Gerry Farrell: The magical world of being your own boss

RBS is less exposed now to investment banking, which accounts for only 15 per cent of the bank. Photograph: Greg Macvean
RBS is less exposed now to investment banking, which accounts for only 15 per cent of the bank. Photograph: Greg Macvean
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ONE good thing Fred Goodwin did before he sank out of sight was to build the RBS campus at Gogarburn, briefly known as “Fredinburgh”. Now a corner of that leafy green space is the new home of RBS Entrepreneurial Spark.

In case you’ve never heard of it, this UK-wide organisation is dedicated to helping you launch your own business. A wee while back I volunteered there as a mentor, hoping that my own experience in advertising and marketing might help the Chiclets (that’s what they call them) to communicate their business ideas to the world. The other day, they phoned and asked if I could come and sit in on the Piranha Pits. It sounds painful but it’s really just a three-person Dragons’ Den where each business owner gets a chance to do their three-minute pitch – and have it praised sky-high or torn to pieces by the panel – in the nicest possible way, of course.

Second to pitch the day I sat in was a magician. Elliot Bibby has done shows in Las Vegas and is regularly invited to the Seychelles by an Arab prince. He is flown out business class and does a 20-minute show. Then he spends the rest of the week enjoying the Seychelles courtesy of the prince before being flown back again.

However, just because he’s done a few amazing gigs doesn’t mean he has a sustainable business. Elliot just graduated from university with a degree in engineering but that’s not where his passion lies. He’s more into dropping jaws than raising skyscrapers.

What was really interesting was his pitch. It didn’t start well. He was nervous. He explained that his ambition was to make a business out of doing magic. Maybe do weddings. Maybe do corporate gigs. Then we asked him to do a trick. He relaxed and his face lit up. He said: “Has one of you got a fiver?” He took the fiver, folded it five times then unfolded it. It was a £20 note. I didn’t take my eyes off his hands the whole time so I have no idea how he did it. He re-folded it, unfolded it again and it was back to being a fiver.

The point is that when you’re pitching your business idea to the people who might put money into it, you can explain what a great idea it is until you’re blue in the face. But they’ll never buy it until you wow them. You need to be so good at pitching that you can give your audience goosebumps in the first 60 seconds – otherwise you’ve lost them.

It’s not easy, launching a company and being your own boss. But the feeling is unbelievable. I should know. I didn’t have a brilliant idea for going solo. I got the boot. I came back to work the day after my honeymoon, carrying a coffee for my boss and a bacon roll for me. I went into his office, taking the first bite out of the roll. He said: “I’m sorry, there isn’t a job here for you now.” I threw my half-eaten roll in his wastepaper bin. I felt really angry. Then I decided I wasn’t going to be angry – what was the point?

I looked at the waste bin and said with a smile: “So that’s the end of my role, then?” My boss looked at the bin too and laughed. “Yes”, he said, “we’re making your role redundant.”

Since then, I haven’t looked back. I wouldn’t go back to my old place now, not even if they trebled my salary. It’s all about making your own decisions, without having somebody telling you what you can or can’t do. That’s worth its weight in fivers.

Dink about it: Jase had it all planned out

Oh dear God, the torture of being a Hibs supporter! Especially when there’s a lovable idiot like Jason Cummings on the team. “Ah thought wi’ ma new barnet ah could dae a Pirlo an dink it,” he said in the tunnel interview, standing next to manager Alan Stubbs who was forcing a grin that made him look like a baby shark trying to burp.

Right, just talk me through that logic again, Jase. You had a new hairstyle that you seemed to have secured in place with a tub of whale-fat. The gears in your brain made a whirring noise. Out popped the thought “I. AM. PIRLO.” You weren’t Pirlo, but you thought you were because your hair looked smart? Is that it?

And all that went through your head as you strode up to the spot with the ball in your hands thinking, “This is a piece of p***. There’s so many ways

I can score here. I know. I’ll dink it. Everyone already knows I can open a can of beans with my left foot. That’s old news. Watch this people, marvel at The Boot of Pirlo. DINK!”

And behold, we watched breathless as The Boot of Pirlo gave reverse spin and backlift to the ball. And lo, the ball did soar over the bar. After that, Hibs turned to mince. Second to every ball. Only kept in it by a remarkable twist of fate.

Mark Oxley loses his contact lens in the quarter-final replay. The ref yellow cards him for time-wasting. Stubbs needs another keeper so there’s cover in the semi-final. Was he sticking a pin in a list of names when he picked Conrad Logan, aka The Fat Goalie? Logan hadn’t played a game for eight months. The verandah over his toy shop could have shaded the Champs Elysee. But he was faster out of his goal than a Powderhall whippet. Nothing went by him. There was such fierce concentration on his face that his blond eyebrows knitted themselves into one big albino caterpillar.

Before we know it, it’s penalties. My ticker’s battering inside my rib-cage. An entire stadium leans in. And Conrad Logan saves the first two United efforts, celebrating wildly then looking totally puffed-out. With one kick left to clinch the game, up steps Cummings again with an idiot grin on his face.

Then it hits you: he wrote the whole script, didn’t he? SKELP! He lashes it into the net.

Just like Pirlo.

Making a name for ourselves

Don’t panic if you can’t instantly find your regular Leither magazine in the pubs and cafes of Leith this month. We’ve given it a wee makeover. It doesn’t say Leither on the front cover now, it says Litter.

Inside is a four-page special on the subject with a special paragraph dedicated to the residents of Smith’s Place, just off Leith Walk. Let’s just say they get what they deserve. We’ll have more surprises for you soon. Keep your eyes peeled and your street clean.