60 Seconds With… Neil Donald
Our latest ’60 Seconds With’ episode includes newest member and mentor, Neil Donald. Neil offers us a brief insight into his business and personal life which presents satisfying pockets of inspiration, wow moments and an interesting entrepreneurial perspective. A wonderful read and a pleasure to interview!
HOW DID YOU START YOUR BUSINESS?
I’ve been running my business, Hotwire, for the last 7 years. Before that I’d spent 20 years working for other people. It got to a point where I was approaching 40 — I’ve got a reasonable skill set including sales/marketing — and wanted to use this for my own benefit rather than working for other people. A couple of colleagues of mine had done this kind of thing before and all of them said it’s the best thing they’d ever done. During this time I was preparing for my first marriage and thought why not just add to the workload! I just relied on my knowledge and contacts that I had built from working in previous industries.
HOW HAS YOUR EXPERIENCE BEEN SINCE JOINING LAUNCH22 IN LIVERPOOL?
I’ve been here three times in the past three weeks and I already like the business model. I’ve had associations with other accelerators informally, and with several startup organisations and this is the first time that I’ve actually put my name down officially for a mentoring program for an organisation. It’s a little disappointing because I currently reside in Manchester and Liverpool is a great city. Launch22 is a great facility and has a great business model and I think that the exciting thing about this is that it focuses on helping businesses and that’s what it’s all about! If you’re starting a business you are then cast out into the big bad world and it’s an ‘off-you-go-and-get-successful’ scenario. But L22 offers a stable base and fills the missing link which offers a positive environment when working in a young company.
SO DO YOU THINK THAT KEEPING A HEALTHY, NOT NECESSARILY PROFESSIONAL, RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN BUSINESSES IS IMPORTANT?
That’s important, and again, the other positive thing about this is that you can have start-up businesses and even established businesses to offer support to each other. If you sit with other people who are in a similar position as yourself, then this will help you learn. There are many aspects of business that need a lot of attention and where you need to build momentum. This is wonderful place to do such a thing. But at the end of the day, it’s about generating a revenue stream.
IS THAT WHAT DRIVES YOU?
I can only speak for myself personally — My business is a lifestyle business and I am very proud of that. I earn less money now than I used to working for corporates. But I have a fantastic work life balance and I have more than enough money to do everything that I want to do. I’m never going to be a billionaire, nor a millionaire but I’m not interested in that because I love what I do. Being involved and talking to people is what I do, albeit their clients, their colleagues, their friends. Managing the time spent with these sort of people and working impacts the work life balance. That is the beauty of what I do now.
YOU SEEM FAIRLY HAPPY THEN!
Well, that’s probably because you caught me on a good day! I’ve just checked and the sun is shining today — so the world doesn’t seem like a bad place right now!
WHAT’S YOUR PROUDEST MOMENT IN YOUR CAREER?
Oh! Well there are many projects that I am very proud of. Like when I look back at them and think that was a great piece of work — and that’s what it’s all about — for example it’s like when Enzo Ferrari was asked what his favourite car was, he would say ‘the next one’. And that’s how it feels because we can say okay that was great, we really enjoyed that, but what can we do tomorrow? For me it’s an interesting business perspective — how can we move forward?
WHAT DO YOU DO IN YOUR SPARE TIME?
It’s like what I said before on how to balance my lifestyle with work. So I work Saturdays/Sundays and work at hot-desks around the country. But the counterbalance of that is that I don’t have to be somewhere at a certain time if I don’t need to be and so I’m free to work from wherever I like — working from home, on hot-desks around the country with a strong network of colleagues that I can utilise — that side is flexible. In my personal life I love to do some mountain biking along the canal, we live just off the Rochdale canal in Manchester and it really offers us a great perspective on our business lives. I’m big on snowboarding –been doing that since 1994 — but not professional unfortunately! My favourite location being Japan — love the culture, love the place. One of my personal claims to fame was having a 3-hour private lesson with Eddie the Eagle — the coolest guy ever. It was a gift from my friend but was intended as a joke, only because I said I’ve never skied before!
FINALLY, IS THERE ANYONE THAT HAS INSPIRED YOU TO GET YOU TO WHERE YOU ARE?
For me, it’s about keeping a positive attitude — I am a big advocate for mental health and I hope to do a little presentation sometime while I am here because I believe that it is something that doesn’t get talked about enough in society, in general. Starting a business can become a very lonely place and can be a very negative space at times. Remaining positive can make all the difference. There are obvious candidates out there, such as the Bransons and the Jobs in the world but I think you can find inspiration from the smallest things and this is something that I try to cast my net over- I tend to stay away from the big business books, ones that give a formulaic attitude towards it — ‘if you do this, then it will lead to that and you will be successful’. I personally think that this is looking through the wrong end of the telescope. So, there are a lot of principles at stake for the idolisations of the Bransons and the Jobs because these are the unicorns of this world, out of the other 7 billion mere mortal people. If everyone is making these unrealistic expectations/ambitions then business today would be a very different place.