The best advice I've had
When I decided to move into consultancy after 11 years in fundraising, I suddenly realised that I knew nothing about consultancy. I thought it was a good idea to learn from those 'senior' consultants I knew, so I spent about a year as an associate working with the likes of David Saint, Andrew de Mille and Timothy Finn. These gentlemen taught me to listen.
You come across a variety of characters in this game. Listening to people is incredibly empowering. One member of the landed gentry spent an hour describing how he shot down a hot-air balloon that was "trespassing" on his property. He then gave us some introductions to some other (more sane) wealthy people in the area.
The biggest challenge I've faced
Going it alone for the first time on a capital appeal as a consultant for Martin House children's hospice in Yorkshire. I needed to raise £2.2m for its new teenage unit. The difficulty was advising patience when the organisation just wanted to go ahead and fundraise from the start. Fortunately, we did eventually get the lead gift of £250,000 and recruited the Yorkshire Evening Post. Everything went swimmingly thereafter. I even helped Martin House to start and build up its fundraising department over the next year or so.
My greatest hit
One client needed £2.8m for a performing arts centre and was close to one particular trust. I met them and was asked 'the question': "How much do you want?" I asked for half and they agreed.
My worst moment
Having lunch in the House of Lords with Melvyn Bragg, dropping a roll, bending down, banging my head on the table, spilling my notes all over the floor and angering the stewards because notes aren't allowed in the tea-room. Bragg thought I was a complete prat. I left early.
My top tip
Listen and be yourself. I have met people worth £400m, lords, baronesses, chief executives and chairs, as well as single mums, young homeless people, Ethiopian refugees and hospital patients. Everyone is the same underneath their exterior crust. Treat them as human beings, relax and be straight with them. I firmly believe that you can ask anyone for just about anything. The important thing is how you do it.