Paul Blair – Little Big Vets Podcast – Series 1

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In 2006, Sangin, Afghanistan was on of the most dangerous places on earth. It was the epicentre of the British army’s ongoing battle with the Taliban. The Soliders of C Company 3 Para – part of the elite Parachute Regiment – were led by Major Paul Blair…

I was told by Hilary devay at the time that I was stupid Duncan Valentine told

me I would never sell any I’ll tell you what um whenever I sell my millionth unit I’m going to send you each a

special edition just to go there you go how’s that which I did you were awarded

a distinguished service order 2006 what was supposed to be just our meet and

greet turned into quite a cheeky little situation we were attacked by a number

of Taliban so 25 to 30 Taliban surrounding us when we call for air support there were no helicopters or

vast air support available for us so one of those life-defining moments I

realized actually tonight I need to raise my game I’m Nick Haley founder of Little Big

Tech after more than a decade in the Army I left and joined civilian life in this podcast series I’ll be speaking to

entrepreneurs who left military service and started the next exciting chapter in their lives we’ll hear how these

inspiring individuals transitioned from active service to the world of business how did they take the first step on the

road to becoming an entrepreneur we’ll find out welcome to little big vets the

veteran entrepreneurs podcast [Music]

foreign [Music] Afghanistan was one of the most

dangerous places on Earth it was the epicenter of the British Army’s ongoing battle with the Taliban the soldiers of

sea company three para part of the elite parachute regiment were led by Major Paul Blair they had orders to diminish

the taliban’s influence in South Afghanistan and restore power to the cabal government it was a mammoth task

the impacts of which are still felt by all those involved Paul as a commander was hit hard Paul thanks for joining us

before we get into your career Journey what does your day look like today today started like most days recently

rudely awakened at about 6 45 by my two dogs uh both wanting to get outside get

a bit of breakfast and after I looked up to them they went back to bed but a cup

of coffee and a quick sort of draw through a to-do list and starting to

think about yeah what what jobs I had to do for the rest of the day so Paul could you tell us about your

career in the army I spent 20 years thereabouts in the parachute regiment I actually started in

the what was 10 para the parasite regiment Reserve Battalion at the time so it was a fantastic part-time job

um it did a lot of training um so I did P company a lot of infantry courses uh

went to Sanderson was commissioned did the basic parachute course at Bryce Norton then towards the end of my degree

that experience I suppose reinforced my view to join the regular army so did all

of those courses again um obviously uh second time around I knew what was coming I’m not sure if

that made it um better or worse but over 20 years I spent

um at least a couple of years one job in each of the parachute resident battalions I did seven operational tours

in the end and towards the end of that time realized actually yeah I’m not sure

I’m going to stay in for as long as I could and realized that I wanted a second career so in 2012 I left to start

and try and find a second career and so uh at the time when you were leaving what sort of things were you thinking

that you were going to go and do after you left I had absolutely no idea a lot of friends who had left at various

stages were moving into the city some into banking one or two left to start

their own businesses which I thought was interesting but actually in my last two years I had a personal experience that

led to inadvertently starting starting the first business there which was safe

sex dog toys so do you want to talk us through that story that uh that took you there yeah

so we take our two little Jack Russells at the time and we’d always take him to the park and throw a ball for them

um quite often if I didn’t have a toy or a ball I would pick up a stick one particular occasion I threw this a bit

of a cack-handed throw and the stick launched into the ground or stuck into the ground a bit like a javelin just as

uh Razzle uh one of the Jack Russells landed on it and I heard this Crunch and

realized he was injured so thought the worst checked him over really quickly I could see a bit of blood but took him to

the local vets I got the biggest bollocking of my life from the vet after he had checked the dog over thankfully

Razzle wasn’t seriously injured but the vet was telling me that the dogs are or sticks rather are really dangerous for

dogs so many dogs are killed and injured every year and that was I suppose my

little Eureka moment realizing that sticks were dangerous I did a bit of market research so there was there was a

gap in the market for a safe stick and so said about what was a three-year

process of Designing developing and bringing to Market a um safe stick and

so this happened while you were still in the army yes so I spent evenings and

weekends um developing this product trying to find a product designer trying to find the right sort of material

um and yeah building the business very slowly going out to Mom and Dad’s Pet Shops all over Wiltshire and the

Southwest uh with prototypes trying to get some feedback being told no being

laughed at sometimes and showing the door and yeah it took it took a long little process but that that sort of

straddled um the my last two years and into my first year after leaving just back to

your military career a little bit um can you talk us through some of the the challenges you faced during your

time in the Army yeah it was moving around typical of um uh suddenly a

commission officers career it was a move every two years and so suddenly the first six months in every position was

was learning the ropes uh and it’s a mix of um commanding platoons

um or units and also staff jobs but certainly when when soldiers were involved yeah I felt it you know a

challenge to first of all gain the respect of those troops it certainly wasn’t um you know wasn’t taken for

granted and I felt as a commander I needed to prove my competence and my my ability and then it was obviously

um trying to make sure my skill level was as good as it could be and being as

prepared as possible to deploy on on all those operational tours needless to say you know those tours

were there the biggest challenge of my career each one in turn lots of tours of Northern Ireland then

Kosovo Sierra Leone and then Afghanistan and um it’s only coming under Fire that’s

when yeah those challenges really really peaked and for everyone but certainly me

um in a command position yeah that that really was the the uh the peak of of charge

so uh just picking up on the uh the the constant new roles every couple of years

and having to um uh having to settle into a new role do you think that uh that constant

change in prepared you well for an entrepreneurial life absolutely they’re pros and cons

um it is great for experience um the British army to tends to to do

that on a a two-year rotation so you spend the first six months learning the ropes a year of probably adding value

and then the last six months uh trying to wind up getting ready to hand over to

your successor and looking towards you your next role but I think that that constant change and

um I suppose adaptability is is a fantastic foundation for um yeah the entrepreneurial world

and so uh you mentioned Kosovo was that 99 it was yes I was there too

small world there we go yeah we’ve probably crossed paths at some point

um so uh when you’d when you made that decision to leave um what was what was that experience

like from when you signed off to like your first sort of few months out of the army I felt I was I was really lucky so

I know it’s it’s a challenge for all of us in um in uh I suppose different stages and

um intensity but I had what I thought was just the most fun job as my last few

years which was commanding the the Red Devils uh Free Fall team um there was a serious side to it yeah

we were a high profile PR resource and recruiting resource for for the British army as a whole and also the Parish

arrest man but it was just a huge amount of fun uh as the joke goes you know falling out a perfectly serviceable

aircrafts uh all over the UK and all over the world so at ease out of that I

suppose strict combat role um Battalion or battle grips with life I

wasn’t even wearing combats I spent most of my time in a in a jumpsuit and so I

felt my transition was was fantastic that that was a great way of um of easing me out of that sort of military

mindset and a lot of of my rule uh commanding the team was dealing with commercial organizations we had to

discuss branding licensing different sponsorship deals so I felt actually

that was as good a I suppose experience to set me up for for a second career

yeah that certainly sounds like it’s a step towards a civilian career rather

than coming out straight out of a direct command position and going to work in a bank or something absolutely and but I got so much abuse

from all my friends and Peter grip just every any time I saw them and those were the worst displays jumping into any

military uh event because you just knew you’d get so much abuse from uh from friends for not doing a proper job

um but yeah it was a it was a great transition as possibly anyone who hasn’t served in the military won’t realize that actually uh the amount of grief

that people in the forces give to each other you know and and it’s not

malicious but it’s there’s a constant barrage of what sounds like quite

offensive abuse um from from your closest friends absolutely and I suppose that um you

know that sort of banter and the black humor um I suppose I think reinforces that

resilience um you know forget any training or going on operations it’s just that the day-to-day sort of camaraderie and all

of that banter you know we give and take it uh as as we can and I think that just forwards forges

um lifelong friendships so when you left uh you’d got the the dog toy business

um uh sort of as a fledgling business that let’s call it at the time uh so

what did you do next so I realized that I I couldn’t fund

that that business I couldn’t make the I was blown away by the demand um I couldn’t make them fast enough but I

needed a lot of capital I’d extended all sorts of credit limits on um on credit cards uh remortgage my home borrowed

from friends and family and and couldn’t make them fast enough and that led to an experience in

Dragon’s Den I then did a licensing deal with um a company called Kong and the

world’s largest producer of dog toys they do cat toys as well but um that was

a great experience I I think looking back was was just the right exit um for the uh for sea sticks I then

moved around a little bit worked at a startup tandem skydiving operation having had so much experience in the

skydiving world uh that was that was fun but I I was looking for I think something more substantial and actually

looking for uh for a corporate job I thought about starting another business but I wasn’t really sure what but it was

um I suppose serendipitous that’s through a friend’s gonna introduce to the CEO of a a large uh Japanese and

Multinational he was looking for someone with a bit of a military background and so that led me into a corporate job for

almost five years and uh what what did you do in that role I started off as a as a project manager

um I was then given um responsibility for a couple of teams and that led very quickly into running

the marketing and Innovation for the whole of Europe which I suppose was a

great match with what I was interested in and also a little bit of um that experience of bringing a a new product

to Market so it was again a fantastic experience I had a couple of teams of seriously

bright people in um in the sort of product design and Innovation categories and a marketing team with a really

healthy budget so great experience uh the CEO was fantastic as a mentor and um

yeah I learned a lot over those five years do you think there was uh there was a lot that you could take from your

time in the Army to help you do well in that corporate role absolutely

um and we might you know come back to this about other companies employing veterans any military training or any

time that we spend in um in the services uh as you know you know those transferable skills are fantastic

whether it’s teamwork communication resilience resourcefulness and actually that’s why that um company recruited me

they had a lot of seriously bright people but as the CEO said at the time they couldn’t organize Chaos on the

sinking submarine so wanted someone to bring you know a little bit of military planning and rigor and and discipline

um to some of their training actually we were maybe three months in or I was three

months into that job and the company was um was doing some training courses for

some of their middle managers and the third part of that course was out in the

New Forest where everyone would spend a couple of nights um sleeping under our Basha

and I’m doing various training exercises and I was standing there with the friend who who got me the job we did the

introduction and the CEO and a couple of ex-military types um it was getting dark we were standing

around with head torches on um just about to spend the night in the forest eating um food out of a ball in

the bag um and my friend asked me how would my transition to a corporate career was going I liked it oh yeah not very far at

the time but um yeah that was just one aspect most of the time was spent um you know in a in an office behind a desk so

you mentioned an experience on Dragon’s Den do you wanna do you want to tell a little bit more about that yeah it was a

great experience I’ve been watching the show for a couple of years and

um because I couldn’t generate the cash to produce enough dog toys to meet that

demand I was looking at any and all sorts of options so applied to the Dragon’s Den I was amazed that I got

picked up went down for a screen test um that was fine and then got a date for the show

and slightly different set to to what they use now but at the time there was a

spiral staircase and I mentioned my two little Jack Russells I knew that with a dog toy I had to take a dog on but um

yeah the Jack Russells would not have um I think performed well so I I hired a

trained dog and everyone gets about 10 minutes

everyone is pitching gets about 10 minutes on the set before anyone arrives just to familiarize themselves with

walking up the spiral staircase so I was going to lead the dog up the staircase

with a safe stick in its mouth we’re going to do a little turn at the top uh walk into the center onto our our mark

and um Pitch the dragons that went amazingly well

um for two rehearsals so come at the time all the dragons are there um obviously what you don’t see when

you’re watching the show is down that left hand side um just all the cameras lights uh all

the production team um so yeah naturally a little bit nervous we started up the spiral

staircase we got to the top the dog missed its step uh got tangled up in my feet dropped the safe sticks I bented

down it was covered in dog’s bit and just within 10 seconds I just was had

this image of me crashing and burning and it was it was just going so very rapidly I managed to untangle myself

from from the lead and dog and we ended up sort of at some point you know back in the middle of the uh this sort of

stage thankfully they didn’t screen any of that but within 10 seconds I managed to I suppose compose myself and start

into my pitch which I think rehearsed about a thousand times but it was it was a great experience I got some

interesting feedback I thought I might get a bit of interest from one of the

Dragons four of them at the time owned dogs and so yeah there were some interesting questions but I think my

business model and um certainly at the time I was a little bit naive and there were too many people

in the supply chain I didn’t know at the time but I was getting ripped off massively I found I further down the

line but um certainly the financials weren’t that attractive at the time so I got a little bit of pushback from the

dragons I was told by Hilary devay at the time that I was stupid

um Duncan bannatyne told me I would never sell any um which if anything I was disappointed leaving without investment but I think

those words were ringing in my ears and they just reinforced my my attitude okay

well tell you what um whenever I sell my millionth unit I’m going to send you it’s a special edition just to go there

you go how’s that which I did did they reply I didn’t get a reply no

um actually you know from Deborah medium I did get some replies on on Twitter uh she was actually uh yeah very funny

about it and yeah wish this all the best that’s really cool it must have been quite satisfying when you were when you

were signing the deal with Kong after having like these very high profile investors on TV saying it’s not gonna

work yes exactly and as I say um you know I I could have let that

advice or feedback get to me but I was just I think my being stubborn at the time and and realizing that actually we

had plenty of customers and for that some single fact that we were struggling to meet demand uh I think just spurred

me on so yeah it was hugely satisfying I was really lucky to um meet Kong um it was a bit of a punt flying to the

States going to a big Pet Expo and walking straight up and pitching to um uh they were my first Port of Call so

yeah very satisfying and really lucky to um to do that deal with them so that that knocked back uh from uh from the

dragons then uh but still carrying on that I think that’s a testament to the resilience piece that uh you would have

got from your from your military career I think that and maybe a bit of stubborn

stupidity sort of thrown in but yeah I think you know that whole resilience piece of if we are either training or on

operations we’re not going to have all the resources uh we want time might be against us and it’s just a case of well

you’ve got to get on and do the job do the task in hand and I think that

translates really well into the entrepreneurial world where we’re always you know short of time or money or or

whatever it might be and so yeah let’s get on and make things happen

so I remember we were chatting before and you told me about a bit of guerrilla marketing that uh that you’d undertaken

while you were trying to um promote safe Stakes that’s right yeah

so we were maybe a year into um having launched the the company and I

had plenty of stock on hand I was just trying to maximize seals I didn’t have enough money to take a

stand at crufts but um was managed to find a company that would uh would partner with me and let

me have a little section of their their booth and so um we had a couple of um

little retail stands with dog toys on them I’ve been talking to a guy called

Mark Abraham who’s a bit of a celebrity vet and just I think again Serendipity

uh played a part managed to catch them at the right time on Twitter and he was doing a little bit on for crufts TV a

camera crew came walking around the corner I had lights on my face and and managed to start talking uh with the dog

toy anyway um I thought okay when that goes out the next day that’ll that’ll generate a

little bit demand hopefully but um I remember I can’t remember where I read the story but I thought well let’s get

ahead of um everyone else in the marketing and the uh the competition for eyeballs at

crufts and you know when you go into any exhibition you’re sort of bombarded with leaflets and pliers and all sorts of

banner ads but I thought I’ll start at the car park um with a couple of sticks of chalk and I literally walk from every car park and

rode on the ground obviously thankfully it wasn’t raining but wrote on the ground just a little thing about safe

Stakes find them at this stand and maybe another 100 meters did the same message again took me a couple of hours to go

from every car park and every footpath but on every um I’d like to think that generated a lot of interest but whenever

the um whenever crops opened there was a queue around the block for people

wanting to buy a dog toy and so yeah I think as for me that was a great lesson

of of any little Gorilla Marketing trick doesn’t have to cost any money or it can be as inexpensive

um as you can make it but I think it’s just you know it comes down to using your imagination to capture eyeballs and

attention improvise adapt overcome there you go exactly it’s a drop a little cliche in there yeah so then uh you say

you uh you basically just doorsteps Kong at a show yes I might have broken a rule or two

um but went to a large Pet Expo in in the states

um took in a dog toy out a list of all the major doctor manufacturers went up

to uh Kong it was the biggest spoke to the first guy I saw explained that I had a dog selling really well in

the UK and uh would they like to talk about it you put a grand fabulary arm around my shoulder and said step this

way turns out he was the president of the company I didn’t know we went and had a chat and I think six weeks later

yeah we had hammered out a deal and and that was that and was that a a life-changing moment for you when when

you did that deal it was certainly significant um I

clearly starting any business you put your life and soul into it so safe

sticks was my baby I felt like a concerned parent handing over that that

child that I’d nurtured for the last few years and yeah it was

looking back it was the right absolutely the right thing to do I was a little bit uncertain at the time

um but it worked out really well at just all the financial pressure and I was in yeah a fair amount of personal debt at

the time that I’d used to fund the business so um yeah mixed emotions but it was

um there was a lot of relief there but I suppose personal satisfaction and that was yeah about 10 years ago and and safe

Stakes were still selling well so yeah thank you Kong and so from when you uh when you signed that deal you went from

you running everything that safe sticks did to taking a much smaller role so in

the sort of immediate period after that what did you do

I was working at that um tandem skydiving startup uh based on a wheelchair so that was occupying my

time I was looking for a corporate job so sending out lots of CVS

um thinking about other business ideas I had a couple of other ideas but zero money to to do anything with them so um

yeah that was probably about a year of not being in limbo I still I was reading widely of his networking I was just

trying to do everything to I think set myself up for whatever came next so since then you’ve you’ve founded more

companies yes um property fell into that

um actually that goes back to about 2007 when a friend of mine also

ex-military she is a financial advisor specializing in mortgages and we thought

we would set up a company to offer a mortgage advice specifically to um uh

serving soldiers their families and Veterans again based on personal experience I

had enough money at that time to buy my first property and I remember

um not having a clue what the mortgage broker was telling me um I got a solicitor I didn’t have a

clue what they were telling me either I signed a lot of documents but we didn’t fully understand the uh the significance

of some of the terms I was I was signing up to so uh we we set up a company called

Armed Forces Financial Services um she’s definitely the Brilliance behind that um lots of experience with lenders who

can understand that bfpo address history because for a lot of us if you spend time on on big camps

um the average credit check will not recognize that you live on a camp with a

thousand other people and and will give you a negative credit rating as a result so we set that up uh that’s all going

strong and we I dab a little bit in property but then I suppose my biggest

challenge over the last three years after that corporate job was getting into the world of wearable technology

and so what what was the problem you were looking to solve yet again based on personal experience I

was on a skiing trip with a friends and on day three the joke is he very

selfishly injured himself in fact he tore his ACL doing this jump which he

shouldn’t have been doing definitely didn’t have their the talent to uh to pull that off but it was selfish because

it meant I had to ski by myself for the rest of the trip so Billy numitz listening to music

um but I found that when I wanted to skip a track or even adjust the volume on the headphones that were underneath

my helmet I couldn’t with a sort of gloved hand get on the little buttons so I had to stop take a glove off reach

inside my jacket get my phone out to do that operation and it struck me that there was no

better wearable tech or anything that would let you do that that quite easily so that was I suppose the um the start

of the idea and it’s been a three year process to design develop a better tag which

turned into a smart ring and we’ve just launched that in the last couple of weeks from the point of having the idea from

your your skiing holiday did you then socialize that idea with friends and say

what do you think would you buy this or did you just go no I believe lots of

people have this problem I’m gonna go ahead and do it more more of the latter

um yeah I think friends and family are a good sounding board invariably they will

often be kind and say yeah that’s a great idea you should go a little bit further some of my friends I suppose

swing the opposite way and and will be absolutely brutal and say no that is the most stupid idea I’ve ever heard so um I

I took a sort of mix of that that advice but I did try and speak to others I did a design Sprint so I left the corporate

job that was my um uh motivation to leave that corporate

job I’ve had this idea I’m gonna run with it I’m quitting my job yep okay bold yes or stupid

one of the two or somewhere in between uh so I got a an agency involved and did

a design Sprint because originally I felt the idea could be risk-based but it came out from that and we had a a

blind focus group at the end of that and I think that little bit of feedback from some of those people was that yes that

there is a um the basis of an idea here it’s not entirely stupid

um it’s probably ring based as opposed to sitting on your wrist so that was enough I think for me just to take

another risk um clearly had to to brief the wife

um she thankfully was very supportive and said yep if you if this is what you’re passionate about if this is going

to make you happy because I was getting a little bit uh I suppose Restless in that corporate job and so she was

thankfully hugely supportive and so we launched into that and that was three years ago

and so then from your journey with safe sticks how much of that

helped you with the uh the wearable a huge amount I mentioned before that I

was naive at the time um Manufacturing in China shipping products internationally

um just all the rules and regulations finances bureaucracy but more into that you know the product design my

experience with that corporate job was was hugely beneficial um but a wearable technology product

hugely more complex than a rubber dog toy so um I realized I wasn’t going to

be able to do this on my own um find um met a CTO who had experience in their

in the sector and so we we joined forces pretty quickly probably three or four

months into into the process so yeah we Kumar has been on board ever since then

and brought all of his experience contacts and Industry knowledge with him

and so then uh that that process of three years and you say

um just you launched just a couple of weeks ago yes so it was

well I don’t know what they it’s a rule of thumb is on launching a product but

um it took us three times as long and cost twice as much um throw covert into the mix and the

lockdown um the the restrictions on funding uh it

turned into an absolute slog I think that that probably every startup founder will say the same thing yes it was a

slog lots of ups and downs lots of frustrations lots of challenges running out of money more than once almost

having to fold at one point because we just couldn’t make things work we

couldn’t um get past the um some of the product issues in particular but we we persevered

um got some fantastic Angel Investors on board very supportive and and just again

I suppose stubbornness resilience bloody Madness pushed on through um

we had some great backers so we launched a Kickstarter and also a campaign on Indiegogo so that was a huge boost and

um immensely satisfying two weeks ago to write to all of those backers to say that thank you for keeping the faith but

your product is being shipped it’ll be with you next week and we’ve had some amazing responses from from a lot of

those backers who finally got got the product they supported so they’ve got it in hand now yeah I’ve got it in hand being used in the real world yes yeah uh

so I I saw a photo of yours uh with a lot of boxes in your kitchen apparently

yes uh and yeah I did a little um sort of

post on that it reminded me back in the day with I think it was the second shipment of safe sticks 5 000 units

arrived um into uh into my house and they’re in the garage occupying sort of two or

three rooms that unbox them all because they had to re-label them and uh and ship them out and I thought um and

actually we’re still serving at the time so every afternoon once I finished work I got home I would box up all the

customer orders that day take them down to the post office and ship them out and just day after day and most of my

weekends spent doing that I I swore to myself never again anyway moving forward 10 years and um

just looking at the financials um I suppose it goes back to just being Frugal and and resourceful but I wanted

to pay for Fulfillment company just to take all the logistics um of my hands but I thought well

actually I can do this myself I can do it again and um it will save us a lot of money and

actually it’s been fantastic so talking to customers you know sending uh mostly

automated emails out the tracking number is getting direct feedback from customers it has been fantastic I would

like to think that once we uh grow or when we grow and the volume of orders

get to get to gets to the stage where I can pass it on there Fulfillment company that’ll be great but for now my my

kitchen is the Ops room and I’ve got to get back and put some more out today so

uh have you you’ve brought on with you today I have never leave home without one uh so it comes a little product pack

uh this is the tech which is interchangeable through a whole different um series of different sized Rings these

are all stretch fits so you can wear them on a finger or over the top of a glove or you can swap this into a

handlebar mind so if you’re cycling or on a rowing machine you can and you don’t want to wear the ring on your

finger you can attach it so it sits just beside your hand and you can control the joystick with your thumb

uh obviously giving you the Hard Sell what else can I say uh super light so it’s less than 10 grams

five days battery life out of it 20 days on standby um it will connect in seconds to to your

smartphone and we’ll start controlling your playlist straight away or we’ve got an app and you can do a lot more with

the app that’s really cool if anyone who’s listening or watching is

interested in buying one how do they go and buy one so our website is so

Arc x dot fit fantastic so uh it sounds like you’ve

had uh quite an interesting and exciting time uh post military but uh there’s there’s

one more thing I’d like to uh pick up on from your time in the military so you

were awarded a distinguished service order do you want to tell us the story behind

that um I think a lot of it was down to one particular

day uh the 26th of June 2006 when I was I led a patrol with um it was

a platoon of Royal Irish regiment soldiers who were attached to my company

um and a lot of pressure Arrangement soldiers also on the patrol was Christina Lam uh Sunday Times journalist

and Duncan Sutcliffe a photographer and supposed to be a routine Patrol we went

into an area near garesh that we hadn’t been to before so we were just extending

slightly outside um our area of operations that we’re already covered and uh supposed to cut

long story short what was supposed to be just our meet and greet talking to uh to the local Village Elders

um turned into you know quite a cheeky little situation um on leaving that

Village we were attacked by a number of Taliban that number grew until there

were 25 to 30 talibans surrounding us we were in a particularly difficult piece

of ground we had lots of irrigation ditches to cross before we met up with the vehicles that dropped us off it was

a deliberate decision to go to that area knowing that we were outside of artillery range when we called for air

support we were told that there was another situation going on further up the sang in ballet and there were no

helicopters or fast air support available for us

so one of those I think life-defining moments uh big swallow and

realized actually now I need to raise my game and come up with a plan to get us out of this what was a 360 degree battle

so history plan brief the the troops and and off we went and that turned into a

two-hour uh fighting withdrawal across pretty challenging ground and to this

day I say that you know I don’t know how we got out of that without

um any casualties I know exactly why it was down to just encourage resilience

um skill level uh of every everyone involved so we we fought a way out of

that um got reunited with our vehicles and and got back to Camp with nothing more than cuts and bruises

um no casualties on our side different story uh on the Taliban side so that was a significant event but then

um through the rest of the tour we had a further 46 um contacts

and personal shapes or forms uh silver form before um we then recovered back to

the UK that’s that’s quite the story so then when you take the severity of a

situation like that too then Duncan Valentine telling you can’t sell dog toys uh there’s yeah it’s

easy to see how you brush one off yeah I think so I think any time in the military

um not necessarily on operations I think instills that

you know is it resilience is it stubbornness maybe a degree of confidence

um some of it is not taking ourselves too seriously but um

yeah suddenly with with a small team in it and both in the startup world and in

the corporate world but my sort of adages if things get get tough and obviously they do the pressure’s on

um I’ve used the line quite often to the rest of the team look okay no one’s no one’s going to get killed no one’s

getting pregnant as a result of this this I won’t take a breath it’s not that serious okay and let’s figure out what

we’re gonna do one of the things I’ve really enjoyed um and even post-militaries the the

community aspects that you you get from having been part of that um and uh it seems there’s a lot of

people out there that that try to give back into that Community do you want to talk to uh talk to us a little bit about

what you’ve done in that space yeah absolutely so I’m I’m very uh Keen to uh

to give back as much as I can so I’ve been involved with heropreneurs

um which is a charity set up exclusively specifically for

um to help those who are transitioning out of the military and who want to start up their own business so for

anyone who’s got an idea to to start their own business here openers is a fantastic charity to help them out there

are lots of other Charities uh focus groups forums chat groups you and I met

at um at a drinks event uh in London LinkedIn there are a lot of great um uh

groups on there so I think it’s just a case of doing a library of research doing a bit of digging

um asking to join these groups you’ll be invited with open arms and there’s a lot of great advice out there I certainly

made no end of mistakes certainly the safe sticks still making mistakes

um but I think more now than than in the past with my experience there’s lots of people that you can get advice from even

if it’s just to have a bit of event um to get a second opinion on something

um it’s just a case of of asking and um yeah there are a lot of people are very keen

um out there to give back what they can so the the group that I met you at

um that I found that to be such a fascinating uh fascinating group and it

was um it was after um going to the first drinks uh for that

that I started putting together the idea that actually this podcast could be a really cool thing to do because

um you know who would know uh when they’re coming up to the end of their time in in the army that someone left

the Army and went on to be the CEO of Google in Europe or someone sold six million dog toys or you know I mean

people people don’t know these stories and um I think it can it can often cause people to aim low

um and I don’t think there’s any need for people to aim low I think people can leave military service and do amazing

things um and I would absolutely encourage that absolutely and

us being veterans there are so many other veterans out there with uh with a lot of

um world-class experience having built businesses worked in businesses sold businesses and anyone who’s leaving all

they have to do is and you can find muscles linkedin’s a great resource drops the line and um yeah you know most

of the time very happy to with that military connection um answer a question or if we don’t know

the answer introduce you to someone else so it’s just a case of yeah reaching out and asking

so uh it’s been it’s been fascinating to hear your your story today and um

if you were to give a piece of advice to someone who’s just coming into their last 12 months in the army What would

what would you advise them I think firstly have the confidence that

their their skills and experience and and talent is valued by a lot of

Civilian employers sadly there are some that that just see a military

um entry on the CV and I’m kind of dismiss it out of hand but

however long they’ve spent in the services there they’ve learned a huge amount that will

stand them in in good stead whether they want to go into the corporate world or

if they want to start a business yeah clearly there are some big decisions but but starting a business I think there’s so many

attributes soft skills and an attitude that we get from a a military

um career that that lend themselves so well to the entrepreneurial world so they’ve got an idea to start a business

um don’t go into it with romantic views that it’s going to be easy and you’re going to hit unicorn status within 12

months and have a yacht of part of Santa pay um if you’re not it’s a long slog

challenging but hugely rewarding so if they want to start their own business there are lots of forums

um help groups um Charities out there that that are geared to give them the advice

um heropreneurs who I’ve been involved with as a mentor for the last 18 months I’m really passionate about if they want

to start their own business get in touch with the charity they can get a mentor who can offer a bit of advice and

guidance and steer them in the right direction but I suppose my coming back to that one piece of advice is yeah you’ll

leave with your your heads held high and and launch yourself into your second career whatever that might be

brilliant um Paul thanks very much for coming on today it’s been uh it’s been great

chatting to you thanks for having me Nick yeah great to talk thanks for listening I’m sure you’ll

agree the stories from the guests on the show are incredible starting your own company is an incredibly Brave and difficult thing to do and there’s a

theme of resilience through all these stories which is key to success as an entrepreneur if you’re a veteran with a

good story to tell we’d love to have you on if you’re leaving the military and you want to get in touch email podcast if you run a business and you’re looking for an I.T company that’s entrepreneurial and

forward thinking please do get in touch I hope you enjoy the rest of the series

[Music] thank you

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