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Theo Paphitis: ‘It feels like retail is now closer to the precipice’

Theo Paphitis: ‘It feels like retail is now closer to the precipice’

Like any other disgruntled constituent, Theo Paphitis often takes his problems to his local MP. It just so happens that the Member for Runnymede and Weybridge who listens while the former Dragons’ Den star gets something off his chest is Philip Hammond, the Chancellor.

Handy when you consider the entrepreneur’s biggest beef is the unfairness of business rates which pour close to £30bn a year into Treasury coffers but are routinely blamed for squeezing the life out of Britain’s high streets.

“We’ve had words in the past but we are still talking which is important,” says Paphitis, whose empire stretches across the Ryman stationery chain, homewares retailer Robert Dyas and Boux Avenue, a lingerie seller.

After last week’s Budget, the words may be choicer next time. Although Paphitis says Hammond is an “incredibly sensible guy”, he is angry that he did not go further while stood at the Dispatch Box.

“Anyone that knows anything about retail would tell him that this minor relief to our industry will make no difference to the continued demise of the once great British high street,” Paphitis says, lambasting plans for temporary rates relief for small retailers and restaurateurs plus a £675m “special projects” fund. “The Chancellor was quick to tell us retailers that times are changing and we should adapt accordingly. I, and no doubt many others, found that particularly insulting.”

The tycoon is even less charitable when it comes to Sajid Javid, the Home Secretary, who as local government secretary reviewed the business rates system but kicked any changes into the long grass.

“What a halfwit,” Paphitis labels the man some regard as the next prime minister. “Why would you go into politics if you don’t want to make a difference? It is not just him, there are lots of them guilty of it. No one is doing anything about it (business rates) because it would involve putting their bum in the bacon slicer.”

Such blunt language is not uncommon from the self-made businessman who left school at 16 and whose fortune is now estimated at £300m. In last year’s annual trading statement for the privately held group, Paphitis warned that “it really does feel like retail as we know it is creeping closer and closer towards the precipice”.

Toys R Us, Maplin, Homebase, New Look: the numerous failures and store closures this year offer plenty of evidence of the tough times that shopkeepers are enduring.

There are higher costs of course, including the minimum wage and rents. The consumer is also feeling the pinch after a World Cup-inspired spending spree petered out in September. But Paphitis, tanned and wearing a bright checked shirt, is laser-focused on business rates.

The tax on the physical stock of property, regardless of how efficiently it is used or how much revenue it generates, tips the balance heavily in favour of internet retailers that trade from giant warehouses instead of those that choose to maintain a high street presence.

So what about the digital services tax on revenues from search engines, social media platforms and online marketplaces that the Chancellor also unveiled and is forecast to bring in £400m by 2022? Paphitis dismisses that haul as “likely less than the digital big boys spend on their staff’s skinny chai lattes”.

He favours a transaction tax for both physical and online retailers. What he proposed six years ago would have raised 14pc more than the amount business rates was bringing in, he calculates. “The fact is when you have a cake that is shrinking your take shrinks,” he says. “But on the other side there is another cake that is growing vastly.”

Never mind the northern town centres struggling along with 30pc vacant retail sites. Paphitis says he can see the impact of the Government’s failure to act on his drive to work every morning from leafy Weybridge in Surrey to his Wimbledon base in south-west London.

“A lot of properties are boarded up and sheltered housing is being built. Is that what we are really going to do, make every high street into a retirement village?” Paphitis employs 170 people at his headquarters and more than 4,000 staff overall. Some lunchtimes he exercises Gladys, his cocker spaniel, on the common.

Born in Cyprus, the entrepreneur arrived in the UK with his family aged six. School was a struggle. His dyslexia was detected late and only a job in the tuck shop provided a bright spot. “It allowed me to shine and allowed people to see that I wasn’t stupid – there was something worth salvaging here”.

That love for retail was revived a few years later when he became a sales assistant for Watches of Switzerland in London’s Bond Street. “I remember going home and saying to (his wife) Mrs P it was fantastic and I couldn’t wait to go back the following day.”

He made some money in commercial property that enabled him to return to the industry by a circuitous route. Ryman had fallen into administration in 1995 and Paphitis, after working on some earlier turnarounds, seized his chance to acquire it.

Because the paperless office revolution was meant to be just around the corner, sceptics said the business was doomed. Paphitis thought otherwise. “In those days we sold typewriter ribbons and things like fax rolls. We had to move with the times so we replaced ribbons with ink jet cartridges at 10 times the price.” Last year the chain made an underlying profit of £10m.

Ryman provided a template as Paphitis developed a reputation for buying businesses out of administration. One of the first times I encountered him was in 2005 when he acquired, along with fellow Dragon Peter Jones, Red Letter Days, the gift experience company he discovered was in financial trouble after reading my coverage.

That takeover was particular piquant because the venture had been owned by a third Dragon, Rachel Elnaugh. Having become profitable, it was sold on last year.

“If you buy an asset for the wrong price in the wrong way you are going to struggle to turn it around,” he says, sipping a glass of red wine. More importantly, don’t buy an asset with a view to selling it on, he advises.

“You have got to buy it and assume you are going to have it forever. Treat it like that from the very first day. Don’t buy it private equity style, bump up the profits and cut the costs to zero. If you treat people like rubbish, guess what happens? Rubbish.”

Boux Avenue was different. The lingerie chain was the product of a team drinking session in 2009, three years after he had exited La Senza and Contessa.

“We were complaining about La Senza and Marks & Spencer and started sketching out the perfect lingerie store. Apparently I agreed to fund it, or so they told me the following morning.”

Boux Avenue launched two years later in the teeth of the recession, which meant Paphitis could pick up some cheap sites. Today, it has 30 stores and turns over £50m.

What is consistent throughout his story is how he makes sure his people feel part of an enlarged family. Recently, 500 staff convened in Birmingham for the group’s annual conference where Paphitis, 59, dressed as the ringmaster from The Greatest Showman movie.

Dragons’ Den – where budding entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to five veterans in the hope of winning financial backing – made him more famous than his retail brands, something that hasn’t done business any harm in the long term even though he left the BBC Two show six years ago.

“If it’s on it’s on, but I don’t make a point of sitting and watching it,” he says. “The fact is it simplifies what business is all about. It is so much common sense.”

If only ministers could have a dose of something similar the next time they consider how best to help out the UK’s retail scene.

Dragons’ Den star says he owes his success to dyslexia

Businessman and former Dragons’ Den star Theo Paphitis has credited dyslexia for his success.

Mr Paphitis told BBC 5 live’s Wake Up to Money that the disorder, which affects reading, writing and spelling, had forced him to find solutions.

That had given him the confidence to tackle any business problems.

His experience tallies with a study by the Made by Dyslexia charity which says people with dyslexia have a “unique set of skills”.

These include reasoning, communicating and visualising – all identified as key attributes for a modern workforce by the World Economic Forum.

‘Lessons of life’

It is thought about 10% of the UK population have some form of dyslexia, but a recent YouGov study found that only 3% see it as a positive attribute. That’s despite major figures such as Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Steve Jobs and Henry Ford all experiencing the condition.

“For me dyslexia was an advantage, as painful as it was,” Mr Paphitis said. “If I hadn’t had dyslexia I’m pretty certain I wouldn’t be here today because I wouldn’t have gone down the path I went down.

“Even as an 11-year-old I remember quite clearly learning to get round the things I had to do and finding another solution. Whatever it was I had to find another solution.

“It really gave me that confidence to be able to tackle anything in business, but not from an arrogant point of view or a false confidence, but how hard can it be? To look at the problem, break it down find a solution.”

He added: “I think the early years of dyslexia, where you learn to deal with those issues, are the best lessons of life you’re ever going to have.”

Problem solving

Mr Paphitis owns High Street stores such as Robert Dyas and Ryman Stationery, but started working life as a filing clerk at an insurance firm in the City. “I could make the tea but no one could find any of the files,” he joked.

He said he discovered that he had a passion for retail after applying for a job as a sales assistant at a watch company in London.

“I went there on a Saturday, had my interview, got the job and started on the Monday. I was so nervous… working in retail had everything that fitted with my make-up, my abilities and I didn’t have to use a pen once.”

Lots of entrepreneurs are dyslexic, he says. “There is a very good reason for that – one, they are good at problem solving, but secondly no one else would give them a job.”

Kate Griggs, who founded Made by Dyslexia, said: “People with Dyslexia see the world in a different way and are not tied to conventional thinking – as technology advances these skills will become increasing valuable to industry.”

She added: “Managers should be trained to understand dyslexic traits and the implications and impacts on ways of working.”

Click here to watch the video 

Autumn Fair announce #SBS competition winners

Autumn Fair announce #SBS competition winners

Autumn Fair, the season’s number one marketplace for the retail industry, has announced the winners of a competition giving away 12 free exhibitor spaces at its #SBS Pavilion.

The Pavilion showcase, hosted by entrepreneur and small business champion Theo Paphitis, is to be dedicated to highlighting new and unique products from ambitious start-ups and small businesses.

The winning businesses have been carefully chosen from a shortlist of 36 by a panel of Autumn and Spring F

air experts from event organisers, ITE Group. Entrants were selected based on their uniqueness, relevance to Autumn Fair’s retail visitors and how valued their products would be by the end consumer.

The winners will be taking centre stage at the Fair, which runs September 2-5 at Birmingham NEC, and will gain access to thousands of visitors and buyers ready to order products ahead of the busiest retail period of the year – the Golden Quarter.

#SBS began in 2010 and each week hundreds of small businesses tweet Theo to secure his endorsement. Every Monday,

Theo Paphitis, founder of #SBS, said: “These twelve winners are fantastic representatives of the #SBS community. With their free space at Autumn Fair, they’ll get stand-out access to the greatest gathering of retail buyers in the UK, and have a chance to champion their products face-to-face. It’s an unrivalled level of exposure for these companies, and could be the catalyst to significant growth for their business.”six of these businesses are then invited to become part of the now 2,300 strong #SBS community, benefiting from boosted publicity and attendance at a yearly conference with access to motivational speakers and workshops.

Louise Young, managing director of Spring & Autumn Fair, said: “Deciding the winners has been no easy task, with every entrant making a sound case for being here at Autumn Fair. We are, however, more than confident that the twelve small businesses that we’ll be welcoming in the #SBS Pavilion come September 2 were the most innovative and unique of the 36 shortlisted.

“We thank Theo for helping to organise the competition and look forward to welcoming him and his winners to the show. Autumn Fair will be the perfect platform for these fledgling small businesses to reach out to new clients and forge strong partnerships ahead of what could be a transformative golden quarter for them.”

As the gateway to the Golden Quarter, Autumn Fair enables visitors to buy products ‘here and now’ for this key selling period, as well as helping them get ahead of the competition by seeing the biggest range of 2019 product launches in the UK. Retailers are encouraged to register to attend the show now to avoid missing out on the next best sellers.

For the full list of winners, please see below:

  • Cally King: Perfume gift boxes for those new to the world of fragrance
  • Letterbox Lab: A kids’ science kit designed specifically to be more colourful, more convenient and more educational.
  • The Edible Museum: Novelty intricate chocolate sculptured to look like museum pieces.
  • Butterfly and Toadstool: Handmade, naturally inspired jewellery
  • MK Kids Interiors: Personalised interior design company that caters exclusively to kids
  • Bad Dog Designs: Unique and individual clocks created from original vintage Nixie tubes
  • Z-O-E: Design studio crafting beautifully patterned muslin babywear
  • Border in a Box: Garden design templates to help anyone easily create a pretty garden
  • Dimpled Heart: Eclectic range of handcrafted homewares inspired by Scotland
  • The Room Alive: Intricately designed soft furnishings, prints, stationary and toy storage solutions with an emphasis on materials from sustainable sources.
  • Perch Upholstery: The only furniture upholsterer working with felted wool in the UK
  • Cuddlebed Company: Handmade soft-furnishings for people of all ages, with an emphasis on adults and children with special needs

Top support from dragon for Havant business fund

Top support from dragon for Havant business fund

Alan Mak MP with Theo Paphitis

TV DRAGON and entrepreneur Theo Paphitis has shown his support for a fund that supports businesses in Havant.  The £100,000 Havant Business Support Fund was started last year by Havant MP Alan Mak with backing from the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership and funding from central government.

It was designed to support budding entrepreneurs looking to start a business, but also supports existing business owners from across Havant, looking to grow by developing new products or services.

Mr Paphitis visited Langstone Hotel on Hayling Island to meet business owners and Mr Mak last week to show his support.

He said: ‘I know from personal experience on Dragons’ Den how valuable funding is when starting or growing a business. Alan and the Solent LEP are working together to provide vital investment into the local area and I encourage anyone interested to apply.’

One of the businesses to benefit from last year’s fund was manufacturer Straightpoint, in New Lane. It used the money to expand and buy machinery. The firm has grown 20 per cent in a year and has taken on three new employees and an apprentice.  Mr Mak said: ‘I want more residents to apply so we can turn great ideas into reality.’

Businesses can apply for between £10,000 and £75,000. For more go to

Theo Paphitis to become Chancellor for Solent

Theo Paphitis to become Chancellor for Solent

Solent University has announced that its new Chancellor will be Dragons’ Den star and business entrepreneur Theo Paphitis

Theo has supported the University for a number of years. In 2010 he was awarded Honorary Doctor of Business and went on to support our students with entrepreneurial advice through his regular visits to the University. His twin daughters also graduated from Solent, and in 2017 he opened the Spark – our state-of-the-art teaching and learning building.

Cypriot-born Theo Paphitis has a business empire that spans retail, property and finance.  He has bought and revived the fortunes of Ryman, Robert Dyas and many others.

Theo also launched global lingerie brand Boux Avenue in 2011 and in 2016 added The London Graphic Centre to his portfolio.

Theo is also known for his eight years as Millwall Chairman and for his many TV appearances, including most notably nine series on the BBC’s Dragons’ Den.  

He is also patron to several charities and his businesses have raised over £4m for Comic Relief and Sport Relief. There has never been a more interesting or challenging time to be part of the university sector and I am relishing the opportunity to help place Solent firmly on the mapAs Chancellor, Theo will be the ceremonial head of the University and one of its most important ambassadors. He will preside over and confer degrees at award ceremonies, as well as acting as a figurehead for the University.

Theo will also work closely with the Vice-Chancellor and the Chair of the Board of Governors.   

Theo will succeed Admiral The Right Honourable Lord West of Spithead as Solent’s second Chancellor in August. Lord West will preside over his last graduation ceremonies as Chancellor on 9-12 July.

“I was delighted to be asked to be Chancellor of Solent University, as the area is very close to my heart for many reasons,” he said.“There has never been a more interesting or challenging time to be part of the university sector and I am relishing the opportunity to help place Solent firmly on the map.”

Vice-Chancellor, Professor Graham Baldwin, added: “Theo is a long-time supporter of the University and is highly regarded for his significant achievements in business.“He will be an inspiration to our students and has expertise and interests that go across all our Schools and curriculum areas.”


‘I Wouldn’t Be Where I Am Today If I Wasn’t Dyslexic’


Theo Paphitis is one of the UK’s most recognisable serial entrepreneurs offering huge amounts of investment to help small businesses realise their potential. For seven years he appeared on the BBC business programme Dragons’ Den.

Making the majority of his fortune in the retail sector, Paphitis is the owner of stationery chain Ryman, the homewares specialist Robert Dyas and lingerie retailer Boux Avenue.

BLM spoke with Paphitis as he offered advice to budding entrepreneurs, explained the importance of PR and marketing for businesses and his thoughts on what it takes to be a success.

What inspired you to go into business in the first place?

It’s fair to say that I wasn’t a model pupil at school, and the teachers weren’t interested as they thought I was thick. I wasn’t. I was actually dyslexic and although it made school harder, it also gave me the tools to create alternative solutions. However, I did always have my eye on making money and working in business, particularly as I came from a background where we had very little.

Mum worked, and my brother and I were latchkey kids in the late 60s, early 70s. There was no extra money so I was always looking for the next opportunity. I have always been good with numbers and launching a school tuck shop when I was around 14, gave me a fantastic insight into supply and demand and the doors that earning your own money could open for you.

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When I was 16 I started a job at Lloyds of London Brokerage, as a filing clerk. But as a dyslexic filer, my future clearly wasn’t paved in gold there, so I applied for a job at Watches of Switzerland, thanks to my girlfriend, the future Mrs P, who spotted the advert in the local paper. I realised very early on that there was something very special about retail.

I made the most of every opportunity. The thrill of business is in my bones and my inspiration at that point was to make money, have fun….but most importantly, to make money. Nowadays work doesn’t feel like work, as I live and breathe my businesses. Over the years the inspiration changes but my love of business, and retail, has remained a constant.

How important is the role marketing and PR plays to your business success over the years?

PR and marketing are important to any business success, because you want consumers to know about you and love what you’re doing. As the business landscape adapts, you use these tools to show how you’re adapting too, and the rise of digital technology has been a fantastic marketing tool for all my businesses. It is much easier for entrepreneurs to launch new ventures today than when I started out, as the likes of social media give you immediate routes to customers and markets. For example, we didn’t use a formal press release when we launched my lingerie business Boux Avenue, I used my twitter following to shout it from the rooftops.

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What does it take to be a success?

I don’t say the harder I work, the luckier I get for no reason. Success doesn’t just appear you have to earn it and many entrepreneurs I know live and breathe their businesses, so it doesn’t really feel like work, it’s just what you do. The two pillars I can hand on heart say have  been a constant in my career have been, passion for what I do, and common sense!

What has been behind the success of you in business?

There have been many factors, but I suspect I wouldn’t be where I was today without being dyslexic. When people ask whether I wish I didn’t have dyslexia, I think…I haven’t done that badly with it! Dyslexia has made me create a whole new world for myself in finding alternative solutions from the norm for processing and analysing information, particularly in business. I know I’m not alone here. Buckets full of hard work, passion and a competitive nature have all certainly helped too.

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Any advice to entrepreneurs?

Yes, most importantly use your common sense. Too many entrepreneurs get ahead of themselves, and forget the basics of keeping it simple. Being entrepreneurial is about taking calculated risks, not stupid ones, and those that think before they leap are already in a better place than those that are kamikaze in their approach.

Theo Paphitis owns retailers Boux Avenue, Robert Dyas, Ryman and the London Graphic Centre.  Follow him @theopaphitis on twitter.

The King of Retail

Theo Paphitis – The King of Retail

Making Money Magazine, May 2018

From tea boy to selling stationery, multi-millionaire retail magnate and former Dragons’ Den investor, Theo Paphitis, talks to Angela Sara West about his success secrets, his business tips and how YOU too can make your business dream come true.

Having left school at 16 without qualifications, Theo Paphitis has always had an entrepreneurial spirit. “Being dyslexic, I constantly found different ways to create solutions and that has stood me in good stead ever since,” he tells me. “I always worked hard and had an eye for opportunity, such as running a school tuck shop when I was 14 years-old.”

As one of the country’s most successful entrepreneurs, his defining work moment was moving from his job as an office boy for a Lloyds of London broker to work for Watches of Switzerland on Bond Street, where he discovered his passion for retail. “I realised the power of a good salesperson and, crucially, what a rewarding and passionate sector retail is. I’ve never looked back!”

At 23, the natural salesman started his own business in commercial finance and went on to revive the fortunes of notable high street names. In his former role as Chairman of Millwall FC, he took the club out of administration into the FA Cup Final and Europe.

In 2015, the self-confessed “shopkeeper” launched the Theo Paphitis Retail Group, comprising Ryman Stationery, ironmongers Robert Dyas and multi-award-winning global lingerie brand, Boux Avenue. He recently sold Red Letter Days, which he co-owned with fellow ‘Dragon’, Peter Jones, while his latest acquisition is the London Graphic Centre.

A simple kiss…

The Cypriot-born businessman’s phenomenally-successful business ventures are all privately owned and “entrepreneurial in spirit” and, owning multiple businesses around the globe, Theo’s constantly on the road. “But I have a driver, so I can work on-the-go! I use my car as a second office.”

His success is built on keeping it simple and working hard. “I truly believe in the saying ‘the harder you work, the luckier you get.’ I’ve always done my homework, worked on knowing more than my competitors and used my common sense. The answer is in a KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid)!”

His worst career gaffe? “Buying a T-shirt design company called Splash early on in my career. After I had acquired it by raising £5m via a rights issue, the share price collapsed and I couldn’t raise any cash to pay back debts due to Black Monday. After struggling to save the company, it didn’t work and I was booted out. I took six months off to rethink what I was doing, but it made me realise that often your first mistake is your best one, because you can only learn from it.”

What’s at the heart of the retail king’s businesses? “Customer service, customer service, customer service… and passion.” He says his companies thrive because they understand their customers. “Most importantly, if you look after your colleagues then they, in turn, will make sure your customers are looked after, so everyone is happy.” Robert Dyas and Ryman both have a fantastic heritage story and a strong history of looking after our customers. I launched Boux Avenue from scratch, in-store and online, and it now has nearly 30 stores in the UK and more internationally.”

Going back to Ryman’s roots… The importance of incentives

Theo continues Ryman’s historic ethos of staff welfare schemes. A highlight is the annual incentive holiday he provides for his store managers across his four brands. “If they hit target, they get to come away for five nights on a five-star trip to fantastic destinations such as Barbados, Croatia, Greece, Spain and Malta. It gives me a chance to spend time with our hard-working colleagues and it’s a time for them to be rewarded, let their hair down and have some fun!”

Exit the Dragon…

As a straight-talking stalwart on BBC’s Dragons’ Den, Theo invested in numerous small businesses in a wide variety of industries. He says of his time on the show “as soon as I realised that a good person with an average idea is a better bet than an average person with a great idea, I didn’t look back. Alarm bells ring when I see and hear a lack of detail in a pitch. If you haven’t prepared properly for a meeting that could make or break your business… you don’t deserve to be there.”

He says the decision to leave the show in 2012, to focus on his expanding retail empire was not an easy one, but the time was right to surrender his seat.

Brexit – the “perfect storm”

Does he think businesses need more support? “There is a huge amount of opportunity for businesses out there from many sources, but people can always do more. The government needs to support bricks-and-mortar businesses, as well as digital-only operations, to level the playing field for the likes of business rates and give them a fighting chance. It’s tough out there at the moment, as retail faces a perfect storm, but retailers will move forward through adapting to, and being part of, the change. Do not be surprised to see many names disappearing from our landscape, as well as new names coming through.”

#SBS Theo-logy!

As an admirer of people who have passion and energy, the small business champion has been running the weekly ‘Small Business Sunday’ Twitter competition, known as #SBS, since 2010.

Each week, hundreds of business pitch their ideas to Theo and on a Monday evening, he picks six to retweet to his half a million followers. The #SBS community now has over 2300 businesses who all support and network with each other. The highlight of the year is the free event where hundreds of them get together for a day of advice, networking and a picture with Theo!

Theo stresses the importance of being social media savvy. “In this day and age it’s essential, as one wrong tweet can be a gamechanger now for careers and businesses, so you have to be clear what you are saying, to whom and, most importantly, why!”

As a public figure, does he worry about criticism that comes his way and how it can affect his businesses? “I’m quite thick skinned and, as I often say it as I see it, there will inevitably be those who oppose my views, as well as those who agree with them. That’s the beauty of freedom of speech and the importance of having a debate to get to the bottom of issues. I will always respect the views of others, but equally ask for my views to be respected accordingly.”

Inspiration, inspiration, inspiration

What drives this unstoppable businessman? “Inspiration and motivation isn’t so much from the people I’ve met, it’s more how they show their passion for what they’re doing and how they get off their bums to do it! If people care and are working hard, it makes me sit up and take notice and I find that quality very inspiring in people.”

Where else does he head for inspiration? “Usually the shower… it’s good thinking time! Failing that, I get myself out of the office and into the stores for inspiration. New experiences, at home and abroad, also help.”

Time out…

When it’s time for R&R, this busy shopkeeper finds it difficult to shut up shop. “I’m not very good at relaxing, as I like to keep busy. I find lots of ways to enjoy and challenge myself as switching off doesn’t interest me. I’ve taken up racing cars, which possibly isn’t the most relaxing thing I could do, but I’m a great believer that you should do something scary every day!”

So, how does he like to recharge his batteries? “I head for sunshine and water, where I feel alive. Must be that island upbringing!”

The book on his nightstand right now? “I’ve just finished Fire & Fury by Michael Wolf, about President Trump.”

Pursuing the dream

The tycoon says the best thing about being an entrepreneur is the freedom. “It’s about doing what you love… every day. I love retail and wake up every day with a sense of purpose from working in a vibrant industry with passionate, hard-working people. Life is too short to do something you don’t enjoy. You spend a huge amount of time at work… do what lights that fire in your belly!”

He says without having dreams, you cannot be successful in business, and it’s how you turn those dreams into reality that is key. “Your dream will only work if you live and breathe it and are passionate about it. Making £100m is easy; it’s making your first £1m that is difficult. Most importantly, if you believe in your idea, then don’t let your dream be the one that got away!”

Business tips from a top Dragon

This inspiring businessman offers numerous tips for entrepreneurs:

“Business is no different from a sport or game, in that you need to learn the rules and how to play by them. I believe that business is 90% common sense but often, common sense is not that common!  Embracing change is more important now than ever, what with technology moving the goalposts faster than you can kick a ball at the goal!”

He says it’s crucial to do your homework. “The first thing anyone should do before launching their own business is their research. It’s so important. You wouldn’t sit an exam without revising, so why do that with your own business? It’s knowing more than your competitor that gives you the edge.”

“Before starting out, I wish I’d known how important networking was and how technology would make such huge changes to our lives. AI is already affecting our world and this impact will only get stronger.”

What if your idea has been turned down by the banks? “Question and challenge your idea and make sure you’re being honest with yourself. If all are positive answers, find a different point of finance. If not, move on to the next idea which might be the big one, and the one you could miss trying to make the poor idea work. Crowdfunding is an innovative way of raising finance, but does come with health warnings!”

The three main characteristics of a successful businessperson? “Common sense, passion, and someone who provides solutions, not problems.”

Does an entrepreneur need to be daring to be successful? “There is a difference between being daring and reckless. I take risks, but calculated risks. I never bet the farm. So, daring, yes… but reckless, no.”

He says it’s crucial to be “hands-on” with your business. “For me, the devil is always in the detail, but it needs to be hands-on where it is needed! You employ talented people to manage the day-to-day business and to work with you on the bigger picture.”

The best piece of advice he has been given? “Cash is king!”

Further tips are available at:

Theo Recognised in LinkedIn Top Voices 2017

LinkedIn has over 530 million members across the globe and is increasingly being used as a platform to share expertise, voice opinions and spark conversation. Millions of posts, videos and articles are created and shared on LinkedIn every week. In order to celebrate some of those who are producing really excellent and highly engaging content, we’ve put together our second annual #LinkedinTopVoices list in the UK.

To compile the list, we use a combination of data and editorial signals designed to capture the voices making a mark in the UK. This includes engagement (specifically the likes, comments and shares across each member’s articles, posts and videos); growth of followers tied to publishing activity; and number of times the writer has been featured in editorial channels – a signal of high-quality content. We also emphasise diversity of topics and voices. The list reflects publishing activity over a 12-month period, from November 2016 to November 2017, and as with all LinkedIn Lists, we excluded LinkedIn and Microsoft employees from consideration.

This year, our top voices wrote about everything from business strategy to scary clowns and the UK economy to mental health struggles. So, without further ado…

Here are the top voices in the UK this year (in alphabetical order);


Yuval Atsmon | SVP (Advisory Sectors), Globality

What he talks about: Atsmon shares the wisdom he gained in his 15 years at management consultancy firm McKinsey & Company, mainly writing about business growth and strategy. In his own words, he focuses on “how organisations and individuals can make better decisions”.

Favourite conversation starter: He doesn’t tend to write very personal articles, but this year Atsmon wrote about why he decided to leave his role as a senior partner at McKinsey to join corporate and SME matchmaking startup Globality. “It was important for me to write it in an authentic and honest voice, which forced me to admit my fears. I am proud of that,” he explains.

An interesting fact about Atsmon: When it comes to wine, he really knows his stuff – he worked as a sommelier while studying at university.

See more by Yuval Atsmon.

Steve Blakeman | MD global accounts, OMD

What he talks about: There’s no common theme to the Forbes and Inc. Magazine columnist’s posts – he writes about a mish-mash of topics, from his dog Baxtersanitary towels and scary clowns to rock starsbusiness and noisy eaters.

Favourite conversation starter: While not his most popular in terms of metrics, “How to bounce back from an epic fail” is the article that means the most to Blakeman. “I recounted a personal story which still makes me come out in hives,” he says. “It was cathartic to write about and I think it resonated with plenty of other people who have also messed up (almost) as badly as me and then realise that the old adage is true: what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

An interesting fact about Blakeman: He was once in a rock band. “I thought I was the UK’s answer to Jon Bon Jovi. The only problem was, no one had ever asked the question.”

See more by Steve Blakeman.

Alexandra Galviz | Branding and strategy consultant

What she talks about: Galviz writes very openly and honestly about issues that many are too afraid to speak or write about publicly. Her articles cover the likes of the fear of public speaking and mental health issues, but she also offers more general advice to millennials who are trying to find their way in the modern world of work.

Favourite conversation starters: “They are usually the ones that have taken a huge amount of courage to share and that, at times, I’ve doubted whether it’s the right content to share with a ‘professional’ network,” she says. She’s particularly pleased with how her candid video about her quarter-life crisis was received.

The best book she has read this year: She particularly enjoyed Thrive by Arianna Huffington. “It talks about the definition of success we have as a society (money, power, status) and that without a third metric (wisdom, wellbeing and wonder) we can’t lead a balanced life,” Galviz says.

See more by Alexandra Galviz.

Mark Gregory | Chief economist, UK & Ireland at EY

What he talks about: If it’s economic analysis you’re into, Gregory’s your guy: he digs into the latest datatrends and policies and writes in an accessible way that’s useful and relevant to the business community. “Rebalancing the UK economy geographically, and the economics of football are my two pet subjects,” he says.

Favourite conversation starters: Gregory is particularly pleased with “Forget the robots, look out for the networks”, which identified a new way of looking at technological change and was inspired by his conversations with clients.

The trend he’s watching in 2018: How retail copes with a slowing economy, changing consumers and technological change, which he describes as “a perfect storm”.

See more by Mark Gregory.

David Mattin | Global head of trends and insights at TrendWatching

What he talks about: Mattin is interested in what’s hot right now and what’s around the corner, writing about the intersection of new technologies and cultural or social change. As well as looking at how new trends impact society, he explores what they mean for businesses and brands.

Favourite conversation starter: Mattin’s pleased with his article “In 2017, your internal culture is your brand”, which talks about business now being a glass box. He believes we’re at a real watershed moment for transparency, especially since all of this year’s turbulence at Uber and the ongoing #MeToo movement.

The trend he’s watching in 2018: He’s interested in personalisation and thinks there’ll be “hugely significant and exciting shifts” in this area next year. “New technologies and techniques such as facial recognition and affordable gene sequencing mean that it is becoming possible to access, and personalise around, the consumer’s deepest self,” Mattin says.

See more by David Mattin.

Keith McNulty | Global director, people analytics and measurement at McKinsey & Company

What he talks about: McNulty writes about people and how new technology impacts their lives, work and education. At times he focuses on future societal trends, opportunities and challenges; at others he lets his “inner geek” take over and writes about how data can help us better understand and measure things related to people.

Favourite conversation starter: McNulty said his article “Five reasons why universities will decline as sources of talent” resulted in him getting more involved in the growing debate around education and employment. “I’m really passionate about young talent and how to best prepare and enable them to succeed, and I strongly believe that not everyone needs a degree or diploma to make their mark on the world,” he explains.

An interesting fact about him: It may not be everyone’s instrument of choice, but McNulty studied the recorder at the Royal College of Music.

See more by Keith McNulty.

Danielle Newnham | Founder of the Junto Network

What she talks about: Newnham shares the backstories of inspiring founders and innovators, covering their journeys from childhood and highlighting obstacles they’ve overcome, lessons they’ve learned and advice they have for others.

Favourite conversation starter: Her interview with inspiring female founder Anisah Osman Britton about her mission to empower women by teaching them how to code. “It really resonated with readers on LinkedIn and prompted some very honest conversations about how we tackle diversity in tech, making it a more inclusive industry,” Newnham says.

Where she does her best writing: “In a place of calm and solitude – I require absolute silence, zero distractions and preferably a view of the sea.”

See more by Danielle Newnham.

Theo Paphitis | Serial entrepreneur

What he talks about: The former Dragon’s Den investor said nothing is off limits for him on LinkedIn, as long as it ties into business, success, challenges and careers. Topics he’s covered include his dyslexia, helping young people become work-ready, and how to recognise whether or not your career is the right one for you.

Favourite conversation starter: Paphitis’ article “Those with dyslexia don’t just think outside the box, they build a new one” was a really personal one. “With something as life-defining as dyslexia, it’s so important to view it in the positive, and I had some fantastic messages from people thanking me for the post, and for me that’s what it’s all about,” he says.

Where he does his best writing: Some of the businessman’s best ideas for articles come to him in the shower, describing it as “an incredibly fertile place for creativity”.

See more by Theo Paphitis.

Richard Shotton | Deputy head of evidence at Manning Gottlieb OMD

What he talks about: He writes articles about how findings from social psychology experiments can be applied to advertising. Shotton says social psychology explains why people make the decisions they do: “If you want to influence people, then it’s the best place to start.”

Favourite conversation starter: “Truthiness in marketing: is the evidence behind brand purpose flawed?” Purpose – the idea that brands should have a meaning beyond profit – has taken marketing by storm over the last few years, and Shotton used this article to show that the famous and much-cited evidence supporting the theory is deeply flawed.

What writing on LinkedIn did for him: It brought the opportunity to write a book: The Choice Factory, about social psychology and advertising. “I’m not sure if I would’ve been offered a deal if I couldn’t have shown the publisher the engagement rates that my LinkedIn articles had achieved,” he says.

See more by Richard Shotton.

Carol Stewart | Executive and career business coach at Abounding Solutions

What she talks about: Stewart focuses on the challenges women face in their careers, with a particular emphasis on introverted women, and occasionally those from black and minority ethnic groups.

Favourite conversation starter: Be honest, did you think the woman in the Professor Robert Kelly video was the nanny?” It relates to one of the finest comedy moments of 2017 – the TV interview with Professor Robert Kelly, in which his children unexpectedly burst into the room, followed by his horrified wife. “Some of the media reported that she was the nanny. My article generated a lot of discussions and debate about unconscious bias,” Stewart says. (Kelly’s wife is of East Asian origin.)

The news story she found most interesting in 2017: The ongoing stories related to the #MeToo movement against sexual assault and harassment. “It highlights the power of the collective voice and social media and gave women (and men) the courage to speak out and take action,” she explains.

See more by Carol Stewart.

Cate Trotter | Head of trends at Insider Trends

What she talks about: A professional trend spotter, Trotter writes about what’s hot and what’s not in the retail industry. She explores what’s around the corner and what retailers can do to get ahead of their competitors.

Favourite conversation starter: Top 50 flagship stores in the world.” The article highlights that the flagship store still plays a pivotal role in retail, and that the industry can learn a lot from best practice examples. “It also had fantastic engagement – more than 70,000 people looked at it, 4,000 said they like it and there was lots of interesting discussion in the comments,” Trotter adds.

An interesting fact about Trotter: This year, she’s presented to around 4,500 professionals across 12 countries and three continents. “And Harry Styles once started a conversation with me!”

See more by Cate Trotter.

Prof. Jonathan Wilson | Professor at GSM London

What he talks about: Wilson’s preferred medium is short posts and videos that incite discussion and provoke thought. The university marketing professor and branding consultant focuses on tackling those tricky areas to do with racereligionculture and future trends.

The trends he’s watching in 2018: “Those concerning diversity – whether that’s women in the workplace; new growth sectors like Halal food, fashion, cosmetics, and tourism; or race issues,” he says.

How he comes up with ideas for his articles and posts: It’s all about mixing with interesting people. “I make sure that I hang around with people from diverse backgrounds outside of my field: vloggers, comedians, designers, musicians, scientists, athletes, chefs, religious leaders, psychoanalysts – the more eclectic and random the better,” he says.

See more by Prof. Jonathan Wilson.

DWP rolls out flagship pensions campaign to persuade millions to save for retirement

The Department for Work and Pensions launched a major multi-channel workplace pensions campaign this week to persuade millions more people to save for their retirement through auto-enrolment.

The ‘You work, your pension works’ campaign, by DWP and The Pensions Regulator, aims to maximise participation and compliance in workplace pensions by employees and employers.

The campaign, which will initially run for a seven-week period before returning in 2018, uses the slogan ‘Get to know your pension’.

Gillian Hudson, head of pensions campaigns at DWP, told PRWeek: “The aim of this single call to action is to invite people to explore pension saving through digital services, and to ultimately reposition the pension from something complex and best ignored, to something on your side that you should get to know.”

Key messages and target audience

The campaign, which was devised by M&C Saatchi, will seek to explain to employees who are eligible for workplace pensions that their pensions accrue value as they work and that when they pay, their boss pays too. Meanwhile, employers will be told it is their legal duty to provide a workplace pension, even if they only employ one person, and they will be prompted to get to know their responsibilities via the Pensions Regulator.

Firing on all channels

‘You work, your pension works’ will use a combination of PR and paid channels to propagate the message, with digital, TV, radio, influencers, traditional media and outdoor advertising brought into the mix.

Social channels Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter will be deployed as part of the campaign and employers will be encouraged to take part in the conversation around pensions, using the hashtag #yourpension.

DWP has also released the first of several campaign films across social channels, including YouTube, which shows a chef working in a professional kitchen assisted by her ‘mini-me’.

DWP will also work with trade bodies, bloggers and consumer groups to increase awareness and the reach of the campaign.

Hudson said: “The ‘trusted voice’ third party influencers we’re working with are pivotal in encouraging our audience to engage with the campaign’s key message of ‘get to know your pension’ and our call to action.”

Influencers will be invited to share and distribute campaign content through their own channels, as well as adding their own tips and advice.

DWP hopes to engage traditional media to make the campaign part of a national story around the success of workplace pensions by using its celebrity influencers.

Celebrity influencers

A key strategy for driving earned media coverage and winning public support for workplace pensions will see DWP bring in three celebrity influencers: Dragon’s Den star Theo Paphitis, representing the retail sector; TV builder Tommy Walsh, representing construction and First Dates star Fred Sirieix, representing the hospitality industry.

Hudson said: “Theo launched the first iteration of the workplace pension campaign in 2012, so it’s great to have him back on board five years later, now that 8.7 million people are saving into a workplace pension, and more than 800,000 employers have met their duties.”

The purpose of department’s choice of celebrity influencers, aside from driving earned media coverage, will be to reach the campaign’s target audiences across key employment sectors in order to target groups that the DWP would traditionally find it hard to reach on its own.


In order to gauge the effectiveness of the campaign, DWP will use a variety of measurement techniques, including regular tracking research by Ipsos Mori to understand the public’s attitudes towards workplace pensions and the comms campaign.

It will also derive information from monthly performance dashboards, combined with a “real-time approach to channel management” in order to optimise the campaign, and it will use the department’s operational data to understand opt-out and compliance rates with workplace pensions among employers and employees.