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Getting to know… Andy Lopata

andy lopata

Still only in its third year, the Ambition conference has already become a firm favourite amongst SMEs in Hertfordshire because of the quality of the speakers, the great networking opportunities and the fact that it is exceptional value for money.

The conference was the brainchild of Andy Lopata who has been dubbed “one of Europe’s leading business networking strategists” by the Financial Times. Also a professional speaker, he has travelled the world to help companies large and small to make the most of their networking opportunities.

We thought it would be nice to get to know Andy better and discover a bit more about the ideas behind the Ambition conferences.

This is the third year of the Ambition Conferences – what inspired you to come up with the idea in the first place?

I had given some talks for Isabel Hospice’s local networking groups and a member of their volunteer team suggested that we could do something bigger. Over lunch with Sarah Smits of Ashbourne Insurance and Mary Sykes of Herts Chamber, I raised the idea and our discussion led us to what then became Ambition 2015.

What advice would you give to business owners considering attending a networking event for the first time?

Go to develop relationships, not to sell. Be yourself, show a genuine interest in others, and find people with whom you have a rapport. Then follow up with them.

Why is East Herts such a great place to do business?

I think it has improved substantially over the last few years. When I first moved into the area 15 years ago, I struggled to find a local business community or networks – everything seemed to be in West Herts. That’s changed and there is a great community vibe in the area.

Before ambition became a conference…

How did you start in business?

My father co-founded a business network in 1998. Six months later I quit my job to become a freelance writer to specialise in writing about football and travel. Dad invited me to come and help develop the new business while I found my feet – I may have written a lot since, but none of it as a freelance!

What was the best business advice ever given to you?

Probably the single most influential piece of advice was to ditch a failing business because my heart simple wasn’t in it. I was told that, as the front man, if I didn’t believe in the business, nobody else would.

Who do you turn to for business advice?

I’m a Fellow of the Professional Speaking Association and it’s probably the single most important investment I’ve ever made in the business as I’ve found a network of peers who are driven by collaboration rather than competition and learn, share, support and refer each other.

What’s the best bit of feedback a client has ever given you?

I had an email this morning from a client from nine years ago telling me that he’s still using my advice and has just landed a £25 million client as a result. That’s not bad!

Lopata Ltd

What’s been your proudest business moment so far?

The publication of my third book by Financial Times Prentice Hall and seeing it at Number One in WH Smith Business Charts a week later.

Having written three successful business books including ‘Recommended: How to Sell Through Networking’ and ‘…and death came third’, what tips would you give to aspiring authors?

My number one tip would be to only write a book if you have a good reason to do so! The prevailing wisdom at the moment is that ‘everyone needs to have a book’. No they don’t! There are far too many mediocre books rushed out just to try and give the author credibility.

When you’re writing your book, always remember your focus should be on your reader and not on you. That will really help to focus your mind.

…and death came third!‘ is an unusual name for a business book, what’s the story behind it?

It comes from a New York Times survey on social anxiety where people were asked what they were most frightened of. Death came third. The top two fears were walking into a room full of strangers, and speaking in public, hence the topic of the book.

Tell us about your online learning courses and who would benefit most from them…

We have two online courses, ‘An Introduction to Networking’ and ‘An Introduction to An Effective Referrals Strategy’. They do what they say on the cover – provide the basic elements that help business and sales people apply a strategic approach to their networking and referrals generation rather than treat them as an afterthought.

Personally speaking…

What’s the weirdest job you’ve ever done?

I was a runner on film sets in South Africa which involved such glamorous jobs as eating my lunch on airport runways and in the middle of one of the busiest intersections in Cape Town while guarding equipment, looking after a coach full of models, and clearing animal ‘deposits’ from the set on a farm (somewhat cramping my style with the models…)

If you had a dinner party and could invite anyone at all (living or dead), who would be on your table?

  • Nelson Mandela
  • John Stewart (US political comedian)
  • Ella Fitzgerald
  • George Orwell
  • Billy Connolly
  • Amanda Palmer (American rock star, author and speaker).

What would be your top Desert Island Disc?

It’s a tie between ‘Comfortably Numb’ by Pink Floyd and ‘Summertime’ by Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald.

What makes you laugh?

Political satire, good stand up comedy, good improvisation, and simply great company.

Also my own jokes – which is lucky because nobody else laughs at them!

What is your favourite food?

I love cooking and cook a huge range of cuisines, so that’s a tough question. When I grew up it was my Mum’s meatballs and rice. Now I’m spoiled for choice.

As a Broxbourne local, where is your favourite place to chill out and relax?

I love walking along the River Lea footpath, the woods along the Lea Valley, and in the woods off White Stubbs Lane.

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