Getting a lot done and changing the world can be a fast and fun process. As a young entrepreneur, Michael Mckay has worked strategically alongside some of the world’s largest companies, charity trustees and business leaders. He’s a Global Committee Member at the UK Houses of Parliament and recently launched a pioneering refugee organisation that’s quickly spreading across the globe.
But his journey into global entrepreneurship had surprising and early beginnings:
“The background for this comes from my own myriad of experiences. Growing up, I got bullied in school, so the reason I got involved in all this productivity was actually by accident. I had to learn to walk again, which was quite an achievement and quite a challenge, but it got me into being a freelancer at the age of 14, 15.
At that time I didn’t really know anything about what productivity or being organised was.”
So how did he get so far so fast?
Here are his top tips for productivity.
1 Get on top of your mountain of emails and requests
Even if it is just a holding response, clearing your inbox or to do list is incredibly liberating.
The thing I learnt was just, keep in touch with people. It’s really critical, it’s basic. Even if it’s just sending a holding message, people really like it. It let’s them know at least you’re on the request, you’re doing things.
The key thing that I do is clear my inbox, just absolutely clear it. The simple tip is – if I can’t action it it gets archived or deleted. If there’s nothing for me to do, what’s the point of keeping it in there?
I see at work or with my friends, they’ve got an inbox with 8,000 unread emails. It’s quite common, I’ve seen it everywhere I worked, and then there’s me with about 1 email from about two minutes ago that I’ve not responded to or actioned yet.
It’s nice just to detox your mind. 6 inboxes – 1 email – that’s it!
It really helped my career because it just builds trust. I got really lucky in terms of the opportunities; going to parliament, having all these really cool meetings with Lords and Sirs and CBEs and MBEs and charity workers and business people and entrepreneurs. They do that, because they trust me.
In my freelancing career, I went from a school bedroom on photoshop to three years later working for the largest pharmaceutical company in the world. And that just shows the power; when you’re 16 years old you can still do this stuff, or if you’re 66 years old. It’s radically important. Just get stuff done. Make it happen.
2 Reflect on open opportunities
Take time to look at what opportunities exist for your enterprise and think about how you can take them forward.
Have some vague idea of where you want to go, and think, how do we achieve that?
To give you an example, at university I started a marketing society, actually by accident, much like my career. I was in business school at the time and business school was a lot of theories and stuff that wasn’t practical or applied. So I wanted to create this really applied kind of organisation so that in academia you’ve got lectures with real world links. We did a world first initiative with the Chartered Institute of Marketing, the Global body for marketing, we worked with Saatchi and Saatchi, one of the world’s most respected brands. We created this really compelling ecosystem: you’ve got students, and you’ve got academics who are the thought leaders, and industry and employers. And now I still get people who come to me and say ‘that transformed my whole life, I got a job out of it.’ It just shows what you can do – and we achieved all that in nine months from the start to something really compelling. We had Oxford University trying to copy us. It’s always good to be ambitious.
3 Do something wild
Expose yourself to something completely new whether that’s salsa dancing or knitting for two hours, it will help to clear your mind and meet people who think and approach life completely differently – who knows, they may even be your future investor or partner!
One of the best things I did last year was do some improvised comedy. So I was talking in a comedy gig for two hours, just like that, and it really enforces the skills of communication and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone.
For a while every month I’d try and go to a new country and stay at Youth Hostels and stuff and you meet the most incredible people. It just opens your mind and you get fresh perspectives. Just put yourself in these situations where you meet people with all kinds of different ideas and backgrounds, it’s incredible.
I always try to expand my mind, go to all kinds of Meetups, comedy, beer Meetups, walking groups, networking, it’s just amazing who you can meet and a key thing is following up.
Find a partner or team who compliment your approach and skill sets so you can focus on what you do best.
I like people who share a similar mindset but have a different set of skills that compliment mine. I like people who are a bit more commercial, maybe a bit more critical. Because I always say yes, which gets me into all kinds of fun opportunities, but also some trouble sometimes. Not really, but it could do. There’re people who always go no, or no but, and they’re kind of annoying but at the same time it adds a fresh perspective, makes you think a bit differently in these areas.
You’ve also just got to find people you get along with and have fun with.
5 Be known as a responsive and trusted person/organisation
Do what you say when you promised it or just communicate that you can’t, it’s rare but incredibly powerful for those looking to grow their reputation and organisations.
I’m always keen to develop more trust. Particularly when you start something entrepreneurial you’ve got to really position yourself.
So for me, when I was a freelancer as a kid I was trying to get the big name clients on board, the FTSE 100s and by accident they actually approached me and said name your price.
Now if you can work for the Commonwealth, the United Nations, or government, a trusted authority, it really builds credibility and a lot of the time they like fresh ideas, they like enterprise and it’s amazing what you can do over a cup of coffee and people who are open minded and want to take things places.