than the standard rate. And I said, we'll find this fine. Don't worry, I won't bother. And we turned and walked away. And as I was walking down past where Hamptons, we've got an estate agents in the high street there and I was walking past there. He came running down roads, hang on, hang on. He said, Can we can we negotiate? It's a no, no, no. I said that is my rate. I'm not I'm not, you know, it's I want three times what your standard rate is. He said. So what you're wanting then is three rounds three times that. Yeah, you want me to do that. I'm your Troubleshooter. If you get paper boys that haven't turned out, I'll do those times. He said, Well, how do I know you're going to find the houses as you have to trust me? I'll find the houses. I said, You give me the list. And the thing I'll do it is three times. So he said, No, I'll give you twice. And I so I put my hand I said okay, twice in advance. So he said, You want to be paid now? I said, Yeah. I said, I'm not going to go in the pouring rain and get soaked through to the skin. And then you're going to come back and you're going to tell me that somebody from your head office just told you you can't pay that right? I said, No, no, no, it's up front or nothing. And they did. And even my son Leon would tell you, he came to see me. About 10 years ago, I suddenly got something and this from this guy. And he said, I'm a Buddhist now. And you had that entrepreneurial spirit, didn't you right from the outset? Well, that you asked me where it started. And that's really where it started. And then when I was as time went on, I did these various things. And, you know, I learned a lesson there powerful lesson. And that is the power is always with the person prepared to walk away. And you transfer the power from the person that thinks they have it to you as soon as you're prepared to do that. And I was, this is a message actually, that I often give women mostly women that suffer abuse with them thinking lockdown and mental health and everything that are in houses with abusive partners mostly with not only sometimes it happens to men, but mostly to women or kids. And I always say to them, always remember, you got to pluck that courage up, and you've got to get out because the power as soon as you do that, the power will go from that person to you. And that person that felt so powerful will feel very, very weak, or appear very weak. And I was chatting to a lady the other day who who'd suffered very badly where her husband had stuck a shotgun in her head in the nights that come in with drink true. And she said to me, she said you know what? She said I heard you say that years ago and I did that and the most powerful thing I ever did was to run get away and I did and now she's a successful business Bob retirement successful business person in her own right. I won't mention any names obviously. But but I'm just saying that yeah. And you were prepared to walk away in that situation and that's what got you to the next day so how so then you stay doing your paper round Did you Well, I think when I troubleshooting paper, yeah, troubleshooting, but I never had a paper round like other kids because I was some sometimes I'd be with my mom I be and then sometimes I'd be with my dad, my dad suffered terrible loneliness. And so I used to feel that he was on his own. And so I was torn between going back and forth. Although I've got three sisters, they were half sisters. Or were I've only got one left, unfortunately, one day recently due to the COVID tragedy and stuff and the other one a year or two before, but they were half sisters. And they were a lot older than me, you know, 15 years or whatever, older than I was. So I never knew them. I knew them but the I never live with them. Yeah. So my dad was on his own. And so I spent a lot of time in Bristol. So the paper round was was it had to be, but I always knew I could have money, you see, because they could talk me into Manchester, where I had uncles and aunts. And I did it in Manchester. They stayed with my uncle and aunt who he was a tailor. In Manchester at the time, I stayed with them for a little while. And I thought I need some money. Where I went, my dog went. And so I first thing I said is I can't bring my dog can't come this to see. And they were happy with that. So, but I did it in Manchester, I arrived in Manchester and I didn't have any money. And, you know, my uncle said to me, where are you going? I said, I'm going to go to the newsagents and get a job. He said we don't need to work when you're here. I said no, I do. And so I went to the news agents and I said the same thing if you've got any weightless, raining cold, because he's not turned. So I always thought that wherever you were, whatever the circumstances, there are always opportunities. They come from everywhere, including in COVID. And post COVID. You know, why not? We'll come on to that. So i i So that was it. So when I was with my dad, I would I used to always buy a magazine called exchange Mart. And if people don't get it, I don't even know if it exists today. I have I don't know that one. Yeah, I remember that. Yeah, it was a it was a it was a sort of what was like sort of E bay except for Yeah, it was in a magazine format. And the ink would come up on your hands if it got wet. Because it wasn't I don't think it was probably you know, the ink in those days. Anyway, I was reading in there and I read this little cartoon. And there was a cartoon in there lady spraying fluid on an oven and it said, clean your oven when it's hot. I never thought anything of it really. So I was delivering I done one of these paper rounds. And I was delivering again on the bike with a dog and I was delivering the papers. I used to read all the papers. So I'd read every day. Before I put the paper through anyone's door, I'd read the front page of the mirror the front page of times the front page of the FT, whatever it was, yeah, I even had someone I used to deliver to the took the morning star because he was a devout communist. And he sat down for days over periods trying to convert me to communism never worked. It never worked in me you learn to law? Well, I learned a lot in the end, funnily enough, he became an advocate of free enterprise, but they were. So we so I would deliver it better to I read an article about then it was pre EU pre common market, it would have been about it would have been sort of 1968 69. I was I was 15 in August of 68. And so I was this was slightly before so I was still 14. And I read this article in the ft. That said about if we ever get into the Common Market, we're going to have to clean our ovens more regularly. And it would affect profitability for big food companies because they'd have to shut the ovens down whilst they were being clean. And it was best essentially a very simple article like that. So I thought about this oven cleaner that I'd read this advert and I thought, well, if you can clean a domestic oven when it's hot, why can't you clean a commercial oven when it's hot? And if you can look at the money, they would say we're not having to shut the ovens down. Because this ad is said food safe. Yeah. So So I basically I thought right I read the ad and there was a telephone there were there was a telephone number. But there was also a sort of a box number said to apply to a box number and a telephone numbers are quite a long telephone number. So I'm not going to fly to a boxing gym because I didn't know how to do it. And so I thought I got to ring them and I thought well, I've never used that. I mean, I know it sounds to kids today. It's mad, but I'd never we never had a phone. I'd never used a phone. I didn't have any idea how a phone worked. And so I went up to the phone I thought well I there's a phone box at the end of my dad's road. And so I've got the phone box and see if there are any instructions. I took this advert with me. And when I went into the phone box, it said dial 100 for the operators. So I thought, well, that's better I can bring a carrying the operator, although I hadn't had much education. I've always been an avid reader. So I was a library fanatic. I never bought books, but I was a library fanatic. So I would read, in fact, a friend of mine who's a professor, so I think you're the only person I know that read more books than I have. And, but we, but anyway, so I, I, this, I read this, I thought, Brian ring the operator. So I rang the operator 100. And this lady came on the phone. And she said, you know, can I help you? And I said, Yeah, I said, I want to ring this number, but I don't. I've never used a phone before. So she said though, right. Okay, I can help you. What's the number tell me what the number is? So I read the number out and she said, Oh, that's a long number. And this was an exchange, just outside Bristol, you know? And she said, that's a long number. And I said, is it here? I didn't know how long a number should be really. And she said, yeah, she said this in America. And I said, America, and she said, yeah, she said, it's gonna cost quite a lot to ring. And I said, How do I do that? And she said, Well, look, I'll tell you what, if you go, if you get the coins, go and get yourself a lot of coins. And then what we can do, I can I can you ring back on 100. And you will come through to this exchange. And you ask us, for me, my name is Joyce Thompson. And I'll come to the phone. And I'll help you. And I saw thanks very much choice. So that's, that's great. So she said, How old are you? I said, Oh, 18. Well, that's 40. So she said, All right. Okay. She's a new never used a phone. I said, No, I said, we know. Oh, don't you worry, my love. I'll help you. So oh, so off I go. So I always because I was always working doing things. I did have some money in a kid, childlike way, you know. And I had some 10 in those days. anyone younger than sort of? I don't know, a lot of people. I remember the 20s. Yeah, well, yeah. But do you remember the 10 shilling note? Because I can see you too. Yeah, I went, I went with a tensioning intention. I changed it Bitcoins. And I came back to the foam box. And I did rang and that took a while for them to come find Joyce and bring her to the phone. And they did. And she came to the phone. She said right, Steven, now let's see where we're going. So she said what we can do our ring number. And then I'll tell you as an A and a B button on the phone boxes in those days, it was before STD trunk calls came in. We used to have to put the coins in press it and the coins were drawn. And she said if you put the money in, when I put you through, and then when I say you're through, you put the money in, and then you can speak but you only got a certain number of minutes. And I said, what she said to you know, just remember that you'll it'll just cut you off. So I said, will they hear the coin strat and she said, Oh, yes, they'll know the point. I said, that's no good. So she said, Well, how'd you mean? I said, Well, I'm making a business call. I said they I can't. I said I can ring someone and they think then I put coins in and she saw no, I see. I see I can see your problem. She said, so What business is it you're in? I said, Oh, cleaning you know? So she said, Right. She said, Well, I can get over that. She said have you put all the calls in now I've got a method of holding the exchange, I can do that. And you put the coins in now. And I'll give you four minutes. Right? And there won't be any beeps or anything like that. And I said, Right. She said, so you've got to do it. In that time. I said, Okay, so I that's what we did. And I rang America and I got through to this cleaning company. In a while they weren't a cleaning company. They were two brothers that ran a logistics, sort of a bit of an empire really, and out of New Jersey. And they I got through to the guy Barry. And I did I just got him on the phone and got hurt little chat and I sort of can't ring for long now. Because I'm right in the middle of something, but can I talk to you about your cleaning products? I'm ringing from England. And he said yeah, sure. Great. I want to I said Well, can I get back to you on it because I knew I was going to run out of time. So he said Yeah, sure. So anyway, I rang off. And then I thank Joyce and she came back on the phone now she says she said he said Do they just thought it was your secretary cuz she put me through you say she actually through she said I just even fear in England. And they just saw so that was fantastic. And then And then what happened after that was I thought, well, I've now got a problem. Because this damn phone box eats coins. And I've got a finite amount of capital, as I thought. So what am I going to do? So I thought, I know. I wonder what sort of time and I took a guess that he might have a coffee break at around half 1011 in the morning and a New Jersey time, American time. So what I used to do is to ring at about a minute past 11. And I would say is, and the receptionist will always answer the phone. She Hi, how are you? I tell Hi, how are you? And then she'd say, are you've met your after barrier, aren't you? And I'd say yeah, she say I, you know, I? He always go through a fog and a coffee at this time. He's walking around the yard. I said, Great. Can you get him to call me back? She said, Yeah, sure what? Because Joyce had told me you could ring into a phone box that you put. So what would happen is I would then I bring up and then I had the problem then that I had to wait. I knew he'd ring me back. But it could be within an hour, you know? Yeah. So when I use I had a stole from my dad's Council flat where he lived, and an umbrella and I put the stall in the umbrella. And I used to sit in the rain and wait for the phone to ring. And I put masking. My dad was a French publisher. So he use masking tape in his job. And I put out of order on this sign on the front of my masking tape the phone box. And I used to sit there with the umbrella. And this old lady came up to me I thought I can't get in it made me think because I couldn't get in the phone box when because someone was in there. So I thought you're in my office, I've got to get out. So I turned up. And so what I would do, I'd put this out of order sign right. And then sometimes people will come out and this old lady came up to me a couple of times over the period. She said still out of order. Is he that phone box? And I said yes. She said lady cancel was nothing to the council. Of course it was to do pretty telecom. To say she say, couldn't do. Can you give me a shout when it's fixed? I said, Of course I will. I said I'm waiting to tell my dad. She said, Yeah, she said, Give me a shout because I want to ring my daughter. And so I wait. And then the phone would ring and I'd run around rip or the basket in and out. And that's where easy clean, which was what I called it originally because I couldn't I ran into the phone and grab the phone and I couldn't think What the hell's I just pick the phone up for I got to answer it. And I said morning musically. And ever after I became easy. That was the start of where I that's where I started. So yeah, like I say it's not where you start, but it's where you're going. Oh, I love that story that is absolutely brilliant. Just as such a true story of an entrepreneur as well, so many entrepreneurs, I mean, have not actually they've not been through school, or they haven't, you know, done a lot of it. But they've just had these creative ideas constantly of How to Be resourceful how to, like you say get independence and stability of your own, as well as you know, and being in control of your own destiny. I think Well, I think I think that's the that's the that was the key. The key for me was what I wanted was independence. You know, I wanted to be, I wanted to do what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it. It's one of the things I often say to entrepreneurs, I used to say when I was at the British Library stage people just remember, you know, you don't think you don't have a boss, because you do. Number one, your customer. They're your boss. Yeah. Number two, you've got all the things you've got to do to make it we're all your boss. I said. So when your friend comes around and says can't come down the pub. If you're working, you got to say no, you can't just you can't just say, uh, yeah, because the trouble is, as soon as you say yeah, okay, that's okay. I can do this later. Later never comes. Yeah. And that you lose the day. And that's the problem. And so many entrepreneurs go through that, you know, they, they, they get into self employment. And I said, You know what, you've got to bear in mind that self employment will lead to unemployment. If you don't watch it. You do have to focus on what you're doing. You have to drive yourself because you're not your own boss. Your customer is your boss. Yeah, absolutely. So, so seven, you're obviously a bit of a local legend around the Bristol area, I think knowing knowing who you are, and a while ago, you were recognised within honorary doctorate, which was amazing from the University of the West of England, which is great recognition for you know where you've got to today. So tell us a bit about that. How did that happen? Well, I don't know really how I suddenly I was in my office. And there were maybe, I don't know, three or four people in the office at the time, and I was in my office. And they were out in the outer office people when the letter came in from they brought the mailing to me, someone brought mail and put it on my desk. I started going through the mail, and I opened up this letter from university, I'd done a talk, I'd done a lecture at YUI. And so, so I did this. And I opened the letter, and it said, We would like to give you a doctor. And so I thought I immediately call out to and Leon was in the office, as well as it happened at that time, very rare that wherever in the office either of us, but we both were. And he I called out and one of our people, Elizabeth came in and she said, what is it I said, I said, this university, I said, if they got me mixed up, they've sent this letter, I reckon what they've done, they've sent this letter is supposed to send it somebody else had sent it to me being given a doctorate. And I said, I'd better give them a ring. You know, because somebody is going to be sort of waiting on this. It's been given this. And so I so so I rang up, university, West of England, and I got through a got through to the department and the lady at the other end. She said, All Hi, Steven, how are you? And I said on well, thanks. I said, Look, I've got a letter. Yes, I know, you actually said, I said, No, I think you probably meant send me a letter, maybe thanking me for giving the lecture. But you sent me a letter giving me a doctorate. So somebody else will have got the letter that the thanking them for a lecture they haven't given? And she said, No, she said, the letters, we, it's, it's, we need your permission to give you the doctorate. And I said, you've given me a doctorate. And she's so I was I really didn't realise that. I really didn't. I was I was absolutely shocked. And both my mum and dad died several years ago. And but you know, it meant quite a lot to me, because I educated myself and trying to give me give myself a rounded education, which is what I tried to do. I did try to do that. I mean, even when I was 11, I, I have a friend of mine past 11 Plus went to grammar school. And because I was never going to school, nobody even knew whether I was in Wiltshire or Bristol. And so what I did was I I said, what sort of questions Did they ask you? Did you answer? And he, he told me, so I thought, right, I'll go and get some books. And I'll open the books up at a certain page. And then I'll give myself those questions. And see if I could, surprisingly enough, I passed it. I think you could say I rigged it. But really, I just I just thought I asked those questions and to see what I knew, you know, and so but of course, you got so many gaps with work in education when you educate yourself, you know, so you have to try and run. So that's how that happened with the doctor. I really, I was I was amazed. So that was that really that's how it happened. The same sort of thing happened with the Lifetime Achievement Award, I had no idea that I was going to being given a Lifetime Achievement Award. In fact, I have to be honest. I was moaning to myself, because I'd been in London, and I had been invited to this dinner. And with there are 500 non people there. And a Bristol and I've been in London and I was I came back. And I said someone on the phone in the car got to try and couldn't promise to go I can't say I'm not going to go now. So I drove in the lashing rain back to Bristol. I just was a bit late, but I was sort of on time a bit late. And I noticed I so I walked in and I saw I was on the top table and I thought well I I sort of just thought I'd been invited. Like, by Sunday, somebody said to me you've been invited that day Don't forget you got to go and I I was thinking it was sort of an estate agent or something that had invited me just for so I went in I looked at the table plan. And I walked all the way down to I was my table was right on the friends and the E and x in the television presenter was there it was very nice guy and I sort of you know, we sort of spoken a few other people and people on the table and It went on and I took my jacket off and Dicky bow off because it was all too hot. You know, I put a black tie I could do without a black tie dinner. I'm really busy. Yeah. And I was sort of there with it next shirt and everything. There's suddenly an accident winter and said, Tonight we've got lights on it. And, and it was and everybody stood up. And there were people standing up cheering and I thought were really cheering about and it was I had to listen to it again, somebody said to me is you and hits me on the LMS is it? And I so I had to get try and get my jacket on and my tie and compose. It was all quite it was all quite so anyway, that was very nice. I mean, that's what that that was what they did. And the nicest thing I had done, was on the way out after the dinner, a guy came up to me and he said, I was one of the judges that we had to judge this year who won the Lifetime Achievement Award. And I said, he said, I've got to tell you, I didn't vote for you. And I said, Yeah, so I said, I said, I don't blame you. I wouldn't have voted we worry about it. He said no. I wanted just to tell you, I didn't vote for you. And I said absolutely fine. Don't worry. Thanks for saying anyway. He said no, the reason I didn't vote for you is because I don't think your lifetime achievement is over yet. Oh, bless. And that's why I never voted for you. And I wanted to tell you that. And I said those were so it's a very nice thing to say thanks very much. It was lovely. So they go, you know, I think he's right, as well. I don't know, I plan to carry on living. Or you're always busy busy doing something. Yeah, yeah. It's always busy. There's always things there's another always opportunities been in you do some judging as well, don't you. So you've judged lots of entrepreneurs in awards that you judge with a great visual entrepreneur was we've talked about that before. So tell us a bit about how you found it and maybe any tips for you know, obviously, what we do is help people to enter awards and to get recognised and raise their profile. So they get those opportunities. Yeah, what would your kind of tips be from a judge's perspective? Do you think? Well, I take judging very serious Lee, because I think it's very important entrepreneurs, the life of an entrepreneur can be quite lonely. You know, if you're on your own, you're building a business. And initially, you've got all the responsibility, you've got to pay the mortgage or the rent, you've got other payments to meet and bills to pay, it can be quite lonely, especially if banks are a little bit on your back, because you can't quite get the cash flowing in. And all that, you know, and so, I, I take it seriously, because when these guys and awards are very, that it's not just about being recognised, it's the the calm, that, you know, the camaraderie amongst the entrepreneurial community. And entrepreneurs are very important to society. People forget this, you know, I absolutely the NHS, nurses, police, the military, civil servants are everyone's important. But without entrepreneurs driving the economy, there is no money to pay anybody else. And that's true. Now with COVID, as it was before, you know, if we don't rebuild our economies, there isn't going to be any money. I spent a long time in the Soviet Union before the wall, and after the wall came down. And I've spent time in other communist countries visiting and doing business and stuff as well. And I can tell you, the Soviet Union was a desolate place. It was miserable, in many aspects grey, and that was basically because people didn't have hope and aspiration that you get in with, with enterprise. And so that's what I believe. And so I think it's very important to judging so for the entrepreneur, to be recognised, it's a great thing. Because the entrepreneur, certainly they think, Well, hang on, I'm doing all this work, and I've been doing all this but, you know, I don't often they don't go into an office and get someone saying to them, Hey, you did well on that, you know, they did a good job. Yeah, you're doing a good job and everyone needs needs that and to think positive and be cheered up know that there are other people. That's the other thing, knowing there are other people going through the same problems as you facing the same thing. You know, how do you wring the bank when you tell them you can't pay your overdraft? You know, things like that, you know, and so, so that's why I'm keen on judging and why I'm I'm I'm keen on doing as good a job as a charge as I do. And I found the great Entrepreneur Awards as an example British great, great British Entrepreneur Awards, I should say, as an example are a great to A great medium, there are others as well. And I've judged lots of different ones. But they've got a great spirit in that organisation as well. Yeah, try and sort of work through and they brought some young people through very good young people through. Yeah. In the business. Yeah. And I think what's really lovely about that, actually, and particularly about the great British Entrepreneur Awards, is that as an entrepreneur, a you'll get your your ideas validated. You know, sometimes you're sitting there thinking, Well, I don't know, should I do this? Should I do that? Was that a good idea? Was it not a good idea, but also that you're being judged by entrepreneurs, where you know that they understand what you've gone through? And also you learned so much from them, as well. So you know, it's it's fantastic to see, like you say, the young people coming through in the young businesses with fresh thinking and new ideas and everything and creating and it really energises you, doesn't it? Oh, I absolutely. I love it. I mean, I, I am as enthusiastic about business today as I was when I was 12. You know, I love to get up and do things, new things come across my desk. You know, and I always say to people, you know, they say, Well, how do you raise capital, I say, don't worry about raising capital, you're always find money. If the idea is right, you will always find it if you've got something that benefits society. That's the key benefit society, benefits humanity, or gives people a left and is to the good, because we all know whether we're doing something. If we're doing something that isn't really right. We know really, if we're doing something that's right, we do know that too. And I so I think I will say to people don't worry about the money. There's always a way of finding money. You know, to get things going, not always easy. But you will always find a way if the idea is right. And so, you know, don't just just get on and do it. And that's the most important thing is don't overthink it. I'm I've often got a tendency to overthink. And I've got to shake myself out of that overthinking and overanalyzing. You know, I think sometimes as well, and particularly when you're an entrepreneur, you have to trust your gut instinct about what's right and what's wrong. Sometimes you can't even put down on paper why it feels right to somebody else, but you just know. Yeah, yeah, you do. It's one of the things. I'm in the middle of writing a book at the moment with a friend of mine about negotiation. It's a long story I won't go into now, but it's hopefully going to be published later this year or early 22. We're not sure. But the important thing is about very, very detailed negotiation at government level, and. And the unusual angle, which I won't go into just at the moment, but I will tell you about. Yeah, yeah. It's a bit unusual. But we're in the middle of this. And one of the things I've learned, I've, I've learned with negotiation is I've learned from dogs. So people laugh at me and say, You always trained your dogs. I mean, a friend of mine, a soul friend of mine the other day, and he said, Look, as you're the dog whisperer can can you crack on my dog's fault? And I said, I'm not the dog whisperer. I hear no, I just, but he said, but the thing is, I've learned and that is, dogs learn most by body language. They don't, it's body language. And if you, if you talk to someone that's telling you the truth, in negotiation, you can see in their body language, if you know how to understand it, because it's body language, what they say. And their body language needs to be congruent for you to get a feeling. And that's what it's all about. That's where dogs when if a dog growls at someone, there's usually, you know, someone that a dog that doesn't normally grow in growls, there's a reason. And that's because they haven't lost that sense of gut feel. And that's where entrepreneurs, that's what I always say, if you've got a gut feel, then then go with that gut feel because it's your inner sense. That's giving you the ability to recognise whether something's good or bad. And it's one of the things that comes out in the book. We've got three publishers queuing up for that moment, I see. Entrepreneurs will be able to learn a lot from that then entrepreneurs should read the book when it comes out. I won't a moment announce it, but I will. Yeah, let us know. And we can share it with everybody. That'd be brilliant. I will as soon as we've got it on a little bit further. I need Yeah, because we haven't signed with any other publishers. Yeah, at the moment. And in case any publishers are watching this. We're always open for talking with us. Although I must say is an amazing negotiator. But well, I would say there is when when it does come out a good part of the profits are going to go to good courses, not just you know, it's not just about buying another Bentley, it's about putting back into society. Yeah, you know, what we can do? So we will be doing that. Oh, fantastic. So let's then leave everybody with a message of what you think it obviously it's been a really tough year. Yeah. Or the previous year this year, you know, hasn't set out great has, it has been tough for everybody. So what do you think for entrepreneurs, but not just entrepreneurs, for everybody really in business? What can we do to take things forward? Or what would your be your message be for 2021? Okay, well, my message is a positive message. Sooner or later, hopefully sooner, this nasty little virus will be on its way. And we will then be able to get back to some form of normality. I think zoom will continue playing apart, by the way, in normality, but nonetheless, we'll get back to normality. There are great opportunities. I mean, as entrepreneurs, we must realise and understand that opportunities are where markets are zigzagging where there are disruptive opportunities to do something differently. You know, the pandemic has thrown up opportunities, which were unheard of before. I mean, we know and so I think going forward, there are so many opportunities. And the teapots take publicans and pubs and independent Cafe owners. At the moment, people are saying, oh, pubs are finished forever, they're never gonna, I don't believe that. I think that the human being as a social animal, and all these places are going to come back big time, they might come back a bit differently. There might be different angles to it. But they will come back the best operators and I always say this is my message is if you if you are the best, if you aim for quality, instead of quantity, aim for quality to do things right, you will always come back to the top, there's always a way back for the best. So just aim to be the best. And I you know, I think that there are great opportunities. I mean, you know, sometimes opportunities get taken away, because of events and new opportunities get put them for you. And I do think we need to think outside the box to use my analogy. You do have to think outside the box. I mean, fishing, the fishing industry, you know, we know all the arguments and the politics and all this, forgetting all that. The reality is people need to eat fish. Yeah, or will want to eat fish. Therefore, where are the fish? You know, and so, you know, I it's the same thing with everything. And I think there are great opportunities, I think food and water, clean water, and food, give two big opportunities for entrepreneurs, new types of new types of food, new growing techniques, we're looking at something which at the moment, again, I can't go into it, because at the moment, we're just it's going to be something we're going to be launching, but growing food. You know, not I don't mean genetically modified. I mean, I mean, growing foods matters. And, yeah, it's going to be very, very important. And we're going to have in amongst everything that's going on there that I can I agree with you. There are some really exciting opportunities out there. And it's about being open minded to them, isn't it and ready to receive, I think and ready to maybe understand that your plan might not be what you thought your plan was. But that doesn't mean it's not, you know, it can't work. And it's not a good plan. So Well, thank you so much, Steven, you've been an absolute joy, I could talk to you all day, because I know that you've got so many stories. So hopefully, we'll come back again on our podcast and share some more, especially when your book is out. Did lovely. So thank you so much and for sharing your wisdom that I think you know, even just a few words like that can make a real difference to somebody. So thank you we very much appreciate it. And I wish you all the best for 2021 as well. Thank you much. Appreciate it. See you soon. Thank you for listening to this episode of my winning awards podcast. If you enjoyed it or found it helpful, please share it on Twitter and LinkedIn. And if you have any questions please head over to crafted by auguste.com where you can find out more about winning awards and contact me on the website. You can also take our free awards test which will identify your award strengths and tell you how likely you are to win. I really hope you've been able to take away some ideas today so that you can go ahead and win awards have an even bigger impact on the world and achieve your dreams.