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What is “real” business?

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At nine years old, my first business idea was a shoeshine in a drive-in restaurant with the aid of my six year-old business partner, my brother. I eventually found a niche some 16 years and 29 jobs later. I created a business in the airline catering industry based on the philosophy that ‘it never hurts to ask.’ The principle was to sell a customer what they wanted instead of trying to sell them what you had seemed vastly more appealing. It proved successful and some 30 years later I sold what had become a global £100m business. 

I then began the real search, the search for what could be called a “real” business. For clarification, I mean a business that did not just make profits for shareholders and give jobs, but a business that was both commercial and did social good. Through a social Business, I sought a balance between the social good one can do and the shareholder value one can create, with the passionate belief that the more successful the business, the more one can make a social difference.

Thus, LifeBook UK was created. At the time, my 86 year-old father was living in a nursing home. I turned to him one day, after stopping him telling me stories I already knew. I wanted to say ‘don’t worry dad, it will be better next week.’ But in reality, he would only become more blind and depressed.

On my way back to the office I had an idea for a project that could engage him motivate him. I decided to send a friend from outside of the family to meet him and record his life stories – a project that offered him companionship and something interesting to do. The recordings of these stories were then written up into a beautiful autobiography which I now treasure. Little did I know at that time that this was the beginning of my own journey and that my ‘blindness’ would be relieved by solving his problem and those of thousands of others with LifeBook UK.

Sadly, my father passed away long before I was able to fully develop the concept, but I spent two years thoroughly researching how to make the business both globally scalable and affordable. 

The experience changed my father’s outlook on life, reliving memories he didn’t even know he’d forgotten and delighting in being asked about his life. He shared some amazing stories that he had never spoken about to me before, such as our ancestor being King of Poland for a day and his memories of his first girlfriend. It was great to see him so excited about life again and the experience completely refreshed our conversations as he told me about the memories he’d unearthed each week. 

Now inspired and searching for how I could bottle this sensation and turn it into a global and scalable venture that could make a ‘real’ difference I realised then that LifeBook UK could become a real business in every sense of the words. 

The secret of this business was working out how to deconstruct the process and separate the interviewer from the ghostwriter and editor so that every interviewer was within 10 miles of the author. 

The point is that a real business should deal with real people. It will never be taken over by technology or an app, as that human interaction that you get from the LifeBook experience is so important. It is because of technology and apps like Skype that LifeBook UK has a niche which can never be replaced – your father or gran doesn’t want to have a cup of tea with a robot, or pour out their hearts to a Skype interviewer, they want to be able to reach out, and touch.

Roy Moëd is founder of LifeBook UK

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