E18 – Effective Presentation Skills with Paddy Willis – Expert Interview

 
 
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E18 – Effective Presentation Skills: Interview With Paddy Willis from Mission Ventures

In this episode, I interview Paddy Willis. Paddy is Founder and CEO of Mission Ventures and has a passion for building better challenger brands. He was co-founder of disruptive baby-food brand Plum, which was sold in year five to Darwin PE in 2010 on retail sales of £15m. Since then he has been mentoring and supporting start-ups across the industry, with the first UK Food accelerator launched in January 2015. Recently, Mission Ventures announced their partnership in The Good Food Fund, a £1.8m fund established by Big Society Capital with Guy’s & St Thomas’ Charity to tackle childhood obesity with market-led solutions. Today, we discuss effective presentation skills.

Effective Presentation Skills, Paddy Willis

You Can Read the Transcript of Our Interview Below:

Nathan Simmons:
We are in. Phenomenal. Welcome to another Sticky Interview. My name is Nathan Simmons. I’m senior trainer and coach for MBM, Making Business Matter, the training provider, soft skills provider for the U.K. grocery and manufacturing industry. The idea with these interviews is to be sharing the thoughts and concepts of great people in great spaces doing great work to help you be the best possible version of yourself. Today, I’m speaking to a gentleman I got to meet last week by the name of Paddy Willis.

Nathan Simmons:
Paddy, I’m going to read his bio here. I’m going to tell you why some of this is so engaging for me, though. Paddy is the founder and CEO of Mission Ventures, and has a passion for building better challenger brands. He was co-founder of disruptive baby food brand Plum, which was sold in year five to Darwin PE in 2010 on retail sales of £15 million, which on its own, Paddy, is pretty phenomenal.

Since then, he has been mentoring and supporting startups across the industry with the first UK food accelerator launch in January 2015. Recently, Mission Ventures announced their partnership in the Good Food Fund, a 1.8 million fund established by Big Society Capital with Guy’s and St. Thomas’ Charity to tackle childhood obesity with market led solutions.

Nathan Simmons:
This is where it got interesting for me, why I wanted to, and when I reached out to Paddy, so there’s three elements of this. One is challenger brands. I thought that’s really interesting, disrupting markets. Two, childhood obesity, this is a huge thing that’s going on with the way that the industry is moving.

Then I got thinking, those two facets on their own are difficult enough. What do effective presentation skills… What is a great presenter in that space where you’re talking to companies about challenger brands that may put them out of business potentially or disrupt their market, and also getting people to make moves on the amount of sugars, and salts, and fats, et cetera, they’re putting into their foods, and what sort of skills have you got to have in order to present to that level, to get people to make those shifts?

Nathan Simmons:
I thought, “This is a person I need to get to know. This is a person I need to ask some questions to, and this is a person [inaudible 00:02:22] interview.” Paddy, thanks for being here.

Paddy Willis:
Thank you for the invitation, Nathan, delighted to join you.

Nathan Simmons:
Thank you. So look, one of the first things is, and we talked a little bit about this before, that necessity to create a brand. Why do you do what you do? Originally, it was Plum baby foods, but now you’re helping other markets do that disruptive thing that you do. Why do you do what you do?

Paddy Willis:
Well, they always say that if you do what you love you’ll never have a job in your life. I think I’ve probably got that wrong, but you know what I mean. The principle is that if you do what you love, then every day is a great opportunity and great fun. I do what I do, and that’s in terms of working with founders and entrepreneurs of, in this case, food and drink businesses, but I have worked with a whole broad range of different sectors over the years because I’m drawn like a moth to the passion and the commitment and the vision of these individuals who often don’t…

Paddy Willis:
Particularly, this is very true in the food sector, and this is completely an unscientific observation, but it’s based on having worked with food and drink startups over the last five-plus years on our business accelerators is that I would say 85, if not possibly 90%, of founders do not come from within the industry. The reason I think that is, is because if they did come from the industry, they probably wouldn’t start because they would realize just what a challenge it is to succeed in this market. It’s also been helped by the fact that a lot of barriers to entry have come down.

Paddy Willis:
It’s become much easier and resources to things like shared kitchens and consultants, everything else, has become much easier. When we set up Plum back in… We launched in 2006. So it’s about the passion for the people and the purpose that they have behind what they do. I’m sure we’ll talk a bit about that in some of the context the challenger brands. The other thing, and this we’ll come back to, it’s irrelevant to the concept of what makes for a good presentation because really it’s about story telling, and a good brand is about telling a good story. I always remember. There’s a guy called Daniel Priestly, an Australian entrepreneur who I try and think when I heard him speak. It was at a small event for founders. I don’t know what it’s called. It was 10 years ago.

Paddy Willis:
He talked about the fact that he is a very keen mountain walker, and it’s a thing. When you go mountain walking, you know where you’re going and you set off up this hill. Which the hill becomes a mountain, and you get to the top, and you eventually get there, and you take in the view around you, but inevitably your eye is drawn to the ridge that it’s going to the next peak, and that’s going to take you onto the next part of your journey. He says, “But if you were to look down where you’ve just come from, you would see that inevitably there are going to be people following you in your footsteps, following the paths that you’ve trodden.” He says, “It doesn’t really matter what you do,” and this isn’t exclusive to an entrepreneur.

Paddy Willis:
It could be anybody in a career, and in life in general, is that you will at all different stages in your life, you’re starting on a mountain of value, and that’s everything that’s helped you get to that point in your life. He says the simple thing to do and the pleasurable thing to do is to look behind you and say, “Actually, do you know what? I wouldn’t go left there. I’d go right because I tried left and it was a bit tricky. I went right and I’m here.” So it doesn’t really matter whether you’re five minutes ahead of somebody, or five hours ahead of them or five years ahead of them, or 50 years ahead of them. There is always this concept of being able to share with people what you’ve learnt on that pathway, and that’s what I love doing.

Paddy Willis:
I do a lot of mentoring, do a lot of activity particularly around helping our young students to understand the world of entrepreneurship, open their eyes to possibilities as and when they eventually get into the workplace. So it really comes down to working with people with passion, and wanting to try and share that journey, share what I’ve learned from standing on whatever mountaintop I might be on, or even the mountain I might be halfway up. Wherever you are, it’s just helping to pay that back.

Nathan Simmons:
Exactly, and that is why I do what I do. With 23 years in leadership positions, I have made a lot of mistakes. I’ve made a lot of errors. I’ve failed countless times of being knocked back from interviews, by being frustrated at myself, and it’s not about denying, and I’ve learned the difference between pain and suffering. It’s not about denying people the pain because you need the pain to make the movement, but it’s helping people to make the movement faster so they don’t wallow in it, and then it becomes suffering.

They don’t do anything, and then it takes them longer to extract that goodness out of where they’re going. If you can pass that back one year, two years, five years, 20 years to someone else that they’re at a turning point in their journey at 23 rather than 43, and I say that leadership and parenting are not two sides of the same coin.

Nathan Simmons:
They’re exactly the same thing, and you want the people in your care to supersede you. No parent in their right mind wants their child to be equal to less than them. They want them to supersede them. So when you go and mentor and business coach or do all those things, you want that person to supersede you, so they can go do something incredible. That comes from people like you, by sharing some of that wisdom to help them go left instead of right at the right time, phenomenally powerful.

Paddy Willis:
I’m a great believer in karma and what goes around, comes around, and all these other phrases that basically mean that you treat others as you wish to be treated. So everyday I’m learning something new. I wish I’d been braver to ask for help and mentorship when I was younger, but there was sort of a sense that I had in my head, if no one else has it, just in my head that I just got to figure out for myself, and the reality is that there are so many things that I don’t…

You’re absolutely right. You learn far more from the failures than you do from the successes, and successes you just think, “Oh, that was good.” And then you carry on and do a bit more, but actually, when it doesn’t work out, that’s when you sort of think, “Well, why didn’t it work out?” You’re forced to rethink about it and readdress it.

Paddy Willis:
Yeah, so I think for anyone in leadership positions or aspiring to a leadership position, it’s having the humility to know when you don’t have all the answers, and I’m a great believer in authenticity in terms of whether it’s a brand, or whether it’s your personality, people can smell bullshit a hundred miles away, and to a degree that’s sort of… In a challenger context, I sort of think that’s what’s happening now to a degree with the shift away from some of the big colossal brands of being around for decades. People don’t quite believe in them the way maybe they used to, and they’re inquiring mind is leading them more towards brands that speak in a different language, that put forward values that the consumer can relate to.

Paddy Willis:
That’s another reason I love what I do because I get to work with people who are expressing those values, every day in the products, and the brands, and the businesses that they are building.

Nathan Simmons:
That’s an interesting tangent. We might not be able to go down it today. One of the research pieces I did about a year ago came up with only 27% of all employees actually believe in their company values.

Paddy Willis:
Wow.

Nathan Simmons:
Which is huge, and then when you look at the engagement levels of the global import, it was something like 87% of the employed are not engaged in the work that they’re doing. So those two equations kind of just sit quite nicely together. When you then transfer that over to the client and the customer demographic, okay, what does this person actually want? Because there’s a wider choice, I can go and choose a product from a person that I think has more values or looks like me, or holds my best interests at heart, and having this one size fits all potentially from a large organization may not be the best approach these days. I say that more now from a coaching aspect.

Nathan Simmons:
As coaches and mentors, we know there are a million different coaches out there, but it’s all about finding your demographic, finding your niche, and potentially from what I’m hearing from you is that sort of thinking is also bleeding into the food industry and challenger brands as well, huge interest.

Paddy Willis:
Yeah, definitely. I mean, if you look up what is a challenger brand, essentially it starts from a mindset. It starts from a position of saying, “Really? Is this as good as it gets?” If I look back to the genesis of the idea for Plum Baby, which was my and Suzy’s idea at the time, was we have a gap of eight years between child two and child three, and going back, although consumers have benefited, but it was always a convenience thing. It’d be good to have something you could chuck in the baby bag and take away for the weekend, et cetera.

Paddy Willis:
It was the fact that nothing really had changed, nothing had moved on, and so that was the inspiration for Suzy in this case to go out and say, “Look. Surely, we can do something better than this,” and that’s what led to the genesis of Plum Baby, and we helped change the category as a result, but it was born out of that frustration that big food, and when we’re talking about brands like Heinz, and Danone, [Countgate 00:12:16] Organics, which was the Lizzy brand had formed organics some years prior, and had built it very successfully. It was really probably the only challenger brand at the time in that space, and yet again that had elements that were a bit tired, and not driving real innovation.

Paddy Willis:
That’s what led us down the path to do what we do, which was to launch a premium, but ambient baby food. It was actually, when we sold in 2010, we were still quite considerably bigger than Ella’s Kitchen, and in the years that followed, guess what. Paul Lindley led Ella’s Kitchen to be biggest baby food brand in the U.K., overtaking Countgate and Heinz in the process. I don’t think we ever believed we could do that. We’d always set out, by the way, to have a five year plan to an exit, which is actually what we achieved, but the point being that we broke down the barriers of how things were done in that sector.

Paddy Willis:
Now, of course what’s happened is that Ella’s Kitchen has gone from being the challenger brand to being the leading brand, and once that happens, you’re no longer the challenger brand. You’re the incumbent. It’ll be interesting to see over the years what happens to those myriad of smaller brands that are out there now trying to challenge the marketplace, but that’s what’s…

There’s two good examples of parents setting up brands that tackled something that they saw missing in the market, and that’s what we see an awful lot of, particularly with brands that are seeking to do something around child obesity. Often there’s cases being set up by founders who are parents and who have been shocked or disappointed by the sugar-laden additive, heavy products that they saw being forced or encouraged to consume.

Paddy Willis:
So I think, yeah, it starts with a mindset, and it is that element of, “Do you know what? This doesn’t have to be the only way, and we’re talking about food and drink, but obviously that’s happened in other markets as well. Tesla is quite an interesting example of how somebody has managed build an incredibly successful company challenging the automobile industry, which… So the challenger brands are everywhere, and I think what’s encouraging is that the younger generations now, by which I speak to some. You could call millennials the younger generation. The Gen Zeds and millennials are making more purpose-lead decisions, value-led decisions.

Paddy Willis:
That’s leading them to choose brands that are shaking things up, and personally I believe that this is the part of what we want to achieve as Mission Ventures is to help transformations by helping to build better challenger brands that can lead the process of change, very much as what’s happened in the baby food market where now, suddenly, the status quo has been shifted towards a brand that is doing better food, and filling little tummies with more nutritious food than what was acceptable before.

Nathan Simmons:
There’s so many good things in there. One is you talked about having that five year plan and working to that, and I think that’s one of the key effective presentation skills that are there is when you go into a presentation, you begin with the end in mind. When you go into a business, you begin with the end in mind. When you go into kind of disrupting a market in a certain, you begin with the end of mind. Stephen R. Covey, Seven Habits, it’s a life lesson, and you also touched on what is a challenger brand, and it’s about disruption. It’s about that necessity is the father of invention. Like you said, you had the gap between child one and two.

Nathan Simmons:
Actually, can we do something different here? Can we bring something that we know solves a problem to us, and because it solves a problem to us, actually it probably solves a problem to another two million people out there, in some, way, shape or form. The other interesting analogy that popped in my head is you’re looking at Ella’s Kitchen, they were the disruptor. Now, they’ve become the incumbent. Now, they’re number one. It’s almost like Bannister’s four-minute mile. He breaks the four-minute mile by whatever it was, half a second, two seconds or whatever, and then that record was broken something ridiculous, like 27 times in the next 12 months because he proved it could be done.

Nathan Simmons:
Ella’s Kitchen goes out. It does that. Plum Baby Food comes in. Another one comes in. Another one comes in because, like you say, you’re at the top of the mountain or you’re halfway up the mountain, and people are going, “Bloody hell. Look at Paddy. Where is he off to? Maybe I can do that in my space for something that’s important to me? I’m going to start climbing that mountain as well.” When you talk about what is a challenger brand it’s about disruption and doing something from necessity. Where does it come from? Might you say it’s purposeful? It’s from the heart in the majority of times.

Paddy Willis:
Yeah.

Nathan Simmons:
What role do you think challenger brands play in helping to shape the food industry moving forward more so then?

Paddy Willis:
Well, it is this point about saying if you’re going to disrupt a category, and coming back to the example with Plum and others, is that you go about doing that because you believe it’s not settling for second best. You forge a way, and in doing that there’s that sort of drag effect where people come into that slipstream if you like, and suddenly the new normal is to be healthier. All of our recipes when we launched were… At that point, you could still call them super food, but they have all the super food ingredients. We introduced this whole concept of baby food going away from being rather sort of bland fillers to something which actually carried purpose for the ingredients.

Paddy Willis:
That’s pretty much the case, not all across the industry, but much more prevalent now. As I said, that’s what’s led to others being able to come up alongside and overtake us, and become the dominant party. Another good example in that is Fever Tree. Who would ever have believed? I remember as a kid going in and sipping from bottles of Schweppes tonic water in my parents’ drinks cabinet, and being terribly sophisticated in the process, and also a bit naughty, and who would ever have believed that label of Schweppes was ever going to be toppled as the market leader? Lo and behold, within 15 years of launch Fever Tree has done that.

Paddy Willis:
I know they’ve had a few challenges more recently, but that still doesn’t take away from the fact that they were able to take on a market leader, and I think a lot of their very clever advertising and marketing was this whole point about if three quarters or whatever it was, if your drink actually is the mixer, then surely that’s as important a part of the drink as the tonic, as the gin or the spirit. In terms of what can the challenger brand do to change the market, it can do exactly that. It can lead, and it can demonstrate that there are better ways to do things or different ways to do things. Those different ways to do things are actually meeting a consumer need.

Nathan Simmons:
That got me thinking. This is why I’m enjoying this conversation. Me learning about challenger brands, me learning about… It’s almost like these homebrew beer companies, craft beers, and so many of them coming about. Actually, there’s a level of quality that’s pushing art now because, actually, we want something… We don’t want complacency. Or generic. We want different,  inspiring. Those purposeful products with values, and then it got me thinking about Simon Sinek’s book, and I’m still yet to read this, The Infinite Game, and one of his concepts in there was having a worthy adversary. It’s not about having competition.

Nathan Simmons:
You want someone that’s going to push your buttons, and sometimes really annoy you and agitate you, but they push you to be better than you were before because you know if you stop paying attention, they’re going to accelerate away from you. It’s not that they’re going to crush you. It’s they’re going to take the market lead. How do we bounce ideas off of each other from the other side of the call? How do we use them as the encouragement to help us make our own products obsolete before someone else does? Really pushing this thinking, so actually we need challenger brands to be stepping up so that actually we step up and cut out the complacency, super important.

Paddy Willis:
Yeah. That’s a really good point. I’d say you could learn that in management situations as well is that if you don’t have people who are thrusting challenger personnel that you getting you, you got to keep thinking. You got to keep thinking, “What am I’m doing to deliver value? What am I doing to demonstrate that I’ve got ideas and capabilities that could be put to greater use within this organization that I belong to?” I think this is important. I can remember this. I’ve been in situations in the past where you’ve been in the business, and suddenly someone has announced that they’re doing a product, tool or service, which is very similar to yours.

Paddy Willis:
You go, “Oh, we’re too late! We’ve missed the boat,” all this. No, actually, because if you’re out there on your own, you’re an outlier, and it’s really hard to be able to scale behind that because you’re challenging the ways things have been done traditionally. As soon as it becomes a little bit more mainstream, and people start to get into that same flow, then that’s when people will start to go from beyond just the early adopters into the next category consumer. You do need people to come on that journey. Clearly, you hope obviously that you’re going to keep a nose ahead, and be the dominant partner in that race towards perhaps toppling the incumbent and becoming the new market leader.

Paddy Willis:
Doing it on your own and in isolation is a real challenge. As hard as it can be to see sometimes to see people coming into this saying, “Market segment.” You have to recognize the fact that that’s doing two things. One is validating your concept and your idea, but it’s also making it easier for consumers and clients to understand that what you’re doing is not so odd because, actually, there’s various people doing different flavors, different degrees of that, and then that’s giving them a choice to choose from that, rather than or do I go mainstream or do I go to the slightly oddball outlier? Not for no reason do we have that old adage of no one ever got fired for choosing IBM.”

Paddy Willis:
So if you’ve got a situation where you can see a selection of options that look different to maybe the way the market looked a year to 10 years ago, then making a choice on that is less challenging, maybe less threatening to you as an individual or to you as a business leader. I think that’s really important is that people need that to counterbalance.

Nathan Simmons:
I think that’s also a test of your own focus, and optimism, and belief in what it is you’re doing because if you’re presenting with confidence that product, or you’re feeling that kind of knock of someone else is in this space, that you can stand up and present with confidence what it is you believe and why you’re doing it, the purpose of this where this is coming from.

Again, as you say, people will buy that authenticity. They’re buying into your values. They’re buying into why you’re doing it, not necessarily just because someone else thinks they can undercut you and deliver a cheaper product at a better price. There will still be a marketplace for you as long as you are storytelling and presenting that element in a way that is bringing those people on board, and encouraging them to buy, super important.

Nathan Simmons:
Thinking though, what’s now in the big project? So we talked a little… I alluded a little bit to the Guy’s and St. Thomas’s element. What’s the current big project?

Paddy Willis:
So this is really exciting, and I get slightly daunted in that excitement because we are trying to tackle something that is so huge and, yet, so important. We’ve all been aware of the incessant rise of obesity as a nation and, most worryingly, how it’s starting very early on.

Childhood obesity now is a big topic. So Guy’s and St. Thomas’s the charity has set themselves a 10-year program where they are investing in and exploring different ideas to see what can be done to challenge the status quo. They wrote a report with Big Society Capital, who are the other co-funder behind the Good Food Fund, which we are working with. They published a report called Healthy Returns, which was setting out to explore this concept of could you derive market-led solutions by backing and supporting healthier challenger brands?

Paddy Willis:
So that’s the context. This is one of many projects that they are funding, and because they are a place-based charity, Guy’s and Tommy’s charity, they are focusing particularly on Suffolk and Lambert. Now Suffolk and Lambert happens to have some of the worst rates of childhood obesity in London. There is a particular obesity corridor that runs across both those burroughs. What we are doing is working with… Ascension Ventures have been nominated as the fund manager for what is a 1.8 million fund, the Good Food Fund, which will provide equity and debt solutions to a range of businesses that can help to try and tackle this challenge.

Paddy Willis:
We are running a business accelerator, which is likely to extend to about 10 or a dozen businesses, particularly with a focus on healthy snacking, but not exclusively, but looking at healthy snacking, and are there ways where with younger children, so primary school-aged children, that we can encourage families, and the children to adopt healthy habits by providing more options for them, and this is really a pilot program where if we can work with the challenger brands, and with retailers, and other routes to market over the next 12 to 18 months, the ambition for the funders is to create a much larger fund that will not only be supported by themselves, but by others within the investment community.

Paddy Willis:
In doing that, bring with them the retail industry, the wholesale distribution industry, and again, it comes back to this point, really, of saying, “Is this as good as it gets? Are there not things that we can be doing to improve the environment in which families, particularly those from low-income families, because low-income families… I’ll give you a classic example within the burroughs we’re talking about. 10% of children in primary school in [Cottage 00:28:26] Village were obese. That rises threefold to 33% in Camberwell Green. There you’ve got two wards where there is this huge disparity and it comes out of the fact that the options available for low income families are poorer quality, and this is the issue that we are trying to face.

Paddy Willis:
Can we work with the challenger brands to help them take what are classically more expensive products to make because they are using usually more premium ingredients, and by definition they are using smaller runs in volume and, therefore, their costs are higher. They need the margins in order to attract the investors, and to stay in business so they have to inevitably end up marketing themselves through the more expensive retail channels, which are really just not the hunting ground of low-income families. This is what we are looking at. How do we help steer the brands and the industry into ways of thinking about how we can disrupt the way things have been done traditionally?

Paddy Willis:
So it’s very, very exciting, a huge, huge challenge. It won’t just be down to us, and a dozen or so brands, but this is a test pad for looking at how we can work with the brands with the distribution channels to see what can be done to provide scalable brands that can address the challenge and, at the same time, generate healthy returns for those that are investing in them.

Nathan Simmons:
It was sparking some old ideas that I have about food, et cetera. I obviously have a relationship with sugar. I’ve alluded to that in some of our previous conversations on how that affected my health at a very young age. I ended up being diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease and having imbalances in my gut flora. Ended up having huge sections of my intestine removed, abcesses, and [inaudible 00:30:28] sores.

I was lucky enough to cure that because we were very focused on our diet. Not everyone has access to that information. On the flip side of it, though, is actually when I think about that question of what place do the challenger brands have in the market, well, actually, things like sugar, sugar beet, sugarcane, the whole huge swathes of power over the content of food, and for the way that people buy.

Nathan Simmons:
Actually, one of the things I was looking at I used to grow a vegetable called a yacon, which actually when boiled down produces inulin, so your body doesn’t actually digest it in that sugar, but because no one is farming that at a large level, you can’t produce that sugar and, in effect, such a low rate purchasing price because of the volume of sugar beet that’s on the market, potentially. You need some of these challenger brands to be stepping in with these new solutions that are going to go, “Actually, here’s a product that’s at the right price in the right place delivering the right flavor so that people can make a choice when they’ve got that in front of them.

Nathan Simmons:
Then in doing so, they can do something that’s healthier or better for themselves, so at a price bracket that suites that demographic in that space as well, super important.

Paddy Willis:
Yeah, definitely. No. You’re right, and we work with a brand called True Foods, who you mentioned inulin; they’ve adopted inulin. They’ve gone from being just a granola brand initially to being a whole range of granolas and porridges, but also doing what they call a jarful of fiber, which is liquid inulin and coming from chicory root, and it’s got fantastic qualities for helping to close the fiber gap, which a far too high a percentage of our population experience.

We struggle to get our five a day, but we’re also definitely not getting our fiber. You referred to gut flora and gut health. This really is the big movement that we see is brands that are extolling gut health and some very exciting evolutions in that space, a long way still to go, but people always say, “Trust your gut.” It’s your second brain and everything.

Paddy Willis:
Yet, we don’t treat the gut very well. You just alluded to decisions that you were making as a child that led you to have all sorts of drastic medical issues later, and this is why it’s important for us to… Education will go so far with consumers, but there is a role for brands to play in challenging the way things have been done in the past. It’s hard if you’re a small producer with relatively expensive ingredients, and a need to, obviously like every business, to make a margin that’s sustainable.

We’ve been looking at what are the things that can be done around that to help you to scale your business effectively, and in doing that to then become a more affordable healthier range that becomes an [inaudible 00:33:55] brand in terms of it’s available to everybody, rather than just a select few.

Nathan Simmons:
There’s that, and I remember the turn of the buying process we’re going from normal food products when organic started to become a thing, and then it was actually being organic was a lifestyle choice. It wasn’t actually an option because organic food was so expensive at the time, and I think it’s getting better now. Like you say, it’s having those options are available where actually the content, and the ingredients are of not necessarily they’re a premium quality, of a good quality where it is affordable. It is accessible. It’s healthy, environmentally sound, and it’s also good for us internally, a gut level, and I think that some of that’s going to happen at a personal level, a company level, but also at the food produce level as well.

Nathan Simmons:
How are those organizations being run, and what are they saying is okay to go down that food chain, which actually is causing a lot of the problems, and how that’s manipulating the thinking. This is an interesting tangent. I was screaming out for sugar all of the time. I always wanted sugar whenever, but it wasn’t actually me screaming out for sugar. It was the internal yeast infection.

It was the bacteria triggering responses in my brain to scream out for more sugar to feed the imbalance, which then caused a hospitalization. They don’t understand that. You just go to the sweet shop and you buy whatever is there because you feel you have a necessity to do that. You almost feel as if that choice is taken away from you because you just don’t know any better, unfortunately, because that’s the environment you’re in.

Paddy Willis:
No, definitely. As I said, the big focus for the charity is to explore how we can help those lower-income families through improved options. Everybody wants affordable, tasty nutritious, healthier food, but in a lot of cases, the cheaper options are not… You’re either cheap or you’re tasty, nutritious, and healthy. That’s a massive oversimplification, but that’s classically what you see. Shelf space is given by retailers to those brands where they can shift in volume, and it’s really hard for a healthier brand to necessarily get those [inaudible 00:36:34] rates in place. I think where there are fewer options available for affordable, healthy, and tasty food and, also, the other element, of course, is around what are the options for playful exercise that will engage children?

Paddy Willis:
We are talking at the time of the pandemic, and the lockdown, where it becomes really hard for families to… You’re imagine you’re in a town somewhere in Lambert or Suffolk. Your options are limited. I’m here in Surrey and I’ve got a garden I can walk around and a village to explore, and take the dog for a walk. There are these polarities, unfortunately, in society, and to a degree, this has been really the spotlight of the pandemic is… The pandemic is to try and spotlight on this issue, and I was reading just the other day that… I think it was Just Eat had released some data, which said that families are tending to order their takeout food for delivery earlier, sometimes up to two hours earlier than they would do normally.

Paddy Willis:
They’re adding on more desserts, and ancillary purchases with their meal because people spend the whole day in lockdown, and if you’re a frazzled parent, it’s much easier to say, “Oh, okay.” You’ll get the sticky pudding or the dessert, whatever, the kid is asking you for. There comes another sugar hit just before bedtime.

It is really hard. Certainly, the work that came out of the Healthy Returns Report demonstrated that, of course, a large part of these inner city low-income families are populated by single parents, usually mums, at home, with a couple of young kids. The challenges are legion. There is the worry behind getting the bills paid. There is a worry about the children’s health. There’s a worry about their schooling. There’s a worry about who they might be hanging out with.

Paddy Willis:
All these things are crowding in on you, and also if you haven’t necessarily come from a household where there’s been a culture of cooking, and such that your field of vision, the options within your field of vision are very narrow. With the pressures of your existence comes an even greater narrowing your focus. It’s that fight or flight mode where you are literally looking at survival. How do we get through the day? How do we get through the next bill run, the next payday, et cetera? You will naturally gravitate towards the simplest solutions, and sometimes that’s the takeout. Sometimes it’s a snack to help keep the kids quiet and off your back. You’re trying to get the laundry done or whatever the things are.

Paddy Willis:
It’s really, really tough. The food industry has an opportunity now to step up and give shelf space to healthier brands. Give opportunities for brands with purpose and with real values to drive and initiate change because we know that can happen.

Unfortunately, we’ve just also gone through several weeks of panic buying where shelves have been cleared to make more space for the big brands, and I understand there are reasons why that happens, but there has to be a balance here, and people will want choice. They’ll want better options available to them. In doing that, you need to give airtime, space on the shelf to the healthier challenger brands that can not only resonate with how you feel about the world in general, but also to provide tastier options and tastier solutions than just the mainstream.

Nathan Simmons:
The other thing you picked up on there was we’ve had to pivot our business quite rapidly in this very changing last few weeks that we’ve been in lockdown, and we’ve been doing some live trainings, 1:00, 20 to 30 minutes. One of those was around isolation. Actually, people have been getting tired earlier. The initial part is they were getting tired around 8:00 and feeling lethargic. They’re not able to focus on their projects. They don’t want to start new projects. You’ve got these levels of worry and stress that sit in the background, but you find a lot of these things that people are doing are actually stress reactions. They’re actually symptoms of cabin fever.

Nathan Simmons:
You compound a couple of these elements of, “Okay. I’m in [inaudible 00:41:19], wherever, in this small space. I’ve got children.” Potentially, you’ve got some other stuff here around price, value, quality, all those elements, and then you bring all that into one bundle. You then put that into the melting pot of COVID-19 and, all of a sudden, those choices start to compound very rapidly, and like you say, the dessert quantity or ancillary purchases goes up to backfill the abnormal environment you’re in, the alien environment, and compensate that as trying to make yourself feel better with a sugar hit that brings the emotions up, and the dopamine levels up just to deal with the negative situation that people are in. They’re trying to balance that out.

Paddy Willis:
Some data I saw recently about how big brands, Walker’s and others, are seeing a bit of a boom at the moment because people are gravitating back to those comfort brands that they’ve known throughout their lives, and bigger purchasing volumes have driven bigger sharing bags and everything that’s going through, and if you’ve got more limited time to exercise and to work that off, that is a real challenge at the moment. Of course, the reason it’s been in the spotlight more recently because there’s been evidence suggesting that a very high percentage of those that do end up dying from COVID-19 across age groups have had issues with obesity, and the underlying issues that go with that, whether diabetes or a heart condition, et cetera.

Paddy Willis:
There is an interesting dilemma where people are wanting to comfort eat to get through this period of isolation and shut down, and abnormality. There’s also, at the same time, been a huge increase in Google searches for healthy eating, healthier snacks, healthy food, et cetera.

There’s a sort of balancing act going on between people who are saying, “Okay. Let’s have family bag or whatever,” and others who are thinking, “Well, actually, I need to look at my health, now, my nutrition, and work out how can I avoid some of these kind of pandemics in the future?” Let’s face it. There will be another one at some point. Maybe not in our lifetimes, and that’s the real issue is there has to be some work because already we know that obesity had been driving a lot of the NHS budget.

Paddy Willis:
It’s drawn down an awful lot of that underlying health impact. Now, of course, we’ve got this suggestion that it’s made people more vulnerable to COVID and, therefore, there has to be an initiative by government to say, “Look. We’ve all been really good at getting out there and supporting NHS, and wonderful things like that Army veteran walking 100 times around his garden.” The last I heard it was over 13 million.” Listen.

Nathan Simmons:
[crosstalk 00:44:21]

Paddy Willis:
Extraordinary things going on, and we can’t be doing all of that just in order to then just drift back into some level of complacency. There will have to be some level of government initiative around healthier eating.

There also needs to be some responsibility for consumers to be willing to look at the other options available to them, and to consider swap outs between… For example, the work we’re going to be doing in the burroughs if we can put products on the shelf, it would take the same price as the market leader. There is a healthier option, but without shouting the health story to people because that’s a turnoff. If we can get them to make swaps that are tasty and nutritious, and affordable, then little by little you can see how you can very, very gradually start to nudge the needle in the right direction.

Paddy Willis:
That’s not really asking very much to the consumer because you’re simply just giving them options that allow them to make their own improvements for health, and many other things they need to be doing as well with their lifestyle, but that’s just a tiny thing that we can start to try and work on.

Nathan Simmons:
I’m interviewing a gentleman by the name of Oliver Bailey next week, and that interview will be available by the time that people are listening to this, and what he is doing is he’s taking the fruit and veg from the markets that’s no longer going to restaurants because they’re closed, raising charity money to then buy those products, and then going and giving that to the doctors and nurses so they haven’t got to think about what they got to go shopping for because you’re talking about that stress environment.

They’re doing 13, 14, 15 hours. They don’t want to think. The first thing they do is go to the café or they go to the supermarket. They’re hungry, which is the worst state to be in when you go shopping for sure. You guy 10 times more things that you don’t need, and you make those healthy choices.

Nathan Simmons:
Repurposing that produce, and giving it to these guys that are working in high-pressure environments as well. It’s just having the ability to be able to pivot as a consumer for all the right reasons, and be able to see those possibilities, and innovate with your own health and wellbeing, but it’s having that education, that internal dialog to be able to do it, and having those supporting challenger brands. Now, you talked about that gentle nudge, and that leads into the third part, really, of this conversation for me, which is around presentation skills. What are the qualities of a good presenter? Because you’ve got to get a message across, and being a good presenter to companies, to consumers, to regulators, the full works. What are the qualities of a good presenter?

Paddy Willis:
Well, I think the first thing that is very obvious that we’re stating is the presenter has got to be engaging. If you can’t engage the audience, then it doesn’t really matter what you’re going to tell them. They’re not going to switch on. They’re not going to be receptive. You need to be engaging with that. It helps if you can be confident in the message that you’re looking to deliver. It’s very hard to put across a strong message if the presenter is lacking the confidence because then you’re thinking, “Well, actually, do they really believe in what they’re saying?” I think I mentioned the word authentic and authenticity before. I think there’s a huge need for people to let the natural authenticity come out.

Paddy Willis:
You brought out some very scary stats early on about how disengaged people can be with their jobs, and the work they do, but hopefully if you’ve been put in a position to present something, as we do certainly with the work that we do with the brands, and the partners that we work with, and we are on the verge of signing our first corporate venturing partnership, the joint venture with one of the U.K.’s biggest food brands to help them get closer to challenger brands, and help them to look at potential deal flow for M&A down the road. All this is coming down to do we have the… Why would they trust a little, old organization like us a fraction of the size of their business that’s been going for trillions of years to help them in what they know is a real challenge?

Paddy Willis:
They know they haven’t got the enhanced skills to bring these brands on, and to development. They’ve got all the big issues of their existence to worry about, rather than some scurrying, little brand that’s getting in the way, and not making a profit for them.

You have to have confidence in that. Also, particularly if you’re doing something, whether you’re talking to one person or whether you’re talking to a room or to an audience, you’ve got to be able to have empathy. You’ve got to come back to the point of our engagement. I’m a great believer that if you’re making a presentation to a bunch of people around the table or into an auditorium, you have to make eye contact with everybody. You have to bring them with you, make them feel personally that you are talking to them.

Paddy Willis:
Often, it’s interesting. I know I’ve been guilty of this many, many, many times, and will be again, but you often find people. It’s a little bit like a garden sprinkler that’s kind of got slightly stuck, and it won’t go to water the rest of the garden. People get stuck in a certain quadrant of a room, and you’re thinking, “Come on. Come on. Come on. You can do it, you can do it. Bring your focus over to the other side of the room.” Yeah, so I would say it’s about the engaging. It’s about having confidence in what you’re presenting and discussing, being your authentic self in that, and having the empathy, having the ability to engage with the member of your audience.

Nathan Simmons:
To me that’s the four… really pretty important to do that. I think when you talk about that confidence and that empathy, and authenticity, you’re tapping into those things. I had a conversation yesterday and how many people get overexcited or they put too much importance on what they want to talk about, and they come diving in, and they just blurt out a load of stuff at people, and they only give them half the message or they give them the backend of the message, and mess with it because, yes, it’s all important to them, but they miss that storytelling.

Nathan Simmons:
They miss that connection, that engagement to bring the audience on the ride to show people the journey, that necessity that has created the invention, and the authenticity of why you’re doing that, and being able to impart that empathetically so that people go, “I want to listen to this person.” They do know what they’re talking about and do give a shit. They care and I want to be a part of that. I want to support them as a leading brand or manufacture. To invest in these people so they can go to the next part of that business journey. I think those four top tips on effective or good presentation skills is phenomenal.

Paddy Willis:
Yeah, and what goes with that, for example, is… Again, I’ve been guilty of this and will be again, not reading the slide. Don’t just read the slide. If you put words on a slide, someone else has already read them probably by the time you’re going to reference to them, so embellish them, but tell the story that goes with that. I reference more times than I could ever imagine the mountain of value story that I heard from Daniel Presley. Actually, I can’t remember anything else that Daniel said in that talk that he gave 10 years ago, but I can distinctly remember that story. I think we only have a capacity, and as I get older, that capacity reduces day by day, but to retain information that we get, but it is the story because we are all essentially storytellers.

Paddy Willis:
We tell stories to the world about ourselves. I am presenting myself in a way that tells you and your audience a story about who Paddy Willis is. We inherently do.

That’s what we do as human beings and as members of a society or of a community, but if you can tell a story… I can envisage situations now where I’ve been in an audience. There’s a presenter up on stage. He might be pacing around a bit, and he or she has presented some facts, and they say, “I want to tell you a story.” Everyone almost is sort of leaning forward. “Oh, you have a story.” Because it’s a little bit like when you go back to school. I didn’t always engage that well in the classes, but when the teacher said, “Look. It’s Saturday, going to read a book.” Whoa, brilliant! Okay. So you’ve taken that in.

Paddy Willis:
It is this element of telling the story, and I think that’s what people will carry away. They might carry away one or two facts, which really struck them as being significant, maybe a statistic or something, but probably what’ll happen when they go back to the office or back to their spouse, and they say, “Well, how was your day? What was the presentation like?” They say, “It was interesting. I had a few good things. He told an interesting story about X or Y,” and that’s I think so important in presenting, and it gives you that little bit of license to step away slightly from what’s on the slide to bring a bit more humanity into it because slides tend to, by definition, to be quite dry.

Paddy Willis:
They’re putting across the key facts, but if you can tell a story that is relating to why those facts and the story behind it is relevant to the audience, why they should join you in a partnership, why they should consider your idea for the next project that your company is going to back, why you should be considered for the promotion or whatever the thing is. Yeah, so storytelling, absolutely critical.

Nathan Simmons:
I think that’s one of the prime skills of effective presentation. One is don’t just be reading off your slide. Ultimate power leads to ultimate corruption, but ultimate PowerPoint ultimately destroys everything, I think is the phrase, and then embellish with the story. That’s what makes it really effective, and you brought that to live then just by saying it’s like story time in school, and everybody bloody loves story time at school. Everybody loved, “Okay. Well, I’m doing my math,” so I’m making this stuff out of pipe cleaners, and blue tackle, whatever, but the moment the teacher says, “Right. Everyone over to the reading corner. Everyone over to the whatever space. We’re going to do a story.”

Nathan Simmons:
Everyone, like boom! It’s inbuilt from you from a very early point. Stories have been used to pass on learning, theory, concepts for years, and years, and years, which is why the Greek dramas were so good. They were teaching you drama so you could observe human relationship under a magnifying lens so you could learn from it but we forgot to learn from those dramas.

What actually happened is we just ended up watching soap operas five times a week, and getting lost in the drama, rather than learning from the drama. Effective presentation, four tips: again, engaging, confident, authentic, empathy, include those. The effective presentation skills really get in there with some story, and bring it to life for people. Make people feel like they want to lean forward. Phenomenal. Last question.

Paddy Willis:
Yeah? The point about repetition is really important as well because people get worried about repetition. They think, “Well, I’m going to bore people,” but this is something I remember being told decades ago about whenever you’re imparting information to somebody in that situation of a presentation. It’s tell them what you’re going to tell them. Tell them, and then tell them what you told them. That process of set out the scene so they know what’s coming. Give them the information of the scene, and then wrap up the scene at the end, and tell them what they’ve just heard. A good presenter will do that falling off a log, and it’s a real skill, but it has to be done in a way which it comes back to authenticity.

Paddy Willis:
That confidence is about why I want to tell you this in the first place, and why it’s important for you to listen, and why what I’ve just told you is still significant. I hope that you’ve now taken away points that will now lead to the other really important thing, which is, of course, when you conclude that presentation is to say your thing of thanking people for their attention, and their time, and everything else, but give a call to action. Is it that you want them to ask you questions? Is it that you want them to fill in the survey form or something on their chair? Or is it that you want them to sign up for the next event or the subscription, or whatever the thing is that you’re… or sign a big check to fund your next project.

Paddy Willis:
I think that’s the thing. Often, you’ve had a really good presentation and you’re thinking, and then they say, “Thanks very much,” and they walk off the stage. You think, “What do I do? What do I do with all that, now?” So I think it’s really important that, as I said, whatever the thing is that you don’t just leave it hanging. You’ve got to provide an opportunity for people to do something. They can choose not to, but give them that choice. Give them the choice to either engage with you or your team or to say, “That was interesting. I’m going to process it.” That was interesting. Hopefully it was interesting. There needs to be something which comes out of that, which is a call to action.

Nathan Simmons:
My next question was how do you end a presentation? That is how you end a presentation. There is a call to action. There is something that you’re giving them. They are taking away a tangible action or an activity that is going to continue their thinking about what you’ve just talked about so that when they get up out of their seat, whatever, they go outside. They get on the bus and go. Still thinking, “What did Paddy just say? Oh, when I spoke to the bus driver that reminded of this.” You’re keeping that flow of thinking because you want that learning to stay in. It was interesting. Again, it came back to that mountain of value analogy. Where is the top of the mountain? That’s where we’re going. Tell them where you’re going to go.

Nathan Simmons:
Lay out the roadmap, and then take them up the mountain through the journey of the speech, and then when you get to the other end, you can now look back and see the journey that you’ve been on. It beautifully ties in with what you said about from Daniel Presley, engaging in those three core elements of a decent presentation. Phenomenal value just in that piece, let alone all the other stuff about challenger brands, and supporting those people, and the work with childhood obesity, phenomenal. It’s a penultimate question. It’s always the same for me. What do you do to make behavioral change stick?

Paddy Willis:
Oh, gosh.

Nathan Simmons:
That’s a big if.

Paddy Willis:
That’s a big if. Well, actually, I’ve got a little bit of personal evidence of that recently because just before Christmas I was suffering with some back and neck issues, and I went to physio, and did the classic thing of saying, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’ll do this exercise, do this exercise,” and then didn’t really do them, but went back and it was evident I hadn’t done them, but it was just before Christmas. Christmas/New Year period I managed to get a slot, and then I thought, “If I’m going to do anything about this, I really need to make this work, otherwise, why am I paying all this money?”

Paddy Willis:
So I did, and now every morning without fail since the Christmas/New Year period I’ve got up and I’ve done roughly 15, sometimes extending it to 20 minutes of exercises and stretches, some of it given to me by the physio because some of it was more Pilates and yoga related. I feel great because I was also doing that, and I get less issues, less stresses and strains in backs, and necks, and what have you, but years, and years, and years I should have been doing that, but it took me getting to the point where I thought, “I’m embarrassed if I have to go back to my physio and admit that I haven’t done what she asked me to do because how does that make me look?”

Paddy Willis:
I was shamed into doing something that I knew was going to be good for me, and so just as an example of that, that’s something which is very relevant to me, now, and now I actually enjoy doing my exercises. I look forward to them. That, I think, is how do you change? Behavioral change is really hard. It’s not for nothing do we have the old expression you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, and leopards won’t change their spots, and stuff, but there are things that you can do. I think the important thing is to make it small incremental step changes. Don’t make it a huge thing that is going to really be a struggle to get around. So if you’re just doing one exercise for two minutes every morning, and building up, and then adding something, and that’s what I’ve been doing.

Paddy Willis:
I probably started off doing 10 minutes, and I’ve extended it, and I did a few extra bits, and I maybe done that repetition a little bit longer. I’ve added in something else I might have seen or thought was useful, but I make a point of not going stupid on it because I’ll know that the next day I’ll feel guilty if I don’t keep up to the same level that I did the day before.

I am deliberately keeping it at a modest level, which I think is enough for my immediate need. I’m not putting myself forward for whenever the next Olympics are. It’s just something for my personal need and satisfaction. I think it’s important to just make it baby steps, and as you go forward, each time you’ll… Each time you go forward, your elastic has got a little slacker, so you can take that extra step, and I think that’s…

Paddy Willis:
Recognize that you’re not going to do it all in one go. Be prepared to put the time in, and wait for it to become a new habit, which is what I’ve managed to do in this case.

Nathan Simmons:
The huge value in that they talk about if you’re going to eat an elephant, you don’t try and swallow it whole. You cut it up into bit-sized chunks. What you’re talking about is one shifting the secondary gains. Why am I doing this? Actually, I’m paying this money. I need to do this. In the nicest possible way, we’re not getting any younger. You’re right. If we don’t start doing this stuff now, what’s that going to look like in 20 years’ time? Who’s looking at that stuff? And then it’s creating that as I was thinking about it as you were saying that habit bandwidth. How much bandwidth capacity do I have for this physically, mentally, emotionally, in time, whatever?

Nathan Simmons:
Okay. How do I create a bit more? It might be 20 minutes of exercise, but now I’ve got a bit more energy. Actually, I woke up 10 minutes earlier, so I can do an extra five minutes of… so on and so forth, rather than dissuading yourself from doing it because you’re not doing 45 minutes of Palates every single morning because, actually, you don’t have the capacity to do that. You build up, and then you work on that, and get to the point. That’s huge, great share. Last question: Where can people find you?

Paddy Willis:
Well, they can find out about Mission Ventures at missionventures.go.uk, and they can look me up on LinkedIn. I’m known as Paddy Willis there, as I am the rest of my life, and I’m also on Twitter, @PaddyWillis, although I’m not terribly prolific on there. I’m more of an observer than a contributor. Yeah, and happy to hear from people if there is anything that they feel they can contribute to.

Nathan Simmons:
Amazing. I cannot stress enough the importance of the work that is being done by Paddy on various different avenues of helping challenger brands. These small companies that are up and coming, connecting them with bigger companies.

So anyone that’s listening to this that has got a food idea and they’re incubating it, connect. If there are big brands that potentially are looking to bring these people on and take them to the next level, connect with Paddy. This is going to be massively supportive. In the midst of this, he is also working to help support the initiatives in the reductions of childhood obesity, which is causing so many problems for so many people, whether they realize it or not. We know obesity is causing a huge strain on the NHS, as it is anyway, let alone without COVID-19.

Nathan Simmons:
So these two avenues of work that Paddy’s doing, for me, Paddy, from everyone out there that you may be the ripple effect of the work that you’re doing you may not get to see, thank you from them to you as well. Please keep doing what you’re doing. Anyone that’s listened to this and got value, reach out. Connect with Paddy. Talk to him because he may be able to help you get that food idea out there, connect you with someone, connect you as a big company with them to make a change in someone’s life. That’s huge. Paddy, thank you very much from MBM. Thank you very much from the Sticky Interviews, and we’ll see you on the next one. Appreciate it.


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