Episode 28 - Ray Blakney

Do you speak the language of purpose? Identifying what you're here to do. In this episode we're making conversations about language count!

Ray Blakney, CEO of Live Lingua

Making Conversations about Language Count!

Ray Blakney Live Lingua

Let’s be honest, we’ll all be able to relate to this subject… we’re making conversations about language count.

Can you speak another language other than your native tongue?

Wendy “Conversations Queen” Harris admitted to the “Making Conversations Count” team that she doesn’t, and we can’t help but feel she’s definitely not alone.

Ray Blakney, Founder of Live Lingua about how his online learning language school skyrocketed in early 2020.

With many professionals furloughed at home with time on their hands, many picked up new hobbies or set themselves new challenges.

Learning a brand new foreign language proved very popular.

Ray shares some insightful tips on how he grew his business so he is not location-dependent.

This story in turn leads us nicely into him sharing his contribution to our growing catalogue of career-defining conversations!

Listen to other episodes on your favourite platform…

Full Episode Transcript


Making Conversations Count – Episode Twenty-Eight 

29th April 2021

Wendy Harris & Ray Blakney, Live Lingua



00:00:00: Introduction
00:02:03: Live Lingua
00:03:21: Feeling great about languages
00:04:09: Covid expansion?
00:06:11: Is SEO and Google ads worth it?
00:07:56: Where does a conversation start?
00:09:24: Conversation’s really important on every level of what we do
00:11:18: 1,000 customers enough?
00:12:45: Burn out v Balance
00:15:29: Learn from other the older and wiser experience
00:18:16: Follow the passion
00:20:02: Don’t talk about M***y
00:22:04: Ray’s pivotal conversation
00:25:12: Final comments


Wendy Harris: You’ve heard the saying that Noah said, “Build it and they will come”.  In business that’s not quite how it works because you have to send out invitations, you have to do lots of social media, emailing, direct mail; you name it.  In actual fact, our guest today is quite right when he says that, “Build it and they will come”, is a myth.  Today we’re going to make conversations about language count.

What’s new here on the Making Conversations Count Show?  I would just like to give a bit of shout out to Jay who has left a wonderful review for us saying that listening to the show is like a half-hour therapy session.  I do hope that you continue to leave your comments because they really make us gush.  I’d like to introduce you to Ray Blakney; sit back, you’ve got half an hour of listening to Ray’s story.

Not only am I continuing to offer the power up session for listeners, details of that in a short while, but there’s also my book, which helps you do that for yourself, where I explain everything that we do in the power up; it’s available to you on Amazon and you can get the links from www.makingconversationscount.com/howtoselloverthephone/

First, let’s get down to business; let’s get to that conversation with Ray.  Welcome to Making Conversations Count, the official podcast that brings you business leaders to the show where they share that one conversation that created a turning point in their life or career.  Today I have from across the pond a swashbuckling, bootstrapping entrepreneur that heads up Live Lingua, Ray.  Tell us a little bit more about Live Lingua and what you do.

Ray Blakney: Sure, so www.livelingua.com is one of the top three online language schools in the world, so we give live classes with tutors, with native speakers from around the world.  You want French; a native French teacher?  We’ll hook you up with native French teacher.  You want Spanish, you want Chinese, you want Portuguese, you want Russian; we have 11 languages that we’re teaching. 

There are two things that set us apart: number one, we’re the only mum and dad operation out there.  Everybody else we’re competing against has millions of dollars of VC money from those big funds.  Me and my wife, we started this for $59.99 12 years ago.  She was a teacher, I answered the emails and we built it up from there, so we are that little corner coffee shop going up against Starbucks and all those big brands in our space. 

The second one is of course, we make it a lot more personal as a result; everybody gets my personal email and my wife’s personal email, she’s in charge of the academics, when you sign up with us.  You’re not just a number in anything.

Wendy Harris: She’s in charge?

Ray Blakney: Of course, she’s in charge.  I mean anybody who’s in a relationship knows how that works.  She’s the boss in the company, she just lets me work there sometimes.  We have a lot more personalised attention than almost any other business that’s out there.  Again, you will get my personal email, I will email you when you sign up saying, “Hi”, my wife will do it a few weeks later to see how the classes are going and we work with you so you can definitely learn whatever language you want.

The method we use is the method I used to learn Spanish and she used to learn English, so tried and true, we’ve gone through the system.

Wendy Harris: It’s great that you’re making conversations about languages count.

Ray Blakney: Exactly, and it brings the world closer together just like any conversation brings people together.  If you’re able to speak another language, you’re suddenly able to connect with this whole new culture, whole new way of thinking, which makes the world a much smaller place and I mean that in a good way not, oh my goodness, you’re cramped; but, “Wow, if you learn Spanish, I can speak to everybody from Texas down to Chile”. 

I could take a car and drive and I would be able to speak to everybody in their native language.  Sure, there’d be different accents but it’s like me speaking to you, British accent/US accent.  There’s no problem in communication, just you wait in a queue and I wait in a line.  That’s got to be the big differences in the languages.  For Spanish it’s the same thing, you’ll have little differences like that, but what an amazing feeling being able to speak to people in other cultures and you understand the world in different ways when you learn a language.

Wendy Harris: Have you seen a huge growth with people maybe finding themselves with a bit more time on their hands at the moment, learning a different language to help them through work or personally?

Ray Blakney: We’re recording this; if anybody listens to this in the future, COVID’s still going on and we have the vaccine, but it’s still a big thing.  It started about a year ago, we had our best year by about 40% last year, we grew 40% in 2020 with people signing up; especially in I think it was April.  I have the numbers right over here.  It was, yeah, April when it really happened, we had a spike of 200%; we had 200% more people sign up April 2020 than April 2019, because everybody decided, “Hey, I’m stuck at home, I might as well learn another language”.  It dipped off after that, but it was still 40% higher consistently every month.

Wendy Harris: Was that truly organic or did you see an opportunity to do some more advertising into different platforms to be able to draw people to you?  How did that work?

Ray Blakney: It started as organic because nobody expected this.  We actually started Live Lingua because of the Swine Flu, so there’s a story behind that, but the Swine Flu lasted 60 days, so it wasn’t this big thing where we planned years out because this is going to go on forever.

Wendy Harris: A bit of an anticlimax really, wasn’t it?

Ray Blakney: It was, it was supposed to be this big thing, it was supposed to be what COVID is now, so everybody was really scared and then eight weeks later it was gone.  Part of me actually expected that with COVID, right, okay three months; six, at the long end.  I’ll admit that the first two or three months that spike was entirely organic, so we built our whole business off of search engine optimisation, so when people look for Spanish lessons online, Spanish tutors, we should be in the top three of any the search results.

That put us in a great position that when people started organically looking for more Spanish tutors, we were already positioned to do that.  After we saw this was going to be more long term then we went to Facebook ads, marketing, Google Ads all that kind of stuff as well.  We did use that to boost it up, but initially it was all organic.

Wendy Harris: Ray, does it surprise you that we talk about Live Lingua as being in the top three for languages, for being brilliant and a family-run gig, yet there are so many other aspects to running the business, like the SEO.  If the SEO hadn’t have been great, they’re then turning to the other channels and formats of being able to exploit that traffic.  We have to be so adaptable now in our businesses, don’t we, to online behaviours.

Ray Blakney: Absolutely.  Even SEO, if you base your whole business on it, and I know this from personal experience, you could lose it overnight.  SEO for those who don’t know is search engine optimisation.  It pretty much is what gets you to the top of the Google ranking, not the paid ads, unscrupulous marketing agencies saying, “Get to the top of the page in Google in a day”.  They put Google ads up for your own brand name, and they show, “Look at you, you’re at the top”.  I’m like, “That’s nothing; you should be at the top of your own brand name anyway!”

SEO is that organic rank at the bottom and it’s also free traffic.  If you’re using the paid ad method, which works, you have to consider, “I’m paying $1 for the ad and I make $1.50; I made 50 cents”, but if you’re organic and you’re making a $1.50 and they came in organically, you make $1.50 for a digital product.  It’s the holy grail of online marketing.

Wendy Harris: If you’re a million $1.50s then gosh, it’s still worth it, right?

Ray Blakney: That’s exactly it; it’s just not costing you anything.  It even works on the other end.  If you’re a Ferrari dealership and you’re selling a Ferrari, maybe not that many people are looking for it every month, but if you’re number one in your city and that gets you one or two sales a year —

Wendy Harris: It’s paid for itself.

Ray Blakney: Yeah, you sold two $300,000 cars.  I don’t know much Ferrari’s cost but a lot of money, right.

Wendy Harris: Although we’re talking about languages, making conversations count, in lots of ways really, you’re having to talk the language of the machines.

Ray Blakney: I’ve been running language businesses now for 13 years, so we started the brick and mortar language school and moved online; but my area of expertise, even though I’m pretty good at the language side of things now as well because I’ve been doing it for 13, 14 years, is actually the business around the languages and the communication on that end.  It’s like a lot of other things, you could be the best language teacher in the world but if you don’t know how to put yourself in front of the right audience, nobody’s going to know.

It’s like that old movie, Field of Dreams, where they say, “Build it and they will come”; no, that’s not how business works.  You can build it all day long and unless you have the traffic, you’re not going to have a business out of it.  You could be the best at whatever you do and unless you’re able to convey that message, as you said, have that conversation with the people about it, which means they need to see you or at least be able to initiate the conversation, then you’re never going to be successful in whatever it is you’re trying to convey.

Wendy Harris: Yeah, sure, I mean there’s a book that I love that explains blogging to me, I never saw the value of blogging.  They ask, you answer, and it is really you’ve got to reverse engineer that by saying, “What is the question first; what are people asking?”  So, where does the conversation start?  It starts with a question so you can answer it, so that you can solve their problem.  Conversation’s really important, isn’t it, on every level of what we do?

Ray Blakney: My business of language learning, whether it be language learning or not, cannot be a — it’s not you preaching on your soap box.  This is for the communicating with the customer’s point of view and then once we teach the language it’s the same thing, it needs to be a conversation.  “I want to learn Spanish”.  “Why do you want to learn Spanish?”  They have to answer it, “I’d like to learn it for travel”.  “Where are you travelling to?”  “I’m going to Chile”, that means a different Spanish teacher than if you were going to Spain.  It’s a back-and-forth conversation for us to learn about you, on the marketing end.

They might look for Spanish teachers from Chile instead of Spanish teachers from Spain, so we have to be in the right place, give the right answer.  Once they sign up, we offer a 30-minute free trial, free class, for anybody who wants it.  Once they sign up, it’s our job to find them their perfect match — we have a learning style quiz and all the rest of it — for a teacher from Chile and make sure that they find the teacher that they’re comfortable with; so from start to finish, it’s a conversation and then the teacher continues the conversation.

What we’re teaching is primarily conversational language.  We’ll teach you some of how to read and write due to the medium of online, the strongest thing you’re going to learn and the first thing you’re going to learn is how to speak and understand when somebody speaks to you.  That’s what a conversation is, right?

Wendy Harris: The variables are immense and whether it be language, whether it be ball bearings, whether it be IT solutions, you still have to know what the nuts and bolts are going to make up to be able to offer the right solution.

Ray Blakney: Absolutely.  And the only way you’re going to know that is to ask.

Wendy Harris: Absolutely.

Ray Blakney: You have to ask them, “What do you need?” and then make sure that you have something in place to be able to provide that for them.  You don’t need to be big; we’re lucky that we kind of stumbled on the space and we had an early mover advantage, but for most people if you are able to have this conversation — I don’t remember who said it but the 1,000 true fans.  If you have 1,000 customers, which in the world of cyberspace is nothing.

Wendy Harris: It’s not a tear drop, no.

Ray Blakney: It’s a blip.  Amazon sells more products than that per millisecond.  I don’t know the exact math, but every millisecond I’m sure they sell more than 1,000 products.

Wendy Harris: $1.7 trillion, they’re worth.

Ray Blakney: Exactly, so do you really need that much?

Wendy Harris: Why do I know that?

Ray Blakney: You have 100 people paying you, it’s an aspirational number for some people, but if you’ve got 100 paying you, you’re a consultant, right.  If you had 100 clients, that’s probably more clients than you could deal with; 100 clients at the same time if they’re all paying you even something low like $1,000 a month for your consulting fee, you have a $1.2 million business there.  That’s the way you have to look at it.

I think a lot of the challenge, especially when people are starting off in the business world, they say, “I need to build the next Facebook”, “I need to build the next LinkedIn” and for most of us there are two things; those are unicorns.  Statistically, buy a lottery ticket; I think the chances of you building the next LinkedIn are about the same as you winning the lottery next month.

Secondly, even if you do, that might not be the life you wanted in the first place.  If you just want to build the biggest company in the world and that’s your life dream, go for it; but I think for most of us if I said, “Hey, would you rather have LinkedIn, where you never have a life, maybe get divorced three or four times and never talk to your kids because they’re estranged from you, or would you rather build  a business where you make $100,000 to $200,000 a year working maybe three or four hours a day and never miss your kids’ recital at school?”

Wendy Harris: You still can’t spend it all.

Ray Blakney: Exactly, that’s more than most people ever need in your life unless you’re going out buying gold-plated Benzes or something.  That’s the point, right, you need to ask yourself; you have to have a conversation with yourself first and be honest with yourself about what it is you want out of life.  Forget about the idea, forget about all that, because that’ll help you set your goals and know what you’re working towards.

Wendy Harris: That’s a very good point actually, Ray, because in a book that I wrote which is also called, “Making Conversations Count”, the very first thing I ask people is what are your numbers?  It’s not the words, it’s the numbers that drive it because if you need to sell ten things, how people do you need to speak to, to sell those ten things.

Ray Blakney: Exactly.

Wendy Harris: If it’s 100, then it’s 100, so it’s one in ten; so every conversation, you need to have ten conversations to sell that one thing.  If it is that you need to sell two things in a year, how many people is that?  It’s about being realistic and it’s also about being realistic because you can grow too quickly and then you end up with dissatisfaction, you end up with complaints, so then it’s harmful for reputation and brand.  It is about just trying to underpin everything that you do so that it’s sustainable.  Nobody wants overwhelm these days, I’ve had enough of overwhelm.

Ray Blakney: I’m seeing a flip, just like you, Wendy, in the mindset, the psyche of a lot of the entrepreneurs I’ve talked to.  When I started, I’m going to date myself, so I was in the early 2000s I was in Silicon Valley.  As a programmer I was not one of the founders, but as a programmer in internet start-ups over there.  We worked 68 hours a week, it was all about the hustle, the burnout, the work because you’re going to strike it rich in this one company and never have to worry about it again.

Wendy Harris: You couldn’t be successful until you burned out.

Ray Blakney: Exactly and that’s a lot of the mentality we were seeing, and it persisted for 10, 15 years and it probably still persists in some circles today.  Now that I’ve been doing this for 20 years, I found out that that’s not the way to do it.  It’s not about working so hard right now that you don’t enjoy life, just because you maybe can enjoy it later on.  In life, you don’t know what’s going to happen.  You might get sick in five years and never be able to enjoy it and you’ve just wasted the last 20 years working.  Most of us would be happy with $100,000 a year, $150,000, $200,000, that puts you in the top 1% in almost every country in the world.

Wendy Harris: We have to still be living in the moment, don’t we, because the future world doesn’t exist.

Ray Blakney: That’s exactly it.  These numbers, now when you make it realistic, let’s say $120,000 a year business, I’m not going to say that’s easy; but the sacrifices you need to make to build that are quite different from the sacrifice you need to make the $12 million, $120 million business, right.  Knowing that, it changes a lot of things.

You could build $120,000 a year successful business, whilst still spending time with your family and your friends and having time with your hobbies and taking a vacation every few months, you can still do that.  If you know that and you get okay with that, you’re like, “Okay, yeah, I can do it and I don’t have to feel guilty when I took this week off to go and relax”, because this is not all my life, it changes things.

I know I didn’t have it; I had the hustle perspective for the five or six years, and I burned out, I did the burn out thing.  It took that to learn it.

Wendy Harris: I think that’s why I find it so important to do this show, because I’m aiming at entrepreneurs, I want it to be those people that are coming up that have got that burning desire to do things.  Not wanting to be ageist at all, but I do appreciate that a lot of entrepreneurs are going to be much younger than me, and it’s that experience that you get from hindsight, isn’t it, that allows us the comfort to say, “Do you know, if I’d have known that then, I wouldn’t have done it the same way, I’d have done it differently”, we start to talk like our parents, round the dinner table.

Ray Blakney: “Back in my day”, yeah.

Wendy Harris: “Not this story again!”

Ray Blakney: Exactly.  Somebody called me middle-aged last year for the first time, “Who calls me that; what?  No!”

Wendy Harris: Middle-aged?  You’re not 50.

Ray Blakney: I’m like 41, I am middle-aged.  How did that happen?  When did that happen?  But it’s also kind of a nice area to be in because we’re passed the point — we have the experience now, but we still have enough energy to still do things.  There are actually a lot of those studies out there that show those big successful companies, how old were the founders when they started it and a lot of them, you will find, are in their 40s or early 50s, because that’s the point when they have the experience that they were able to do it but still have the energy to be able to do it.  They don’t do it at 80 because they don’t have the energy but at this age, we still have the energy to be able to build great things.

Wendy Harris: I didn’t know that about the stats, I would be interested in seeing that.

Ray Blakney: Some of the one’s off the top of my head like Kentucky Fried Chicken, Ford, a lot of these things they were in their 40s when they started.

Wendy Harris: That was started by a Colonel and hadn’t he got white hair and a beard?

Ray Blakney: That’s exactly it, but that was when he ended, right.

Wendy Harris: That’s what running a multi-million-dollar company did to him.

Ray Blakney: You could put your face on there when you’re old and people don’t even care anymore, right.

Wendy Harris: He was only 42.

Ray Blakney: Exactly, he had to dye it when he put it up there, but that shows you how much experience counts at that point.  I wish I had the energy when I started my first business at 28 and the knowledge I have now, because then I could probably do some pretty amazing things, but the thing is you can’t mix those two things together.  The experience I got by doing it and there was no shortcut to get here.

Wendy Harris: I think the journey is the journey and the lessons that you learn help you along the way.  I would just counter to say to anybody who thinks that they’re now too young to be successful, that in actual fact the passion of knowing it’s the right thing to do, is the energy that we’re talking about.

Ray Blakney: I wish I’d started earlier, honestly.  When I was a kid, I remember in school everybody would say, “Ray, one day you’re going to own your own business”.  I never saw it, I wanted to study computers, I liked computer games, so I wanted to make computer games.  I found out when I studied computer programming that making computer games and playing them are two totally different things and one is a lot more fun than the other, so I never got into making computer games.  But, at that age that’s what I thought I wanted to do, but it looked like everybody else saw this entrepreneurial spirit.

I love it now; I hope I never have to do anything else for the rest of my life and go back to a regular job.  If other people are telling you that but you’re not thinking about entrepreneurship if you’re 15, this was when I was 12 and 13 right.  If they’re telling you these things, then you might want to kind of examine it. 

If you have a child who people are like, “Wow, he’s so entrepreneurial”, but your child probably doesn’t know what entrepreneurship is, right.  I mean it’s not something that registered, I know I didn’t.  You might not want to push but encourage that, put them in little groups and see if that really is something they want to do in life.  Entrepreneurship doesn’t necessarily mean risk and success and all the rest of it, it’s become a trendy word, but just learning the skills of entrepreneurship, even if your child goes onto a more regular job, can help them in their life, resilience, working through problem solving.  There are all these great skills that you can learn.

Wendy Harris: I think the biggest leap that entrepreneurs have to manage, this is just my opinion, is money.  It’s the conversation that people don’t want to have, they don’t want to share, and they won’t tell you.

Ray Blakney: We’re brought up that way.  You don’t talk about money; you’re not supposed to.  If you don’t have enough, it’s embarrassing; if you have too much it’s taboo to talk about it.  So, you’re stuck in this space where there’s never a time when you can talk about money, because if you’re being successful, society says, “No, he’s showing off”, if he says he’s successful. 

If you’re not successful, you’re embarrassed you’re not going to say, “Hey, I’m not making enough money”, because a lot of people think business owners are rich, I encourage that they read The Millionaire Next Door, one of my favourite books.  It’s a little dated but you can look at the statistics on the average small business owner and how much money they make.  I’m sure in the UK and the US, it’s public data, it’s like $60,000 to $80,000 a year.  If you have a college degree and if I’m a computer engineer, I wouldn’t make more money than that if I was working for another company.

It’s not that if you’re a business owner you’re rich, which is the kind of the whole mentality a lot of people have, but nobody talks about.

Wendy Harris: It doesn’t equate to money, does it?

Ray Blakney: Exactly, you can own a successful restaurant, but all your money’s going to the rent and your staff and at the end of the month, you might be living in the back room for all we know, but to the front facing world it’s like, “Look at this guy!”

Wendy Harris: Perception, yes.

Ray Blakney: That’s it, he’s exceptional but maybe he’s a great cook, maybe he’s a great host, but he might not be very good at the business side of things, so that means he’s spending everything he has on this business or he’s living off of loans, whatever there is.  So, this conversation about money, like you say, it’s really important; getting not only the successes out there but also the challenges around money out into the open and hopefully more people can solve the problem.

Wendy Harris: I ask everybody that comes on this show, to share their pivotal moment.

Ray Blakney: Of course.

Wendy Harris: What was yours?

Ray Blakney: My pivotal moment ended with a conversation but started with a quote.  The quote was, I remember I was 26 years old, a computer programmer, good job, following the “American dream”.  I owned a condo and a nice car, and I was going to get a bigger condo and a nicer car, right, because that’s what you do; that’s what makes you happy right?

Something was missing, and I remember sitting at home watching TV, I have no idea what the show was, and a commercial came up for the US Navy.  My uncle’s in the Navy, my respects to the people in the armed forces but I know if somebody shoots at me, I’m running the other way as fast as physically possible right.

But the quote was, “If they were to write a book about your life, would anybody want to read it?”  I remember seeing that on the screen and I was thinking to myself, “The path I’m on now, absolutely not.  Sure, I’ll have a good job, we’ll get a big car, and I’ll have a house but that’s it”.  Every chapter in my book would be the same; every chapter would be, “He went to work for 9.00am and came back at 5.00pm, paid his bills”.  That’s what started it. 

The next day, it was around Halloween so I know of the dates, I was out with a group of friends for Halloween, a little drunk which I think most of the best decisions in your 20s probably happen with a little bit of alcohol involved, or it could be the worst ones.

Wendy Harris: I don’t know, I don’t remember, Ray, I don’t remember.

Ray Blakney: Exactly.  I remember standing there and I was chatting with friends, I was standing on the stage, I wasn’t performing it was just the bar was full and I was standing on the stage looking out at the crowd.  I remember looking out and talking to my friends and some of them were saying things like, “Yeah, I’ve been to this party for five years”, “I’ve been to this party for ten years”, some of them were older, so I was 25.  They seemed really old at 35, right. 

They were 35, “Yeah, I’ve been coming here for ten years”, so that was the conversation I was having”, externally and the internal conversation I had at that time was, “I don’t want to be here in ten years.  I do not want to be at the same bar in ten years doing the same thing”.

Wendy Harris: Those people that had been there ten years probably had their spot.

Ray Blakney: That’s it.

Wendy Harris: They would go to the same spot in the bar, so you could almost see the timeline.

Ray Blakney: That’s it, I bet if somebody took a photo of that bar, for like ten years, that would be kind of like these flash photos and you just see the people aging right, but they’d be in the same spots on the bar all the time, as they kept on going; starting in black and white.  That was the conversation for me, it started with that thought in the commercial and the internal conversation was, “I don’t want this external conversation to become a reality”.  In ten years, I do not want to be here, at the same bar doing exactly the same thing.

There’s no problem with that, I don’t want to make myself sound apart because these people might have been happy.  Remember we started this whole thing with a conversation, “What makes you happy?”  If stability, going out with your friends and doing something predictable every single year is what makes you happy, I’m in a way a little jealous because that would be a lot easier lifestyle than the one I’ve chosen.

But, if you’re looking for a life that’s worth writing a book about, even if you don’t want to write a book; I have no intention of writing an autobiography about myself, but if you wanted to, I want it to be interesting enough that other people would read it.

Wendy Harris: I think you’ve tapped into something that we were only talking about through the lockdown circumstances, ourselves as a family, and that was we will say every Christmas, “What do you want for Christmas”, and we never know because we don’t need anything.  That’s what society is; we have no real wants or needs for anything particularly.  We were talking about how we want to live our life, as much as anything, so, “How do you want to live your life?” 

At New Year, we don’t do resolutions, we do what would we like to do as a family this year.  Do we want to go and see a show?  Do we want to go and visit a place?  As far as I’m concerned, it’s about making memories, that’s what life is about.  That’s kind of like writing your own book, but it’s leading to that legacy.  Translating that to a business mindset is that if you are making memories or if you’re leaving your stamp and your influence is in a positive light, then you’re leaving a legacy that people will talk about you way past.

Ray Blakney: Absolutely correct.  That I think is the heart and core of the book metaphor, right.  You don’t have to write a book.  Again, I have no intention of having an autobiography or a biography written about myself, that’s not the point.  The point is that you took advantage of what your life has offered you in such a way that you did something with it; you didn’t let it go to waste. 

Whatever that thing is, business is one outlet for that, volunteering is a great outlet to afford it.  I mean in my third or fourth career, we want to start a charity; it’s one of the things we want to do.  If you love your job, you’re a teacher, you love your job, right.

Wendy Harris: It’s not work, then.

Ray Blakney: It’s not work, yeah, just go to that.  But then if you want this legacy, volunteer with local YMCA in the United States, mentor a kid, mentor two kids, that’s it.  We’re not talking about having to do 10,000 people here; that’s enough for your book to be full by the end of your life.  You don’t need to do anything exceptional; you don’t need to be on the news, you don’t need to be published, you just need to make the world a better place for you and influence everybody else.

Wendy Harris: Your book will say, “Swashbuckling Ray”.

Ray Blakney: Exactly, with a sword fighter on the cover, probably would not tell very much about what I really do for a living.  I sit in my chair every day and I write code and run businesses, but in my spare time I do practice Kendo and do sword fighting, so it is not fake, I’ve been doing it for 20 years.

Wendy Harris: Ray, what an impressionable conversation there with lots and lots that I know I’m going to be thinking about this conversation in days to come.  It’s affected me, I know it will resonate with our listeners as well.  If anybody wants to carry on the conversation with Swashbuckling Ray, where do they find you, Ray?

Ray Blakney: Finding me should be pretty easy, so you can either contact me directly at www.livelingua.com remember we’re a small business.  You go to the “About Us” page, my email is right there, we don’t hide behind a contact form or anything like that, so go to www.livelingua.com.  You can also find me in my new project which is Podcast Hawk, “hawk”, the animal, so www.podcasthwk.com we just launched that about a week before this recording so if you go to the “Contact Us” page, I am actually customer support, since my speciality is boot strapping; I don’t hire a whole big team, you can contact me there. 

Otherwise go to the “About Us” page, I’ll probably make my email public as well.  Social media, I’ll date myself, I’m on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter look for Ray Blakney.  The photo in the background is actually a photo of me in my Kendo sword fighting, so if you find a Ray Blakney that’s not sword fighting, you’ve found the wrong guy.  Look for the guy who is sword fighting.

Wendy Harris: Go to the guy next door.

Ray Blakney: Exactly.

Wendy Harris: Ray, it’s been absolutely brilliant to speak to you today.




We don’t want the conversation to stop there!

All of our listeners are important to us, so we would love it if you can connect with Wendy on LinkedIn and send her a message with your favourite episode!


paula senior YMCA

Episode 1 – Paula Senior

In our first episode, we speak to Paula Senior from the YMCA. Paula is a fund-raising officer and is currently preparing for the annual Sleepout to raise much needed funds for the night shelter, how covid has stretched them to the limits and how they have risen above the challenges faced by the homeless.

Nat schooler

Episode 2 – Nat Schooler

Can one conversation really influence where you are driven? Nat Schooler

Influence marketeer Nat Schooler joins Wendy as they chat about how important it is to produce strategic content online. Nat spends his time podcasting, writing, and driving across foreign continents for fun. However, their conversation quickly turns to the importance of building relationships with the people you want to work with. Nat places trust as the highest asset everyone should nurture.

Azam Mamujee M Cubed Tax specialist

Episode 3 – Azam Mamujee

In this episode, Wendy is joined by Managing Partner, Azam Mamujee a tax specialist with a voice of velvet.

Azam agrees that conversations count however he explains how numbers can tell a much more powerful story. He has a catchphrase “Give Azam the facts, I’ll save you the Tax”.

Jenny Procter Marketing for introverts bondfield

Episode 4 – Jenny Procter

Jenny Procter – Bondfield Marketing

Making Conversations about Marketing for Introverts Count

Let us introduce you to Jenny Procter, a marketing consultant and self-proclaimed introvert.

Jenny writes PR and communications for B2B clients and has her own podcast show, and she discusses issues around running her own business as an entrepreneur.

Andrew Deighton team coaching

Episode 5 – Andrew Deighton

Andrew Deighton – Team Coaching. Making Conversations about Teams Count. We are joined by Andrew Deighton today, who helps build and develop high-performing teams through strategy and processes in today’s remote working world.

Wendy has worked with Andrew in a second business through mentoring and knows firsthand how his advice relates to many aspects of running a business.

Nicky Pattinson sales expert public speaker

Episode 6 – Nicky Pattinson

Nicky Pattinson – Leading Sales Authority & Public Speaker. Making Conversations about Personality Count. Nicky Pattinson speaks the Truth in all she does! A northern lass who traded on the markets at the beginning of her career, similarly to your host. Now, Nicky has a best-selling book “Email: Don’t Get Deleted” and her own YouTube channel NICKYPTV.

Buckso Dhillon Wooley

Episode 7 – Buckso Dhillon-Wooley

Buckso Dhillon-Wooley – Actress, Speaker & Business Coach. Making Conversations about Self-Belief Count. A true diamond, Buckso is very much aligned with herself and the many facets of her own personality.
As an actor, speaker and coach her mission in life is to help people connect with their higher self.
Being aligned with yourself on a spiritual, physical and emotional level allows you to shine brighter in everything you touch.
Buckso Dillon-Whooley is a well known Actress, who has starred in Disney’s recent remake of Aladdin and is a long-standing actor on Coronation Street with appearances on many UK TV shows.

James Daniel Copywriter

Episode 8 – James Daniel

James Daniel – Copywriter
Making Conversations about Copywriting Count
Joining us in this episode is copywriter James Daniel.
He describes himself as ‘That old guy who writes copy – you know, the beardy one with glasses.’
We should point out there could be other old guys with beards and glasses out there!
It’s easy to like James’ style of writing because he’s a conversationalist who realizes that people don’t speak geek or tech.

Henny Maltby Digital marketing agency

Episode 9 – Henny Maltby

Henny Maltby – Digital Marketing Agency, Pink Elephant Media. Making Conversations about Digital Marketing Count. When the Pandemic hit in early 2020, Henny Maltby turned to her husband as they both realised their business was going to change forever. Offering online marketing to large corporate businesses who cut budgets left a hole to fill. By opening the conversation up with local businesses, it was obvious what the next chapter would be for them at Pink Elephant Media…

Kim Walsh Phillips

Episode 10 – Kim Walsh Phillips

Kim Walsh Phillips owns Powerful Professionals, a business that helps empower entrepreneurs to turn clicks into cash and identifying the superpowers in others so they can fly high. Kim is an expert in social selling strategy.

Amelia Thorpe Wellbeing coach

Episode 11 – Amelia Thorpe

Amelia Thorpe – Mental Health Wellbeing Coach. Making Conversations about Mental Wealth Count. Meet Amelia Thorpe, founder of Wellbeing 360, who talks to Wendy about how important it is to give equal priority to our mental and physical health. Listening to Amelia’s story will bring a beacon of hope that we can all take charge of our own conversations which will give us back the control that slips sometimes when times are tough. Amelia is a wellbeing counsellor.

John Attridge capacity business

Episode 12 – John Attridge

John Attridge – Guiding Businesses to Reach their Full Potential by Tapping into Spare Capacity

Making Conversations about Capacity Count. John Attridge, owner of BBX turns spare capacity into value for many businesses. When you listen to John you just know there is a bigger story to this guy as his accent gives it away!
John has successfully built a business network and community to help people fill spare capacity and exchange services. It is a brilliant concept and if you’ve not come across it before yet in touch with me and I’ll tell you more. Using the BBX community helped my own business through the lockdown and has provided such a lot of support and new relationships.

Clara Wilcox return to work coaching for parents

Episode 13 – Clara Wilcox

Clara Wilcox runs The Balance Collective, Specialising in Return to Work Coaching for Parents. Making Conversations about Returning to Work Count! This is a conversation that every Mum will resonate with, juggling home and work is not simply a balancing act but a superpower!

Clara recognized through her own personal journey that the right support for Mum’s returning to work was only available from the employer’s point of view. This causes a biased approach and is not always helpful in an emotive decision-making process.

dr ivan misner bni networking

Episode 14 – Dr Ivan Misner

In this episode, Ivan and Wendy explore how conversation is the foundation of all growth and learning. How times have changed, looking back and also predicting our future generations experiences, yet communication will still be the underpin even it how that looks has changed.

Janine Coombes marketing coach

Episode 15 – Janine Coombes

Google has recognised this lady as the #1 marketing coach and her video series mixes humour with key messages, it is the lovely Janine Coombes. Janine is a marketing coach for personal brands.
In this episode, Janine and Wendy share how using the right language influences the conversations we have and how it affects our results.

Lizzie Butler presentations coach

Episode 16 – Lizzie Butler

Making conversations about presentations count! Delighted to introduce Lizzie Butler, owner of LB Communications, who met Wendy at a local online networking event and immediately hit it off. Lizzie helps you to grow your business through personal development training and how to achieve brilliant communication.

Jem hills inspirational speaker

Episode 17 – Jem Hills

Making conversations about Bullying count. Jem Hills is an inspirational speaker, trainer & performance coach.
Talking to Wendy in this episode is ex-marine Jem Hills who you might find it hard to believe was affected by bullying and a lack of confidence. As a release Jem discovered Northern dancing and practiced as a bedroom activity that later led to an accidental release of freestyle dancing at a competition. The dancing-built resilience and the foundations for the training to complete the Mud Run and onto his Elite Special Forces career.

Peter howard graphic design

Episode 18 – Peter Howard

Peter Howard runs a design studio that is ranked in the top 100 in the country and was responsible for the WAG brand. Having known Peter and his team for many years, Wendy has heard lots of his stories but knew there would be one she had not heard before.

Taz Thornton & Asha Clearwater business coaches

Episode 19 – Taz Thornton & Asha Clearwater

Making conversations about partnerships count. In a Making Conversations Count first, we are joined by two dynamic guests in this episode. Both Taz & Asha provide business coach services in different areas. Joining Wendy chatting about all the elements that make up a great debate. You are not going to want to miss the observations with Taz Thornton and Asha Clearwater around questioning, opinions, debate and discernment that makes for wonderful colourful conversations.

Vicki Carroll O'Neill

Episode 20 – Vicki Carroll (formerly O’Neill)

Vicki works with entrepreneurs, small business owners and executive leaders who are stuck in their business and need someone as a partner to coach them to their next level of success. Vicki offers growth marketing consultant advice, strategy plans & also organises in-house marketing teams.

heidi medina business coach

Episode 21 – Heidi Medina

This episode contains one of our most important conversations, so we’re definitely going to make it count!
Wendy Harris brings Heidi Medina into the conversation today, who opens up the conversation about abuse she has encountered.
She’s a Linkedin expert and business coach who is the exact opposite of the classic ‘my way or the highway’.
Whether you meet Heidi online or in person she is the same.

Niraj Kapur online sales coach

Episode 22 – Niraj Kapur

In this episode, Wendy is joined by Online Sales Coach Niraj Kapur from “Everybody works in Sales” a business that helps companies with their sales processes.

Steve Judge paralympian motivational speaking

Episode 23 – Steve Judge

A life-changing accident that almost claimed a life but actually birthed a mindset shift.  Making conversations about speaking count!

Imagine losing your limbs in an accident.

That’s a real human test.

Most people would fall into one of two camps.

Feel the loss, and struggle to overcome it, before essentially accepting your ‘job lot’ and just becoming a bit angry.

Many would. And they’d be forgiven.

Then there are others, who would not let it defeat them, or define them.

Steve Judge is definitely in the latter of the two camps.

Nikolas Venios the ideas agency

Episode 24 – Nik Venios

We reflect on how this business man helped his poorly mother solve a household challenge which led to a career of making conversations about ideas and innovation count. We will all eventually lose our parents. Sadly, it’s a part of life. Not many of us have to suffer that loss at the tender age of just six. We couldn’t think of a nicer guy to help us with our goal of making conversations about ideas count. Truly, if anyone can hold a conversation about ideas, it’s Nik Venios of the Ideas Agency. Did you know that NASA has a genius test? During this episode, you’ll find out all about this, and the fascinating stats surrounding it.

Jonny cooper hates marketing

Episode 25 – Jonny Cooper

Most business owners hate marketing. That’s probably because they don’t understand it. Someone who does get marketing is Jonny Cooper, and even he can’t stand it! In fact, he despises it so much, he built a business around it. Welcome to Jonny Hates Marketing! This week we’re making conversations about messaging count. Messaging is so important to get correct. Your entire marketing voice depends on it. That’s why you need to listen very carefully to Jonny Cooper.

Wendy Harris telephone trainer how to sell over the phone

Episode 26 – Wendy Harris

Wendy Harris is an expert telemarketer, who has years worth of experience in cold-calling and doing it right. Now a podcast host, Wendy shares her story and how she became an advocate for making conversations count!

Will Polston Make it happen

Episode 27 – Will Polston

Making conversations about wealth….and Clubhouse….count! Paying it forward. Acting from a position of generosity and giving within the law of reciprocity. We’re talking to Will Polston.

Many Ward write my book cuddle monster

Episode 29 – Mandy Ward

Mandy Ward is a book mentor, helping people to write their own books under the company ‘Write my book’. Mandy is also an author herself, including the popular children’s book ‘The Cuddle Monster’.

Sarah Townsend copywriter survival skills for freelancers

Episode 30 – Sarah Townsend

Sarah Townsend is a freelance copywriter and best-selling author of the book ‘survival skills for freelancers’. In this episode, we discuss the importance of conversations in the freelance world, and how things can lead to many opportunities…

Paul Furlong visual branding advertiser videographer

Episode 31 – Paul Furlong

Paul Furlong is part of Opus Media, producing TV advertising, videos, and photographs for businesses. He knows a thing or two about visual branding, and is considered a advertising guru!

Hear what people are saying about the show

I love this podcast. The guests you have on all bring something new to the conversation and definitely thought-provoking.

Sometimes this means I change something I do, or something I would say, and other times it’s a real opportunity for reflection.

Thanks for sharing your guests with us Wendy, the podcasts are brilliant.

Paula Senior

I always enjoy listening to Wendy’s Making Conversations Count podcast and admire her talent for drawing out people’s stories and getting to the heart of things for finding out what makes them tick.

We all have pivotal moments and Wendy manages to find the right parts, showcasing the reasons why someone is who they are.

It’s those details that we connect to and come to more understanding of why people do what they do.

Heidi Medina

Love this podcast series. It’s a great idea to have a theme of ‘pivotal conversations’ and the variety of guests from massively different backgrounds keeps it fresh and interesting.

Wendy is a natural host and makes people feel at ease to share their stories.

Andrew Deighton

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