UN General Assembly encourages me to ‘be something more’

The UN General Assembly
The UN General Assembly

My thoughts on the UN General Assembly

I’ve been following the UN General Assembly’s annual meeting in New York with a lot of interest. It’s the time when nearly all of the world’s leaders come together and discuss the world’s most pressing problems.

A common theme at this year’s General Assembly meeting has been empowering ordinary citizens to create change. We’ve heard world leaders urge not just governments, but also people to do what they can to tackle the most pressing global issues, from the refugee crisis to climate change.

Be something more

All of this reminds me of a poster that I had on my wall when I was younger. As a child, like most kids, I really wanted a poster of a rock band or my favourite film, but I was never allowed to put anything on my bedroom walls. Then one day, my mum came home with a poster for me, featuring the simple phrase: ‘Be something more’.

As regular readers of this blog will know, ‘Be something more’ is extremely important to me. It’s the motto of Appco Group and it’s one of my guiding principles. I think the foundation of ‘Be something more’ is very similar to what is being talked about at the UN and that is to be the change that you want to see.

Be something more in Laos

One of the ways that we use this philosophy at Cobra Group is through the charities that we support. As a company, we help fund the Support Lao Children charity, which maintains several orphanages for children in Laos as well as providing for their healthcare and education.

Not only does the company support the charity, but the important thing about the idea of ‘Be something more’ is that it challenges everyone at the company to see what kind of change they can bring to the world. One of the ways we do this is to provide permanent employees of The Cobra Group of Companies the opportunity to support the charity through payroll contributions. The charity has managed to bring incredible change to Laos — over 4,000 children are now being cared for by Support Lao Children.

What’s even better is that we’ve noticed that so many employees in Cobra have taken the initiative to go out into their communities to ‘Be something more’. For example, Faiza, who works in the Appco Group contact centre, recently returned from a trip to Kenya, where she volunteered on several crucial projects. In the Cobra Communications team, Tamsin has been volunteering her time designing a charity’s webpage. Dom, the Business Manager of Global Fundraising services, volunteers his time to advise a charity that helps sufferers of mental illnesses.

Sometimes it feels overwhelming reading the news and hearing about the number of immense problems in the world, but I’m always encouraged when I think about the number of people I work with who take it upon themselves to ‘some something more’ and to make change in the communities in which they live. There’s so much energy and talent in the world, and when we harness it and direct it at the right goals, I think we’d all be surprised about the amount of change that we can bring.

The ‘flaws’ that make brilliant businesspeople

From ambition, bravery and risk-taking to boundless energy and confidence, there are some characteristics that are generally agreed to make a brilliant businessperson. But alongside these traits, there are some less obvious qualities that I think contribute to people’s entrepreneurial success – and which may be seen as flaws in many other contexts.

Chris Niarchos offloading boxes from a truck
Obsessing over the small things may be seen as a flaw, but I oversaw everything in the early days – including offloading stock!

Flaw #1: an aversion to the typical 9 to 5

From a young age, I knew I wasn’t suited to a typical 9-5 job; instead I wanted to set out on my own path and try something different. This is partly why, at the age of 22, I set up my first company in Sydney.

It’s common for entrepreneurs to feel dissatisfied unless they have a challenge to rise to, and it’s partly what spurs them on to attempt something new and to take risks. The idea that no two days will be the same and that they will be masters of their own destiny gives these people the motivation and hunger they need to pursue their dreams as entrepreneurs.

Flaw #2: a tendency to challenge the rules

In most work environments, it’s important to have a healthy respect for following instructions and fitting in with company rules and structure if you are to climb the career ladder and achieve success. But the journey to the ‘top’ tends to be a little different if you’ve opted for the entrepreneur route.

Entrepreneurs have a tendency to challenge the status quo and to play by their own rules. This predisposition to question orthodoxies and to devise new and improved ways of doing things can allow them to see opportunities where others only see problems. In short, a tendency to question the status quo can make you a natural leader, which obviously helps in steering a company and its employees  to success.

Flaw #3: obsessing over even the smallest detail

Obsessing over the smallest of details can be perceived as time-wasting – and even annoying – in many areas of life. But for a business leader it plays a crucial role in ensuring their enterprise runs smoothly and they stay one step ahead of the competition.

This is especially the case when you’re just starting out. I recall the early days in my own business when I personally saw to the unloading of delivery vans to make sure my precious stock was accounted for!

If you’re an entrepreneur or business owner, the buck literally does stop with you. So, being determined to make sure that every element of your company is set up to help you succeed – from the quality of your products and services to the set-up of your office – helps you to set yourself apart from competitors and ensure lasting success.

In my experience, one of the most significant hallmarks of a great business leader is the ability to remain focussed and refusing to let standards slip, no matter how much pressure you are under.

As the founder and chairman of the Cobra Group of Companies, Chris Niarchos is responsible for setting the strategic direction for all the businesses within the group. This includes Global Fundraising Services, which is a first-choice donor acquisition and donor care agency for many non-profit organisations around the world. Operating across 25 countries, it offers a range of services, including online and face-to-face fundraising and on-going donor management services.

What can an F1 pit crew teach you about teamwork in business?

From the likes of Lewis Hamilton to Sebastian Vettel, it tends to be the drivers in Formula One who get the attention. But without the precision teamwork of a tightly knit and talented pit crew behind them, these stars wouldn’t get off the starting blocks, let alone over the finish line.

As a huge fan of motorsport, I’ve often noticed the parallels between the teamwork involved in this sport and in the business realm. So, here are a few things I believe an F1 pit crew can teach you about the importance of working together within a company.

F1 pit crew works on a race car
Businesses can learn from the teamwork of an F1 pit crew, says Cobra Group founder Chris Niarchos

Detailed preparation = polished performance

A lot happens within a very short space of time when a car comes in for a pit stop. In under four seconds, a team of 16 or more highly trained and skilled people becomes a focussed, well-oiled machine to rival the one they’re actually working on.

Each individual is responsible for their own specific task and is dedicated to executing to absolute perfection. From operating front or rear jacks to making wing adjustments or “simply” holding the driver in place, everyone knows exactly what they have to do and how and when to do it.

This takes a vast amount of preparation and a huge amount of physical and mental training. It’s only by putting in enough practice hours that these teams can give a polished performance and keep their drivers in contention on the track.

In many ways, the same is true in business. The timescales and tasks may be very different, but the principle of doing thorough preparation is exactly the same. Companies that are rigorous and methodical in their approach – and that appreciate the importance of the work that goes on behind the scenes, and the people who do it – stand a much better chance of achieving long-term success.

Clear communication is key

Clear communication is a must between members of a pit crew and between these teams and their drivers. Before developments in technology made car-to-pit communication possible, pit stops were often chaotic and disorganised, especially if they were unscheduled.

Now, thanks to the fact that drivers and pit crews can convey detailed information to each other during races, these stops are much slicker and lightning fast.

Effective communication is equally important within businesses. It can prevent misunderstandings, promote engagement, help drive innovation and foster stronger working relationships between colleagues.

Everyone has to play their part

Another similarity between F1 and business is the fact that, in both arenas, everyone involved has their individual role to play.

In the case of pit crews, tasks are broken down into the minutest of detail. There’s someone directing the car into the precise position, someone holding the ‘brake/in gear’ sign, one person dedicated to removing and replacing the wheel nuts on one wheel and other specialists assigned jobs like altering wing angles. It doesn’t matter how seemingly small the individual task is, every single action is essential in getting that car back on the track.

A business works – or should work – in much the same way. Of course, there are the people who have more visible roles, but depending on the size and nature of your business, you must also have personnel managers, finance and sales specialists, front-of-house people, IT experts and more all coming together to make sure the company runs smoothly.

No matter how big or small their roles may seem, every team member contributes in their own way to the overall success of an organisation. I have learned that it is worth remembering that and acknowledging those who operate behind the scenes just as much as those whose work puts them in the limelight.

As founder and chairman, Chris Niarchos at the Cobra Group of Companies sets the strategic direction for all businesses within the group and ensures that the critical objectives of these businesses are met.

What can Microsoft’s AI chatbot experiment teach young entrepreneurs?

If you didn’t hear about Microsoft’s recent artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot misfortune as the story was unfolding, you won’t have to search hard on the web to find out about it.

As an experiment, the tech giant set a chatbot loose on Twitter. Named Tay, the AI programme was designed to interact with Twitter users and to get ‘smarter’ as more people communicated with it.

Unfortunately for Microsoft, web users fed the chatbot a series of controversial remarks, which it in turn incorporated into its own comments and responses. After just 16 hours, Microsoft was forced to shut the programme down and apologise for any offence it had caused.

You might be wondering what young entrepreneurs can learn from a poorly executed experiment in AI research. But in fact this high-profile and embarrassing blunder highlights a number of important issues that I think all aspiring businesspeople should be aware of.

A solid plan is essential

The engineers behind this AI experiment might have thought they’d done all the necessary planning and preparation to ensure the success of the project, but they were quickly proven wrong. The fact is, in the business world thorough preparation is always essential. Whether you’re gearing up to launch a new company, you’re about to release a product or you’re rolling out a marketing campaign, paying attention to every last detail will help you to avoid costly and potentially humiliating mistakes. This means factoring in enough time to do all the relevant preparations properly, ensuring that this process isn’t rushed and corners are not cut.

Expect the best, prepare for the worst

Decades of business experience around the world dealing with a variety of different companies and projects have taught me to expect the unexpected – and to be ready to react quickly and effectively if and when problems arise. The engineers at Microsoft seem to have been taken by surprise by the response of Twitter users to their chatbot, and it’s all too easy to be blindsided by unforeseen complications in business. The key is to be adaptable and resilient enough to recover from these difficulties.

If at first you don’t succeed…

Try again – and again! In a statement made after Tay was removed from the internet, Peter Lee, Microsoft’s vice president of research, said: “We will remain steadfast in our efforts to learn from this and other experiences as we work toward contributing to an internet that represents the best, not the worst, of humanity.”

This comment perfectly encapsulates the never-give-up approach that entrepreneurs need if they are to fulfil their ambitions. Even the best businesspeople experience problems. One of the things that set these individuals apart is the fact that they have the courage and conviction required to keep going and to reach their goals, regardless of what happens along the way.

 

As Cobra Group of Companies founder and chairman, Chris Niarchos knows exactly what it takes to succeed as an entrepreneur. He started his first business in Sydney in 1988 and has since gone on to build one of the largest and most high-profile direct sales and marketing companies in the world.

 

Why a positive approach is a must for aspiring entrepreneurs

Not everyone aspires to be an entrepreneur or run their own company, but for those who do choose it, it can be a highly rewarding career path. In my case, it has enabled me to fulfil my professional ambitions, work with some amazing people and see the world.

But, as any entrepreneur will tell you, it’s not all plain sailing and a positive approach is one of the most important qualities that businesspeople, especially aspiring entrepreneurs, can possess. I’ve found that a good attitude can help in a number of different ways…

Keeping a clear head

Letting negativity creep into your thought process makes you more likely to panic in challenging situations.

Most of us know from our personal lives that negative emotions such as fear and anger can reduce our ability to think logically and find rational and/or creative solutions. The same is true in business; if your thought process is dominated by emotions, you’re more likely to act irrationally.

In contrast, if you can stay confident and be optimistic about the future, it’s much easier to keep a clear head and work through any issues successfully.

Being a more effective leader

Keeping a positive attitude helps you to be a more effective leader. Your colleagues will feed off your confidence and enthusiasm and, in turn, this will make them feel better about your business and their roles within it.

Most people want a leader who can see the bigger picture and stay positive even if times are tough. If you can do this, you’ll find it easier to attract and retain the top talent within your organisation, which is a major factor in the long-term success of your business.

Boosting your energy and productivity levels

There’s no getting around the fact that running a company takes plenty of hard work and dedication. Another benefit of maintaining your positivity is that it can make it easier for you keep your energy and productivity levels up. Having a positive vision for your company’s future makes those long days seem worthwhile and it helps you to stay focussed.

Keeping your stress levels in check

You can’t expect an entirely smooth ride when you’re in charge of a company, but an optimistic outlook can keep your stress levels in check.

If you have confidence in your abilities as a leader and you believe in your business model, you will find it easier to cope with potential problems. On the other hand, people with a more negative outlook can find that their stress and anxiety levels soar when they encounter difficulties.

 

Appco’s Chris Niarchos started his first direct sales company in Sydney, Australia at the age of just 22. From the outset, he had the vision of turning it into one of the world’s most successful sales and marketing businesses – and with operations in almost 30 countries across the globe, he has realised this ambition. You can find out more about Appco Group and the Cobra Group of Companies by visiting their websites.

3 things I didn’t know about being an entrepreneur

I know from my own experiences that starting out as an entrepreneur can be exciting and professionally rewarding – and it can also help you to provide a good quality of life for your loved ones. But before you set up your own company, it’s important to have a clear understanding of what’s in store. With this in mind, here are three things that you may not know about setting up and running a new company.

You can’t expect success to come overnight.

We’ve all heard examples of entrepreneurs being propelled to fame and fortune virtually overnight, but for the vast majority of businesspeople, it takes time to build up a successful company.

The initial stages of setting up a business are in many ways the most demanding and you will need to have patience to get through them. It can take some time for even the best start-ups to turn a profit so you have to be prepared to play the long game.

To achieve results and ultimate success, you must have a sound business plan in place and then be willing to put in the necessary hard work to bring it to fruition.

You’ll spend a lot of your time reassuring others.

One thing that takes many entrepreneurs by surprise is the amount of time and energy they have to devote to reassuring those around them. From telling partners and family members that the long hours you are putting in will eventually pay off to assuring banks that they will hit their targets, there are plenty of people to inspire and/or put at ease.

To maintain morale and motivation levels within their companies, business owners also have to provide their teams with visionary and positive messages. If you want to do this convincingly, you must have confidence in your business and in your abilities as a leader. You can’t let your self-belief waver; it’s important to remain upbeat and optimistic about the future – for your own piece of mind as well as that of others.

It’s hard to switch off.

When you’re in charge of a company, especially one its infancy, it’s difficult – if not impossible – to think of anything else. Even if you’re on holiday or trying to relax at home, your thoughts are likely to turn to your business.

Worrying about issues to do with the day-to-day running of your organisation, sleepless nights and fretting over whether you’re on the right track and trying to keep up to date with all the latest industry trends and developments is natural – especially in the early stages. But it’s important that you find ways to rest and recharge so that you’re able to make the best decisions for your business and, of course, for your personal life.

The good news is this tends to get easier over time. As you get used to running a business, you should develop a more balanced perspective and find you’re able to relax more easily outside of work – at least some of the time. You’ll never completely switch off when it comes to your own company, but you should be able to achieve a healthy work-life balance and, crucially, enjoy the rewards of your hard work and success.

 

Chris Niarchos has decades of experience as an entrepreneur, having established his first company at the age of just 22. Chris Niarchos’ passion for marketing saw him set up the Appco Group, an industry leader in face-to-face customer and donor acquisition.

How to earn respect as a business leader

Respect isn’t something that business leaders can simply expect; it is something they must earn. My career has taught me that if someone wants to be well regarded by their team members and the business community more widely, they have to show leadership, courage and a range of other compelling characteristics. Following are some of the qualities and actions that I believe to be crucial if you want to be respected by the people around you.

Lead by example.

To inspire your team to be diligent and committed, you must lead by example and be an inspirational and positive role model.

Those in the Appco Group network will most certainly have heard this business described as one where we “show don’t tell”. And I believe this is extremely important because people are much more likely to respect and emulate you if they know that you practice what you preach.

On the other hand, if they see that there are differences between your personal approach to work and the approach you expect others to adopt, they will be less likely to trust you as a leader.

Set high standards.

I am also a great believer in setting high standards for yourself and for the people around you.

If others see that you’re willing to cut corners or you’re prepared to settle for mediocrity, their estimations of you are likely to fall and their own standards may drop.

My experience tells me that people are most likely to respond to a leader who strives to achieve the very best in all they do, and who challenges them to do the same. The harder you work for something, the more you value it.

Have the courage to make bold decisions.

Having the foresight and nerve to make bold business decisions will earn you self respect as well as the respect of others. For example, challenging the status quo and step out of your comfort zone in order to improve your company may be a difficult move in the short term, but this is the only way to develop as a business leader.

And, even if a decision doesn’t work out the way you planned, you will gain respect for taking the leap and, just as importantly, learning from the experience regardless of the outcome.

The leaders who people really look up to have the courage of their convictions and are prepared to take action even when the odds seem stacked against them.

Show respect for and appreciation of those around you.

Showing respect for others is essential because, as I highlighted in a previous blog, every great entrepreneur needs a great team around them.

Acknowledging the successes of your team members, rewarding their hard work and treating them with courtesy and respect, will build people’s trust in you as a leader and encourages the same qualities in them. On the other hand, failing to recognise the achievements of others can dent morale and the ultimate success of your organisation.

Be confident in your abilities.

This plays a big part in gaining the respect of others. After all, if you don’t believe in yourself, you will have a hard time convincing others to back you.

There may be times when you doubt yourself and wonder if you are up to the job of running your company, but it is crucial that you stay positive and have faith in your skills as a leader, and in those around you.

 

Chris Niarchos knows exactly what it takes to earn respect as a leader. As founder and chairman of the Cobra Group of Companies, he oversees an impressive portfolio of businesses. For more facts about Chris Niarchos, check out this Bloomberg Business profile.

How to harness the potential of your team

My experience in business have taught me that having a skilled, dedicated team around you is essential if you are to achieve your goals. Without talented and effective people by your side, it can prove impossible to realise your (and their) ambitions. With this in mind, I’ve put together a brief guide to help you harness the potential of your team.

Invest in training or mentoring

All the best business leaders understand the crucial role that effective training and/or mentoring plays within companies. By providing people with all the support and coaching they need, you can help ensure they are able to perform effectively and confidently in their roles. These development opportunities shouldn’t be reserved for new starters. It’s important to offer employees and contractors the chance to enhance their knowledge and skills on an ongoing basis so that they’re equipped to be the best possible ambassadors for your business.

Reward good work

People are much more likely to stretch themselves and go above and beyond the basics of their role requirements if they know they are appreciated and will be recognised for their efforts. As well as praising people on an informal basis, it’s useful to have official procedures in place to celebrate good work, such as awards and prizes.

Across the global Appco Group network, each country hosts an annual convention to celebrate and recognise the incredible efforts of the independent field representatives and marketing companies in our network. It’s a great way to publicly acknowledge people’s hard work and achievements.

Providing people with opportunities for progression that reflect their diligence and skill is vital too. If your team members feel their input is valued, they are more likely to remain focussed and loyal.

Put effective communication procedures in place

Another way to nurture talent within your company is to set up effective two-way communication and feedback procedures. These sessions can help people to identify their strengths and weaknesses and foster a culture of accountability and openness. People are also likely to feel happier in their roles and perform better if there is an established system in place for getting guidance and feedback.

Your people should also feel confident about approaching their line managers, or others in their team, if they spot any problems. If they know they can raise concerns, contractors and employees alike can help ensure that any issues are tackled before they escalate and potentially do damage to your business.

Provide a clear company message

It’s essential to provide everyone connected with your business with a clear company message that they can relate to and support. When people understand that they are working towards a common goal and feel as though they are part of a team, they are more enthused and energised about their work – and you are in a much stronger position to achieve your business objectives.

 

Chris Niarchos is the founder and chairman of the Cobra Group of Companies, which includes AGS Global Fundraising Services. You can find out more about Chris Niarchos’ charity fundraising by visiting the AGS Global Fundraising Services website.

4 skills that will set you apart in business

Anyone can set up their own company, but it takes a certain type of person to climb to the very top in the business arena. Following are four skills that I believe help to set people apart as successful entrepreneurs. If you are planning to start your own company, it’s worth asking yourself which of these skills you already have and which ones need to be developed.

 

1. Excellent communication

Being an effective business-person is about more than having great ideas. To achieve your goals, you must also be a convincing communicator. As well as delivering powerful presentations to potential investors or customers, you will need to use language that motivates and energises the team you put together around you.

Don’t be put off if your communication skills aren’t quite up-to-scratch right now; this is something you can work on over time – and the more experience you have, the more confident and effective you are likely to be when it comes to expressing your ideas.

Many of the best business communicators were lacking in confidence and finesse when they first started out as entrepreneurs.

 

2. Foresight

Market conditions are continually changing, so to achieve lasting success with your company, you must have the foresight required to anticipate new trends and developments.

For this reason, successful businesspeople tend to be natural innovators. They are curious about what lies ahead and are always looking for ways to improve their companies and to address the challenges not just of the present, but also of the future.

This allows them to create dynamic, flexible businesses that are robust in the face of change. In contrast, those who are reluctant to move with the times are likely to get left behind by their more forward-looking competitors.

 

3. The ability to discover and nurture talent

No matter how talented businesspeople are, they can’t keep their companies running singlehandedly.

All savvy entrepreneurs understand that to make a success of their companies, they must put together a team of skilled and dedicated people. As well as discovering talented individuals, this involves nurturing people’s skills to enable them to fulfil their potential.

To do this, it is necessary to offer appropriate training and mentoring, give people attractive career development opportunities and reward hard work and success. Those who fail to understand the significance of discovering and harnessing talent can quickly run into problems.

 

4. Strong organisational skills

Knowing how to plan and prioritise tasks helps entrepreneurs to meet important deadlines and to stay on top of their hectic workloads.

Without a strong time-management strategy in place, businesspeople can find it impossible to deliver products or services on time and to the necessary standards – and their stress levels can soar as a result.

 

With decades of experience as an entrepreneur, Chris Niarchos at the Cobra Group has detailed knowledge of the skills and traits that people need in order to thrive in the business world.

Is fear of failure standing in your way?

As a business leader, I am well aware of the challenges associated with fulfilling your potential and striving for success. One of the biggest barriers that can stand in people’s way is the fear of failure – all too often, it prevents talented people from pursuing their dreams. However, there are ways to tackle this obstacle. Following are some insights that could help you to free yourself from self-doubt.

Embrace and accept your mistakes

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. If you test your abilities and embrace new challenges, the chances are you will sometimes get it wrong – at least to begin with. But this isn’t a reason to shy away from giving it a go. Everyone who has achieved big things in their careers has made mistakes. This is simply part of the process, and it provides you with invaluable experience and an opportunity to learn important lessons for the future.

Focus on what you can do, not what you can’t

Never ever sell yourself short. Instead of focussing on the things you can’t do, think about all the skills you already have and those you’re in the process of developing. It might help to start a list of the capabilities you possess and the achievements you can claim – big and small,– and add to it as you acquire a new skill. It’s a simple way to see the range of qualities you already possess and how many you develop over time.

Don’t compare yourself to others

We all have role models who can help us to channel our ambitions and stay motivated. However, it’s important not to fall into the trap of continually comparing yourself to others to the extent that you end up feeling inadequate. Everyone is different, no one is perfect and even the most successful business people experience difficulties and doubts. By all means, take inspiration from others, but forge your own path that is defined by your own goals.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

While it’s important to define your own career goals and path, it’s also important to reach out for help when you need it. This is a skill that every successful business leader and entrepreneur has to perfect. Whether it’s asking for support from family and friends or seeking out mentors with expertise in your industry, or simply delegating tasks, having an effective support network in place is essential.

 

Chris Niarchos knows what it takes to overcome the fear of failure. As well as building a successful international business from scratch, he has earned respect through his talents on the racetrack. In this Dailysportscar interview with Chris Niarchos, he suggested he used to be an “awful racer”. But through perseverance, he went on to achieve impressive results before retiring from the track many years ago.