Just Ask! How I Got Support from Tony Blair, Barrack Obama & Elton John

I realise we all look for inspiration. I know many of us will turn to those who are more experienced and more successful in a particular field than we are and I understand that we all have role models, perhaps even idols, who encourage and motivate us in various areas of our lives. What I fail to understand however, is why we would settle for watching a YouTube clip or reading an article where someone else has had the privilege of meeting these individuals when, if you just asked, they would likely spend some time with you too.

Most of us would feel comfortable asking a stranger for directions, interrupting a conversation to ask for a light and even spending an entire evening with someone we have just met. Many of us are also comfortable using the internet to find dates, life partners, flat mates and travelling companions yet, when it comes to building business relationships, we seem to fail in utilising the most powerful tool we have. Part of me wonders if this is simply because we don’t have the right platform available to make an effective approach; we all dislike Linked IN spam, 140 characters is never enough and how do you find a personal email address? And anyway, what would you say?

It is email that I have relied on throughout my career – in fact, really, it is where it all started. I am a huge fan of reading and by complete chance I picked up Paul Carr’s ‘Bringing Nothing to The Party’ which details Paul’s adventures as a journalist and entrepreneur. For me, it was the best book I had ever read and made me certain that I would like to explore the London tech scene. It was the first time I just randomly emailed someone but Paul had an email address on his blog so with nothing to lose, I typed a few lines – ‘Paul, what a read! You are an incredible individual and a great writer. I am suitably inspired by your adventures and hope I can one day be part of the fun – I have always been in love with the digital world. Thanks for a solid 48 hours entertainment, Charlotte’.

I got nothing back but a few months later I left my role in a leading advertising agency to explore the world of start ups. The book had hugely influenced this decision so, despite not having had a response I sent another email. ‘Paul, I emailed a few weeks back so sorry for sending another. I just wanted to let you know that I have left my grown up job to explore start ups! Eeek! Can’t wait. Thank you!’.

Less than a week later I was at a party with Paul and almost everyone he had mentioned in the book. Paul, and his friends, changed my life and shaped my career.

I have clients, mentors & friends who I have met in a very similar fashion. I have emailed people all over the world after watching them on You Tube or having read an article, a book or a tweet. I have emailed secret millionaires and entrepreneurs who have pitched in ‘the Den’ after their appearance on the show, speakers, celebrities – pretty much anyone who has inspired, interested or impressed me. I use google to find some sort of contact address – perhaps a generic email address to their business, an address for recruitment (this is a great trick), complaints, media… You get the idea, and whilst I didn’t realise it initially, most of the emails I send tend to follow a certain format. Complimentary, a very short introduction to me and my latest adventure and then, to close, a thank you for inspiring me and please let me know if I can ever return the favour. Simple and yet, seemingly, fairly effective.

Whilst the network I have built has brought me a wealth of opportunities, business, wisdom and mentorship, the most rewarding experience came this time last year when I wanted to create a scrapbook for a friend who had been injured in Afghanistan. As he was going through his surgery and beginning to adapt to life with a serious disability, I wanted him to remember that he was, by any standard, a hero and should continue to hold his head high. I wanted him to show determination and courage in his recovery and maintain a hopeful and ambitious approach to his future.  

The book, along with our friends and family, included messages from Ranulph Fiennes, Bear Grylls, Peter Jones, Theo Paphitis, Elton John, Barrack Obama, Tony Blair, Secret Millionaire Tony Banks, Miles Hilton Barber and Sir Geoff Hurst. 

Along with messages of thanks and support, we received a whole host of parcels including books, CDs and films to help Al in his recovery. Without doubt, the most remarkable response was from entrepreneur, author & peak performance strategist, Anthony Robbins who recorded a personal message, sent a selection of his books and audio programmes to us and set up an email address which he tweeted to his 1,980,773 followers.  We were lucky enough to receive over 3,000 emails of gratitude and support in the 48 hours that followed.

Almost everything, from my break into this industry through to supporting my best friend in his moment of need, has been significantly more effective and impactful as a result of my network. My network has been built predominantly by e-mailing people who I have found to be interesting or inspiring using any means possible.

My biggest mistake would have been underestimating the generosity of many individuals I admire and aspire to for if I had done this, I would never have sent the many messages which all have, in some way, changed my life and developed my career.

If I have inspired you to test this little theory out, which I truly hope I have, drop me a line and I’ll be sure to get back to you. You can reach me at Charlotte@GatherandThrow.com

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