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My Business in 2020: Nathan Sherratt

When lockdown rolled out in March, we ran the 'Repeat Business ' blog, sharing inspiring stories of business leaders who had embraced change and started multiple ventures over the years. As lockdown returns in the UK, we revisit the Repeat Business blog but with a twist, this time bringing a story of an entrepreneur feeling his way through the changes of 2020. 

Nathan Sherratt is Founder of The Third Team, which supports referees by providing them with awareness on all things, from resilience to enhanced performance and improved mental health.

There's a silver lining. I believe that the absence of client work has improved the content production and many of the ideas we had with regard to content have been pushed forward. The Third Team has remained visible and the feedback I’ve received has been wonderful, so I’m pleased to still be making a positive difference to referees at a time of challenge.

Can you tell us a little bit about your background and your business?

I’m Nathan Sherratt, I’m 22 and I’m a football referee. I started my business, The Third Team after an incident in one of my games. As an official, conflict management is a key skill to have in your armoury, I am prepared for the normal levels of conflict which you would expect to see in a game. However, the incident in my game was an extremely violent assault and that is one of the reasons I set up The Third Team - because of the way I felt afterwards. 

A younger, less experienced referee might not have had the level of focus and resilience I did to deal with that kind of situation. Incidents such as those could have seen younger, less experienced referees potentially quitting the role. For any referee, the most difficult thing is to deal with is a mass confrontation, particularly if you are on your own, because you’ve only got one set of eyes on something that could involve 22 players and numerous officials from both clubs. 

When an incident has a severe violent ramification, such as an assault where the police become involved, it can be very difficult. You have to work alongside the Police to give as much information as possible. I think that adrenaline got me through that moment but after the match, and for a few days afterwards actually, I was badly affected by it. It wasn’t easy for me to brush it off.

That incident was the inspiration for the business. Though I look at the business as a wider entity, not just dealing with pressurised situations like that. I look at positive mental health, resilience and mental toughness development in my workshops to try and maximise the potential of referees, workforces and students.

Where does your entrepreneurial spirit come from?

This is a tough question! I think I’m lucky, in respects of the fact that what I do allows me to make my living and make a difference to the lives of individuals, which has always been a huge driver for me. Growing up, I aspired to work in a field where what I did was of value and, although I couldn’t have ever imagined doing what I do now, I am really pleased that I’ve achieved my aim of making a difference through my work. So for me, my spirit is a 50/50 mix between being entrepreneurial and leaving my clients feeling good about the work we have done, as it has made a difference to the way they referee, do their day job or the way they deal with educational pressures.

What inspired your first entrepreneurial venture and what lessons did you learn from it?

As a youngster, I wasn’t one of those who would make lemonade and sell it on the street. The Third Team is my first entrepreneurial venture as a 21-year-old. The lessons I've learnt in my first 14 months have been monumental, however, you quickly find out what works and what doesn’t! The biggest lessons have been around engaging and procuring clients: without those you don’t have a business.

I think I’m lucky, in respects of the fact that what I do allows me to make my living and make a difference to the lives of individuals, which has always been a huge driver for me.

What has been your biggest success?

I am lucky to have been trusted with tournament finals in my refereeing career, but building the ever-expanding client base for The Third Team has been by far the most rewarding. This is my living and my livelihood and I feel that in self-employment the highs are higher and the lows are lower. Every success is felt more keenly because nine times out of ten you’ve made it all happen. One of the best bits of advice I ever received about being self-employed is to make time to celebrate your successes. As we all know, it is very easy to keep chasing the next target, then the next and then the next and so on but mentally, to get the satisfaction and keep burnout at bay, making time to celebrate milestone successes in business is crucial.

What has been your biggest failure?

I’ve had two big ones which have been absolutely pivotal in shaping that path to where I find myself today.

The first of these is dropping out of university, I made many mistakes when it comes to my time at university, chief among which was choosing the wrong city. As much as it is a cliché, I subscribe to the belief that you learn so much more and get a great deal more value from experiencing failure.

My second failure was my first role in paid employment. I was not true to myself and I failed to understand my strengths and weaknesses, as well as who I really am, and this was a recipe for disaster. I was out of my role within seven weeks. Having said that, if I had not had that experience I would not have had the opportunity to analyse who I am, what my strengths and limitations are and most importantly I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to start The Third Team; which is something I’m immensely proud of

What is the biggest lesson you would share with aspiring businesses owners?

As much as I’m aware that I may be coming across as a walking, talking book of clichés in this interview, the phrase that springs to mind to best answer this question is: ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’. What I mean by this is that, as a business owner, it is very important to have a mentor or two whom you can really lean on for guidance and advice, this person(s) should have a very strong appreciation of most aspects of your business in order to be best placed to give the most effective advice. 

However, you are always going to have people who you come across who’ll say things like: “You should do this”, “Why don’t you change that” or “We’re doing this, you should too”. For me, comments such as those are massive barriers to success - by all means, take the idea or aspects of it, make a note of it and discuss it with advisors or mentors - but you will waste so much time and energy being pulled in all manner of directions if you try to incorporate every single concept people put your way, especially when those people don’t know the specific circumstances around your business and its set up.

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