Disastrous A-levels (two Es and an F, ouch) saw me lose my place at the University of East Anglia to study History of Art (and to have a completely different life in tweed and corduroy), so I trained as a primary school teacher.Read more >
Six months of clerical work in the DHSS were followed by a terrifying five years in public relations then I trained as a nurse. My wife and lots of friends were nurses, so that made sense didn't it? I wasn't terribly good, but tried hard and learned a lot. Meanwhile I filled notebooks with poetry and short stories, managing to get a few published.
Nearly a decade later, I quit the NHS to try writing professionally. To everyone's surprise, I started to get hired all over the UK by agencies, including one terrific one where I became creative director.
From there I started learning about and advising on brands and brand strategy. Quit to set up my own consultancy in 2005. Joined up with another cool agency. Got restless again and re-invented my own consultancy as Brand Strategy Guru.
Now I'm a lucky bunny. I speak at conferences all over the world and have helped develop brands for fantastic clients like The Broads national park, Anthony Nolan, The Earth Trust and more.
I get to go on TV quite a lot, talking about brands on Newsnight, BBC Breakfast, Today, Bloomberg, CNN and lots of others. I was also writer, presenter and co-producer of The Brand Effect TV specials and was the expert brand adviser in the Channel 4 series Duncan Bannatyne's Seaside Rescue. View some video clips.
My third book, Brand New You, was published in 2012. My first two books, Build A Brand In 30 Days (aimed at entrepreneurs) and What You Need To Know About Marketing (aimed at corporate executives) are quite popular. Read more about my books.
That's all good, so I tried my hand at developing a major tourism attraction in Norfolk in depths of recession. Not quite so good. I'll put that down as a 'learning experience'.
To prove a point about branding, I founded the world's only proper left-handed musical instrument business, Left Hand Bear, in 2010 and followed it in 2011 with Banjos Direct, which grew rapidly to become the UK's leading specialist banjo retailer.
Those two projects led to creating Britain’s first banjo manufacturer in more than sixty years, Shackleton Instruments, which in turn led to the fast-growing made-in-Britain adventure brand Shackleton Design & Manufacturing.
Right now I’m enjoying working with new brands, speaking to interesting audiences about branding, and planning a couple of new books (one business, one fiction).
And I teach occasionally at UEA where I'm Brand Leadership Fellow (which gives me enormous pleasure when I think about my A-level debacle).
One day I'll grow a beard and do the history of art thing!
My particular journey has led to an outlook which is certainly positive, but also firmly grounded in reality.
The best piece of advice I ever received was to not limit my ambitions, because there would always be plenty of others ready to do that for me. The advice rang true and fitted with my essentially positive attitude, but also admits a vulnerability I know most of us try hard to overcome.
We might want to be positive, but that attitude is hard to sustain on willpower alone. It's very easy to get thrown off track and lose self-belief.Read more >
Unlike others, I don't think it's sufficient to simply 'ask the universe' for good things to happen. Instead I offer a grounded strategy to make the most of our character, talent, intelligence and ability to work hard at improving ourselves.
My book Build A Brand In 30 Days applied that approach to creating successful small businesses. My new book Brand New You takes the same attitude to personal development. I've used it for my own career... and I know it works.
My ideas won't appeal to everyone and I don't try to make negative people into positive ones. Instead I use lessons I've learned from business and life in general to offer useful strategies and tools.
These can help determined and positive people to explore and improve their careers, self-confidence, relationships and true potential in life.