Charlotte Hogg on Her 30k, £30K Challenge on Anniversary of Fatal Accident

Charlotte Hogg, who writes regularly for The NextWomen, has just turned 27 and is used to achieving great things in her business career. She is already a published author, a respected public speaker and has launched over 30 businesses around the world. She writes for leading business titles and has worked with some of the worlds most influential people.

On the 21st August 2000, Charlotte was involved in a tragic and fatal road accident in which several of her friends lost their lives. Exactly ten years later to the day, a close friend of Charlotte’s was seriously injured when he stepped on an IED whilst serving as a Royal Marine in Afghanistan.

On 21st August 2012, Charlotte will be running 30k to raise 30k in memory of her friends and to raise funds for charity.

She has had just three month to go from an overweight, unhealthy workaholic to a physically and mentally fit athlete.

Here's her story. 

TNW: Tell us a little about your entrepreneurial journey

CH: I am the founder and 'Leader of the Pack' at The Change Gang, a business consultancy that helps individuals and businesses innovate in the areas of entrepreneurship, fundraising, health and education. The business is based predominantly on The Change Gang grids which I have created throughout my entrepreneurial journey. The grids essentially provide a framework which allow people to objectively understand their current business position and provide tailored advice for change, improvement or development. The areas we cover include fundraising, marketing, sales, mobile, personal development and women in business. We run workshops, offer coaching and consultancy along with technical solutions and franchise opportunities. 

My entrepreneurial journey started with a book - Bringing Nothing to the Party by Paul Carr.

In hindsight it simply screamed to the entrepreneur inside me who was, at the time, demanding financial transparency and better employee engagement from my boss at JWT - I don't think he even knew my name!

Shortly after reading the book I met Paul (after some internet stalking) and then Lucian Tarnowski, who was revolutionising the recruitment industry with social recruitment platform, BraveNewTalent.com. I joined the founding team and spent the next 12 months in charge of sales & marketing for both talent and employers. The experience opened my eyes to everything from securing investment to building a team. Lucian, although only a few years older than me, was an inspirational role model and spending the year with him made the rest of my journey possible.

I left BraveNewTalent with a strong network, a thorough understanding of tech start ups and my first grid under my belt. I began consulting for start ups in a similar place and provided a graduate telesales resource for clients who needed a low cost solution to increasing sales activity. I worked with 12 clients in a 6 month period and moved from just the recruitment industry to fashion, personal development and professional services. 

One particular client, a psychologist, hypnotherapist and behaviour change expert captured my attention and with him and one other I founded "Mind Combat', a behaviour change training company.

We were used and licensed by many companies including Virgin Active, Champneys, the IOD, the Peter Jones Enterprise Academy and companies including Deloitte, UBS and Sainsbury's.

After taking the team through the launch cycle, I returned to my advertising routes and was asked to join a small digital agency which needed some basic business structure and sales support. 

After this experience, I was inspired to launch an advertising agency for start ups - providing business growth strategy, creative digital development and sales and marketing expertise. A launch agency, based on my grids. We worked with 10 or so clients and my grid was recognised by lots of influential companies and individuals in the start up space. More recently, I realised that the teaching and coaching element of the business interested me far more than the execution and so this offering has evolved into The Change Gang. We now have 12 grids and areas of expertise and feel I have really unified my experience, expertise and passions in this business.

My journey, like most, has been a rollercoaster. I am relatively inexperienced in the business world and so, whilst my vision comes very easily, business expertise - processes, people management and the intuition that often comes with senior managers - has been difficult for me to create. I have made lots of mistakes which I have had to acknowledge, accept and analyse in order to learn from and have worked a gazillion hours to keep things progressing. 

I think my saving grace has been my ability to focus on the prize and ignore anything and everything that gets in my way.

I am not looking for immediate gratification, personal wealth or recognition. I am content with the fact that I am on a journey and all the ups and downs are just part of the ride.

That prize, or purpose of achieving would make it difficult for me to return to employment. When I am moving towards it I feel my most confident, my happiest and it is when I am most true to myself.

TNW:  If you could crystalise your book, 'the handbook of entrepreneurial marketing' into four key lessons, what would they be?

CH: 1. Plan - I am amazed by the amount of people who think a todo list is a plan! This will not work for the development of your business and I have found it is the easiest way to waste your valuable funds and ensure that you don't get a return on investment. A marketing plan needs to be based on numbers - conversions, assumptions, average consumer spend, expected social profile and influence, spend and return. It is essential for you to do this to ensure you make informed decisions and maintain control of your business.

2. Say 'so what' - I have heard hundreds of business pitches over the years, and have pitched hundreds of times also. I would say the hardest thing about being an entrepreneur is being objective about your business but it is essential for you to be objective

If you expect others to engage, you need to constantly challenge your communications by stepping outside of your business and saying 'so what?'.

What will it mean to your audience, what is the reason for them paying attention and why will they do anything once they have listened to you. You need to remember they aren't you, your business isn't their baby and they won't have your knowledge, understanding and existing relationship with your business.

3. Make noise - no one is going to know about your business unless you make some noise about it. Engaging key influencers is incredibly challenging as a start up and it is likely that your launch isn't really 'news'. To make noise you need to make yourself relevant to current affairs, have an opinion and invite people to join your journey by contributing their thoughts and opinions. 

4. Connect the dots - it is important for your consumers to understand what you and your business mean to them. You can not rely on them to understand your benefits or the impact your offering will have on their business. It is essential for you to connect the dots for them and your messaging should be based on the final dot, not the first. This will the true value in your or your product and will ensure you get the highest possible conversion rates on your marketing activity.

TNW: You have launched over 30 companies in your career. Of which are you most proud?

CH: I am proud of all of the companies I have worked with and all that I have achieved in the last 5 years. However, what I am most proud of its that people I have built relationships with along the way and the impact I have been able to have on their journey. A client of mine recently said in an interview that the turning point in his business was meeting me. That for me is more to be proud of than the website, business plan and press releases I produced for him. I am proud that people trust my opinions and value my insights.

If I had to highlight one project as my single biggest achievement it would be the plate pledge appeal which I conceptualised, created and launched with London based charity, Kids Company.

I met with Camila several years ago and promised I would help the charity raise the £1.2 million they need to feed the 2,000 children they provide food for every day. Developing the concept of the plate pledge appeal, designing, building and launching the campaign has taken a long time and understanding the intricacies of the organisation and the relationship they have with the children has been both challenging and inspiring. The campaign launched almost 3 months ago and I am incredibly proud of what has been achieved so far.

TNW: In a recent article which you wrote for TNW, you described four factors which may contribute towards the entrepreneurial mindset. Describe how these four factors led to you making the leap and becoming an entrepreneur.

CH: I think there are two types of entrepreneurs. Those who have a purpose, a calling and a mission and are unable to do anything else and those who have a good experience of business and want to give it a go on their own.

The first is like falling in love - you may not chose it, your head may tell you its wrong and the journey is rarely smooth but it consumes you, drives you made and no matter how much you try, you will be unable to avoid it.

I think the second is a much more considered type of entrepreneurship - part of professional development, an analysed money making opportunity or a chance to change your lifestyle.

I am the former and believe I have always been this way. There are some key events in my life that has enhanced these emotions and ambitions and perhaps polished my entrepreneurial mindset. 

- I was an air cadets when I was younger which improved my leadership, my discipline and my team working ability. It allowed me to experience a sense of pride I now only get from entrepreneurship and made me constantly challenge myself and try new things. It also whet my appetite for winning and made me realise hard work often results in great results. As a squadron we were national band and drill champions, I was one of the youngest non commissioned officers in the wing and often got rewarded for my hard work and commitment to the corps with once in a life time experiences.

- When I was on holiday with cadets. I was involved in a fatal road accident which took the life of 3 of my fellow cadets, one of whom I was particularly close to. The 2 38 tonne lorries that hit us took much of my childhood away from me, my naivity, my contentment and my innocence. I have spent 12 years dealing with post traumatic stress, survivors guilt and depression. I have done, and will continue to do everything to make the boys proud of me, honour their memory and make certain I provide good reason for being saved.

The accident has made me fearless, driven and when needed, ruthless. I am not attached to anything material and will do whatever it takes to achieve.

My understanding of possibility was challenged and I have a firm belief that I can do anything I want to aslong as I want it hard enough. Nothing will ever be as hard as burying my friends, seeing images of the coach on the front page of every paper, going to court and hearing of survivor suicides whilst having to go to school, study for my exams and try and 'fix' myself and given that I've done that, I believe I can do anything.

- 10 years to the day of the coach crash, my best friend got severely injured in Afghanistan and returned to the UK as an amputee. This event was incredibly traumatic for me but finalised my grieving process making me realise that whilst worrying about my past, I could have lost my future. My friend faced everyday of his rehabilitation with humor, fairness and drive. He didn't expect exceptions to made for him, he was never selfish and never saw it as an excuse to be down. He has inspired me to address the issues the coach crash caused and ensure I am respected for what I have achieved and what I can deliver in a business perspective rather than where I have come from.

I think many things make people entrepreneurs but what keeps you on the journey is your ability to listen, learn and accept your mistakes.

I think you need to be relentless, focused and self aware and brave enough to step out of line, pick yourself up if you fall over and have faith that you will get there in the end.

TNW: Next month you are running 30k to raise 30k on the 12th anniversary of a tragic and fatal road accident and the 2nd anniversary of a close friend being injured in Afghanistan. Tell us about this challenge. Has your background as an entrepreneur helped you with this project?

CH: This year, on 21st August, I will be running 30k to raise 30k for charity. I have trained in just 3 months and gone from a base fitness level of zero. The run will mark the 12th anniversary of the coach crash and 2 years since my friend was injured. I will be running to support Headway, the brain injury association, Help for Heroes and Kids company - all of whom have helped me and those around me overcome adversity. This, like business, was just a matter of commitment and determination. And just like business, it has been a real rollercoaster.

I am hoping people will read the story of me reaching my impossible, support the charities and perhaps be inspired to do whatever their personal challenge may be - getting fit, starting a business, repairing a friendship and perhaps just making time for them.

All details are at www.thirty4thirty.co.uk

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