Downtown – Liverpool Business Awards

23/07/2011

I had the great pleasure of going to Downtown’s Liverpool in Business Awards on Thursday night, it was a great do. As usual I did my observation bit and tried to get under the skin of the key messages of the evening. Had the opportunity to talk to successful business people and politicians and listened to several speeches – what was my conclusion? A bunch of people who have a love and passion almost to obsession for their City. Other cities talk about “Family” but to me its nothing but rhetoric. Esther McVey, and Max Steinberg set the scene with an update of whats happening in Liverpool but what really engaged me was Joe Anderson leader of Liverpool City Council. A man of who spoke from the heart and with bags of forward thinking. More specifically he focused on what they are going to do, not what they were thinking of doing. His enthusiasm for enterprise and entrepreneurship is reflected  in the fact that Liverpool is hosting the Global Entrepreneurship Congress (Kauffman Foundation) – a big tick in the box for enterprise in my view.

There is something about Liverpool that I just can’t put my finger on, an invisible force a bit like the wind you cant see it but you know it’s there. Without doubt there is a stronger sense of community than in any other city I visit. (The story of how the Cathedral was built is brilliant – donations from residents). The underlying spirit manifests into a mindset conditioned to think big, move forward, stop living in the past and make it happen. As I said in previous blogs, cities and the general economy need mavericks, individuals who want to build momentum. They set out on a journey to change things for the greater good, not just for themselves. I saw loads of it the other night. Pity I had to get up at 4.30 Friday morning to drive South or it would have been an even better do!

 

 

 


Smart Operator – High Growth Individuals

19/07/2011

Recent economic challenges have placed serious pressure on people to think very differently. Business as usual is not an option, its time for something completely different. Cuts in public and private sector budgets have taken their toll – redundancies, lost revenue, projects going on hold…the story goes on. So what’s the answer? Manage decline and depression or look for the opportunities. As one delegate at an event I spoke at the other week put it….”recession, I have decided not to participate”. A very refreshing approach and outlook, the very opposite to the doom and gloom the media encourages us to embrace.

The answer is to practice and develop the Smart Operator Mindset – this ultimately leads to the creation of the high growth individual. We should draw parallels from the world of enterprise and create our own personal business plan, one that maps out a destination with the prioritized tasks to get us there. Here are some pointers for the Smart Operator Mindset:

1. Smart Proposition – define your unique talents, what you love doing, what you want, what gets out of bed. Aligning a future to a basic purpose really does help to accelerate the way forward.

2. Smart Vision – write down your personal intentions for 6 months, 1 year, and 2-years. Base this on your Smart Proposition. Include earnings and other components that make up the life you want

3. Smart Plan – remember a vision without tactics is hallucination. List the things you need to do and get on with it. The right path will emerge when activity is initiated.  Avoid procrastination. Set yourself KPI’s to check whether you are on track.

4. Smart Brand – you are selling yourself, so work out what mental imprints you want to leave on those you meet. Be memorable, deliver on your promises and become the master of your trade. This is what you will become known for.

5. Smart Collaborator – work out who you need to engage and team up with. Alliances and partnerships are a critical part of the Smart Operators DNA.

6. Smart Communicator – master the art of getting messages across, think win-win and live in the world of your audience. Clarity and concise messages that considers both your needs and those of others lead to positive relationships that go somewhere.

7. Smart Connector – work out a plan for finding, reaching and locking into to those individuals and organisations that are important to your personal progression. The connectors and influencers could include suppliers, banks, associates, partners, customers, other departments.

Practice makes perfect, another cliché that I hate, but its true. As Malcolm Gladwell said it takes 10,000 hours to become successful, so that means blood, sweat and tears, I still don’t think there are any short cuts to getting want you want. A combination of being really good at what you love doing, combined with taking ownership of your life fused with determination and persistence help pave the way forward. The Smart Operator Mindset is a framework for you to hang your thinking on.

 


High Growth Companies – “Sell the Love”

15/07/2011

Yesterday morning I spoke to a fantastic group of ambitious high growth SMEs. The theme was how do growth businesses embrace a winning approach to selling. My aim was to dispel some of the myths that go with this notoriously challenging dimension of business growth. Other key messages included, superior and sustained sales growth is achieved when there is clarity in the business model, strong team ethos, robust processes and systems linked to clearly differentiated propositions.

We also discussed what makes great selling at the coal face. When you love, believe in and are passionate about what you are offering it creates an energy and customers will very often tune into messages at an emotional level. If you don’t love what you are offering don’t expect the customer to.  Only last week my philosophy of selling from within was summed up wonderfully by a delegate at another event, she said “my best sales performances are when I get the opportunity to just talk about what we do and how we add value”. The era of the hard sell is over, the order of the day is building customer relationships through partnerships and collaboration. It is vital to embrace this mindset when you turn up to your customers. Dont let them think you are only there to flog them something.


High Growth Foundation – ambition into revenue

23/06/2011

I am delighted by the feedback from our High Growth Foundation forays. There is so much energy, ambition and desire from many entrepreneurs to build bigger and better businesses, even in the face of the current economic challenges. With such deeply rooted personal intentions I hope the HGF will trigger the necessary game plans to move dreams into revenue reality. My vision for the High Growth Foundation is to provide a vehicle to support ambitious individuals on their growth journey. Many of us are motivated by the stories and experiences of others, they help to rewire old thinking and give way to new possibilities, ones we may have thought were out of our grasp. Facilitating conversations between likeminded individuals will deliver a breeding ground for the next generation of global and companies of scale. The HGF will be the catalyst for experience sharing and learning new ways of solving the challenges that come with growth. Any movement or community of significance started with individuals who had a common goal – Manchester music scene, Impressionists in Paris, Motown in Detroit..

I am keen for members to get involved by sharing their stories and experiences, I am also encouraging participants to gain insight and seek advice from other members who may have experienced similar problems.  With over 60 members so far I am really chuffed that this new forum will start to address the gritty, granular and complex matters of growth – the text books often don’t get anywhere near the real issues, this is because people and their associated emotions often hinder growth and at a worst case hold it back.

The High Growth Foundation marks the dawn of a new beginning for busy (and lonely) people wanting business advice – guidance that is founded on experience and empathy with the journey. Equally it is my wish for members to be a voice for the growth community.  This will help to inform many of the policymakers on how difficult growing a business can be and indeed what support is needed at the coalface.

SME’s are the unsung hero’s of the economy and will drive new jobs over the coming years – they need all the support they can get – however, this must be quality. By collaborating with our friends, trusted partners, and individuals with the credibility to help gazelles, my crusade is to build energy and momentum in this valuable space of the UK economy.

Individuals who take risk deserve to enjoy the success that comes with the hard graft and dedication of setting up and running their own business. Please contact me if you want to join the crusade……..


Resilience – A characteristic of ambitious entrepreneurs

19/06/2011

The last five years of reviewing and observing how high growth entrepreneurs go about their job has revealed many interesting behaviours. One of the most valuable is the power of resilience – an ability to maintain momentum when everything seems to be going pear-shaped. When you listen to the stories of those who have achieved something of significance in business, it almost seems mandatory to have suffered financial, commercial and emotional hardship. Many I speak to recite their story of misfortune with total clarity and passion. They talk with great pride how they turned difficult times into prosperity and growth.Without having gone through the pain of managing difficult times business wisdom is hard to acquire.

 

I believe the underlying force that enables people to keep going is the power of purpose and having faith in their mission. Whilst many had a realistic view of the reality of difficult times ahead, whether that be running out of cash, revenues declining or challenging economic conditions they never lost sight of what they set out to achieve. The burning sense of purpose and intention creates resilience and an ability to keep plodding on. Without a clear sense of what you want to achieve and deep-rooted desire, falling at the first hurdle is almost inevitable.

Success is underpinned by a strong sense of purpose and clarity of intention. This creates resilience in those dark times.

 

 


Pursue Your Unique Talents – Don’t Waste Your Life

05/06/2011

It’s a great feeling when you realise what you are really good at and then pursue it as a career, vocation or business. It’s equally sad that so many people go through life without truly allowing their craft to precipitate into a worthy mission and profession. All too often the majority follow a mundane occupation without any enthusiasm or energy – a lack lustre performance seems to dominate each and every day. The reality is  money needs to come in to pay the bills…..so very few take the risk, gamble and have the courage to pursue the things they love doing. Building a life and family around the proceeds of your passion can add to the pressure. Not many go for it, I believe less than 5% would be my best guess.

I can only speak from experience – left a well paid job, pay out etc to pursue a dream. The reality of no monthly pay check and insecurity focus’ the mind. The ups and downs that go with the pursuit of a personal mission and ambition can leave individuals feeling lonely and insecure. Well my only advice  to anyone reading this blog is work out what you really good at and direct this to your life plan. When you align your energies to your passion the chances of success are far greater and indeed the journey is more fulfilling. If it does not work out then no one can say you did not have a go! Try to anticipate the risks and work out how to mitigate them.

Life is too short to go unrecognised, discover what you are great at, build momentum by talking action and maintain the relentless pursuit of your intentions. Dont look back and say I wish I would have……


Manchester Giants

31/03/2011

So why has Manchester and the surrounding region not created a Facebook, Google, LinkedIn or global giant for a such a long time?

We have so many fantastic stories of success, one of which I was with yesterday JD Sports plc based in Bury. This is just an amazing story from one shop in Bury in the early 80’s to a business today turning over some £800M and employing 10,000 people. They also have made acquisitions and joint ventures in New Zealand, Australia, USA, France and Hong Kong. Having spent an hour with Executive Chairman Peter Cowgill yesterday you see why they have done what they have done – commercial focus, attention to the audience they serve, people development coupled with personal energy, drive, vision and a sense of grounded humility are key ingredients of creating such a success story.

The key for the economy going forward is that we need to create, nurture and support more of these companies. So what is the blocker? Why is the University not creating more companies of this scale – after all Manchester has more Nobel Prize winners than any other university in the UK (after Cambridge, London and Oxford). So what is the problem?

1. Lack of funds

2. Insufficient scaleable business ideas

3. Lack of ambition and big thinking

4. Lack of connectivity between entrepreneurs and funders

5. Poorly developed networks

Well from what I see and hear there is no shortage of funds, an entrepreneurial culture, massive talent and well qualified individuals – something is not right with the infrastructure. We have some fantastic businesses in Manchester, but not enough of the scale such as JD.

So what is the missing bit of the jigsaw?