Sunday, 20 December 2009

The penny has dropped

As the working year closes and my thoughts turn to 2010 the penny has finally dropped. I've worried for too long about what others might think or expect. I've wondered how to separate what others might consider 'work blogs' from 'personal blogs' and have realised that what I'm looking for doesn't exist.

In tomorrow's world there will be no distinction between work and life so why try to create one here? As we move from materialism to a new order of things, people and shared experiences will be what we seek and value. No longer will we work hard to buy things to 'enjoy' on our own. We will rediscover a simpler life and learn to be ourselves.

A while ago I blogged about a local bureaucrat who sat through a meeting disagreeing with everything, only to say as he left that personally he was in favour. In other words he had chosen to ignore his own instinct and judgement to toe the party line - or what he saw as the party line. These attitudes can start wars!

So - from here on in I am going to be a wysisyg man. No separation between what I feel and what I do. No compromising of my values to suck up to my clients. I'm simply going to be me and stick to what I feel is right. That said, I'm going to invite challenge and debate as views and standpoints need to be challenged.

So -more blogs in 2010 and more reaching out for feedback.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Nice bogs, shame about the frontage

I had lunch at a really nice seaside hotel today. Good food, attentive staff, tasteful decor and really posh toilets. The problem was the first impression you gain as you walk across the car park.

The front windows were rotting with leads poked through for the sparkly Christmas trees in the car park. There were rusty grab handles for older customers to haul themselves up the steps, weeds, fag-ends and a generally neglected feel to the front of the building. Only when you walk inside do you see where the owners have invested their money.

Of course I'd far prefer to have a crap frontage and nice hotel than a crap hotel that looks good from outside. The trouble is though, that had I not been meeting someone there, I'd not have ventured through the front door. It really looked grim from outside!

Monday, 7 December 2009

You're never over the hill

Did you see the repeat of Thora Hird's performance in Bennett's 'Talking Heads' on BBC TV at the weekend?

It was am amazing performance that touches you today just as it did when first broadcast a decade ago. Dame Thora Hird was 87 when she made the film and many would say it was her finest performance - in fact it won her a second BAFTA.

In a world where most would have chosen to use a younger actress to play and old lady, using make up to add the years, Bennett chose to use an old lady with talent and a proven track record. He was clearly right.

Are you ageist? Even unwittingly? Think about it - some of those too often overlooked and ignored have lots more to offer.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Why are all expected to behave like babies?

I've long wondered why grown-ups (Chavs in particular) like to walk around in romper suits and drink from bottles with a pull up teat cap. These bottle caps encourage you to suck at your drink like an eager baby. Maybe the marketers think that we all yearn to return to the breast and so provide fizzy drinks you can suck through a plastic nipple.

I drink a lot of water and so far, Sainsbury's water bottles have had proper caps. The kind you unscrew before drinking from the open bottle. I always have one in the car. Sure there's a risk of spillage which, if you're driving can create a suspicious wet patch on your trousers - but that's an acceptable risk.

Now Sainsbury's have decided to put teat-caps on the top of their water bottles. Do they expect me to suck my water like a baby? (Perhaps they can also provide someone to wind me after my drink - in case I get tummy ache!)

I refuse to drink like a baby so will start saving proper caps to re-use. In fact I might as well re-fill my old bottles with tap water. Sod Sainsbury's!

Saturday, 3 October 2009

The power of post script

I've not felt moved to blog of late, too busy I guess. However a recent chance meeting with Steve Short, magician and all round nice guy got me thinking.

I first met Steve when he was a children's magician in Norfolk 20yrs ago. This week we both found ourself presenting at a Leicester Business Event. I was determined to hear his presentation and was surprised by how well he used magic to make sound business points.

However the thing he said that struck a chord with me was this: after the headline and the sign off, the next thing people look at on a letter or email is the PS. I was once a big fan of the PS and used it to good effect all the time. Of late I've stopped . . . . but don't know why. So now, I'm going to make October a post script month.

PS See if you can catch me out - let me know if I contact you and there's no PS!

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Are you haunted too?

Yesterday I spent a very pleasant afternoon with my ancient uncle, pruning trees and cutting grass. He has lived in his bungalow since he had it build 49 years ago. I've been visiting since then so the place is important to me too.

As he's aged (he's now 85) the large garden has gradually taken over, hence my frenzied strimming and sawing. Over the years, a housing estate has been built around him and what was a quiet unmade lane is now a well lit thoroughfare. His bungalow rather stands out, an oasis of history amongst a modern urban sprawl.

The problem started when the paper boy refused to deliver. 'It's too scary,' he said. Then maurauding youngsters started throwing pebbles at his windows after dark. He won't admit it, but he's become rather worried by all this, keeps his door securely bolted and spends little time in his front garden.

To his neighbours, I suspect he's viewed as an oddity. A tall, gaunt old man who likes to wear short shorts with long green socks - a style he developed in India during WW2. He lives alone, which in these 'stranger danger days' means he's also treated with some suspicion.

What gets me, is that here's a man who who prefers his own company to that of others, who now through no fault of his own is feeling increasingly a prisoner in his own home.

Wouldn't it be nice if his neighbours, talked to their kids, explained that getting old happens to us all, and now and then, offered to help him keep his roadside verge as neatly trimmed as their's.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

To blog or not to blog . . that is the question

Blogging is unlike almost anything else in life. It's something once started you feel almost honour bound to continue, even if you're getting no feedback from your readers.

I'm lucky in that I get lots of feedback, on and off line, but for some it must be a real challenge. Of late, I've simply not had time to post anything, despite having lots to say. I try to take it easy in the summer, less work, less noise and more time with family.

Does blogging do it for you? Are you busy because of your blogs or because you're busy blogging. Is it the next big business thing, or simply much ado about nothing?

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Costa fortune!

Had my pocket picked and my wallet emptied in Costa Coffee's New Row cafe nr Covent Garden yesterday. To be fair, they had got a sign saying 'pickpockets operate here' but could they do more to prevent their customers getting robbed?

CCTV would help, as would approaching people who come in and sit down without buying a drink. After all, if you need to steal the money for your cappuccino then why are you there?

The staff reaction to my sudden poverty was rather worrying. It's clearly something that happens there every day. I began to wonder if they greet the regular pickpockets with a cheery wave; simply another London worker going about his daily routine.

I wonder if they'd show more interest if I'd been assaulted or mugged instead?I got the feeling that if I'd been stabbed, the staff would just drag me outside so I didn't make a mess on their floor.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Means tested consultancy quotes

I saw a brilliant example of consultant greed the other day. It was a piece of PR work for a charity. The organisation's Chairman, a wealthy entrepreneur had agreed to foot the bill.

The proposal outlined a fairly unimaginative list of tasks, including copying names of accountants out from the Yellow Pages. (Something most of us gave up doing ten years ago!)

The consultant, who shall remain nameless, priced this project at more than £20,000. I'd say it was worth £3,000 and only then if I didn't know that there was no point in chasing editors of weekly papers when all get their news feeds from their group HQ.

There's nothing wrong with discounting your day rate for a voluntary organisation. I do it on my website where I publish my day rates for all to see. But to inflate your day rate because the guy paying is wealthy? That's robbery!

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Get bolder as you get older!

Prof Heinz Wolff is quoted in The Times recently as saying that: 'Timidity is very ageing. Fight it to stay younger. After all, with each year that passes you have less to lose.'

These wise words have really got me thinking. Am I getting more timid as I age? I like to think I'm getting bolder, but sometimes I do wonder. I certainly worry far less about what others will think and more than ever before, do as I please for most of the time.

But what about risk? When did I last really push myself far beyond what is comfortable? Of course I push myself to the limit in the gym, dizziness, nausea and floods of sweat are vital in my view if you're to keep your body young. But what about risking reputation, money, personal safety, sanity even? Hmmmmmmm let me think . . . . . . what shall I do first?

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Me do multi-level marketing? Never!

You know how it goes. Someone you know and respect calls you to arrange a conversation with a third party. In this case, via conference call. You hear the personal story - I had it, lost it and found it again thanks to xyz.

You're shown company xyz and then, surprise surprise, told how you can profit from helping those you know to benefit from what xyz does. Then comes the soft close - I'm committed and will help you if you decide to come on board.

I have to admit that this one does have a good range of products and will I think take the world by storm. But then so does a flu epidemic; the challenge is to leave people feeling better than you found them.

The clincher for me was the company vision of making one million people millionaires. At whose expense I asked myself?

I'll help anyone with a good idea spread the word. I'll recommend any product or service that impresses me. But I draw the line at trading my independence to join any organisation - however appealing the offer.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Time to grow home

It might seem strange, but to me, the best time to start a business in in the depths of recession. You create an enterprise that is lean, fit, hungry and responsive to market demand. Then, when the economy brightens up, you're in the right place at a very good time.

Of course I already have a business although in reality it's very modest in size. But that's about to change. As my reputation as a writer and speaker grows, more people are asking me to help them give their organisation a boost. Time is my only limiting factor and so the answer is of course to build a team and give them the methodology, skills and support to deliver what people are demanding.

To create some space between me and the business, it has a new website
which goes live in a day or two. Turnpike Farm is the place I live and work. It's also the place where we cultivate success and grow enterprises. It should be fun!

Saturday, 28 March 2009

I love buses but I don't have all day . . .

I'm attending a meeting in Swaffham later this week. It's a Mental Health Trust Governors' gathering, with people coming from all over Norfolk and North Suffolk.

With the papers for the session were travel details for those wishing (or having) to use public transport. The furthest away you could be from Swaffham is Lowestoft - a journey of 57 miles. By car, it's about 75 minutes. By bus it's 3hrs 24minutes. You catch a bus in Lowestoft at 10am, change at Yarmouth and again at Norwich. That's an average speed of just over 16 miles an hour. It'd be faster to come on your bike!

How can people be expected to leave their cars at home and take the bus when it takes so bloody long to get anywhere?

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Let's all glow in the dark

Two seemingly contradictory press articles this week paint a bleak picture for the future of our urban landscape.

One suggests that because the Courts are likely to consider injured cyclists in-part culpable if they don't wear a helmet. The commentator asks if the next step is for pedestrians to also be required to wear helmets or be considered contributors to their own fate when mown down by passing traffic. We already see more and more people wearing hi-vis jackets when out walking - helmets are the next logical step in the footpath to political correct behaviour for us all.

The second article described how Boris wants to strip some London streets of signs, white lines and speed bumps - seamlessly blending foot with wheeled traffic, so that people have to think. This is already established practice in parts of the Netherlands, where removing street signs and other clutter encourages drivers and pedestrians to seek eye contact - thus collaborating to create a safe environment.

Put the two together and you can quickly see a situation where the roads are free of confusing signs, but filled with people walking in hard hats and hi-vis waistcoats.

Now that's really confusing!

Thursday, 5 March 2009

How strongly do you support your organisation's cause?

My friend Hanne Stinson, CEO of the British Humanist Association has literally nailed her colours to the charity's mast. She promised her membership that if they raised £20,000 she'd have the humanist logo tattooed on her arm. They did it and so did she!

Hanne is very much a 21st century activist. Her organisation doesn't march, wave banners or pelt people with eggs. Instead it encourages people to consider the notion that life is about people, not about preparing for some vaguely promised post-mortem utopia. It's how you live your life that matters - there is nothing else. You've probably seen or read about their very successful bus advertising campaign.

You might not agree with the humanist philosophy but you have to agree that if more business leaders were as committed to their cause as Hanne is to hers, our economy would be in better shape. We all have to champion what we believe is right - sitting on the fence, or even the sofa, is not an option in today's world.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Why do factories exist?

The recent reports claiming that the Astra factory at Ellesmere Port is on the brink of closure raises a large and worrying question. The unions are saying that without Government funding, the plant will close, putting thousands of workers out of work. They cite this as good enough reason to put money in.

Yet surely, a car plant exists to make cars in response to market demand. If there's no demand, why continue?

Or perhaps it is right to create jobs. Unemployment is not pleasant and once you add the cost of benefits and re-trainnig, perhaps keeping the plant open actually represents value for money. If that was the case, all public sector organisations could be ordered by buy the cars. But what would the impact of that be on other manufacturers?

To me, the world needs to make a very simple decision. Nationalise everything and forget about market demand or individual choice. In fact we could also have national pay scales that dictate what everybodfy earns. OR stop interfering and let supply and demand balance themselves naturally. A little or each simply won't work . . .

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

I never thought I'd find myself quoting Jimmy Osmond

Talented though I'm sure he is, this guy's music has never done anything for me at all. His most famous song, was one I remember had lots of 'turn that thing off' appeal when I was young and he was even younger.

However, today I went to the gym determined to spent 45 mins sweating steadily on the exercise bike. A few feet in front of me was a TV screen and on it, Alan Titchmarsh, former gardener now daytime TV chat show host.

He interviewed Osmond who is currently appearing in the West End in 'Grease' and it was towards the end of the interview that the pearl of wisdom emerged. In fact it was rather a powerful moment, perhaps because I was close to fainting with the exertion on the bike.

Osmond said that one of the best things he learned from his family was how to adapt to life after the spotlight of fame has moved off you and onto someone else. How many people can you think of who deprived of their accustomed status by retirement, redundancy or changing fashion struggle to re-invent themselves?

So, Osmond might not be someone I'd rush out to listen to on stage, but when talking about life, the guy talks real sense. There - I'm converted!

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Do cyclists shout at you to help them pedal faster?

Cooling down after a nice run I was walking back along the road near my home when a passing cyclist shouted, 'get out of the road'. He had all the gear on, including one of those rather silly streamlined helmets.

Alas he didn't stop to offer more specific advice about where he felt I should be walking. My choice was simple. An overgrown verge, complete with dangling brambles, long grass and hidden holes, or the road. I chose the road. There's no footpath.

So whose road is it I wonder? He cycles on it, I run on it and I suspect we both drive on it too. Next time I seee him I'll shout back and run after him. Then we'll see!

Do people try to tell you what to do? Do you listen to them or ignore their advice?

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Need a helping hand?

I met a really interesting guy the other day. He had quite literally paid an arm and a leg to be where he is today. He's a double amputee.

However, far from being a 'professional victim', he's positive and eager to make a difference in the world. He has started his own business and sees no barriers, just opportunities.

He described how he once wrote to disability champion Simon Weston and Simon picked up the phone and called for a chat. 99% of people would not have written the letter, but this guy just does it.

It really puts your own problems and anxieties in perspective when you meet someone who makes light of what in reality must be a horrific thing to live with. In his situation, I'd make a list of all the things I could not do and get depressed. He wrote a list of what was still possible and got on with life.

I learned a lot from meeting him. What do you think he could teach you?

Friday, 9 January 2009

I was good at the dentist today

I'm not sure why, but everyone at my office was surprised when I came back from the dentist wearing this sticker. I had been good so I reckon I deserved it!

Bella kindly explained that normally only children get stickers, but why I wonder? I'd spent a record 46 minutes having a tooth ground down to have a crown fitted. That's three quarters of an hour with a mouth full of latex fingers, sucking pipes and not forgetting that whining drill.

Actually Christine my dentist is very good and her assistant Stacey kept me amused by pulling faces all the way through the procedure. In fact, Stacey deserves a sticker as well.

My point though is this: why do we assume that only young people like to be told they've been good? Perhaps in these troubled times more people should take the trouble to thank their customers and reward their commitment to seeing through what might be every bit as scary as a trip to the dentist. Do you agree?

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Gym'll fix it!

Every newspaper I read has its own recession busting, money saving tips. Without exception, they all suggest that dumping the gym membership is a good way to save a few pounds a week.

Wrong! Without the encouragement and equipment of a good gym, most people let their fitness regime slip. Being unfit makes you feel lethargic, sees your belly creep over your belt and make even carrying the shopping home a physical trial.

How much better to feel good, have a body you can be proud of and enjoy that rush of endorphins you can only achieve with a good workout. Furthermore the complete break from work or home pressures that an hour in the gym provides is a good way to reflect on your day and put things in perspective in your mind.

Of course press ups in the kitchen and star jumps in the hall, followed by a brisk jog around the park and some sit ups at the bus stop can get you just as fit. But will you really keep that up?

At the gym you can also find people to urge you along, spar with you, congratulate you when you reach a milestone and even compete with you.

There's no doubt in my mind that given the chance, however bleak things look, gym'll fix it!