Success Talks is one of the UK’s most prestigious platforms for highlighting the brightest, most acclaimed and influential individuals in the world. They run regular events with inspirational professionals openly sharing their journeys. Having recently held their very first conference, and with over 50 powerful speakers under their belt, we thought someone should speak to the brains behind this business.
We chatted with Dennis Owusu-Sem, Relationship Manager and Founder of Success Talks about the journey over the last 5 years, how he sees Success Talks growing in the next 5 years as well as sharing some of his own successes.
My dad was an accountant and had his own firm, and I loved going into the office with him on Friday because that’s when he paid people. I used to count out the money and go to the bank, I used to love that. When I was about 15, I did an aptitude test, and the results for me were a management consultant, investment banking and an accountant. My brother got an internship in investment banking so given the fact my dad was an accountant, those results, and that my brother was in finance, it seemed like this is what I should do, and that’s where I had that initial shaping.
Misconceptions of successful professionals
Success is relative. People tend to look at success from a monetary or materialistic basis. Although a lot of these people have very prestigious positions, a lot of them are genuinely nice people, willing to help and want to make a difference. From that perspective, it's not just about looking at your day job as the defining aspect of you, but looking at what else you can do to support others.
“If I set that as the target and make moves to make it a reality, even if I don’t get it, I’ll have at least strived and got somewhere which is closer”
Acclaimed professionals - journey to success
Most of them say hard work, determination and having a bigger vision. Also getting the right mentors to help shape the vision, always be willing to give back, and be as nice as possible to people, because relationships are critical in terms of how you get to places. You won’t be able to get places without being willing to work hard, being able to pick yourself up after a set back without having that wider vision. It takes time to build contacts, and genuine relationships; you can’t do that as a quick fix.
Buy in from others
When I first started Success Talks, I was keen on building the app and so although it was new, it was different from everyone else. Once I had a few people on board, it added to the value of the concept. A few people did ask me “where’s this going to go?”, “who else is doing it?”, “who’s this going to help”, so having those answers to hand and showing what the impact of the work is going to be, people are more likely to be a part of that vision.
“A lot of them are genuinely nice people, willing to help and want to make a difference”
I really want to make this a global platform, and do global events. It would be amazing if we could do one event in America somewhere, one in Europe, one in Dubai, one somewhere in sub-Saharan Africa. Getting powerful, influential predominantly black and minority ethnic individuals on the stage, talking about really interesting topics, and showcasing that I’ve taken something from idea to concept to global.
The success talks conference. I’ve always had the idea of doing a one day conference and the concept of getting people to fly in from America for the day was a bit of a high in the sky dream, but then I thought- if I set that as the target and make moves to make it a reality, even if I don’t get it, I’ll have at least strived and got somewhere which is closer. I also took advantage of opportunities like being able to go to Chicago, and of my networks and asked people “I’m going to Chicago, do know anybody out there?”. This led me on to people like David Nichols (Partner at EY) and Anthony Wilkins (CFA – MD at BNY Mellon) and Sekou Kaaland (MD at JP Morgan). By me talking and having these conversations, and then being prepared to take action and follow up, that’s how it all came together.
Also, creating Success Talks itself. It took a lot of research, trying things, putting some of my own money behind the idea and learning how to pivot. This time last year, we had 700-800 followers on Facebook, and now we have 66,000. It is about constant learning, and if you’d asked me 5 years ago when I started, I don’t think I’d have been able to do this, and that for me, is a success.
In line with Inspirational Women’s Day and Mother’s Day in March, Dennis honours his Mum. “With regards to professionals, you’re probably looking at my Mum. My mum is a social worker and in terms of seeing what was possible, I looked up to her”
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