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5 alternative business strategies from Tony Hawk, Karren Brady & Jane Seymour

What skateboarders, comics and YouTube can teach you about work.

By Jimmy Nicholls

Delegates at tech conferences come along not merely to hear about the latest gear from the conference organiser, but also to network and take in the tidbits from whichever celebrity speakers have been lured to the event.

And so it was at Sage Summit in New Orleans, which this week saw the likes of West Ham vice-chair Karren Brady, actress Jane Seymour and skateboarder Tony Hawk.

But what did they say that was actually worth hearing?

1. Karren Brady on women in work

As one of the UK’s most prominent businesswoman, Brady has long been an advocate of having more women take high-level roles in the workforce, a theme that jives with Silicon Valley right now.

But what does she think the biggest problem for the fairer sex is in getting into work? "The biggest barrier to woman in work is high-quality, affordable childcare," she said, to much applause in the room.

However she added a bit of more basic advice to those trying to hire more women: "You don’t need someone to tell you to go and hire more women. You just do it. As a CEO you make that decision."

2. Chad Hurley on small ideas in business

Hurley made a lot of money in the $1.65bn (£1.1bn) takeover of YouTube by Google in 2006, but he spent much of his talk disparaging the notion that doing so was part of a grand plan.

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"This idea that these businesses started with a grand plan or bigger vision isn’t true," he said. Instead he says businesses tend to operate day-to-day, gradually moving forward and building slowly on what they already have.

But how then do you get an edge over your competition? "It’s really looking for a small insight. It’s not about a revolutionary breakthrough where you discover this thing no-one else has seen before, it’s really just this small detail that’s been overlooked by everything else."

3. Tony Hawk on choosing collaborators

As the world’s most famous professional skateboarder Hawk was able to find a job in a field that by his own admission was in a "downward spiral" when he was first getting involved in it.

But what was the one piece of advice he wanted to leave small businesses with? "Surround yourself with people you trust whose opinion you value," he said. "Not just because they’re good at their job but because they are actually in line with your ideals and with your direction.

"Because sometimes they are going to have to talk the helm and make a decision for you and if you trust them implicitly it’s going to be exactly how you see it."

4. Trevor Noah on social media

Though not a familiar name in the UK, Noah is about to take over the job of Jon Stewart, an American comedian who has just left The Daily Show, one of the most influential comedy and current affairs shows in the country.

As somebody whose career has developed in the age of social media, Noah is fan of what it can reveal: "I think what we’re starting to realise is there’s a big gap between what we are told what our fans or our viewers or our customers are and the reality of it."

In particularly he noted the disparity between what TV ratings could tell you and what other content channels could. A focus on traditional media could lead you to miss out a section of your customers, he argued.

5. Jane Seymour on "wine -thirty"

In a discussion on colleagues Seymour, the British actress who starred in Live and Let Die among other things, revealed a close friendship with the woman who runs her lifestyle brand.

"We have business time when we’re all working together really hard to get done whatever has to happen, and then we have goofy time," she said.

"And then at the end of the day we have ‘wine-thirty’ – very important!"

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