Steven showed early signs of being a “person who does”: a busy school boy packing his lunch breaks with debating, acting, advanced science and anything else that kept him clear of the sports field. He even did a spell as school librarian to get out of swimming.
But that made sense when he abandoned maths and science to study English Literature at St Anne’s College, Oxford. Literature is all about people: their stories, literally. Learning how to empathise, to argue, to persude and to work hard at the knee of Anne Pasternak Slater and J.R.R. Tolkien Professor of English Literature and Language Vincent Gillespie, didn’t prevent him from launching the UK’s first and last student commercial FM radio station.
That didn’t work out so well and might even have cost him a degree class. However, it did lead him to a life on the airwaves; in his first 100 days of employed life, he built and launched a commercial radio station in Northamptonshire that made money. By 23, he was MD for Brighton’s FM radio station and has since founded, bought, developed and sold nine terrestrial and digital radio stations as well a radio production company. That all makes sense: like studying literature, radio is all about creating connections and sharing the human experience (at least when it’s done right, it is!).
As radio lost its allure, Steve set up a music festival which he ran for seven years despite knowing nothing about music (this fact didn’t seem to matter in radio, either). However, he did know about internet subscription and online classified advertising so companies who wanted to make money from their data like Haymarket Publishing, Future Media and William Reed asked Steve to develop convergence strategies. It was great doing big media for a while, but it didn’t seem to count for much or matter to anyone and he was working too hard, doing too much: the cracks were showing. That’s when he connected with Curtis.
Curtis showed him how to organise himself better. When Steve went from busy and stressed to productive and calm, it enabled him to do even more. Thus, Curtis and Steve created People Who Do: a consultancy that works with individuals and organisations to help them do more, have better ideas and go home early. People Who Do value creativity, learning and people. Work should be fun and it should only be part of what you do.
These days Steve works with SME’s in the creative and cultural sectors as well as the people at large organisations including King’s College London, Channel 4, Guildhall School of Music and Dramaand the Department of Health. He designs and shares tools that help people do more with less stress, he creates spaces for people to have ideas, learn how to communicate and solve difficult issues. He builds relationships that extend beyond the client engagement and fosters enduring partnerships. All the work comes from recommendations. He still has five of those radio stations, too.
Most of his time, though, is spent looking after his boys and rediscovering a world experienced at 90 centimetres and below. Together, along with his busy wife, they live in the English countryside and keep chickens. At a friend’s farm, Steve runs a small holding producing vegetables and fruit for two families. He keeps bees, nurtures them through cold winters and shares their honey. Once a week he puts on a scarf and leads a scout troop. He’s on the playgroup committee and finds them money. He drinks in the village pub and generally gets involved.
For Steve it’s still about that empathy for other people, becoming involved in their stories and wanting them to do the best they can. He listens a lot and he talks a lot: he does a lot. He’s a person who does. But occasionally, he and the busy wife pack up the boys, drive their camper van to a field in the middle of nowhere, and – for a little while – they don’t talk to anyone.