Tuesday, 30 September 2008

'An Eclectic Dinner (In a Bank) On A Monday Evening'

In all I do, in my life and business, I get a kick out of one thing (amongst others): meeting new people.

Last night I had dinner with a former winner of ‘The Apprentice’, a Zoo keeper, and a former US fighter pilot turned marketing guru who is now running a livestock farm (he's a juggler). What a mix! And not your usual setting for dinner: held in the director’s dining room at a bank (great wine and a three course meal in a great setting).

Thanks to Mike Southon for organising and inviting me…

Monday, 29 September 2008

Short Is Sweet

Through all I do, I LOVE brevity.

Why send a long email when you can distill it into a single punchy paragraph?

Why have a 2 hour meeting when 30 minutes can do?

Why write a 70,000 word book when you can say what you need in 38,500?!

But so many people in business get it wrong. A 78 slide powerpoint presentation. A 46 page PDF 'handy guide' (46 pages is not 'handy'!). A meeting that goes on and on.

So keep it short, and keep it simple.

Let's Stay Optimistic

Of course, everyone is talking about the Credit Crunch and how bad things are. And sure – they are not easy. But there's still room for optimism.

At my end of the market clients are still seeking ways to exploit their potential and to sell themselves. Clients are still looking for innovative ways to survive and that means few are cutting back on hiring services to help them with market positioning or helping them re engineer their brands and operations.

Despite the downturn, people are still spending money. In my local high street there are tens of jobs being advertised in shop windows for part and full time retail staff. And amongst my clients, businesses are still winning projects and clients, they are still needing to market and advertise what they do.

I met a guy last week who was forced to take the leap from his job. When I saw him a few weeks ago days before his anticipated redundancy, he was scared. Now he's bullish. He has opportunities as a freelance consultant with more gigs than he can handle. He met with me to see if I had the bandwidth to handle new projects, to share some of the opportunities together. And I don't. I'm busy too. Starting on a new assignment today, things continuing.

Writing this is in my second favourite coffee shop in Brushfield St, I'm in the shadow of offices blocks in The City of London where large floors of people would disagree with me. Yes, I know things are tough but opportunities persist for those who are enterprising enough to carve them out. I acknowledge, it is a tough time for property, banking and mortgages and anyone who works in those sectors. It is a tough time for anyone trying to secure start up funding. But at the end of the spectrum with small virtual businesses, freelancers, one person business units, people who keep it lean and do not overexpose themselves, hey – there is still business out there.

It's just about embracing and surviving change...

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Patience & Passion: A Lesson From Gary V

There's so much of what Gary Vaynerchuk says that resonates with my own philosophy; I'd be foolish to try and say it in my own words. Instead, just check him out direct.

Here's a short video of him on stage from last week's Web 2.0 Expo in New York (Warning: this video is Gary in full flow and contains language that may offend).

Lesson #1: 'Don't Do S**t You Hate' (it's that simple). And if you like what he's saying, buy my book 'Juggle' (it's that simple).

Leap Takeaway #2: Be A Safe Pair Of Hands

The second video on the menu of the Leap Takeaways offers advice on how to win and retain clients. Whether you are a start-up business or an executive in a big organisation, it’s about being a safe pair of hands in all you do

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

To Blog Or Not To Blog

Over the years I've had a lot of discussions with clients and friends about the merits of blogging.

"If you're not blogging, you're an idiot," management guru Tom Peters told hundreds of attendees at the Inc. 5000 conference last week. "No single thing in the last 15 years has been more important to me professionally than blogging... It's changed my thinking, it’s changed my outlook… it’s the best damn marketing tool and it’s free."

You can't argue with that.

'That's Not My Job!'

A lot of myths persist in business. And some of those are about the parameters to our roles, where workers and executives get entrenched in a fixed job title or job spec with no flexibility. The reality of course - especially for us Jugglers - is that success is about being fluid.

In small businesses, people tend to be good at juggling lots of different roles. In some start-ups when there's only the founders to staff the office, the owner of the company answers the phone, assembles her own desk and does sales at the same time as ordering stationery. The best thing about a company I once worked at? That spirit. No grumbles. Everyone got involved in everything, answering the phone, dealing with a client problem, contributing at meetings, taking the mail to the post office, even putting shelves up. That spirit made me proud to work there, it came to define us. Saying ‘that’s not my job’ was not part of our organisational vocabulary. We had our core responsibilities but were small enough a business to mix stuff up. Morale, productivity, success – lots of that was related to the spirit in the office. But alas, things change.

As organisations grow, when people get given A Job Title with job descriptions and then they can get defensive doing stuff that's not on their job spec. You start to hear cries of 'that's not my job!’

But as we re-think work, even big organisations are changing their cultures regarding who does what role. And there are signs that barriers are crumbling as they encourage a juggle spirit where we all do a mix of stuff, we are not above some tasks just because we're the boss. Sometimes that's about being prepared to stay hands on, or perhaps get your hands dirty. After all, it's important for the boss to still be able to do a sell or to deal with a customer on the 'phone – she needs to stay in touch with the business.

Wherever practical, get your company or team happy to embrace everything in that juggle spirit. The CEO answers the ‘phone. Anyone – whoever – who is passing through reception greets a guest and gets them a coffee.

Embrace people of different skill sets and perspectives in decision making. Avoid pigeon holing. Like when I said to the accountant, 'what do you think of the new logo we're looking at' and she said, 'oh no – that's not for me to look at. That's your job'. Wrong.

Make it everyone's business (literally).

Monday, 22 September 2008

Being Bold

The management guru Tom Peters has always been a source of inspiration to me. From ‘discovering’ him at university in the late ‘80s and ploughing through many of his management books, his writing has inspired and encouraged change in my working life.

I am chuffed to be on the blogroll at TomPeters.com, a site worth visiting for lively and stimulating debate. Through the site I met management consultant Trevor Gay who’s a regular contributor to the site. Trevor’s mantra in business is dead simple: it’s all about simplicity. So much of what Trevor says is music to my ears.

He’s just done a short interview on Nick McCormick’s blog where Trevor imparts a management tip: on the benefits of being bold. Listen to it here.

Trevor tells the story of how he managed to get Sir Alex Ferguson to endorse his book. He just ‘phoned his office up...! And an approach I have often taken myself if I want to get in touch with someone. Indeed, it's how I got the endorsements for my own books.

And there’s a lot to be said for taking that approach in business and life.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Introducing ‘Leap Takeaways’: #1 BE RAPID

I have produced a series of nine short and snappy videos, ‘Leap Takeaways’ in which I give small businesses, freelancers and the self-employed tips on staying ahead of the game, how to keep clients and how to ensure you succeed and survive.

The first one is all about the importance of being rapid.

Communicating Your DNA

‘Executing against your DNA’ is important but remember to manage the market perception of you.

I’ve talked before about personal branding. That’s so important to have a coherent personal brand message whether you are an executive in a corporation or a freelancer.And when you are a generalist rather than a specialist; when you are a multi-dimensional juggler – then it's even more crucial.

I met an old contact yesterday, I had not seen him for at least four years. I updated him on what I am doing. I talked about the risk of being pigeonholed. He understands my strengths and my diversity but we agreed that if you asked ten different people what Ian Sanders is, you might get 10 different answers. That is fine, because that reflects my plurality as a juggler, but it also gives some challenges.

It's crucial to unite the seemingly disparate elements of your portfolio in a single personal brand. In my case, what is Ian Sanders' business OHM about?
Two things.
One, we work with clients to exploit their market potential.
Two, in all we do, we are a Safe Pair Of Hands for projects, from conception to delivery.

Whatever my business does, whatever clients, sectors, projects I serve, I ensure these are valid to everything we do, everything I do.

It’s my DNA; it's my brand equity, it's what I am about.

And I apply that criteria to every client we work with, every project we work on.

So develop your personal brand equity - and shout about it.

Monday, 15 September 2008

Loving Being On The Same Wavelength

If I was going to sum up my new book ‘Juggle’ in a few words, it would be about the importance of being multi-dimensional, of avoiding being pigeonholed and just being YOU. It’s been my story, through all my career but especially since I worked for myself. Doing my own thing. Wearing loads of different hats, mixing up a load of interests and business activities. Stuff like ‘serious’ marketing, co-devising a book for kids, presenting a bunch of videos, managing a rock band, advising an arts festival, writing a book - all in the same week, let alone the same lifetime. I love that.

I sat next to a woman at a wedding reception the week before last and we were both excited to have such common ground. Rachel Beer’s story is very much my story – we found we are on the same wavelength with us doing a bunch of stuff; our business offering reflecting our personality. It’s great to meet a kindred spirit like that.

So when I just clicked play on Gary Vaynerchuk’s latest video post on being multi-dimensional I was similarly excited; it was the online equivalent of sitting next to someone at a wedding and discovering that kindred spirit! His message = my message. He says: Don’t be scared of being multi-dimensional, execute against your DNA, and don’t be pigeonholed.

It’s no coincidence of course that Gary V is one of the featured jugglers in the book; so they’ll be more from him when it comes out next year.

Check out Gary’s video here. And in his words, ‘Execute Against Your DNA’


It’s easy to have a go at London. Tyler Brûlé does a good job in many of his ‘Fast Lane’ columns in the weekend FT. Sometimes with good reason, especially if he’s bemoaning the short comings of Heathrow and our struggling transport infrastructure. But for everything: business, culture, eating out and hanging out London can’t be beaten. And with the Olympics here in 4 years, it’s time to celebrate London.

It’s centre of excellence for the creative industries helped ‘Fast Company’ magazine named London ‘Global city of the year’ earlier this year and Alice Rawsthorn wrote a great essay about the city from an international perspective in its June issue.

Although I’ve become more nomadic to not have a ‘proper office’ (or my home) in the city anymore, we still benefit from our proximity to the city. We had dinner in the West End last Friday night and were back home – by a fast car – within the hour (just).

So whilst I’m still open-minded to live near or in any city, London is very much part of my story. Its creativity and entrepreneurial spirit was the catalyst for my business and marketing consultancy
OHM, and that’s where most of my clients are.

Read the Fast Company article here. Fast Company published my (edited) response to the article, in this month’s issue of the magazine.

Going Places

I’m not great at switching off, especially when on holiday, especially when I have an idea to ruminate on or a book to write. The last six holidays I’ve been on with the family I have been pre-occupied by ‘Leap’, ‘Juggle’ and other bits and pieces.

Just back from a week in the north east of Mallorca where I was literally able to switch off - a real treat. Just one client ‘phone call in the whole week, plus I only checked emails at the local biblioteca a few times the whole week.

My two young sons made sure I did not get through my pile of books and papers to read. But I did get through a large chunk of Sean Condon’s ‘My ‘Dam Life’, a memoir of an Australian travel writer and advertising man’s years in Amsterdam. I have a love affair with the city and would love to live and work there for a time. So Sean’s book was an amusing insight into what’s it’s like for an expat trying to find his feet in the city (or more like trying to find an apartment, let alone his feet).

I wonder if Sean has read Alain de Botton’s ‘The Art Of Travel’? When I first read this extract a few years ago it seemed to sum up my passion for the city.

In one street lined with uniform apartment buildings, I stopped by a red front door and felt an intense longing to spend the rest of my life there. Above me on the second floor, I could see an apartment with three large windows and no curtains. The walls were painted white and decorated with a single large painting covered with small blue and red dots. There was an oak desk against a wall, a large bookshelf and an armchair. I wanted the life that this space implied. I wanted a bicycle. I wanted to put my key through the red front door every evening, I wanted to stand by the curtainless window at dusk looking out an identical apartment opposite and snack my way through an erwentsoep met roggebrood en spek before retiring to read in bed in a white room with white sheets.

Or maybe that’s just the romantic in me?

Either way as I said to my wife on the plane on the weekend, it’s great to know that we could go anywhere, just like that. I can literally work from any city or anywhere. So long as I’m close-ish to London to see clients. My business/ our family life is flexible enough to embrace change.

And regardless of where I go, that’s a very liberating feeling.

Friday, 5 September 2008

Here's the cover design..

After much debate and deliberation, here’s the cover design for the new book.

Nice work Ricky!

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

'The Juggle Interviews'

Later in the year we’ll be releasing a series of videos ‘The Juggle Interviews’. In each video I will be interviewing a business ‘juggler’ and talking about the themes from my book. We have already filmed two interviews with jugglers Kevin Roberts and Mike Southon (here's me and Mike above); both of which have been filmed on roof terraces, in Paris and London. That’s whetted our appetite and now we are looking to interview more jugglers on rooftop locations.

Our juggler Roxanne has her popular video blog called ‘Beach Walks’; for this I am thinking we could call ours ‘Roof Talks’...