Barrie Cunning, alumnus, LLB Hons
Barrie decided to combine his experience in politics and his professional background in communication and started so Pentland Communications
I spent the best part of nine months deciding which of the different universities in London I wanted to study law at. What appealed to me about LSBU was its commitment to the local community and widening participation. I knew I wanted to be a part of a university that wasn’t just strong on rhetoric, but also strong on action and inclusivity. To this day this is something LSBU leads on, and something that we should all feel proud of.
President of the Student Law Society
Whilst I was studying, I worked night shift for a local supermarket in East Dulwich which helped pay for my living and tuition costs. I was elected as the President of the Student Law Society, and although it’s been six years since I left LSBU, I’m immensely proud of what we achieved during my time as president. We became the biggest student society at LSBU, created the Devil’s Advocate magazine, started the Law Society mentoring scheme, put on numerous employment related talks, and had a keynote speech from Baroness Lady Hale, who is now President of the UK Supreme Court. In many respects, you could say this is where I learned my politics.
Source of support and guidance
Remembering the staff at LSBU who inspired me, Dr Cherry James, who taught me in my first year, was an incredible source of support and guidance and I’m pleased to say that Cherry is a friend to this day and we catch up whenever we can. As part of the Devil’s Advocate magazine, I remember interviewing Caron Thatcher who said “if you want to change things, you need to have the fire in your belly”, and that really stuck with me.
My first year out of university was interesting. I went back to my native Scotland and within a week I was involved with the local Labour Party. My career took off from there. I had always liked the idea of running my own business, and it was a case of now or never, so I decided to combine my experience in politics and my professional background in communication, and as such started Pentland Communications. I love being my own boss and being in control of what I do and how I do it.
My advice to anyone looking at starting their own business would be to just do it and get on with it, but also to be realistic. You’ll need to have bags of self-belief and confidence, have a positive mindset, and never give up. The starting point has got to be you and vision - what do you want to achieve, what do you want your business to achieve, and most importantly what can you achieve for potential clients? I’m motivated by doing a good job for my clients, exceeding expectations, growing my business, and helping people whenever I can.
Stress and pressure are two different things
I think it’s important to recognise that stress and pressure are two different things. Pressure, if not managed properly, can manifest in stress which can have an impact on mental wellbeing. From a business perspective, this can result in poor quality of work and ultimately poor standards of client delivery. For this reason, I believe small business owners have an important part to play in ensuring that work related pressure and stress is carefully managed. For example, I deal with stress by making time for myself by going to the gym and by getting enough rest.
I think like stress, pressure and a little bit of doubt are OK as they help us take stock and re-evaluate where we are and what we’re doing. That said, too much of them can result in insecurity issues which can act as an obstacle. I don’t think I’ve ever lacked confidence, but learning to cope with doubt in a managed way is something I’ve had to learn to do.
Being an LSBU alumnus means a lot
Being an LSBU alumnus means a lot to me. It means I’m part of the LSBU family which has a proud history and tradition of empowering people, not just from South London but across the UK and helping them fulfill their potential. In 2010, I made a commitment to study at LSBU and I remain committed to the university and its students. I would be more than happy to be contacted by students who are looking for work experience or just want to reach out. My advice to current students is to never give up, be positive, have drive and commitment, and say yes to every opportunity that comes your way.
I’m a politician by nature and right now the only thing that scares me is a no deal Brexit and what it means for the people of this country. I think with the way that politics is just now, its good to go back and look at history to seek inspiration for future solutions to today’s problems.
My parents gave me a positive attitude and a strong set of principles to live by. They truly have been my most influential relationships. I would like to be remembered as someone who believed that people shouldn’t be defined by their current circumstances and that everyone has the ability to fulfill their potential.