As part of our popular Brand Story series, we recently caught up with the inspirational Jeremy Blain, to discover more about the birth and growth of his company Performance Works International.
1. Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?
I started my career selling chip fat and toilet cleaner at Procter and Gamble and I can tell you there was no better grounding in how to positively engage customers! I moved on to spend a few years with Walkers Crisps / PepsiCo and then moved into consulting, training and human capital leadership. Since then my experience has been largely international, having worked in most major markets in the world and starting a new Asia pacific business when I moved to Singapore in 2011. Ten years later I am back in the UK, with my own business built on these experiences, from the chip fryer to China!
2. How did the idea come to you for the company?
My consulting and training company builds on my experiences and helped me to focus on an increasing passion: To research and help businesses, leaders and their people to transform the modern workplace in the face of digital, workplace and workforce transformation.
My specific ideas for Performance Works International was to upgrade traditional training and consulting to focus on the trends, traits, knowledge, skills and behaviours most relevant for the 2020’s and 2030’s. This is backed by my continuing research and publication of over 30 industry white papers and gives me a knowledge leadership position as much as competitive advantage in a space that remains full of generalists and old skool approaches. Something that I champion at industry level actually, to encourage my competitors and start ups to change the game as far as corporate training, operational consulting and measurable, action-oriented interventions go. It benefits us all if we are on top of our game. The saw stays sharp!
3. How did you achieve awareness?
I am a believer in lifelong learning and as an entrepreneur and leader, I am keen to learn from others. I am an active networker and create learning through fantastic contacts, reading, engagement and more. In fact this is very much a consumerisation of learning in that everything I need is at my fingertips online and through amazing people in my network. I can access it on demand, sit in on ClubHouse sessions, listen to podcasts and share. So for me being active on social media to share knowledge, insights and support others is how I gain strong awareness. My proof? I just launched my first book ‘The Inner CEO – Unleashing leaders at all levels’ and the investment in network and social contact online is paying huge dividends in terms of post-shares, support, customer proposals, confirmed work and developing an even wider network. It is the way forward for the modern ‘Go To Market’ in my view. I have been staggered by the response – In fact on day 1 of my book launch, outside of pure book / eBook sales, I responded to and closed three conference speech requests. ROI on day one is not bad in my book!
4. How have you been able to gain funding and grow?
I am proud to say I was able to self fund the startup of my business and was able to show profitable project work from day one, for two main reasons:
1) My investment in my network. Being known as a knowledge leader, not just a business leader and actively engaging these contacts helped me secure early wins and projects to protect my first quarter of trading. This was a solid foundation.
2) I embrace new ways of working. In this way I practice what I preach through my research white paper. I have embraced the Gig Economy and can tell you that my globally agile business is 100% contingent resourced. Even my core team. Through my networking and treatment of those valued colleagues, people I engaged with and supported, I have been able to select experts everywhere to support me and my clients. I have resources I can pull on for client work in all parts of the world including expert trainers, executive coaches, consultants and business support pros. I live in the Cotswolds, in a small village and have no need for a big office and don’t need to source talent within a 10 mile radius. It’s a global, diverse, equitable and inclusive workforce. Something I am strongly committed to, in all its lenses.
5. What are the key successes?
In summary for me, the success mix of business health, the human touch and community commitment is my biggest and most valued success.
Being driven by a balance between purpose, profit and being committed to the communities within which I serve and work. I have been recognised for this and proud to have supported causes financially all around the world, including the Australia Bushfire funds, my active and ongoing commitment to schools in Cambodia and Myannmar as well as my support here, near my hometown, for ‘AllAboutTrafford’ a community website started by local Wayne Devlin (also one of the foremost ratpack swingers in the world as it happens!)
Creating early wins and being profitable from day one largely by doing what I love and being focused on the leading edge of business / workforce transformation.
Ensuring that a percentage of my profits is always given back to support the community and to my close, valued contingent workforce colleagues. A sort of informal bonus if you will!
Nurturing relationships of prospects, customers, industry networks and cultivating a strong, loyal contingent support infrastructure
6. What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?
After 17 years in my previous company, the very act of leaving was deemed hugely disloyal and I was ostracised from a network I felt I could still support as an independent worker. That is where I thought my first pipeline might come from. I quickly realised this was not the case and in fact turned out to be a huge benefit! It took me from where I ‘needed’ to be rather than where I ‘wanted’ to be from a safety-net perspective. It fast-tracked my own pure focus and development of direct business and gave me the fast-start I might not have secured otherwise. I’m also happy to say, many of my previous colleagues have stayed in touch informally and we are growing quite a network group of our own!
7. What are your plans now/for the future?
To build my business, build my community commitment, continue with my research-centred solutioneering and continue to build mutually value adding networks, relationships and projects.
I have just launched my book ‘The Inner CEO: Unleashing Leaders At All Levels, as noted above, which has provided a great place to start the second phase of my entrepreneurial journey. It has given me a position of not just knowledge leader, but given me authority in a topic that we talk about a lot but don’t execute well: Leadership at all levels. This will be my focus to create an ecosphere of expertise, services, professionals and best practices in parallel with the book itself. If the launch day ROI is anything to go by, this is a ‘must do’ not a ‘nice-to-do’!
8. What would you like to share with others to encourage them to start their own entrepreneurship journey?
- Embrace the ways and emerging skill-sets relevant to the modern workplace and modern workforce. You don’t need permanent resources in all roles. In fact, my own research has shown that globally, by the end of 2022, it is likely that most organisations will be made up of a blend of permanent and independent workers, closely associated with the organisation. This will make up to 50% in many cases, 100% in my own business.
As Susan Jeffers says of sales, an apt quote here is ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’!
- Be balanced between purpose and profit. Modern leaders can be forces for good, whatever the size of business. Those of us committed to transcending 20th Century management thinking and adopting 21st Century know how and responsibility will thrive. Paul Hargreaves, CEO of Cotswold Fayre, is one of those leaders I highly respect for this. He has built an entire Certified B-Corp business on the back of purpose and commitment beyond the bottom line. I’d recommend his book ‘Forces for Good’ for all those entrepreneurs committed to a modern approach to business building and leadership.
- Believe in yourself and others and go for it! Fail fast, fail early and then learn and carve out successes.
9. Can you share your top 5-10 tips for entrepreneurial success?
- Purpose and profit balanced.
- Put customers and networks at the heart of what you do and how you behave.
- Embrace new ways of working and explore a global workforce as much as local talent.
- Create your early wins and drive a fast start by engaging your network contacts, referrals and collaborators.
- Be an everyday learner.
- Diarise a couple of hours per week for high quality networking through platforms like LinkedIn.
- See the advisors you need (ie at Board, NED level) not the ones you always ‘like’.
- Don’t always hire resources ‘in your image’. Embrace diversity of thinking and encourage others to generate ideas and lead the best ones to action.
- Be an empowering leader. Don’t stuff your organisation full of levels. Unleash the power of your people, whoever they are and wherever they are based. It’s more engaging, motivating and beneficial for you and your business.
- Manage your time and prioritise rigorously. You need a balance between work, rest and play. Wellbeing for you and your workforce is a great foundation to build success and enjoyment on.
10. Who are the 5 people who inspire you the most?
-First and foremost my network of female leaders and collaborators who I have learned from and who continue to support my business. Too many to mention here but a few of my most recent valued networks are as follows. I just say that this network is the one that has impacted me personally and my business the most positively.
They include Tilo Sequiera at Spotify, Anne Boisier-Fouche at Octus, Mette Johansson and Binu Bilan of the Keynote Women’s Speakers Network and MetteMind, Dr Rochelle Haynes, Carolyn Quintin coach,mentor, Elaine Cercado business leader and mate and Tara Treanor, one time Walkers crisp colleague, honorary Aussie, now back in UK and partner.
And so many more!!!
–Greg Mckibbin – one time customer, partner and friend. Now retired, Greg has been instrumental in my journey in most recent years.
–Steve Ashcroft. My first ever line manager at Procter and Gamble. An empowering, modern leader / manager who was way ahead of his time. He epitomises the concepts at the heart of my book in fact. The best line manager I have ever had. Bar none. Shrewd, practical and still his own man. Steve rocks!
–Prof Sattar Bawany – my collaborator and informal mentor in Singapore
-My biz partner from vancouver and global nomad Kevin Cottam
11. What are your favourite inspirational /motivational quotes?
I don’t go in for motivational quotes much to be honest. I love the snippets I hear day to day rather than those so-called inspirational words hanging on the wall.
One of my partners recently said this when we were entering into an ideas session, which I loved ‘Let’s throw some spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks’. Awesome.
12. What are your social handles and website links so our readers can connect with you?
Subscribe to my youtube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCOPSmfxKtibkS9mAeNB-K3Q
About Jeremy Blain
Jeremy Blain is the Chief Executive of PerformanceWorks International (PWI), a company that helps organisations, executive boards, leaders and teams succeed in the digital climate amidst opportunity and uncertainty and to embed the required skills for successful modernisation. Jeremy combines leadership know-how as an international CEO and executive board officer in the UK and Asia with his experience as a learning and human capital professional of over 20 years. For seven years Jeremy was CEO for an international consultancy company based in Singapore, operating from India to the Pacific.
Jeremy was named International GameChanger© of the year for 2020 in the ACQ5 Global Awards for his work on digital transformation, HR transformation and workforce transformation. He is a regular keynote speaker, media commentator and the author of over 30 industry white papers.