'Entrepreneurship : It's about people, not just money and ideas!' - Mike Southon , Co-Author of 'The Beermat Entrepreneur'

Introducing someone who has worked with some of the world's best business speakers and expert panelists, including Sir Richard Branson, Stephen Fry, Bob Geldof KBE, Dame Karren Brady, Lord Digby Jones and many others. Read on!
IJ Kavyashree
Published on: 14th January 2016
Growth in life is many times measured by the results, achievements, higher knowledge and percipience. The speed in attaining these depends on the resources that we have around us. One of the most important resources for anyone, is the lessons one can learn from someone who has already taken the path that he/she wishes to follow. One such opportunity is here, for you to learn from someone who is a conglomeration of a mentor, an entrepreneur, a musician, a speaker, a writer and a lot more.
Mike Southon
Mike Southon, who is listed as one of the UK’s top business speakers, and the co-author of the bestselling books - ‘The Beermat Entrepreneur’, ‘The Boardroom Entrepreneur’ and ‘Sales on a Beermat’, shares the wisdom and lessons of his entrepreneurial journey.

IJ Kavyashree: Mike, please explain how your four line Magic E-mail is so effective. What’s the idea behind it?

Mike Southon: It works a lot better than cold calling on the telephone, which can be intrusive. The best thing about the four-line Magic E-mail is that it’s a condensed version of your organisation’s elevator pitch. The recipient should feel like opening the mail and reading it. The way you do Magic E-mails is to first identify a list of targets. Let's say you provide marketing services to accounting firms. You first generate a list of two hundred firms. Then, you reduce this to list of the one hundred best ones, through market research.

The Magic E-Mail starts with a greeting, such as “Dear Mr/Mrs Smith.  Then, the first line, which is specially tailored for each person you’re approaching, should state the problem (or opportunity) they face, such as , ‘I’m sure you’re looking to expand into new markets”.

The second line is about yourself, your premise. The firm might be skeptical about the sender, so, explain exactly what you do, such as ‘we are the No. 1 marketing service provider in the city’ or ‘the most effective marketing agency in your business area’.

The third line is your proof. Speak about a company similar to theirs and let them know about the benefits they received after you provided the service. Share the link of the company’s website. This way, you build the trust and then say, ‘We can solve this problem’.
Mike Southon
The fourth is about the face-to-face appointment, and that’s what you want. You could say, ‘I'm near to your office at this particular time. So, is it good time to meet?’

It's plain and a literal direct email that is to the point and non-intrusive.. It’s a nice little tool to use, instead of calling people and constantly being knocked back. All my clients have used The Magic E-Mail with very positive results.

IJ: Could you share about your keynote using ‘The Beatles’? How did you conceptualize?

Mike: This started when I decided, “I really want to be the best keynote of any event”. Then, I thought what would really get people excited, something that’s different. I’m a big fan of The Beatles, and realized that their story is about entrepreneurship. It was about four young guys, passionate about something, in this case, American rock-and-roll music. It’s a great story, where they built on each other’s passion, worked things out, build their own company (Apple Corporation) and soon it is the most famous band in the world, making a lot of money and touching millions of people’s hearts.

That’s a message that works for a wide range of audiences. It has got the basic elements. They didn’t plan it like an entrepreneur might, but they did turn their ‘good idea into a great business’, which is the motto on our book ‘The Beermat Entrepreneur’. That is a good message for people. When you have got a good product and your customer service is great, people will find you and you can grow your business.

The Beatles’ music is still listened to, even after more than 50 years. These are many of good parallels between business and music, and this makes it real for people. When I have uses this Beatles metaphor in conferences, the audience have loved it.

IJ: At what age did you find the entrepreneur in you? Could you share about the journey?

Mike: It was in 1983 and I was 30. I had done a bunch of things. I had been to university twice, and done various jobs. It’s about being at the right place and at the right time, with a couple of my friends from university who turned out to be experts in a particular computer operating system, UNIX . They needed a sales guy and I was the right fit.

You need be at the right place at the right time and seize the opportunities. I have worked with a lot of startups with brilliant ideas and brilliant products but in some cases, no one wanted to buy them. The whole point of our book The Beermat Entrepreneur, is to try things, to see if they work quickly; if they don’t, stop doing that and move on. If you have a good team, you can switch from one idea to another quickly, modify the original idea in a different way. It’s all about the team you put together; Entrepreneurship is about people, not just money and ideas.

IJ: Could you share about what led you to writing?
Mike Southon
Mike: One of my mentors, Martin Rich at Cass Business School, suggested I write a book. So, I collaborated with Chris West, my best friend from school, who is a philosopher and a novelist. We came up with a logical model of for turning a good idea in a pub to a great business, based on my experiences, which became our book.

IJ: What is your definition of success?

Mike: The best first measure of success is money. If you are not making money, it’s a bad idea. So, if you can make a small profit, then you are actually proving the business model. We measure everything by how much money we make. If we make a thousand pound this week and two thousand in the next week, then we have made progress. Then, if you are successful, money becomes less important as you’ve built a team of people who can do everything better than yourself. Finally, it becomes all about having a good quality of life and doing something you enjoy.

The Beatles summed it really well in a song called ‘The End’. They said: "…. and in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make". You have to love what you do; you must love people. The first start-up that I was involved in started in 1984, and we sold it in 1989. Twenty-five years later, we had a reunion and most of them came back to speak to us. We had recruited the right people back in the 1980s, and since then they have all achieved great success for themselves. It was clear that they look at us with affection, because we treated people well, and that’s when you know you have ‘won’. Often, people who were originally employees can set up their own businesses, sell that company and one day become an angel investor.

IJ: Being invited as a speaker at more than hundred events a year involves a lot travel and consumes a lot of time. How do you manage your business and life?

Mike: It’s really important to manage and balance your personal and professional life. When I was just doing sales for living; I would travel all the time and did not have much of a family life. I got married in 1991 and our son was born in 1997. So naturally, since then I have been spending more time at home. My travel today is mostly short trips, so I get to see my family more often. Family is important. So, don’t lose that. We say in our book that, if you put life and soul into your business, this may affect your family life. So, be prepared for that journey. Work and life balance is very important; it’s not about ending up being rich and miserable.

IJ: Having worked at more than 17 startups, founding companies, and mentoring more than a thousand entrepreneurs, you would have certainly found some of the most important aspects to excel at work. What are your secrets to achieve excellence?

Mike: It’s important to find your inner calling; if you do, you will be successful in business. You must continue to be the best you can possibly be and concentrate on what’s next. Study as much as you can and always help people, without detriment to yourself and connections. Find and cherish your mentors! IJ: Any reminders to the young generation?

Mike: Have as much as fun you can, because, if you are not enjoying what you do, you may end up rich, but also unhappy. There are always many jobs to do in start-ups - just find one that you like to do.  You will continue to grow as a person if you do what you enjoy. A start-up is the best environment in the world. So, have fun; and follow your dreams. Be good at something and be nice to people!

Learning from his large amount of experience at more than 17 startups and as an entrepreneur, as a mentor, a speaker, a writer and as a musician, we can say that he has been exploring his life to the maximum extent possible. His journey says, ‘Life is all about finding one’s passion, excelling at it and moving on to the next one’. Mike’s entrepreneurial drive speaks about the importance to be given to the people, more than just the work to be accomplished. The incidents of life he encountered prove the importance of mentors in life to find one’s passion, and to achieve excellence at what one can do. His versatility can make anyone realize that, centralized attention at work and love towards it can help control and direct the mind to outshine at every work one wishes to do.

Life is once, Feel the essence;
Let’s experience the variance, with patience, to understand its significance and sense the fragrance.

Mike Southon can be contacted at www.mikesouthon.com

A fuller explanation of The Magic E-Mail can be found here:

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