CEO Sleepout UK – An Interview with founder Andy Preston

CEO Sleepout is a brand new charity set up to fight homelessness and poverty. The fight is funded with money raised by executives who sleep outdoors for one night to raise sponsorship from their business contacts and friends.

CEO Sleepout was officially formed in December 2013 by Andy Preston after two successful CEO Sleepout events were held at Middlesbrough FC and Newcastle Utd FC in collaboration with Middlesbrough & Teesside Philanthropic Foundation. Trustees of the charity include Niklas Tunley of business law firm Endeavour Partnership and Martin Houghton Brown CEO of homelessness charity De Paul UK.

In May 2016 CEO Sleepout hits Manchester and we caught with up with Andy Preston to find out more

Andy Preston CEO Sleepout

Q: CEO Sleepout – it does what it says on the tin literally CEOs and Business Leaders sleeping out. The idea on twitter seems to be international – when did you 1st think of launching it in the UK?
I decided to launch it after a conversation in a cafe. I was talking with the boss of an international homelessness foundation and sharing ideas on fundraising. After I quizzed him on the concept of sleepouts he told me about a CEO Sleepout event in Australia – run by a man called Bernie Fehon. I called Bernie that afternoon and asked if I could use the name in the UK. He said yes and here we are now!

Q: CEO Sleepout hits Manchester in May for the 1st time after sleepouts in Birmingham, Cardiff, Liverpool, London and Middlesborough. Manchester has been on the news a lot recently for high profile issues of homelessness in the city centre. How important is it that Manchester faces up to the homeless problem and offers more help to those in need?
Manchester has a massive problem. Every time I visit the city I am staggered by the apparent economic growth and horrified by the sights I see in Piccadilly Gardens and beyond. Every single Mancunian I speak with wants fewer people on the streets – perhaps CEO Sleepout Manchester can be one of several catalysts to make really positive changes in that great city.

Q: How hard of a challenge is the sleepout – it’s one night, but I imagine it gives a real idea of what people have to go through each night?
It’s really not too hard to do CEO Sleepout. It will be a little uncomfortable but nothing like being truly desperate and sleeping on the streets. But it raises good money for people who need help. At a personal level the hardest thing for me is giving up the comfort that I enjoy but in a way that small sacrifice is really good for me – it means I don’t take comfort and prosperity quite as much for granted.

Q: How did you convince CEO’s of LCCC, Manchester United and Trafford Council amongst others to give up their bed for the night. Was it some Geldof style phone calls or did people come forward readily?
Getting busy and affluent people to give up their time and comfort isn’t easy. But lots of people do want to help. I ask people to help others and then ask them to ask others – it’s as simple as that really.

Q: The stats are pretty shocking – millions are one paycheck away from being potentially homeless. That brings it home for a lot of people doesn’t it?
Through my contact with the homeless I’ve learned that a great, great many are in that position because of mental health and/or addiction issues. There are also lots of people who’ve just had a few pieces of bad luck happen to them in quick succession. Homelessness can affect almost anyone and we should be aware of that when we see others on the street.

Q: Your background is working with numerous charities as Chairman. what inspires you to work so heavily in the charity sector? Did your upbringing inspire you?
My catholic upbringing probably did nudge me towards doing stuff to help others but I get a lot out of it also. Of course I don’t get any money – in fact it costs me a lot of money but I’ve met many fantastic, interesting and inspiring people and made new friends.

Q: Take us back to the beginning of your journey – you left school / uni – take us through a potted history of your early business life
I wasn’t good at school and drifted through it and couldn’t get a job at the end of it. I joined the RAF and then studied to go to Edinburgh University. From there I became a trader on the financial markets and ultimately built and ran hedge funds. I was very well paid and became financially indpendent at a relatively young age – and from that I have been able to do whatever I think is right for me and my family. I have some business interests but the biggest occupiers of my mental energy are charities and family.

Q: So you have a number of businesses, you have a number of charities you work with. How do you balance your time?
I seem to have enough time to get most things done – certainly since I started to delegate more. My p.a. is fantastic and my life would be more chaotic and stressful without her!

Q: In business there’s the saying Givers Gain – it really is true isn’t it?
Giving is good for you – whether you are a business, family or an individual. It will do you good and help you to prosper in every way.

Ceo Sleepout
Q: I work with businesses a lot on Social Media Marketing – so often businesses are doing regular charity work, but never talk about it. Why do you think so many businesses don’t talk about the great charity fundraising they do in public. Is it a British thing?

People and businesses should sensitively and appropriately talk about their charitable activities. Talking about good work can inspire (or shame) others into action. Sometimes people don’t know how to talk about it without seeming brash or arrogant and I do understand that.

Q: Should businesses have their own CSR policy – or just go where their passion leads them?
Yes all businesses should share a % of their profits with the community – I can’t understand why they all don’t. I am confident it would do them and their staff a lot of good.

Q: Back to CEO Sleepout – how big do you intend to make it?
I want to see CEO Sleepout become a big national phenomenon that raises £1-2m each year. I know that’s possible and I hope I can do it within a few years. Let’s see…

Q: And finally what are your ambitions? Any charity / business ambitions that you still really want to act on?
My strongest ambitions are to see my two boys (11& 7) grow up to be happy, productive and confident members of society.

For more information on CEO Sleepout and to get involved look at www.ceosleepoutuk.com – follow on twitter @CEOSleepOutUK

Interviewed by Alex McCann of Altrincham HQ www.altrinchamhq.co.uk – follow on twitter @altrinchamhq

Alex is taking part in CEO Sleepout – Donate to Alex’s CEO Sleepout Page here – https://www.justgiving.com/ceosleepoutaltrinchamhq

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About the Author

Alex McCann

Alex McCann runs Altrincham HQ - a Social Media Marketing company with 100+ recommendations on Linkedin and ranked Number 1 for Social Media Marketing in the UK on Freeindex

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