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“Be empathetic, be purposeful”

On April 10, members of Cowork Hub’s team joined entrepreneurs and small business owners at the British Library to find out why Ella’s Kitchen founder Paul Lindley believes ‘thinking like a toddler’ holds the key to launching a successful business.

Toddlers aren’t just trainee adults, they are extraordinary people in their own right: their creativity, curiosity, determination, ambition and sociability should be the envy of many high-flying professionals” – from the book Little Wins: The Huge Power of Thinking Like a Toddler by Paul Lindley.

Ten years ago, Paul launched Ella’s Kitchen from his kitchen table top. Today, it’s the UK’s biggest baby food brand, sold in over 40 countries around the world, with a global turnover of $100m.

Paul’s imaginative, playful approach to the baby food market launched a business that disrupted a global industry, overtaking the likes of Heinz and Cow & Gate and sparking a revolution in the branding, packaging and quality of the sector.

During the event, Paul took the audience on a nine step journey to ‘growing down’, designed to help recapture the imagination, playfulness and confidence of the toddler we once were.

Be confident: As adults, we tend to agonise over difficult decisions. According to Paul, when running a business, we have to quickly learn how to lose inhibitions, worry less, make our minds up, listen to our instincts, keep things simple.

As entrepreneurs, most of the time we have little money or idea on how to go about running the business, so we really have got to learn how to trust our instincts.”

Be creative: Toddlers are always experimenting, constantly trying something new and giving it a go: So, go out there, challenge conventions, try different strategies, play and explore.

Dive right in: Toddlers fall over all the time, but they never give up, do they? Just like them, when in business, we have to set ourselves big goals and dive right in: aim high, learn, trust, adapt, keep exploring, be robust, adaptable and ambitious.

Never give up: Determination drives toddlers: for them, their tiny world is all they know and they are single-minded and selfish about picking their goals and pursuing them. The advice here is crystal clear: stay stubborn, keep getting up, stand your ground.

Get noticed: More than any market expert, toddlers really know how to get noticed, don’t they? Whatever message they are trying to get across, they will go the extra mile to do so, they are life’s natural performers. Just like them, we need to quickly learn which strategy works with whom, and how to pick and choose our method for the occasion. Listen first, speak second, tell your story, make yourself be heard.

Be honest: Most of the time, most of us struggle to say what we really mean, right? Confusion and mistrust are generally the result. So, be transparent, trusting, have difficult conversations.

Show your feelings: As we grow up, we tend to mask our feelings, be self-contained. We become less willing to exhibit and share strong emotions. The risk being that we may lose the ability to show people that we really care.

Make it personal, be empathetic, be purposeful. Make sure you (and everybody else) know what you stand for, what your mission is. This way, people will get interested in your product/service, they will wanna work for you.

Have fun: It may sound very cliche, but think about it: when toddlers, we “play for a living”, right? so, why do we stop doing that when we grow up? Make sure you enjoy the journey, mix it up, create a working environment that is creative and fun to be in. We spend most of our time working, so, make it count, make it worthwhile.

Involve others: Last, but not least, team-work really matters. Helping hands are more than just hands. Engage, get people involved as much as you can.

Later in the evening, Paul was joined by Rob Wilson, Chief Toaster at Toast Ale who brew award-winning beer using unsold loaves from bakeries and unused crusts from sandwich makers and Jimmy Cregan, from Jimmy’s Iced Coffee.

Jim discovered ready to drink iced coffee while on a trip in Australia and upon returning home with little job prospects, he decided to launch his own iced coffee range.

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