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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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?
It’s a tie between ‘Comfortably Numb’ by Pink Floyd and ‘Summertime’ by Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald.
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!
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.
I love walking along the River Lea footpath, the woods along the Lea Valley, and in the woods off White Stubbs Lane.