Sunday, 30 November 2008

Michael Knock 1945-2008

Part of my Juggle philosophy in re-thinking work is not just mixing up your passions in your worklife but also mixing up work and play; not working so hard you have no time for switching off. It’s about living your dreams and desires now rather than putting them on hold until a traditional retirement goal.

My uncle Michael Knock died in November. He was only 63 and had worked very hard all his life. His work life was what defined him, he was passionate about working in the property business and had worked for the same company from 5th August 1963 up until this summer when his cancer accelerated and he went back into hospital. That’s a remarkable 45 years with the same company, from office junior straight out of school to managing partner. He followed in the footsteps of his father who worked there; and his son has continued that family tradition as a partner there .

I have an enormous amount of respect for him, for someone who worked so hard with such dedication. I was also pleased to enjoy a close business relationship with him over the last couple of years as I produced some marketing materials for him, helping to update the image of the company he ran which celebrates its 90 year anniversary next year. But to die at 63 when he had so much more of life to enjoy is so sad, because unlike the juggle generation, he was working so hard he had not found time for much switching off.

I shall miss him.

His obituary from the local newspaper The Echo is here

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Reconfigure Your Cashews

Reading through the last hitherto unread bits of November’s Fast Company (with a cup of rooibos) I was reminded about the potential of the BIG impact of small changes.

In an interview with Costco CEO Jim Sinegal, Sinegal explained how simplifying packaging had saved the company fuel:

‘We just reconfigured our cashews. They were in a round canister, and we put them in a square canister. It sounds crazy, but we saved something like 560 truckloads a year of that one product’!

Not only did changing the packaging save significant money but – of course – it’s also greener. So do the equivalent in your organisation or for your client. Make a small change to something and enjoy BIG benefits.

Go, reconfigure your cashews!

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Putting The Hours In

Malcolm Gladwell has been popping up on TV shows from 'The One Show' to 'Working Lunch' during his trip to London. Much talk on those shows has been about his new book 'Outliers' and what factors contributes to success. One of his theories about reaching success is that to be truly great at something you need to have spent 10,000 hours doing it.

I actually think people can be truly great at something quicker than that so long as they are fully focused and passionate. If you are determined and focused, I believe you can achieve most things.

Gladwell argued his case with The Beatles, who reguarly played mammoth 8 hour sets in a bar in Hamburg before they were famous, giving them incredible experience in playing live every day.

He's right that you have to put in the hours to be good at something but I don't think you always need to clock up the full 10,000 hours- that's about ten years worth. 10,000 hours over 9 years is equivalent to 3 and a bit hours a day. Looking back on my 9 year career 'Juggling' and doing my own thing in business, I have for sure, invested that many hours in those areas that have become my own expertise. But more generally it's just a matter of paying your dues, accumulating your ‘flying hours’. And whilst self-belief, passion and determination can help fast-track success, it’s the experience that’s going to make you brilliant.

Were you ever really that good the first time you did something? I know that my second book is much better than my first. I know when I first presented a radio show at the age of 17 I was crap (I was crap the tenth time I did it too - but better quality crap). The same goes to the first time I had staff to manage, the first board meeting I attended etc etc.

So whether it's 10,000 hour or 100 hours, make sure you’re putting the hours in…

Blogging Vs Tweeting

In last week's New York Times there was a piece about a new movement in blogging: 'slow blogging'. The article featured blogger Barbara Ganley who uses her blog for slow, more contemplative reflections. She suggests that whilst Twitter is a tool that cab be used to connect with people; blogs are a tool to reflect. I agree with some of that but the joy of the blogging platform is you can make it what you will. If you want to post daily or just monthly, that is fine. But for me, a blog post is about being rapid rather than slow. (As you can probably tell) my blog posts are not carefully drafted pieces of writing - that's what my books are for. Instead my blog posts are rapid brain dumps of what has inspired me. And there are no rules.

Why did I recently go 10 days without posting? I got busy.
Why did I just post a photograph up last week with no caption or explanation? I felt like it.

So if blogging can be rapid, tweeting is super-rapid; signposting a website or just a random thought on where you are at. Again I only tend to tweet once a day – that’s because I don’t have the time (nor the inclination) to be doing much more than that. But I see evidence that many others on Twitter are tweeting twenty times a day; they are using the platform to have real conversations.

The bottom line is that the joy of these platforms is they are different; they have different audiences and different dynamics. I love the simplicity and rigidity of Twitter and the flexibility of a blog post. And whether you blog or tweet daily or monthly; whether you are slow or quick, you can do whatever you fancy.

They are the tools to communicate your personal brand; so whatever you do - use them!

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Live With Malcolm Gladwell

Having enjoyed Malcolm Gladwell's Blink and The Tipping Point, I was keen to see him 'live’ when he was in London last night. In case MG has passed you by he’s what The Observer has billed, ‘the most influential thinker of the iPod generation’; he’s a columnist, writer and thinker who's enjoyed huge commercial success so I was also keen to pick up some tips.

He came on stage at The Lyceum Theatre and spoke for an hour and twenty minutes (or thereabouts) on one topic. He told one fascinating story about the human cause of ‘plane crashes, of how cultural and behavioural attitudes had caused cockpit communication to break down. To be honest, I was expecting more than one story, but it was fascinating stuff. Although as we applauded him at the end I joked to my friend Peter, ‘I didn’t realise we had come to see a talk at the Civil Aviation Authority’.

If you’d said to me that an American writer could fill a London theatre (twice) with a story about plane crashes I might have questioned your sanity, but Gladwell tells a good story. No video inserts, no PowerPoint slides just him and a microphone. Think of it as a great dinner party story but backed up with a few PhD students’ dissertations. Not only did he make good money out of selling 4,000 seats at the theatre (no production costs/ no set/ no backing band to split the door receipts with); his new book was selling well in the foyer. Nice business model!

Malcolm Gladwell seems to be in the tradition of a great intellectual; a thinker who undergoes deep research to develop his ideas as was proved with his plane crash story. Whereas I don't have that depth; my ideas are more instinctive and rapid - I don't commission deep research to back up my ideas, I just go with my gut. But certainly he has some fascinating things to say and I like how he communicates them. He's captured people's imagination.I think it's great that people are writing books on subjects like this and filling theatres too. It's like my sister said to me when I told her about my new book 'Juggle'. She said she could understand how someone could write an article or an essay on my subject; but she couldn't understand how you could write 40,000 words on it. I’m sure she would be similarly dismayed that a writer could fill a theatre twice with an anecdote about why ‘planes crash!But with Malcolm Gladwell – and my own small contribution - here's proof that you can...

Monday, 24 November 2008

'Is it work or play?'

Tonight I'm going to the theatre to see an audience with the Author and Thinker Malcolm Gladwell. My wife checked this morning, 'you're working late tonight aren't you?'. And I replied, 'Well no - it's not a meeting I'm going to' but then I thought she is right - it's part of Work. I'm sure Malcolm will inspire and stimulate a whole load of thoughts that are very much in my 'work' arena. Sure, it might be entertaining and stimulate the 'play' side of me, but it is more relevant to what I do (as an Author and Thinker myself). So yes - it's work. As I write this, I am listening to Radio 4's 'Start The Week' (also featuring Malcolm Gladwell - he gets around); and I am also dealing with some emails.

But of course this begs a whole load of questions about what is work, and what is play. Yesterday - Sunday afternoon, as many of us do, I sat in the living room and answered some client emails. Some flashes of work in an otherwise 'day off'. In the old days - and I acknowledge this is still true for millions of people - 'Work' was a place you went to, an office with four walls that defined your work identity and was the boundary between work and play. When you were home, you weren't working. Now we work not just in offices, but also at home, and a ton of places in between. It's all mixed up.

So, as I shall argue in my new book 'Juggle', 'Work' is a mindset we dip in and out of constantly. Forget Work/Life balance - this is totally about work/life integration. Work and Play are not neatly segmented disciplines but totally mixed up elements. And the future is about mixing 'em all up...!

Friday, 21 November 2008

My Love Of Writing

In 1977, aged 9, I swallowed a marble.
And I wrote a story about it that was photocopied and despatched to aunties and uncles around the country (as was the marble – but that’s another story).

Then I realised that I liked writing. So at secondary school I became editor of the school magazine, I wrote for a music fanzine in the 80s, at university I contributed a column for the student paper, in one of my jobs I edited the company newsletter. I never wanted to be a journalist (or even a writer) but I enjoyed writing. Now, I write a lot in my job. Crafting copy for a client website, writing a client ad, blogging, tweeting, writing proposals, reports.

And now – as part of my juggling - I write books. In the last 24 hours, I have just approved publisher proofs for two books, at completely different ends of the writing spectrum. One is my business/ work/ self-help book ‘Juggle’; the other, a children’s book ‘The Extremely Very Scrambled Up World Of Little Doogs’ (which I haven’t actually written; I co-devised it, but hey I get a co-writer credit). Two books with my name on them, coming to a bookstore near you very soon.
So give me a pen and a blank sheet of paper, or an empty screen and I am a happy man...

‘Remembering Who The Client Is’

There’s not much in business that is a dead cert; but one fact that informs my attitude not just in business but also as a consumer is remembering who the client is. ‘Who the client is’ is rarely ambiguous – one party is paying another in a transaction and part of that interaction relies on a service being provided.

I always remember that fact in all I do. On every project, with every client I work with, however mundane the task, the bottom line is that they have paid me (or will be paying me) and I need to deliver. I try and remember that everyone has a choice in a free market; they don’t have to use my business.

Of course I expect the same from my own suppliers – that they are client-friendly and they provide a great service. That they remember which party is ‘paying the bill’ (or indeed, ‘paying their bills’).

I recently went in to a newsagent to buy a newspaper. I walked up to the counter where the shopkeeper was on the ‘phone. I smiled, said ‘hello’, gave him money and said ‘thank you’. Not only did he fail to pause his conversation, he failed to acknowledge the transaction or say thank you (or anything) back. I told him what I thought of his service - but maybe he didn’t hear me because he was still on the ‘phone.

So, please: always remember, whatever side of the metaphorical counter you are on, who the client is.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Why I Don’t Do Beauty Parades Anymore

My ‘virtual friend’ Michelle Goodman did a guest post at the New York Times Shifting Careers Blog, ‘When To Work For Free’. It got me thinking…

Michelle is certainly right that many of us who run small businesses or freelance are asked to do stuff for free. And sometimes, I have chosen to work pro bono, for example, for a ‘not for profit client’ but I try not to work for free where the client has a big budget! In the process of business development, we are often asked to come up with a bunch of ideas for a prospective client in order to ‘prove our credentials’ or we are expected to give a hint of a strategy as a teaser. And yes, that is inevitable but I have also got my fingers burnt. I have ‘given away’ too much insight and intellectual capital before a client commits (if they commit). I gave so much detail away in a proposal once to a client, I gave him all the insight for him to go off and do the project himself - he never hired me! We have done too much on proposals and pitches, where we are evaluated in a beauty parade alongside competitive pitches. And I try not to do that anymore.

It is accepted practice that creative agencies pitch against others to win client accounts. If you are shopping for creative services, a brand refresh or a new marketing strategy a client will ask to come up with a bunch of ideas for free. If you win the beauty parade they may hire you; if you don’t, who knows how your ideas may influence and inform a direction or strategy, with no reward? It’s a funny old practice, and I wonder why it still persists.

And yes, I’ve done it a few times to win high profile clients, I took that risk (and it worked, we won it). But I have also wasted man days in working up proposals; I’ve twisted the arms of talented designers asking them to create brand identities and creative treatments for work we may not win, or worse, where the client is ‘going through the motions’ of a pitch process but they knew who they would appoint from day #1. But no other industry works like this; you don’t ask prospective suppliers to actually do the bulk of the work, giving away their talents, before you appoint them. Of course, a proposal is a critical part of the sales process but you need to balance that with not giving away too much.

There are some exceptions. Pitches where you get paid for your work regardless of whether you win. Accounts where the reward is huge and the opportunity to be short-listed is like gold dust, but generally, especially at the grass roots end where small agencies do not have teams of people sitting around available, this practice risks exploitation.

So if you want to work with me or my business, sure let’s talk, let’s meet up but I won’t do loads of work up front - on spec- before we have agreed a relationship. Because you either want to work with me or you don’t!

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

‘Martha and Me’

This is me interviewing Martha Lane Fox yesterday. This was filmed in the latest in the series of ‘Juggle Interviews’ which will be released later this year. We look like we are in the on-board bar on Eurostar but in fact we were in the basement bar at Lucky Voice, Martha’s karaoke club in Soho.

Martha was a true icon of the Dot Com years as founder of that she founded 10 years ago. Now she’s a real Juggler, running Lucky Voice, a charitable trust Antigone, plus she’s on the board of Marks & Spencer, of Channel 4 and also Mydeco.

We had a fascinating conversation about how she juggles such a demanding portfolio, how passion is the driver behind all she does and how she rarely manages to switch off. We discussed what took her from a virtual business to a ‘bricks and mortar’ business; we talked about whether the Work Martha is the Real Martha and she told me how important she thinks the power of song is.

Thanks to Martha, Ellie and the team down at Lucky Voice Poland Street and also to Steven and Clem for shooting it.

The Next 'Apprentice'?

A few months ago I got a call from a BBC producer asking if I wanted to take part in a new reality business show. It was going to start filming in June and I had to commit to be available for filming (and away from my business – and family)– for up to six weeks. I couldn’t make that kind of commitment.

The new show airs tonight on BBC3 and it’s called The Last Millionaire. 12 young entrepreneurs travel around the world completing tasks; the winners go home, the loser stays.

(Hmm, think I was better off out of that one...!)

Monday, 10 November 2008 refreshed and relaunched

My Ian Sanders website at has just been re-launched to include the new book 'Juggle' (not sure where I'll put the third book?!)

More Than One Thing

Some of my new book ‘Juggle’ is about the notion of people doing more than one thing in their lives; eschewing categorisation and a single job title to mix up their passions in a unique business portfolio.

That fascinates me; I love meeting people who mix things up and break the old rules of work. I was reading one of my favourite newspaper features, ‘Expat Lives’ in the Weekend FT and the interview was with a guy who has a web-design business, works in a clothing business and performs as a musician. All at the same time.

Tomorrow I am interviewing two people for my series of short films, ‘The Juggle Interviews’. One is Martha Lane Fox, an entrepreneur whose portfolio includes running a karaoke business ‘Lucky Voice', two charities and also she’s on the board of Channel 4 and M&S. The other is an old friend David Sloly who is Creative Director at the technology ad agency Mason Zimbler. He may have one job title, but he mixes up his passions to do more than one thing.

The interviews will be posted online later in the year.

Start Up Success

Amongst all the business pessimism out there, I have always maintained there are still a lot of opportunities out there for start-ups with the right approach and a lean operation. In the Weekend FT there was a an article echoing my belief, ‘Rapid Rise in Spare Room Start Ups’, that cited research that reported a 16% rise in people launching businesses in their spare rooms.

Read Jonathan Moules’ article here.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Introducing 'The Schnoops'

I've always been fascinated - and driven - by creating something from nothing, turning a random idea, a quirky scribble in a notepad into a tangible product. My business OHM has helped clients realise the potential of ideas, launching new products and ventures.

For a number of years I have had the idea about creating a new intellectual property for children. Indeed, I found a notebook from 2002 where – on holiday in Turkey – I articulated such a goal. Coincidentally, on that very holiday I met the son of
Oliver Postgate, the creator of the children's series Ivor The Engine and The Clangers, and I was inspired by the power of such creations.

Back in 2005, when my first son was born he had a handful of soft toys that got me thinking. It inspired a bunch of characters I created; five animals with distinctive personalities (above is a picture taken from an early proposal document I drafted). I dreamed of doing something with this little world I had created so I asked my friend, a children's writer
Fiona Cummings if she would work with me on an idea. Working together we developed the characters and storylines and Fiona very patiently started writing a series of books 'The Extremely Very Scrambled Up World of Little Doogs'. Three years after that first lunch meeting at The Spencer Arms in Putney, after many coffees, peppermint teas, glasses of wine and not forgetting Fiona's obligatory champagne, The Schnoops is Born!

The first book in the series is published by Matador in early 2009 and we've just launched a website where readers can find out more and download the first three chapters of the book free of charge.

Keith Chapman, the creator of Bob the Builder, Fifi and the Flowertots and co-creator of Roary the Racing Car was good enough to say this about the project: “Extremely, very excellent adventures by Fiona Cummings and Ian Sanders. Little Doogs and his chums are great fun and are destined for stardom.”

This has very much been a project I have kept under wraps; but in pursuit of The Work Me being The Real Me, it’s now well and truly out of the bag – visit

And a big thank you to Fiona for all her hard graft in the long gestation of the project!

Friday, 7 November 2008

Leap Takeaway #9

The final Takeaway on the menu is about the importance of super-serving the client; not just when you’re courting a new client contact, but throughout the whole relationship.

Monday, 3 November 2008

The Thing About Twitter

I’d heard about Twitter from a Robert Scoble blog post a long while back but I didn’t think Twitter ‘was for me’. But after a couple of people said I should really start ‘tweeting’ I thought it was time to give it a go. For the uninitiated, Twitter is a social networking tool that allows you 140 characters to communicate to followers and contacts. So 7 days ago I lost my Twitter-virginity.

I’d had it with social networking tools like Facebook a long time ago but as a micro-entrepreneur, writer, blogger etc, I like the idea of Twitter because I love its simplicity. As my friend Rachel said, it’s a platform for micro-blogging. I also love brevity so 140 characters as a medium is very compelling.

But there’s something more important here. What I love about Twitter is that can you tweet about anything from the mega-important to the mundane – there’s no rules, it’s not just for ‘work’; it’s also not just for ‘play’. From a link to a blog post or a tweet about a new video I have produced, right through to a mundane weekend blog about enjoying an espresso and a bacon sandwich or playing with one of my kids.

One of my themes in my new book ‘Juggle’ is about the importance of authenticity; of being your true self, of the Work You being the Real You. If you choose to tweet in that style, Twitter can be a mirror that reflects that real you.
Another theme of ‘Juggle’ is about mixing up work and play, rather than neatly segmenting them, and again that’s what Twitter does (if you choose to use it like that). And whoever is reading your tweets – whether important clients, friends, contacts or random people around the world who you haven’t even met – there you are, for all to see, ‘warts and all’. And if people don’t get it, then maybe they don’t get you.

I find that authenticity very refreshing – ‘This is me’.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Loving Variety...

Of all I love about my Juggle life, I love the rich variety of projects, people and priorities that make up my days.

Whilst this juggling does cause me headaches along with inevitable stress, that variety can be really enriching. Take an afternoon of meetings one day last week as a snapshot. A quick lunch meeting in the funky surroundings of The Hospital Club for – what else - a ‘club’ sandwich to accompany a catch up with a business partner. Then a bus and a walk through Green Park to the next meeting; a coffee in the elegant surroundings of The Lanesborough Hotel with a contact of mine, who the week before had just been dining with – and interviewing - Buddy Holly's widow (he had some great stories to share); then – via some proof reading of a company newsletter in the back of the 74 Bus - off to a pub in Farringdon to have a beer with an ad agency account manager. 3 very different meetings in very different settings with very different agendas. Not untypical; it's what most days are like, switching from one project to another, like a chameleon. But it reminded me one of the things I like about living on Planet Juggle.

'Take Me WIth You'

A friend of mine Charles Sharman Cox recently made a short film ‘Take Me With You’. Charles juggles a portfolio that includes film making, making videos for corporate clients and directing and writing for the stage. 'Take Me With You' has been entered into the Sundance festival and here’s a trailer.