INTERVIEW 4 - MICHAEL SOKOLIN, THE PUBLIC SPEAKING COACH
Michael Sokolin is a public speaking coach.
In this interview we'll find out how he got started, his experiences as an entrepreneur, and the software he relies on to manage and build his business.
Michael, what do you do, why do you do it and how did you get into it?
I run public speaking classes, and offer different courses based on customers’ skill levels – I deliver beginner, intermediate and advanced courses.
In the past I hated public speaking!
I always struggled with it, and hated it my whole life. I despised anything to do with performance; reading in class, doing presentations in school, at university, and at work...
I got into this line of work because I wanted to get better myself and to help others get better.
When I first started attending public speaking courses and seminars about 5 years ago, I realised how bad some of the services were and I spotted a business opportunity in the market. I saw the problem, and the commercial aspect to it - a lack of good teaching, a lack of structure in delivering the courses, and an inability to get results for students.
I have trained as an actor as well, and noticed much more growth in myself and the people around me in developing through acting training.
As a result, the basis of my classes at http://www.michaelsokolin.co.uk is threefold:
1. Personally having been in a place where I hated public speaking, and having gone through the journey myself, now wanting to help others because I understand how they feel.
2. Seeing that there’s a lack of good training available.
3. Having undergone acting training, performance training, clowning, stand-up comedy and improvisation, and having integrated those to help people boost their confidence in public speaking.
How long have you been an entrepreneur?
I've been an entrepreneur since I was 13 or 14 years old.
Whether it was selling candy, or washing cars, I'd always come up with ways to make money.
I've been involved in different businesses; my first formal business venture was owning a nightclub. It didn't work out, but there was the concept of running events in a stylised way and after that, this public speaking business came about.
What are the biggest benefits of entrepreneurship?
For me personally, the biggest benefit of being an entrepreneur is the ability to stretch your mind – you're essentially growing as a person by constantly being on your toes, because you are the business.
If I have a lazy day or week, the whole business stops, so there is pressure to think and come up with ideas, but this sparks your creativity and motivation. It makes you think on your feet and become more alert, and you become more intelligent almost, and more organised!
I also like the freedom of doing things how I want to do them.
I struggle with working for others, which is probably one of the biggest traits that entrepreneurs have - that difficulty in working for someone else and having to bow to someone else's command... That's one of the hardest things.
I always have my own ideas about how I think things should be done and found it hard to sacrifice those for what someone else was telling me, so it's good to be able to do things my way!
What are the most important lessons, or realisations you've had about life as an entrepreneur?
My biggest realisation is that it's not as easy as I thought it would be!
There is freedom, as I've mentioned, but there is also a lack of freedom which relates to time. It can be hard to take time off – I've been craving a holiday for ages.
I'm planning one now, but I won't relax 100% because I'm going to be thinking about my business and my courses and who will be attending. As an entrepreneur, you're not getting a fixed salary, and it's harder to switch off and not think about anything on holiday and at the weekends. It takes time to build an infrastructure that employees can work within so that you don't have to think so much about some of these things.
There can also be an illusion, or romanticism about what it means to be an entrepreneur, but it can be tough in reality.
It's been 4 years since I started running the business, and in the next year I hope to have more time freedom!
What are the top tools that have made a significant difference to your business?
Since I run events, event platforms like Meetup, https://www.meetup.com/ and other event / networking websites like Funzing, www.funzing.com/ (UK) / http://uk.funzing.com/ (US) and Wonderush, https://wonderush.com/ are helpful.
Email service providers like MailChimp, https://mailchimp.com are convenient in terms of keeping my contacts organised, sending people emails and maintaining a database.
I'm in the process of setting up a CRM system – I like HubSpot CRM, https://www.hubspot.com/crm/. It's a good way of keeping your leads organised and to keep track of customers, potential clients and your communication with them.
You can find out more about Michael at: http://www.michaelsokolin.co.uk.
Contains copyrighted material from the book: Entrepreneurial Espresso.
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