In addition to keeping you updated about all the great things that are going on at The Clubhouse, we thought we’d turn the tables and put the focus on all the exciting things our fantastic members are achieving!
For our June ‘Member in the spotlight’ feature we spoke to new member John Gordon, Founder and CEO of How To Academy, who organise talks, conversations and compact courses for people who think big.
Tell us about yourself and How To Academy.
I previously spent 25 years running a media business which monitored advertising, but in 2002 set up my first events business, more as a hobby than anything else, called Intelligence Squared. I loved debate at university and felt that there wasn’t anything in London in the form of university style debate. I ran that for 10 years, but then left to start something new.
How To Academy doesn’t have to fit the debate format, which gives us a huge opportunity for the range or talks we can put on; I can organise a smaller event for 30 people on how to speak in public, or 1000 people on an evening with Gloria Steinham. We do 45 events a week at a range of different venues; our goal is at least one 400-seater venue per week and at least one 1000-seater venue every fortnight.
It’s currently just a team of two of us, which is faintly ridiculous! London has exploded in the ‘spoken word’ and we’ve got about 50,000 people in central London to market to. Therefore, it’s so important to get people’s time and attention by programming talks that allow the audience to take back something that will impact on their lives or their businesses. For this reason, talks on emotional intelligence, behavioural economics, neuroscience or happiness work well.
We also do a lot of corporate work, which we grandiosely call our “private intellectual catering division” where we programme talks from leading academics from around the world on ‘what is around the corner’, that will come and impact upon your business, so key things you really need to be aware of.
What has been your biggest success so far?
The biggest success so far has easily been our evening with philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy. It was two and a half thousand people, although it wasn’t the size of the audience, it was the quality of the talk that was exceptional. We’ve done three two-and-a-half-thousand people talks; one other was with Professor Daniel Kahneman who wrote a hugely successful behavioural economics book called Thinking Fast and Slow.
What’s the best bit of advice you’ve ever been given?
It’s not so much advice, but I was rejected for a job having done a psychometric test. It was predicated on the basis that I was very good at strategising but not so much running of a business – my inability to run a business was because I only wanted to do the most serious things and this particular business required someone to run it day to day. But this really inspired me to think that every detail is of equal importance, it’s not just about sitting there thinking of grand plans; you’ve got to deal with client servicing and the most boring things. And actually once you consider everything to have equal importance and take away the hierarchy between interesting and boring things, the business of running a business encompasses the totality of it and you end up thinking that everything is an opportunity to sell and impress people. So really the small things do really matter, whether they be boring or not, although you do have to be careful not to get too bogged down in the details that you can’t see the bigger picture!
What project are you most excited about right now?
The most exciting thing for us, which we think of internally as an ‘intellectual Uber service’ is the provision, on demand, of one-to-one private training workshops via Skype. The idea is that it becomes a platform for speakers, allowing them to conduct lessons anywhere in the world. There are a huge amount of online courses, but there is very little that is live, so if you wanted to talk to the expert on 3D printing, or wanted to become a better public speaker, this platform would enable you to do that. The other way to think about it is an adult tutorial agency – parents don’t think twice about getting a tutor for their children, but they are not used to being able to phone up a tutor for themselves to cover life skills or business skills, so it’s a personalised learning platform.
How has being a member of The Clubhouse improved the way you work or contributed to the success of your business?
I’m still quite new so we haven’t had a chance to take full advantage of the facilities yet, but it was very inefficient having two of us each working from home, or in separate cafes in London. Therefore, the very simple fact that The Clubhouse will allow us to sit at the same table and have daily discussions will make us far more efficient rather than sending endless emails to each other!
Where can other members find you?
I tend to be on the go all day meeting publishers and speakers, but once I start getting into the rhythm I’ll be at Grafton Street
Favourite place to go in London (apart from The Clubhouse obviously!)
My two favourite restaurants in London are Dinings, a Japanese restaurant and Mazi, a Greek restaurant in Notting Hill.
Tea of coffee?
To see How To Academy’s upcoming talks, please click here.
We hope you enjoyed finding out a little more about John and How To Academy, don’t forget to say hello if you see him at The Clubhouse! You can also find other members on our Members Directory, either browse the directory or search for a particular skill. Make sure to upload your own information so that other members can also find you – just log into your account and choose My Profile.
If you would like to be featured in an upcoming Member in the Spotlight, please contact [email protected]