Freshness of thought drives great ideas

03/04/2014

The term “thinking outside the box” is a constant irritation for me. Easy to say, hard to do – how do you do it? Get to the route cause!

Don’t fall into the trap of routine. Repetitive behaviours will deliver a mindset that lacks vision, imagination and creative spirit. When we do the same things day-in day-out we establish a routine, this state of mind both inhibits and prohibits new possibilities. We find that the same old problems surface and bizarrely we think that by doing the same thing over and over again the results will be different. We must be aware of our habits as they become hard wired into our daily schedule. The manifestation of routine is that we experience a sense of monotony, feeling of being stuck in a rut, poor self-confidence, low energy levels and loss of purpose and direction.

Everyone experiences these feelings at some point, however we can take some simple steps to rewire our thinking. Emphasis must be placed on constantly searching for stimulus – things that will disrupt habitual behaviour, strengthen our creative muscles and deliver a freshness of thought;

Alternative perspectives – constantly look at your challenges from different angles – ask yourself “how would your role model address the issue?”

Remove yourself – from the daily routine and spend one day a month do something completely different.

Connect with nature – spend time in the open air and appreciate the wonder of the countryside. Combine this with regular exercise, it provides a boost to our energy levels. It also helps us to value our existence.

Don’t Think – don’t pre judge the outcome of any situation. Just observe and detach yourself from comment. By not thinking you clear your mind.

Take a look – observe what your peers do and share experiences with them. Wherever possible engage with people from other cultures, religions and regions of the world.

Five simple practices will act the fuel for fresh thinking. Doing away with routine is a liberating experience. It energises us, and keeps us motivated to perform at high levels.


Sort out your credo

28/01/2014

I have seen some fantastic academic work in recent years on leadership – Jim Collins, Stephen Covey and all the other usual names. A plethora of tools, techniques and matrices aimed at helping the ambitious entrepreneur become a better leader. I am guilty of being one of the many individuals to come up with new thinking on how to excel at leading others!

The reality is, it’s so damn difficult pulling everyone in the same direction, getting people to buy into your vision, aligning individual skills with the needs of the business, expecting everyone to be as passionate as the founder – just accept it, no one is ever going to be as passionate as the founder of a business. One thing for sure is that as a company grows, a leader/leaders must develop a rulebook – it should be a concise set of statements that defines – how we do things around here! If an employee does not like the rules – it does not make them a bad person, it just means they don’t belong to the community. Modern management science talks about values and behaviours in my own world I call this a rulebook – golf clubs have them, religious societies have them…and many more. Organisations that have been around for hundreds of years have a rulebook of some description! I can almost hear readers cringing at this phrase.

As companies grow – a rulebook is needed to define what is and what is not acceptable. As a company heads towards 7, 20 and 50 employees the people dynamics change and a “way of doing things” needs to be established – if not you end up with a tribe and not a team.  For me this is one of biggest challenges leaders of growing businesses face – embedding an ethos/philosophy of what is and what is not acceptable.  Managing people, emotions, needs, desires and aspirations, then connecting them with the purpose of a business is so difficult.

Try putting together a rulebook then sharing this with senior managers and staff. Institutionalisation (you may wish to use other words) is a necessary part of creating a long tem sustainable business – a challenge for any leader! Don’t forget you must live by the rule book yourself, if not why should colleagues and staff?

See our company values here >>>


Enterprise Rehearsal

21/08/2012

Why is it a large proportion of the workforce want to work for themselves but only a few actually go for it? My view is that fear holds so many back – the fear of not being able to pay the mortgage, have holidays or enjoy nights out at weekends. The key challenge to overcome is getting yourself conditioned to recognising there is no pay cheque going to land in your account at the end of the month. This can often be the biggest barrier to going forward.

Well there are other ways of thinking about being your own boss and indeed rehearsing before the big performance. Speaking from experience I have found that an interest or hobby can be turned into a small business. I remember some twenty odd year ago when taking the plunge was just not an option but it was a burning desire. A young family, and mortgage meant that rehearsal was the only way, and gosh did it pay dividends. Turning a passion for contemporary art into a small business taught me loads about suppliers, customers, doing the books, VAT returns, dealing with awkward people – the list goes on.

These experiences can help so much in the conditioning process and with very little outlay can unleash a profitable stream of revenue. There are opportunities that so many of us just overlook, here are some ways you can rehearse:

– Buying and selling on eBay

– Car boot sales

– Take a market stall at weekends

– Take a stall at an art/antiques fair

– Buy a small property do it up and sell it

– Explore the buy to let market

– Look for innovative products overseas, find an outlet in the UK

– Turn your hobby into a weekend service e.g photography

I feel that some of these tiny nudges can get us thinking more entrepreneurially. The markets in the UK are desperately trying to encourage more traders and we should not over look them as the training ground for the next generation of entrepreneurs – maybe feels a bit Del Boy and Rodney but from humble beginnings big things can result.

After all you only need to look at the Sunday Times Rich list and I know for a fact a number of them built their fortune starting from a market stall.

Big Goals – Small Nudges Will Get You There

16/08/2012

Many individuals have big goals but only few put in the energy and effort to attain them. Why is this? Actions speak louder than words and to be grounded for a second, big goals can sometimes feel like an awesome undertaking. That’s when the goal just remains a dream.

Breaking the £1m revenue target, implementing a new quality system, opening up that new export market or whatever it means to you needs careful planning and iteration.

Patience, routine, trial and error and action are important contributors to passing across the finishing line – you just can’t leap to the end point, that’s why so many just give up.

So what tools can we use to assist us get what we want? I was inspired by the story of what made GB Cycling world class and the envy of other nations . Their coach referred to the “aggregation of marginal gains” as being central to their success. In other words small improvements that all add up to a magnificent performance.

My interpretation of this is:

1. Be clear about what it is you are looking to achieve and and nail a measure and timescale to it

2. Put in place the plan of the milestones and improvements that need to be reached and by when

3. Train like crazy and put in the activity needed to get there – KpI’s (that awful term –  but paramount to monitoring where you are – be clear on what they are as well)

The GB Cycling philosophy of marginal gains can be of massive use to us in business. The key lesson is that small nudges in the right direction delivers a winning result. Get on your bike and pedal  – if you fall off, get back on and pedal faster!


The Entrepreneurial G-Spot

26/07/2012

So what are the ingredients of a high growth business or gazelle as they are commonly referred to? This is a question that I must be asked at least twice a week. As both a founder of several and adviser to loads I am still learning every day. As an obsessive researcher of their behavior, tactics and strategies, one conclusion is gazelles are not just the stereotypical university high technology spin –out, they are also well established organisations from mature sectors  – with fire in their belly.

So how do entrepreneurs unearth the Gazelle spot for their business? This is the point at which rapid growth ensues, new markets open up, customers display a strong desire to buy and value is created for both the founder and stakeholders. For the economy they become job generators and employers of skilled individuals. The challenge is there are only a small proportion of these businesses, nationally and globally – why? because its really hard to grow a business, get the right people on board pointing in the same direction, raise and manage finance….the list goes. This G-spot takes time to find, as one member of the High Growth Foundation® muttered the other night – it has taken me 10 years to become an overnight success – or as Malcolm Gladwell puts it 10,000 hours of effort and practice are needed to become an expert at anything.

Lots of entrepreneurs talk a good game but many fail to cope with the roller coaster ride that so often accompanies growth – the high and the lows can be quite debilitating and at times the problems just “do your head in”. Having a resilient and positive mindset able to cope with uncertainty and unforeseen challenges is an ability too few have. High growth will usually equate to high risk (that’s why banks are scared stiff of high growth entrepreneurs), embracing fear and having the courage to see through immediate and longer term challenges is a skill high growth entrepreneurs have honed.

The Entrepreneurial G-Spot is a complex framework involving an eclectic mix of business, commercial and emotional components. Put very simply it’s the fusion of a sound business model with propositions and service that carry a market place edge – disciplined doers not talkers execute the plan to achieve the vision and everyone knows their role. The active ingredient is brilliant leadership, more specifically a culture of ambition underpinned by mental toughness and an ability to cope. All too often it’s the latter that is missing, so many entrepreneurs fail to truly realise their potential, they run out of steam and to put it frankly cant be bothered with the hassle.

You’re a long time dead, get stuck in, have a go, fail fast move on, get your head in gear and unlock the potential of your business. Only practice and iteration makes perfect!


Entrepreneurship in the public sector

19/07/2012

This morning I experienced a great example of public sector entrepreneurship. We recently moved to Salford Quays next to Media City (new location of the BBC) – one of the key attractions was to be close to the digital expertise located in the area and indeed the Media department of Salford University. Why? can any business overlook the benefits this new digital age will bring?

All well and good, however business growth only takes place when conversations and personal relationships gather momentum, trust is built and mutual respect results. Critical non essentials such as courtesy, humility and just caring are so often overlooked in the teaching in business schools and the books they encourage us to read.

Back to the point, having been in our new office for only 1 week a call came into us from Salford City Council – Matthew Lynn, one of the Economic Development Officers. Can I come in and talk to you about how we can help? Firstly, I was astounded that they knew we were coming and secondly, today a meeting with Matthew clearly demonstrated:

– Customer focus

– An interest in what we do

– An explanation of what services the Council can offer

– The introductions they can make to partners

– Details of networking opportunities

– Opportunities to work together (win-win)

I was left with an overwhelming sense of entrepreneurial flair and what I call living in the “Customers World”. Top stuff, I was inspired to see that both an individual and the Council had a genuine interest in us. The start of a great relationship (I hope) – who said the public sector is not entrepreneurial!

 

 


Collaboration is key to competitive advantage

13/07/2012

How times have changed in the past ten years. Companies I would have viewed as major competitors at the turn of 2000 have now become close allies – we are sharing knowledge, IP, business ideas and revenue streams. It strikes me that collaboration is very much embedded within the mindset of the forward thinking organisations I meet on a day-to-day basis. Those that hold their cards too close to their chest will almost certainly miss out on new business and product opportunities. Collaboration can present itself in many formats:

  • Businesses with complementary skills coming together to bid for large contracts – one where the mix of expertise and geographical coverage offers massive benefits to a customer. This can be achieved as a consortium or through what is commonly referred to as a special purpose vehicle (SPV)
  • Companies fusing complimentary products and services to create a new offering – WP did this several years ago, we took creative expertise of a University and combined it with coaching techniques to create the highly successful Winning Pitch TV (WPtv) – a great example of HE working with a SME
  • Euro Garages one of the North’s most successful companies brought together petrol stations with Starbucks and Subway franchises to build a new experience in filling the tank.
  • We see it everyday on the motorways with Starbucks, M & S and other high street chains teaming up with service operators to create a new service station break – this used to be a joke in terms of food quality, now, very different
  • Large pharma companies engaging with smaller niche R & D operators. A much nimbler and cost effective route for multi nationals to build their innovation pipeline

Fundamental to collaboration is a win- win attitude, there has to be a common goal, a shared vision, a sense of trust and purpose, fair commercial gain for both parties. Working as I do everyday with high growth companies, its very clear that those entrepreneurs who think partnership are opening themselves up to so many new possibilities.  Stay awake, think about who you can collaborate with, the only warning is, be sure why you are doing it and what’s in it for both of you!