“I cannot deliver this in the way that you want in the timeframe.”
This is a tricky message to deliver to a customer, but it’s sometimes very necessary.
Everyone should have a dramatic story – one where you pick up a pproject that’s burning 🧯🔥🚒👩🏻🚒and turn it around into a garden full of lovely roses 🌹
😁 I have a few of those, but to be honest, I prefer the really really boring ones with no drama – but we need some variety to make life interesting!
And Paul has had an interesting life!
You’ll want to listen to the rest of this episode as Paul describes how music plays an important part of shaping the person he is today.
So, not only will you get really interesting stories about the #Salesforce projects he’s had and how he navigated challenging situations, but you get to hear how he made a music video and got Richard Branson to ask for a copy of his dvd! 🤩
Have a listen, you will not be disappointed!
Pei Mun Lim 0:05
Hello, and welcome to OnThePeiroll, my podcast about leadership, project management, Salesforce consulting, delivering great projects with great teams, and older topics that make up this big bunch of fascinating stuff. And in today’s episode, I get the opportunity to speak to Paul Harris again, he’s the CEO of Coleco, a Salesforce partner in the Cotswold. And on the first episode, we just focused on the professional side. And there was one bit about his life that I found really intriguing. And the great thing about having a podcast is, you know, the agenda is up to me, I get to talk to whoever I want about whatever I want, I got an opportunity to talk to him about the musical find of it’s just a one liner on his CV on his LinkedIn profile, but we really dug deep into that. And that opened up a whole world of someone that you wouldn’t know unless you ask these questions. And the reason why I like doing these podcasts is even though there may be something about their past that doesn’t sound Salesforce related or project related, it builds the picture of the person that is the one that we see in front of us. So I really enjoyed this one. And it may not be as value bomb heavy, in terms of the more professional things that I normally do, but it was thoroughly enjoyable nonetheless. So I really hope that you will listen and that you like what you hear, because it was really fun. Enjoy.
Hello, Paul, welcome back to part two of my on my podcast OnThePeiroll, I really enjoyed having you the first time around. How are you feeling today?
Paul Harris 2:17
Really good. Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be talking to you. Again, I had such a fun time on the last podcast. And it really put an extra spring in my step. Actually, when I was going home that evening and talking to my wife about the things that we discussed. It was really good. So thanks for having me back.
Pei Mun Lim 2:35
Fantastic. So the first time now, we didn’t get to my favorite topics, which is about projects. So the focus of today in the debate is I’d like you to tell me about some of the projects that you’ve had before. So let’s just start with one. Tell me about a project. That could be a favorite project, but the first project that pops into your mind that maybe brings a smile to your face and leaves you feeling like oh, that was that’s a fun one. Yeah, so
Paul Harris 3:05
I’ve worked on a number of projects and projects, obviously stir different kinds of emotions, depending on the organization, depending on the people you’re working with, depending on on on the type of challenge that you face blessing, probably one of my favorite projects, and actually one that I learned. While reflection, probably the most framework was for a events management company. And I got a LinkedIn message one day from from the CEOs just saying it’s just very briefly said, do you do Salesforce? That was do do Salesforce. So I wrote back and said, Yeah, I can I can work with Salesforce, what is it you want to do? And so he wrote back with a few lines saying, look, what we’re just starting out with, we’d like to get a system that helps us manage our events, business, manages our weddings, our business engagements, and so on. And we want to take it from leads all the way through to the nurturing of those leads to the event planning, the delivery of the events, and surveys and feedback and all that kind of incident. That sounds good. And it was I’d been probably an independent for probably just a couple of years at that point. But the chaps quite says, I want you to know I don’t want to mess with people. I want you to come in, I want you to sit with us. And we tried to stand up and do what we set out to build a system to support that. And it was kind of a really cool because it was local to where I was living at the time. And actually, I think it’s probably the only occasion I’ve been able to walk to work, which was just to walk in there and because it was an event management venue, they had kitchens and sometimes the chef would bring up food and you know, there was lots of fun, young, engaging people working in New York and As a nation and as some seasoned people as well, and he just had a really nice vibe about the people. But the organization was in a really stressed situation, they were having challenges with delivering events, they had a few weddings that didn’t quite go according to plan. So the CEO was in a very, very stressed state when I went in there. It’s only when I went in there that I learned that I was not the first Salesforce partner to go in and engage with these people. Nor was either second, who was actually the third, the other two had been shown the door. And then at that point that I realized that I probably had more on my hands than I had imagined that was going to happen in my hands. But I quickly learned that what had happened is those other organizations hadn’t engaged with the challenge, they hadn’t engaged with the people. And most importantly, they hadn’t tried to understand the CEOs vision and what he wanted. And that’s where I started out it was was just to find out the lessons learned, find out the things that had gone wrong. Find out what they needed, most importantly, was to find out what the CEO needed to get his business on track. And so I went through a number of discovery workshops, trying to piece together all these various pieces of the jigsaw puzzle as we do through some discovery. And I took the decision to sit in the office with all the event planners, and the people that were running the business. So I could hear the conversation, not because I wanted to Eric, and what they were saying is because I wanted to learn about what they did, what the challenges were, that they faced, how they did things. And that gave me a great insight. And what I was able to do was join up the view of the CEO, with the staff, and I found that there was a huge disconnect, there was a big gap in the middle. And the two other partners had not done that. And therefore they had the left and the right hand talking to each other in in the business. So over a period of probably six weeks, I think it took me to really get my head around everything that needed to be done. I then was landed with a challenge. And this is prob I think it was around sort of November by this stage. And it was like middle of November, they said, you are able to get systems in place before Christmas, aren’t you. And I said,
I can get something in place by Christmas. But I can’t give you all of this by Christmas. This is a three to four month piece of work, at least at which point, the CEOs jaw dropped onto the floor. And he said, Well, I can’t wait that long. And I probably can’t afford that. And so we then had an interesting conversation about how I was going to get them from where they were at to where they would like to get to trying to align all of the various challenges, budget challenges, time challenges, staff challenges, and so on. So I came up with a plan that said, Look, you know, I’m going to deliver things to you in bite sized chunks, I didn’t use the term agile, I didn’t talk about managing projects, I said, look, let’s just start at here with this leads piece and get all of that managed correctly. So you can manage, you know, the prospects coming into the business. And then I think what we should do is if somebody’s interested and you want to quote for them, they will try to manage that piece for you. And then you’ve got some real challenges around the event planning and management and delivery piece. Let’s take that piece next. And so I just broke it down into bite sized chunks. And I also asked him what he would need in order to get his finger on the pulse of the business because I think there’s been some falling out happening between him and his staff. There was not only was a business stress, but the relationships were stressed. And I almost became like a broker of peace between the various factions in the business because I was speaking to everybody. But they weren’t all speaking to each other or certainly not at the same time anyway. And so I managed just to try to bring everybody together. So my role became a facilitator. It became a mediator. It became somebody that was trying to create that holistic understanding, but then joined together all of the various pieces that were just broken. And I realized that my task wasn’t just to go in and understand what needed to be done, build it, deliver it, train them and leave. You know, I became almost a confidant to the CEO because the CEO had not connected with as previous partners. And he had a mistrust of Salesforce and a mistrust of Salesforce partners. As to the staff who didn’t want to go anywhere near a system that hadn’t, you know, failed not one once or twice. So I spent a lot of time really with the people building confidence, trying to set expectations trying to create an understanding of the art of what was possible. And that in my hands, they invested this opportunity for me to deliver the term and I was going to do that. And then once I’d spent some time working in discussing with that, I took a look at the Salesforce org and then realized that it was in a bit like a builder’s backyard in the middle stuff everywhere, just everywhere. A lot of standard workflow had been written in apex. There was Visualforce pages all over the place. They’d coded things when they could have got an app in, you know, from the App Exchange, probably were not free. And it was really difficult to really see what had been done and how it was working. It didn’t really align to the processes, and I could completely see why it wasn’t working for me. So we had had a conversation about that. And of course, bearing in mind, I said a few moments ago that we wanted it by Christmas, here I am in mid November. And it was I was faced with that, right? Should I start from scratch? Or should I try to knock into shape what I’ve got. So that was a big decision. And I decided to try to knock into shape what they heard. Because trying to deliver something before Christmas in four weeks just wasn’t going to be possible. Now if I did that, again, I probably would start from scratch. But that’s that’s a whole nother story. But so I went through that path and I got them live with all that initial prospecting piece and the management of their customers. I gave them some extra stuff as well. So just to burn the candle a little bit said LaPine, so you can now manage these prospects, you can now manage the quoting and the opportunity piece.
And so that gave them something before Christmas. And then when we came back from Christmas said, right? Where’s the event management piece? Can we have that by the end of January? And I said, there’s a lot in the event management piece, particularly with weddings and all the requirements and so on? I said, No, no, I think I said originally, it’s gonna be March. I think it’s going to be March. And I said, Well, let’s agree on February, shall we? And I said, Well, I can agree on February. But I can’t deliver everything that you want. You know, so something has to give. So we had that conversation. And of course, those conversations can be a little tricky to manage them times. But you know, I sat down with CEO on a one on one and said, you know, based on my experience, I cannot deliver this in the way that you want. In that timeframe. It’s just not possible. But what I can do is all of this, would that help? So I try to get his buy in to say, Yeah, okay, that would work for me. And then the other things we can do in March, I said, Yes. So anyway, we got some agreement, dramatically shortening the time for these conversations, obviously. But I realized by then, what had happened is they started to trust me, they started to have confidence in me, they started to see the value that Salesforce system could deliver, because I delivered a couple of small pieces. And there was still some issues around with, you know, some of the processes, and particularly the way the staff were using it. But then, at the end of the project, when it came to deliver a subject just towards the end of March 1 week in April, I think we crept into the first week of April, because there was a lot of scope creep. And they started using it and you know, my engagement with them ended in that point, I felt I’d left them in a much better place, both from a technology perspective, from a systems perspective, from a process perspective, not armed them with enough knowledge for them to manage the system moving moving forward. And so, you know, that one sits really fondly I think, you know, in my mind, because it was a disaster when I walked in and I left things, you know, even if I just left things in a slightly better place, I’d have been happy and I left things in a much, much better collapse. I’ve got the business on track. And I was engaged to do some other things for the business, you know, I, they asked me to help with some due diligence around some investment that they were getting into the business. They asked me to put together some reports, you know, for the investors, and it was it was a very interesting place because I became that trusted advisor. And then I worked with him for probably two to three years on and off after that, just refining and you know, adapting the system to changes in, in their business. And so that leaves me with a, you know, a really a real sense of pride and a sense of, you know, I did the right thing. You know, I took a disaster and turned it into something that had actually yielded value and i i to use that example, actually, for a couple of talks I did to the Salesforce community, I think I didn’t want to London’s calling everyone.
Pei Mun Lim 15:12
Sorry about that.
Paul Harris 15:13
So it became an opportunity for me to share knowledge with the community as well, you know, not just what to do. No problem.
Sorry. That’s right. Yes. So that particular experience became something that they wanted to share with the community, because there were lots of lessons to be learned in there about how to do things. And so how not to do things and how to rescue a project that had failed not once, but twice. And so it was, it was with great opportunity to to share that with those people just to help them recognize some of the signs recognize some of the very simple things I didn’t know, it wasn’t rocket science, what I was doing, it was just making sure that there was good communication in place, expectations were set, timeframes were set, you know, and what people needed to bring to the table was clearly understood so that we could, we could properly engage. And I think it’s probably the only project I’ve done, where the stakeholders came into the into the first meetings with a set of dashboards that they wanted to run their business by. So we’re actually starting, almost backwards, not going in, we tend to build a system. And we do the reports and dashboards in most cases. But they came with the dashboards and the reports first, and so these are all the things I want to manage and track. These are things I want to measure. You know what, I want to have the heartbeat of the business right here. What this dashboard emailed to me every morning ATMs for that I know what I need to do in order to act on my business. And that was actually really, really insightful. And this this, this guy was a very successful business person. He knew exactly what his business needed. And he was able to articulate that really clearly. But But obviously, the folks that had been in there previously had completely missed all of that, because they built a rocket ship to go to the supermarket. And take No, he didn’t need a rocket ship.
Pei Mun Lim 17:19
So if I were to ask you, just to summarize all of that and say, what’s the top three things new day that the other partners didn’t do?
Paul Harris 17:31
I think I listened to what they wanted. I wrote it down. And I played it back to them. That was the first thing. I don’t think that had been done. There was absolutely, there wasn’t a single piece of documentation or a single email that outlined what those previous two partners had done for this selfless organization, absolutely nothing. And the the second thing was, though, there was really a communication disconnect. They hadn’t really communicated, but they’d heard some things that had made them go off and write loads of code. But they hadn’t really understood the requirements, because they hadn’t discussed the requirements. They hadn’t analyzed the requirements with the people that were going to use the system. And so when they said, oh, we need x nights, okay, well, what’s that going to do for you? What problems is that going to solve? How’s that going to work? What’s the process? Who’s going to do that? What does the customer need to see at that point? I was, I was asking lots of probing questions just to try to understand that landscape. But that hadn’t been done, you know, by by the previous partners. But I think the third thing was I engaged with them by going into their office, and by sitting down and working alongside them. So I was there. And if something didn’t work, or saw that they needed clarification on something or I needed clarification something those people were right at hand and that face to face contact, which then we’re starting to get now coming back from from the from the from the COVID lockdowns, I think that value should never ever be underestimated. It’s great to have conversations like this, you know, you’re probably in London somewhere. I’m out in the Cotswolds. We can have this conversation and we know each other we’ve met a few times. That works. But when you’re in a stressed situation with people leaving weddings, you’re not going according to plan, business events being canceled staff not talking to each other. Sometimes you just got to do the old fashioned thing, which is roll up your sleeves and sit down and talk to people face to face over a cup of tea. I bought a lot of biscuits during that engagement and lots of cake. And I had lunch with them. Lots of people. And it might have seemed on the face of it like it was a bit of a jolly, but it was a way of bringing them together and connecting with them. Because the other partners have done the opposite, they’d actually alienated them. They try to weld them with their technical wizardry and their understanding of the technology, but they’d actually pushed them away, instead of engaging with them, so I really strongly engaged with them. And I think to some extent, I also showed a bit of leadership, as well doing trying to bring all these things together, that wasn’t my job. And that was a part of the brief. But I think without that, it wouldn’t have happened, it wouldn’t have been wouldn’t have been successful. And particularly when you’ve got, say, the sales team that isn’t talking to the event management team, because you know, the sales team are setting all these events up, neither the delivery team and the planning team is dropping some balls, you know, that’s gonna cause friction. And I had to step into that because I needed to understand what the handover was between sales and lead management. And again, nobody could actually ask those questions. So the one most important thing really was just communicate, talk to people understand, listen, you know, ask engaging, ask probing questions, asked uncomfortable questions sometimes to get what you need to understand in order to help them move forward. No, it was, yeah, I mean, there was no over that three to four months that I was there, it was just it signposted. A lot of what I do now is with character and a lot of what I do with my with my customers now and you’ve got to, you’ve got a should never forget the stakeholders, you should never assume that people understand technology, you should never assume that people actually want that new system, because they want to know what it’s gonna do for them. And so it was a real back to basics, in terms of trying to get those people engaged in the process, the technology, the rollout, the training and the use of the system. So
Pei Mun Lim 22:01
yeah, amazing. So basically, what you are seeing core thing is communication and expectations of both sides. So I think you bring home the fact that this soft human skill is basically the most important. And the other two partners might have been the best at their technical wizardry and everything. But they failed to read the situation, right? They failed to communicate, empathize. And actually, I think the first thing is they failed to listen. And you did all of that. And that’s quite amazing for a success story. Now, if you can share with me, maybe something that didn’t go well, yeah. And how how you manage that?
Paul Harris 22:46
Yeah, so that was another projects, which I did for a very large pharmaceutical company. They were using very old on premise systems running on specific server machines that will work part of their data center. They’ve been using spreadsheets, not just a few spreadsheets, I think they had 74. I remember correctly line of business spreadsheets, that was managing no business critical processes. And this was this was a large and a complex project. But in an organization that was used to doing things its way with its process, they were very much waterfall driven. They hadn’t done any Agile projects previously. They were going through an acquisition at the time. They were reducing headcount. They were upgrading key aspects of our systems architecture. And they were also doing an SAP implementation. And this was happening all at the same time. But when you step back, look at that, and think there’s gonna be some challenges here with this particular organization. And they were one of the first challenges was they didn’t have enough resource internally to act as subject matter experts to convey to us what needed to be done. And we had some external people involved in gathering requirements, which can certainly add a lot of value, but you need to join that together with people that really understand the business really understand the processes, and understand what needs to be done. So it was a very significant size project. I think four or 500 days of work are estimated for this and we were putting together a custom ERP implementation integrated into their existing infrastructure needed to take data from two systems that were probably 30 or 40 years old. And we also needed to integrate with sa pay. So we were dealing with lots of moving parts, but lots of dependent projects. And I think we did a really good job actually building the system for them. But the real challenge was with everything that was taking place in the organization, in terms of near the political dynamics, the acquisition, and the loss of staff, it put the project in a very stressed situation. And most of those things were completely outside of our control. And we were probably 95% of the way through, we were in New at, we’re going to new at for probably about eight to 10 weeks. And a new IT director came in, he shook things up. And he canceled the project 95% of the way through. And that was, that was quite a shock. Because you know, it’s like, it’s like running a marathon and then deciding the last 100 yards, that Pachino running down the mile, you just come and pass Buckingham Palace, and the finish line is just at the end of the mile. And you think I’m gonna stop here, I’m done. This, this, this wasn’t right for me, I’m just gonna, I’m gonna walk off into the park. And for them, you know, they made a business decision. And it was a business decision, it wasn’t because what we built didn’t work. It’s not because we had done a bad job. It’s because of everything else. And so I mean, that’s a very extreme example of where a very significant amount of money was invested in a project for it not to go live. And I kind of felt a little bit lost at that point, because I put my heart and soul into this project, along with a team of I think I had 10 or 12 people working on that project with me. And to not make it over the finish line, you kind of feel like you’ve done all the training, you’ve run the race, but you’re not allowed to finish it. And now that also come, you know, some similar kinds of learning that you’re you can’t always second guess what the customer is going to do. And while she may not agree with a customer’s decision, customer’s decision is final. And they chose not to move forward with that. And it’s, it’s, you know, that that was that project to failure? Well, it didn’t go live. So in that sense, I guess it is not something that was actually delivered. But for me, also, there was a huge amount of learning where that came out of that, particularly in terms of how you work with much, much larger organizations, where you may not have consistency of approach. I mean, I have consistency of opinion.
And you’re dealing with things, a lot of things actually, they’re outside of your control. I mean, I think we changed the SAP interface, probably, I think, eight revisions of that interface because the SAP project was still in flight. And so they might change their architectural change their mind in terms of how something was done, without recourse to what we were trying to do is help. Okay, so we’ll redo the API through the API and put it all working. And then they changed something else, because they’ve done something else in SAP that taken that project forward and realized that what they built, they couldn’t do it in the different ways had to come back. So I think we did that. I think it was eight times, you know, and when you do something like that eight times, you realize that actually, you’re not in control of the delivery always. But I think the important thing there is having the right kind of infrastructure to manage those communications to manage those expectations to get alignment. And I think in in the client’s case, it was they didn’t have a program manager that had an umbrella view of all of these things that have different project managers that have no program manager. And I think that was a mistake, probably because there wasn’t one person that was pulling together threads of all of those projects. And so maybe the IT director for work for whatever reason, he decided not to proceed with that project. And I think other projects were, you know, became a casualty as well, is, you know, sometimes there are some things you just can’t second guess.
Pei Mun Lim 29:19
Certainly, now, allow me to apply a little bit more pressure. And you might have to dig a bit deeper to get this answer. But what I’m looking for is perhaps a mistake that you made that caused the project some big problems in how you overcame that. So any mistake that you went, Oh, shouldn’t have done it this way. And the lessons from that?
Paul Harris 29:49
Yeah, I think one of the projects again, that we work with, we were implementing an ERP system and to see RP system was replacing an existing sage system, and PAC system which was within organizations, ERP and accounting system. They decided to choose this particular ERP products and they’d selected or in the processes of selecting an accounting package. Now, they wanted our advice on one accounting package to use now, that’s not our bag, that’s not something that we normally do. But it wasn’t going to be Salesforce based accounting package. And so I said, Look, you know, I think you need to choose what’s right for your business, you know, you need to list out all of the things it needs to do all the behaviors, we need to look at the function, some existing tool and make a choice based on what you think is right for you. And then we can align that ERP with that accounting system through some kind of integration. No, as it happened, the product they chose, also worked with this ERP system as a connector, or so I was told. And so without validating the efficacy of that connector, I said, Okay, I think we’ve got a solution for you. Now, I didn’t evaluate the efficacy of that connector, because I was told that that connector was in place, and it works. But as it happens, there was a probably a proof of concept connector in place, but it wasn’t ready for production. There were quite a few aspects of that committee that hadn’t been properly thought through hadn’t properly been architected, some of them hadn’t even been implemented. And so we saw, we committed to doing the ERP, which is fine, we do lots of ERP work. And that work that went really well. But when we came to connect it to this accounting package, the connector really let us down. Now, because of the dynamic of the projects that connect was related to the ERP there was some assumptions made probably on both sides, what ERP works, the connector is going to work, but it didn’t. And as a result of, I guess, doing the appropriate checks to make sure and maybe running a proof of concept on that project. So I think to caveat that we were up against very ambitious timelines, a customer didn’t want to renew with their existing provider. And the ERP took a little longer than we anticipated for reasons on their side and on outside. So we ended up trying to compress this accounts connector implementation into a timeframe, that probably wasn’t ideal. I think that’s probably an underestimate, there was a connector that probably wasn’t fit for purpose at that point in time. And we had to jump through huge amounts of hoops to get that working, we were challenged slightly, because the vendor, that connector was probably not as responsive as they could have been, they didn’t recognize that perhaps there were shortcomings in their connector that they really should jump on and address. So there were lots of aspects that just caused that then to become it didn’t become toxic. But it became a situation that really required very close management and reflecting back, it consumed a huge amount of my time, I think we, we probably invested I’d say, two to 300 hours in a project that was less in total than two to 300 hours to get everything working. So we lost money on that project, for sure.
But I’d made a commitment to the customer that I was going to get them live. And I stood behind that commitment, and worked with to make sure that we worked with the vendors to get the appropriate technical solution designed and architected. And then we could implement that connector, because once once the connector was ready, we then had to do some work to get the connector working in the finance package and with the ERP solution. And we did that we managed to turn it around, but it was it was quite a challenging, very challenging experience. I remember this, this this all happened because of timelines. I was away on holiday in Europe somewhere. And you know, I was having to take daily calls morning and evening. You know, I’d get up in the morning before my family got up and I’d be on calls with some folks in the states and then have to have calls with the customer during the day. And you know, my memory of that holiday I went to a beautiful country. It was really lovely had a great time. But my memory of that holiday is the work that I had to do tried to overcome this, you know, this, this this situation that’s kind of gone off the rails. So now, you know we have a much more robust approach to evaluating potential solutions potential connected technologies potential and apps, when we always POC them beforehand, before making any commitments, we get the customer to POC them when they can, so that we have the information available to make a much more informed decision rather than trusting someone else’s judgment or somebody else’s claims that, yes, this is going to work. So that was a really strong learning, but I think we had good management and leadership, I think within the organization to stand behind that commitment. But I think equally, we had a very understanding customer. I mean, clearly, they were unhappy with the fact that we were where we were. But they recognized our commitment that we’re going to put we were going to sort it. And we would deliver what we said, we were there contractually deliver. And we did and that organization is still a customer of ours. So I feel that we did the right thing, even though it costs us
Pei Mun Lim 36:10
I think what showed was the integrity that came through a lot of customers really value that integrity, doing what you say you’re going to do. And even though it sounded like you could have done maybe a bit more due diligence on the connector. But you had note, the reason why I’m saying that is I had a very similar kind of project where I was Salesforce and commerce cloud at that time, and he was the first commerce cloud really huge one that Salesforce wanted, implemented. And they just bought it and you know, there were promises of connectors and things like that. And similar to yours, we had also a that the license was lapsing in so we had a really tight deadline. And all sorts of fun and games. I also recall, kind of like sleepless nights and worrying about things. And that wasn’t in our control as well, because we weren’t going to warranty, the connector that was not part of our job. So I totally relate. But just going back to your story, from the customer’s point of view, it sounded like they had a partner who made the claim that they would help them implement the systems and integration done properly to go live and you pull through. And I think for many organizations, having a partner that does what they say they’re going to do is worth its weight in gold. So no wonder they’re still a customer. So thank you for that. That story of the project that kind of went wrong, but turned out to be a really good result in the end. Now, before we close, I want to be mindful of your time because I made mistake with the time slots. I’m really interested in hearing that little side thing you did in your career that had to do with music because I love music. Talk to me about that and whether that still features in your day to day life.
Paul Harris 38:22
Yeah, it does. Actually, I I developed a passion for music when I was very young in my early teens, you connect with me because music is a great unifier. It brings people together it’s you know, regardless of our you know, skin color language we speak where we’re from culture, whatever music is one of the few things that completely unifies us like food as well. And I got into music because I was working in a sort of had a Saturday job was working the bicycle shop and the chat there was a real music fan into the hippie buying records and things every Saturday when he started lending me records and I thought this is great. I love this and I started buying records. still buy lots of records actually.
Pei Mun Lim 39:08
Let me stop you there when so records What do you mean?
Paul Harris 39:12
Vinyl. So you know, so, you know, 12 inch or seven NGL vinyl discs? Is what was around when I was that age. And so I mean, it’s got a real strong resurgence now actually, I mean, I still buy vinyl, you know, on a regular basis. Because for me, there’s no substitute for that. I’m not paid, I find I do consume music. digitally, of course, it’s convenient. But there’s no substitute for picking up you know, a vinyl record was lovely cover art and there’s there’s notes and lyrics and you know, it’s a very visceral thing as well as listening to the music being nervous or but I just got interested in I started going to lots of lots of concerts and gigs you know the same chap that introduced me to To the records, gave me a ticket for a concert. I think I was probably maybe 14, I think 16 Maybe. And I went to a concert. And I remember standing, we had, he had bought six, a one and a two. He was supposed to be taking a lady to this particular concert, but she declined his advances. And so I was like, second best I will, I might as well take somebody who likes music, so I got to go along. But remember, just I was standing in front of the PA as a 16 year old in a huge, great pain. And I came out of the concert, I was deaf for three days, I couldn’t hear for three days. But it just ignited more of a passion to get involved in music, which largely should mean was going to shows and buying records and sharing and swapping things with people. But later on in life. Probably just trying to think about 1314 years ago, I started a live music promotion company where you organize shows for artists. And the 80s is my thing. I mean, I was at university in the 80s. And so lots of early 80s. Electronic Music is my fav thing really. And I put on a show in my local town at the time, which was Chapman for an artist called Howie Jones and I contacted his manager and said, I’d really like how to play in my hometown, what I have to do, and he sent me a contract, he sent me a list of requirements. And I thought, I think I could probably do this actually, you know, you had to make financial commitments to save and you have to make guarantee payments to the artists if you don’t sell any tickets and all that. And I thought, yeah, really fancy doing this, it was a real challenge. So I did it was sold out the show. It was fabulous. I got to introduce Harold on stage, which is amazing. And I got bitten by the bug of thinking that I can make all these things happen. And we can get lots of people coming along that share that passion. I got in contact with somebody who had also done that recently for a show in his hometown of Barnsley. We got talking, and we’re sharing hints and tips about how to organize our shows. And then as a result of that, we formed a partnership. And we did some we did several tours, we have a Jones we organized a few shows and Yoto. In London, even we did a tour with catcher goo goo I did some stuff with an artist called tarryall fields. We did a show at the O two with haircut 100. And we did lots of this, this kind of stuff. And I started to move into those circles. I met most of the people whose posters on my wall and I was a teenager, which was just it’s amazing. And, you know, I got some I got quite close to new to some of these people that were, you know, people I saw on the TV on top of pops, and but I was I was running a company at the time, it was very difficult to balance the two. And I couldn’t quite make ends meet with the music stuff. It’s really hard to make money from music commission or an artist or a record company. So I decided reluctantly to let that go. But I still organized events from time to time I do a lot of stuff with an artist called Michael fields and organizing events for him and I probably will not for him, but you know about his music and get get people together.
And this culminated actually a couple of years ago, I made a documentary with one of my musician friends about the start of Richard Branson’s Virgin Records. So we got to interview all of the people were a lot of the people that started that business, you know, back in the in the early 70s. And it was just it was incredible. It was just a little side project. It kind of took over my life for a while. But there is a DVD and we re recorded the Tubular Bells as well with lots of you know, well known artists. And we released it and we sold we sold a ton of them. And but the icing on the cake was one day getting a message from Richard Branson is popped into my inbox, as I said from Richard Branson earth or somebody’s having a joke here. But it was it was from him. And he had seen what we were doing. And he was interested in what we’d filmed he wanted a copy of it, you know, he was potentially interested in maybe using some footage in his own life story which is quite remarkable. So to to go from small vinyl beginnings, you know, in my teens to having a conversation with Richard Branson about a documentary that I’ve made with with a friend of mine was kind of like you know, the icing on the cake really. And it still fuels a lot of passion with me I still you know, listen to music every day loads of music in the car music in the office, and I’ve got the little one of our rooms is dedicated to that music corner we’ve got hundreds 1000s of items Much to my wife’s I think I’d take up too much space in the house. But you know, that’s just part of me. That’s that’s part of my, my identity. I mean, I did some stuff with Michael Phil, I got to write some sleeve notes for some releases. I got to create some proposals for putting on shows, and then I’ve done lots of things that are, it’s kind of like, you’d never believe that that would happen in and I look back now and think, Wow, you have a well known to have to pinch yourself, we did that really happen, that really happened. So it’s yeah, it’s, it’s a fabulous thing. For me, now, it’s about getting people together, sharing that passion, creating good time for people, you know, and just sharing that understanding, because, you know, that’s what brings us together, you know, shared understanding shared passions brings people together. So for me, now, it’s as much about the music as it is about 20 people together.
Pei Mun Lim 45:56
What an amazing story, Paul, I had no idea how such a little few lines on your LinkedIn profile hits such an amazing and fascinating story, especially about the thing, okay, you know, having an email from Richard Branson is cool. But what impressed me more was the fact that you saw something about wanting to have an artist perform in your town, either I can do that. And then having How old were you then?
Paul Harris 46:32
Oh, gosh, I was probably in my mid 40s, I think probably
Pei Mun Lim 46:39
two, you know, from doing it, and then think, Oh, why don’t I organize this concert thing and get somebody I’d might come in, perform, it just seems like such a big jump in my head. It’s not something I would think, Oh, let’s organize this amazing thing. And then have that morph into, you know, doing helping create amazing events or do to, and then you documentary, and then meeting people along the way that you admired that’s on process, and contributing in, in their musical project and being part of musical history. You saying things like, you know, writing, you know, things on the album sleeve, that that’s just it just blows my mind away. So I just wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for sharing that sorry. And the other project stories, because it’s been quite fun. And I’m apologizing, again, for mixing slots around. But I I haven’t read this very much. At some point, maybe we’ll do another one. Later on, when you’ve got more stories to tell, because you are a natural storyteller. I just didn’t interrupt you. Because I was just, you know, brought along to your story.
Paul Harris 48:01
very kindly to say that I enjoy telling stories. I think what we do, as consultants often is telling stories and retelling stories to people about things we’ve done to get them to adopt technology or telling stories to help people understand something. But actually, you know, telling stories is something that goes back, you know, right to the early days of our civilization, because that’s how we used to share knowledge and pass knowledge on from one generation to the next is the sharing of stories. It’s a very deep rooted core capability of who we are and what we do.
Pei Mun Lim 48:42
I don’t think it’s just passing info. I think it’s connection as well. I think telling stories, freight connections, and I am really grateful to have you my network and my connection. And I look forward to the day when we’re actually meeting face to face because we I don’t think we’ve actually done that.
Paul Harris 49:00
No, we haven’t we haven’t maybe London’s calling later this year.
Pei Mun Lim 49:05
Yes, indeed. That would be great. Okay, on that note, thank you so much again, Paul, for another wonderful episode.
Paul Harris 49:12
Thank you. Pei, really appreciate it. Thanks very much for the opportunity. Thank you