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Getting to know… Penny Haslam

Penny Haslam

At Ambition 2017, Penny Haslam will be talking about how you can raise your bottom line by making yourself a little bit famous. After nearly 20 years interviewing top business people for the BBC, she has learned the benefits of getting your business noticed by getting yourself noticed. In the keynote speech at Ambition 2017, she’ll be sharing her insights.

We decided to find out a bit more about her business experience and about her as a person before we introduce her on 15 November.

How did you start in business?

Clumsily! It was 14 years ago, and I had nothing more than the ambition to earn more per hour and decrease the number of hours I worked. I’m pleased to say I’ve fulfilled my first ever business objective!

What’s been your proudest business moment so far?

After trying so many different titles, finally finding a fun talk title that makes almost everyone smile: “Make Yourself A Little Bit Famous”.

What was the best business advice ever given to you?

Be consistent and persistent and it will pay off. That’s tough to follow when you’re new to business, but when you see the fruits of your labour, you get it and it propels you further.

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

An audience member told me I was ‘a female Michael McIntyre, who speaks to business’. I was chuffed to bits with that, because when I speak to big audiences and I’m in the zone of being myself, I can be quite funny.

If there’s only one learning point you’d like people to leave with, what would that be?

Getting exposure for who you are and what you do (i.e. raising the profile of your business), is where the effort and work is. Otherwise you are a best kept secret aren’t you?

Focusing on inspirational business people

Who do you think is the World’s #1 Entrepreneur?

For me it’s the woman who disrupted the sight test market in 1984 with SpecSavers. Mary Perkins set up the first branch on Guernsey, and by the end of 2007 the group had over 1,390 stores with 26,000 employees. The high street was never the same – what a testament of success.

Who do you find inspirational in terms of business and why?

When you work full time as a speaker, you see lots of business speakers in action. I’m inspired by those who are honest about their journey to success and who are happy to talk about their highs and lows along the way, because you can learn so much from them, and realise we are all in the same boat’.

Who do you turn to for business advice?

I belong to the Professional Speaking Association; since I joined three years ago my business has developed far more than I could have imagined. Having a few close ‘on the same page’ people around you, who you can turn to ask that ‘silly question’, or to air a challenging scenario, is crucial for business support and advice – and I’ve found those people simply by being involved with the Association.

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

I was the keynote speaker at a business conference – and the organiser wouldn’t tell me who the MC was going to be. It turned out the big surprise was that the conference host was a pantomime dame! She even changed costume between each speaker and was hilarious, but quite incongruous with the business theme and a tough act to follow… “Oh no it wasn’t!” etc etc.

Do you have a personal mantra and if so, what is it?

Yes I have a few, but the one that is baseline important to me is: “I know exactly what I’m doing”. Try it out, use it for a day – see just how much taller it makes you!

What makes you laugh?

So many things, and I laugh nearly every hour that I’m awake, of every day. Most recently at the vet’s when my overly-dignified, slightly pompous cat had to have one of those cone-funnel things round his neck to stop him licking a wound. The vet was horrified that I wasn’t more supportive in my cat’s hour of need.

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