Months ago, a friend who I haven’t met in well over four years invited me to attend a guest talk titled “Keys To Success” by the CEO of Odeon UCI Cinemas Group, Paul Donovan. The talk was organised by one of the entrepreneurship societies here at University College London (UCL), and honestly, I was expecting a talk focusing on specific tips and tricks for achieving business success, and ultimately decided to go because I wanted to reunite with my friend.
Nevertheless, I was pleasantly surprised when, 10 minutes into the talk, it became evident that Donovan’s tips would not only be useful for aspiring businessmen/women, but also for anyone who will become or is already part of the world’s workforce. Granted, many of the tips are suggestions many people have echoed throughout the years (which arguably doesn’t undermine their value anyway), but a couple, especially those with a modern day twist, I found rather eye-opening. Overall, the eight tips he elaborated across the hour reflect the wealth of experience Donovan has under his belt, and I found them so handy as well as agreeable to that I wanted to share them here for anyone to discover.
>> About Paul Donovan
In case you are unfamiliar with Paul Donovan and might therefore be questioning his legitimacy as a speaker – much like I was before the talk -, here is a quick bullet-point summary of his career progression thus far as told by Donovan himself during the talk (and as I later corroborated online after the talk  ):
- Pre-1999: Held various commercial positions at BT, Cable & Wireless, Optus, Apple, Coca Cola, Schweppes, and Mars
- 1999 – 2000: Member of the Executive Committee, Vodafone
- 2001 – 2004: CEO, Vodafone Ireland
- 2014 – present: CEO, Odeon UCI Cinemas Group (Europe’s largest cinema operator)
- Other current roles: Non-executive directors, Millicom Cellular International and Upstream SA
- Fun fact: Donovan is a UCL (my uni!) alumnus.
>> Keys To Success
- The world is unfair, who you know counts
- Numerical reasoning is more important than you think
- Delving into the business world as a hired hand in a start-up is risky business
- A blue chip start gives your more options in the future
A bit on the technical/stock market jargon side here, but simply put, “blue chip” refers to corporations that are reputable, oftentimes globally-recognised, and can consequently reap profit despite market fluctuations – for the most part. Examples of blue chip companies include Citigroup Incorporated, Walt Disney Company, and McDonald’s Corporation.
- Find companies that align with your values
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help and/or advice
- Pitch your opening salary at the upper quartile, not the median
- Re-skill and up-skill on an ongoing basis
Quick note on “re-skill” and “up-skill”, “re-skill” refers to learning new skills, whereas “up-skill” is elevating or sharpening the skills you already learnt previously.
Donovan then concluded his talk by listing the three most important personality traits that he believes make satisfying those keys to success all the more second nature: adaptability, communication, and curiosity.
>> What Do You Think?
- Can you think of anything that’s missing from Donovan’s list?
- Have you ever tried implementing any of the tips to advance your career? How did it go?
- What do you think are the three most important personality traits for achieving any type of success?
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