Our event last week, ‘The Work/Life Talk Show’, boasted the winning combination of a set of totally interesting speakers, some tasty Caribbean cuisine (on the house) and above-brewery location – what more could you want?! The Northern Monk Brewery co. hosted us in the top-floor of their Old Flax Store venue, which was decked out with fairy lights to provide a warm touch to the casual warehouse-esque space. One guest commented that it had a particularly ‘Dragon’s Den’ feel to it and we definitely agree!
A snowy Tuesday evening…
The iciness outside definitely did not dampen our spirits, and we dampened all cold feelings instead by kicking off the evening with some tipples from the brewery bar (of course)! We then headed upstairs to the main location, where the in-house caterers Caribbean Cafe were laying out the goods: jerk chicken wings, lamb burgers, coconut dumplings and potato wedges were just a few of the mouth-watering items in the spread. Once everyone was sufficiently stuffed and watered, our very own co-founder Dan ushered everyone to their seats, acting as compere for the evening. Ready to get the best out of the speakers by asking them out-of-the-box things and find out their real stories, he called the first speaker to their position in the chair next to him.
Mark Burns, who works as a professional Chair at Vistage UK, was first up. He specialises in helping business owners build successful companies while living fulfilling and healthy lives, and so naturally had tonnes of insightful views on the all-important mystery of the work/life balance. During a fruitful 28 years in law, Mark worked with many businesses, and he said what he learned in that time was that many businesses kill their employees with unnecessary stresses and pressures. Dramatic! Mark then likened busy careers to a busy traffic jam. He pointed out that if you selflessly let a person through it will often cause a rippling happiness – that person leaves happier, and spreads their positivity to others, and on the good vibes flow. His mantra was that this exact same ripple effect can occur in the workplace too, beginning right at the core with the leaders of a business, who then act as the wave machine for positive effects throughout all of the staff. We love that! Dan then dropped the all-important question: how do you create a work/life balance? Mark’s secret is: compromise and prioritisation. He has definitely got his priorities straight, and work schedules simply have to fit around family obligations – not the other way around. Amen.
How many businesses?
It was then about time for Dan to call up the next guest speaker up on stage with him and Mark – and up came Alison White. As a young entrepreneur who has set up multiple successful businesses in Leeds since 2014, we were eager to hear her story. Asked to introduce herself, she began with a little bit about her: she’s originally from Fyfe in Scotland, 6 months pregnant, happily engaged….and a workaholic! She then explained her jam-packed journey: her first success was setting up a market research business, which she ran for four years before giving the Leeds catering scene her best shot. White’s Café Bar was born in 2014, followed swiftly by contemporary Indian food joint The Cat’s Pyjamas the following year, both situated in Headingley (a thriving suburb just North of Leeds’ city centre). Fast-forward two more years and add a second Cat’s Pyjamas location in central Leeds and a beer shop in Headingley to the equation (with more in the pipeline) and you’re just about there. Phew! So how does she manage all this, you ask? She works – a lot. She also occasionally has the help of her fiancé since they cofounded a kebab shop business together in 2016, and they seem to make a pretty good team, rising to win the best kebab shop in Headingley within just a year of operation. She puts her triumphs down to extreme determination, faith in herself and a desire to prove anyone who says she can’t do it wrong, and it’s clear that her success resonates from this feisty and driven attitude. Hats off to her – we just hope she gives herself a bit of time off when the baby arrives to get that much-needed balance!
Leeds: the good and the bad…
To finish up, Dan asked Alison what parts of Leeds she most enjoys to hang out at and why. She regrettably shared that she doesn’t get to enjoy as much of it as she should due to her hectic schedule, BUT she definitely does not regret setting base in Headingley as it is always evolving with independent places and creativity. On that note, Dan called the third and final guest speaker of the evening to the stage, Si Ord. Si is an entrepreneur who currently runs several bars and restaurants in the Leeds and Manchester areas, under the collective Sandinista Group. Si has owned businesses in Leeds since the early 70s, so Dan wanted to find out how he felt about the city, and how much he thinks has changed since he’s been around. Si’s answer: a lot has changed, and for the better, describing Leeds back then as ‘derelict’ – this prompted Mark to mention a guide to Leeds he remembers reading in which there was a list of places NOT to go…eek! But, of course, the Yorkshire city has since become flooded with more and more BUSINESS, which of course brings money and opportunities and is now a far cry from the place Si and Mark remember. However, Si’s view was that with all this growth has also come an overkill of large corporations, and he expressed a wish to see Leeds get more creative, with more of an underground scene and less of characterless chains. What do YOU think about this – is Leeds as adventurous as it should be? And would you like to see more independents around?
Finally, we thought we’d show off our fabulous speakers’ knowledge and maybe get a few pointers ourselves, so Dan closed up by asking for the secrets to their success in Leeds.
Here are their top tips:
Si: Take advantage of the fact that Leeds is one of those cities that is big but feels small – get to know people in your area and you will benefit from it.
Alison agrees: she loves the people in Leeds and her big tip is to make sure the people you work with are happy and invested in – they will have respect for you and it will work in your favour!
Mark: don’t be scared to try things and fail. He points out it’s often not the things you do that you regret, it’s what you don’t try. Rightly said!
Some food for thought
After a few more drinks and the chance for any personal chats with the speakers, our guests headed home with some extra life-balancing tips and full stomachs. If you would like to get in on the action, you’re in luck as The Work/Life Talk Show is one of our regular events, returning approximately every six months! Stay posted on our social pages for when the next one is landing and to get the link to grab your free ticket.