Greatest feats: Graham Sleep

October 2, 2020

Graham Sleep is director of IA Growth Ltd and Entrepreneurs Forum Business Mentor of the Year 2019. He works with a number of high-growth SMEs across the UK through an alternative but aligned model to traditional non- executive director support and other portfolio roles

What do you consider to be the greatest feat in business and why?

The ability to start a business and grow it to a point where you give back without motive or expected returns.
It is what I call from success to significance. This takes a continued growth in mindset from risking at start-up, continued resilience and perseverance with a vulnerability and humility to be able to ignore others who are saying you’ve mastered it throughout the journey, ideally to a point where you can give back. Lots of people start and some grow a business but very few achieve this level of consciousness.

What is the greatest physical feat you’ve witnessed by an individual and why?

I was brought up with a father who introduced me to early learnings from Martin Luther King in my teen years and reiterated these as I grew. MLK’s focus and courage towards his cause, even with his life on the line, is an example to all of us. There are many business lessons too. For example, the ability to change the political narrative and policy using the power of connectivity and people to move forward.

What about by a group or team?

As a long-time follower of American sports as a child, based on Durham Wasps ice hockey and Sunderland basketball, I was fortunate to move to Chicago in early 1998 and witness the final championship that the great Chicago Bulls basketball team won. Led by the great Michael Jordan, they amazed all the pundits and won, despite a background of age, injury, loss of individual form and contract disputes between coach/players. They won it to some amazing scenes, which I’ll never forget.

Which demonstration of intelligence/mental strength has most impressed you?

I probably see resilience (and emotions) before I get to intelligence, as I believe to stay at the top of your game over many, many, years in any sphere takes huge mental strength. I’m fortunate to run the Leadership Academy with Disability Rights UK in London, and I’m motivated and inspired by all those people and their stories who have fought barriers, stereotypes, biases and discrimination across their lives to develop into strong leaders.

One individual who comes to mind has fought to gain a high office leadership position in a government agency. Even though he is paralysed down one side, and had his wife leave him a number of years ago with two young children to bring up, he accomplished it all on his own with honest, authentic resilience (and no little humour).

Which act of generosity has inspired you the most and why?

All of the acts I see from people ranging from those I’ve mentioned, through to those I see in the community every day. I have to add that having spent some time as a county cricket coach and working with charity boards, I continue to meet some incredible individuals locally in the areas of charity, community and grassroots sports, who devote their lives to the betterment of others by giving their time selflessly.

Graham Sleep