Episode 12: Can a shy person run a really big business? Steve Witt shows it’s possible!

by | Jan 14, 2020 | Podcast interview | 0 comments

In this episode, Nadia is joined by super successful, serial entrepreneur Steve Witt. He’s here to share his journey from Shy to …. very Mighty indeed!

“My name’s Steve. I currently run a travel company called the Travel Franchise. We are now one of the largest travel companies in the UK, which is quite surprising given my shy background and upbringing. It’s my second big company that I’ve successfully built now. So I like to think I’m a serial entrepreneur, but at the same time also be the one of the shyest people you’re gonna meet. And my other claim to fame is I was national windsurfing champion a few years ago now!

I’ve been shy from a very early age. Growing up I was actually born with a sort of an enlarged palette in my mouth, which meant it was very difficult for me to speak and I underwent many years of speech therapy. So it made me very shy, not wanting to talk, and not very confident. All through school I was the shy person in the playground, the one that was getting picked on all the time.

It does affect you. It gives you a real hurdle to have to overcome. It sort of makes really, really self conscious and you, you don’t like stepping out of your comfort zone. You don’t want to draw any attention to yourself in case you get picked on even more. It’s tough. I feel like I missed out on all the fun stuff at school. But the positive was I turned into a bit of a geek. I really put my head down, studied hard, got good grades, … but I wasn’t the most fun person in the playground!

On the plus side, I think I’ve used my shyness to my advantage. I think people relate to shy people better. Most people are probably shyer than they are confident, if that makes sense. When people realise I’m quite a shy person, I think they warm to me.  I think that the louder, more brash people also turn people off or away from them. So it’s harder for most people to relate to them. I find that when talking to to new people, if you start to talk about fears and insecurities, they say, oh yeah, that’s me as well. And so they relate to you much more quickly.

I do presentations to new trainees in our business most weeks, and I’m on stage quite a few times per year. And one of the first things I say to everybody is, I am probably the the shyest person you’ll ever meet. They all laugh, they all think I’m joking. And then I go on to explain my shyness and they get it. It puts them at ease and then they understand because most people look at me and look at what I do and think there’s no way I could do that because I’m so shy as in them. And then I talk about my shyness and all of a sudden, you know, well actually if Steve can do it, then maybe I can do it as well.

I do get nervous, though!  If you’d see me five minutes before we started this interview, you would totally appreciate how nervous I get. I probably get more nervous on one-to-one type basis like this. I’m petrified!

That nervousness, the butterflies in your stomach, they simply mean you want to do a good job. And that’s why when I’m nervous it sort of manifests itself as shyness. It’s because I want to do good or be good. So that’s how I look at it now. And, it seems to work!

One of the things I’ve come to learn is when people do say negative things to you, I’ve, I’ve learned that it’s probably them, not you that’s at fault or got the problem. They don’t know how to communicate or they don’t know how to deal with other people. I don’t take those sort of things as personally as I used to, because I’ve realised that they may not have meant it like that and they’ve just not understood tonality or how to phrase the question better than what they did. So I cut them a little bit of slack these days.

I wanted to build a successful business and I realised that to do that, there were times I was going to have to step out of my comfort zone, not be so shy, because there are times when when you’re leading a team of people, they want a leader. They don’t want someone shy and timid at the front leading them because that’s not going to work so well. So I go into work mode; the leader role, and I hide my shyness or I put on a front, an act, if you like. I am super confident about my work, so I’m not being a fraud or being untrue to myself. I know this, because as soon as I’m finished work mode, I can happily relax, back into my shy mode.

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When you are leading teams of people, how do you create an environment which works? You have to recruit and bring people into the teams who are going to be complimentary. Hire slow, fire fast because you’ve got to pick the right people. Don’t try to pick people who are all the same; you need different personalities.

My business partner, Paul, and I, are completely different. You could not find someone who is less shy. When you look at us together, we’re like chalk and cheese. We are so different! But the reality is it works really well because our skill sets compliment each other. It’s the same thing for the entire team. There’s a mixture of people.

We pick the right people and then we have a lot of communication, but comfortable, small team communication. So you never have people having to talk in front of large groups or anything like that. We have daily get togethers, called “pulse meetings” in small groups, so that everyone’s comfortable talking. And then that shared knowledge means that everyone’s really comfortable with what they do. And that seems to work really well. We give everyone the opportunity to talk and they pretty much have to, but it’s such small groups. It’s not a problem for people.

My final piece of advice, is to practice. Put yourself in situations where you are going to get more nervous because the more you do it, the less nervous you become. You may not always become less nervous, but you’re going to become more used to doing it so you’re more comfortable doing it. You still get nervous and shy, but you just get better and better.

Now, I actually look for opportunities to speak to people now because I find it, it helps me and I like to put myself in those awkward situations. That sounds really strange now. I said that out loud!

It’s easy not to speak to people and to walk around looking at our phones or our feet and avoid conversations. But our experience on earth is much more interesting when we engage with others!

Head on over to the-travel-franchise.com and you’ll find out all about me. There’s plenty of videos I think there were with me on as well. So yeah, you’ll get to see what we do and how we do it and see how shy I really am!”


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Steve Witt
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