The Wise Why

Episode #55

Episode #055

#55 Ben Thompson: Entrepreneurship and Adversity

by | 28 Apr,2023

About This Episode

Ben Thompson’s story is one of resilience and entrepreneurship. From humble beginnings, he co-founded Thompson and Terry Recruitment and became a leading figure in the Oxford Business Community Network (OBCN). Ben’s commitment to doing the right thing and valuing everyone he works with aligns with movements like B Corp, emphasising positive societal impacts.

His story emphasises the importance of facing adversity head-on, nurturing relationships, and celebrating victories humbly. Join the conversation and share your thoughts on building a community that thrives on resilience and collaboration! Ben Thompson’s journey is truly remarkable. He started his career selling chicken eggs and co-founded Thompson and Terry Recruitment, a company that has become a major player in the recruitment industry.

Ben’s commitment to doing the right thing and valuing everyone he works with is truly inspiring. It aligns with movements like B Corp, which emphasises the importance of positive impacts on shareholders, suppliers, customers, staff, and society.

Ben’s story is marked by adversity, resilience, and entrepreneurship. He experienced a life-altering accident at the age of 18, which shaped his perspective and encouraged him to embrace his individuality. He understands the power of networking, treating people as individuals, and recognising unique reasons for engagement.

Throughout his career, Ben has prioritised matching clients with suitable candidates without resorting to unethical practices, fostering long-term trust-based relationships. His honesty and integrity stand out in a competitive industry like recruitment.

Ben’s philosophy, shaped by surviving near-death experiences, encourages bold strides forward. He encourages others to consider the worst outcome and move forward with resilience. Ben is also passionate about playing and interacting with children, highlighting the importance of embracing passion unencumbered by societal expectations.
Ben’s story underscores the importance of resilience, mentorship, and adaptability in career progression. He acknowledges the importance of external support and encourages sharing narratives to foster understanding, compassion, and support systems within communities.

Gratitude forms the core foundation underlying discussions, no matter how small, collectively magnify exponentially, benefiting all involved directly and indirectly. Ben Thompson’s story conveys that we should all embrace individuality, face challenges head-on, nurture relationships, and celebrate victories humbly. Join the conversation and share your thoughts on building a community that thrives on resilience and collaboration!

Episode #55 : Full Transcription

Kirsty van den Bulk: Hello and welcome to the Wise Why. This morning, Ben Thompson is I hope that new cake didn’t come up correctly. Ben Thompson is joining me from Thompson and Terry. Also the Oxford Business Community Network. I hope I got that right. OBCN and host of The Breakfast Bunch with Mike. Did I get everything correct?

Ben Thompson: Almost going so well. The business breach of Better Mike, um, on Get radio, in essence, it is Mike asking really intelligent questions and, uh, me following up with, oh, how does that work? Tell me more about that. So I’m an expert in how does that work? And tell me more about that.

Kirsty van den Bulk: I like your radio show. Um, I remember I came across it because you’d invited Joy Foster to it. So I listened to it one Sunday morning and then I never expected to be a guest. And I think it was episode 95. So thank you for the invite. But I like the fact that it’s full of business acumen. That’s a good word for this time of the morning. But it’s not pitchy, it’s educational. It’s everything that you want as you’re drinking a cup of coffee on a Sunday morning.

Ben Thompson: Yeah, exactly that. And that was the plan. So Rich and James, who set up the station, wanted, uh, a business show. And really they didn’t want it to be a sales pitch. They just really wanted to share insight to Oxfordshire businesses from Oxfordshire businesses. And we’ve had over 300 Oxfordshire business guests on the show so far, um, and will continue, um, to grow at that alarming rate. It’s been fascinating having very small startups from their bedroom a month in right up to the big corporate. But actually, I think the real, I guess, reward, um, for me is showcasing the stories of 300 Oxfordshire businesses has just been so rewarding for Mike. And I think that’s the thing that we really share the view on and it’s incredible.

Kirsty van den Bulk: I met you through the, uh, Oxford Business Community Network and I’m just going to talk about this for a second because networking is something that a lot of small business owners don’t do. And I was one of those I found it uncomfortable. What I will say is I walked into OBCN at the time. Mike was running it and he knew about me. And I was shocked. I was really shocked. But then I came around the corner and you knew about me. And it was that really personal touch that you don’t just do when you’re out networking. You also do it with Thompson Terry, I believe.

Ben Thompson: Yeah. Uh, for me, I think one of the things that I was really taught at a really young age is just to be nice and just do the right thing. Um, and I think so many organizations forget that. Um, and I think that from our point of view and every business that I’ve been involved in, I’ve always wanted to do the right thing and just be nice and be friendly and treat people as individuals. Because actually, um, going back to the networking piece, some people will network because they want to get referrals. Um, some people will network because they want a support network because often a lot of small businesses work from home by themselves. And different people will network for different reasons or a combination of reasons. And it’s really important that you get to know the person rather than necessarily the label that they represent. And that’s something I’ve really tried to do throughout my whole career. Obviously, I’ve made tons and tons and tons of mistakes. Um, not so long ago, I looked at somebody I knew really, really well when we were introducing them, and I was like, I’m having a brain freeze. I just literally do not know their name. And I remembered it just as we got to them. But other than that, ah, um, I think the world of business isn’t complicated. It’s just if you do the right thing if you are nice, and if you listen and learn, you’ll do well.

Kirsty van den Bulk: And I love that. For me, being nice, uh, Dr. Jenny Gordon did something about some, I can’t remember the quote she said about being nice was seen as weak, but it’s not. It’s really powerful. And if you’re nice, it’s such, um, an important thing to be, because if you’re nice and kind, the world is such a better place.

Ben Thompson: M, no, absolutely. It’s really, really fascinating. I think that so many businesses, um, feel that there is only one choice in terms of you have to be hard or you have to be nice, or you have to be profit-focused. And actually, one of the things I found really fascinating from the B Corp movement is the B Corps, who, uh, are, um, for the listeners who don’t know what B Corp is for business, for the greater good. And they look at doing the right thing for your suppliers, the right things for your customers, the right things for your staff, but actually putting everyone on the even playing field. Um, and almost every B Corp makes more money the year they become a B Corp. Uh, which is just fascinating. And the reason for it. I was asking Paul Mabot about this over at Jennings, and he was saying, well, it just makes sense because you retain customers better, you retain staff better, and you retain suppliers better, and it just becomes that win-win rather than somebody losing out, which, which I just love that concept.

Kirsty van den Bulk: So I was at an event last week and Jill GEIC asked a question about, um, relationships. And it’s really important because people forget that the people that you work with are also your customers and your clients. And it’s very easy. Now, um, I’ve got a VA and I’ve also got a person who does my website, but if I was rude, they’d leave. And so I treat them with respect. And they are individuals in their own right. And I value what they bring to me and what they can do for me. And I’m grateful. I am totally grateful for the way that they take the pressure off. So I’m going to look at the B Corps. I’m interested in that.

Ben Thompson: No, it’s fascinating. Really fascinating. One other thing, just on that note of staff. In, um, the world of recruitment, of course, we hear about, um, people, uh, not doing so well in the role, or employers not being that great to an employee. And I think the biggest phrase that, uh, I learned early in my career, which really resonated with me, is nobody wants to do a bad job. It might be the wrong fit. It might be something’s not quite working, but nobody wants to do a bad job. And I think as managers and leaders, it’s so important that we remember that when we talk to our people. And I think that it’s really, really important that we appreciate our people when things are going really well. But actually, when there are tweaks and things aren’t going quite so well, it’s so, so important that actually we remember nobody’s doing a bad job on purpose. Let’s support them. To either have the skills to do a better job or indeed find the right job is something that’s really important to me.

Kirsty van den Bulk: So we should mention at this point that Thompson and Terry is a recruitment agency because we haven’t actually done that. And one of the things I do love about you is the way that you are very personal with the way that you work. I know it drives I sat the very first time I came to OBCN, I sat there and you linked me with Andrew. And then Andrew turned into a client. So little wheels turned into a client. I love it if you want to check out TikTok’s, you’ve got to check out Little Wheels.

Ben Thompson: Very cool business.

Kirsty van den Bulk: Very cool business. Very niche. Their TikTok’s are incredible, and I’m so proud of them. And it’s all organic. But back to the linking of people, what I really see with you is that you link people. Um, um, you really go into the personal. It’s incredible to watch. How do you do that with recruitment? Because obviously, you’re on the phone, so I’m just intrigued by how your recruitment works.

Ben Thompson: It is so easy. Like, so easy. Um, and I believe that is the reason why Thompson and Terry have got the reputation it has. Um, and the business that I’m really, really proud of is because I hadn’t worked in recruitment before. Um, and I think that if you work for a recruitment agency, um, as a recruitment consultant or a resource or whatever else, um, your job is to register as many candidates as you possibly can. And then that is your job. Um, so your job is calling candidates all day. Come to our office and register. Come to our office and register and then when you do have a job on you can send your five best CVS over to the client if they want to interview them and then that’s great. So really it’s a really salesy-focused job. You’re selling to the candidate to get them to come and register and then you’re sending lots of CVS to the employer to hope that they take somebody and then sell that candidate with us. We said, surely if you just try and give a really transparent overview of the good, the bad and the ugly to every candidate that you speak to, don’t get them to come and register unless you’ve got a job and you’re telling them who the employer is, what they do, what the job is, what is the good, the bad and the ugly. And then when you submit the candidate, you don’t rewrite their CV, because there’s no value in a client saying amazing CV or not amazing CV that I can write. It’s about what they can do, along with lots of bullet points, lots of interview notes, as if you’ve interviewed them, um, and got the power to give them the job, which we absolutely do interview them, um, for a good hour in most cases, and just give the good, the bad and the ugly of the candidate. In the world of people there will never be a business that is perfect, there will never be an employer that is perfect and there will never be a candidate that is perfect. But actually, our ambition is that when the candidate meets the client that candidate should be exactly what the client expected off the back of our notes and vice versa. Um and actually the bigger goal to that is the twelve months later when we catch in again that I guess opinion should be exactly the same, both parties and I think in the year 2022, there were only two occasions where there was any disparity at all really. Um, which I think, considering that we’ve got a team of four, we’re calling candidates all day, we’re working on jobs all day. We’re really proud of that. And I think that going back to the two. Yes, I do beat myself up about the two. Of course I do, because I want perfection. And actually, although it looks like a good start, those two impact people’s lives. So if somebody doesn’t work out and only one of them didn’t work out of them it just was quite different to what they expected and they’ve now gone and done a different role within the business and they’re about to be promoted, which is brilliant. But nevertheless, that does impact on people’s lives and I think that we should all urge ourselves to, regardless of how well we think we’re doing within our sector, always want to do better because the impact that one little tweak can have on somebody’s life is huge. Absolutely huge. Um, so that’s a little bit of a mumbled answer, and hopefully those listening can deduce, uh, the point I was getting to there.

Kirsty van den Bulk: But I see that, and this is what people don’t see. You go at networking. And because you’re hosting the events, a lot of the time, we see Ben Thompson host. We don’t see Ben Thompson as the person, except a child will. So I’m going to bring it in because I love the way that my daughter reacts to you. I genuinely love that she sees your childlike wonder. She sees your, uh, mischievous side, and she wants to compete with you. I love the fact that my nearly seven-year-old desperately wants to go and see you and play with you. And that’s what people don’t necessarily see is that mischievous side to you because you’re very business-focused, but actually, you’re an awful lot of fun. Um, you’re very competitive. I’m going to say it. She beat you at Laser Quest.

Ben Thompson: Yes, she did beat me at Laser Quest. I thought we weren’t mentioning the fact that I might have lost. And I think most adults would try and be a little bit nice to, uh, children, wouldn’t they? I absolutely categorically was not being nice. I was trying to win. I can really assure you of, uh, that I love it. So I was following some child around, um, and just pointing the laser gun at their back to get extra points without them realizing. But anyway, we won’t mention that I’m.

Kirsty van den Bulk: Well aware because we were on the same team, because actually, the competition between you and the seven-year-old, my daughter, was very much like, no, you’re coming on my team. Although I had to ask her permission. But we did win and she went home. Uh, but she was very happy that she beat you. So I’m sorry to enjoy that moment, but of course, I had to say it. I’m going to just talk about this for a second because, obviously, I’m a lot older. I think I’m old enough to be a mom. But you’re a young entrepreneur, which I find brilliant and inspirational. I don’t know if you could just share a little bit about how you’ve come on that journey because there are people out there who will be sitting there thinking, I’m too young, I can’t possibly do it. But you are living proof that you can go and create a business from a really young age.

Ben Thompson: Yeah, absolutely. And actually, I think if I’m being really honest, um, I probably left it a little bit too late, um, which I’ll come on to in a moment. Um, I was always quite entrepreneurial at a, um, really young age. I probably just didn’t know what the word was. Um, so I think I was seven, eight, nine, something like that. Um, I had chickens. Um, I got three chickens, um, for my birthday. Um, and I sold the eggs rather than letting my parents have the eggs. I was selling the eggs and I got up to the point where I had 18 chickens in my parents ‘ bed, semi-garden. Um, I was making 50 quid a week out of chicken eggs. And I’d done research of the right chickens that would do well, so I had Moran chickens and I was feeding them sweet corn because then the yolks go really bright and I had a couple of local BMBS, like, literally obsessed with my chicken eggs. Um, and I just kept putting the prices up and up and up and bearing in mind that was good 22 years ago, um, I was getting £3 for six eggs, which I think is a good rate back then because they were genuinely really good eggs. Um, so it started there and actually when it became less cool to have chicken eggs, and I started getting quite good at rugby, um, I didn’t stop, I sold all of the chickens, I sold the branding that I’d created on my old 1998 computer. Um, and I sold the relationship as well. I started there and from that point, I always wanted to run a business. Um, I then got relatively good at rugby. Um, that ended very abruptly with a broken neck and a bleed on the brain and being in a wheelchair for a year, um, which I was very short, fortunate to have, should have probably.

Kirsty van den Bulk: Died for a minute. Wow, I didn’t know that about you.

Ben Thompson: So, technically I’m brain-damaged. Um, but I was fortunate. I was fortunate. I’m alive and I’ve been able to build a business regardless. Um, so I think that my early career, um, was hampered because I expected to go on and play rugby. I didn’t go to university, I was relatively academic. Um, but being in a wheelchair, it probably wasn’t the right time for that. So my first ever job was incredibly ethical. Cold calling, selling payday loans over the phone and convincing people to go for them. Um, but actually, it was probably one of the only jobs I could get at that point, um, that I could have something tangible that would give me some success. Um, I was the top performer; I did really well. I got headhunted, quite literally headhunted, to move to Moscow as an unregulated financial advisor. Um, I’m really selling, um, um, my personality here, aren’t I? Um, then I came back and had a couple of roles, um, worked in radio, um, launched the group on an Oxfordshire, so I did some cool stuff. Um, but at the age of 24, all of this had happened and I really wanted to run a business. And one of my clients approached me, the Mike Terry of Thompson and Terry, and said, let’s set up a business together. So we set up a business there. And actually, going back to your question, because I realize I’ve sort of gone on a tangent a little bit. If somebody is listening and wants to set up a business. The reason why I did it was because I thought we could do something better. And I think that we have done something better, and I thought that I could make a difference in people’s lives. Um, we all have impostor syndrome, even the most confident people have impostor syndrome, and they all have what if it goes wrong. And actually, something that I did is I said, Wait a second, if I would be really rubbish at this. So a bad performing salesperson, which I’d never been before if I was a really bad performing salesperson, we could still make a living doing this. And actually, that was my security blanket. Um, I had savings and Mike and I agreed not to take a salary out of the business for the first year, um, which helped. Um, but actually, I think that from my point of view, the reason why I did it was because what was the worst that could happen? Um which is really the wrong way to look at it, isn’t it? Of course, I wanted to do the right thing, but actually, worst-case scenario, I’ve lost a bit of savings and I’ll go and get a job and I’ll go again. So I think if somebody is listening, um, of course, it’s a very different scenario if you’ve got children and a big mortgage, et cetera, et cetera. But actually, if you are early in your career and you don’t really have much to lose, follow your passion, because I think the biggest thing you do have to lose is time and happiness. And I think time and happiness will always have a bigger value than potentially the right move for your career.

Kirsty van den Bulk: So I’m like you, which I think is really interesting, um, because I take the and I think this is about when you’ve had something happen in your life that you could have died through, then I think you adopt this. And I might be wrong and you might not feel the same way, but I’ve had moments in my life where I’m lucky to be alive. I’m genuinely sitting here today going, I don’t know how I’ve got to 50, nearly two, and I’m still alive today. And so I take thee, what’s the worst thing that could happen? So I’ve been on the street. I wasn’t on the streets, I was in a tent. That’s how I lived, because, um, I had a postal address, so that kind of counted. But I wasn’t actually genuinely living in a tent. Um, I threw myself off the side of a boat by accident. And I was really lucky. I lived on the boat for many years. I was really lucky because I managed to grab the railing and pull myself back on, but if I hadn’t grabbed the railing, I would have been in the rudder. Um, and I don’t talk about this ever, but I had an ectopic pregnancy, and I was very lucky to survive that. So I’ve had moments in my life, where there are others where I shouldn’t be here today. And that gave me this whole attitude of what’s worse that could happen. So I think that’s really powerful advice. I know it is very different if you’ve got the mortgage paid and the children. And as a mom, I totally get that. And I hear what you’re saying. But there is that moment that I think if you’ve had a near-death experience, which you have I have, I wonder if it changes your life. What do you think about that?

Ben Thompson: Yeah, but potentially potentially, I think that there’s, um, two ways. And I don’t think there’s a right or wrong way to this, because I don’t think that I’m qualified to comment on how people feel, because I think you should be able to feel how you wish. But I think that there are probably two types of people in this world. Um, and of course, there is a middle ground. Maybe it’s a spectrum, but you get those that are very half full and very fortunate for what’s happened in the past and really look at it as a, wow, I’m so lucky. This is an opportunity to push on. And then, of course, you get those who really struggle and actually probably beat themselves up as a reason. I know two or three people that have had bad things that have happened to them, and then as a result of that, they’ve become alcoholics, or they’ve lost their career, or they’ve lost their whatever else. And actually, it’s just so sad, isn’t it? It really is sad. Um, but I think that what I would urge people listening is that there is always a second life, there is always a second career. There is always that second opportunity. It’s just so, so important that you do everything within your power to go and get that. Because actually, as harsh as this sounds, and as sensitive as this sounds, the only person who will lose out is you if you don’t do that. Um, which is harsh, because I appreciate it’s not easy. It’s not easy, but it’s really important that we’re blessed to be given these lives and to make the best of it.

Kirsty van den Bulk: Thank you for that. Because I know people who have disappeared down the, uh, drinking drugs route, and it breaks my heart. Um, I won’t go into that today, because obviously we’re live, but, um, to the person that knows, if you ever listen to this, you know exactly who I’m talking to. Um, yeah, it still breaks my heart. It was a good person, but, um, the drink took over, and it is gutting. You can see that actually triggered me. So onto something a bit more positive.

Ben Thompson: Moving swiftly on.

Kirsty van den Bulk: Moving swiftly on. For my own test now, just so people know that’s what I call is, uh, acknowledge, identify, and move on. So that’s me using an acting technique where I’ve acknowledged that I was being triggered because somebody that I used to care about went down the alcohol route and I identified where the emotion was coming from and I moved on. So I have live on air, dealt.

Ben Thompson: With a trigger, a professional live.

Kirsty van den Bulk: There you go. So we’ve had some lovely comments because this is me moving on. Um, I’ve acknowledged it, I’ve identified it and moved on, just in case people don’t know what I’m talking about. Um, Maureen has said, who was our guest last week, has said, wise words, deal gay. Didn’t know you were listening and I even gave you a shout-out. Says, so refreshing to hear this. So there’s some really lovely stuff going on on the chat, but what I want to know is, you’ve talked about that AHA moment, and that’s quite a big one. Wow. The rugby accident. I don’t want to dwell on it, but I want to know who inspired you. Who has really picked you up because you must have seen some black time in your life? So who’s really inspired you and picked you up?

Ben Thompson: Um, at that point, if I’m being totally straight, nobody. Um, probably myself. Um, and being really straight. So I wasn’t naturally amazing at rugby. Um, I worked really hard from 16 to 18 and went from probably being a squad player, a reasonable-level club, to pushing for the Premiership. Um, and at that point, I thought I was going to make it. Um, and then I was hit by a car, so it wasn’t a rugby accident. And I had a bleed on the brain, brick and neck, brain damage, all of those sorts of things. Um, but nevertheless, I think from my point of view, um, I spent such a long period of time in bed by myself, not really talking to anyone. Um, and I think that from my point of view, um, this probably sounds really harsh, but I don’t think there was a particularly big support network at that point in my life. And I think that that was partly because, um, I was very difficult. Have you ever watched 51st Dates? So I was literally, like three-second tom, um, just after the accident, because the part of the brain that damaged M is my memory. Um, and I was also, um, very loud, very cross, very angry about what had happened. And actually, I think, from my point of view, I had stopped A levels and started A level A levels equivalent. And there was a great tutor that, um, said, Ben, you can still go and get your three A’s. Um, and I worked really hard for that and I think that was a big impact, um, uh, and a positive one, which I did. And then I think, from my point of view, there just wasn’t the option to go and play again, because I don’t think I’d have made it at that level. And actually, I think that injury-wise, it was 50 50, um, whether I could go and play again. A little bit dangerous. Next. And rugby. Um, and then I think that the other thing was, do I go to university with all these brain problems? I’ve always been very ambitious. I was going to go to a university that was going to push me. Um, and actually, one of the best moves I had was, I just want a job where I can earn money for hard work. And that’s what I said to a recruitment agency. And they put me into a cold calling call centre. And I think the second day I was a top performer. And that kept going forward, I think, from my point of view. Was there somebody who particularly inspired me? Probably not, if I’m being really honest. But I think that what was a greater power is I inspired myself to really want to go and push forward and then, yeah, everything else is history. So a little bit of a negative answer there. But actually, I don’t mean it in, uh, a sort of a hard, dumb way. Obviously, I’ve got great people in my life, but it was actually a me thing that I needed to fix.

Kirsty van den Bulk: I don’t think that’s negative at all. I’ve been there. Uh, when I left my first husband and I threw myself into work, and I did, I didn’t deal with the pain at all. I totally avoided it. But what I did do was I worked my dairy air off and, um, I got the skills. And then through getting those skills, I started to believe in myself. And then I pushed myself and went to university. And through university, that’s where I found out that I was neurodiverse, uh, with Dyslexia and Dyspraxia. And I do wonder how much that out-of-the-box thinking has actually shaped my life to where I am today. But when I think back, there are lots of people who’ve inspired me since, and there are lots of people who inspired me before. But the one person that keeps me going and keeps kicking my butt, uh, is me. And, um, so I’m going to say that’s a really positive, empowering statement because actually, you’re responsible for yourself. So I’m loving this because I’m finding out so much about you and I’m going, oh, we need to go for a beer.

Ben Thompson: Happily. Happily. That’s my other secret. I absolutely love a beer.

Kirsty van den Bulk: I just think it’s fascinating because of, uh, course, people don’t. You very rarely talk about yourself. I know you probably do, it does. Your wife probably says something completely different, but, um, I think it’s your wife or your girlfriend. But yeah, I was going to say, but actually, you very rarely talk about yourself. I have learnt so much about you in this 30-minute conversation. It’s been amazing. Um, Jill has said can she come and join us too, for a glass of wine? I.

Ben Thompson: Think that she’s very welcome indeed. Absolutely.

Kirsty van den Bulk: So just, uh, very quickly, can you talk about why you took over, uh, not why you took over, but why you were brave enough to step into the big shoes and follow Mike Foster? Because Mike is incredible, and I have put a call out to him. So just live on air. Mike, I’m really hoping you’ll join me here, but that’s big shoes to fill.

Ben Thompson: Yeah, incredibly big shoes. Um, and actually, from my point of view, I think that if we go back to a previous question, in terms of people that inspire me in recent times, Mike absolutely does inspire me. I think that he is so giving with his time and he’s so giving with wanting to help people. Um, and I think that after spending ten-plus years building a network that really he was doing for good, um, I know that we made changes, um, when I joined over two years of working with Mike, and I really enjoyed those two years, I really did. I learned a lot, and I think it was a real collaboration. Um, Mike has always given so much, and I think it was time for him to probably do the things that you mentioned that I probably do now, but the opposite. So Mike had always, never been talking about him always being trying to help his members, always being trying to, um, help the people in the network. And actually, I think it was time for him to go and be the entrepreneur’s mentor and be Mike Foster and focus on that. He will continue to help as many people as he can. Of course, he will. But I think that that was the right time. And I think Mike wouldn’t mind me asking this. I think that because he cared so much, um, about the members and about the network, I think that the only thing that was probably preventing him from doing that was that he wanted to ensure it was in safe hands. And I found it so flattering that he felt that I was the safe hands in terms of stepping into my shoes. I think that, yes, it was scary. Of course, it was a big responsibility. And I think from my point of view, my fear was never about making myself look silly or about, um, running events or any of those kinds of things, because I don’t get scared standing in front of crowds anymore. It was daunting earlier on in my career, but that was never a fear. I think that the big fear was something that Mike had worked so hard on for so many years, and actually, me taking that over in very big shoes, which I don’t think I’ll ever properly fill. I think it’s important that I keep the network as close as possible to how Mike ran it. And that is my goal. Um, and I think from that point of view, I think that Mike’s views are that I’ve done it. I think a couple of the member’s views are that I’ve done it. Um, but I think from my point of view, I think that I’ll always be grateful for the work that Mike’s done for Oxfordshire Networking over the years. And actually, I think that a big thing is he didn’t have to stay on as a member. He didn’t have to shout about our events, he didn’t have to do all of those things, but he has, which I think kind of shows the guy that he is. So, Mike, if you’re listening, hopefully, that was the right wording, but that’s what I meant.

Kirsty van den Bulk: I love it because Mike was on one of my very first calls. I was invited on by, uh, Chris Jones, who’s also been on the show, uh, when, uh, in the middle of the pandemic. And I didn’t know who Mike Foster was at the time. And then I was a little bit intimidated by him. Most people say that I’m intimidating, but I was really intimidated by Mike because he was this big business brain. Um, I don’t feel like quite like that yet, still a little bit. Um, and of course, he’s just released his book, so I will give a quick plug-out to his book. Sorry, jump on your bit there.

Ben Thompson: Um, carry on.

Kirsty van den Bulk: Not that I can remember what it’s called. Um, and I do need to get it.

Ben Thompson: 105 Ways to Business Success.

Kirsty van den Bulk: There you go. Knew we could get a plug in there for Mike. Um, this is where you get to turn the tables. This is where I get to feel like, oh, but I’ve really been triggered on this one, so it can’t go worse than that. So, uh, yeah, you get to ask me a question.

Ben Thompson: So my question is, why do you do this? Why do you do the why is why?

Kirsty van den Bulk: It’s a good question. And the reason everyone knows I set it up as a glass of wine. Um, because somebody I knew wanted to go live on LinkedIn and couldn’t. So, accidental, it really was accidentally set up. And then over the 55 episodes, the stories I’ve been privileged to share, the stories I am privileged, um, to take out there and then cross across social media. Because what I started out to do was not what it is now. What it is now is a personal branding platform. Originally, it was a bit of a punch, and I thought, I’d do ten episodes and that would be it. Now I found that it’s become a voice. And, uh, a good example of this was when I went to the security event on Wednesday, people were stopping me and saying that they watched the show, they’re inspired by the show. The show has helped them. They have been down at points where they really have felt quite dark. And then they’ve watched an episode of someone who has been in a similar situation and it’s helped them navigate the way out. So I’m not going to stop the show because actually, the greater good it does for other people is really powerful. Your story today, sharing how you have overcome such a terrible accident, me talking about the person that I know that disappeared into alcoholism, that still breaks my heart that they’re not an alcoholic now, but at the time, it was very, very difficult to be around them. M these kinds of conversations of real life are why I will continue to share the whys. Why. It’s all done within boundaries. It’s all done. I keep people safe. But, um, I think it’s important that everyday people share their real-life stories because we are the people who live life and we are the people who can inspire. And so much is put on and out there for the elite. M not the elite who do the everyday job. So that’s why the wise why is staying and why I do what I do.

Ben Thompson: Absolutely. And hats off to you, and I look forward to seeing episode 100. That’s the challenge I’m looking forward to. So you’ve got 45 to go.

Kirsty van den Bulk: Oh my God. That will be either next year or the year. Oh, I haven’t even thought about do you know, I really didn’t expect to get to 55 episodes. And I look at it and I, uh, go, I don’t know how we got here. Um, people give their time for free and I’m grateful. So I shall sign off here and say, thank you for giving me your time today.

Ben Thompson: Thank you for having me, and thank you for watching.

In this episode:

00:00 Welcome to The Wise why
01:15 Breakfast Bunch with Mike’ radio show overview
03:45 Thompson and Terry’s company ethos compared to the B Corp movement
05:10 Recruitment industry practices and honesty in client-candidate matching
06:35 Entrepreneurial beginnings with selling chicken eggs; accident at 18 leading to career pivot
08:20 Encouragement for young entrepreneurs facing the worst outcome mindset
09:50 Personal traits, playful nature, and engaging with children
11:00 Finding internal motivation post-accident; supportive tutor during recovery
12:25 Self-Inspiration after health challenges
13.40 Career Progression from cold-calling centre to professional network role
14.55 Mentorship of Mike Foster and Succession planning
16.05 Overcoming Personal Growth & Challenges through Work Experiences
17.20 Dealing with Alcoholism close to home
18.35 Networking importance and Community Support appreciation
19.50 – The Power of Storytelling on The Why’s Why Show
21.10 – Expression of Gratitude for shared stories

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