My early career started in Formula One motor racing, working with world champion John Surtees and experiencing the frenetic world of car design and production, racing team dynamics, mechanics, and sponsorship.
Getting a ‘proper job’ after a few years (Formula One had very little money in those days), I embarked on a marketing career in the toy business, which eventually led to me starting my own company at the age of 24 in partnership with a successful inventor. Later, when he decided to buy a yacht to sail the Caribbean, I needed resources to dream up new ideas and create compelling products, so I sought out Europe’s largest design company and sold them on the idea of licensing as a supplement to their fee income. I sold my little company to them, and set about expanding rapidly beyond toys, to include categories such as stationery, housewares and electronics. This worked really well, as we built up a strong client base and royalty stream, and as a result I was asked to become CEO of the whole design business at the tender age of 30.
Several years later, when the (now larger and international) design company was taken over by a business services conglomerate, I joined one of our clients in the publishing sector as their European Chairman. As my family grew, and I needed to be at home more, I eventually started my own consulting firm (well me and a computer!) in the little cottage at my house that was formerly a bull shed (you have to say that carefully).
The idea was to spend more time with the children, but that soon went out of the window as I gained clients in Asia and the US.
My first exposure to storytelling in business was when I led a big project at Heathrow, to re-think the then-upcoming Terminal 5 from a future perspective and to stretch the boundaries of what an airport could be. We had to engage hundreds of people from a wide range of disciplines in what the big opportunity was, and how their work connected into it. We started with a mind map, but realised that this needed to be brought to life, and what better way than a future-focused story.
We created a magazine as if it were written in 2020 (this was 1998), and I recently retrieved a copy from my archive to see if any of our predictions came true. I was astounded to re-read it. The front cover has a train that looks exactly like HS2, and the content includes huge levels of flooding (which we have right now in the UK), the dominance of cyber shopping as we called it, the rise of China as a superpower, and—believe it or not—the emergence of a global contagious virus that affected air travel.
Once Terminal 5 was signed off and built, our work came to an end. I had to re-think the business, and along with my colleagues we founded a communications business focused on storytelling. This grew steadily and over the 8 years that I ran the company we worked for over 150 clients all over the world. I gained massive experience with wonderful people, but everything is cyclical and I felt that I needed a break. I sold my interest in the company and did something completely different—I had a very special house designed and built on the Outer Hebridean island of Harris. I now rent this out as a holiday home to people who appreciate design and the raw beauty of those islands.
Back to business, I was invited by Shawn and Mark at Anecdote to help them reshape the company. Travelling to Melbourne for a week, we worked together and created the strategy of distilling deep subject knowledge into products that could be delivered across the globe by trained and accredited partners. I was asked to become Chairman as the strategy rolled out, and we now have exciting new products focusing on strategy and sales to complement our original and highly successful Storytelling for Leaders program.
Anecdote’s growth across the world and the groups of products that we now have has triggered the need and opportunity to establish our first Anecdote office outside Australia. I will be leading our growth in the UK and Europe, ably assisted by Shawn’s very talented daughter Georgia, who is now living in the UK.
I am tremendously excited by the impact that we can make along with our clients. We can bring humanity, clarity, energy and insight to all facets of business in all market sectors, and working with an increasing team of carefully selected and accredited partners we will make that impact bigger and more valuable every day.
About Paul Honeywell
Paul is a successful entrepreneur who has 40 years of business experience. His career started in Formula One motor racing and has since involved the leadership of Europe’s largest design and marketing agency, work with a highly advanced technology company, and consulting with C-suite leaders at many of the world’s largest companies, including Hilton, Coca-Cola, BP, and Lloyds Banking Group. After founding and leading a UK-based storytelling consultancy, Paul became Chairman of Anecdote and has guided the business in innovating and growing globally.