I'm going to tell you one difference you can make that's going to make a massive difference to both your personal life and your business life, and it's my philosophy of make it happen. I'm going to give you some real life case studies, tell you how things have evolved for me over the last 23 years, and how you can implement this to create the best life and the best business possible.
Make it happen. #MakeItHappen is something that's really, really important to me. I have it in all the business branding so it sounds like one of those corporate things. It's part of our core values of the businesses that I own and manage. So make it happen is just a philosophy that I have but don't look at it as corporate type buzzwords like blue sky thinking and out the box and teamwork. Everything isn't really about me. It's about the things that can actually happen when you have the attitude to go above and beyond. So make it happen, we do things, I like to think my team can do things that other people's teams can't. We go above and beyond. We, for the different core values in the business this is the principle one, but they all revolve round it. We just make things happen that other people can't. We do impossible things, we do cool things, and we do great things for the community.
I want you guys to think about how this could help you in your life. So why make it happen? Well, going back to the very start when I was a young kid. Very briefly, I didn't have the luxury of just having a little bit of ambition and wanting to do well in life. Make it happen was a philosophy I had to have. Back in 1996, just the way my circumstances were, my mother was a single mum. I was left to bring myself up for a nice part of my life. So thinking back to 1996, there wasn't any food in the house because my mum wasn't there. So I didn't have the luxury of thinking can I have some food. I needed food, I had to go and get food from somewhere. So there was various strategies I had to get food. Sometimes we had to steal from shops. I had to extort money out of drunk people in pubs that drank with my mum, to get food. I had to go to distant relatives' houses, but that thing of making things happen, I didn't have a choice to go and be a little bit ambitious and set up a business. My life, at that point in time, was pretty much all about survival. And I don't need to go into that too much here.
Who was at the last Six Figure Summit in Scotland? We went into it in a little bit more detail, but that's what started me off.
There's things that just need to be done in life and that make it happen attitude meant there was things I literally needed to do to survive. So, taking it to a business perspective, a property perspective. The branding on the left was my first business, we still have it, Homesure, and it’s a traditional letting agency, an estate agency. And for 10 years, that was a business that I built. I didn't quite have the make it happen attitude, although we built up to managing about 600 buy to lets. Homesure was never really a special business. We never won any awards, nobody took notice of us. The government didn't support us. We were, I would like to say an above average business but we didn't do anything. We didn't stick were head above, we didn't try to get awards. Nobody found us interesting at all. But then I had a shift with Pillow, probably four years ago. Rather than just trying to do everything myself, and struggle on, I did lots of things, again, things that they would teach you that you guys use, as second nature. Getting mentors, getting your mastermind group in place. And trying to be a little bit more than you were. So I'm going to show you, in the next list, all the different things that changed for me. So for 10 years I struggled on, a full decade with Homesure, and we were just an average business. But with a little bit of change in mind set and thinking you know what, I'm going to put myself forward for things. I'm going to try and achieve things that shouldn't be possible for where my business is at the moment. Because Pillow was an unknown entity. No one knew who it was. Why would anyone support us? Use us? Why would we win awards? So, the make it happen attitude pretty much got me all this for free, in the last 12 months. And you don't need to go through that list at the moment but the last 12 months are, literally from now to this time last year we've had more than £200,000 worth of stuff for free, because one of the ones was a big one of £100,000 worth of advertising. The reason this fits in to the make it happen is not one thing on that list, or anything that's happened, was given to me as a business. No one phoned up and said I've heard of Scott, you're amazing. I've heard of Pillow, it's amazing. These are things that I had to go and fight for. Had to try hard to get and really, really push outside my comfort zones. And we'll go over that later, as how all that came about. But we have had a lot of stuff for free and a lot of things that have been given to us that just because of the make it happen attitude.
I'm going to list off some of the things the make it happen attitude has got us, not to say hi, look how special I am. But I am an average person. I didn't win one award in my 10 years in Homesure and my five years in business before that. So it was a different change in mindset, going for things that should've been impossible and trying to be a lot better than what we were. The first thing we won was Entrepreneur of the Moment. That was four months after setting up the business. Now Pillow, I should say, is a SA management company, so we focus on managing SA's, and everything we've done with Pillow in the last four years is round about serviced accommodation. Got Entrepreneur of the Year for setting up Pillow in 2017. The next year we got Start Up Business of the Year. We got onto the Unlocking Ambition Program, so the Scottish Government picked 20 businesses, or 20 entrepreneurs they wanted to support. So I had to go through a big process whittling them down, to get onto that program and we were lucky enough that myself and Pillow were one of the 20 businesses that Scottish Enterprise, which is the business development arm of the Scottish Government, want to support businesses, so we got through to that. The Start Up Summit, November last year we won that.
We were over in Silicon Valley, we got offered £10 million, or dollars of investment. This year we won High Growth Business in Scotland. We got onto Scale Up Scotland 2019, again, who's heard of Sir Tom Hunter. Probably Scotland's richest man and best entrepreneur ever. He loves supporting entrepreneurs and he, again, wanted 20 businesses that were scale up. So we went from start up to scale up, meaning that you're going to be between £10,000,000 and £30,000,000 worth of turnover. So that was really, really hard to get on that. And, for the Scale Up Scotland, whereas the other things we were on we were in the middle or the best, on the Scale Up Scotland, I am the least successful of all those 20 people. And Pillow is the least successful business of those 20 businesses. And that is an amazing place to be. Maybe a few years ago I would be thinking, I am self-conscious, I'm the least successful, everybody's better than me. But actually if you're the least successful in a room you are in the best room. So if you guys are sitting at your tables and you're like I'm the smartest here, I'm the most successful, you're on the wrong table. Because if you were the least successful, you can only get brought up by everyone else.
I remember sitting in the hotel thinking everybody's much more successful than me. This is going to be amazing for me. So I was very happy with that. We got onto the second year of the Unlocking Ambition, where I'm now an ambassador. We've got a lot more support, help and funding. And the two things we've got going at the moment is the Great British Entrepreneur Awards. So we went from the very start, where it was Ayrshire, where the business was based, to Scotland wide, and now it's the Great British Entrepreneur Award for Scale Up Business and Small Business Entrepreneur of the Year. Again, all these things will not, no one phoned me for these, I had to find them, I'd to search them, and I’d do pitching competitions. I'd to do lots of application forms. And there was a lot of work to get there. But I know people with more successful businesses than me that could've went for some of these things but didn't. It's too time consuming, I didn't want to do it. No, I'm not good enough. People may have won these over me had they had the attitude of go and make it happen, and putting themselves in situations that were a lot higher than what they were currently comfortable with. So this
is a nice thing that happened this year, so just to put it into perspective about making it happen.
Scott’s in Silicon Valley, very impressive. I won it in a competition. So when you see the social media, there's no Scott’s over there, I won it in a pitching competition. So these two slides here, it was a competition called, it was about tech companies. So they wanted to do a thing in Scotland where they took a tech company to Silicon Valley and gave them an opportunity to pitch in front of venture capitalists. So at the Start Up Summit, this tech competition, I looked at the application form and thought well that's for tech companies, I'm an SA management company. It's about people and processes and hospitality. We're not about tech at all. But I like to apply for absolutely everything because hey, who knows what's going to happen. So we got through to the semi-finals, I had to go and pitch, and it was a Dragon's Den thing with eight people, and I'd to do a three minute pitch about why I should get through to a tech accelerator in Silicon Valley. And the questions they asked at the end were but you're not a tech company. And I was like yes, but, and we managed to get through to the final. So we'd to go up to the one here which was three judges, and an audience of 600 people in Edinburgh. And, again, I had to deliver a three minute pitch. Saying a three minute pitch from memory
is really hard for me, because I'm badly dyslexic and it had to be delivered perfectly. So everybody thought, there was three finalists, and everybody said why is Pillow even here.
I heard them sitting looking, what is this, it's a management, that's property. The two people before me, the first other finalist was a guy with technology, he had an app that helped people with dyslexia present. So it had an app that helped people present professionally. So my first competitor is a person that's helping people with dyslexia overcome that problem and was a professional presenter. The second person was Dr. Debbie Wake who was a PhD, and her app helped cure diabetes. So when the first two people went up and delivered their presentation, even my girlfriend at the side of me said yeah, you've no chance of winning that Scott. There's no way you'll beat her. She's curing diabetes and she's a tech company. You're doing property and you're not in tech. But one thing I did do is I prepared a hell of a lot for that. And those three judges, I think there were four, I researched them, I found their LinkedIn, their Twitter. I researched back as long as I could and every single second of that three minute pitch was geared towards resonating with those judges that were sitting there. So it didn't
really matter about the audience. Didn't matter if it was tech or not. But those judges sitting there, I found their values. I tried to discover what questions they would ask at the end. So when we went up, did the pitch and the pitch went very well. Then they asked the questions and the questions I thought they would ask, they did ask. I had the answers prepared for them. And we actually won that competition against Dr. Debbie who was curing diabetes, and everybody was like oh my God, how did that happen. Dr. Debbie stormed out because she was like I should've won that. He's a bastard. It's not my fault! But I shouldn't have entered that competition because I didn't have the right to do it. I shouldn't have got to the semi-finals, then the finals. And, as everybody says, we probably shouldn't have won it but I had that attitude of thinking well why I shouldn't I win it. And when they said you're not a tech company, no, and I won't go into the answers as why. But we weren't necessarily a tech company but I believed in Pillow enough that we should've won out of those three people, to represent Scotland in Silicon Valley.
If we take it back to when I was stealing for food and bits and pieces like that, fast forward to this year and this picture here is me in Facebook's campus. So if you imagine walking down any high street, there's restaurants, hairdressers, massage parlors, or is that just Doncaster. It was the same there, but everything was free. You walk onto Facebook and you go into the main high street. You can get pizza, you can get ice cream, you can get a massage, and you can get mental health counselling. Everything's free in Facebook and it was a really cool place to be. And quite surreal, you're sitting in Facebook's campuses just trying to be cool, but obviously try and take as much as you can and get all this free ice cream. If you've been to America, asking for an ice cream isn't just an ice cream, it's that high and that thick. So trying not to spill it down you because you know you're going to pitch to venture capitalists for millions of dollars, and trying not to have lots of pizza down you. The bit at the bottom, so the bit with the selfie in the office. We had all these arranged meetings and one of them was to some multi billionaire investor. Sold his businesses, lots more businesses, and helped, so we had an hour of him and he gave us business advice as how to, this is how you will do best in America. You do your pitch to him and he tells you this is what advice I would give you, as a billionaire. But as he was walking out the room and he says oh I forgot to tell you. This was actually Apple's old office. The boardroom you're sitting in was Steve Jobs' boardroom where he built Apple before he moved to the next super headquarters, and filed out the door. And I was like that's cool. And I waited till everybody left and run back in and took a selfie. Steve Jobs' boardroom where he built Apple! That whole experience was quite surreal and I'll say blagged it, earned it, whatever you want to say, but we got on that when the odds were against us, and that sums up the make it happen attitude. The big building there is where we were going to go in, it was like 30 odd, 50 stories up, and we were on the 33rd floor. The bottom one, we were in some solicitor, it was WSGR, who are the legal counsel for Google, for Uber, for all the big Silicon Valley firms, and someone asked what's the biggest deal you've done in this office. And there was, well we did one a few weeks ago and it was where LinkedIn signed the paperwork when they sold it to Microsoft. LinkedIn gets bought by Microsoft or Google. But it's where the people buying LinkedIn, the online social media site, got bought, and that got done in those views in that office. The top one is where I'm just about to pitch my one minute pitch to venture capitalists who were there, and these guys build big billion dollar funds, so they have a lot of money to give away. And out of that whole experience we could have taken $10 million worth of venture capital money for 20% of my little SA management company that was based on an industrial estate. We weren't even in a town or a city.
We were in an industrial estate outside a town. And they would if, I had to give some equity in my business away, I had to put their management team in and I had to move my HQ to Silicon Valley. But, and I wasn't prepared to do that, so they were offering $10 million to put into your business, to take it to the U.S. So that is a really, really surreal experience. We didn't take their offer, we will go back with something slightly different, which is a subsidiary of Pillow, and we will go back there, I'm going back to Boston in October. We'll probably go back to Silicon Valley next year and do something similar. Maybe I won't take it, but just to see if we can. So all that sounds cool and it sounds cool to me and I'm saying it. It wasn't like this for me a few years ago. Everything I've spoken about today has taken me 23 years to get to this stage where I'm standing up presenting. So speaking on stage was horrific for me. Doing a
60 seconds, we were talking about the BNI.
Who's been to a networking where you need to stand up and do a 60 second talk? I remember waiting on people's turn, 60 seconds, and I'm sitting terrified, literally shaking. I'm going to stand up, everybody's going to laugh at me. Everybody's going to know I'm a fraud. I shouldn't be in the room, I'm not a real business person and all these people are, they're so much more successful than me. And I'm shaking and I'm stuttering and my mouth's dry. That's the way I was back then. It's only through challenging myself, pushing myself to do better, to think that is a horrible situation standing on stage. I'm going to do that. There's somebody standing on stage that's really good at it, but is perhaps a fraud or not that good in business. If they can do it then we can do it. So it took me a long time to get to where I am now. The next thing I want to speak to you about is what I would say the tipping point, and there is a point in time where you need to keep asking for things. You need to keep begging, you need to keep putting yourself into situations where people reject you. And it will get to a stage where people will then come to you. Let's take rent to rent as an example. Everybody that's tried to get rent to rent deals has seen some form of rejection. You're asking agents, you're going to networking, you're speaking to landlords. There will be a tipping point where you are so well known in the industry people come to you with rent to rent deals. I say this story, I did Paul's very first serviced accommodation masterclass. I was lucky, I knew an owner and she gave us a deal but I got loads of rejections after that when I first started doing serviced accommodation.
In 2015, serviced accommodation wasn't as widely known as it is now. People just didn't get it and I got lots of rejections. Now I genuinely just don't have time to read the emails of the amount of rent to rent deals that get passed to me. So I've passed the tipping point for that. Speaking, I would travel two hours’ drive to do a 10 minute talk to boost my reputation, to get known, but nobody ever asked me to speak for the first 15 years in business. Nobody ever, previously to this year, has ever nominated Pillow or me or any businesses for award. You had to fight hard, you had to nominate yourself. Now I get emails and people say you should go for that award, or you've been nominated for an award. But that took all those 23 years to get passed that tipping point. Presenting. Well, I quite like presenting. The picture of me that was on the previous slide that was down there speaking at the Start Up Summit, the guy behind the curtain, when I was ready to go on, was like so you nervous then, it's a big crowd. I just said it's my time to shine. So that's my thing, it's my time to shine when I'm speaking. But I used to be terrified of it. Now, the same as sitting down talking to somebody, talking at networking or speaking on stage, it's not a big deal to me but it was for 20 of those 23 years. Mentoring, so you go from being a mentee, on the tables, and where all you guys are, I did the same. I was on the serviced accommodation masterclass before the platinum, and I was a mentee. I was there learning. And then there's actually other people in the room that were mentees, and are now mentors. There's people in the room just now that are currently mentees and are just about to become mentors. So that's the tipping point. You go from one side of the table learning and then you learn enough and you're experienced enough, and you guys can then become the mentors.
Writing books, well I don't want to say I was writing books five years before Paul Smith, but I was writing books five years before Paul Smith. Nobody asks you to write a book. They might do now if you're part of this community because it's part of building your profile. But one Christmas and New Year I'm going to write this book in two weeks and it's just vanilla lettings, it's nothing, it's not any advanced strategies. It's just how to have stress-free lettings as a landlord. And I did that in two weeks and I just researched it, self-published, but now people say, you know, you know a lot about a topic, you should write a book about that. And you get approached to do things, whether it's presentations, books and coaching as well. So general business principles. Nobody ever phones you up, when you start off, to say can you help other business people, can you help young entrepreneurs. Could you perhaps do some coaching of some young kids at a very volatile age that might need the input of someone that was where they were at their point in time, rather than somebody that they don't resonate to. So the tipping point will come if you put enough effort in. That, you guys, don't need to worry about getting rent to rent deals, because you'll be so well known in the industry people will come to you if you see Abby and Gordie's posts. When I started the whole Touchstone journey I would've loved some investment money, some money to buy properties. Probably couldn't have got it. But when you get to Abi's stage and Gordie, they could put a post out on Facebook and they could probably raise a couple of hundred million pounds worth of JV money, very, very easily. So, but they couldn't have got that, perhaps, five years ago. So try to get to the tipping point. So the make it happen, I want to go through the list we showed you very, very quickly, to just explain a little bit in detail how we got these things.
A funded trip to Silicon Valley. That was pitching at that competition and going through the various processes. Perhaps I could've went up on stage in front of 600 people and made an arse of it. I could've lost and been embarrassed. I could've forgotten my words and ran off the stage crying. But you need to try these things. It's worth going. The rewards of winning that was much better than being embarrassed. So free office space, again this was a pitch. We had two high street offices, two letting agents' offices. We went in and pitched to get into an accelerator program and we got free offices. Cleaning, WiFi, absolutely everything was done and we've probably saved 40,000 pounds in rent over the last three years in that. TV advertising, a pitching competition, we won 100,000 pounds worth of TV advertising. So we've already done 70,000 pounds of that. That went out at Easter. We've 29,000 pounds left of that budget. We won all that 100,000 pounds of TV advertising, and, again, that was a pitching competition. Think of Dragon's Den, you go in, you pitch and they try to rip you to shreds. Funded trip to Babson Uni. Who saw the thing when I was over in Babson and Boston? So over in America, again, this year. Impressive, yes, but the government funded. Or, I say the government, you guys funded it.
My tax payer. My tax money funded it for me to go over there. We got onto a scheme and they gave us, the government in Scotland gave us 25,000 pounds just to help your business. We got sent to London to learn how to do various things as well for three days, just by asking. Team training, I wanted to improve my team. Could I get a grant for that because that would improve the British economy? They said yes. We got funding for that. Some obscure thing on the local authority website where you can get a grant. It took 18 months to get that because the local authority wanted to be seen as good guys but you couldn't actually get these grants because of all the criteria. And nobody had ever gotten it. But 18 months later, I just kept persevering, and we got 6200 for the website. More team training. I put proposals to the Scottish Government, again, saying if I can do leadership coaching for my team they would become better leaders. It'll bring it in 10 fold to the Scottish economy. They agreed. More leadership training in February. I said oh I can't afford a person, could you 50% fund a graduate, which they're going to do for us. Free recruitment. More team stuff. They've just agreed, we're going back to the university over in Boston, again, in October. So the Scottish Government have a target to be the most entrepreneurial country in the world by 2025. So to be the most entrepreneurial country in the world, what do they need. Entrepreneurs. So they need business owners. So knowing that that was their target I was like I want to be an entrepreneur, I want to be Mr. Favourite entrepreneur. So I went to the government things, I applied for absolutely everything. And I was like listen, I will help you. If you can help me with my business I will help you achieve the goal of being the world's most entrepreneurial country. So if you know Boston, they've got lots of universities, 30 odd, but everybody knows Harvard, which is academic. M.I.T. And they also have Babson which has been voted the most entrepreneurial, the best entrepreneur university for the last 22 years in the world. So the government's thinking if they fund me to go, if they fund the flights, that investment will come back to the British economy a hundred fold, in what I would learn out there. And a nice 18 month leadership training program where we go away and somebody pays for us to go to nice places and learn from some of the best leaders in the U.K. And they said do you want some media training, so I'm rubbish, I'm quite shy. So they're giving me £2500 to do some media training. So, these things have all been happening, but not one of them came to me. I had to fight hard for them and get them and that's just this year. I ran out of space, just for brevity. There are loads of other things happening throughout the year. So, I want to wrap up quickly with just a few principles. I'm going to wrap through these, there's just eight, and I want to just encapsulate the make it happen with these things. Number one, you need to believe in yourself. Nobody gives you these things to start off.
Until you get to the tipping point, you need to believe. If you think of people that don't believe in you, there's only one person that can really control you and that's yourself. There's only one person that can help you achieve everything. Doesn't matter. Everything else in that list, there's a team that supports me but it's my belief in myself that got me to do it. Number two. I meant to change that for this audience to ignore the critics, but the word fuck is meant to be like that. It's to say ignore them because your critics will be your friends and family. It should be the people that should be there closest to you. Who, you don't need to answer, but who in this room has said I'm going to go and pay thousands of pounds for a course or I'm going to spend the weekend at a Six Figure Summit and they're like what you doing that for. Why are you wasting that money? Probably everybody, in some form or another. They don't want you to succeed because you're going to do better than them. So you need to ignore those people and you need to do what you think, your gut tells you is right. Only take advice from people more successful than you. I always say if Paul Smith gives you a bit of advice you better take it. If I'm giving you SA advice it's probably wise you take it. If I give you family advice, it's probably wise to ignore it because my family advice was sell your children on the internet, get the money for their organs and then get SA units and you'll make money. Whereas a child costs you money, so don't keep it. So only take advice from people more successful than you in that field, and don't believe that because somebody is a millionaire or a billionaire, they know about your specific industry or problem. Number four, commit to taking the sacrifices. When I said I perfected that three minute pitch, that's three minutes, people just thought, oh it took him three minutes to win that. But it took weeks and weeks and dozens and dozens of hours. It takes time to write applications for grants. If anybody's had a business where you're doing local tenders for the local government, the local authorities, they take a lot of time, so you need to sacrifice something, whether it's drinking. Mike and I wanted to be good mentors last night.
So make the sacrifices. Number five, you need to keep asking for things. It's the same, we were talking, you could walk into a hundred estate agents and they'll probably all say no, we don't want to be involved with SA. You need to keep asking for what you want. You need to get to the tipping point, whatever it is. You might not care about coaching or public speaking. Might be one specific thing you guys want to do. Get to that tipping point where people come to you with deals and it's not the hard slog.
Number seven, get a mentor. One of the first slides, my first 10 years, was not taking help from anyone. I just thought I'm going to go it alone, I'm a martyr, I'm an entrepreneur. I don't need anybody's help cause there's nobody that would ever help me. Whether you mentor other people within this room that are at your tables, whether they're online, whether it's someone else in the industry. How many people are from Scotland here? So there's an amazing thing called the GlobalScot Network, and when I went to Boston I just asked who's a Global Scot, and this person was, and he, Mark, sold his business for $10 billion. Big pharmaceutical biotech business. $10 billion. And he says "You coming to Boston, fine, come. "Meet my son." He threw a dinner, he took us to his work. "What do you need to launch your business, I'll help you." So there's a GlobalScot Network. There'll probably be something similar, there are people willing to help you. So the GlobalScot Network is people that have done well, went overseas, and their thing is I will give back. I've made my money. I am going to give back to as many people as possible. And mentors that have done well in life will be happy to help you. And, again, number five, keep asking. You need to take 100% responsibility for these things happening. Don't expect people to just say oh they're a good guy and refer you on. When things go right you take the responsibility. When things go wrong, you need to take responsibility. So that's eight key things, I can put them on the Facebook group if you want.