Monday, 3 October 2016

Best laid plans of mice and men!!!

Today I have been reminded not only of the this old saying, but also of the similarly intentioned one by Field Marshall Helmuth Graf von Moltke - The Elder - that goes: ‘no campaign plan survives first contact with the enemy’.

On this day the National Health Service had conspired to influence as many members of my immediate family as it could; my elderly parent (96 years old) was due at the local Dentist for 9:30am, my wife due at Oxford Eye Hospital slightly later in the morning and my daughter at Amersham Hospital for 11:30am. Plus I had a pre-booked facilitation of a meeting with a leadership team for 12:30pm!

A strategy was needed so it was arranged for my father-in-law to take my wife while our daughter would use public transport, sadly alone as her boyfriend had to return to Australia late the night before as his Vise was due to expire, and I would take said elderly parent to the Dentist – all nicely sorted.

I arrived in plenty of time at the Care home, made sure my father was suitably dressed, sourced a wheelchair and we had loaded and finished strapping this into the minibus when a staff member came running out and informed us that the Dentists had rung and his appointment was cancelled.

By this time my wife had already left with her father and my daughter was on the train, proof were it needed that, first contact can indeed blow the plan completely apart!

However it has underlined to me that the important element of a plan, or a strategy, is to build in flexibility and the ability to react to changes in circumstances, to rigidly adhere to a plan, just because it was the original one, is not always the best policy – far better to continuously review, adapt and make appropriate changes.

Consider then what you are doing in your business that is sticking to an original plan that was drawn up before it was deployed in anger and where could this be appropriately altered to bring about an improved outcome for all the stakeholders involved in the activity!

Thank you for reading and please leave any feedback that you wish to share.

Monday, 26 September 2016

Beware the Black Holes in Business!

4 Black holes in business to be aware of…

In this Blog I’d like to take a few moments of your time to alert you to something that is quite possibly sapping you of one or more of your resources – Black holes in your business.

A Black hole is simply described as an area of spacetime that exhibits such a strong gravitational effect that nothing can escape from inside it – not even light.

There is a boundary to a black hole none as the “event horizon” the point at which light cannot escape the pull of the hole – often stated as being similar to going over Niagra Falls in a canoe!

By now you are probably asking yourself “What on Earth has such a celestial entity to do with my business”?  Well the answer is that we all encounter Black holes in our business lives and they come in various different shapes and sizes and suck in our resources to a point where it requires a huge amount of determination and raw will power to pull away from them.

Some examples of the Business Black hole are:

The Task Hole: This can be a relevant or irrelevant activity that distracts you from your main purpose of your day, something you prefer to do that allows your mind to trick itself into thinking you are doing something that is more important than it is. These tasks are often plentiful in number and once within your event horizon their pull is so strong that it takes a strong self will to put them to one side and stay on task.

The Information Hole: These are the people that come into our lives and take seek information from us, information that they could get from public sources with just a shade more work themselves. They may be asking for contact details, a date, time or venue for a meeting, or a link to a third party.

They keep coming back with similar requests on a regular basis and before you can spot it happening you are almost acting as an unpaid PA to them and their business. 

The ever-increasing number of requests pulls on our time and can effect our concentration on our own tasks for the day. Many often have a charming personality and we have to really steel ourselves in order to start declining and to override our natural tenancy to want to help.

The Tec Hole: Isn’t modern technology wonderful? Computers, laptops, Smart phones, WiFi, TV on-line at any time of the day! Getting caught in the pull of technology is a wonderful way of having time sucked out of your life and reducing your daily efficiency and effectiveness.

Make sure that you control your smart tec and not the over way around, each time we watch just one more funny animal clip on social media is another few minutes lost earning our living by supporting our clients – avoid being distracted and sucked in!

The Ideas, Information or Skills Hole:
  Perhaps the hardest one of all to avoid and yet, in many ways, the easiest one to spot. Also comes under the heading of ‘could you just…’.

These is where your energy, creativity and/or skills are taken up by someone in need of your commercial service who, for whatever reason, are unable or unwilling to pay for it. They may; seek a ‘one-to-one’ meeting after hearing you at a Networking Group, they may ask you if you could just read through or review something done by a third party, they may have a loooooooong telephone call with you, they may enter into an exchange of e-mails seeking your advice or guidance. In whatever guides this happens they are sucking in your creativity, your skills, your time all whilst preventing you from focussing on potential and actual paying customers.


These are just a few examples, there are more such as the Negativity Hole, and we all need to be aware of them. We also need to set and know our own limitations of how far we will go to help someone and be very aware that we do not pass the event horizon and find we cannot escape from the pull of whatever it is that is draining our energy.

Please now stop for a moment or two and think about who might be impacting on your business/life in any of the above ways and on how you intend to manage that impact – many thanks for reading this Blog, please leave a comment (if you have the time!) and I hope you will drop in again soon.

Monday, 29 August 2016

Thinking about more than just money.

Cost – Value – Worth – Investment may not be seen by most as the four horsemen of the apocalypse, however I would submit that they are four words whose wider use is becoming lost in our modern world and whose predominate use today could help bring about a more cynical and negative world, one that is focussed on financial gain.

All four of these words have a range of different meanings and yet today these definitions for each form within our society a virtual, if not actual, hierarchy where, their association with money is what springs, first and foremost, into people’s minds.

However they all have other meanings that are, in my view, far more positive and can bring far more into our lives, if you like a much deeper use than this monetary one and here I would like to challenge you to start to change the current thinking on the use and positioning of these four words – Cost – Value – Worth - Investment

The usually used definitions of this word is brings on negative feelings, these are; to require a payment – to cause a loss, a suffering or a sacrifice, to calculate the ‘price’ of something.

It is my belief that of the four, Cost – Value – Worth – Investment - we should regard Cost as a highly negative word and thus as one to be avoided in our writing and our thought.

This can be the quantification of something as a way of measuring it against a specific unit, often monetary and equally as a way of more subjective observation of what does a certain element add to a work of art, a performance, a speech and so forth.

If we choose to use the latter interpretation of Value we can move away form a monetary dominated developed world and towards a more appreciative and rewarding society.

This word is often linked to the previous one, value. It is often defined as being the value of something, especially in terms of currency. Another definition is that of the sum that something can be bought for – again usually in monetary terms.

The two, far more positive, uses of the word and the ones that I like are;
  • The goodness, usefulness or importance of someone or something, irrespective of financial value or wealth
  • The wealth of a person, group, or organisation or other entity

Both definitions meaning; that extra, or special, something that is brought to by a person, project or organisation to the world and which goes beyond monetary measurement – and quite close to that alternative use of the previous word, Value. Imagine what a powerful tool the two together could be!

Usually today seen as the setting aside of money in some way that it in the future it will produce a greater amount of money. Personally I prefer another definition – that of a contribution of something such as time, energy, effort, skills, knowledge to take forward a project or to develop a person.

Of the four words – Cost -Value – Worth – Investment, I like Investment the most as it is perhaps the easiest to deploy in a non-monetary manner.

Let us make better use of our language, better use of ourselves and as a result avoid thinking and talking about cost, cast this matter aside and believe in other things.

Let us bring Value, Worth and Investment all together and ask where can we add Value and increase our Worth to others by investing something, other than money, in one or more of the following people, charitable endeavours and/or community work?

Thank you for reading and if I have given you cause to think please leave a comment.

Monday, 22 August 2016

We all Know Better

... or do we?

This week I would like to challenge us all to think about our own egos, emotional intelligence and beliefs around following a process others have successfully previously adopted.

Here in the UK nationally we always seem to ‘need’ to find our ‘own way’ of doing things, we don’t seem to like to accept that others are as good, or perhaps even better, then us – yes we will have a look at what others do, but then, regardless of how successful that model has been for them, we immediately want to change it rather than test it ‘as is’ and then evolve it.

I have witnessed this replicated in many business situations, rather than first the original methodology as a trial and later adapting and deploying it as we find appropriate and based upon feedback received, many business owners and managers will initially adjust it first, then run it and find it works less well then anticipated and then chuck out the whole idea – wasting their resources and also a previously proven concept!

When we are adopting something new, that has been successful tried by others, we should of course scale the methodology to suit our own needs however testing the original concept with a core group of ‘customers’ or contacts before adapting it would be far less wasteful all round.

So why is it we always feel the need to change a potentially proven system or process rather than work within it? I believe it is an emotional decision based upon staying within our own comfort zones.

We all know how we feel most comfortable when it comes to working and anything that stretches us beyond that we will seek to change or even completely avoid. So if we come across elements of the methodology that we are looking at and, either consciously or sub consciously, think I really don’t want to do then we will amend the method to remove that element, or at least reduce the amount of it we are required to undertake and emotionally based decision may well remove impact negatively upon the main reason the original concept worked so well with the consequent reduced level of outcomes!

Thus when we find a methodology we feel we want to bring into our businesses or lives I would like to think we can all sit down and objectively review the various elements that make it up.  We can consider which of these elements we don’t really feel we ‘want’ to do or that we will ‘least enjoy’ doing and then, by writing this all down we can assess the likely impact on the process as a whole.

We can now, better understand the likely effect of reducing, or removing them and theses parts of the methodology and make the informed, factual decision’ rather than making the original ‘emotional decision’.

I would love to hear if you have ever experienced the above in any way and what the outcomes were for you, and/or your business, from that scenario - so please do leave a comment and thank you for stopping by and reading this weeks Blog.

Monday, 15 August 2016

Don’t Waste Your Chance to Shine

 Are you truly applying yourself to be a winner?

Once every four years it is hard to avoid being dazzled, amazed and inspired by the achievements of the World's Athletes as they “Go for Gold” and maximise their chances to shine, such as at the games in Rio.

Behind and before the smiles, the tears and the gold, silver and bronze medals though comes a number of things that even the most un-athletic of us business owners could learn from and, dare I suggest, adopt in our keyboard and chair ridden daily lives.

Firstly we have the athlete’s passion for what they do and the goal(s) they have set themselves – this is set a long time before they even start to compete to be in a team representing their country, it is what comes first. So are we as enthusiastic and passionate about our businesses goods and/or services and as clear about our goal(s)?

Secondly come the application, dedication and sacrifice to achieving those goals that they are so passionate about. These people are up early, go to bed late and working on achieving their goals day and day out. They will give up on a social life, family time, holidays and more in order to put in the effort that is needed to win – to get to their goals. Are we in business as good at applying ourselves and dedicating ourselves to achieving our end goal?

Thirdly they have a plan, process and/or system. Each day, each week, each year there is a routine that they follow. By doing so they can see and measure their progress towards their goals, take heart from the successes and achievements along the way and learn from the setbacks and less positive situations that they find themselves. Do we all have such a

Fourth is that they surround themselves with those who believe in them and support them. There is no room for self-doubt and no time for those who might doubt them, all around them, will be ‘in their corner’ no matter where their journey takes them. They will have at least one coach and/or trainer to support them with knowledge and skills to achieve. Do we all have a coach in our corner – I know I do.

I often find business owners very resistant to declaring their passion for their business and what goods/services it offers, lacking the dedication to make it successful, without a plan or process in their own lives or that of the business they are running and often plagued by doubters and those who will drain their enthusiasm and energy more through being negative.

By putting all these things in place we can all achieve far more just as the World's Athletes do and have, we in business are fortunate in that we can display our successes more often than a few times in our careers, so lets make the most of the opportunity and shine as brightly as we can.

I’d love to hear what you already do, what you will be doing in the future to keep yourself on track to achieve your goals and the benefits that you see, please leave a comment on these and thank you for investing some time in reading this Blog.