“Do you never stop? You’re always on the go.” That’s what my friends said last week after a full day’s skiing when, without thinking, I leapt into getting organised mode, planning the shopping and evening meal so that we could do some ‘ski de randonnée’ for a couple of hours and still have time for après ski later on. It was meant as a compliment, but I do recognise that others might see it as a weakness…
That’s pretty much me. I try to pack in as much as possible into life. I’ve worked in large corporates, started a software business when I was 29, sold it when I was 40, raced cars including a season and a bit in the British Touring Car Championship, built and sold an ecommerce website, and helped numerous businesses in a wide range of market sectors overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges and achieve success. I now run a business called Zonata (see www.zonata.co.uk) which works with owners of UK-based SMEs.
Then my younger brother said to me that he was thinking about doing some VSO work. “Alright for you”, I said. “You’re medically qualified, they’ll snap you up as quick as a flash. All I can do well is business.” That set me thinking and researching.
Very quickly I realised that business skills are a sort-after commodity in developing countries. What better way to pull people out of poverty than by encouraging and supporting entrepreneurship? And if that entrepreneurial activity has social benefit too, it’s the best of all worlds.
There are many opportunities to use business skills to help people in developing countries, but usually that’s for minimum periods of one year plus. And I’m married with one of my four children still at school, so that’s a non-starter. But six weeks is a much more realistic timescale. It’s a big commitment but it’s achievable with a supportive family.
I’m really looking forward to six weeks in Sri Lanka with _Social Starters, a great team of people and some ‘clients’ with whom we can make a substantial positive impact. Sure, I’ve got a fair bit of business experience but I’m also in no way complacent – I recognise I always have a lot to learn from other people, especially those with less experience and therefore less preconceived ideas.
If you’d like to join Paul in Sri Lanka in April we are recruiting for our final round of places in February. APPLY HERE. Alternatively we have Immersion Programmes running throughout the year in India and Brazil, as well as two new programme formats for people who can’t take 6 weeks out their lives – our 2-3 week Inspiration Programme in Rio in July, and our 10-day Transformation Programme in India in September. See our website for more details www.socialstarters.org.