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Simon Casson is the founder of a sales and marketing agency - and also an equine adventurer, co-authoring ‘Riding the Outlaw Trail in the Footsteps of Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid,’ a story of an equine long ride with Richard Adamson, with a foreword by Sir Ranulph Fiennes. The pair retraced the Wild Bunch’s travels and exploits along 2,000 miles of America’s toughest and most treacherous terrain at the close of the Wild West.

Simon operated Outlaw Trails and organised expeditions in the Americas for Old West historians, groups, charitable fund-raisers and the military.

While Richard was a former SBS Royal Marine Commando who owned a leadership, adventure and survival training company in Devon. His expertise was Afghanistan and horse theatre deployment.

When the War on Terror manifested, Richard called Simon to help prepare UK special forces for Afghanistan - Richard was tasked by Margaret Thatcher to lead secret teams training Afghans in the use of stinger missiles (credited with turning the course of the war against the Russians). However, the Americans sent three units from Bridgeport, California – and that story became the noted book and film: “The Horse Soldiers.”  Sadly, while heading operations for ArmorGroup, Richard was murdered in a robbery in Kabul in 2007.

"A ‘free-lance’ was used to describe a medieval mercenary warrior not sworn to the service of a particular Lord.

I’m a throwback to those knights popularised by Sir Walter Scott in the 1819 book, Ivanhoe. Here’s the family coat of arms…

Our origins were in CarCASSONne. We’ve been English for around 340 years, and are direct descendants of the French Huguenots who fled to England in 1685, after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes.

Now onto finding my purpose…

If you’re old enough to remember the 1980’s British comedy-drama series, Minder you’ll recall the refrain from lead character Arthur Daly, who chimed “my word is my bond.

Whilst Arthur’s might not always have been, mine certainly was. It still is.

My purpose was made much clearer when the Covid-19 pandemic hit.

Before March 2019, I’d worked for a pharmaceutical client – a brilliant consultant, who told of Exercise Cygnus (a 3-day simulation) carried out by the UK Government (in October 2016), to estimate the impact of a hypothetical influenza.

I was very aware of the game-change that would hit the world, should a pandemic occur. The UK wasn’t prepared.

So, I knew everyone would be stuck at home waiting for ‘life to go back to normal’ for a long time.

It ended up costing thousands of people livelihoods, health, marriages, families, friends and all else. And of course, many economies, including the UK’s would fall off a cliff.

I could remember the 1973 oil crisis. Deflation between 1980-81. Black Wednesday in 1992. The subprime mortgage collapse and inter-banking crisis in 2008… Now it was Covid-19’s turn.

The dreaded pandemic. A fifth horseman.

Choice was simple: sink or swim. My comprehensive school years came to mind. We had two tough PE teachers nicknamed ‘Starsky and Hutch.’ They expected us to compete, give everything, be resilient and never give in…

Once lockdown occurred, I reconnected with old work colleagues and started collaborating. Everyone was at home working online. If they weren’t working, they were reading and trying to keep busy.

Emails were sent to help to old clients, on-off clients, new clients and friends-associates with businesses with the message:

I’m offering FREE time (and ideas) to help you press your sector and win. Over the years you kept me going. Now I’m committed to help you where possible...

… Why do this? Simple. Helping clients past-current, (and chums), we’re helping ourselves. Plus, we’ll be stronger. Many firms will freeze. And fail. That’s an opportunity for you to have your messages and offerings seen.

Hours were spent on Skype, Teams, Zoom and phone helping people do better, because some were slowly sinking. They needed practical advice and crucial sales.

The hardest-hitting conversation was with an old client who over the years had been a collaborator, business partner and true friend.

Hearing him say: “I’m dismantling the business brick-by-brick, which has taken me over 32 years to build,” was the worst.

This was someone who had been very successful, talented, shrewd, honest and always played by the rules.

I admired this person and I could smell and taste the fear of what losing everything would mean.

My purpose was also to bring my grandfather back in the room…

… Herbert was a Canadian journalist and writer who’d written 184 books on technology and business. His expertise was selling and marketing. I won’t bore, but you can read about him here if you choose: Herbert Newton Casson - Wikipedia

I sat at my desk daily (where I’m sitting now, writing this) on the “orange chair.”

The economy had flatlined. Firms were culling staff. People didn’t have money. Those who did were keeping a war-chest.

Many were in the doldrums and couldn’t get out.

My job now was to help where I could and do it cheerfully.

I reconnected with people who shared my belief we should support those less fortunate in our networks.

People like:

Dave Robinson of Stiff and Island Records who was on Facebook trying to help many in the music-arts business, which was ‘abandoned’ by the Government. I’d been a protégé of Dave’s at Phoenix Records when we were managing soul act, The Fingertips, (inspiration for Alan Parker’s film, The Commitments).

Rob Purfield, UK’ No1 profit consultant in the automotive was publishing bulletins and articles. Rob had trained me back in 1994 when we took Fiat UK from 23rd to seventh in 18 months in the fleet sector.

Drayton Bird, the marketing expert named by the Chartered Institute Marketing as one of 50 living individuals who have shaped today’s marketing.

And I was inspired by people like Neil Laughton, an entrepreneur and adventurer who makes characters like James Bond pale into insignificance. Neil helped me with my book and reminded it’s a business…

The lesson here was about sharing, supporting and elevating those who were in trouble.

Perhaps it also served as therapy for some of us. Keeping busy is far better than staring at walls and shouting at the moon!

Now here we are. Much has changed.

What will be your purpose?

Six Lessons:

1.     Learn from The Best – aim high. Improve. Learn something new daily, but from the ‘Masters’. Find the best and align where you can. Note: there’s a lot of bubble-blowers out there especially on social media who are mostly re-inventors. Some are charlatans, others are outright thieves.

2.     Avoid the Naysayers – if you have a dream, chase it. Try to make it happen. Avoid negative people – they’ll bring you down. When I started planning the Outlaw Trail ride many said “can’t be done” “you won’t get permission,” “you’ll never finish”, “you won’t get published” and so on. Did all of them…

3.     Strength, Courage and Endurance – anything worth doing is never easy. There’s always set-backs and challenges. Never give in, keep going. Be inspired. Find your heroes and heroines. Face adversity and like them, grind results out to win your prize.

4.     Give A Little, Get A Little (More) – don’t expect something for nothing. Nobody likes an interloper at the barbecue eating all the choice cuts and drinking cocktails when they arrived with a bottle of coke and pack of cheap sausages! What can you offer that can help people? Show generosity. Be kind.

5.     Thoughtful Networking – think like a host, not a guest. Have a conversation starter. Be interested – in them. Prepare great questions. Ask… then when they respond, say: ‘tell me more’. You’ll learn about all sorts, and then get your turn. You’ll also be memorable because you won’t be rushing the room carding everyone.

6.     Calling All the Heroes – who are your Big Five? For me it’s hard to narrow it down, but I’d always include: Spartacus; Marcus Aurelius; William Marshal. Now imagine your great or inspiring people standing by, watching, listening and evaluating everything you say and do. Be honest, would you still behave the same way if they were on the touchline? If there’s a few NO’s or probably nots, change things!

So, if you find yourself in adversity after all that, what next?

… You’ll have to do what those medieval knights did:

Fight with brute force and urgency. Take the spoils. Ride off the battlefield – don’t die on it!"

Simon Casson founder of THE SALES WORKS

Simon on the Outlaw Trail

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