Business Insight with Taz Thornton

Nicola:  Hi, welcome to the latest podcast from Nicola at The People Mentor. Today I’m interviewing Taz Thornton, whose business is motivational speaker, award-winning coach and founder of Unleash your awesome. Welcome, Taz.

Taz:       Hi Nicola, thanks for inviting me.

Nicola:  I’m really looking forward to this interview, I can’t tell you how much. So thank you for agreeing to take part, it’s really appreciated.

Taz:       You’re welcome. I’m looking forward to it too.

Nicola:  Great. So tell us a little bit about your businesses first. Do they all come under one umbrella? What is it they cover in a bit more detail and how long have they been going?

Taz:       Yeah, it’s just the one business, it’s all under my name.  I’ve been operating under my own name since about 2014 or 2015, I think. And the reason I did that is because my background is very much in corporate. And even when I left corporate, I was running businesses with my wife, we relaunched her business into Turquoise Tiger. I got my spiritual empowerment business going, Firechild Shamanism, which is still there in the background. But I recognized that I wasn’t showing the world Taz, and it was Taz who needed the voice, it was Taz’s voice that needed to be out there and inspiring people. So, because part of my past and past of what drives me is having been absolutely at rock bottom, I knew it’d be very, very easy to hide if I allowed myself to. So, I was like, right, I’m going to strip away any business names and I’m just going to go out there as brand Taz.

So since 2015, brand Taz has been out there doing one-to-one coaching, very often business coaching, looking at things like visibility, how you get your message out there, how you build your client base, how you get the right packages, how do you get to a point where you don’t need to pitch and the business comes to you? I do a lot of that. I also work with people on an individual basis with lots of empowerment stuff, getting back to the truth of who they are. Sometimes, I do crazy things like fire walking, because I’m trained in that too. I run spiritual empowerment retreats. But when I’m not doing that, when I’m not training businesses or individuals, I’m doing speaker training as well. I’m a motivational speaker, usually for businesses again. I’ve spoken all over the globe and I’m continuing to do so. And, I run speaker training retreats, which won an award last year. And they’re called The Heart of Speaking because I’ve found there are a lot of people now who think they’re being trained as speakers and they’re actually being trained as Stepford speakers. There’s nothing worse.

We will have all seen a speaker and they get out on the stage and they pause, and they survey the audience and they speak in a particular way in order to get the attention of their audience. And it just doesn’t feel right. It feels robotic. You can be over practised, over-rehearsed and I think it’s destroying our ability to connect with our audience as speakers. So, I started running those retreats and they won an award, so that’s a part of my business. When I’m not doing training or speaking or coaching, then I’m writing books. That’s what I do. All under Taz.

Nicola:  You sound so busy. And I like the fact that it’s Taz because you know immediately who you’re getting, don’t you? And that’s so easy to remember then, really.

Taz:       Yeah, absolutely. I think anyone who’s been to a networking event, sometimes somebody will stand up and they’ll say something along the lines of, “Hello, I’m Jeff Smith from a company called …” Why do you … you don’t need to say from a company called blah, blah, blah. Even when I was running my own business under a different name, when I was working with Asha on Turquoise Tiger, it’d be, “Hi, I’m Taz from Turquoise Tiger. How can I help you?” We’ve got to stop hiding behind our brands because people buy people. I mean you’re The People Mentor, you know this. People buy people. It’s such an old cliché, but it’s absolutely true. Nobody cares how long you’ve been in business, nobody really cares what your business name is, nobody really cares what degrees and certificates you’ve got hanging on your wall.

Nicola:  Far from it.

Taz:       People care about whether you can help them. Whatever anybody is buying at any time, they are always only ever buying a transformation.

Nicola:  That’s right.

Taz:       Yeah. It doesn’t matter if it’s a lipstick or if it’s a speaker training retreat or if it’s a car. People are buying the transformation. They want to go from how they feel now to how they want to feel or display or be. And that’s it. They want a transformation. Can you do that? And if not, bugger off and let me speak to somebody who can.

Nicola:  Love it. Yeah, you’re right. It is. I hadn’t really thought about this transformation bit, so that’s quite a useful tip there for me, so thank you for that.

Taz:       Yeah, certainly. In the way that people market themselves and the way that people put themselves out there, it’s all about the transformation. If you think about some of the best TV ads that you watch, if you don’t always forward wind through them, I always do. But if you look at the ones that actually grab your attention, they’re taking you on a story. That’s why storytelling has become so important because it takes people on a journey. Think about the ones that tug on our heartstrings, think about things like the RSPCA ads. You think of a tiny, starving little kitten being picked up from a pile of rubbish bins and old discarded trash, and then you see it being cuddled and healthy and clean by a loving owner. That’s what makes you give, it’s the transformation. It’s that journey.

Nicola:  You’re right.

Taz:       The Golf adverts as well, do you remember when they took people through the journey of the old Golf through to the new Golf?

Taz:       It’s how it makes you feel. The Aldi ads. Aldi ads are amazing. They’re so low budget, but they make you feel good. That’s a transformation too, because it makes you think that I can still enjoy this stuff and don’t need to throw all this money over there. I can do this and still feel good and still enjoy it. It’s all about the enjoyment and the change and the transformation every time.

Nicola:  Really good points there. Thank you for that, Taz.

Nicola:  What made you start your business?

Taz:       Oh, now there’s the big question. How long have you got?

I will nutshell this because if you look for me on social media or go to my website or read Unleash Your Awesome, it’ll take you through the entire story. But in a nutshell, I went through some pretty nasty situations in an abusive relationship many years back. I felt absolutely trapped. I tried to escape from life and ended up breaking my back. I walked away from that. I ended up with depression, anxiety, stress. Got to the top of the corporate tree, everything perfect on paper. I had the beautiful wife, the nice house, the car, the bonus checks. Imagine self-employed people looking at that now. Bonus checks? My goodness. And I still wasn’t happy. Ultimately I had a breakdown and I absolutely believe that was my breakthrough, because it cracked me open so much that all the stuff that wasn’t filling me up, all the stuff that I was living for that was really all ego-based and materialism based, didn’t matter anymore. And I got back to the truth of who I was. And the truth of who I was is it’s somebody who thrives on helping and inspiring other people.

So I decided that I wanted to launch my business in a way that I could carve out a career helping and inspiring as many people as I possibly could to be true to themselves and to find that well of potential and possibility that we all have. That’s at the heart of Unleash Your Awesome. And the thing that really made me go for it, more than anything else, was I remember sitting in my doctor’s surgery, when I was talking about the dark times I was going through. And it was just before he put me on anti-depressants for the first time and he said, “What do you want to do?” And I said, “Well I’ve got this dream of having a business where I can heal people and help people and coach them and help them to realize how amazing they are.” And he said, “Oh, you’ll never make a business doing that. You’ll never be able to forge a career in that way. You’ll never be able to earn enough.” Right, I’m doing that then.

So that really drives me, times where people have said I can’t do something. Oh, you’ll never be able to publish a book without self-publishing. Actually, I now have a publisher in the UK and one in the US, and I have more books on the way, and another publisher chasing me. So, I’m doing it. You’ll never be able to be a professional speaker. I’m signed to two speaking agencies. Yesterday I was speaking for the Royal Bank of Scotland for the second time. I’ve spoken on stages all over the world. And I say this not to boast, but just to say anybody listening to this, if somebody tells you that you can’t do something, what they mean is they don’t think they would be able to do it. If you want to do something, you get out there and you keep doing it until you’ve proved to yourself that you can. Because if you walk away from something before you’ve tried everything, that’s not failing, that’s quitting and I don’t do that.

Nicola:  I think you’re right. I think it is about persevering and looking at how you can make it happen. That is a really powerful story. Thank you for sharing that.

Taz:       It’s so important, it really is. People talk about needing to know your why a lot and sometimes I think that’s a great book. Simon Sinek wrote a beautiful book there and the whole power of why movement is brilliant, but I’ve coached so many people who’ve got really caught up because they don’t know what their why is and they throw thousands of pounds at personal development and they sit and they lie their way through workshops saying, “Yes, I know my why.” And eventually, they knock at my door and say, “Taz, I don’t know what to do, I don’t know what my why is.” You don’t need to always have a massive why. The second we start calling it a why we trip ourselves up. And it’s almost become the kind of naughties version of waving a Filofax in the eighties.

If you don’t know what your big why is, just find something that fills you up and start there. Then another thing that fills you up. And sometimes your little why’s get to a big why. So that’s why I don’t use the word why, I use the word mission. Because for me, that breakdown I spoke about a few minutes ago, it was a realization that all the stuff I’d been through could help other people. That’s my mission, to help more and more and more. That’s why I get all these media opportunities, that’s why I’m so big on visibility because we can’t help people if they don’t know that we exist.

We’ve really got to get over ourselves and stop being worried about other people thinking we’re fame-seeking or that we’re an ego or all this rubbish. We need to know why we’re doing it, create a really powerful picture of where we want to get to and then reverse engineer the hell out of it and keep walking towards it.

Nicola:  Totally agree. That really got me thinking because I don’t know what my real why is, but what I do know is that I am fulfilled by helping others grow their business, grow their charity, make it so that it works better for them. And I was reading The Busyness Delusion by Chris Gardener and that was really helpful because it talks about fulfilment. And that’s why I do the things I do. It’s not one big thing, it’s lots of little things that make the difference to how I feel.

Taz:       But then you have to dig a bit deeper and say, well why does that matter to you, Nicola?

Nicola:  And that’s probably work I need to do, but I just love making a difference for people and it’s just my motivator.

Taz:   You can usually go back to something that’s happened in your own life that is … well, I went through that and I know how I felt and I know the power in it once I was able to flip it. I know the potential in that once I was able to find the teaching in that, rather than just wallowing in the negativity of it, for instance. And then you can get a really powerful driver, and that driver can then become your mission. Which is really a different way of saying why. If your motivation is helping all those people and you picked on the business and charity sectors, get out there and do it.

Nicola:  I think that really actually there are two things that stand out to me. One was when I was in the second year of secondary school and I was bullied and sent to Coventry, and that will always stay with me. And I had this thing about leaving people out, making people feel they’re not wanted, et cetera and that is one of the things that drives me about teamwork. Making sure that everybody’s included, everybody’s got a voice and it goes back to that.

And, then the other thing is when I first started working in the public sector, I was kind of written off. They said, “Oh, she’s not going to go far”, “she’s no good.” Then one day a manager went off sick and I ended up having to organize a move and they went, “Oh, she can do it.” I actually want to show that other people are capable, because we write so many people off and yet they have so many skills that are un-tapped into and it drives me crackers.

Taz:       In terms of the message you put out there, tell power-full … and I’m deliberately leaving a gap there, because there’s a difference between powerful, having power over something and being filled with power. How power-full are those two stories? They are far more powerful than anything else you could put out there. You start talking about that, about your drivers, about how you discovered that so many people are being written off and how so many businesses are actually losing out on all kinds of profitability and productivity because they’re not seeing the potential in their teams. You’ve been through it and that’s what drives you and that’s why you want to make the working environment a better place.

Nicola:  I’m interested in NLP. What is NLP exactly? And how does that help your business?

Taz:       NLP is neuro-linguistic programming.

So it’s a set of tools that help us look at the way our minds work, at the language, we work at the programming we all fall into without recognizing it. Now I use NLP quite a bit in my work. I love it, but you find so many people now who operate everything from a core base of NLP. They’ll have to create a scenario with lots of little NLP tools and techniques and tricks so that they’ve created a sentence where you have presupposed that you’re going for a pint with them. Just ask me for a pint.

So when I trained in NLP it gave me a really useful set of tools. I trained with an amazing guy called John Cassidy-Rice, who’s one of the most heart-based NLP trainers I’ve ever worked with. That’s why I decided to work with him because there’s a lot of people using NLP to just kind of try and manipulate people and trick people into spending money they haven’t got.

NLP used properly is beautiful, is elegant and for things like building confidence, letting go of limiting beliefs, and getting people to look back. But if you notice somebody doing NLP on you, they’re doing it badly. I blend it with all my other skills. I spent 10 years working with Shamans and medicine people and I can see some of the modern-day NLP practices, I can look at some of those old tribal skills and say well actually that’s the same thing but we’ve given it a long name and charged lots of money to learn about it.

I blend, in some cultures, they would call a Shaman a walker between the worlds, because they would say they had a foot in the world of the living and a foot in the world of spirit. We often say I’m a bit of a walker between the worlds because I do that with the left brain and right brain. I was UK director for what at the time was one of the world’s biggest multi-national publishing companies, I’ve done all the kind of left-brain training, things like conflict management and team building and team cohesion. I’ve done energy work, I’ve done Reiki and all of this work with Shamans, medicine people. And, of course, training with the same team that trained Tony Robbins to do fire walking, glass walking, extreme empowerment.

I bring them all together because I think one of the things we lose, particularly in business, is we identify as either left brain or right brain. We are, either I need to see this to believe it, or it doesn’t exist and it needs to be science-based and there needs to be 75 gazillion double-blind trials for me to consider it. Or, you go to the other end of the spectrum and it’s I can’t get out of bed without pulling an angel card. Real extremes and we identify as one or the other. But in the middle, if we just climb down off our purpose-built ivory towers for a moment and recognize that all things are energy. And if we blend some of the left brain and the right brain, that’s where the magic happens.

And I swear that’s why I’m able to create such transformation for my clients because I don’t stick to a rule book. It’s not today I’m going to use this NLP technique or some chakra balancing or just do some spoken voice healing. What, you mean coaching? It’s just what does that client need? When do they need it? Again, it doesn’t matter what each package does, it’s the transformation.

Nicola:  I think from going into businesses, we’re losing creativity because we’re not combining the two together.  And to me, that’s really sad.  Today I had an interesting conversation with somebody and they don’t feel listened to, they’ve got some ideas and we have senior leaders who often come up with the ideas but don’t actually involve the rest of the teams and use the ideas. And like you’re saying, it’s using all of these tools to get the best for the individual and the business.

Taz:       But it’s hard to map, isn’t it? You say to a company director, well what’s the ROI on creativity? What’s the ROI on enabling your team to feel really, listened to and heard? What’s the ROI on compassion?

Nicola:  It’s a difficult one. And because people are so set in having black and white evidence, they miss out on the real possibilities that you could achieve.

Taz:       Well here’s the thing, if you’re insisting on black and white, you’re going to have either black or white profits. You’re going to be in profit or you’re going to be bankrupt your choice. Or we can look at that grey area, we can find the whole rainbow and actually start to build our profits in a good, clean, safe, sensible way through working with our people to enable them to be their best, to love coming to work, to cut sickness, to cut absenteeism and actually to cut the amount of people who are coming in to work when they shouldn’t be because that’s an issue too. Build a happy, listened to, cared for, cohesive workforce and your profits will build. And you can’t always plot that into black or white.

Nicola:  And I love the thought of the rainbow. So moving on, what three key tips do you think you would give to a business starting off to help them?

Taz:       Know why you’re doing it and what you want to achieve. Make sure it’s something that absolutely fills you up. When people are asking me to coach them, I will not work with somebody if they are not yet doing the right business. If it’s a business coaching session, if somebody’s come into me for help with, say, personal brand, I won’t start working with somebody on building their personal brand if they’re not doing the business that is aligned with the truth of who they are. Because there’s no point trying to build a brand that’s based on nonsense, or based on just wanting to earn some cash with no heart in it. There needs to be heart.

I’ve seen so many people in business now and they’re trying to build castles on cardboard foundations. They’ve just thought that could bring me some money, but they don’t care about it, they don’t understand it enough, they haven’t developed themselves enough and I know that they’re going to be either bored in a year or more likely disillusioned. Because if you don’t believe in the idea that you have, you can’t expect clients to believe in you either. But people will pick up on your energy, that’s that grey area, that’s in that rainbow between the black and the white.

So make sure that whatever it is what you’re doing, if you’re starting your own business, if you’re taking the leap out of employment where you’ve at least got a confirmed salary coming in each month, if you’re stepping out of that level of stability into something where there are going to be peaks and troughs and some months at first you’re going to wonder where the money’s coming from, you at least better enjoy it. If you can’t enjoy the journey, you might as well give up now. So that’s my first biggie. You’ve got to be doing it for a reason and you’ve got to believe in it.

Nicola:  I think you’re so right. Because as well, if you don’t believe in it you won’t talk about it passionately, will you? You won’t really allude that confidence.

Taz:       Absolutely. And it doesn’t matter if it’s working for somebody else, if it’s buying into a franchise or buying into network marketing, whatever it happens to be for you, it’s got to be something that really, really aligns with the core of who you are.

And that’s point two, actually. If you don’t know if it aligns with the core of who you are then, before you jump into that world, do some work on yourself so that you can make sure that you’re in the right thing. Make sure that if you’re starting your own business you’ve got to be able to take some hits on the chin. I hear a lot of people talking about Marmite and they describe it as if it’s a bad thing if somebody’s Marmite.  What they’ve done with their marketing is amazing, but you’ve got to believe in what it is that you’re doing and have worked on yourself enough that you are able to get out there and talk about what you believe in and your products and your services and not be too afraid to rock the boat.

Because you will have people who judge, you will have people who just don’t want what you offer. You will have people who, for whatever reason, don’t like you, so you’ve got to be strong enough to be able to take that too. You’ve got to be able to plant your feet and say, well this is me and I can learn from everything around me, but not everybody’s going to want what I have to sell.

Nicola:  I think that is a real lesson that comes. I put a vision video on and I had a couple of comments where they clearly disagree with me.  I do believe you need to be able to have a vision of where you’re going, what it looks like. It may change over time, it is a living vision, but you really need to know where you’re heading. And if you’re an employer, you need to paint that picture to your team, because if they don’t know it, how the hell can they help you get there?

Taz:       Absolutely. I see a lot of people going into business and they are so afraid of rocking the boat that they kind of make themselves beige. But the thing about beige is nobody really hates beige, it’s not going to rock the boat much, but it’s nobody’s favourite colour either. And you’re better to be somebody’s favourite colour. In terms of marketing, one of the most powerful things you can do is actually create a schism, because then you get everybody talking and all eyeballs are on you. I love what they’re doing with their marketing. They really flipped their negatives. They’ve made millions of pounds out of saying that some people hate us. And that’s amazing. So, imagine if you can get to that point. If you can be so sure in yourself and plant your feet so firmly that actually people who don’t necessarily like your product can like you and like the way you do business and become a supporter and spread the word for you without ever buying from you. That’s really powerful, isn’t it?

Nicola:  That is a brilliant tip actually. Because we do have a tendency, I think, to try and stay neutral and it’s not the way to be. And that’s something I’m really starting to learn now.  And it’s giving people that confidence to feel that they can be like that.  What’s wrong with being passionate and saying what you really think?

Taz:       If somebody disagrees, so what? That’s where a conversation starts. Business comes from conversations, doesn’t it?

My third tip would be show up. It doesn’t matter whether we’re talking about energetically or face-to-face networking or events or social media. Show up consistently, show up regularly. Let people see you. Keep showing up, you cannot be a secret and a success at the same time, as somebody once said to me. All the time you’re wearing that safety cloak of invisibility, again, people can’t buy from you if they can’t see you. And regardless of whether you think you’re the best, and that’s absolutely subjective by the way, you still need to be showing up. If you don’t show up consistently, there’s no point in you then getting pissed off if somebody’s going to your competitor down the road who’s on LinkedIn and Facebook every day. Even if they have a sub-standard product in your view. People are going to go to the products where they can see them and they can buy them and they understand what’s going on and the ethos of that company.

Nicola:  It’s a bit like the scenario of you go to buy something and they make it extremely difficult for you to buy. You might go to the website, you can’t find any way to contact them or to click the link. And you get frustrated so, like you say, you’ll go to a competitor because that’s the easiest thing to do.

So leading into that, how do you, as a business owner, get to stand out from the crowd? And that’s a lot to answer, probably, in a short period of time.

Taz:       It is about that showing up. So once you’ve got your brand on track, stick to it. Some of the most simple things we can do are making sure that we always use the same brand colours in all our marketing that we’re putting out there, we always use the same fonts, make sure that you are visible. Because if we’re talking social media, for instance, it comes back to that beautiful Maya Angelou quote, and I’m paraphrasing, but she essentially said that “people will forget all kinds of things about you, but they’ll always remember the way you make them feel”. Now we are bombarded with information these days, it’s the age of information overload. It’s wonderful because we can all put our stuff out there, but the flip side is that everybody’s being overloaded with information. People are having posts and content and comments thrown at them. We are bombarded with stuff, so you’ve got to educate people to look out for your posts.

Taz:       So, you’ve got to make sure that you’re writing the stuff that people want to hear. About making sure that you are displaying what you do through your content, show your expertise, don’t just keep pushing your products and services out, show the world who you are. Help people, inspire people, entertain, educate. All of that good stuff.

Let’s say that somebody sees one of your posts, so one of your posts maybe goes viral, people might read that and go, “Oh, that’s really made me feel something, that’s really made me think.” Then you need to educate them that when they’re scrolling through that feed, they stop when they get to yours and read it again. So whatever that first one is that they’ve seen, you’ve got to make sure that it’s got your colours, it’s got your brand, it’s got your fonts, it’s got your image, but it’s absolutely useful so that the next time that they’re scrolling, they see those colours in that blur as it goes past the screen and they stop. Now with something like LinkedIn where, at the minute, algorithms change all the time so the way that social media channels decide which pieces of content to share to more people change all the time, but at the minute I know LinkedIn isn’t that keen on static images. So, if you put videos out there, create a title screen that’s got your colours and fonts on. Every time you do that, have your colours and fonts on it.

You can’t do much to change your font on LinkedIn. There is an external app you can use actually. I think it’s YaFont where you can cut and paste font in different styles and then paste it in and it will retain it, but you still can’t put your own colours and font in there, there’s a limited number to choose from. So what can you do to stand out on something like LinkedIn? I’ve got little emojis in my name that tie in to what I do. I think there’s a ball of flames, there’s a microphone for my speaking and there’s a little target board. And every now and then someone will say, “Oh, you have emojis in your name. This is LinkedIn, not Facebook.” Yes and you’ve just stopped and taken the time to comment on my thread about it. Thank you for boosting my algorithm.

Do things to stand out and get noticed. Keep it real. Make sure your brand is consistent. Those fonts and those colours are on your banners on LinkedIn, on Facebook, on YouTube, on Insta, Snapchat, everywhere. Use it.

Nicola:  And I think that was one of the lessons that you taught me, I saw you at a 4N and actually you said something around the branding and using the same colours for things. So, I immediately went and did it so there you go.

Taz:       And has it made a difference?

Nicola:  I think it has. Definitely.

Taz:       Look at you, look at you now. You’ve got your own podcast and everything, people look out for it.

Nicola:  I love doing podcasts. And that’s because you get to know a person by interviewing. One of the lessons I’ve learned is that I need to start adding some of my stories in, because stories are what make the difference and are the things that drive me.

Taz:       Absolutely. And then you need to spin out that content in different ways. For each one of these podcasts, this’ll be one of the things that we’ll teach you in our Unleashed group later on, the group for coaches, therapists, healers, to help them with marketing, visibility, branding.

But one of the things we’ll be teaching there is pillar content. And it’s one of the things Gary Vee talks about too. So, for instance, when you do these podcasts, how regularly do you do them, Nicola?  Right, so every week you do one of these podcasts and you send it off to Rev.com and you get it transcribed, so then you could set up a little video with captions, just with a static image but with captions going across for people who are hearing impaired, so you could do that. You could, from that transcript, you can pull out little quotes from it and you can use those in memes or in other social comments. You could pull out little snippets from it. You could run the whole transcript as a blog or as a Medium article. Think about it, just one of these podcasts, if you get a transcript of this, there’s going to be so many little gems that you could pull out, that would populate your social media for a whole month.

People worry about where they’re going to get content from, well A, life gives you content every day, it’s just about training yourself to look at it in a different way. Or B, just commit to doing at least one big piece of content every month, whether it’s a video, whether it’s a blog, whether it’s something on audio and then re-purpose lots of bits of content from it.

Nicola:  Great tips there. Thanks for that, Taz.  I should be doing that now, thank you. Watch out everybody.  So how did you start as a speaker and what is your most memorable occasion as a speaker?

Taz:       So the first time I remember standing on a big stage as a speaker was when I was group editor of a series of healthcare magazines. And about a week out from the event, we used to run these big black tie awards dos up in London on Park Lane and about a week out I was told that I was going to be co-hosting this event with the celebrity compare. And I had to write the script and stick to the script and get it … and I did it, I climbed up on that stage.  And I managed it, but I made every rookie error in the book. I sped up too much and then I left too many pauses. And then I slowed down and then I’d speed up again. It was before … the internet was just kind of coming in then, but it wasn’t the tool that everybody has on their desktops as it is now. Somebody streamed the video and I got to watch it back and I cringed watching it, but it was the best training ground ever, because I could pick up on everything that I did “wrong” and improve on it. So when it got to the point where I was going to start speaking on my own with my own message, the first thing I did was make sure that, A, I would only ever speak about topics that I knew inside out and really cared about and, B, I was going to be comfy. So no more evening dresses, if you see me speaking now I’ll have jeans and a t-shirt and trainers or bright pink sparkly DMs. It’s absolutely me and I’m in my comfort zone.

How did I start speaking under brand Taz? Well at first, because I was transitioning from working with Ash on Turquoise Tiger into my own brand, because the idea was that we’d work together until I’d built my own business up enough to kind of tip and that happened about five years earlier than we thought, so there was a while where I was sort of straddling both. And I was doing a lot of delivery, we both were actually doing a lot of delivery for organizations and businesses who wanted training and tips on social media, visibility, brand, personal brand message, that kind of stuff. So I started speaking then.

And then from there, more of me started to come out and the first proper motivational speaking gig I had, I had to really push myself into. this might have filled the memorable one as well actually. I knew that I needed a platform and I was pretty sure that I could be a bloody good motivational speaker. I was comfortable in my own skin enough now. I’d done that video that went viral and we can talk about that in a minute if there’s time and if you’d like to, about how you can really harness social media. And I knew somebody who was running a business exhibition not too far away from here and it was going to be a big business exhibition. She’d been on one of my training programs years ago and I thought, do I dare? Of course you can. If you can go and interview Stephen Fry and ask him to give you a testimonial, you can do this. So, I dropped her a line, I met her for coffee and we sat chatting.

And as we were talking, she happened to mention, she dropped the name of quite a well-known motivational speaker she wanted and that they’d tried to get in touch but they couldn’t afford this motivational speaker’s fee because they’d ploughed so much into the exhibition. I said, “Well, you know I could do that and I could do it for a much lesser fee.” And she said, “Could you really?” And I said, “I could do that. That’s what I do. I’ve been speaking for years.” And I had been speaking for years, just not as a motivational speaker. I’d been motivating people, but not actually in that role? “Actually what I don’t want to tell you is we’ve got no budget left.” I said, “Okay then, how can we negotiate?” So I ended up speaking in exchange for two stands at this exhibition. One for me and one for Asha with Turquoise Tiger and I ended up doing motivational speaking, being the headline keynote speaker and delivering a series of make-it-happen mini workshops there. And I was so nervous.

I remember they started playing my music, I always walk on to Pink by Aerosmith, and the music was pumping and I was thinking, “Oh my God, I hope enough people show up. Please let people show up.” And just before I went in, there was this flurry and all these staff members started running around and I was like, “What’s going on? And it turned out that I’d had so many people piling in for my talk that they’d had to go and find some more chairs from storage. It wasn’t filmed. But that was where it all started. And I got reviews in the local media on the back of it, I got other gigs on the back of it, I got invited back and that’s where it all started.

So that’s one of the most memorable ones because I was brave enough to take a punt and it worked, but the other one I would say was most memorable is when I was invited over to be the keynote speaker for a tourism organization in Sicily. And the reason it’s memorable is not because it was overseas, but because it was the first time I’d spoken where it was live translation. And that was such a lot to get my head around, because I feed a lot from the audience. And of course, there’s a delay before they’d respond because they’re all listening through headsets.

So that was a real, real learning curve. And I think about a week later I was in Milan doing one with live translation there as well.  I really cut my teeth very, very quickly.

Nicola:  Quite different, isn’t it? Because it’s a bit like when you do a webinar and you have a break before they respond if you do something in the chat box or whatever.

It’s really difficult to cope with, really. A great experience, but I actually remember seeing you at Springfields and it was a really good event, but there was hardly any footfall in that one. And went in with my daughter and you made me cry, I always remember that.

And I think that’s when my business really started forming in my head properly.

Taz:       That’s another important point actually as a speaker. Every now and then you’re going to turn up to speak somewhere and there won’t be that much of a crowd. Particularly when you’re first starting out. My attitude to that is I always treat every gig as if I’m in an auditorium of thousands of people. You’ve got to deliver. Don’t ever think you’re only turning up somewhere because of the crowd. It’s rarely a reflection on you, so just get up. And if you’re in a room with two people, you rock that room. Give it your all, always.

Nicola:  That’s really useful as well, so thank you for sharing that, Taz. I really appreciate it.

I’m going to move on to has anything ever gone wrong in your business? And I hate the word wrong, really, but if it did, how did you salvage it?

Taz:       Yes. I was talking about this yesterday and actually we can tie in what I was saying about that video. This was the biggest mistake I have ever made in my business. It was in 2015, so the same year I kind of launched under my own name and somebody had said something on Facebook about living in the moment, you’ve only got one life, live it. And I went to respond and my response was going to be so long I thought, you know what Taz? Don’t type it, just do a little video. And it was before the days of live streaming. I thought I’ll do a little video. I was sitting in my car, I’d got  I think I’d got my gym gear on or something. My hair was a mess. It wasn’t grand at all, I hadn’t planned anything, but this was just going to be a little video for friends, so that was okay. And for whatever reason it was that video where I went deeper than I’d ever been before.

I’d been teaching people about the importance of personal brand and talking about the people behind the business before kind of personal brand became a buzz word. So even when we were training people on social media, it was telling people about you, why is it that they should be coming to you? And I hadn’t realized that I was kind of sitting around the edge of the dance floor, but I wasn’t really dancing, I wasn’t in the middle of the room. I was talking about who I was and my interests and why I did things, but I wasn’t going any further than I’ve got, I’m really passionate about this and I’ve got real passion for helping people. I wasn’t going into the why, again, from earlier.

And in this video I talked about the times I’d been through abuse, I talked about the car accident where I broke my back, I talked about being interrupted just before I went over the banister with my childhood karate belt around my neck, I talked about some of the real tough times, some of the darkest times in my life. And I talked about the fact that if I’d been successful, if I’d managed to check out when I wanted to, I would have missed out on so much. I talked about some of the people I’d helped since, I talked about how I would potentially like to use some of those experiences to help and support other people who’d been through abuse or been through breakdown or just didn’t know who they were. And it rambled, it was nearly 10 minutes long so it broke every rule in the book and I thought it’s just for friends, it’s okay.

So I hit send and I posted it on Facebook and I sat in my car in a bit of shock because I’d never talked that candidly about that stuff before. Then my phone started to go crazy, it started to … it was like fairy lights. I’m glad I wasn’t epileptic, the amount my phone was flashing, honestly. A light show right there in my car. I thought what’s going on? What’s going on? And I looked at Facebook and I’d forgotten to hit friends only and that was the mistake, it was going viral. And for a moment I really panicked. Oh my God, that means this stuff is out there. I don’t want to be typecast, I don’t want people to see me as abuse girl or the girl that walked away from a car with a broken back. I don’t want to be seen as the one who was once mentally unstable, because that’s what people will say if they knew I was depressed and had a breakdown. People won’t understand, that could ruin my business, oh my God.

But then I had a message. It was before Facebook had created … you know now if someone who doesn’t know you sends you a message it goes into other messages?

It was before that, but this message landed in my inbox from somebody I hadn’t ever heard of before and she said that she’d been in a really tough place and she just watched that video and it had changed her mind and she was no longer going to kill herself.

Nicola:  Oh that’s brilliant.

Taz:       And that, along with support from friends, made me think, no, leave that live. And then it grew, then it got to the point of, okay, I had somebody ask me if there was a YouTube link so I put it on YouTube. Somebody said, “Well what about people who don’t follow you?” So I put it on my business pages. And by the end of that first day it had racked up 40 thousand views. And I ended up in Huffington Post, on BBC radio and Kindred Spirit and Diva magazine.

Nicola:  Because you’d opened up and showed your true self?

Taz:       Because I’d shown my true self. And that as my biggest business mistake. And that, I swear, is what sky-rocketed me. I can look now, I can look at the speaking gigs I’ve had, I can look at being on BBC, on ITV, in magazines, the client base I have, the gigs I’ve had and although, of course, it’s also taken a massive dose of determination and confidence and having a clear message, I can trace it all back to that video. That’s the power of social and that’s also the power of vulnerability. We’re terrified of making ourselves vulnerable, but in fact it can be one of the most powerful things we do. It didn’t damage my business at all, it grew it.

Nicola:  It makes a huge difference and I’ve never been one who cannot cry at work and if I’m having a really good spell I probably won’t cry for … I can remember a period where I probably didn’t cry for a couple of years and then there would be moments where I’ve cried. And sometimes it’s with anger and frustration and I’ve always been told you shouldn’t cry at work, but do you know, I always took my employees with me because they knew what they saw is what they got and it’s that vulnerability.

And I always remember going and talking to a team who weren’t doing what I needed them to do and tears came to my eyes because they were really arguing with me. And I was like, “Yeah, I’m hearing what you’re saying, but I need to make this happen because this will make a difference to our business.” And tears were really in my eyes and I was trying to stop them pouring and then I walked away and they all went to their manager, “Oh, Nicola’s really upset. We’re going to do it, we’re going to do it, we don’t want her upset.” And it’s like that’s not what I intended, but hey, if that gets the result I want.

Taz:       It worked because you need it to.

Nicola:  And it wasn’t intentional, but hey.

Taz:       No. Vulnerability can … I mean there’s a caveat, I’m not suggesting everybody who listens to this suddenly goes and empties out all their skeletons from the closet onto a live video. There’s things you need to take into account. First, are you strong enough to cope with the reactions? Are you in a strong enough emotional, psychological, physical, mental position to deal with what might happen? You’ve got to think about your friends and your family, your loved ones too. Are sharing some of your secrets going to upset them too much?

You’ve got to take a balanced view. But if the stuff, if there are life lessons that have happened and you can safely share them and help and inspire other people in the process, why would you not? I always say you don’t have to … metaphorically, of course, you don’t have to get completely naked, but it does help if you at least take your socks off.

Nicola:  I love the spin on that as well. And that’s exactly it, isn’t it? Anything that you see that’s gone wrong or as a failure, it isn’t because you’ve always learned from it and actually, you’ve gained some really positive things out of it.

Taz:       This is why I use that flip your negatives hashtag. You’ve got to be able to, whatever happens, whatever goes down in your life, if you’re brave enough to look for it there will always be a teaching. In fact, some of the most difficult times bring the most beautiful life lessons, if we’re brave enough to look for them. It doesn’t just happen to us, it happens for us, it’s just perspective.

Nicola:  Second to last question, so who or what is your inspiration?

Taz:       Me in five years’ time. Actually no, me in 10 years’ time. When people say to me, who’s your boss? It’s me in 10 years’ time. Because if I look forward to the me of 10 years’ time, she knows what’s possible, she knows what I’ve achieved by then and she knows what I need to hear in order to make me do it. Me in 10 years’ time.

Nicola:  I like that. And that goes with your vision as well, so that all links really well together, so thank you for that. And to finish, what’s the biggest tip you would share with other business owners for them to take away from this podcast?

Taz:       Be you. Be yourself. Don’t let other people’s short-sighted visions stunt your own.  Don’t stay in those blocks of black or white. Find your own rainbow. Don’t be beige. Do not dull your own rainbow, just because somebody else prefers beige.

Nicola:  I love all the colour we’ve had today, by the way.

Nicola:  Thank you, Taz, I’ve really appreciated you coming on and you’ve given some fantastic tips there for anybody listening. Actually I’ve picked up loads as well, so really helpful.

Nicola:  So that’s it for today, this is The People Mentor signing off until next time. Thank you for listening. Bye.

 

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