Emma bounded out of bed not just to celebrate 24 fingers’ sixth birthday recently (don’t worry, cake and candles were sorted later in the day), but also to enjoy 24 questions with Clare Horsley, founder of award-winning group Excel Elite Business Networking.

24 fingers: Morning, Clare.

Clare: Good morning, Emma.

24 fingers: How are you?

Clare: I’m hot! I’m very well.

24 fingers: Boiling, isn’t it?

Clare: Yeah, I’m not going to moan though. No, I’m very well, thank you, I’m really, you know, privileged to be able to start the day with speaking with yourself, so thank you for inviting me.

24 fingers: Oh, bless you. Well today’s a very special day, actually, as well, because 24 fingers is six years old today.

Clare: Oh, is it? Happy birthday!

24 fingers: Thank you very much. So yeah, we’ve got a few things planned today, but yeah, great to be together. So, let’s begin. Clare, what is your favourite word?

Clare: Fascinating.

24 fingers: Fascinating, ooh! What gets you up in the morning?

Clare: My children.

24 fingers: How many do you have, I think two, is it? Is it two?

Clare: Two, yeah. 13 and 11. One at school, one homeschooling, but that’s another topic there.

24 fingers: Oh. That’s another story? Look, those days are over for me, but I feel your pain. What do you truly, honestly think of social media?

Clare: It’s powerful. I mean, it was quite difficult actually to come up with that answer, because I have lots of thoughts about social media, but I think the main message that comes across is its power, really.

24 fingers: Yeah, it’s hugely powerful, and sometimes that power’s used for good, sometimes it’s used for bad. Kindles or books?

Clare: Books.

24 fingers: 100% agree. What do you truly, honestly think of– no, I’ve done that one. Too early, I haven’t had enough caffeine. It’s too early for me, that’s why I should do these interviews in the afternoon. What do you think is the biggest challenge in our industry? So, Clare, you run weekly and monthly networking groups, don’t you?

Clare: Yes.

24 fingers: What’s the biggest challenge for you? At the minute, I can imagine, Covid, but…

Clare: I mean, it’s a massive learning curve and I’m working very differently to how I used to work. I think actually, my main challenge right now is the volume of work that it’s created. So this isn’t necessarily a negative, but when your systems change, and when your processes change, and the volume of work increases, you have to look back at your existing structure, and just think about what you can put in, to incorporate, to ensure the smooth flow of your service delivery.

It’s something that I’m learning to do, something that, you know, every week is improving, but I would say that’s probably the volume, yeah, the volume of work, and I have also put the word in there, consistency. I am consistent with what I do, but I think it’s also really important for people to be, especially now, more than ever, on social media, consistent, because we are relying much more on this tool particularly at the moment.

24 fingers: I couldn’t agree with you more. At the beginning of lockdown, my partner Kathy and I were talking about being visible, and consistency was a really strong message. Even though we can’t physically see our customers, or don’t have our physical retail stores open, we do need to be front of mind, and social media is great for that. We talk about this thing, about being like water rather than fire, so post consistently, whether consistent for you is once a week, once a day, just be consistent with that, rather than like 20 hundred times one day, then nothing for a month, because people forget about you, and then it’s all too much, and it’s just this horrid kind of imbalance, so yeah, really great advice and I 100% agree. So, did you always want to be doing this? What did you want to be when you were growing up?

Clare: When I was growing up, I wanted to be a musician. Yeah, I wanted to be a musician. I used to play the violin in an orchestra, and I played the piano, I was part of a children’s choir, and I used to get on stage, I used to do drama and acting. I don’t know what happened, somewhere along my teens, it was much more cool to be probably drinking White Lightning down in the park with my friends. I then sort of lost momentum, which is something I do regret a little bit, to be honest, but I’ve now got a piano at home, and I still play the piano. I’ve purchased a guitar in lockdown as well, and I’ve got a ukulele, so I’m going to be teaching myself a few more pieces on the piano.

24 fingers: Amazing. Yeah, White Lightning or Thunderbird in a park, I remember them well.

Clare: As I said that, as that came out, I was thinking I’m not quite sure if I should be saying that, but, let’s be honest, I’m sure there’s many people on the call who could relate to that.

24 fingers: You definitely need to be saying that on the call, we wouldn’t expect anything less at 24 finger Towers, we are all about the Thunderbird and White Lightning, and the reminiscing. So, your favourite word is ‘fascinating’, can you use it in a sentence, please?

Clare: Life is fascinating. I mean, I did struggle with that one a little bit, to be honest, but I think I use it quite a lot, and when I’ve been recording my podcast, I’ve realised, maybe I use it a little bit too much, so we’ve got a bit of a standing joke at the moment with my co-host, that you have to use a different word. But I genuinely find life fascinating. I find business fascinating, I find individuals fascinating, because it’s just so interesting. It’s just so interesting.

We’re all from different walks of life, we’ve all had different business journeys, I’m a qualified NLP practitioner as well, and, the mind is fascinating, you know, how it works, so I think that was the first one that I thought of.

24 fingers: That’s really interesting, and I 100% agree about the mind thing, and I’ve made some big changes over the last couple of years. I’m going to be writing a post today about what the last six years have taught me, both good and bad, but certainly, when you change your mind, you can absolutely change anything, and for those of you that know me well, drinking four litres of Diet Coke a day and then going to nothing, that was just one switch in my mind, and yeah, if I can do that for Diet Coke, I can do it for anything. So, can you make it rhyme now, fascinating?

Clare: No. I looked at this, I was thinking, the only word that comes to mind, I can’t get it to rhyme, but fascinator. I don’t know, I was just thinking of fascinators, like the headdress that you wear in weddings.

24 fingers: What about, I was just thinking, what about diversity is making life fascinating, maybe?┬áDon’t know. Don’t know, it’s too early.

Clare: When I’m looking for words, I’ll come to you, Emma, yeah.

24 fingers: What advice would you give your younger self, who’s drinking Thunderbird in the park?

Clare: Yeah. Oh dear. Trust your voice. Yeah, trust your voice. What might be really interesting for some people who know me or don’t know me, is I was very, very shy. Very shy. So I was the person that would sit at the back of the class and spend the whole time of the lesson worrying about whether they were going to ask me the question, because I never used to put my hand up. So I had, yeah, very little confidence as a child, growing up terrified to speak, to say the wrong things. I knew the answers a lot, but I didn’t have the voice.

Then on the other end of the scale, then when I was doing public speaking a few years ago, I spoke to 5,000 people about business at the Excel London, which totally pushed me outside of my comfort zone, but that was a very monumental part for me, because that showed me, actually, that you can put your shoulders back, you can lift your head up high, and feel confident with the message that you’re delivering, so it’s a stark contrast from the quiet, timid little girl who never spoke.

24 fingers: Wow.

Clare: I’m going to shut up now.

24 fingers: No, genuinely, that needs big tens, because that is really inspirational, and I know public speaking in particular is something that people feel really nervous about. I’ve seen you in action, and yeah, I can’t equate younger Clare with the Clare that I see in front of me, so yeah, a huge congrats on that, amazing. What’s the best thing anyone’s ever done for you?

Clare: Married me.

24 fingers: Aw!

Clare: I know, how gushy’s that?

24 fingers: Very lovely. And you might not have had it yet, but what do you think has been your career-defining moment?

Clare: As you know, I’m growing and expanding and adding new parts to our business all the time. I think, again, going back to that moment on stage, something switched for me. It’s quite hard to articulate it, but when I was invited to do it, my initial reaction was to run, which, I think, very often in business is. If it pushes you outside your comfort zone, and you’ve never done it before, your mind, again, can tell you, “Don’t do it, let’s protect yourself, “let’s not even go there,” but it showed me two things.

It showed me that the power of the mind, and how we are capable of so many great things as individuals, and also, of course, in relation to me being so quiet, and not feeling that I added any value to anyone as a child by speaking, to then, and I can still remember it now, to standing there with a sea of people, and to have the applause at the end was a massive defining moment for me, because I thought A, people want to listen to me, B, I’ve done it. My hands were shaking, my palms were wet, I had to do the old trick of bending the knees when you’re speaking, and realised I loved helping people, reaching out to people and connecting with them. So that sort of encompasses my business a lot, because that’s what I do, so yeah.

24 fingers: Wow, amazing. If you won a big award of some kind, who would you thank?

Clare: A big award. I’ve put– there are so many people, so many people, but I think it– it sounds really gushy again, doesn’t it? Glad he’s not listening, because he’ll get a bit of a big head. I think I’d probably say my husband, because he’s seen me on a huge journey through what we’ve just talked about. Even when I made the decision to take my business completely online when Covid started, I sat in the garden, and I said: ‘No, I have two choices here. I sit back and I wait for it to be over, and then revert back to how I was, or I’m just going to go for this. I need to act quickly, I need to act now’.

He’s furloughed, and it’s difficult, because he’s at home all the time, so he’s been very patient, he’s been incredibly supportive, consistently, so I think it would have to be my husband, because without his support with the children, without his emotional support of me, I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing, so… Who is my husband anyway? I haven’t seen him.

24 fingers: Go, Mr Horsley, well done. So we spoke about systems and processes earlier, can you give us a time saver of the day, something that you use to maximise your time?

Clare: There’s so many things, but the first thing that popped into my mind, which, if Mr Mumford is listening, I hope he’ll be proud. I’ve embraced computerised systems. I do have a manual diary, but this situation and the volume of work that I’ve got has really made me, as I said earlier, identify how I could be working in more of a savvy way. I’m using Trello cards. Now, Trello — I barely used computers before Covid, so it’s way outside my comfort zone, but I’ve already seen in just a few weeks the power of when you’re working with someone, because I have a few key people within my business who support me and who I work with, Trello cards is a fantastic tool.

For those of you who don’t know, it’s like an online, almost like an online Post-it to-do list, but it’s much more than that. You can assign tasks, you can keep a record, I’m going to be using it as a little mini CRM system, so I can keep track of, have a template of when my members, when I speak to new prospects, to take them through the process. I can tick off once I’ve completed each task, so I would really recommend, if anyone hasn’t done already, to check out Trello – and they’re not paying me any commission for promoting it.

24 fingers: No, it’s a good system. Where do you see your business in 24 months?

Clare: Okay, so I’ve put on here, with at least 250 members, under the Excel Networking umbrella, and also, I have plans to go international, as well.

24 fingers: Love that.

Clare: Very excited about that.

24 fingers: Where were you 24 months ago?

Clare: I was recovering from a major operation 24 months ago. I had a period of illness in 2017 where I was in hospital 18 times. I had literally just started my business. Within weeks I was very, very poorly, so I still managed to keep running the business, and I remember one time, I literally had the nurses waiting for me with the trolley to go down to theatre, and I was introducing a new member, so a very challenging time, so yeah. I was recovering from a major operation 24 months ago. I was working at getting my fitness back, getting my stamina back, and trying to sort of, be the best mum I could be, alongside continuing to build my network, yeah.

24 fingers: What’s an interesting fact about you and your business?

Clare: It wasn’t my idea. It was a friend’s suggestion. So I’ve always been involved in network marketing, since 2013, so I’ve always been involved with that, and I’ve always done jobs which are– sorry, undertaken roles, is better English, where I’ve been ultimately enriching the lives of others, and helping people. I was looking for a group at the time, four-and-a-half years ago, and I couldn’t quite find one that fitted into my ethics and my values.

There were amazing groups out there, and very supportive of everyone, by the way, but I couldn’t quite find one that fitted with what my vision was, and a friend said to me, honestly I can remember it as clear as day, she said to me, ‘why don’t you set up your own?’ My response was, ‘don’t be so ridiculous’, thought about it for a few days, three weeks later I had a group of people together, and the rest is history.

24 fingers: If you could have a 24 minute — and I’m going to change this question — 24-minute Zoom call with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?

Clare: My grandma. Yeah, it would be my grandma. I actually commented on a post on LinkedIn about this, actually, interestingly. It would be my grandma, because I spent a lot of time growing up with my grandma, and she’s so wise, you know, and I still quote her, to this day. She spoke an awful lot of sense, she was so accommodating of every single person, no matter what their background, their religion, where they lived.

She was the kindest, sweetest, warm-hearted person, who valued every single person for being them, and I’ve learnt a huge amount from her, so I would love to have a chat with her to tell her where I’m at, and if it was a Skype, show her the children, and yeah, hopefully I’ve done her proud.

24 fingers: I’m sure you have. What’s one word you’d like people to describe you with?

Clare: Loyal. I stick to my word. I’m true to my word. I think honesty and transparency are very important, you know, in personal life, but then also in business, and, you know, I’m loyal to what I say. If I say I’m going to do something, I will do it. If I’m going to offer a service, I will do it, and I do everything to the best of my ability, so hopefully, people would say I’m loyal.

24 fingers: Yeah, I’m sure they would. Would you mind taking a selfie? So if I do print screen and you smile, Clare, we’ll do that. Who do you follow on social media? Who should we all check out?

Clare: On social media at the moment, oh, I follow loads of people. Okay, probably the one that comes to the forefront of my mind is Tej Lalvani from Dragons’ Den. I’m following him at the moment. We’ve actually had a few little conversations as well, and I was incredibly excited when he commented on something that I put up.

24 fingers: Boom.

Clare: Small things, but you know.

24 fingers: No, no, no. Little wins, mate, it’s all about the little wins.

Clare: I was like ‘oh, he’s actually taken the time out to message’. Yeah, so he’s been putting a lot of posts on there about mental health at the moment. He’s been putting a lot of posts on there about how we can look after ourselves as business owners, how the various challenges that we can face in business, and it resonates quite a lot with me, so yeah, I follow him at the moment.

24 fingers: Cool. What’s one quote that defines your work ethic?

Clare: “When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the aeroplane takes off against the wind, and not with it”, Henry Ford.

24 fingers: Very wise, I like that. It’s early, but what’s been the best part of your day, so far?

Clare: I’m enjoying our conversation, but also my daughter trotted off to school incredibly happy this morning.

24 fingers: Oh, nice.

Clare: It’s really challenging for the children, and yeah, she was actually singing Christmas tunes when she walked out the front door this morning. Don’t know why, but she was happy, so that’s the main thing.

24 fingers: I’ve got a few hours before mine even wakes up, so again, different universe.

Clare: My son’s in bed as well, so I’m with you.

24 fingers: Oh, maybe it’s a boy thing then. Finally, anything to plug?

Clare: So you can find me on Facebook, you can find me on LinkedIn, you can email me, so Excel Business Networking, you can find me on there, Clare Horsley. I’d also like to plug our new podcast show, which is called The Big Little Business Show. We’re interviewing a lot of business owners, and we’re basically identifying the challenges that businesses have, and inviting guest speakers to talk about how they’ve overcome those challenges. So yeah, I’m expanding my groups, and if anyone has any questions about business or requires some support, then please don’t hesitate to reach out to me.

24 fingers: Brilliant. Well, I’ve seen you in action, and I know how much people enjoy your groups, and what they get out of it, so keep doing what you’re doing, Clare. You’re doing a brilliant job, and thank you very much for your time.

Clare: Oh, thanks Emma. Thank you so much.