It was 1998, I’d been running my own business for a couple of years and thought I knew what I was doing, so, I started telling other people how to do it too!

Frocked up, with my curly perm, lippy and spike heels (nobody could accuse me of being a fashionista!) I trotted off to the Birmingham Chamber in Birmingham (I don’t think the redundancy helps, but they did like us to add that last bit!) for one of their morning business leaders sessions.

Round tables arced around an improvised ‘stage’ 20cm off the floor, just the right height for tripping over. Flipping through their filofaxes, brushing the exotic croissant crumbs from their Tie Rack* 2 for 1s, 60 Birmingham business owners waited patiently to hear what I had to say (that bit was in my mind) to race around swapping business cards with people who were racing around swapping business cards.

I didn’t want to hold them up in their folly, so I got on with the event.

Lean marketing, bla de blah, don’t waste money, blah de blah, there are only 7 things you should be doing, blah de blah… these concepts come from my background in engineering (I was an engineer, don’t you know!)… from the Japanese concept of…”

And that’s when we were all surprised.

I did a karate kick and shouted(!) “KAIZEN!”

Nobody was expecting that – least of all me!

I’d never done anything like that before.

My number one fan on the front table who had practically moved his chair on to the ‘stage’ to hear me speak (I think he’d forgotten his hearing aid) burst out laughing – a giant guffaw, a big unstoppable belly laugh, a booming boffola!

My first ever laugh when speaking in front of an audience.

I got a few nervous titters from a couple of cheapskates who had run out of their 10 text limit for the month (remember that?) and had actually been paying attention to me.

But, I remember that first laugh. I can see his face. I was hooked. I wanted more laughs.

There’s always a first time.

Frequently that first time sets off a chain of events that can change your life.

Beam me up!

* You really do have to be of a certain age to get this reference. For non-UK readers, Tie Rack was a British institution, that sadly went out of business in 2013,


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A seat at the table

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