Monday, 14 April 2014


I was asked to talk to a group of small businesses in Lewes. If you haven’t been to Lewes go there. It’s perched on a hill which runs down to the River Ouse, the fragrant scent  of Harvey’s the Brewery suffuses the place with its antique shops and organic cafes. Once upon a time Oxford was like this, reflective and inward looking. At night Lewes quietens as its inhabitants go indoors to pubs and dining rooms and talk, drink and think. The architecture is Elizabethan in part, unlike its rowdy brother Brighton with its Regency look-at-me white stucco. Lewes is alive with a sense of rebellion, independence and talent. Home to Glyndebourne, musicians and craftsmen it’s one of those places that remind one why Britain is so extraordinarily rich and stable a country.

So there I was in the genial Con Club, sun shafting through the windows. As I started, my key theme being you should tell people about how good you are and be assertive - because you are your own salesforce, I reflected on the irony.  There I was an ex-Ad Man who’d worked on big budget commercials, talking about why marketing on a shoestring was so wonderful, a bit like a chef talking to hungry people about dieting.  Yet I learned so much from them and about their businesses and felt humbled as, following my advice they expressed themselves vividly, confidently and with passion about their products and services.

A carpenter who talked of his love of wood and his passion for working it, another saying he loved what he did, really understood it and had an absolute certainty of success, another who talked of the joy of transforming people they taught, another of the sheer pleasure of giving pleasure in her B&B (I want to stay there) and another who talked about photography with an appetite that’s rare and an ability to project magic - “at my best I do photographs that knock people’s socks  off.”  It was a morning of passion, insight, self-belief and colour. They all, when it was drawn from them loved what they did. Life was a formula balancing passion and pragmatism; a compromise between art, joy, a story to tell and paying the bills.
I learned  small is really beautiful. These were people who lived, breathed and spun threads of love around what they did. They used all their senses not just their left brain. From Pilates to theatre to arts to caring I heard great stories, people describing change as though it was fun and normal.

Respite from writing my book? Yes but also an education in the terror and the ecstasy of being your own person not an employee. I hope I boosted their sense of being special and helped them become a bit more marketing assertive. These were great storytellers when unleashed. And that‘s the best marketing tool of all.

Some of the slides from my presentation are included

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