Dr John Bird MBE
Fee band from £ 2000 - 4000
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JOHN BIRD: FOUNDER OF THE BIG ISSUE
John Bird founded The Big Issue ltd London 13 years ago. Since then he has spread the business all over the world. The latest was a very successful launch of the
Big Issue in Osaka and Tokyo
John is one of the most inspiring speakers you will ever meet. "I have a lifetime of experience to draw upon. I was born into the underclass, made homeless at the age of seven, in prison by the time I was a teenager, slept rough on the streets of
London, and from there went on to buying and selling products and services, and building businesses".
Bird has spoken at some of the following places:
The UN in New York, Nairobi and Istanbul
At Number ten Downing Street
Queen Elizabeth Conference Centre, Westminster.
The Society of Actuaries dinner
Countless after dinner speeches for charities, clubs etc
He has spoken in the presence of Prince Charles, Kofi Annan, the Late Princess Diana, Tony Blair, and the current cabinet.
And at meetings and conferences with BT, Business in the Community etc
Most of his businesses have been social businesses. That is they were set up to help people, with most of the profits going back into social support work.
But because the end has been social it does not mean that the businesses he has started do not need to be commercial. Bird has been very resolute in keeping costs down, inspiring staff, and giving leadership to many people wishing to enter business.
Bird's major role now is coming up with new business ideas. He also speaks at business forums, in prisons, to police officers, corporate and professional bodies, from a small group to a large conference.
"I always try and explain that you have to be businesslike in whatever work you are doing. Even if it is giving services to the poor you have to think about delivery, levels of services, and the products you are selling.
To me inspiring people is little more than allowing them to achieve what they themselves what to achieve. I do this with prison inmates, local authorities, and
John Bird speaks:
I earned my MBE by creating The Big Issue, probably the biggest social business in the world. We have publications and offices throughout Europe, The Americas and in Africa, as well as in Australia. From St Petersburg to Johannesburg, The Big Issue magic has worked wonders. From Buenos Aires to Belfast, it has given homeless people work and money.
I have spoken in City Hall in downtown Los Angeles, In San Quentin Prison, in the conference rooms of the biggest businesses in Britain. I have spoken in the House of Commons, the House of Lords, and Number Ten, to Prime Ministers and ministers, mayors and business leaders. I have spoken to Princes and Queens, pop stars, football stars and ambassadors.
I have spoken at Scotland Yard, the UN, and at Rotary clubs and local councils. I have talked to leaders from Margaret Thatcher and Norman Tebbitt to Jesse Jackson and Lord Moody Stewart, head of Shell. I have inspired South London Social workers on the front line and Swedish Bankers who are worried about the bottom line.
These audiences welcome me because I speak clearly and powerfully and my message is simple: It is about motivation, drive, learning from your mistakes, and turning rejection into something positive. I have been homeless, an offender, an addict and am now a revolutionary bundle of energy that helps people to realize their goals. Now I know the poor and the rich. I know the powerful and the powerless.
I am an honorary doctor of letters from the business school at Oxford Brookes University, a fellow of the University of Liverpool John Moores and I have a degree from the Thames Valley University. I have written my autobiography for Penguin, published as a paperback in November 2003.
Yet I am modest! I live modestly. I take as much interest in the local PTA as I do to the biggest businesses I have had dealings with.
If you are looking for a motivating, positive, thoughtful, informative, joyful speaker I advise you to get hold of me. If for any reason your guests are not satisfied then there is a no quibble money back guarantee. And that's no joke.
Dr John Bird, MBE BA Hons."
Areas of Expertise
John Bird's journey from poverty, rejection, and struggle to eventual redemption is an inspirational story. At a time when Corporate Social Responsibility is preoccupying business leaders and consumers alike, John Bird offers an authoritative, fresh approach, and some original perspectives on the interaction of business and society. His diverse experience, combined with his exuberant personality, erudition and often trenchant views make him a compelling and entertaining speaker.
John Bird on:
Leadership: "What I have come to understand is that you have to get everyone to take the lead. They who turn off the photocopier, they who report the lack of toilet paper in cubicle No 3, they who pick up the coke can on the stairs, are all expressing a kind of leadership. A hands on leadership. A private but public leadership, an "I'm not waiting for you to take the lead, I'm doing it myself" leadership. That's the best kind."
Business as an agent of social change: "Corporate Social Responsibility is all the rage now, but too often it is just window dressing. Business has always been a powerful agent for social change and my concept of a business has social values at it's core. The success of the Big Issue has proved that it is possible to make a profit and help individuals change their lives for the better."
Empowering others through self-empowerment: "All the best things that I have done have resulted in empowering myself and others to do better. I believe that having the confidence to fail is the key to success. Managing The Big Issue vendors is not the easiest job in the world, but after 11 years, I know how to get the best out of people - even those who have what seem to be insurmountable problems"."
Achieving the "impossible": Genius it ain't: "I was born with few advantages, but I managed to turn my life around with a combination of will-power, determination, a positive attitude and, of course, some luck. Many people believe that it takes some sort of inherent genius to succeed - I know from my own experience that that is not true. We can all achieve more if we learn to have the confidence to fail."
Lifetime learning for all: "I believe in learning every day. Most people stop learning when they leave school or college - and some even before that. That's ridiculous. I have made sure that I have taught myself new things virtually every day of my life, whether about art, literature, architecture, history or just through talking to people. Learning is a lifelong responsibility for all of us."
The limits of charity: "Anyone who thinks that charities can provide all the answers to social deprivation should try being a recipient of charity. At a Catholic orphanage, I experienced charity and so I know how charity can nurture dependence and hopelessness. Of course charities do some wonderful work at the immediate point of need, but I believe that the only real route to empowerment comes from enabling people to help themselves through working and earning money"
Why it costs more to keep people poor: "The idea that helping people change for the better is too expensive is one of the greatest fallacies in our society. Something as simple as the Big Issue has saved the UK taxpayer millions in benefits and crime prevention costs. Getting people who are living on the margins into work and better health is clearly advantageous for all of us."
On getting away with it: "Whether it's burglary, just bluffing my way through, or really making it. I have experienced getting away with it in a variety of fields and know how to teach others to do the same. It's about believing in yourself and not being afraid to make mistakes".
Business as fun: "I believe that business needs to create a sense of fun for it to be successful. If you can connect your people to the joyfulness and playfulness of the work they are doing, everyone achieves more".
Sharing the prizes: " Don't pretend you have done it all yourself. You haven't. As the poet Bertolt Brecht said: "Alexander the Great conquered India: He must have had someone with him".
"An inspirational business leader with an outstanding record of using business as a tool for social change, John Bird is an original and authoritative voice on a range of social and business issues".
Julian Richer, Entrepreneur and Author