Thursday, 31 January 2008

A different way to do networking...

When you are running your own business, at the end of the day there is only one thing that counts.

Relationships. Establishing, exploiting, nurturing and managing relationships is what it's all about.

If I look at my existing client portfolio and work out where those relationships came from, they came from friends, former colleagues, contacts from my last 'proper job'. Renewing and growing your relationships is key to the development of your business.

Some people advocate the importance of business networking clubs, networking breakfasts and membership of organisations to create business opportunities. But like any relationship, success is often difficult to contrive - it's about chemistry and it's also about luck.
Just because you stick 20 men and women together in a room doesn't mean they will do business together.

Proving this point, today's Daily Telegraph has a feature on 'The Mother Of All Business Networks'; which reveals that many commercial partnerships and new business ventures have been conceived through attending The National Childbirth Trust parenting classes. Parents-to-be sharing a sofa and talking about nappies and breast feeding have also shared business ideas and set up in business together. The feature profiles two guys who started a financial software business after meeting at an NCT class. Indeed at my own NCT class for our first child, talk amongst the blokes soon turned to work and one of the dads-to-be was a senior Marketing Manager at a client of mine; an other was a record producer. We had more in common than just our partners being pregnant.

So if you want to meet some people to do business with, don't join a networking club. Get pregnant...

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Doing 'New Stuff'

I had lunch last week with a client, a brand manager who was talking about about a TV deal he'd had to strike.

'But I didn't know anything about negotiating TV deals' he commented.
Yes, but you didn't know anything about doing publishing deals either, but you did that okay too, I reminded him.

And that's the whole point of life in the Scrambled Up World Of Work. There's no training courses, no manual to read on deal-making, no seminar to attend on new technology. You just have to embrace it all and get on with it. Find out, learn and fast. And the best way to do the finding out bit, is by just getting on with it.

Executives have to broaden their skill-sets and talents as they go. You learn on the job.
And if you want to be enterprising and you want to be successful, there is no alternative.

Fifteen years ago I had no idea of how to run an audio facilities house. Ditto producing a big event, managing a band and all the other ventures and projects I have ever been involved with.

Saying 'I don't know how to do that' is just not an option when you have to deal with new stuff. And there's no training course to go on either....

Monday, 28 January 2008

Thank You

Thanks to everyone who's supported, bought and spread the word on 'Leap!'.
Right now it's reached #1 in's chart on 'Starting a Business' books.
Thank You!

Thursday, 24 January 2008

All you need is a 'phone..

The world’s business leaders, journalists, bloggers and economists are at The World Economic Forum in Davos this week. Serial blogger Robert Scoble is in Davos filing live video blogs online, interviewing participants. He’s using a service called qik to do live video streaming from his Nokia ‘phone, taking comments and questions from viewers on his ‘phone mid interview. Live video broadcasting from a mobile ‘phone is pretty impressive.

Watch Robert’s interviews here

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

A Place To Work

Work is what I do, not where I go.

I don’t ‘go’ to work, in the traditional sense.

I operate from a number of workspaces. As a friend pointed out the other day when he got my ‘out of office’ autoresponse on email,

“What do you mean you are out of the office?” he came back. “You ARE your office!”

And he was right.

I use The Hospital
as my London place to ‘work’, meeting clients, catching up on emails, doing stuff. The Hospital is a media centre and club for the creative industries and is full of similar micro-entrepreneurs like me.

One Alfred Place is a new London club for on-the-go-entrepreneurs and seeks to capitalise the one-person business niche, providing workspace, business services and meeting rooms at a Central London location. And certainly there is a market for that, somewhere in between the uber cool of The Hospital where bars are more important than workspaces and say, the Institute Of Directors which is primarily full of suits.

The Hospital works well for me, but One Alfred Place’s philosophy is to not base the offering on wining and dining like most other London clubs, but instead be focused on actually somewhere to do business. Their mojitos may not be great, but you might find it a more effective place to work. And they even have a club ‘cabin’ where you can take a power nap.

As business becomes more global and more virtual, the importance of bricks and mortar offices is reduced. Why make a big investment in office overheads in a single location if you need to be conducting business all over the place?

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Visualising Goals

(with apologies for self-indulgence)

When I set myself the goal of getting a book published, I visualised seeing the book on display in a bookshop.

And here it is. Waterstone’s. Piccadilly. London. 16 January ’08.

But not quite a Bestseller (yet)

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Make This Your Leap Year...

They say that January is the busiest time for solicitors to be instructed on divorce proceedings. But people aren't just quitting relationships with their partners at this time of year; they're also quitting relationships with their employers. A new year is a good time to make that decision about ditching your job to go it alone. I took that Leap in 2000. It seemed appropriate making a landmark change in such a landmark year. A good time to start something new.

I felt like a pioneer then, changing my working life so radically. Now, eight years later everyone’s doing it. The world is full of the self-employed: workers running businesses from spare rooms, attics and sheds. When you first announce you are setting up on your own, friends think that you've taken the easy option, to sit in coffee shops all day and read the paper. Or if you work at home, they think you spend all day on the sofa watching daytime telly. But taking it easy is the last thing on your mind. Because the first thing you work out when you go it alone is: how am I going to generate some revenues? How am I going to pay the bills with no such thing as a pay cheque anymore? And that's very focusing (and bloody scary). How do I turn my ideas, or my meetings this week into invoices? And inevitably they'll be many espressos drunk in coffee shops but no daytime telly being watched (unless it's, ahem, for ‘research’). So there's no option to take it easy.

Getting the money. That’s the important bit and also the tough bit. A client asked me how I go about generating more business. There's no proven process, no simple solution. It can take an age to nurture relationships from meeting to invoice. The Creative Economy is full of clusters of creative talent, people doing it by themselves. Directors, Talent Agents, Designers, Writers. Go in any coffee shop and you'll see us all, laptops fired up, talking, meeting. And whatever the business development process, we're all trying our hands at a bit of magic. Focused on the challenge of turning an idea into an invoice.

The good thing about working for someone else is that you can bask in the collective glory of the company, its achievements and the brand, regardless of your own contributions. Do your own thing, and that's turned on its head. It's about 'Brand You'. Who you are, what you do, what you offer. It's like quitting a band to go solo, can you pull it off without having all the other band members behind you? So you need to wrap up your craft, your ideas, your intellectual capital into a compelling product or service.

Launching a new business is a bit like having a baby. Conceiving it can be fun, delivery is hard work, and once started its bloody hard work with plenty of sleepless nights. And as for what name you’re going to call it, now that will really keep you up all night.

The upsides of working for yourself are that you can do stuff in an instant, there are no rules. Carving out your own role is great with all that flexibility, autonomy and independence. But out of the comfort of a 'proper job' there's stuff I still miss about the camaraderie and spirit of working as part of a big team. Because it can get lonely at times and now it’s you – who on earth is going to make the tea?

But you have what we all strive for in life: you have a CHOICE. To choose how and when you work, to choose what you do and what you don't do. And that's priceless.

I met an old colleague for a drink last month. He was deliberating whether to take the leap or stay in the job where he'd been offered a new role and an attractive salary package. It's easy to get bogged down in the decision making process, weighing up business plans and market evaluations; seeking advice from friends and mentors. So you need to use that much under-rated business tool: Instinct.

So I said to this guy; "What does your heart say?"

"That it's time for a change" he replied in a beat.

And with that, he leapt.

This piece was written for The Hospital Club online newsletter

Monday, 14 January 2008


When you’re busy it’s easy to rely on an email and a ‘phone call to keep in touch with a client or a contact. But sometimes it’s worth remembering the value of face to face communication. A client left me a voicemail. He wanted to talk to me about something. We could have done it in a 15 minute ‘phone call but I said I would pop by their office and chat about it direct.

That turned into a 90 minute meeting with two executives, giving me the chance to find out about their priorities, to learn about a business opportunity and to pitch an idea to them. I wouldn’t have achieved any of that without a face to face meeting.

So in this virtual world, stay visible.

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Inspiration from BeachWalks

Roxanne Darling has been posting regular almost-daily Beach Walks videos for a few years, and is now up to #559; insightful and inspirational nuggets on life and business. Unscripted but meaningful rambles to camera from Rox on the beach in her native Hawaii as she walks her dog before her daily swim. Watch on the website or as a podcast.

Her recent video is on the democratisation of being an expert. I've always positioned myself as a generalist rather than an expert: good at lots of stuff, rather than just at one thing. Which is always a tough sell. It's a theme I talk about in "Leap!”

Writing that book has - I guess - made me an expert on working for yourself. But in the democratisation of expertise, being an expert is not about academia or being an intellectual; it's about DOING IT. And that’s what success is all about…