The BOSS Federation is the trade association which serves the UK office supplies and services industry by providing a range of initiatives, cost saving benefits and services, to enhance the business performance of its members.
BOSS Leaders of the Future Conference once again inspires the industryback to list
18 March 2019
Once again, this year's BOSS Leaders of the Future Conference gathered together the best and the brightest of our industry's young talent within the august grandeur of Stationers' Hall, with a combination of both continuity and freshness that seemed exactly right for this occasion.
Emily Jones (Fellowes UK) and Scott Castle (VOW) set the tone for the day, telling the tale of the Leaders of the Future committee and its work.
Julianne Ponan ‘Entrepreneur Extraordinaire' kicked the day's presentations off by taking us through her own extraordinary story. Following a near-death experience through anaphylactic shock as a child (in which her parents were told that she had four hours to live) and two years of missed schooling, Ponan told how she had turned her ‘weaknesses' into opportunities by buying out allergy-free snack company Creative Nature at the age of 22. At the time, the business was making a £56,000 loss and Ponan ‘changed everything about it', returning it to profit within 18 months and gambling the last remaining cash of the company on a trade show stand at the ExCel, where she made a connection with what turned out to be the Tesco buyer.
Ponan then revealed how - having secured the Tesco account - she launched with them with only one colleague at very short notice, which included pulling pallets loads of product by hand down the road to the awaiting fork lift truck. The Creative Nature brand is now in Sainsbury's, Co-op, Asda, TJ Maxx and Ocado, as well as in more than 11 countries.
Inspiring, courageous and reflective, Ponan explained that the main things that she learned during this journey were:
• Have a purpose: make sure you and your colleagues are continually on board with what your business is all about
• Time management: how do you manage and value your time? Don't wear too many hats: focus instead on what your strengths are and ask others to do the rest
• Tell a story: you need a story for your brand, because while facts don't always work with customers, they will always remember stories
Indeed, Ponan's story was an engrossing tale of resilience, perseverance, ingenuity and creativity, lit up by a hatful of memorable and inspiring aphorisms:
"As an entrepreneur you say ‘Yes' now and work out how to do it later!"
"When you feel like giving up, think about why you started."
"However small you feel, you can still make a difference: you just have to get started."
"Even if you make mistakes, you can still learn from them."
"Tell your staff that you will take responsibility for their mistakes and it will change the way they look at you."
"Every day has 24 hours but it's what you do with that 24 hours - and what you do with your talent - that will define your success."
While the day rightly celebrated success, Frances Stephen (Springfield) took a few moments to tell a sorrier tale by reminding the delegates that not all careers always go smoothly. However, she showed how the BOSS Business Supplies Charity can help those from our industry who have fallen on difficult times, by recounting a couple of stories of how beneficiaries had been put back on their feet by the Charity and finished - not by asking for money - but by urging delegates to spread the message within the workplaces that the Charity was there for whenever help might be needed.
Adam Carnell (Bluetree Group) completed the morning session by telling his own story of ‘Starting from Scratch' by setting up the instantprint business straight out of college, then merging with another printer and growing very rapidly. Carnell explained that he had learned a number of valuable lessons from this:
• Know your numbers: make sure you get and review regular data on how your business is doing
• Your team is your business's most important asset: make sure that you recruit people with the right attitude. If you install a new machine it won't affect the other machines, but a new employee can really affect other people
• Empower your team: make sure that they have the freedom and ability to do what is required
• Keep your business focussed: don't try to take too much on and end up diluting what you are good at. Follow where the growth is coming from and get everyone focussed on a clear set of objectives
• Have fun doing it: of course you can have down times, but they make the peaks feel even better!
After lunch, Charlotte Wiseman (Wellbeing People), a psychology graduate whose own career has seen periods of anxiety and stress, used her own story as a backdrop to explaining how we can look after our wellbeing at work. Making sure that the session was lively and interactive, Charlotte quizzed the delegates about their current state of wellbeing, which she defined as ‘functioning at our best', and explained that improving this could lengthen our lives by up to seven years.
Wiseman then gave ‘five ways to wellbeing' which the delegates could use on a day-to-day basis:
• Social connections: speaking to someone - anyone - face to face during each day releases chemicals into our bodies that can help to relieve stress and stops us feeling isolated
• Active lifestyle: we should bring movement into our working day every day. This does not mean an hour of aerobics every day, but a moderate walk, ‘stretch breaks' during meetings, or using a sit/stand desk
• Learning: research has shown that spending time learning something new is more stress-relieving than spending time trying to relieve stress! We should always be on the lookout for people to learn from and topics that we want to learn more about
• Take notice (aka mindfulness): we should look to become more aware of ‘what's going on right here, right now.' That means paying attention in particular to our senses as we do things
• Giving: greater and more long-lasting contentment comes not from receiving from, but giving to, other people. This could be money, of course, but it could also be time, compliments and emotional support. Research shows that people who give strengths-based feedback are 18 times more likely to thrive in the workplace
To finish, the delegates broke into groups to discuss the ‘Industry Lifeboat Debate' and decide who amongst dealers, dealer groups, wholesalers, manufacturers, software/service providers and (yes!) BOSS/industry publications most deserved a place in the lifeboat. After a lively debate, each candidate had made such a good case for their survival that Phil Lawson, who was facilitating the debate, fortunately managed to find a larger lifeboat!
Phil then introduced the Future Leaders to the future leader of BOSS, his successor Amy Hutchinson to warm and receptive applause.
At the end of the conference, Emily and Scott thanked all the sponsors for their generous support, the organisers and the delegates and their companies, and encouraged everyone to come back and attend again next year. Delegates were then invited to come and meet Amy in person and to continue to argue for their place in the lifeboat over drinks at the Coppa Club, where no doubt many old stories were repeated and new ones begun...
Source: Martin Wilde, Martin Wilde Associates