20 Jun Seven – with Kenny MacLeod
Coinneach MacLeod, or Kenny to his non Gaelic speaking friends is an erudite and well traveled gent working with top sporting organisations around the world. He’s also the best person to dance with at a ceilidh, if you’re not afraid of your feet being lifted off the floor. ‘Seven’ is a snapshot into Kenny’s life collated from seven random sentences which I invited him to complete.
Growing up in the Outer Hebrides and looking out at the Atlantic Ocean every day, I think I was destined to travel the world. By six years old I could recite every capital city and I told my friends when I was 11 that I was putting my birthday money in the bank to save up to buy a round the world flight ticket. I often wondered where the adventurer in me came from, then I learned about my Uncle Coinneach, who I was named after (and who also wore a mighty beard!). He was in the navy and was based for a long time on the islands of South Georgia – so maybe it ran in the family. Since then I have travelled to 74 countries around the world and am planning many more.
The smartest career advice I can give is to take what you are passionate about and make it into your business. My love of sport and particularly football started from an early age. What took me some time was to find my career path. I learned quickly I didn’t have the skills on the pitch to a professional footballer! So, I then became a qualified referee but with that still didn’t find my niche. I trained as a journalist and worked as a sports writer for The Moscow Times, but after a couple of years accepted that prose was not where my skills lay. But eventually I found my place, and since then I have worked with Celtic FC, the Scottish FA & the International Tennis Federation and with my consultancy We Are Sport our clients currently include FIFA, FIBA and UEFA on commercial, marketing and brand development projects – ok it took a few years, but I am where I should be.
I learned so much from my boss at Celtic FC, David Thomson. He was an inspiring leader, one that you wanted to work hard for and impress – that in itself is quite a skill to have. He brought gravitas to a meeting and built up his leads with an engaging, warm approach which meant the potential partner bought into him as well as the club. His ability to take a calculated risk succeeded more times than not and his legacy continues through the staff he trained and the contracts the club still have years later. We have stayed friends since then and he still offers the best advice.
In business, you need to be remembered. What is the USP of you as a brand and how do you portray that in your dealing with clients? Always excelling in the role you’ve been given, sharing your positive mindset with your peers and your team. I have grown my brand on referral business, if you have done a good job, people will talk and tell others. Who knows when that colleague may change roles and need you as part of their future project. Keep in touch with the people you’ve enjoyed dealing with. Having a natural gravitas helps, be the person people want to listen to. When have you ever heard someone say, ‘I wish he/she wasn’t so supportive, encouraging and willing to work hard’??!
I’m about to begin an exciting new project with football governing body UEFA which will contribute to the continued growth of football in developing regions of the world. We are establishing a new international programme to increase solidarity and enhance advancement of the sport by tackling the needs of developing regions. This will be done through education, mentoring, infrastructure projects and technical support. To be part of the project from its launch will be inspiring and I look forward to seeing the positive results it will bring.
Outside of work I spend my time singing! I think it is so important to have an activity outside work that is in complete contrast to your 9-5. For me it is being part of the Gaelic music scene. I have sung at the Royal National Mod for over 20 years in groups, solo events and choirs. I am a big supporter of Gaelic artists and travel to their concerts and events around Scotland.
I love cooking and nothing makes me happier than using Hebridean products in my recipes. I always use my brother’s lamb from his croft and a visit to the Isle of Lewis has to include stopping by Charles MacLeod’s butchers to pick up a Stornoway Black Pudding or two. I have a real sweet tooth, so making puddings and baking are a near daily occurrence. They might not always look the best, but they always taste great!