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'Ballsy for Mallzee' - can you choose to be successful?

Last week I was fortunate enough to attend a talk by Cally Russell in Kelso, hosted by the excellent Business Gateway Scottish Borders.

It was a great evening, though I would make one small suggestion about the catering – if you’re going to serve delicious looking tray-bakes along with the tea and coffee then please provide plates or serviettes! I picked up a very tasty piece of chocolate crunchy something and balanced it on my saucer by my coffee as I found a seat, and within seconds the cup, saucer and my hands were covered in melted chocolate – leaving me trying to network looking like I’d come straight from my nursery class…

Anyway, on with the blog!

You might not recognise Cally’s name, but he’s the CEO and founder of Mallzee, the leading multi-retailer clothes shopping app in the UK, he features in the prestigious Forbes '30 under 30' list of European influencers, and was able to turn down an offer of investment from Peter Jones on BBC’s Dragons’ Den. An impressive record for someone still only 28.

His talk focussed on his journey from small-town-Scotland to one of the biggest names in the app world, and how he’s got to where he is without – by his own admission – being particularly clever or having any discernible skills or talents! I thought it was a great talk, interesting, engaging and inspirational, and it showcased Cally's approach to business (he's said in the past that you've got be 'ballsy to invest in Mallzee', and his overall approach could be described as pretty ballsy as well - certainly tenacious, driven and determined).

I know that one or two in the audience weren’t as impressed as I was however. Speaking to a few people afterwards I struggled to put my finger on what it was that didn’t work for them. Was it a reflection on Cally’s relaxed style that for some would have been genuine and engaging, but others might view as disorganised and unpolished? Did he alienate some by refusing (understandably in my view) to give a straight answer to some commercially sensitive questions? Or perhaps it was the fact that he has achieved success without the technological know-how (code writing etc.) or other expertise that you might expect someone to have in his position, and what that means for the rest of us. Has he been lucky, or does he make his own luck?? It might be a bit of a wake-up call for some, but for me, Cally Russell embodies one of my favourite phrases – ‘Choose Your Attitude’. It’s too glib to say that you can choose to be successful (though you can certainly choose not to be), but it is possible to give yourself the best possible chance of success.

He closed the talk with a few of his thoughts to live by:

“Passion beats skill.”

The relevant skills are obviously crucial to any business endeavour, but if not supported by the right mindset and a real passion for what you’re doing then it might not be the best fit and you’re unlikely to get the best results.

“Ask for help.” “Help each other.” “Pay it forward.”

Everyone needs help at some point, but not everyone asks for it. There’s no shame in asking and it will get you to where you want to be faster. Encourage others to ask and help where you can – together we can achieve more if you proactively create a collaborative, supportive environment.

“People have opinions; you can have different ones.”

You don’t always need to conform – don’t be afraid to take a different view and back yourself.

“Work hard(er than everyone else).”

As with having a real passion for what you do, working hard is so often the difference between success and failure.

None of this guarantees success, but it does give you the best possible chance of getting where you want to be. It might mean getting out of your comfort zone sometimes, but that’s a choice that you get to make. These are all choices that you can make: choose your attitude and see where it can get you!

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