In conversation with Penny Power OBE

Updated: Oct 21, 2018



In conversation with Penny Power OBE

This week's episode is a great conversation with Penny Power OBE. Penny is, as always honest about her experiences and shares her vision for The Business Cafe, loneliness, resilience, skills, looking after yourself, valuing your time and the most important skill that every business owner needs!


Abbreviated Transcript of Penny's Interview

An abbreviated version of the interview is below. I've pulled out some of the main aspects of our conversation. Approximate timings of each topic are in brackets after the headings.

Penny and The Business Cafe

It's a real passionate purpose for myself and my business partner, Gail. We've both been in self-employment or building businesses for the last 25 years and we know how hard it is and I think the two big things that can hit people is loneliness and skills - the need for those two things.

The Business Cafe is to bring a home to the high street or to a town center that's an alternative to Costa or Starbucks where it really celebrates the business person and gives them a home where they feel they matter and where they can pop out of their house, have a nice coffee, it's not co-working, you know, sit down have a nice coffee and know that there's a friendship first culture.

Additionally to that, that hopefully will start to reduce loneliness and make people feel that they matter. There's a community manager in there. The staff are all trained to, to care. So that might help to combat loneliness.

One of the things I find so overwhelming is keeping relevant, keeping up and the skills that we constantly need and the breadth of skills that we have to have that we can't delegate necessarily or even finding the right person to delegate to as a sub-contractor. So we want to give free skills. The average earning of a freelance, self-employed persons in this country is £27,000. They can't afford to go out and get skills. We want to just give them little bite size one to one training for free on bookkeeping apps and maybe project management apps and it's just enough to get them started and then they can go find specialists in their town who can help them to become really good at that skill. So it's just to get them over the hump.

We're wanting to feed businesses with leads and opportunities by just getting people away from apathy and fear onto actually just starting to download [accounting packages, project management etc] and register and use these a little bit and then they'll need people like you to help them with project management skills and understanding the soft skills as well as the hard skills around that.

Why will it be different from the other coffee shops? (04:45)

It's just when you're in that, in that mindset where I'd quite like to sit amongst other business people, you're not having to pay anything extra for that coffee. It's a business lounge environment. There are no children, much as I adore children, sometimes it's not appropriate, you know that everybody in there has gone through some induction so that they understand that this is about the community and about talking to one another.

I want to create an environment where it's, you can be quite comfortable talking to the person next to you. Also evening events and things that can go on that can make us feel part of the fantastic ecosystem of small businesses.

Penny on...

Balancing digital and real world (06:33)

In 1998, I think I was, without blowing smoke up my bottom. I was one of the first, I was the first social network in the world with Ecademy and I'm really evangelize the online world and I really bought into certain Sir Tim Berners-Lee. Twenty-nine years ago this week [note this was recorded March 15th 2018], he gave birth to the worldwide web and I bought into his, the internet's force for good. But there's no denying that we've perhaps gone into the online world in an addictive way. In fact, this week I've had to reestablish my own pattern because I've had a tough couple of weeks. My first thing would always be to grab my phone and go through Instagram / Facebook. If I'm not in a good place and I see everybody else looking like their life is just awesome, it just kills my energy.

You know, we all feel isolated. We all feel small at times. And I think we have to rebalance it. I think there's a place for it.

Managing your mental state and resilience (08:54)

When you decide to go into business is learning very early on how you manage your mental state. You may be a resilient person, but you never know how resilient you are until you've had a lot of doors banging in front of you. And you have to self motivate everyday and create the discipline of still getting out of bed, even though you're not getting out of bed for any reason.

Your mental state is really, really important. We really have to think about our own mental state and make sure that feeling anxious doesn't become anxiety. Feeling a bit low doesn't come, depression. Feeling a bit busy, doesn't make us feel stressed, you know, we've got, we have to be the governor our own emotions in that way and there's no doubt about being connected into great communities of people online and offline to help us balance that, um, because it can make us feel we matter. But I think we have to realize that, you know, flexible working is really important.

On getting investment for The Business Cafe (15:02)

I'm finding it very, very hard to find the investment. It's a capital-intensive business, so we need to have money to get them going and investment works both ways. It's not just somebody offering you money, it's knowing that you, the person offering you money is the sort of person you want to go into business with. And so finding the right sort of people that understand this and it's again, another new concept for people to, to, to get what we're trying to do. So that is hard and, but we're, you know, very determined. We've got a lot of interest in it. So we just have to keep going until we find the right backers to be able to scale it and do it the way we want to do it.

Walking away from an investment (17:20)

I think we have to accept that sometimes we make decisions, we take on clients, we work with people, we might take on investors when we have to do it in scarcity. We have to just appreciate the reasons we made those decisions and move on and positively surrender from that relationship as soon as you can, when you've got yourself into a more abundant position.

If you can understand your own values and work on your gut and think, does this person, is this person somebody that I can spend time with, whether it's clients, a buyer or an investor, and if it's not somebody - so I've just walked away from a potential investor. The person that this investor was going to put on the board would have just been a nightmare.

If you build that toxicity at the top of a business, you know, that leadership style can really effect all the way through.

So it is hard. Absolutely no doubt about it.

I've said I'm just coming through a tough two weeks and to find an investor go through the due diligence, get to that point, can take six, nine months and then you're starting all over again. I say to my kids - 4 years of this now, it's like constantly failing your university degree and then I've got to get the books out and start studying again. I know I need about six or seven days to recover because I can open the books again and start studying again. And I've had a disappointment.

The definition of happiness (26:13)

Somebody once told me that the