Month: July 2010

He made me what I am…


…even though he will deny it!  Dr Bryan Keating (pictured above at Learning Pool’s office earlier this month) is one of the reasons I moved from London to Northern Ireland, 10 years ago at the end of this month.  I left my safe job as FD of CIPFA’s commercial subsidiary IPF.  I’d worked at CIPFA for what felt like 100 years or more.  It was cosy & familiar and I’d recruited and collected a high performing team around me over the years.  As an organisation, we hit all our targets & were able to predict with a high degree of certainty what we’d be doing for the next 3 – 5 years.  Life was easy.

What could be stranger than leaving that environment to become a dotcommer – working for one of Belfast’s high tech VC funded start-ups?  Drenched in uncertainty, constantly seeking funding, moving the goalposts every day, handling our tricky VCs, managing our quota of prima donnas (every tech start-up has them!)…Bryan was the person that calmly showed me how to deal with all of that & more.  Take my hand & walk into the abyss – sometimes that’s what you have to do.

He coached & mentored me when I needed it with sensible advice and his practical and so friendly way.  Bryan shared with me his wisdom and told me his stories – the kinds of stories every fledgling entrepreneur needs to listen to and hear.  We had a few adventures & met some great people (and some not so great people) along the way, burned the midnight oil when we needed to and we had a lot of laughs.

Bryan gave me confidence and encouraged me to go on & become an entrepreneur myself and for that I will be forever grateful to him.  It hasn’t always been an easy journey but it has been challenging and fulfilling.  If I hadn’t met him when I did, that would definitely not have happened for me.  He is a great man and over the years I have learned so much from him.  Even now, when I have an important decision to make, I calmly ask myself what Bryan would suggest – and I’m able to think it through in my head.  I usually carry a few of his crazy diagrams in my handbag, scribbled quickly on a napkin or the nearest scrap of paper as he explains something, and I look at them from time to time & reflect on the advice he’s given to me.  I carry some of his words in my head and repeat them to myself from time to time like a mantra.  I find myself saying some of those same things now to my own young team.

Bryan – thank you for everything that you’ve done for me and for everything you’ve done for the hundreds of other start-ups and entrepreneurs that you’ve helped and encouraged along the way – we appreciate you and I don’t know where we’d be without you!


When size really matters…


Travelling back to Belfast from East Midlands airport always provides a good bit of sport.  Why?  Watching the BMI Baby Baggage Police humiliating traveller after traveller of course.  Making them cram their bags into the cage one at a time under scrutiny.  Penalty if you can’t force your bag in there – £30.

This results in the following behaviours that I’ve witnessed in the past few weeks:

Ø  grown men in suits crawling around on the dirty floor with their clothes strewn everywhere trying to repack their bag more tidily whilst everyone else in the queue climbs over them;

Ø  pensioners who probably rarely travel being terrorised into parting with their hard-earned cash (despite our loud barracking of the airline staff);

Ø  pleading and wheedling by all sorts of people, yours truly included.

Today we watched the airline delay a flight to Edinburgh whilst a man tried & tried to repack his bag in a different way – it was just the wrong shape…

BMI Baby has a less generous hand baggage measuring system than anyone else – and those extra centimetres count when the pressure’s on.  This means that if you travel a lot, like the Learning Pool team does backwards & forwards from our Northern Ireland HQ, it inevitably catches you out.  It’s that sinking feeling when you remember you’re on a BMI Baby flight (see McElvaney’s face in the pic above).

When that happens, there’s only one thing for it – head to duty free, buy something & ask the person in there for an extra big bag.  Then unload what you can from your case into it – you’re allowed to take on an additional bag if you bought it after clearing security.  Some of the Poolies have even started carrying empty duty free bags with them – different ones dependent on the airport they’re using.  As Paul always says – Learning Pool – using innovative ways to keep the cost of your subscription low.

Remember that the next time you see one of the Learning Pool team with a duty free bag – that’s all part of our commitment to customer care!