Spotlight on: George Savva
Meet George Savva – a passionate entrepreneur and founder of It Takes 7 Seconds training agency. The following is an exclusive, in-depth ‘Spotlight on’ interview – discovering George’s motivations and an impressive career. We encourage you to leave any comments and additional questions you may have in the section below.
Please tell us a bit about who you are and what you do.
My name is George Savva, and I am an educator and communicator. My career has always been, in one form or another, about education, persuasion and communication. I began when I happened to fall into the sales industry, selling one of the most difficult products to sell at that time (1988) – photocopiers.
I learned so much about people; how they think, how they decide, and how making a decision does not necessarily result in ‘desirable outcomes’.
I now teach people a range of communications and persuasion technologies that exert ‘influence’ to achieve favourable results quicker and more effectively.
How and when did you get started?
My self-employed career began in 2001. I had worked in a company doing a job I absolutely loved. I was in the packaging industry, and I was always looking for more effective ways for brand owners to achieve greater sales volumes at the store-level because that is where it matters. I helped transform the company I worked for, from a £250k/annum business to a £100m/annum business, by changing not only the services we were providing at the time but also to change the entire business model. I was one of the early participants in the model change from wholly-owned production to outsourcing and eventually, in a major ‘coup’ in 1998, to ‘insourcing’. A whole new and innovative way for brand-owners to concentrate on their core businesses.
In the business (Creative Outsourcing Solutions International), I got as high and as far as I could go, and frankly, I knew inside that there was nowhere else to go in the business.
I went on my own in March of 2001, combining the skills that I was learning from being a trainer at the Dale Carnegie Organisation with my sales and marketing skills (which was my vocation and training) and started a business which I called ‘George Online’. In the early days of mass electronic communications, I managed to convince companies like Colgate, Unilever, Nestle, Revlon, Henkel, Kraft and many others to allow me to manufacture ‘retail furniture’ to display their products at the retail level. That would capture consumers’ attention and either persuade them or convince them to buy those products on what seemed to be an ‘impulse’.
What are the biggest challenges you have faced so far?
To answer this question, I will start by citing this quotation by Oscar Wilde, which states: ‘To expect the unexpected shows a thoroughly modern intellect’. In this regard, I have to say that I have shown neither any intellect nor vision. It pains me to say this, but this is what has caused me the greatest ‘headache’ of my career. The biggest challenge that I have faced in my business career, without a doubt, have been the devastating effects of the Covid-19 Pandemic and multiple Lockdowns on my business, and indeed its continuity. I had no plan in place for such an eventuality because even in my wildest dreams, I would not have envisaged entire global economies being shut down to mitigate the effects of the virus. Although I know that I am not alone in this regard, my own lack of foresight contributed to the overall negative effect and experience. For the longest time, I did not embrace the emerging and potentially mitigating technologies which abound and would have allowed me to take my business online sooner.
That said, it is also true that to be late is better than never. I have taken all the upside that I can from the pandemic and enforced ‘stay at home’ rules and make as much of it as I can. I am happy to report that I am now in a stronger position than before the pandemic began. A new chapter has now begun, and it will be interesting to see how things unfold in the coming months and years.
What has been your most satisfying moment so far?
Your question is asked in a way that expects only one answer, so I am going to relate to you my single biggest ‘deal’ in every sense of the word. Whenever I look back on this, I sometimes still wonder how I pulled it off. Back in 2002, the German company Henkel, makers of the Pritt Glue stick, wanted to run a promotion. The promotion was to celebrate them sending Pritt Sticks to the Mir Space Station for the astronauts to use on projects in space. To Henkel, this was a moment not to be missed, and the event, they thought, was worthy of celebration, communication, and publicity.
I started George Online in March of 2001, and to have heard about this potential deal without having been formally invited to pitch on it, was for me a ‘sign’ from God that I had to go after it. With my company still being so new, I had neither the ‘right’, nor the infrastructure to pitch, but I thought I would make a go of it anyway. I pitched my ideas to the Brand Manager, and, would you know it, I was awarded the project. It was worth circa (in equivalent terms) some £750k.
It was a mad scramble for them to organise teams of people, infrastructure, machinery, production lines, trading terms, contracts, and many other details besides to get this project underway. In the name of brevity, I will spare the detailed account here, but I will say that the project was delivered on time and on budget – ultimately making it one of the most successful promotions that they had run until that point in time.
Would you recommend entrepreneurship to others?
This is a difficult question to answer. Would I recommend entrepreneurship to others? I do not know. I think I would have to say that I would need to think about it on a case-by-case basis. Entrepreneurship is always a good idea, but the realities of it often overwhelm people. To be an entrepreneur, certainly in the early stages, you cannot think in terms of nine-to-five. If you want to go down the entrepreneurial rabbit hole, you must be prepared to be all-consumed by what you are doing. If you are prepared to give more than is reasonable to your endeavour, then I cannot recommend it enough. If, on the other hand, you are the kind of individual for whom ‘balance’ is essential, then you would need to think long and hard about it. This is, in fact, a question that is too complicated to be answered in simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ terms.
What was your motivation to become an entrepreneur?
I do not think that I am a ‘natural’ entrepreneur. I cannot say with any degree of certainty that I ever had an overwhelming passion or desire to be one. I think that the idea began to unfold to me gradually over a long period of years as I made more and more valuable contributions to the organisations that I worked in. I was lucky in my life because I always worked for great people who taught me so much. I loved listening to them talk, discussing with me and among themselves some of the bold things they planned and subsequently pulled off. I was inspired by these people and their passions and I think that the natural effect was contagion. I was infected by their entrepreneurial spirits, their boldness, and their decisiveness that I packed in my £400,000/ annum (yes, even in 2001) career and ventured out on my own. Was I scared? YES. TERRIFIED! Was it worth it? Without a doubt, but here is a crucial point – it has been a very tough journey. So, the short answer to your question – Role Models motivated me to become an entrepreneur.
What drives you, what motivates you?
I do not want to sound trite here. Life and time motivate me. I am a stickler for time, and I must say that I am always aware of it’s remorseless onward march. I think that my early years in marketing and sales taught me that time could not be stored and retrieved. I learned early on that if a product is not there when the consumer wants it, that sale, to the store or brand at least, is lost forever.
I see my life and opportunities in much the same way. I know that the time to act on any endeavour is now. I am a cheese and yoghurt maker, and working with living things is precisely all about that. TIME. When I make a batch of yoghurt, for example, I do all the necessary preparation, heating, culturing – but in effect, it is mother time and nature that does all the work.
I am always reminded in my cheese and yoghurt making that I am plugged into this and that any day that I lose, I have minimised my own life. I am not saying that I am a master of controlling my time. What I am saying is that (for me) my awareness of time makes it so that I want to live my life and make true the wisdom in Edward J Stieglitz’s words “The important thing to you is not how many years in your life, but how much life in your years.”
To find out more…
Visit George Savva’s website – It Takes 7 Seconds – and discover training programs that allow people to unlock the full power of their brains.
And if you want to read more about other successful entrepreneurs and freelancers, go to the ‘Spotlight on’ section of Revolancer’s magazine!