Charlotte Kemp is a professional speaker, author, social media trainer and futurist. Coming from an experience of losing a franchise business a few years ago, and still feeling the financial after shocks, she is well aware of the implications of getting business wrong as well as the thrill of seeing one’s own work succeed and get traction. In order to explore what went wrong in her business, Charlotte wrote and self-published a book called “I’m Not Afraid of the F Word, 50 Lessons learned on the way to business failure.” The subject of this books was the content for numerous motivational talks to business owners, networking groups and even MBA students.
While using social media to market herself, Charlotte learned how powerful these platforms can be and soon responded to clients’ requests to teach them what she had learned about social media. Thus began a long and interesting career as a social media trainer and key noter covering many aspects such as marketing and PR, sales, networking, personal branding and more.
But it was the discover of the range and depth of the field of strategic foresight and futures studies that has really inspired Charlotte to explore these principles more in her professional speaking career. A member of the Professional Speakers Association of Southern Africa (PSASA), Charlotte and her husband, Past President of PSASA, Richard Mulvey, are actively involved in the speaking community. Charlotte has also served as Secretary to the Global Speakers Federation allowing her to learn from the experience of speakers from around the globe.
Please tell us a little more about yourself and your journey thus far.
My real journey started when I lost a franchise business that I had bought, which was supposed to be my financial fall back plan. Rather than take care of my financial needs, I lost everything – my house, my car, my investments. While the experience was obviously horrible, it taught me so much that I would never have learned if everything just worked out okay. I am now more resilient and more curious and willing to experiment. And temporary failures don’t scare me as much as before. Now I work as a futurist, having conversations with people and leading programs to help people to explore their feelings about the future and to find ways to prepare themselves for the huge benefits, rather than be anxious about the potential problems.
You are busy with some very interesting projects. Please tell us a little more about that.
There are two exciting projects I am working on to launch in the new year. The first is a futures focused, industry specific master mind concept. The idea is to work with a group of people in a particular industry, teach them about futures concepts, and help them to map out scenarios for their industry. This gives them a real insight into what could be coming towards them, but also how to be adaptable and create alternative plans for different eventualities.
The second is a book that I am writing about the Future of Work for Women. Besides the research that I already have access to, I am video interviewing a number of women involved in different industries and sectors. When they share their advice for women in the working world and their view of the future of work that women will experience, we get some very interesting and very encouraging results.
Sharing this message is very exciting for me.
What is it that you are passionate about?
I love sharing with people around specific issues. When we get together with an agenda and a goal, there really is a meeting of minds that creates something bigger and bolder than we could create on our own. Being part of that, and getting to facilitate those conversations, is probably my biggest passion.
What is your personal motto?
This might sound a little negative, but it is “This is just a season. It is not reality. It will pass.” Having failed at business, a marriage, and financially and struggled with health issues and depression, the most valuable thing I have learned is that all seasons pass. When we are in the middle of a problem, it often seems insurmountable and all consuming, but it will pass. There will be a time after this that puts the rest into perspective.
What advice would you give a woman wanting to follow her dreams?
Do it. But realize that sometimes a dream takes longer to materialize than we imagine. We always imagine we can do more in a year, than we really can, and fail to realize that we can do more in 10 years that we anticipate. Be patient.
Who or what has been the biggest influence in your life and why?
That is difficult. There have been so many influences, not one big one. But I do believe that being part of the Professional Speakers Association of Southern Africa, has to be one of the best decisions I have ever made.
The PSASA is not perfect, at all, but it has the intention of bringing together like-minded people to share ideas, support each other and challenge each other to higher standards. And when we get that right, it is magic. One of my values is leadership, and I have found that when we raise our hands to volunteer to be involved in something at a leadership level, we challenge ourselves to grow in ways that would take, if it worked, many many times longer by just sitting in the audience. My leadership opportunities in PSASA lead me to be invited to a role in the Global Speakers Federation. I was absolutely the greenest member on the team, but I learned so much:
• Even a brand-new member has something of value to offer an established team
• That we should not be intimidated by fancy titles, but get to know the people behind them
• That sharing, and co-operating is so much more effective than pure competition
• That South Africans rate really highly in comparison to international standards
• That friends can be made anywhere in the world, even over online tools, when we have something of value in common.
Of course, it helps that I also met my husband at PSASA, but I realize that is not a benefit most people can take advantage of.
My husband, Richard Mulvey, has been incredibly supportive of my career and helpful with advice from his experience.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Be less timid. People aren’t thinking about you but about themselves. So, go out and be bold and do what you want to try.
Your favourite daily affirmation:
Its not an affirmation as much as a small time to do a mini meditation, calm my brain and refocus.
Your favourite quote:
“The future is already here. Its just not evenly distributed.” ~William Gibson
This makes me realize that even while some people are playing with self-driving cars, others are still trying to get a basic education for their children. We will never run out of problems, and always have opportunities to serve each other in our communities.
Which book are you reading now?
I am about to read “The Exceptional Speaker” written by two of my speaking colleagues, Paul du Toit and Alan Stevens. It is always worth learning from your colleagues about how to improve your skills and these are two speakers that I greatly admire.
Which book can you read over and over again?
I keep reading a Russian fantasy series called Day Watch, by an author called Sergei Lukyanenko. I love how he has story arches inside a novel and over all the stories. It makes each part of the story complete in itself, but also part of a bigger story. And no matter how often I read it, I am delighted by the discoveries of the complex characters and how none of them are black or white, good or bad, worthy or dangerous. When I finish reading the series, I look at the world with a little more humility and appreciation.
What are your top 3 business tips?
- Build your personal / professional brand.
- Learn – online, in books, free courses, and podcasts.
- Write – if you want to get your business message out, find a way to share your knowledge or value. Be it writing, or doing videos or speaking, or pro-bono consulting, but get your message out so that people know why they should engage with you.
What would you say is the secret to your success?
That I keep experimenting. I am not afraid to admit that I messed up and to try a different approach. And I am also scrupulous about taking responsibility for my own mistakes. That way, I have power over the outcome and I don’t feel like a powerless victim of someone else or something else that is happening to me.
One general piece of advice you would like to share:
It sounds a little tired already, in this modern era, but it is so important to realize that we have a personal brand and that we must nurture that. Even if we are employed full time, we don’t make progress unless we are willing to extend ourselves. The stories we tell colour our brand and paint us a negative, victim, complacent or curious, courageous, willing. So, know you have a brand, decide what you want it to look like, and then work to make it reflect the values you have chosen. It is worth more than your next raise.