The Blend Podcast EP029 – Blend Reviews 2021 Part 2

Tom Payani  00:45

Easy job for you today. You’re gonna ask me the same questions as I asked you on the last podcast.


Brendan Cox  00:53

Yeah. I mean, they work. They make sense. So question one is: how do you think that you’ve improved this year?


Tom Payani  01:05

I’ve definitely how an improvement personally, from the business side of things. And what I mean by that is not so much about creating eLearning in itself, but things like accounting, banking, all the bits and bobs, as an entrepreneur you need to learn.


I’ve spent a lot of time figuring out those kinds of things this year, and I’m more confident now. I’m more confident in that area of the business. I think we’re better at wasting less time, especially in meetings. That’s something else, I think we’ve got better at how to say no, I think my confidence has improved. I think when you start you just want every job and you want to be a bit of a people pleaser.


Now I think I trust my gut a bit more and I’m a bit braver in terms of saying no, when I think maybe a client is being unreasonable or a potential job isn’t going to work out for us, or we’re not the right fit. Or even in meetings where we need to stand up for ourselves a little bit professionally.


Obviously doing it in a polite and healthy way. Not letting people walk all over us or not letting people take advantage of us just because we want the work. I think that’s something where I’ve grown a little bit of, let’s say, business self-esteem.


Brendan Cox  02:47

It’s knowing our worth, isn’t it? Knowing our value; and I think that we know that now. We know what we can offer and what we’re willing to do, what we’re not willing to do and be confident about the choices that we’re making. Especially with the amount of business admin that you’ve had to do this year – it’s been quite extreme.


So question two is: is there anything where your opinion has changed about eLearning or your approach to things this year?


Tom Payani  03:33

I think this time last year, I was probably more bullish in terms of virtual reality (VR), or augmented reality (AR), and how it’s going to disrupt the industry and change things. Don’t get me wrong, I still think it will become more and more popular and common in eLearning and training.


I think because of COVID and budgets companies are not prioritising it. They just want good eLearning and the medium of VR and AR is not a priority for most businesses at the moment.


Brendan Cox  04:19

Yeah, they’re not prioritising cutting edge at the moment. They’re prioritising good, solid, tried and tested approaches. And we’ve seen in terms of what people are asking for.


Tom Payani  04:33

We can offer VR and AR but I think we’ve slightly pivoted in the sense that we want to offer top-notch elearning on platforms and on software that are already reputed and consolidated out there.


Brendan Cox  04:58

Basically the added value comes from the effort and resources that go into making that eLearning good rather than trying to get the technology to work.


Okay, so it’s been a busy year, but what has influenced you? Is there anything that stands out?


Tom Payani  05:23

On the last podcast you spoke about a particular video game and more creative things that inspired you. That’s where your strengths lie, you’re very creative. That’s your side of the business more than mine, probably.


Our roles have slightly been defined a little bit this year where although we still work together during the discovery process and I still help you with all the storytelling aspects of it, and I do all the development etc, I just think because a lot of my time has been spent on other business administration that what has inspired me is actually Stoicism.


This philosophy deserves a podcast in itself. But I want to just briefly mention it now. I’ve been in a lot of situations where my patience has been tested, where I’ve had to learn to be an entrepreneur pretty quickly in terms of a skill set in terms of business planning, accounting, finance, communication, with clients, with agencies with all these types of people.


It is difficult, and you’re learning on the job as well. The creative part for me is the fun bit, where we can come up with ideas, and we can design the learning, but there’s all this other stuff that goes alongside running a business, that you try and avoid at the start, or often people pay for other people to do it.


We try and keep as much control in the business ourselves and do everything ourselves. So reading about stoicism, which for people who don’t know, is basically an ancient Greek philosophy that was also very popular in ancient Rome, is about keeping a level head when things go against you, not losing your patience, understanding what’s in your control, and what you can change, and what’s out of your control and what you can’t change.


A famous stoic is a guy called Marcus Aurelius, who was a Roman emperor, and at that time, the most powerful person in the world. I have read his journal called meditations. He had such power and such responsibility.


It is about how he dealt with all the obstacles and barriers that were thrown at him. Obviously, Blend is not quite at the level of a Roman emperor, but I can take a lot of his lessons and a lot of his thoughts and apply them to what we were doing.


It really helped because maybe something that I’ve struggled with in the past is being impatient. We’re both pretty impatient. It can be a strength sometimes because we get things done quickly and we’re always looking to try and solve problems and want to be as efficient and quick as possible.


However, sometimes when you’re stuck on the phone with someone who’s not being very helpful, you do need to just be more stoic, calm and patient. Something that’s really helped me is a Stoic saying, ‘the obstacle is the way’.


You have to expect these barriers, these obstacles, you actually need them. It’s weird if you don’t have them and its important to have these obstacles because they are part of the journey and they are necessary for the journey. When you change that chip in your head or change that perspective, I think it can really help how you deal with things in life and in business.


Brendan Cox  09:31

From a creative perspective you’ll get to a point where the job becomes hard because you’re having to break through a conceptual barrier to basically work out how to do this thing, right? You are running out of energy and it’s sapping you, and this Stoic approach is that rather than being scared and giving up at that point, with a level head, you just view this as part of the creative process.


You can always almost tell yourself the dip is part of this. Once I get through this part I know that the project is going to get easier and better. That’s when I’ve created something good. Almost in the same way that people that go to the gym who love the burn, that sense of ache that you get after working out becomes addictive – you look for that.


You almost look for that opportunity to overcome that obstacle because you get a buzz of having done it. It’s that thing of flipping the negative into a positive and the Stoic approach definitely resonates with me.


What would you say is your highlight from this year?


Tom Payani  11:08

I’ve just sat here and spoke about Stoicism and a big part of it is humility, but I’d be lying if I wasn’t pretty buzzed about getting some of the clients that we’ve got this year and speaking to some of these very famous brand names. I am not going to mention names, mainly because of non-disclosure agreements but we’re talking to some big boys. If someone told me that we were going to be working with the types of people we’ve worked with this year, in year two of the business, I probably would have laughed at them to be honest with you.


I don’t want to be arrogant, and get too big for my boots, but on the other side of it, I think is something we should be proud of.


Brendan Cox  12:03

One of my highlights was when we actually both worked remotely from the same location, and realized both of us can work on laptops as normally I’ve always got a big, hulking, great computer with me. And the idea of actually, we can work remotely from anywhere in the same place. So the digital nomad approach to setting up a lean business was kind of cool.


What challenges have you overcome this year?


Tom Payani  13:09

A big challenge is this idea of working remotely and being a digital nomad. There wasn’t a lot of movement by us before because of COVID. We were just focusing on building the business. Now the business has become sustainable and is working you’re still mainly based in the same place, but for me, I’ve always enjoyed travelling and I’ve always wanted to work remotely and move around with the business.


It has been a relatively new thing for me and there’s been some obstacles that I’ve had to try and overcome. Time Zones is one as we work with clients all around the world. That was a new challenge, so we had to streamline our own processes. We didn’t have to rely as much on doing things together.


In the life of a digital nomad or a remote worker or location independent or whatever, you’re going to a new place, you’re setting up in a co-working space, or you’re trying to meet new people. You’re trying to build a life in that place for weeks or months or however long it is.


There’s one thing starting a new business and making that work and there’s another thing trying to build a lifestyle around that where you don’t particularly live in one place. How do I want to do it? What’s the most efficient way?


Brendan Cox  15:08

So you’re saying when building a business, there is actually a holistic approach to everything. We’ve got a business that actually fits in with the lifestyle that we want.


Tom Payani  15:22

Exactly. One thing is building a business and wanting that business to work. Obviously, that’s the priority. But there’s no point in having a business working if you haven’t created a lifestyle that you’re happy with that goes alongside it. One major issue or major objective, rather, of building this business was I wanted to be able to travel more and live in different countries.


A big challenge that I’ve I’m trying to overcome is doing that without Blend  losing any of its efficiency, without the way me and you work together losing any efficiency. I don’t want to compromise my relationship with you or compromise the success of the business.


I need to balance that with being selfish in my own way and wanting to live the lifestyle I want to live and travel and explore new places, manage projects and meetings associated with the business whilst I’m travelling. I think I’m getting there, and it’s going to take time.


Brendan Cox  16:41

It can actually have a massive advantage. So many businesses are sedentary and can’t go anywhere. Our ability to be able to move around, be in other environments, meet new people, network, discover new ideas, get new influences, being agile etc are actually massive USPs.


So many companies can’t do that. I think the ability to be a digital nomad is the way forward, there’s no way that it can’t be because with these restrictions that everyone has, we need to be able to work from anywhere.


The agile approach, not just in the way we build elearning, but actually in how the business operates is great, because we’ll be able to have the lives we want. But actually, there’ll be bonuses for the business as well.


Tom Payani  17:49

I think we can try and have our cake and eat it and have the best of both worlds. Because, like you said, me moving around, and possibly you as well can be used to the business’s advantage.


Brendan Cox  18:03

Yeah. 100%. Oh, great. Well, yeah, those are good answers. Thanks for your time.


Tom Payani  18:08

Pleasure as always. I will chat to you soon.



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