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How Imran Khalil Turned A Love For Boxing Into A Charitable Career | 9 to Alive Interview

September 13, 2019


[Bruna] You have no idea how inspiring my guest is. He’s managed to combine his passion for boxing, his professional network and his life long desire to help others in a meaningful career that makes a difference. Lets see how he made it! Ciao, and welcome to 9 to Alive Today you’re in for a treat because my guest, Imran Khalil, not only managed to change his career but he’s been able to combine three completely unrelated aspects of his life in a meaningful career that makes a difference in the world. Imran, thank you so much for being here I’m so glad that you can finally tell your story with your own voice. Because you know what, when I do my live talks I always say that there is always, always, always a way, to bring who you are into what you do. And if there isn’t a career that matches who you are, you can always invent it, and that’s basically exactly what you did. So, tell us, what is The Fighting Chance and what do you guys do? [Imran] Well thanks for inviting me, Bruna and good to be here. Yes, we’re an organisation called The Fighting Chance and we work with some of the most disadvantaged people in the labour market. We work with ex-offenders, we work with ex-services and we work with people with health conditions and longer-term unemployed people, and we help them move into work. But we use quite a unique programme that involves them doing boxing as a way of engaging and motivating them. And we help them do what they want to do. [Bruna] So how does this programme work? [Imran] The Fighting Chance is quite a unique programme because people think how does boxing help people to find work. But the core principles that are learnt in boxing I believe, can be applied to the workplace. So the teamwork, the discipline, camaraderie, self-control. All those things can be applied to the work place. [Bruna] So there’s way more than boxing in this programme? [Imran] Yeah, very much I think it’s a lot of people find it difficult to understand how boxing can help people to find work. The boxing is very much a means of engagement, so we’ll run a programme for a number of weeks, we’ll have a group of people, a mixture of men and women of all ages, and we’ll get to know them a little bit. Over that period of time, we’ll do proper one-to-one’s with them, and find out a bit more about what they want to do in the future. The programme is very much tailored towards the needs of the individual. [Bruna] What’s the thing that you’re most proud of? [Imran] I think we’ve now run ten of these programmes, since we started in 2015 so we’ve worked with 150 people and I’m quite proud of the fact that of those people, of the people that have completed our programme more than 50% have moved into work. [Bruna] What inspired your start this programme? [Imran] I’ve always loved boxing, I’ve been a member of my local boxing club since 2004. I just observed a lot of things while I was there, as well as enjoying the training myself, I really saw the positive changes in people. That gave me some inspiration, I remember talking to one individual in particular, he had had some problems with the police, been to prison, I gave him a lift home once from boxing because we used to train together, and he said, you’re not dropping me to a house you’re going to drop me to the station. And I said, well, what do you mean? He said, do you know that for the last year and a half I’ve been sleeping in Euston station. And I didn’t know. And he had always found the money to go to training. He had always found his £5 to go to training. And he said all I’ve had to eat today is a banana and a packet of crisps, and that’s all I’ve had, but I’ve still found £5 to come and train, and it showed how powerful boxing can be and how important it was give a structure to this individual and to other people I’ve seen. So I saw that and some of my other observations from meeting people there and seeing the change in people really showed me how it could be a really powerful tool. [Bruna] So you saw boxing as a potential tool to help people transform their lives. [Imran] Yes, I’ve worked in recruitment for about eighteen years, I’ve worked in places like job centres, where I saw that they had targets to get people into work and sometimes they helped people, that didn’t really need much help because it was easier to find them a job, and I sawa there wasn’t much on offer for people that had problems and that had barriers. I thought I could provide something that might be able to help people like that and people that were more disadvantaged in that respect. [Bruna] So that’s what I really love about your story, is that you basically managed to put together your passion for boxing, your professional network and experience for recruitment, and your desire to make a difference in someone else’s life. That is so inspiring, I mean, do you see how big this is? And how inspiring this can be for other people? Because the main point in this from my perspective is you really managed to bring who you are as a person and what is really important to you into a new career. This is important for you, it’s important of course for the people you’re working with but also for those who observe you and start thinking, he made it. I could do it as well. That’s what I would like, it’s that people start thinking about themselves as full of potential, and they need to find a way to express this potential in the work place. And when this is not possible, they can invent it. Because that’s purely your idea The Fighting Chance right? It wasn’t existing before, so you found it. [Imran] Yes, I think I’ve taken something that I love, which is boxing, and I would say it’s a passion and I’ve taken something that I know about, I’ve got a background in recruitment and employability, and I have those networks, lots of the employers that I worked with in my career I still work with now. Lots of them are friends. So it’s, I’ve leveraged that network in what I do now. [Bruna] Wow, that’s so inspiring to me, so so what exactly was your career before? [Imran] So, I had a chance to take a government job, and that’s what I did, and I’ve worked in several different departments, but all within recruitment and employability. So that’s where I was for eighteen years, and I developed a lot of contacts there, I take the good things away from what I’ve learnt there and like I said some of the network of people that I worked well with, I’m still working with now. But I needed to make a change as well definitely. [Bruna] What did you feel? When you say I needed to make a change what was the feeling you were having and what triggered it? [Imran] I think, for a lot of people if you’re in the same place for too long you can become stagnant and I think also, sometimes you can be overlooked for progression, career, things like that. I think that was the case for me, and quite a lot of other people. I felt I wasn’t challenged I wasn’t getting anywhere and I’d had that feeling for some time. So I knew that I needed to make a change. [Bruna] Where you scared when you started thinking uh-oh, I really need to make a change. Was it something that you did with confidence? Or was it somehow scary thinking of that change? It’s a big change, I mean changing career is one of the most scary thoughts that we can have. Was it somehow a fearful moment for you? [Imran] Yeah, I think very much, I think yeah it’s the longer you’re doing something the more difficult it is to take that step. And you do need to plan for it and I did, and it was a series of things that happened that fell into place and I felt that was an opportune moment to go for it. [Bruna] They fell into place after you decided to change. or before you decided to change? [Imran] I’d started making plans so I had an idea already, the thing is, when you first think of an idea and it’s not fully formed it’s I had an idea that I wanted to do something with boxing and it helps people find work, it was a very half formed idea and you do have to be careful who you shares those ideas with, number one, because I think ideas are precious and if you tell those kind of ideas to maybe small minded people or people that don’t have a positive energy it can sometimes be negative. And they can say oh you’ll never do that, or how are you going to do this, how are you going to do that, so it’s important to speak to people that are very positive and very encouraging, because I think ideas are precious. So yeah, I did have that idea already, but a few things fell into place and I thought that was my time to make my move. [Bruna] You’re so inspiring Imran, because a lot of people who want to change their careers sometimes they are stuck because the first question they have in mind is how, how am I going to make it? And that’s truly scary. Well what we are trying to explain is that it’s not exactly in this way, it’s more important to focus on what you want to do and why you want to do it. Then the how will come. As you said, things at one point fell into and that’s exactly what happens when you find the right route. [Imran] I also got the advice to just get started. Don’t think you have to know everything. straight away. I spoke to a friend of mine, I had a friend who was, sort of quite a prominent person in the music business and she had had a long career and she had always followed her passion. And I said to her I’m thinking of doing this business but I don’t have a background in business I need to do a course in business, and she said ‘Imran, do you really wanna do a years course in a business school?’ And I said I can’t think anything worse than doing that. She said ‘just start, that’s all you need to do, just get started’. [Bruna] And she was right. [Imran] She was right. [Bruna] She proved to be right. [Imran] Some of those things you can learn along the way. [Bruna] So actually this is the question, you said you were coming from, you were an employee, so you never really had a business on your own, so how and where did you start learning how to run a company [Imran] Although I had a job at the time I was also a partner in a small gym so we ran this for two years, and we did boxing classes. It wasn’t working in some ways because it was affecting my quality of life. And even though that didn’t work out, if I hadn’t of done that I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing now. So, I guess what I would say to people is, you can keep your day job and just get started, something part-time and see how it develops. That’s another way to do it. [Bruna] Imran, we’re talking about your organisation, referring to it as a company, but is it a company or is it a non-profit organisation? How does it work? [Imran] Yeah, we are a not-for-profit company where we’re charitable in nature, we’re not a charity, we’re a community interest company. So it’s set up as a limited company but we’re non-profit. So, all of what get has to be spent on delivering our programme. [Bruna] Ok, so where is the funding for running the company, where is that coming from? [Imran] We’re being funded mainly by government, we get funded by corporates, we’re also working with the army, because we work with ex-armed forces. [Bruna] Talking about the moment where you realised you wanted to change your career, and start a non-profit, was a potential salary cut a concern for you? [Imran] Yeah, I think it would be a concern for anyone and you do have to have a plan and sometimes I think it’s wise to have a bit of a financial cushion just to carry you through those initial stages. For example I took a redundancy from work, so a pay out and I used some of that money to help me start The Fighting Chance. Having said that, my last day was on a Friday, by Monday I was already sitting at the desk in my new office, because I’d made plans and I was ready to go and I didn’t have any time to waste. [Bruna] So making plans was key, making plans in advance? [Imran] Very much yeah, I was building up to this, months, months in advance so it’s definitely important to have a plan and a financial plan as well. [Bruna] Emotionally speaking, Imran how does that make you feel having your own company and knowing that you’re really making a difference in someone else’s life? How does it make you feel? [Imran] I feel great, and I think it’s, there’s nothing better than helping people achieve their goals and do what they want to do in life. [Bruna] Have you considered, this is a tricky one, have you considered in this journey at one point, I might fail. What could’ve happened if you failed? [Imran] I guess everyone worries about failure, but I think you only fail if you give up. So it’s important, no matter what happens not to give up and to keep trying and then you’ll never fail. [Bruna] Yeah, you’re definitely right, Imran. May I ask you, what is the top tip that we could share with people who are trapped in the rat race? [Imran] I think my top tip would be, just start. Don’t start tomorrow, don’t think I need to have all this stuff, I need to do a business course, I need to have X,Y, Z, just get started in some small way. And find out what your passion is, find out what your gift is, find out what you really love to do and if you focus on that, you’ll make it work. There’s a famous saying, it’s not mine, you don’t have to be good to start something, but you have to start something to be good. [Bruna] That’s so true! [Imran] Zig Ziglar, I think. [Bruna] Yeah, Imran, thank you so much for being here, and for the amazing work that you’re doing. And thank you also for being so open, because I’m sure this will inspire so many other people to follow in your footsteps. And you! To learn more about The Fighting Chance check out this link. And if you enjoyed the video, like and subscribe to our channel, so you won’t miss any of our juicy, inspiring and actionable content. See you in the next video!

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