Getting to Know You: Shahzad Ali, Get Licenced

What do you currently do?

Lots of things! I run two businesses and I am a mentor. Get Licenced, the UK’s number one course finder for licence linked training courses. We make it easy for customers to find and get enrolled on local SIA-approved courses for door supervisors, and to get qualified for personal licences, CCTV licences or to work as security personnel.

I am also the CEO for Yapjobs and I mentor young entrepreneurs, working with the Young Presidents’ Organization and The Indus Entrepreneurs. This allows me to do a lot of coaching and development, and mind-set training with up and coming entrepreneurs.

What was the inspiration behind your business?

I used to work for Robbie Steinhouse at Gray’s Inn Estates, and he was a real inspiration to me. There were 50 employees, and they were all able to pay their mortgages because of his idea. I thought it was amazing that 50 people could live and earn a salary because of Robbie’s business. I also wanted the freedom that you get from running your own business. For me, business is not just about ‘business’ – it’s a form of self-expression. Singers sing, artists paint, and I express myself through doing business.

What defines your way of doing business?

I have to be very dynamic and adapt to what’s going on outside. Things are changing all the time, and I have to be able to adjust to that. I have to have a strong intellect and be able to manage myself; if I can’t manage myself, how can I possibly manage what’s happening outside? It’s important to remember that everything is temporary, and I try to stay calm whatever the situation. I try to follow the philosophy that there are lots of things I can’t control, but the one thing I can be in control of is how I react and behave.

Who do you admire?

I’ve had many brilliant mentors, but I would say I admire the philosophy of what people teach rather than one particular person. After all, everyone is taught by their mentors who bring the skills of different masters with them. I’m a big believer in stoicism, which involves endurance without complaint. The Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius was a practitioner of stoicism, and I have a lot of admiration for him. Many people think it is emotionless, but it’s more about having self-control and mindfulness.

Looking back, is there anything you would do differently?

I would worry less than I did when I started. Fear consumes you when you start, and that’s not good. You think you’ll end up homeless or that you’ll fail and lose all your money, and that’s not a great starting point for a business. My advice to my younger self would be not to fret – so what if you fail? It’s a learning process and you learn by failing as well as succeeding.

What advice would you give to someone starting out?

Ask yourself “why do you want to starts the business?” Is it because you’ve been inspired by someone else, or you want the glamour of being an entrepreneur? If it’s to make money, it’s probably not the right move, because you’re not going to make money for a long time. Think about your personal objectives as well as your business objectives – if your aim is to be happy, you might be better off spending time with your kids! Start with recognising what your “why” is – the stronger your “why”, the higher your chance of success.