Donald Clark

10 fabulous things that have happened in the last 4 years


#teamlovely has been celebrating Learning Pool’s 4th birthday for the past week or so – just look at that cake in the photo.  There’ve been many times in the last 4 years that the achievement of this milestone seemed like a tall order – but resilience has always been the order of the day round here so we’ve just kept our heads down and carried on plugging away.  A rather frightening statistic is that 75% of new start ups have crashed & burned by the end of Year 3 – so it’s good to be in a successful minority, especially during the current global economic recession.  As we reach the end of our celebrations, this has got me thinking about the highlights of the last 4 years for Paul & me (this blog is a bit selfish for which I apologise now).  Here they are in no particular order:

1.       Getting to see Bill Clinton in Derry this week – that was cool & so was he (disappointed you didn’t mention “digital” Bill – ah well)

2.       In the early days, making a snap decision to go ahead & build Modern Councillor whilst crossing the West End of London in a taxi – it’s been a roaring success ever since

3.       Also in the early days, receiving a Letter of Offer from one of the Belfast VCs and turning it down – twice!

4.       Blagging our way in to spending 45 minutes with a Director of Education in Capitol Hill & listening to his sage advice

5.       Reaching the final of the 2008 All Ireland Seedcorn competition and having a great night out with our team

6.       Following on from No 5, our team meeting Jerry Kennelly (founder of Stockbyte that was sold to Getty Images in 2006 for $135m) at the Seedcorn awards party and having him tell us we have a great company, to keep doing what we’re doing & not to take any investment (thanks Jerry!)

7.       Holding a launch party in Johannesburg in Nov 2009 at the UK Trade Commissioner’s residence and having lovely Baroness Glenys Kinnock, Minister for Africa, as our keynote speaker

8.       Being overjoyed when Donald Clark approached us and subsequently offered to join our board as a non exec director (great to have you on board Donald – #teamlovely loves you to bits)

9.       Welcoming 200 people to our annual conference at London’s Royal Mint on 12 May 2010 and receiving their fabulous feedback

10.   Being one of Deloitte’s Rising Stars at the end of 2009

11.   Knowing that we’re well on our way to building the biggest & best public sector online learning community in the world

OK – so there were 11…here’s to the next batch!


To hug or not to hug…


I’m often surprised and pleased by the number of people that hug me the first time I ever meet them; some people even hug me as soon as we’re introduced.  I don’t know why this happens although I must say I’m pleased it does.  In my opinion, hugging shows you feel close to other people in a non-threatening & not too intimate way & it feels nice.  Others in the Learning Pool team have been known to push me forward when there’s hugging to be done.

I’m in Scotland this weekend taking a couple of days out after a busy month of getting Learning Pool’s new Glasgow office up & running.  Dave, Breda & I hosted a breakfast briefing in Edinburgh on Thursday at which one of Learning Pool’s non execs, Donald Clark was speaking.  Donald is pretty much always controversial (read his blog at to see for yourself if you don’t believe me), especially when he’s talking to people that train others using traditional means – and he didn’t disappoint on Thursday.  At the end of the morning, I could see Sheila Fleetwood (pictured with me above) making a bee-line for me.  She’d been engaging in some lively banter with Donald over the course of his session & I must admit I thought for one second she was coming over to give me a slap.  Instead, to my delight, she hugged me & thanked me for such an interesting & thought provoking morning.  Phew!

A couple of months ago, Dave & I were in Exeter for Likeminds (gosh – was that really February?) and we had a fab night out with some of our local guvvie pals we don’t see anywhere near often enough.  That night I had a great conversation with Martin Howitt & Bill Wells about hugging and how much we like to do it.  The three of us decided that one of the measures of how well Learning Pool is doing could be the number of customer hugs I receive every month – admittedly a rather unusual business metric.  So far it seems to work.

Next week is the company’s annual birthday bash (hard to believe but we’re 4 years old) – we’re having a party on HMS President & I expect to get a lot of hugs that day – tell you what – I’ll count them & post the number back up here as a comment next week.

Conclusion – hugging is good with your business associates – keep doing it & keep those hugs coming for me!