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Read Now: Reject fear of failure and follow your dream to start a business – 101 Latest News



Liz Cottam

#Reject #fear #failure #follow #dream #start #business

Starting a new career is difficult at any point in your life.

But it’s important to remember that it’s never too late to start something new and follow your dreams.

Liz Cottam didn’t discover her passion for cooking until later on in life, which led her to a whirlwind experience on MasterChef.

Despite some mixed feelings after her encounter with the show, she decided to ditch the corporate world and dive head first into the hospitality scene.

It wasn’t a clear path for Liz, as she had to learn how to reject her fears of failure, change her perspectives and raise enough investment for her restaurant, HOME.

Here’s what we cover:

Finding your passion later on in life

Bex Burn-Callander:

Hi Liz. I’m so excited to have you here. How are you doing?

Liz Cottam:

I’m great. It’s lovely to meet you. I’m looking forward to talking with you today.

Bex Burn-Callander:

And your background is so chic. I can see like 50 shades of black. Tell me about where you’re sitting. What’s special about where we’re recording today?

Liz Cottam:

We’re recording from my restaurant, my flagship restaurant, HOME. It’s a theatre for my food.

So, there’s lots and lots of texture. Well, there’s lots of black, but we’re actually in a large round building with floor-to-ceiling windows, so there’s lots of beautiful light.

Yeah, it’s like my studio really, it’s like my creative place.

Bex Burn-Callander:

And I can’t wait to hear how you started building this nascent restaurant empire. But I wanted to find out first, how long have you had a passion for cooking?

Is it something that came to you later in life or have you always been nuts about food?

Liz Cottam:

It definitely came later in life.

I just ate to live until I was about 20-21, and then I fell in love with cooking as a way of entertaining and socialising.

I really loved the creativity and what it looked like and right down to the plate that it was on and the environment I was creating, I was always obsessed with the details.

Yeah, I think I fell in love with it late, but the writing was on the wall that this was probably, well, a path for me that I was probably suited to.

Creating a sustainable workforce

Bex Burn-Callander:

And talk to me about the team, because anyone who’s worked in restaurants, hospitality knows there’s a high turnover of staff, usually.

It can be really tricky to hang on to good people.

So, how have you managed to find such great people, such team players and keep them in the business?

Liz Cottam:

Yeah, I mean, I’ve got a really solid, stable team right now, but it wasn’t like that in the beginning.

So, in the beginning, the team had a small group of people who painted the walls with me, and they were fantastic and really focused. They weren’t the most experienced because they were all working in Michelin star restaurants, and then we had this additional team around us.

I just wanted everything to be perfect, which is crazy, but it’s what a lot of chefs try to achieve. And I think that’s why there’s so many crazy, drug-abusing chefs out there, because you’re chasing an impossible dream.

And crazily, what we were putting out there was 90% brilliant and there was this 10% that wasn’t right.

I just made the mistake where I lived my entire life fearful that the 10% was going to be the thing that put us out of business, the thing that destroyed my dream.

So, I spent all the time telling everybody what was wrong.

But you take a step back, and you realise actually, 90% good is a massive success, but I just spent the whole time telling the team how bad we were.

I was saying things like, “This bit’s wrong. This needs to be better. Why did this happen?”

Rather than, “Wow, look at what we’ve achieved and how do we make this better?”

It’s that flip and that negative mindset was making everybody leave, because where’s the joy in that?

And about eight months in, I’ve had a bit of word with myself, and I was like, “This is not sustainable.” I needed some help.

And I realised that people were leaving me, and I realised that life coaching and business coaching, if it was the right style, could be the thing that I needed.

And then, I discovered this wonderful life coaching resource that has completely transformed not just my business career, but my personal life as well.

Your culture is what you tolerate

Bex Burn-Callander:

Can you just give me one example of a piece of advice or a really smart way of looking at things that you talked through with your life coach, that changed your leadership style?

Is there one thing that stands out where you were like, bing, bing, bing, light dawns, everything is different now?

Liz Cottam:

After the first couple, I was like, “I’m not sure this is for me. I’m really, really not sure.” And then on the third session, all of a sudden something clicked, and I think it was when she started talking to me about living in fear.

So, for the first two or three sessions, I didn’t really understand the topic of the conversation, but then it kind of made sense by the third.

So, this living in the 10% rather than the 90% was because that’s where the problem was that fear of failure and that fear of the business disappearing, that meant that I was living in fear.

I was constantly concentrating on all the things that could go wrong rather than concentrating on the things that actually prevented the bad things from happening, which was all the good stuff over here.

Because lots of things were happening with the staff, because we had this high turnover of staff, and she was teaching me about culture and how important the culture was.

I was saying to her that my culture was all about nurturing belief and creativity, but what I was delivering was something very, very, very different to that.

And also what I was tolerating was other people in the business that weren’t subscribing to that. One of the things she said was that, “Your culture is what you tolerate.”

I was fearful of losing a pair of hands and holding on to people that were at odds with what I was trying to create.

I had to be brave, and I had to protect what was important, and that was the culture.

And also, I had to start really walking the walk and being brave enough to jump out of the fear, which was the shouting and the demanding and drawing everyone’s attention to what was wrong, and I had to believe in the good stuff and believe in people.

Bex Burn-Callander:

I love that perspective where culture is not like a poster on the wall saying, “Believe blah, blah, blah.”

It’s actually, culture is what you tolerate. It’s almost like what you allow to fester or foster in your business. That must have been tough, but wow, what a result and what vindication for that strategy.

Out of the corporate world and into the frying pan

Bex Burn-Callander:

But food was not your profession till, I mean, relatively recently.

Can you tell me what you were doing as your career previously? What path did you go down?

Liz Cottam:

So, my career started right at the beginning of the internet, and we didn’t have email addresses back then, nobody knew what websites were, and we were selling websites to the likes of Coopers & Lybrand before it turned into PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ferrari, and Slush Puppy.

We were getting conversations with all of these people because there wasn’t anyone else asking to sit down with them and talk to them about this wonderful new media.

At the end of my career, 21-22 years later, I was working with a lot of financial institutions, banks, public sector organisations, the MOJ [Ministry of Justice], the MoD [Ministry of Defence], and with the BBC as well.

I was in charge of digital transformation projects of multi-million-pound amounts.

So yeah, it was very corporate, but I really felt like I needed more creativity in my life, and I wasn’t getting that from the corporate world.

Bex Burn-Callander:

So, is that what led you to apply to go on MasterChef?

You thought, “This’ll be a great creative outlet. I’ll get to indulge my passion, which is food.”

What made you fill out that application and take a punt on that show?

Liz Cottam:

It’s a bit of a long story, the whole path to MasterChef.

I was cooking for friends at weekends and doing my own version of mini tasting menus for 10 to 12 of my favourite friends almost every week. My husband was like, “This is a very expensive hobby, entertaining all of our friends.”

I was also really lucky because I had a good expense account.

So, midweek, I was going out to one, two, and three-star Michelin restaurants and getting really inspired for things that I wanted to try and attempt to recreate at home.

I got to a stage in my life where I was relatively, well, very successful, I suppose. You don’t like saying that about yourself, but I think I was, and I just wasn’t feeling fulfilled, so I decided that I needed to do something different.

I was pushing 40, and I just wanted the second part of my life to feed me in a different way to the first part. I also knew that if I did it half-heartedly, I probably wasn’t going to get anywhere fast.

So, I decided I was going to resign from my job and throw myself into the future and that’s exactly what I did.

At that time, I was going back to my creative route. So, when I left school, I went to art school and I loved painting and charcoal drawings, and I also loved photography.

So, I picked up my camera, and I was just going out, shooting things that I loved and going on a few photography workshops with street photographers across the globe.

And at the same time, some friends persuaded me over a few bottles of Chardonnay, to put an application in to MasterChef. I was cooking for them midweek, and they were like, “You should do this.”

So, I did.

And it was very, very close to the end of their application process, but I’ve got a phone call from them and yeah, the rest, well, it’s not history because we’re talking about it, but yeah, on the back of that, I ended up auditioning and getting on the show.

Bex Burn-Callander:

I am so bowled over by the fact that you quit your job, you went two feet in. You weren’t just like, “Oh, I’ll just do a side hustle or something.”

You were like, “No, I’ve got to draw a line under everything that’s gone before and start again.”

That’s amazing. That takes courage. But I suppose looking back, was it madness?

Liz Cottam:

Do you know what? It’s really strange because it didn’t feel like I had a choice.

I came to this realisation that life is short and obviously at 40 I knew I wasn’t getting any younger and I just had this internal, I suppose, pressure to do something that I loved.

I suppose as well, I did have the cushion of a husband who had a great job, and I had the cushion of having a good career.

So, financially, there was a little bit of a comfort blanket there. There was a safety net.

I budgeted a time period for myself to be able to go and explore, what next? I don’t think I could have done it if I hadn’t been relatively financially secure.

How a MasterChef experience turned into an unlikely business venture

Bex Burn-Callander:

No, that makes sense.

And then, tell me about the MasterChef experience.

Liz Cottam:

Yeah, it’s so much more intense than what you expect, and I think it does a good job of showing you how stressful it is in terms of the edit when you watch it, but personally, for me, it was about a million times worse than anything that I expected.

It was just, I think I put a lot of pressure on myself as well. I think the mindset that I was in back then was, if you’re going to do anything, you have to win.

It ended up spanning probably about eight or nine weeks.

It was really, really hard. And then you’ve also got some normal life going on in the background as well that you’re trying to keep on top of, and a lot of people had full-time jobs, which they were very, very worried about leaving for so long.

I think my mindset where the only option was to win just created this additional layer of pressure that wasn’t particularly enjoyable to play out really.

Bex Burn-Callander:

Was there a part of your brain that was like, “Oh, this could be a great platform if I do want to go and open a restaurant or become a food entrepreneur afterwards.”?

Or was that like, it didn’t even occur to you?

Liz Cottam:

Well, so they ask you repeatedly all the time about what you’re going to do with your MasterChef experience, and they do ask if you want to go into cooking as a profession.

And I was like, “Hell no.”

Bex Burn-Callander:

But that’s it, you’ve got to tell me, how did you go from, “I wouldn’t be seen dead starting a restaurant,” to, “Hey, I’m going to open three.”?

Liz Cottam:

Well, I hated the studio. I couldn’t stand the studio.

I was really wanting to cook food that I really loved and that I was inspired by, which ordinarily took me three or four days of different preparations for different elements.

So, instead of putting a different recipe together for TV, I just was like, “No, I’ve got to be authentic to myself and cook the type of food that I’m really proud of.”

But that was obviously another factor why there was so much pressure because I was trying to do so much. So, I really didn’t enjoy the studio experience whatsoever.

Then, they put me into a professional kitchen, and I think this is the point where everyone really (beep) their pants. And I went into this situation, met all the chefs and something just clicked.

It was really strange, because I’d had so much anxiety and I just felt so like a fish out of water in the studio, and then suddenly I just felt like I belonged there.

I remember Greg coming over to me and saying, “This is strange, this is where we see people lose it and freak out.” And he said, “This is the calmest that I’ve seen you in the last few weeks.”

And I was like, “Yeah, no, I’m really looking forward to this.” And yeah, I did.

I loved the preparation, we spent all day actually preparing all the food. I know on television you think that it’s all made for you or made easy, it’s just not, it’s not like that at all.

So, we were in there at 6.30 with the full team at the restaurant that I went to, and we prepped everything together, and I got to know the team, and then we were planning service, and it just felt really, really, really good.

I think I just loved being part of the pack and I think I am a natural pack animal, and there was just something about that running with wolves environment, the preparation for it and then the actual service, that it was just a really, really wonderful experience.

And yeah, obviously won that. I became really addicted to from the minute I experienced it.

Bex Burn-Callander:

Those pop-ups that you did initially, did you just go to these restaurants, speak to the chef, and say, “Can I do a takeover for a weekend?”? How did you manage to have those little test beds?

What were those conversations and how did those pop-ups look?

Liz Cottam:

I literally just reached out on Twitter to local restaurants, and it was the owners rather than the chefs actually, and just said, “I’d love to come to your restaurant,” and like you say, “do a takeover.”

I did a Friday and a Saturday night at the first one and then a Saturday night at the second one.

And yeah, they were really receptive. I think, MasterChef does not create opportunities, but what it does allow you to do is to knock on a door and get answered.

So, I think, with the brand of MasterChef behind me, when I approached these local restaurants, they were really up for a bit of PR and doing something different.

I think regardless of the level of restaurant, there’s still a need to be creative and I think collaborations are really exciting ways to do something different, and I think they recognise that.

Ask for help and ask questions, it could be life changing—and save you money

Bex Burn-Callander:

And then when you moved on to the residencies, that was when presumably you had a team around you, and everything clicked.

So, you weren’t on your own trying to do everything yourself, which was lonely and high pressure, but you had the buzz of the team, you had the buzz of actually creating, as you say, you’re a pack animal, creating that team.

So, from those residencies, were you like, “Right, I’m ready. I am going to take the plunge and do the most high-risk startup imaginable and open a restaurant.”?

Liz Cottam:

I mean, so the residency lasted four months. I think because of my corporate background.

I got in touch with a billion-pound company and spoke to the senior team on the corporate commercial side of the business and just said, “Right, I’m looking for a disused restaurant, and I’m going to bring you some PR, and I’ll give you a percentage of the turnover.”

So, we found such a thing, which was an unusual thing to have kicking around in a portfolio of businesses, but they did have one in a hotel.

I created a brand, I created my menus. I went out there and begged, borrowed, and stole staff, because it wasn’t running in a full-time capacity, we were open Friday, Saturday, Sunday.

So, I hustled, and I went to a number of different restaurants in the city that I was usually and ordinarily a guest of and spoke to the chef and the front of house people and said, “Look, is there any way you can help me?”

And do you know what? It was absolutely amazing, because what they did was lend me glassware, cutlery, staff. I mean, you name it. These people were just so supportive.

It’s interesting that idea that, you don’t know until you ask, right? But we very Britishly, very rarely put ourselves in a position where we could ask too much.

I think this is a really important lesson that I’ve learned, is that you might ask 20 questions and the 21st one is a yes, and it can be a life changing yes.

And that stuck with me all the way through the last five years. That 21st question has been such an important thing to get, to give me that extra impetus to move forward.

You can call it luck, but you have to be brave enough to ask, and you have to be compelling enough with what you’re asking as well.

Bex Burn-Callander:

And I have to say, Liz, oh my goodness, what a great strategy to go, rather than trying to find a restaurant, and you’re competing with other brands, and you’re trying to find footfall, and you’re going through all that palaver to go to a massive company and say, “Which assets are you under-utilising? What properties have you got that you’d like to make a bit of money on?”

That is so smart, because then you’re not competing with anyone, the pressure is off, because they’re already making zilch from that property and don’t know what to do with it. That’s really smart.

Liz Cottam:

Thank you. Yeah, I mean, for me, it was all about minimising my exposure to long-term costs.

So, to go into a restaurant in Leeds, you’re looking at a minimum of a 10-year lease or a 15-year lease with five-year breaks and things like that.

But the idea behind the residency was that I needed to see whether or I could do it. I needed to see whether or not the market enjoyed what I was doing on a larger scale to the pop-ups.

I had to learn about the business and see whether or not I was really cut out to take the plunge to do something long-term. And boy, did I test my resolve of whether or not this was something I wanted to do, because everything and anything went wrong.

I mean this disused restaurant, it was specified by Albert Roux, so it had the most amazing equipment, but it hadn’t been used for a really long time and grease traps exploded mid-service. I didn’t even know what a grease trap was.

So, it was gruelling. It was like 12 to 14-hour days for the majority of the week and even longer on the Friday and Saturdays.

But somehow, I still wanted to do it at the end of this residency. I was like, “I’m really, really, really not enjoying just how hard this is, but I don’t want to give up. This is definitely the profession for me.”

Feedback and funding

Bex Burn-Callander:

And so, you came out of this residency, you got this amazing experience, which really showed you the authentic side of being a restaurateur and yet you still wanted to go ahead.

So, then what was your next move?

Liz Cottam:

I had fantastic feedback from day one from everybody, and it was always fully booked. So, that was great.

I knew that I wasn’t enjoying how hard things were, but when you break it down, running a residency with a skeleton staff, where you’re shouldering most of the work yourself, I knew that I could control that.

And if I got a good team around me and was in a more permanent environment where I could offer people full-time jobs, I knew that I could take that down a few notches. So, that told me that, if I’m still enjoying this like this, I can make it better for myself. This is the right path to be on.

The customers were telling me how much they loved everything that I was doing. So, market tests for four months, that’s a big tick. Everyone was enjoying what I was putting down. They were picking it up and going, “Yes, we want more of this.”

And because we were fully booked, the marketing engine, although it was very small and from a small dataset, it was growing and people were coming back, but then we were selling out every weekend, and we had some wait lists and things like that going on as well.

So yeah, so I knew the product was good.

I knew that I wanted to do it no matter how hard it was, I was still wanting to do that, so I was convinced of that. So, my next step really was to think about what this next thing was going to be.

I had formed a really good friendship with the head chef at The Box Tree, and he was looking for something else at exactly the time that I came to the end of the residency.

And he’d actually helped me out a little bit on his day off, coming and giving me a push with preparation and sharing some recipes with me, showing me how to sort out the grease trap, things like that.

We both enjoyed the same style of food, we both had the same work ethic. I was writing a business plan, and I was looking at what I needed in terms of skill set, and I was looking at where I wanted to go in terms of the positioning of the business.

Although I was very happy with what I’d been putting out, I wanted to do much higher end food and I wanted the experience to be the next level up from where I was. So, I knew that I needed some experienced people on board to help me do that.

So, I started to speak to Mark about him coming on board and also from his little black book, he had people that he’d worked with. So, what came with someone like that was a network that I currently didn’t have, coming from a different industry.

I put together a business plan and as I was putting that together, because the purpose was to go and speak to some high network individuals and see if they wanted to invest, but my absolute, real top priority was trying to get this funded independently.

So, I put together a good business plan.

I secured Mark to come, not just as an employee, but as part of the business so that he had an investment in helping me make this happen.

It wasn’t a salary thing where he could hand his notice in and disappear overnight, he was going to be locked into the business with shares. I decided that was the right way to go.

With that then went to the bank and asked them for the money to start the restaurant up.

Bex Burn-Callander:

So, what happened, did you manage to raise finance from private investors, or did you go with the debt option, or did you end up putting all your savings in?

What route came good in the end?

Liz Cottam:

I basically went to the bank and told them how much money I wanted from them, and they told me how much stake I needed to raise.

At that point, I coppered up and had a look at how much money I could raise and yes, it was enough. It was enough to secure the investment from the bank.

There were three or four private individuals lined up. I had plan A, which was the bank and I had B, C, D and E.

If you take investment from an institution other than a bank or an individual, then the interest rate’s going to be higher as well.

So yes, I wanted control, but it also made good financial sense to get the cheapest money possible, and that was definitely from the bank.

One derelict building, two months and £310,000 later…

Bex Burn-Callander:

And can you tell me, how much does it cost to open a fine dining restaurant? Can you give us a number?

Liz Cottam:

Ooh, well, I mean, what it’s cost me to open the second incarnation of HOME is a hell of a lot more than what I managed to do it the first time around.

The first time, we took over an almost derelict building, so there were no electricity boards in there, the wiring needed completely redoing, there were crumbling walls. I mean, it was a bit of a project to say the least, but the rent was really good.

So, £250,000 was the amount that I raised to open the first version of HOME and then the second one is three times that.

I think at the end of the day for me, I did a lot of the project management on the build for the new restaurant because I could, and that was a lot of cash that we were saving.

I also did this thing where I went around trying to find free money.

So, doing deals with suppliers and allowing them to give me cash upfront. So, in addition to the £250,000, I raised £30,000 worth of supplier contributions.

I also did a deal with the landlord.

So, I took on this derelict building that was sat there for seven or eight years without a tenant. I told him what I was going to do in terms of improving the building and I got him to throw £30,000 into the pot as well.

Bex Burn-Callander:

Oh, wow.

That’s really clever, just all the ways that you could claw back budget just by finding partnerships and by making one of those win-win deals where someone can’t say no.

I knew about the partnerships, because I saw on your Instagram that you had takeovers and I think there was a beer brand, and you were posing, and I was like, “That’s smart, because that must be sponsorship money that’s coming in, and it’s a cool brand and why not?”

Liz Cottam:

Yeah, you can become more selective once you’ve got a brand, you’ve got more leverage.

But back in the day it was just a case of pretty much any supplier that was going to give me some money, I would consider taking it and stocking their products.

And do you know what? I mean, I’d do the same thing again. It was really useful.

They definitely got something out of it, like you say, it was definitely a win-win situation, and I didn’t have an interest rate to pay it back.

Nothing is ever for free. Obviously, they’d factored in that cash upfront into the prices we were paying and what have you, but it just was a very, very strategically important thing that we did to stockpile cash in that way.

Bex Burn-Callander:

And how patient did you have to be? How long is the process?

So, you found this derelict building, but how many months was it before you were open, and you were making money?

Liz Cottam:

Well, you’re going to think this is absolutely crazy, but we got the keys on 8 June, and I opened the restaurant on 18 August.

Bex Burn-Callander:


Liz Cottam:

Yeah, I know. I know.

Bex Burn-Callander:

Did you sleep at all during that time?

Liz Cottam:

No. And yes, did I tile. I did indeed. Well, I mean we painted.

I mean, honestly, it was just full on and the team that I pulled together for opening that restaurant, I was selling this dream of creating a wonderful environment for people to work in and doing something important on the Leeds food scene, hopefully on the UK scene, and then beyond.

I don’t know whether I’m a fantastic salesperson or whether I was really lucky with the people that I met or a bit of both, but these people really, really, really got excited by what I was trying to do.

When I say I was painting, and I was tiling, alongside me was this fantastic team of people who, literally three o’clock in the morning, we were all, for weeks, not just the one night before we opened, for weeks on end, they were slogging their guts out for my dream, which was so humbling.

It was amazing.

Finding a career that feeds your soul

Bex Burn-Callander:

And Liz, just one final question.

You said that after your 20-year career in digital, you reached your limit, and you just wanted to do something in your forties that fed your soul and fed your passion.

Do you feel like you have achieved that as an entrepreneur and a serial restaurateur, are you there, are you feeding your soul?

Liz Cottam:

Yeah, I’m definitely feeding my soul.

I have this thing that I say, especially to the people who came to my original pop-ups, who come to the restaurant now, and I say, “I’m the poorest, the tiredest, and the happiest I’ve ever been.”

It really, really, truly is about, if you love what you do, you never do a day’s work in your life.

And I love what I do. I’ve got a fantastic team around me, and we do things with passion and love, and my environment now is one of nurturing.

We haven’t lost anybody in three and a half years. We’ve got a solid team here at HOME, and I’m just loving what I do and who I do it with. What more can you want?

Bex Burn-Callander:

Oh yeah. What beautiful message and what a great place to end the podcast.

Liz Cottam:

No, thank you. It’s lovely to speak to you.

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Want to know more about HOME and Liz Cottam?

You can check out HOME on their website or Instagram.

You can also find Liz on her Instagram.


Read Now: Is a biometric time clock right for your small business? – 101 Latest News



Is a biometric time clock right for your small business?

#biometric #time #clock #small #business

Managing your team’s working hours can often feel like a demanding task that requires constant attention. If you’re seeking a more effective way to track employee hours and reduce unnecessary labor expenses, a biometric time clock could be the solution you’ve been seeking.

 As with any important business decision, you’ve got to do your research. This is particularly true for biometric time clocks. Biometric time clocks aren’t for everyone—they’re bit controversial and even illegal in some states. So, let’s do a deep dive into the pros, cons, and legal considerations to determine whether this innovative approach is right for your business.

 Don’t worry: if you live in a state that has banned biometric time clocks, we’ll also introduce alternative options that offer similar benefits without compromising privacy. Let’s get to it!

What is a biometric time clock?

A biometric time clock is a small business time clock solution that utilizes unique body measurements to identify employees as they clock in and out.

These types of biometric time clock systems typically use fingerprints, hand geometry, facial recognition, or iris scans to identify individual employees.

Biometric time clocks are more than just fingerprint time clocks

Although biometric time clocks may seem like a futuristic way to clock in and out for a shift, businesses used this technology as early as the 90s. In the 40 years since then, biometric time clock technology has expanded to include different biometric identifiers. Today, businesses can choose to use their employees’ unique fingerprints, palms, facial features, or irises for accurate time clock identification.

1. Biometric fingerprint time clocks

As the name suggests, biometric fingerprint time clocks use fingerprints to ensure the correct employees are clocking in for their shifts. To clock in, employees simply place their index finger or thumb on a fingerprint reader. Then, the biometric system identifies the employee by matching the scanned fingerprint to its database of stored images.  

Although fingerprint time clocks are relatively straightforward to use, they aren’t exactly foolproof. In fact, a recent study found that the scanners sometimes produced false matches when employees had wet or dirty fingers. Even hand lotions and sanitizers were found to degrade fingerprint quality, leading to identification errors and complicating the clock in process—the opposite of what you’re looking for.

2. Biometric palm time clocks

Much like fingerprint time clocks, palm time clocks use a biometric scanner to identify the unique patterns and geometry of each employee’s palm. To ensure proper placement, most systems have a template indicating where your employees should place their hands.

Once scanned, the system compares the unique palm pattern to its database of employee biometrics. Barring any errors, it’s then able to identify the individual employee and check them in for their shift.

3. Biometric facial recognition time clocks

Unlike fingerprint time clocks, facial recognition is touchless. This made the technology an increasingly popular option during the pandemic. To clock in, an employee simply stands in front of the clock while it scans their face. The facial recognition software then analyzes the unique features of each employee’s face, such as the distance between their eyes or the length of their forehead.

From there, the system scans its database to identify the employee and allows them to clock in for their shift. Some of these systems are able to work using just parts of the face—ideal if your team wears masks, like in the healthcare or veterinary industry. However, some of these systems do require the full face. Make sure you know what your needs would be when looking into this option.

4. Biometric iris time clocks 

Iris time clocks operate much like biometric facial recognition systems. To clock in, employees’ eyes are scanned using infrared technology. This illuminates the eye and identifies unique patterns on the iris.  

To get an accurate reading, employees need to stand relatively close to the scanner and remove their glasses to avoid reflections. It’s also worth noting that long eyelashes, contact lenses, and even unusual eye colors can prevent these machines from working properly.

Are biometric time clocks legal?

The short answer is, it depends. While employers have always required personal information, such as social security numbers to pay their employees, biometric data is a bit more controversial. As a result, many states are passing laws to restrict the use of biometric time clocks and protect employee privacy.

According to the Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA), New York has already banned employers from requiring fingerprint scans. And Oregon has banned facial recognition scans entirely.

Since these laws vary from state to state, you’ll need to check your state and local labor laws to determine the legalities of biometric time clocks in your area. Even if your state doesn’t currently have biometric-specific laws in place, they might in the future. You can check pending laws via the BIPA tracker to ensure your plans to implement biometric time clocks won’t be affected in the future.

Complying with legal requirements

Once you’ve established whether you can legally use a biometric time clock, you’ll need to establish a comprehensive compliance policy. This should include details such as:

  • The type of biometric data you’ll be collecting from your employees
  • How you plan to collect the data
  • How long you’ll store the data
  • The reason for collecting the data
  • How you plan to keep the data you collect secure

To safeguard your business from potential fines and lawsuits, you’ll need to provide the details of this compliance policy to your staff and get everyone’s written consent. Once your paperwork is in place, you can legally implement a biometric time clock system. But you’ll need to continually protect and monitor your employees’ biometric data to stay compliant with biometric workplace laws. This includes encrypting and restricting access to your server and destroying data as employees resign.

It’s also important to stay up to date with federal and state laws, as recent lawsuits against companies like Pret a Manger and Walmart are prompting many states to alter their legislation.

The bottom line? Do your research before moving forward with a biometric time clock. If you’re worried about breaking any rules, consider opting for a cloud-based time clock like Homebase instead.

Note: This isn’t legal advice. If you plan to implement a biometric time clock, consult a lawyer.

Is a biometric time clock right for my small business?

Assuming your state allows it, deciding whether a biometric time clock is a personal decision that warrants careful consideration. So, let’s dive into the pros and cons to help you determine whether it’s the right choice for your employees and business.

1. Pro: Eliminate buddy punching

Buddy punching is without a doubt one of the biggest reasons small businesses implement biometric time clocks. For those who haven’t heard the term before, buddy punching is when one team member clocks in for another before they’ve actually arrived for their shift. This is particularly easy to do using traditional time punch cards, physical key cards, or even personal codes. It’s a form of time theft that can easily cost your business money. Since biometric time clocks use data that’s unique to each employee, they need to physically be there to check in, which eliminates the possibility of buddy punching.

While this practice may seem relatively harmless, buddy punching for a single employee that’s consistently late can wind up costing you over a thousand dollars a year. And that’s just for one employee. If your team has a habit of buddy punching it can cost you much more. Biometric time clocks prevent this from happening, meaning you’re not paying for labor that wasn’t performed.

Now, if biometric time clocks are prohibited in your area, you can still avoid buddy punching with the right software. With Homebase’s time clock app, your employees check in with the app, which uses geo-fencing to confirm their location. The app also prevents early clock-ins, tracks breaks, and automatically alerts you to late arrivals to reduce labor leakage.  

2. Pro: Streamline clocking in and out

With biometric time clocks, your employees don’t need to remember a key card or fob to clock in for their shift. Since their biometric data is part of their physical bodies, they always have the information needed to clock in. This eliminates those frantic pre-shift searches for missing employee cards and allows managers to focus on tasks beyond assisting their team with clocking in and out, or reissuing punch cards.

However, since the modern employee is rarely without their mobile phone, cloud-based time clocks are an equally viable option. Homebase’s time clock app allows your team to clock in directly in the app, eliminating the need for timecards, fingerprints, or any additional training.

3. Pro: Improve security

​​When biometric time clocks are used to control access to your business, they can also improve security. Unlike key cards or fobs, biometric metrics can’t be stolen or lost. This eliminates the risk of someone using a lost or stolen key card to access, damage, or even rob your business.

However, it’s important to note that not all biometric time clocks provide this feature. Even those that do can’t protect your business from human errors like leaving doors unlocked. So, whether you utilize a biometric time clock or not, you should always have additional security measures in place to safeguard against human error.

4. Con: Privacy and legality concerns

​​Understandably, privacy concerns are the biggest drawback of using biometric clocks. Whether you’re using fingerprints, palms, faces, or irises to identify your employees, you’re storing extremely personal information. Unlike passwords that can be changed, this kind of data can’t be altered. So, if this information is leaked or stolen, the damage is permanent and can’t be undone.

The controversy surrounding biometric data collection has intensified, as identity thieves and hackers increasingly seek out this type of information to gain access to sensitive information. As a result, states like New York, Oregon, Illinois, and Washington have already established laws restricting or banning biometric time clocks. In these states, employers can face fines of up to $5,000 per employee for deliberately violating these laws.

Currently, White Castle is in a massive lawsuit for allegedly scanning the fingerprints of nearly 10,000 employees without their consent. If the fast-food chain is found guilty of intentionally collecting this information without consent, it could face billions of dollars in fines.

Although biometric data can save you thousands in lost wages, violating these laws (whether intentionally or not) can cost you much more. So, be sure to seek legal guidance and take the necessary steps to protect your employees’ personal data.

5. Con: False matches

Although biometric time clocks are meant to make clocking in and out simpler and more secure, the technology isn’t foolproof. Recent studies have found that fingerprint scanners can produce false matches if an employee’s hands are cold, damp, hot, or dirty. Hand sanitizer can also impede results, which can present issues for restaurant and hospital staff that must maintain high standards of hygiene throughout their shifts.

 Facial and iris biometric scanners can also fail to accurately identify employees with long eyelashes, contact lenses, and unusual eye colors. Reflections and poor lighting can aggravate these issues and lead to inaccurate results.

6. Con: ​​Accessibility challenges

​​As we just mentioned, clocking in with a biometric time clock isn’t always as straightforward as it may seem. Unfortunately, those with disabilities may find it even harder to adopt these technologies as they’re not entirely inclusive. For example, most facial recognition and iris scanners are installed too high for wheelchair users to access. 

It can also be difficult for individuals with visual impairments to see where to place their hands or stand for an accurate scan. Implementing new systems without accessibility in mind can affect the perceived inclusivity of your business and cause undue stress for those who struggle to use it.

 It’s also worth noting that businesses in the United States are required by law to provide an accessible alternative for employees with disabilities. So, not only does this require an additional investment in a secondary time clock, but you’ll also have the added task of integrating it with your payroll system.

Are there viable alternatives to biometric time clocks?

If you’re intrigued by the benefits of biometric time clocks but find the potential legal implications concerning, an online time clock app might be better suited for your business. These innovative apps offer all the features of biometric time clocks and more, without the need to navigate complex data privacy regulations.

 So, what exactly is an online time clock app? An online time clock app is a digital tool that allows employees to easily clock in and out of their shifts from their personal devices.

Using Homebase for time tracking

 With the Homebase app, employees can clock in using their smartphones once they arrive at work. The app uses geo-fencing technology to confirm their location, prevent early clock-ins, and ensure accurate time tracking. It also tracks breaks and even sends alerts about late arrivals, helping you minimize labor leakage and stay on top of attendance.

 Since your employees use their own devices to clock in, online time clock apps eliminate buddy punching much like biometric time clocks do. However, unlike biometric scanners that are subject to location-dependent privacy laws, Homebase complies with existing (and pending) legislation nationwide. This ensures your business won’t be on the hook for a second system should biometric data collection laws change in your area.

 What’s more, the app is free for unlimited employees, saving you the expenses associated with traditional biometric solutions, which can cost up to $500.  And because Homebase is app-based, any repairs or maintenance are automatically included in routine updates.

 While selecting the right time clock solution for your business will ultimately depend on your unique circumstances, an online time clock app like Homebase provides all the benefits of biometric time clocks without the added complexities of ongoing legality concerns.

Get a free time clock that frees up your time. Track hours. Prep for payroll. Control labor costs. All with our free time clock. Try Homebase time clock

Biometric time clock FAQs 

What are biometric time clocks?

A biometric time clock is a small business time clock solution that utilizes unique body measurements to identify employees as they clock in and out.

Also known as hand scanner time clocks, fingerprint time clocks, hand-punch time clocks, or biometric hand-punch devices, these types of systems most often use fingerprints or hand geometry to recognize each employee and track and manage their time.

What are the 4 types of biometric time clocks?

The four types of biometric time clocks are fingerprint time clocks, palm time clocks, facial recognition time clocks, and iris time clocks. Fingerprint and palm time clocks scan the fingerprints and palms of your employees to accurately identify and clock them in for each shift. Facial and iris time clocks work in a similar fashion. Using touchless infrared technology, these time clocks identify (and clock in) employees based on their unique facial and iris measurements.  

Are biometric time clocks legal in America?

Biometric time clocks are legal in some parts of the United States. Since laws vary by state, you’ll need to check your state and local labor laws to determine the legalities of biometric time clocks in your area. 

What are alternatives to biometric time clocks?

There are several alternatives to biometric time clocks, like traditional time punch cards and physical key cards. However, cloud-based time clock apps are the most comparable alternative. Similar to biometric time clocks, Homebase’s time clock app accurately and securely tracks your team’s hours. Unlike biometric clocks, Homebase eliminates the need to keep up with evolving compliance and privacy laws. It’s a cost-effective, reliable long-term option.

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Read Now: All the Nvidia news announced by Jensen Huang at Computex – 101 Latest News



All the Nvidia news announced by Jensen Huang at Computex

#Nvidia #news #announced #Jensen #Huang #Computex

Jensen Huang wants to bring generative AI to every data center, the Nvidia co-founder and CEO said during Computex in Taipei today. During the speech, Huang’s first public speech in almost four years he said, he made a slew of announcements, including chip release dates, its DGX GH200 super computer  and partnerships with major companies. Here’s all the news from the two-hour-long keynote.

  1. Nvidia’s GForce RTX 4080 Ti GPU for gamers is now in full production and being produced in “large quantities” with partners in Taiwan.

2. Huang announced the Nvidia Avatar Cloud Engine (ACE) for Games, an customizable AI model foundry service with pre-trained models for game developers. It will give NPCs more character through AI-powered language interactions.

3. Nvidia Cuda computing model now serves four million developers and more than 3,000 applications. Cuda seen 40 million downloads, including 25 million just last year alone.

4. Full volume production of GPU server HGX H100 has begun and is being manufactured by “companies all over Taiwan,” Huang said. He added it is the world’s first computer that has a transformer engine in it.

5. Huang referred to Nvidia’s 2019 acquisition of supercomputer chipmaker Mellanox for $6.9 billion as “one of the greatest strategic decisions” it has ever made.

6. Production of the next generation of Hopper GPUs will start in August 2024, exactly two years after the first generation started manufacture.

7. Nvidia’s GH200 Grace Hopper is now in full production. The superchip boosts 4 PetaFIOPS TE, 72 Arm CPUs connected by chip-to-chip link, 96GB HBM3 and 576 GPU memory. Huang described as the world’s first accelerated computing processor that also has a giant memory: “this is a computer, not a chip.” It is designed for high-resilience data center applications.

8. If the Grace Hopper’s memory is not enough, Nvidia has the solution—the DGX GH200. It’s made by first connecting eight Grace Hoppers togethers with three NVLINK Switches, then connecting the pods together at 900GB together. Then finally, 32 are joined together, with another layer of switches, to connect a total of 256 Grace Hopper chips. The resulting ExaFLOPS Transformer Engine has 144 TB GPU memory and functions as a giant GPU. Huang said the Grace Hopper is so fast it can run the 5G stack in software. Google Cloud, Meta and Microsoft will be the first companies to have access to the DGX GH200 and will perform research into its capabilities.

9. Nvidia and SoftBank have entered into a partnership to introduce the Grace Hopper superchip into SoftBank’s new distributed data centers in Japan. They will be able to host generative AI and wireless applications in a multi-tenant common server platform, reducing costs and energy.

10. The SoftBank-Nvidia partnership will be based on Nvidia MGX reference architecture, which is currently being used in partnership with companies in Taiwan. It gives system manufacturers a modular reference architecture to help them build more than 100 server variations for AI, accelerated computing and omniverse uses. Companies in the partnership include ASRock Rack, Asus, Gigabyte, Pegatron, QCT and Supermicro.

11. Huang announced the Spectrum-X accelerated networking platform to increase the speed of Ethernet-based clouds. It includes the Spectrum 4 switch, which has 128 ports of 400GB per second and 51.2T per second. The switch is designed to enable a new type of Ethernet, Huang said, and was designed end-to-end to do adaptive routing, isolate performance and do in-fabric computing. It also includes the Bluefield 3 Smart Nic, which connects to the Spectrum 4 switch to perform congestion control.

12. WPP, the largest ad agency in the world, has partnered with Nvidia to develop a content engine based on Nvidia Omniverse. It will be capable of producing photos and video content to be used in advertising.

13. Robot platform Nvidia Isaac ARM is now available for anyone who wants to build robots, and is full-stack, from chips to sensors. Isaac ARM starts with a chip called Nova Orin and is the first robotics full-reference stack, said Huang.

Thanks in large to its importance in AI computing, Nvidia’s stock has soared over the past year, and it is currently has a market valuation of about $960 billion, making it one of the most valuable companies in the world (only Apple, Microsoft, Saudi Aramco, Alphabet and Amazon are ranked higher).

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Read Now: Run a business that doesn’t run you – 101 Latest News



Run a business that doesn’t run you

#Run #business #doesnt #run

Who’d have guessed that clearing out a rat-infested basement would have led Dan Kieran to his light bulb moment?

After realising he had sold 300,000 copies of his books, he wanted to create a way to give publishing power to authors and readers, so they could communicate directly about what they wanted to read and cut out the middleman.

Running a business is stressful and like many others, Dan turned to the use of alcohol to console himself when things went wrong or celebrate when the company was doing well.

In this episode, Dan explores how you can become a more successful entrepreneur by ditching alcohol and ensure a better company culture by creating team outings that don’t revolve around the pub.

He discusses how to neutralise your fears, anxieties and weaknesses to run a business that doesn’t run you.

Here is his unfiltered advice below:

Bridging the gap between authors and readers

Kate Bassett:

I want to go back to the beginning of Unbound. You came up with the idea for it back in 2009 while clearing out a rat-infested basement in Bognor Regis.

Tell us about that light bulb moment.

Dan Kieran:

Well, so to go back a little bit before then, I spent 10 years writing books. I had a very successful career. My first book was a big hit called Crap Towns, it’s about the worst place to live in Britain, and it did very well.

Basically, over the years, I got closer to writing the books I wanted to write, but my sales figures were declining.

After the crash of 2008, publishers were becoming even more risk-averse, and they were basically only really interested in trying to find bestsellers.

I effectively lost my livelihood overnight.

Because I’m a double university dropout and don’t have any kind of safety net, I was back doing minimum wage jobs. The same kind of jobs I was doing before I set out on my path of trying to become a successful author.

I was clearing out the rat-infested basement with accountants in Bognor Regis, and I was on my lunch break, and I was looking out to sea, and I realised I’d sold like 300,000 copies of my books to people around the world over the last decade.

I didn’t have the name and address of a single person that’d ever bought one. I realised I’d completely put myself at the mercy of all these gatekeepers, all these people between me and the readers.

I realised that someone had to build a platform that allowed authors and readers to come together so that publishers wouldn’t decide what books were published, but that readers would.

This was a really important insight actually, that publishers don’t sell books to the readers, they sell them to shops.

By cutting out the middleman, you could not only get authors more money, but you could also massively diversify the types of books that were being published because you were going straight to readers and saying, “What do you want?”.

It was a kind of revolutionary idea, but it also felt like it was harnessing the best of emerging technologies. Twitter was quite only a few years old at the time. Authors were just beginning to harness their audiences themselves.

We were very lucky with our timing. Kickstarter was two years old, crowdfunding was hot. The stars kind of aligned, but I always look back on it, and I was so grateful that I didn’t have that safety net.

I think it’s something that a lot of entrepreneurs have is, they don’t have any choice.

That can be incredibly motivating. It certainly was for me.

Kate Bassett:

It was a case of survival.

Dan Kieran:

I think when you’ve got nothing to lose, you may as well go for your dream. That is what entrepreneurship is. It’s talked about in quite kind of macho ways.

Essentially, you’re trying to make your mark on the world.

You’re trying to, I don’t know, you’re trying to make an impact, and you’re going for the thing you believe in.

It’s so crucial that you run a business that you do believe in because it’s going to take so much out of you, which is what my book’s about, really about how much pressure you get put under and how you can cope with that and how you can handle the mental health challenges that are going to come whilst running a business.

Because as I say, the language around business and entrepreneurship is still so macho, and it can be incredibly lonely doing those things. It’s incredibly exciting, but it can be tough mentally, too.

Your own personal flaws will creep into your business because it becomes an extension of yourself

Kate Bassett:

I’d love to talk to you about some of those pressures, because I know you hatched the plan for Unbound in a pub with two of your mates, John and Justin, but you took on the CEO role.

What were some of the responsibilities of that role, and how did you earn your new job title?

Dan Kieran:

We were in the pub talking about who was going to do what. They both pointed out to me that I was the only one of the three of us who didn’t have a job.

So they were like, “Dan, you should be CEO.”

Of course, as I say, I had nothing to lose. I was like, “Well, I’ll go for it. What the hell? Let’s do it.”

I didn’t have a clue what it entailed.

I very quickly learned that in every walk of life, other than being an entrepreneur, your job title is a of confirmation of status that you’ve already achieved in the eyes of the people around you, hence the promotion.

Obviously, as an entrepreneur, you get called the boss long before you’ve proven you’re capable of being one. I think this is when I started to realise that I was going to have to find a way to make sure my abilities progressed beyond the demands my business was going to make of me.

I had a huge problem with mental health in my late teens. I had terrible panic attacks and was agoraphobic for years. I was aware that I had issues I needed to deal with.

There’s something about being an entrepreneur and all of your weaknesses are put under a spotlight, and you have to face those issues, or you will fail, not least because you will put them in your business.

That’s what entrepreneurs don’t realise, that you’re going to put all of your flaws and your faults in your company because you effectively build it out of yourself. You have to do that in the first instance.

Because before you’ve built a business anyone can believe in, you have to make people believe in you.

This is why it’s so exciting, and it’s why you push yourself to such extreme lengths to make it successful.

Of course, the flip side of that is that it means that if anything happens to the business, or it fails, that becomes an existential threat to you personally.

I think this is what the highs and lows of the entrepreneurial journey are. I hadn’t read that in many places. I hadn’t heard that from lots of entrepreneurs.

That was my challenge.

I thought, “Well, I’m going to have to evolve myself as an individual while the business grows and that’s what will keep me ahead of the challenges I’m going to face.”

That is what I learned, and it worked. That’s the thing I’m desperate to share with other entrepreneurs now because I feel like that second journey of your own development is actually the one that determines whether or not you’re successful.

That’s not widely discussed, I don’t think.

The mental health of your CEO will determine the success of your business

Kate Bassett:

As a double university dropout, someone who was thrust into this position of boss with no prior experience of running a business, how did you get over that initial feeling of imposter syndrome?

Dan Kieran:

I think, well, to be honest, I drank a lot.

I did all the things that you do when you’re stressed, which you think are going to help, which don’t. I also made tons of mistakes. I learned very quickly that you can’t throw your weight around.

I think part of the problem is the models of leadership that we’ve come to see in the media and certainly, in the entrepreneurial circles, the ways things are discussed. It’s all about toughness, being hard, when actually, if you actually look at genuinely brilliant leaders, they’re all soft.

They may do things which are difficult, they won’t shy away from tough decisions, and they’ll be fierce if they have to be, but they do it from a position of gentleness and softness inside.

I was doing therapy around that time to help me overcome those challenges and looking at anger, getting frustrated.

What I realised was that if you show your emotions, if you get angry with people, you just immediately lose them. Lots of entrepreneurs think, “Oh, I just have these character flaws that people have to put up with because I’m the boss.”

But that’s not effective leadership.

I think that’s the challenge is, are you prepared to do what the business needs but also, look in the mirror and are you prepared to work on yourself? Because ultimately, if you’re the boss, that’s the primary driver of whether the business is going to be successful.

I always say this to investors, the one thing all your money is dependent on is the mental health of your CEOs that you’re investing in. It’s not technology, it’s not the internet. It’s how well they’re able to cope with difficulties and unforeseen situations.

I was lucky early on to realise that my weaknesses were things that would have to be dealt with. I also, I hadn’t flown for 20 years, I had a flying phobia, things like that. I mean, I was lucky in that, that was an obvious thing I needed to engage with.

Which, guess what? Turned out to be nothing to do with flying.

But that process of learning about myself made me curious and excited about genuinely leading people. Because it’s such a privilege to do it and to see people grow and to nurture that growth and give them what they need to succeed for you. It’s a strange thing.

You do it out of self-interest, but it’s in everyone’s interest. There’s a way of aligning the business’s interest with the self-interest of the people in the organisation.

I think the truly great CEOs are able to make sure those two things are aligned and articulate why that alignment is so important.

Giving up alcohol will make you a more successful entrepreneur

Kate Bassett:

I know that you also made the decision to give up drink, even though the early days of Unbound were spent in the pub.

At what stage did you make that decision, and how did it change you as an entrepreneur and CEO?

Dan Kieran:

It’s one of those, as I say, at the beginning, I always say starting a company, a startup, is like being in a rock band. You’re all one big gang, and you’re all in it together.

You do work crazy hours, but a lot of those hours are spent in the pub, because you’re socialising and the work is mixed into that, and I think that’s a really exciting component of the startup culture.

A few years in, my wife, Isobel, got pregnant, and she obviously gave up booze as part of that, and I decided to give up to just share her T-total pain.

Very quickly I felt like I had a superpower.

Every morning I would wake up feeling amazing. I was probably getting drunk two or three times a week as I had done my entire life up until that point, pretty much.

A few months in, I stopped and looked at it and thought about it. And I realised that this was the first time, I was now 40-odd, this was the first time since I was 15 that I was learning what I was like as an adult, without regularly ingesting a depressant.

It just seemed like a stock piece of information that I’d never considered that all this drinking was actually making me feel worse about myself, in myself.

It was damaging me physically, but it was damaging my ability to be a successful leader and run a successful company.

I stopped, and I didn’t drink for a long time, and I ended up developing rules around drinking, which was that I don’t drink as a consolation because something’s gone wrong and I don’t drink as a reward for things that have gone well.

What I found by deploying those two rules of drinking was that I didn’t drink, which was quite instructive, that actually it was a crutch for when things were difficult.

Then I woke up and was in a worse frame of mind to deal with whatever had caused me to drink in the first place.

Or I was taking a moment of success, celebrating it by ingesting huge quantities of a depressant, which made me feel terrible the next day.

I think it’s just something in the culture in the UK, we’ve all grown up with it. Alcohol and fun become synonymous in our minds. I think it’s really important to disconnect them and to just make sure whether you’re doing it, you’re doing it consciously or out of habit.

It’s single-handedly the best thing I did in terms of my chance of being a successful entrepreneur, was giving up booze without question.

Simply because every morning I woke up, and I felt great, and I just felt more able to handle the difficulties that inevitably arose.

Don’t revolve all your team outings around alcohol—it will improve your company culture

Kate Bassett:

It became a way for you to get to know your own self sober. Did it also change the culture of the company in some ways?

If so many of those early days had been spent in the pub, did you have to stop socialising with employees in that way?

Dan Kieran:

Yes, I did. That was another part of my evolution as a boss.

I think in the early days I felt like I needed to be there. I wanted to be there. I mean, we are all friends.

As we got further and the business became more successful, I realised that my role was taking me away from the rest of the team socially.

That was a really important moment too, because number one, the team need time when you’re not there, so they can moan about you, which I think is really important to give them that space. I would always go for a drink, one or two, but then I would very deliberately leave.

Also, if you stay in the pub all night, people start telling you how to run your business, and they get a bit more confident with the more they’ve had to drink, which can be less helpful.

Also, it creates the perception that there’s a clique around you. Like people that go to drinking with you are closer to you than everybody else. It can just start to cause problems if in the culture of the company if you are perceived to be more available to some people rather than others.

To be fair though, the younger generation, I mean I’m 47, but our employees in their 20s seem much less focused on alcohol actually than I was when I was that age. I do think there’s a shift around that, which is interesting and very positive.

We were having just as much fun, I should hasten to add. It wasn’t that we were lacking, in fact, we were having more fun, I think, as a team.

The culture got much better because there wasn’t this default expectation that team things had to involve going to the pub or alcohol, so we became a bit more creative about how we did those things, which was welcomed by lots of the members of team.

Alcohol’s a tricky one, but it’s something to just become super conscious of when running a business. Because it can very easily get you into difficulties when it doesn’t have to.

Fear of fundraising can come from having to change your lifestyle if the business fails—so come up with a plan B

Kate Bassett:

Of course, some of your other big responsibilities as CEO was building the brand and telling the Unbound story, but also of course, raising money.

I wanted to talk to you about pitching, because you’ve said the smell of fear repels investors.

How did you get rid of your own feelings of fear and inferiority around investors?

Dan Kieran:

I became so fascinated by this. Again, because I spent so much time on my own evolution, I had by this stage realised that fear drove a lot of my decision-making.

I think that happens to a lot of us, whether we’re aware of it or not. Very, very often, we act on the basis of the fear of something that may happen.

Fundraising is such an exposing exercise. You’re basically going to someone and saying, “Hey, here’s this beautiful thing I’ve made.”

You are asking them to judge you and then prove how much they’re interested in your idea by giving you money.

It’s potentially toxic. It’s bad for your ego, it gets caught up in it.

It’s a bit like standup. You’ve become like a standup comedian that raises money instead of gets laughs. It’s incredibly exciting because of that.

Imagine standing in a room full of people and telling them a story and then them saying, “Yeah, here’s a million pounds to go make it happen.”

This is why we’re entrepreneurs. That is amazing privilege to be able to do that kind of thing.

To be able to show up as the best version of yourself in those meetings means you’ve got to understand your fear. You’ve got to deconstruct it. You’ve got to understand why you’re so afraid and why you’re so nervous.

It’s pretty obvious why, because in the event of you not raising the money, your business won’t exist anymore. I always say that being an entrepreneur is like go into a casino with your reputation. By the time you realise it, that wheel is spinning, and your reputation is on it.

I think the stakes are incredibly high with fundraising and that’s why people find it so difficult. So what I did was I basically tried to work out what I was so afraid of.

In the end, I worked out, I was scared of letting my wife down. Because if I didn’t raise the money, the business would fold, and I wouldn’t have a job and our lives would change radically.

The way I dealt with that was by sitting down and talking to her about it and saying, I say it in the book, I had this conversation, “Honey, I’m fundraising and if I can’t do it, and it doesn’t work, then our lives are going to change.”

We would have this conversation about what we would do in the event of that happening. It was one of the best conversations I’ve ever had.

We had it many times every time we did a raise, and it would always end in the same way with us just planning what we would do.

“Well, we’d leave London, and we’d have to sell the house, but we would maybe live closer to our parents, and we’d maybe get some more help with the kids, and maybe we’ll see you more because you won’t be working so hard.”

She was like, “Well, actually, if that happened, I would like to retrain.” And I’d say, “That would be great. You deserve to do that.”

And by the end of the conversation, we are in a position where we’re like, “Actually, this sounds great.”

Finding the root of your fears and neutralising them will be your superpower

Kate Bassett:

Plan B became very appealing.

Dan Kieran:

Suddenly you’re like, “Oh, so if I don’t achieve this thing of fundraising, we’ve now mapped out a path to a life that we both want.”

The reason that was so powerful and so empowering is it meant that when I then stood in a room with investors, I still wanted to raise the money. I still cared about raising the money. I just wasn’t scared of not raising it.

Neutralising your fear and your anxiety gives you superpowers. It’s a bit like when you give up booze, you just suddenly have this extra level of self-belief.

Those conversations with Isobel were completely, that’s why I’ve continued to raise the money we needed even in incredibly difficult conditions like the pandemic and Brexit.

Again, that became something that I became super conscious of that my own fear was getting in my way most of the time. Because that what was interesting, that the merits of investing in Unbound at that point were no different.

The story was the same, the business performance was the same, the metrics were the same, but how I felt in my own mind is what would determine whether we raise the money. Which again, is a source of huge pressure.

So learning that and learning to get your own head in the right place becomes incredibly powerful. As to your point a little bit earlier, your staff see you doing this.

They see you raising your game, and all of a sudden, this job title that you were given when you didn’t really deserve it, all of a sudden, you’re emulating that job title, and they’re seeing it in you, and they’re seeing you change.

That’s quite inspiring for people because then they do the same thing.

If you show them that, that’s valued in your business, that going on those evolutionary journeys, I mean, staff used to say to me, “How do I get a pay rise?”

I’d be like, “Well, show me you’re evolving as an individual. Show me the thing you were scared of doing that you’ve now confronted and dealt with. Whatever it is.”

They look at me like I was mad. The point is that if they were prepared to do that, they’d be more valuable to the business because I’d be hiring the people working for me would be on that journey too.

So that’s why I think it’s so incredibly powerful. It makes you so much more likely to be successful as you can imagine, because you’ve got that self-belief, and you’re just driving yourself forward all the time.

Life coaches can help you to change the limitations you’ve set for yourself

Kate Bassett:

You talk a lot about confronting and neutralising fear. You mentioned earlier that you started speaking to a therapist. I know you also started working with a business coach.

At what stage did you do that and why?

Dan Kieran:

I used different coaches at different times. The first coach I used was around very specific issues with the business. I felt like I needed someone, I met him for breakfast every couple of weeks and I would just basically use him as a confidential sounding board.

He would never tell me what to do. In me articulating the problems I was having, I would very often come up with the answers myself, which is true of the best coaches.

Then the second time as much later on when I really, I felt like I’d reached the edge of what I was capable of. This is a huge theme in entrepreneurship where you, I got away with it.

I felt like I got away with it at the beginning, and we were growing, and we had multimillion pounds in revenue, and we had 30 members of staff. I felt like I’d got to a point, and I was no longer sure if I could carry on progressing beyond that point.

So I got a coach to help me understand that those definitions I’d come to accept about myself were stories I told myself and were not necessarily true.

That was a huge moment.

I also did a therapeutic retreat called the Hoffman Process, which was really extraordinarily powerful. Which really helps you disentangle the stories you’re telling yourself about what you can do and where your limits are.

One of the things I was terrible at was DIY.

I met an amazing man who builds wooden surfboards called James Otter. I went and spent a week in Cornwall with him building a surfboard in his workshop.

And what was interesting about the surfboard was that even if you achieve certain things, if you wake up one morning, and you’re feeling depressed and terrible, you can very easily persuade yourself that all your achievements were not because of anything you did.

You can think, I only got that because I was lucky, or this thing happened, or I did it with somebody else who was really talented. You can persuade yourself that you don’t deserve the things about yourself.

What was interesting about the surfboard is that I didn’t believe I’d be able to make one, but it turned out I was able to make one with the right teacher.

Now on my wall, I have this beautiful, physical, amazing wooden surfboard. It’s a physical representation of my ability to go beyond what I think I’m capable of. I can’t deny it when I’m feeling low, in a low mood, because it’s a physical thing I can touch on the wall.

I work with entrepreneurs now and part of the thing I work with them on is, how do we change the limitations they’ve come to believe exist about themselves? How do you help people redefine their sense of who they are?

Because that is how you progress along with the demands your business is going to place on you. It’s such a thrilling journey that your personal journey of the evolution is much more thrilling than the business one, actually.

Well, I’m sure we’ll come to it, but it also enables you to leave. That’s why you can leave a business in the end, it’s because you’re on that journey.

It’s incredibly important for you for the long term of your life beyond the time of running the business that you’re doing.

Kate Bassett:

You’re right. I think so much of fear stems from the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves.

That’s really powerful that you confronted that head on.

Your business cannot be used as a way to support your low self-esteem or feeling of inadequacy

Kate Bassett:

In terms of the therapy and the coaches and the surfboard and the retreat, was that enough to protect your own mental health as the business grew?

Dan Kieran:

Not always.

What it allowed me to develop was the confidence to spot when the mental health toll was too much and to say, “Actually, I don’t have to constantly be ahead of this.”

There are moments when I can actually say, “This is enough, and this is too much.”

Asking for help is very difficult. I know there’s a lot of talk about how everyone’s much more open about mental health now.

If you are the CEO of a business with venture capital investors or whatever, if you start to show signs that you’re not up to the job, you’ll get replaced very quickly. Because the needs of shareholders are paramount.

So I think there’s a huge pressure to deny when things are too difficult. I think as entrepreneurs, we’re very bad at being honest with ourselves when we need a break.

That certainly happened to me.

I got to the point with the business where I felt like I’d had achieved everything I set out to achieve, but I didn’t feel this amazing feeling of euphoria I was expecting. I described it to a friend, and it was like, “Oh, it sounds like you climbed a mountain, but when you got to the top you realised it wasn’t yours.”

I felt a little bit like that. I think there is definitely a type of entrepreneur of which I am one for whom building a business is like I describe, it’s like having a neon sign above your head saying, love me.

You don’t feel good enough in the manner of yourself. You feel like you have to create this thing that everybody outside of you agrees has merit and is valuable.

Steve Jobs famously said, “You got to make a dent in the universe.”

He was a famously complicated man.

Building a business and successful running a business will not give you peace of mind. It will not deliver you happiness. It will deliver you lots of incredibly enriching and nourishing things and be a wonderful thing to do.

But in the end, if you’re expecting it to deliver something that you don’t already have inside you, it will let you down.

Part of this second journey, which is so amazing, is as you work, as you go on it, the business matters to you less. You stop seeing it as a way of shoring up your sense of low self-esteem or inadequacy.

You start to imagine your life without this thing you built to prove yourself to the world on someone else’s terms, almost. That’s definitely where I got to, where it wasn’t that I couldn’t do it.

It wasn’t that it was really destroying me. I just got to the stage where I thought, “Well, I don’t want this anymore. This isn’t the thing I want to spend my life doing now.”

And leaving a business is incredibly difficult and lots of entrepreneurs get pushed out before they’re ready because they built it out of themselves. The idea of leaving it is existential.

It’s incredibly challenging, that’s why the second journey is so powerful. Because it allows you to disconnect yourself from it over time, so that when the moment comes when you go, “Actually, I’m not sure if this is for me.” It no longer feels like you and the business are the same thing.

I’m incredibly proud of Unbound, and I’m thrilled that it has been so successful and that it continues to be successful without me, frankly.

It’s something I did. It’s not who I am.

I think that’s really important to have that sense of perspective, that the time of you running your business will come to an end and you need to run it every day, being aware of that.

It can’t be this cipher that protects you out in the world from the things you’re nervous about. It’s a fantastic vehicle to learn about yourself in the process.

Establish the vision, secure the capital and hire people who can run the business effectively without you

Kate Bassett:

Actually, you’ve said the final act of leadership is knowing when to let go.

How did you know when to let go? How did you come to terms with that decision, and how did your co-founders react to that?

Dan Kieran:

I always say, when you start and run a business, you have three jobs.

One, is the vision. Why are you doing it? Why is the world a better place for the existence of this business you’re going to make?

The second thing is, make sure you never run out of money that the business is properly capitalised. Which is why you are constantly raising money in your mind, and not in any other way.

Then the third one is, you’ve got to hire people that are better than you in every role.

This is, again, a very challenging thing to accept that the moment of success in your business is when you create the business to be so successful, there’s no longer a seat for you.

This is something that a lot of founders find deeply challenging. This idea that it doesn’t need them anymore.

Again, the second journey is what gets you to a place where, I mean, what it allowed me, was I saw it was time for me to go before anybody else did.

And trust me, that is the best way for that to happen. Because if you don’t, it will get to a point where the business decides it needs to get rid of you. Being able to see it coming meant that I could prepare for it. I was clear where the business had to have got to in terms of its revenue and profitability before I would leave.

I had a path to where I needed it to get to. I did a fundraiser. It was properly financed. It was in the best possible position, best numbers you’ve ever done. I created it.

Also, I was gradually stepping back. The thing about hiring people that are better than you in every role is you get these incredibly ambitious people around you that want more and more responsibility. You just gradually let them have it.

Over time, it meant that when I left, the day-to-day impact was very minimal. Because people had already been running it around me, and I wasn’t needed in the way I had been.

The conversation with co-founders is difficult. But again, one of our big rules at the beginning was that we would prioritise our friendship as co-founders ahead of the business, which was a very easy thing to say when you’re starting out and much more difficult when you’re running it years and years in.

It meant I had a very open friendship and relationship with them both, and they knew that I was getting tired. They knew that.

I just felt like the skill set I had developed was no longer the one the business needed.

It’s a mature company now. Entrepreneurs are kind of, it’s just a very different skill set. Some people can make that transition, but it wasn’t something that interested me in the same way.

I was just incredibly open with them.

They were surprised. Lots of hugs, a few tears from me. It took time for them to get their heads around it, I think.

Again, they trusted me. They trusted themselves. They knew the business was maturing. It was done in a very slow, considered, non-frightening way because it was so important to keep the business stable and not frighten the horses, as they say.

And having that second journey is what allows you to make that transition, which is why it’s a great thing to do, because you’re a better entrepreneur, you’re a better boss.

It also just gives you that little bit of self-awareness you need when the time comes, when this potentially threatening thing happens, and you have to leave the company that you started.

Kate Bassett:

It’s a really crucial tip to fire yourself before someone else has to do it for you.

Building a business will help you to evolve as a person, but you will find purpose beyond it

Kate Bassett:

So tell us about your journey now. Because I know that you said Unbound had become your shield. How does it feel now without it?

Dan Kieran:

It’s really disconcerting. I basically saved up enough money to have a year afterwards where I didn’t have to earn money, just so I could come to terms with what I’d done, really. That’s when I wrote this book.

Because I wanted to get everything I learned down in a format while it was still fresh in my mind, while I was in a good position to share it.

But losing the job title was really tough. The first month or so I was frantically posting on LinkedIn to prove to myself I was still relevant. It’s really fascinating, actually, how you suddenly lose these badges, and you’re like, “Oh, who am I without them?”

But that is why I left, because what I learned was that Unbound had become a prism I was living my life through. Everything I did in my life was experienced through the prism of what was going on with the business at that time.

Bath time with my kids, dinner with my wife, with my friends in the pub, whatever it was.

And I realised that if I didn’t take that prism off, I would forget it was there. Then I would realise it was there 30 years down the line, having not done what I was supposed to do next.

While I found it very disconcerting, I knew I needed to do it. Because what’s fascinating is, when you build a company, and you prove yourself against the world in that way, and you have level of success, what you never think of is, what that means you’re going to feel like once it’s gone away.

Actually, that’s the moment of the great nourishment because you’ve left the thing. It’s no longer your shield, you’re standing without it. But it’s something that you did, and it’s something that has helped you grow, evolve as a person.

Of course, now, I look around the world, and I’ve got all these ideas of things I want to do. I’m writing lots of books.

I mean, most of my time, I’m a stay-at-home dad now. I do three days a week at home with my kids, looking after my two-year-old and my six-year-old. I’m just filled with promise now.

I’m just thinking, “Well, I don’t believe there’s anything I can’t do now.”

I’ve got a huge sense of passion for the future and excitement, but also, I’m not in a rush. I don’t feel like I have to do anything soon. I feel incredibly lucky to have had the experience I had, and it’s made me such a different person. I like myself so much more now than I did when I began.

In fact, John said to me, I met him, my co-founder, I met him quite recently for a walk. He said, “God, when we first started, you were a really angry, upset man. I could really tell that life had really kicked you, and you were really hungry for something.”

He said, “Now, you just seem so calm and relaxed.”

I do think that. I think we do businesses to help us evolve for a reason. It was the making of me, in so many ways.

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