Alan Stevens on Show #192 : Recognising Your Own Business Opportunity 

Alan Stevens is a business coach, remote and virtual speaking specialist, and author, based in East  London.

He had a long career working in consumer journalism at Which? Online. As Head of Digital Services, he created one of the first ‘social networks’.

Alan discovered a passion for speaking and has been President of the Global Speakers Federation and the Professional Speaking Association of the UK and Ireland.

He started the The Media Coach business to help organisations with reputation management and  crisis communications.

Alan enjoys running, fine wine, and rock music, although not at the same time!

He has published many books on public speaking, and his latest release, The Exceptional Speaker, co authored with Paul Du Toit, is a revised edition of his 2013 book. 

Today, Alan shares the journey that took him from a professional career in consumer journalism to  becoming a top speaker and business coach.

He shares tips on how you can spot opportunities for  starting your own business and how you can maintain motivation throughout your journey.

He explains  how he found the resilience he needed when starting his business. Alan provides strategies for staying  disciplined and managing your time between work and family commitments.

He also shares the  technology and tools he uses in his business and why continuous learning is essential in any industry. 

“You’ve got to have more than passion. You’ve got to have value, and you’ve got to be somebody who will put yourself out there.”

Alan Stevens 

This week on The Power to Live More Podcast: 

  • How Alan’s day-to-day work has changed since COVID-19 
  • Why Alan went from a corporate role at Which? Online to starting his own business
  • The training and experience that Alan has applied to his crisis communication skills
  • Top tips for spotting an opportunity to create your own company 
  • How Alan found the resilience to keep going when starting his business 
  • How storytelling can bring people together 
  • What drove Alan to start his own company 
  • How to maintain longevity and avoid boredom when running your own business
  • A sneak peek into Alan’s work day 
  • How to make sure you get everything done when being self-employed 
  • How Alan created strategies to manage his time and create a balance in his business activities
  • Managing your home life and work-life to ensure you give enough energy to both
  • Technology that Alan uses to help him manage daily tasks 
  • How Alan stays fit and healthy 
  • Why you have to keep learning and teach others too
  • How the coronavirus pandemic is affecting people in coaching and training businesses
  • Tips for handling tough days 
  • What living more looks like for Alan 

Resources Mentioned: 

Connect with Alan Stevens: 

Join the POWER to Live More CALM Membership 

Attention home-based coaches and consultants! 

Are you tired of feeling alone, isolated, and frustrated with running your home-based coaching or  consulting business? Are you sick of feeling like your life would be better, and you’d be happier if you  felt more organised and productive? Do you feel like there’s simply not enough time in a day to get all  the things done that you need to do to build a successful business while making time to live more? 

It’s time to stop the isolation and start getting more organised, productive, and focused on the tasks  that will move the needle forward. 

It’s time to join the POWER to Live More CALM membership! 

If you’re ready to: 

  • Stop recreating the wheel and focus on the things that truly matter in your life and business
  • Learn what you need to know to be successful and ‘live more’ 
  • Get accountability help from a group of like-minded home-based business owners Then you need to join the POWER to Live More CALM membership programme! 

To learn more about the POWER to Live More CALM membership programme and apply, visit  PowerToLiveMore.com/GetCalm 

Connect, Share, Inspire 

Thank you for joining me for this week’s episode of the POWER to Live More Podcast! If you enjoyed this  episode and would like to help support the show, please head over to Apple Podcasts or Stitcher,  subscribe to the show and leave your honest review! You can also help me reach even more amazing  business owners and leaders by sharing your favorite episodes on your social media channels. 

Don’t forget to check out my website join my Facebook Group, follow me on Twitter and connect with  me on LinkedIn, YouTube, and Instagram to interact with me and my amazing audience! 

Show notes provided (brilliantly, my words not theirs!) by Lidwell Writing Services, LLC

Read Full Transcript

#192 Alan Stevens Interview

Today I'm interviewing Alan Stephens of media coach.co.uk. Welcome, Alan. Thanks for joining me. Thanks for watching DJ pleasure to be here today. And you're the other half of one of our previous guests on you. And Heather Waring has been on the show twice. So I've said you already you're on catch up, you need to come on again already. I am running to catch up your song. Obviously, she is my better half.

00:23

So yeah, I do like to keep up, really. And we were saying and these sort of days of social media that we've been connected for, like ever, but

00:31

still no idea. We've had a discussion about how we knew each other in the first place. And we don't know.

00:39

Start by telling us a bit about who you are, what you do, and crucially where you do it. Okay, well, I've been involved in journalism for a long time, I was a consumer journalist of which magazine for many years, and now I run a reputation management company. That's what media coaches, I'm known as the media coach in the business. So I, I do crisis communication for lots of large organizations, particularly luxury hotels, which is a sector

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Transcribed by https://otter.ai that I work in, in particular, I'm also a professional speaker. I'm involved with the professional speaking Association here in the UK, I was their president back in 2007. Global precedent in 2010 2011. So I'm pretty well known in the speaking world. And in addition to doing the crisis communication, I get involved in in coaching speakers in working with people obviously online at the moment, because that's the world that we're in. And essentially all sorts of forms of tricky communication, I suppose my most recent book, which I authored with a good friend of mine, Paul de trois from South Africa, called the exceptional speaker, how to make sensational speeches, like I thought I'd get the plug in early. So I've done that, based in East London.

01:49

Not North East London, South Africa. I have to say that when I'm talking to people who are in South Africa, you know where the listeners are, but East London, London, I'm a Londoner, I'm a geezer. It was funny you say that until you mentioned that I hadn't entirely spotted the accent. But as soon as you said, East London, you went into East London mode. Well I was born in born in Fulham, so I'm I was born in Fulham. I've lived in North London, South London, West London, East London. I am, I am a proper geezer. I'm not a Cockney, because I wasn't born within the sound of bow bells. But I've always been a London, I'm a very proud London. And I'm a London guide as well, I get involved in showing people around tourists around when, when that comes back again. Yes, I also worked as a volunteer in Olympic Park, what's known as a park champion in Stratford to sort of help people navigate. So I do quite a bit of volunteering. And I like to describe myself as a professional London and jobbing journalist. Lovely, thank you. And you, did you work from home before? COVID? That's the question I now ask. It's a good question, Joe, Samsung, a lot of what I used to do was traveling and I really missed that I've traveled in many, many countries all around the world. I've spoken in dozens of countries. And that's, that's the thing that really, I find disappointing. In fact, we can't do that anymore. So obviously having to do that from home. So I would say, up until now, a maybe a third of my work was from home now. It's all of my work is at home. And hopefully one day we'll get back to that in person thing. But for now, everything's online. Yes, yeah. And so you mentioned that you were working with which a number of years ago and how, how did the transition happen from from working in a corporate role into working for yourself? I'm glad you asked that job because I have a story about that.

03:39

What happened was that I was a witch magazine, I was what's known as head of digital services, which meant I looked after all of the all of the technology and new products. And

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Transcribed by https://otter.ai we had a product called tax calc, which used to work out your income tax. It was a program that ran on the BBC Model B computer back in the day. Everybody can remember that. And what happened was we had a website, this was back in 1997.

04:05

Before the internet existed almost with a website that was selling taxcalc, you could go on there, click a button, buy it, and it got hacked one day, and I found out because I got a call from the Sunday Times on a Saturday saying your website's been hacked. We want a quote from you. Of course I did the thing that I would do as a journalism representative. I gave them a quote and they said thanks very much and ran the story. And then it was picked up by the nationals. It was picked up by BBC, ITV sky channel five news, everything on on Monday, the Monday after the Sunday Times came out. I did 37 interviews on the same day, all about this crisis that we'd undergone. So far, so good. What happened then was a few months later, I found out that lots of PR companies were using my interviews as an example of how to manage a crisis on the media and a good way or bad way.

05:00

Good one. And I thought, hang on a minute. Yeah, I'm obviously okay at this, I should just start a company, explaining to people how they can do this. And if they get a crisis, and that's what I did, I left, I left which magazine within a couple of months, I started my own company media coach giving crisis communication advice, and I've just taken it from there. That's amazing. So had you had training to do that yourself in the first place? Yes, I had. Yeah. Um, back in the late 70s, early 80s. I first got involved in television. I did have some media training back then from a company called hillside was I remember up in, in Edmonton, but it doesn't matter. But the fact that yes, I had about half a day's media training. Since then I've done a lot of media work, lots of radio, I still do.

05:45

Television, I had a couple of series on Sky TV back in the 90s. So I just kind of get used to it. And if it's something that you're used to, and something that you can explain very easily, then people will pay for your help, basically. Hmm, yeah. Great to hear that you sort of spotted an opportunity and Went, went with it. And it was a big boost to because Heather, that you talked about, you talked about before she'd gone

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Transcribed by https://otter.ai 06:11

solo, as it were, she'd left her organization that year previously. So all of a sudden, we were there with a with a two year old, a mortgage to pay, and neither of us being paid a living wage. You know, we both had to make our own way. But we thought, Hey, you know, if we're gonna make if we're gonna make it, we've got to give it a go. And it turned out very successful for both of us. Yes, yeah. So what sort of top tips have you sort of falling out of that for people who are in a position where they're in a corporate situation, they spot an opportunity, they've got a skill, and people potentially could be paying for it? What sort of reflections do you have? Now? I mean, you've obviously got a good few years under your belt. And I have Thanks for pointing that out, Joe,

06:50

in a good way, in a good way. Yes. experiences? Yes, yes. And I think it's that old adage, it's, it's that intersection between your expertise, your value and how people will pay you for that you've you and also what you're passionate about. It's that kind of sweet spot. And if you've got that sweet spot, which which I thought I hadn't turned out I had, then you can go for it. And I think that the issue that a lot of people have is that they, they're very passionate about something. And they think, okay, I can leave my corporate job, and I can make a career out of this. Passion is not enough. You've got to have more than passion, you've got to have value. And you've got to be somebody who will put yourself out there as well. So I was I've always been quite outgoing, surprisingly, as a professional speaker and occasional stand up comic, what a shock. And I'm quite, quite happy to put myself out there. And I think you've got to have that combination. And you've got to work hard to Yeah, it's much harder working for yourself than working for somebody else. I mean, no, no one's going to pay me to sit in my

07:53

office here in my home office at home, unless I go out and grab the work. So I think you've got to have a bit of sort of go getter about you, you've got to have some value, and you've got to enjoy what you do.

08:04

What about the whole resilience piece, and it's something that many of us are sort of facing down at the moment with everything that's going on. But you know, feet, as you say, two of you working for yourself with a small child. And, you know, with little

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Transcribed by https://otter.ai experience of working for yourself at that stage, you presumably needed a lot of resilience. Where did that come from?

08:24

For me, I mean, I can certainly pinpoint it for me, and that it's a it's a sad story and poignant. But I still think it's important. And that is it was a result of my father died when I was eight years old. And I had affected my mother got acrophobia. And she didn't leave the house for three years after, after dad died, I had a little brother, who was is four years younger than me five, four and a half years enemy. And basically, at eight or nine years old, I had to take over around the house, I do the cooking, the shopping, make sure the bills were paid, I look back now and I can barely believe it.

08:57

But we didn't get a lot of a lot of help. And I became very resilient very quickly. And I put a lot of my resilience and a lot of my

09:06

confidence, I suppose down to that early experience. It was an awful experience. Obviously, nobody wants that to happen. But looking back on it, I think I learned a lot from that. And a good friend of mine, Robert black often says that when you get in a difficult situation, there are two things to think about what did I learn from it and what was funny.

09:25

And so I've always talked about many years ago, and I've always looked at it that way. If something's a bit tough, and things will get tough from time to time. What did you learn from it? And what was funny, huh?

09:36

It's interesting. I've all sorts of things sort of flowing through my mind as you as you were saying that, and then that last comment, I think I'd probably agree with that, too. And I think for me, and I wonder if it's similar for you. It's also that piece about storytelling.

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Transcribed by https://otter.ai 09:52

So Oh, yes. You know, you you can recount it and as you say, when I think back to some of the things that happened, you know, my sort of formative years

10:00

And I can tell a very good story about them. And I can make it funny, even though as you say, at times, a lot of it was, you know, was raw and awful and everything else, by the power of storytelling, you turn it into something else.

10:14

But I absolutely agree. I'm a huge advocate of storytelling. I teach storytelling. I'm a big fan of film, and film structure and how films tell stories. And it's how we pass information on. And it's how people get to understand things. And it doesn't mean that telling somebody a story will help them to learn something. But I think when we, when we relate a story, we're also teaching ourselves something as well, I mean, those stories that I just told you, I reflected on myself. And I think the very act of storytelling is self development. Yeah, I think it also helps people to realize that we have a lot of commonality, there are things that we share, which are important, we share far more than we differ on. I think that's it. That's the thing that I'm always banging on about when talking to people, there's a lot of conflict around at the moment, particularly on social media, and there are reasons for that, that we can go into. But I think there's so much commonality so much that we do share. And certainly in the comedic sense, it's it's called

11:11

generalizing the specific. And it generally starts when somebody starts a story says, you know, when, you know that time when, and then you relate a specific experience. And we all got along. Yeah. I know exactly what you mean. And I think that, that element of storytelling where we, we talked about a common experience, not identical one, but a similar one, that that's what brings people together. I mean, without being too over the top, but it's what brings societies together. It's what brings different kinds of people together. Yeah, yeah.

11:42

So just think about sort of where that came from, and how your skills developed. Do you

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Transcribed by https://otter.ai think you were always had it to work for yourself?

11:51

Yes. Do I mean I think like, like many of us who work for ourselves, we're unemployable. Now. Yeah. Because we put ourselves in a situation where no one's gonna tell me what to do. I'm sorry, I'm watching make my own decisions. Thank you very much.

12:07

Yes, I mean, my, my father was a professional photographer. Up until, up until he died, he worked in a darkroom where the dot one of our bedrooms was converted into a darkroom. And I used to work with him in you know, literally in, in back in the day, people won't understand this necessarily back in the day, you want to go into a dark room and develop a film, and then have three dishes developer, fixer, and they've got to stop bath and fixer, but you have to put photographs through. And believe me, it's the most magical experience to see a photograph develop after the plain piece of paper that's been under the enlarger. And then the picture gradually appears in front of you, there's nothing like it. And that's kind of gone a bit. But, you know, he, but he worked on his own. He worked for himself. And I, I saw that, I think as a model. And I'm pretty sure that our daughter is also probably going to end up working for ourselves. She's working for a film company right now. But I guarantee she's gonna end up freelance working for herself at some point, because we've been role models, hopefully. Yeah, yeah. And I mean, in my experience, I think the same sort of sort of be reflecting what you're saying. And I think my corporate sort of decision in the middle was, was partly because that's what everyone did in those days. And I think the world has changed now. But I also think, for me, it was probably security. My dad died when I was 19. So later than you, but but I think, you know, I needed to follow the usual route, because that's what was secure, even though he had his own company. And now I look back and think, you know, this was destined sort of thing. Do you think that some of that was the similar thing for you? It was what everyone did and secure to begin with? Sort of? Absolutely. I mean, the world was different. You're absolutely right. The world was a different place, in many ways, for all sorts of reasons. But but there was an expectation that you'd have a career. I mean, some people would go into a job. And I remember, parents, my friend's parents saying, Well, they've got a nice, secure job. Like, they're going to do that until they retire. And I don't mean, I filled with dread and horror. No, surely not. I mean, even even within you know, which magazine I had about six different roles. Yeah, in different departments. And I, I couldn't possibly have gone on doing the same thing for the same people. And I think that that's the thing that really drove me towards working for myself working from home and own my own company. The

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Transcribed by https://otter.ai fact that I wanted to make the decisions. Yes, I want it to be you're free to be able to decide to take work or not take work.

14:34

And it's very interesting when I when I left which magazine I luckily, they were downsizing for a while and I managed to grab a redundancy package, which a lot of us do. Before we we go self employed and before we start working for ourselves, and they gave me they sent me to an organization which was got redundancy counseling or something like that. And I remember the name of the council, I'm not going to relate it in case she's listening. But she said to me, so what are you going to do and I told her, I said,

15:00

Got this media training company and so on? And she said, Well, that's going to be a struggle.

15:06

And and then she said, but how are you going to cope with people that you don't want to work with? And I said, Well, I'm not going to work with him. It's really simple. If I meet somebody, I don't like, I'm not going to work with him. And she said, biggest error, you should count you should you cannot afford to do that you cannot afford to turn business away. Doesn't matter whether you like them or not, you have to work with them. And I thought, true. I'm not having that. Why should I frankly, that's, that's why I work on my own. Anyway, there's, there's a tail piece to that, because many years later, about five years ago, I got an email from her. She said, she said, I've now gone freelance. I wonder if you've got any positions at your organization?

15:47

Or any tips and you go, yeah, don't work with people you don't like?

15:52

very politely said, No, I'm afraid not to wish the best of luck.

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Transcribed by https://otter.ai 15:57

So going back to the idea of, you know, change, chopping and changing, I don't mean that in a bad way, you know exactly what you mean, and wanting to do different things and seeing the opportunity, in your own business for doing that. How do you then balance that against that whole thing about

16:16

things changing all the time, and you're getting bored in your own business and change your own business? I mean, that that awful word, I hate the word. And I'm gonna say it, but everyone's talking about it around that whole pivot. I knew you were gonna say

16:29

it's a word I try and avoid. But yeah, they do. I so I, but you know, everyone's talking about that as if it's a new thing. It's what I've lived my life on. To be fair, it sounds like you probably have to how do you balance that against, you know, needing longevity, consistency and whatever else? Yeah, I'm not entirely sure what pivot means. I think it's more like swivel.

16:50

Move on Uros. Vice Chair, I think, I think it's more like that. So the way I see it, it's adapting your skill, set your expertise to the situation that we find ourselves in. And I think the problem with people talking about pivoting sometimes is that they think, oh, I'll just go and do a new job. You know, that crazy advertising campaign we had from the government a week or two ago, where there's a picture of a ballerina, and they say, you could be in cyber infuriated me, in fact, infuriated me to such an extent that when I was in London, in the centre of town, I went to the Royal Ballet, where there's a little statue of a ballerina, outside outside the Royal Opera House, and I tried to interview her. And I said, Please nod your head if you want to retrain in cyber.

17:34

I'll put that up on YouTube. And I get some sleep from it for some conservative friends. I didn't care. Yeah, it I think it was it. I think it's a bit of a nonsense. All right, one or two people can go and retrain in something completely different. And that's fine. But really, we have a core set of skills. We have expertise, we have knowledge, we have things that

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Transcribed by https://otter.ai we've learned over the years, and we can direct them towards something else. But it's not a whole new thing. It's using the skill set that you have to fit the circumstance that you find yourself in and other people find themselves in. So I just made that up. But I think it's more of a swivel than a pivot. I think that's a blog post.

18:16

I look forward to reading that.

18:18

What is that thing? And I know some of our mutual connections, I think come you probably know put Penny pullin points on a penny, extremely new word. And she's also been a podcast guest and twice your way.

18:34

back, I know, it's in the stars. And so she posted that she done the government careers questionnaire. I haven't looked at it yet. And it she listed all the things that he said that she could do. We should just hilarious and it reminds me I remember doing a careers questionnaire at school because I had no idea what I wanted to do when I left school. Oh, there's a surprise. And it said I should be a customs officer. Which I can't think of anything worse because I am too gray about everything. I'm not black and white enough to be anything like that, where you have to put your foot down because I can always see both sides of the story, which is a no help. When you're trying to, you know follow the law or whatever. And you know, it's weird. I did that as well. And when I saw that government thing come out, I thought I got to try this. Yes. Just like Penny, I'm going to do the same thing. And I got football referee. Chef, or what was the third thing I can't remember football referee chef, or, oh, it was some? What was it ticket Inspector?

19:32

I thought how did you work that out?

19:36

No idea how much

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Transcribed by https://otter.ai 19:39

I can cook. I'm quite a decent cook. Yeah, but that wasn't the question about cooking. It was all questions all attitudinal stuff. I was baffled. So where does that come from? And what are they trying to achieve it because it just it just is almost like we'll just randomly tell you some jobs that are possible. Well, we knew that already. We don't really need to do a questionnaire to find that out and how

20:00

Really don't know, it's a complete mystery, because I think what's happened is that they've employed a consultant for 7000 pounds a day probably. Yeah, that's right. And those those consultants, and I think what they've done, they've, they've adapted some kind of personality tests from the 70s. And what they've done is that they've got a whole load of jobs, and they've kind of plugged the jobs in. And where does that it's like a jigsaw. And they probably got a few jobs left over. And we'll put those in there. You know, so that, that that so that fills up all the space, all the jobs have now got an allocation.

20:32

It probably wasn't a personality test. It's probably a Cosmo quiz.

20:36

We'll be surprised.

20:39

I wouldn't be in the least surprise. And it. It is the most bizarre thing. I don't know if you've tried it yourself. But I mean, if anyone's listening, right, have a go, it takes about 15 minutes, and you will kill yourself laughing. When you see what what the government recommends, you should be doing. It's absolute nonsense.

20:58

So tell us a bit about what your your days look like now. So we've talked about Tim, you know, variety and everything else, I'm intrigued because I know those.

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Transcribed by https://otter.ai 21:10

No two days are the same, which is a way to be, isn't it? My days are very variable. I mean, just to give you an example, today, I was up at six o'clock this morning. And I ended up doing a four and a half hour training session for some online moderators in a company that makes cans that put tomato paste in. And I know it's going to sound weird. But they've got a conference coming up. And they had some online moderators that are lovely people they've got, they wanted some online moderators to go to work in breakout rooms, they had some people who were doing presentations, that management team. So I just spent four hours, four and a half hours online this morning with those people. And I was coaching professional speaker in Ireland. Then I did a little piece for a little bit of radio, and sort of doing some social media stuff, which of which I tend to do with Talk, talk radio and LBC. I've done a little bit of work on your website, I put out a little bit of marketing. And that's kind of typical day. So on most days, I'm doing a little bit of work for somebody, some coaching, perhaps I've got an annual coaching program for speakers that that I run, but I've got about 12 people on that. And some random stuff as well. Like sometimes somebody will get in touch and say, Would you like to do a podcast? And I think that is that's me. That's what I love. So there we are. And here we are.

22:30

So, so my question to people like you and like me, how do you make sure you get done the things you need to get done, especially when, as you say you have so lots of different stuff coming in from outside of I felt a couple of weeks ago, like I had a job again, I was doing so much for other people. I thought I gotta read this is not what I signed up for here. Let's, let's change things around. Let's swivel a little bit. Okay, nice. We're using that word a lot. I think you've got to be self discipline, I think there's there's quite a lot of things that you can do. And just to give you a couple of examples of things that I do, I clear my inbox every day. And so I have nothing in my inbox, when I finish the day. And I I try to, I see it a bit like a game of tennis. So when an email comes in, I have to get it back over the net. And it's out of my inbox. And there are several things I deal with, I can delete it, if it's rubbish, which some of them are that spam and stuff. And I can respond to it and just say, Thanks very much, if it's just somebody alerting me to something or letting me know something that's coming up, or I can give them a response, if somebody's asking for a proposal or offer a bit of advice, but I I'm very, very

23:41

focused on clearing my inbox every day. So when I when I go to bed, there's nothing. And

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Transcribed by https://otter.ai there's nothing I'm going to worry about because there's nothing in my inbox. That doesn't mean I haven't got some bigger long term task, because I have. So I focused very much on that. I also give people advice because like you people ring me for advice, or send me an email and say, Can I pick your brains or a bit of your time? And you know, sometimes in the past, I used to think, Oh, no, not again. And now I think Hang on a minute, I should be helping people. You know, I've had a lot of help from people in the past, I should pass that on, I should pay it forward. So I say to people, you can have 15 minutes of my time for free. After that, I'm going to charge you because my family has to eat and I've got to keep a roof over my head. So anyone can have 15 minutes, but not many people demand that. And some people will say, but I need an hour. I say that's fine. I could send you an invoice. And when should I send it? Are you valuable? And quite often they will go away. At that point. I don't mean to be nasty to them. But we can all get caught up in doing stuff for people. I mean, I do a lot of volunteering as well as doing doing stuff for my business. And you can only give so much. I think we all give something it's important that we all give something really important.

24:55

But we have to look after ourselves and look after our families as well.

25:00

And that's why I say to people, I'm limited this. And sometimes people will ask me to do a free speech. It's a really common the most common questions speakers get asked, we don't know that we don't have a budget, can you come and speak for free, and they think they see anything online speaking is cheaper. For some reason, I've no idea why I might, I've got a fantastic virtual assistant called Nicola. And she knows what the rule is. And that is I will do four free speeches a year, one per quarter. And when that quarter is full, I don't do anymore. So we say to people, I'm sorry, Alan does for free speeches a year, they're filled for this year, if you want to come back for next year? That's fine. Yeah. So you just set some parameters, you set some rules and guidelines around that, like the 15 minutes and the foreign speeches? And that that's what people are happy, except? And how did you sort of reach that as a strategy? Because it's all about, as you say, boundaries. And I think once you've got a rule, once you've got a boundary, it's really easy to apply it. It's deciding to have one in the first place and working out what it is that I think is quite difficult for people. Can you remember where that came from, you

26:08

#192 Alan Stevens Interview

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Transcribed by https://otter.ai know,

26:10

on made up.

26:12

But it was really, I think what it was was it was the understanding, and I didn't always have this the understanding that I had to have boundaries. Yeah. So you know, 10 years ago, I was doing too many free speeches for people. And there's always this is always the statement. It's become a cliche. Well, we can't pay you, but it'll be great exposure.

26:31

Yeah, I'll just check with my bank, if I can pay in some exposure next week. Because they'll love that. Yeah.

26:39

And so I learned that I had to limit it. And I just thought, I've got to limit it to something and I thought, why not want a quarter? So I can I just came up with that idea. And in terms of the 15 minutes, free advice, again, I thought, what if I, if I was having a conversation with somebody, maybe after a gig or, or a bumped into somebody at some kind of networking event? How much time would I give them, I thought 15 minutes, that's reasonable after that, I'd be looking over their shoulder, I'm walking away, if I thought this, this wasn't going anywhere. So and I don't mean to be rude by that. But I think it's important that we just put a limit around it. And I tell people up front, even if I meet them at a networking event, and I usually chat a bit with 15 minutes, and forgive me if I walk away at that point.

27:23

So what about clarity? It is, and they know where they stand.

27:29

#192 Alan Stevens Interview

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Transcribed by https://otter.ai So what about that thing between sort of home and work life? You work from home? But a wife is also working from home? Yeah. And you have done for a long time? How have you been able to? And I don't I hate the word balance when it took me to word things. I think, you know, there isn't a balance, you've got to, you know, go up again, at different times for different things. How do you keep that working and integrated? For what works for you? And you're? I mean, it's a great question. It really is. And we haven't always got it right.

28:00

We have an office at the end of our garden that was built about 20 years ago, Heather had it for her business to begin with. And after I went solo as well, and we moved in there together, it's a two or three person office, there's plenty of room. And

28:17

it drove us both mad.

28:19

Because we were doing that thing, even though we weren't running the same business, we were listening to each other's phone conversations that we were having with our own clients. And as soon as somebody put the phone down, the other one would say, you know, I don't think you should have said it that way. Maybe you should have said this, or you forgot to mention that. For goodness sake, why are we doing this to each other.

28:38

And the other thing was, we were together all the time. And, and I'm not saying it kills the romance because it didn't, it wasn't that. But nevertheless, you can't be in each other's pocket all the time, it's quite useful to have, you know, time apart. And, you know, Heather, Heather values her time on her own. As I do from time to time, it's not to say we don't love each other bits because we do. But you just it helps to have a bit of time apart. So we we moved to a separate office. So I'm now in the house, she has the office down the garden. And we've kept it that way ever since. Also, I have a clear finishing time. So when I get to six o'clock in the evening, turn everything off. I'll generally have a bit of wine downtime, maybe listen to music, maybe read something,

#192 Alan Stevens Interview

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Transcribed by https://otter.ai 29:21

maybe watch something on Netflix, or whatever. And then I've made that transition. And then it's evening and work is forgotten. Yeah, it's all gone. And that doesn't mean I don't occasionally do gigs in the evening, because if I'm working with a client in the States, for example, they might want me online at what what our time is like, eight, nine o'clock at night. And I will do that occasionally. And on a Thursday where I always write my newsletter and record my podcast or my web radio show, as I call it. I'll sometimes work late I might sometimes work till nine on that just because I'm I've got my own deadline self imposed deadline on that. But other than that I have a very clear transition. inbox is clear. It's six o'clock on Friday.

30:00

Let's see. Oh, yeah. And you sound quite structured in how you make sure you get things done. Is that fair? How do you how do you sort of make sure you do the things you need to do? I'm actually had the routine I'm pretty disorganized and forgetful. So and she's probably right. We are telling a good story. You sound a lot more.

30:19

Well, no, I, I, I am, I am very organized about the work. I mean, because I've got this journalistic mindset. And it takes me back a long time. And this is you're too young to remember a man called Alastair cook. Probably, most people these days, they say, Oh, the cricketer. No, no, no, the guy who presented letter from America for 53 years from from from America and explained America to the Brits. And he was my mentor. For a few years, I met him.

30:47

Hugely impressed. And he died a few years back. But for a while, he helped me out and he gave me some advice. And then always remember one piece of advice that he gave me. And it was never missed a deadline and never waste a word. And did I think about that a lot. I think about that almost every day, never miss a deadline. I mean, it's a journalistic expression, obviously. But I, I set myself deadlines, and some of them are completely self imposed and completely random. And it doesn't actually matter if I missed them, but I never missed them. Because I've I've set myself a deadline, and therefore I will keep to it. And I think that's that's the discipline I got into with a journal as being a journalist. Of course, you can't miss a deadline. Yeah, your report for the six o'clock news has to be

#192 Alan Stevens Interview

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Transcribed by https://otter.ai ready for the six o'clock news. Something for tomorrow's paper has to be ready by 10 o'clock at night. So it can go into the paper.

31:38

How old am I I'm talking about newspapers. You know, what's a newspaper? Grandpa, it's one of those things we used to get through those. But it but a lot of so a lot of my deadlines are self imposed, but I do stick to them. And I think it's, it just helps. Because then when I'm free of that, you know, when it is six o'clock or when it's a weekend, whoop dee doo, I can do a film life. And I do. Yes, yeah. And what about technology? You

32:05

said you're sort of fairly structured, you work with a VA. So presumably, there's some sort of technology connection there.

32:14

What what sort of end and you were the which digital whatever. I was head of digital services at which magazine? And that day when it was new, so yeah, what what technology? Do you like? What are your Well, just yeah, I mean, if I can refer back to that, I created one of the UK's first social networks in 1996, we press the button, fourth of November, the launch, which online, which is still going. And it was a social network where people could exchange information, get into buying groups, learn at the root, put the information online, so we didn't realize it was social network. But in 1997, I spoke at the world's first conference on what we call online communities. In those days, I didn't realize I was a social media pioneer. And you might have been in a taxi I used to love which is Yeah, yes.

33:01

Yes, I am. I am pretty technology focused.

33:05

Particularly in terms of what I'm doing now. I mean, I'm sitting now in a media media studio at home. I've got a sort of radio mic on a cantilever arm, I've got softbox lights, I've got a backdrop, I've got a green screen. And the whole works, basically. So I can

#192 Alan Stevens Interview

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Transcribed by https://otter.ai broadcast from here, and which is what I do, and I've got that whole thing set up. But I also like to use technology, I'm very interested in the application of technology. And I think it just makes your life so much easier in terms of how I work with with Nicola, we share access to a Google Calendar, so that she has full access, and she she will just put all of my appointments in and deal with my clients and make sure I know where I'm supposed to be and ping me an email saying, by the way, next Thursday, you're supposed to be doing this. And I just, I trust her completely. So we use technology to communicate a lot. In fact, we very In fact, we've never met anyone I've never met. She lives lives in Brighton. And we'll we'll see her one day. Yeah, but we've never met face to face. And yet she's absolutely vital to the running of my business because we communicate through technology. Yes, yeah, I was talking to somebody earlier and saying how I have a VA in the Philippines and I was quizzing her the other day as to how long we've been working together. And apparently it's six years, and we've never even spoken to each other.

34:24

So I delegate stuff by recording videos. And then other than that, as you say we use technology to do it is our main one for me is Asana as well, but we text in effect, so we've never actually, you know, spoken voice to voice.

34:39

It's remarkable you can do I mean, I've had most books have been published by publishers but the exceptional speaker the one the most recent one that we revised, coming out in January next year, a plug plug plug in just think well, there is a there is a reason for this, Joe, and that is that Paul and I wrote the book together. We're open to it, but we've had it we

35:00

How to typeset and proof read in South Africa and we're actually in Namibia. Yeah, we've had some design work done in Eastern Europe. And we have it printed in India.

35:11

And, and we've organized all of that ourselves. So we become a little publishing house. And we've never met any of the people that have collaborated with us on the book. In many cases, never even spoken to them. No, we've just, we've just organized all of the

#192 Alan Stevens Interview

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Transcribed by https://otter.ai work to be done through technology. And then one day, a crate of books arrives on my doorstep from from China from Beijing, I think. Okay, job done. Great. So exciting, isn't it? So let's just get the timings right on this, because we're recording this in October, but this won't be going out till January. So when's the book? Well, the book just been published.

35:47

I'm holding a copy right now. Oh, boy. It's a cracking book. It really is. And, and everybody should get a copy. It's available from Amazon right now.

35:57

Exceptional speak at revised edition, with a special section on remote speaking. Ah, even more important, lovely. Thank you. So let's talk a bit about how you keep yourself healthy. You have a wife who, who walks millions of miles, or with millions of women or something million women? Yeah. What do you do? I run? Well, I use the gym as well. Not as much as I used to, but probably about once a week, something like that. But my main exercise is running. I do a 10 k run every Sunday, just on my own. I've always done that for the last 40 years or so. I'm out two or three times a week running. I get involved in events. And I volunteer at running events. I was working at the London Marathon a couple of weeks ago, actually. I know there weren't any spectators, but I was part of the organizing team. Suppose I was there at the St. James's Park. We were running in a circle basically,

36:48

on Sunday. So um, so running is my is my sport, my sort of passion, passion of sport, whatever you want to call it. And I've always done it. It's sometimes quite hard to get out when it's cold and rainy, On a winter's morning, but I feel so much better for it clears my head makes me feel great. And yeah, so I keep I keep pretty fit. And even though I'm now of a certain age that the state deems itself appropriate to send me money once every four weeks. Nonetheless, I'm still out and running some one hour 10 K's and I'll keep doing that as long as I possibly can. Yeah, sounds brilliant. So what about developing, learning and so on? And like we've said you were sort of fairly pioneering.

37:35

Back in the day, it doesn't sound like you've changed any now. How do you keep up with what's going on? How do you keep learning? I think that's vital. I think that the one thing

#192 Alan Stevens Interview

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Transcribed by https://otter.ai that I would say to anybody is that you've got to keep learning. I mean, I I've been doing this job a long time. I've been involved in speaking communication raises, but I learned something every day. And I think you should another very useful mantra. And this this didn't come from Alistair Cooke. This this came from chuckled Elliott erwitt. There is a great photographer from the Magnum photography agency. His his mantra was you should learn something every day and you should teach somebody something every day.

38:12

And I've always thought that was a lovely thing to do, to learn and to teach anything. It could be something very small, but it doesn't matter. So what I do, I put out regular videos to people, I put them online, I do a newsletter, I do a radio show. And I'm always trying to put something out every day, which I think is helpful to somebody else. And I'm going to look into something I learned something.

38:35

For a couple of years I've been involved in something or a member of something called masterclass. It's a US website based in California, where they have experts doing online courses. For example, Steve Martin teaches comedy. Yeah. Carlos Santana teaches guitar.

38:52

And this is Karl Rove teaches politics. It's brilliant. And I've gone through loads of courses. And I absolutely love it and I every day I'm doing a unit or two. From there. They've got they've got actually Gordon Ramsay teaches cookery. And he's taught me a really great way to poach eggs in red wine, which is, which has been really very, very pleasant to tell you. Yeah, yeah, that for breakfast, will not wine. Otherwise, we'll have special occasion because you have to poach the eggs in the wine. So you have to kind of give up the wine to the Yeah, I always struggle with that using wine in the cooking thing about that. But the point the point of all that is your it's it's stimulating. I think you've got to keep stimulating your brain you've got to keep learning. And the other thing that I do is I like to be challenged. So when I go online, I realize that there are there are bubbles on social media and their echo chambers, those sorts of things. And I seek out places where I disagree with people. And I'm a member of a Facebook group where almost all of the people disagree with me politically.

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Transcribed by https://otter.ai 39:58

It's a it's a London based group.

40:00

I'm not going to give you the name of the group, but I'm going to say, a lot of the people in there are Cockneys. And they have certain opinions which are not mine. Yeah. And I'm in there debating with them. Probably an evening, that's one of the things I might do in the evening might spend half an hour in there having a political debate. They all know me. And you know, I'm a, I'm a liberal, I was a liberal counselor, back in the 80s. I was elected, definitely some organs council back in the day. And so I've got a political background, I'm still of that opinion of that mind. But that doesn't matter. Because I think it's important that you are able to debate political opinions with anybody know, whether they're far right or far left, or centrist or what it doesn't matter. I want to know what they think. And I want, I want to share opinions. And I want to, I want to talk to them. Because I think that the biggest danger we have at the moment is is that kind of groupthink. Yeah, people get together and they think everybody agrees with them. Because you've seen the social dilemma. I'm guessing the wonderful film that came out, I haven't yet I keep must watch it. Right. Watch your great what is on Netflix with I've had in the last couple weeks, the David Attenborough, you will, which is brilliant, and the social dynamic. So in the social dilemma, of course, is about the fact that we are fed what we like yes, by social networks. And I think we have to find a way to break through that. Yeah, it's really important that we engage with people that we don't agree with, in order that we just have a proper and robust and respectful debate. Yes, I'll tell you actually, when I realized the bubble thing. So sort of, obviously, it was the Brexit vote, and when Trump came in, and because both of those things, I was so surprised as to what I'd seen and what happened.

41:48

And I then realized, obviously, that as you've said, I was pretty much saying other people like me, rather than the diversity of opinion sort of thing. It's a it's an interesting revelation. Jonah thing is in this group, there's Facebook group that I'm in. Almost everyone is to a man and woman are astonished that anybody should have voted to stay in the European Union. Yeah, there's probably 1000 people in that group. There were probably six of us voted to remain. Yeah. And the philosophy in there is, how can you be so stupid? Yeah, you think?

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Transcribed by https://otter.ai 42:24

thing in Kent, because in our area, most people apparently voted to leave. I went into the local shop at four o'clock in the afternoon to find I was the first person to go in that actually wanted to stay. And I was gobsmacked because it wasn't even my social media friends. It was like all the people in my community.

42:42

But it's a it's a great revelation to have really, yeah, that that's, I think, I think we are, we don't get into politics, you know, the whole, the whole nation is split up. And I think that that really, that's one of the things I find most disappointing that we do we have these polarized opinions, which is being fed by social media. And we really need to break out of it. Yes, no, we're not gonna do it, whether we agree with something or not. It's the situation. And therefore we we need, we need to work with whatever the circumstance is even this this awful pandemic, that we find ourselves in at the moment, it's no good moaning about the fact that it was caused by five g mass. So you know, we shouldn't wear mass, you got to go with it. Yeah, go with it. You know, when even when you accept the origin theory of it or not, doesn't matter. The thing is, how can we best get on? How can we? How can we live our lives as safely as possible? And how can we help other people? That's Yeah, it should be about, as you say, that whole thing about just being able to encourage debate I, you know, I circled a few people who don't like conflict and will shut down conversation and walk away. And immediately anything starts even getting vaguely argumentative or controversial, or whatever. And it's, it's interesting, because, like I said to the beginning, I'm quite, I was fed up quite great, because I was sort of look on all sides of a debate. So I'm actually a bit rubbish when it comes to taking a position because I can be swayed,

44:06

which I think is a bad thing. But that's a bad thing. It's hard to appraise you for that, I think, you know, and I've been swayed in opinions. And I've shifted, and then somebody comes to me, what happened there, you were supposed to think this. And I said, Well, I don't know. No, because then I thought about that. And then I heard this and then it made me think you know, and so it's I like the idea of having those sorts of conclusions. My daughter's the same. We were laughing at the dinner table the other day that granny kept saying, You're not going to change my mind, but blah, blah, blah, and then we're,

#192 Alan Stevens Interview

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Transcribed by https://otter.ai 44:33

like getting louder and louder. And it was really funny and ready to get going. I think you need to join a debating club. And it was, it was really, it was good. I loved it. It was loud. And it was you know, challenging, but I loved it because we don't always have those debates because and

44:52

granny generally wouldn't want to have those but because it's her granddaughter. She's encouraged to do it because you know, there's that relationship between

45:00

them. And I think it is a good thing, as you've just said, and the fact that, you know, he's growing up wanting to and having an opportunity to, I think is a really a real thing. I think so I think the other thing about all this, and I don't wanna get too philosophical about it, I don't wanna get off topic, or show, but it's, it's the fact that it shouldn't define us, you know, I have an opinion that we have, doesn't define our whole being, you know, whether or not we voted to stay in the European Union, or leave the European Union, whether we like Trump or whether we don't, that's not our entire being. And I think that's the issue that people are looking at somebody and saying, or you're one of those, all of a sudden they think that defines and it doesn't, it's a tiny part of our personality. Yeah. And that's why I come back what I was saying earlier on, that we have so much more in common than than we have that divides us. I mean, we have loads of things in common. And those are the things that we should focus on, I think those are the things that we should celebrate, unfortunately, we tend to focus on the 10% of things that we have that don't we don't agree with.

46:04

So just before we move into the last couple of questions that I ask everybody, what are your thoughts about how things are currently for people in, you know, coaching and training and in business at the moment, you know, some people have, you know, really sort of blossomed, they've had opportunity to spend time doing things that they wouldn't have done before, and their businesses seem to be flying and other people, obviously, the opposite has happened, and what what's your thoughts about how things are currently moving forward? I think things are tough. I mean, there's, there's no two ways about it, things are tough. And there are several reasons for that. One is that people don't have so

#192 Alan Stevens Interview

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Transcribed by https://otter.ai much disposable income, you know, they're worried about paying the bills, and therefore they're not so likely to invest in self development. And therefore, I think it's, it's tough to get clients. But on the other hand, I think there's an attitudinal thing. I think, with a lot of people, it's how do you approach something. And it may be that your traditional client base, your traditional coaches are no longer able or willing to pay for your services, but there'll be a lot of other people who will? Yeah, and I think what one thing that this experience has taught us this, this pandemic is that all of a sudden, we're online, that we're global, you know, when we're not just people who can work with people in our locality, we can work with anybody anywhere, frankly. And there are so many people that need the help of coaches and mentors and people who can work with them. So my feeling is that there are more opportunities than there have ever been. But that people have to do a little bit of work. Now they've got to be prepared to, to go and look, and they go and talk to people and maybe do a little bit of stuff for free, and maybe offer people something, but I think people should be looking as widely as possible, to say, here's my skill set. Here's what I can coach people on, here's what I'm good at. So I think I think there are great opportunities. But times are tough. If those two things can coexist, and I think they can and I think they do. Yes, yeah. Lovely. Thank you. So last couple of questions. Firstly, what about on those days where it all goes horribly wrong? How do you deal with those?

48:06

I talked, I think, what did I learn and what was funny?

48:11

is, there is always I mean, I'd love to find the humor in things. That's why I get involved in stand up comedy and organizing company nights and so on. There is there's some, you know, obviously, something's happening, you just grind you think, ah, that is horrible. And sometimes it is. But there's always something there's always something you can do. And if, if I've got something you know, particularly awkward or tough, maybe I've lost a couple of clients or something, I think, Oh, well, there you go. I'll go and listen to my favorite piece of music. I'll get I'll go to YouTube type in Jackson Browne, which is my favorite musician, and author. Let's sit back and I think have a nice cup of tea, and probably a kick cat, as well. I'm

48:49

gonna kick cat.

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Transcribed by https://otter.ai 48:51

Although increasingly, I've got into raisin and biscuit Yorkers, and I think I need to be careful. But keycaps work fine. So I think we're all gonna have bad days. And sometimes you just need to let it go and and wallow in it for a bit, but you got to snap out of it fairly soon. And there are ways to do that. Hmm. Okay, thank you. I was thinking recently, I might get the transcript of all my 180 odd podcasts and get this quote that question you've just answered and create an E book of some description out of it. And well, women should kitkats in it now, when we go by.

49:24

And the last one is what about those days where you get to live more, and that's where I say you get to do more of the things that you want to do and less of the stuff that you don't want to do. What do those days look like for you?

49:34

Well, those those are going to be days that that Heather and I go off somewhere and in back in the day we'd be traveling, we were going abroad somewhere. We'd be on a beach in Crete. Or we'd be in a little little restaurant somewhere in some you know, in Spain, we have a favorite place in Spain, that we go calella de palafrugell where we where we love to go and that that for me, you know a perfect day

50:00

You know, where you get up lazy breakfast, swimming the pool, sit on the beach, that's great. But here,

50:06

I mean, we've got a hotel in Brighton up with a kind of funky hotel that we're going to go and spend a night in, hopefully fairly soon. And then head off to a restaurant called 64 degrees where they're the most wonderful tasting menu. And that that for me, other than spending time with our daughter, who is of course very important if she ever listens to this, and we love her to bits too. But the perfect day is for Heather and I just leave work behind. Go away, chill out and have some nice food and adult beverage.

#192 Alan Stevens Interview

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Transcribed by https://otter.ai 50:36

That sounds lovely to me. Thank you so much. And it's been great talking to you. Great. tell people how they can find out more about you and get in touch. Okay, well, they can find me if they look up the media coach or the media coach on Google. They'll find me and they can go to media coach.co.uk and that's where I'll be lovely. Thanks, Alan. Pleasure.

#192 Alan Stevens Interview

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Transcribed by https://otter.ai


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