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01 February 2016

Frith Sykes

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Frith Sykes – a partnership between sports performance consultant Jeremy Frith and educational psychologist Rachel Sykes

Tell me about your business

Based on our different backgrounds and strengths, Frith Sykes delivers workshops and training based on people achieving their personal best, whether in sport, education, business or their personal lives. We both work part time with the Guernsey Sports Commission and the States of Guernsey Education Department. We first worked together in the summer of 2011 under the GSC umbrella, linking sport, education and performance and presenting to parents, athletes and coaches.

This then extended to the corporate sector and to teachers in the public sector. Our work is based on psychology research by Carol Dweck and “growth mindset” (rather than “fixed mindset”) in particular.

In 2013 the Education Department approved our request to work in schools and this extended to some paid consultancy work in Guernsey’s private schools. Having developed some of our own resources and research we recognised that there were business opportunities outside our work as employees and we registered a company, partly to protect some of our intellectual property.

We created a website and opened a bank account, drawing on help from a friend with the company administration. Using some of Jeremy’s cricket connections we worked in Holland with national cricket age squads and soon afterwards we were given the opportunity to talk at a TEDx event.

We made contact with others working in our field and this created opportunities to present abroad, including Scotland, Ireland, Europe and the United States. We are committed to taking a community approach to our work and some of it has been free of charge or on an expenses-only basis. The Behavioural Insights Team conducted a study with 26 job centres in the UK delivering a “growth mindset” intervention to staff.

As a result staff took a more optimistic view of their clients’ capabilities and ability to get back into work. We have since provided training for Guernsey’s Social Security staff with really positive feedback and people asking for more. We are working with five professional football club academies to conduct a research study with Bournemouth University – Notts Forest FC, AFC Bournemouth, Bristol Rovers FC, Portsmouth FC and Reading FC.

We work with the coaches on their review process, focusing on the players’ motivation and wellbeing with Bournemouth University measuring the impact. A major coup was when we were on a panel in Scotland with Carol Dweck herself. She has been cited by the BBC as one of the most influential psychologists ever. We worked alongside her for five days and she was referencing our work in some of her talks.

What inspired you to take the leap and work for yourself?

Our motivation came from the opportunity to share our passion for our work more widely. It’s very rewarding to be involved in positively changing a community. Another reason for formalising our business partnership was to protect the intellectual property that we’ve created.

As our existing “day jobs” are part time we also realised that we could devote some time to Frith Sykes. We enjoy working together and pushing each other on to greater achievements.

How did Startup Guernsey assist?

One of their mentors, Marc Winn, has been hugely helpful by giving us the platform to speak at TEDx and by generally encouraging us to think big. We also benefited from some advice from David Stanley, a lawyer volunteering for StartUp Guernsey

What were the biggest obstacles or perceived barriers?

We were cautious about how much time Frith Sykes might involve and also about not knowing what we didn’t know about starting a business, so this is where the Startup Guernsey co-working Wednesdays were helpful at the start. In particular, we were unsure how much to charge and when we should charge – we were in danger of sometimes being too nice! We’ve had some frustrations when things haven‘t turned out as we’d hoped, or we’ve missed opportunities.

We’re also learning how to juggle personal commitments, for example finding time to travel for work and also spend time with family. What advice would you give to would-be entrepreneurs? Have a plan - actually we differ on that one – sometimes it will be “don’t have a plan”! Have faith in yourself but don’t be afraid to ask for help and advice. Keep reviewing what is working best, concentrate your efforts on those areas and enjoy it.

What’s next for your business?

We need to sit down together and plan the next steps. Luckily there’s a pub equidistant from both our houses. We are publishing a book and will make use of this to promote our work.

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