Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Advice To A London Cabbie: If you hate your job that much, do something about it!

I got in a taxi last week and we got talking. The cabbie had been off ill for a year and was back behind the wheel for the first time that night. I had to update him on road closures and how a junction layout had changed; so much so, I joked he should be sitting in the back and me in the front. He was not happy to be back behind the wheel. In fact he told me that he'd hated being a cabbie for ... wait for it... fifteen years! He really wanted to be a builder, doing loft conversions.

I had to laugh because over the years I have spoken to loads of people who wanted to take the Leap to work for themselves or make a career change. Most had an instinct to take the leap or do something different, while others had just a 10% hunch but knew they needed to take action. But here was a bloke who knew 100% he wanted to do something different; and what's more he hadn't just tolerated something he hated for 15 weeks or 15 months, but 15 years. Gulp! As I handed over my fare, he said he wasn't sure what he should do, should he set up a basic website and start trading, fulfilling his dream? To me, it was unbelievable. If you hate something that much AND if you have a clear yearning for something else, just do it. Go for it!

So I gave him a tip. I told him to live his dream and go for it.

(And then I realised he should have paid me, not the other way around....)

Take It To The World

If you've got an idea bubbling under the surface, a burning desire to do something or a hidden talent for something, for goodness sake do something with it!

Commit it to paper, blog or tweet about it, talk to your boss or co-workers, discuss it with your clients - just get it out there.

So many people have ideas, talents and desires that never see the light of the day because they don't have the confidence - or they lack the balls - to do something about it. So it just stays there in their brain and it remains very abstract. But everyone has the opportunity to make their ideas and dreams concrete, however modestly. The online space has empowered us all to have a platform, to talk to an audience, to do something with our ideas and talents.

So if you have a great idea for a book, write that book!
If you have a burning desire to explore a passion or new hobby, do it.

Take your idea to the world and do something with it...

Monday, 30 March 2009

Your Value Is Not Always That Black & White

Don't assume that your client is always on the same wavelength as you. Whether you are an advisor, consultant or freelancer providing your services to a client, you'll need to be proactive in communicating your value; make sure they realise - and value - the contribution you are making. And the same applies if you are an executive working for an organisation.

Because sometimes value cannot always be measured tangibly. If your role is about sales and generating new business, then sure - it can be easily quantified. What difference have you made to the bottom line, what business did you win? But for some, value might be less black and white. We may have devised a marketing strategy with a longer-term return; we may have proposed a fresh market positioning, a new brand direction, mentored a staff member or team, or given advice on how the business can be developed. And that kind of value cannot be instantly measured. So you need to take the initiative to regularly sit down with your client (or boss) and pose the question 'did you got value from me this month?'. Don't assume they know exactrly what you've done, how you've done it, and how they'll benefit. You need to be proactive in outlining the deliverables you provided, the ideas you had, the positive difference you made. S p e l l i t o u t.

You may have had an idea or provided some advice that gave a small 'nudge' for them to adopt a new strategy or change their organisational culture. However small that nudge, the benefits of that change may be huge. And without you, they would never have embarked on that new direction or made those changes. Don't forget that.

When you're busy juggling, it can be easily overlooked. So don't assume your client knows your value, stay on top of the relationship, check they are happy and remind them about everything you've done for them.

Friday, 27 March 2009

Personality On An A-Board #2

Full marks to this cafe in D'Arblay Street, London W1.

When You're Hiring, Make Sure You Hire On Culture

The thing about SXSW was not neccesarily that I learnt tons of new stuff, but that the panels and speakers articulated what I already felt in a new and powerful way. Case in point: Tony Hsieh of Zappo's keynote included an insight into their recruitment philosophy. They hire - and fire - people on a culture criteria; not just whether they can do a job effectively. So much so that there is a two-tier interview process. The first to see whether the candidate can do the job, the second to see if they fit in with the company ethos.

I have always felt this - all companies should do this.

I've seen so many small businesses trip up when they grow bigger and don't pay attention to whether the candidate has the right spirit to fit in. Sure, they can do the job, but does the person reflect the culture of the organisation, do they have the brand DNA in their personal DNA? Lose the spirit of what makes your company special and you'l lose your edge, your business and ultimately, your clients. It's a defining part of any offering.

I have handfuls of examples of people at all levels who were hired because they were good but failed or jeapordised business success because they didn't fit in. And I have been working with a client who recognises this only too well - which is why they are successful. They've been interviewing for a new role. Seeing loads of people who can do the job well, but no candidates yet who have that 'spark'.

So if you are recruiting, ask yourself does the candidate have the spark? Remember, it may be more important than experience. Because you learn experience but you either have spark or you don't.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Sharing The Secret That Is Moo!

Like many things in my life and business, I can't remember exactly how I stumbled upon Moo.com, I know it was pretty random but it was a year or so ago.

Here is a business that consistently gives the wow factor. Moo offer really cool, cost-effective business cards, minicards and stickers. I quickly caught the Moo bug and got loads of Moo products to promote my business and my books. Users upload their own artwork and get a bunch of quality business cards on eco-friendly stock starting at around £10. The quality is so good, Moo soon replaced me using a designer/ traditional printer to make my business cards, saving me loads of money along the way.

Moo are a London company but last week in South By South West in Texas there was evidence that the bug has spread around the world as quite a few people were handing out Moo-made cards. Whenever I get my Moo card case out of my bag it's always a talking point and I have been sending contacts, clients and designers to Moo ever since.

In yesterday's FT, there's a great profile of the business and its founder Richard Moross. Richard observes:

“The business card is 300 years old,” he says. “It has not been displaced by mobiles, the internet or Bluetooth – it’s here bec­­ause it really works. It’s the most successful networking tool ever.”

And as I returned from SXSW with an empty business card box and a stack of cards from everyone I met out there, he's damn right.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Me and Todd Sattersten at SXSW

I was really pleased to meet Todd Sattersten at SXSW. Todd is author of 'The 100 Best Business Books Of All Time' and president at the Milwaukee -based book company 800-CEO-READ, the business book division of Harry W. Schwartz Books. 800 CEO READ's mantra is 'We sell business books and promote great ideas' which I think is a great one to have.

Todd interviewed me at SXSW about both my books 'Leap' and 'Juggle' and you can LISTEN TO IT HERE.

Make Sure Your Prospective Clients 'Get It'

Do your prospective clients 'get it'? Do you communicate your business offering clearly and distinctly?

I always advise my clients to have a clear brand statement, a mission statement or a positioner that sets out their stall in a simple and compelling way. In their website, creds and sales tools - so the marketplace 'gets it'. Not a shopping list of services, not a 'me too' proposition, something distinctive.

Your website is your shop window and you have to communicate - in a flash - what you are all about. It's a bit like this A-board outside one of my favourite coffee shops, NudeEspresso. It might just be a pavement A-board but it communicates their brand essence to passers by in the same way a website needs to.

'freshly made food, fantastic coffee + free wifi in a warm cosy space'

It's funny because brands and agencies spend tens of thousands of pounds and months in brainstorms trying to articulate brand statements. Whoever wrote Nude Espresso's probably didn't think what they were going to chalk up for too long but they have done it an ever so simple - yet genius - way. It does the sell perfectly. And even better, they deliver on the sell.

Don't over-engineer it, just tell the story. Whether you are a big business or a freelancer, ask yourself: what does your A-Board say?

Monday, 23 March 2009

Don't Have A Meeting Just Because It's A Monday

Scott Belsky ran a great session at SXSW, 'Tips For Making Ideas Happen'. Along with his insight into how people and organisations manage ideas, he talked about meetings; if there are no action points that arise from a meeting, then what was the point of having it? I think this is a great benchmark for whether to have a meeting or not. If no party wrote anything down or said they would respond with x or y, then what was the point of all that?

I've worked in organisational cultures and with clients at both ends of the spectrum. Companies locked into a constant meeting-culture. Routine meetings every week with line-managers, regular team meetings, management meetings, group meetings, project meetings. Too many meetings. You spend so long in meetings, you lack the right time to spend on delivering actions. And then there are those companies who have no framework for regular meetings so that communication gets overlooked, no-one knows what is going on and people rely on email or word of mouth to share information. And that doesn’t work either.

When I last worked in an organisation, Mondays were full of meetings. I’d start the day with a routine meeting with my boss, then I would have a meeting with my team, and then it would be lunchtime and I would be stressed that I hadn’t actually done everything. I agree with Scott Belsky that we should challenge this whole notion of just having a meeting because it’s a Monday.

So make sure you are having meetings for the right reason. Never call a meeting when you don't have anything to say, don't attend a meeting without thinking what you are contributing and don't just have a meeting because it's a Monday.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

The Big Questions of SXSW

After five days of ideas generation, mental stimulation, networking, walking, tweeting, book signing, hustling, flyering, postcarding, cardslamming and a few too many beers, it's time to hit the road.

And I leave with some BIG questions posed by SXSW Interactive:

- Is Twitter really the meaning of life?

- How can I intergrate my book writing and business activities into a single brand?

- How can I apply the lessons I have learnt here to each of my clients, so they can benefit too?

- How can I develop the relationships I have made here to add value to everything I do?

- How can I develop a dual business model for my content offering to include Chris Anderson's Freelosophy?

- How am I going to find time to write my next book?

- How can I ensure I deliver all these ideas, put all these ideas into action? (I have a bulging to-do list)

- How can my projects, ideas and content compete for attention in this rapidly crowded world?

- Did anyone really take me and @worldhood's #cardslamming seriously?

- Why did the Radisson charge $4 for a Red Bull?

And most important of all:

- Can I get away with saying everything is 'awesome' back in London?

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

If it's Monday It Must Be Party Time (Again)

Yesterday I met local author and speaker Thom Singer. We hung out at a couple of the parties together as I sampled the Austin hospitality. Thom has worked in sales and marketing roles at several Fortune 100 companies and has written 6 books on business networking including Some Assembly Required: How to Make, Grow and Keep Your Business Relationships.

Monday, 16 March 2009

SXSW Interactive = My Outsourced R&D Dept

Coming to South By South West Interactive has been a real eye opener.

People I've met here asked did I just come to do the book signing or was it to co-present the Core Conversation with Melissa? The answer is that I came for something bigger.

Being a micro-business - and an author - I don't invest in traditional training or personal development so SXSW offers me a one-stop for topping up my intellectual capital. I've spent all my annual training budget in one go for Five Packed Days of stimulation and ideas.

Meeting new people and attending some really insightful and thought provoking sessions has really inspired me. And it's inspired me not just in the subject matter of the sessions itself but also in sharpening my mind to consider other projects and ideas in my portfolio. As a result, I'm scribbling like mad.

And 'scribbling like mad' puts me in a minority. This is the first festival/conference I have come to where the majority of delegates - literally 75% - are on their laptops, blackberries, iPhones during sessions. When I did the Core Conversation, many of our audience sat with a laptop open making notes or sharing thoughts on Twitter and Facebook. That took some getting used to, but it's what everyone does. Some people are creating mindmaps on their laptops with notes while a minority use moleskine notepad and pen. I actually went to a (great) session this morning called 'Presenting Straight To The Brain' where the whole notion of this ever-present constant backchannel of communication and interaction was discussed by the panel. And the consensus seemed to be there are no rules, so long as delegates are getting value, and taking something behaviour-changing away from the session, it doesn't matter what currency of note-taking or habit of device operation they are engaged with.

So I may be a dinosaur in using my notepad for notes but I am getting tons of value - SXSW is my outsourced R&D Department. What I am soaking up here will benefit my business, my clients, my ideas, my books, everything. Which is all good but I feel like I need a holiday when I get back...

Meet Pamela Slim

Yesterday I taped an interview at the SXSW festival with Pamela Slim. Pam is founder and author of 'Escape From Cubicle Nation' . I talked with her about her new book and also about how she manages to juggle being an entrepreneur, blogger, author and mother.

Pam on juggling:

"I like my kids to see me as Mom, as a woman, as a person who is fully engaged and active in life; that I love my work, that work doesn't have to be this awful thing you have to do to make money".


Random Video Footage Of Yesterday's Core Conversation

'Getting Warmed Up' (If only I could get the title right)

'The Core Conversation' (evidence that it was interactive)

Barnes & Noble Book Signing At South By South West

The Importance Of Sweat Equity (or whatever you call it)

There's some great jargon flying around at SXSW.

Amidst all the 'Awesomes', at today's Gary Vaynerchuk Q&A, someone was talking about 'Sweat Equity'. What's 'sweat equity'? 'Hard Graft'. 'Getting Your Hands Dirty'.

It's what Gary himself calls 'Hustle 2.0'.

Whatever you call it, we know that you have to sweat to succeed at anything and here at SXSW, there's a lot of sweat if you want to make the most of the opportunities. With my 'writer' hat on here at the Austin Convention Center that's very hands-on. Not just in doing a book signing (thanks to Barnes & Noble for organising today's), a talk or some podcast interviews. But in schlepping round town with a bag full of 30 paperbacks, handing out 1,000 postcards, flyers, posters. Sellotaping flyers and signs to pillars, floors everywhere. It feels like back to the days when I was Publicity & Campaigns Officer at my university student union when I was head of sticking things up.

There's so much focus on the social media online space for personal branding/ propaganda, for blogging, tweeting and facebooking. But don't forget the offline stuff too - the putting things in people's hands, the visible, the grass roots stuff. That's just as important too.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Soaking Up SXSW

So this is my first SXSW.

Day 3 and the first hangover of the festival. Not just too many beers at the parties last night, but hungover from all that information, stimulation and just walking around Austin Convention Center.

There's 12,000 people here for SXSW Interactive alone. This picture is of a field of delegate bags laid out for collection.

207 different panels, 86 more intimate 'Core Conversations' plus 31 book readings.

That's alot of options to navigate.

I've resorted to good old fashioned pen and paper to plot what sessions to go to.

Highlights so far:

Scott Belsky with his Tips For Making Ideas Happen. I love ideas and I love projects and this was a great session for me. Scott talked about the importance of delivering ideas and had some insight for how team dynamics and project management can be re-engineered to support good idea generation.

Film-maker Gary Hustwit, designer Brendan Dawes and design firm head Jim Coudal each gave a presentation on the process of creativity and how technology has empowered each of them to make ideas happen.

And then there was Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh with his keynote of how he has built an organisation and a brand on one premise - great customer service.

Thanks to everyone who came to my Core Conversation co-hosted with Melissa Pierce yesterday, we had some great people turn up and we had a great discussion about the benefits of 'living the unplanned life'.

Word of SXSW: 'Awesome'. Everything - it seems - 'is awesome'. Being a Brit, I don't tend to 'do' awesome (yet).

Most Talked About Theme at SXSW: Twitter (of course). How Twitter is changing the world. The T Word has been mentioned at literally every session I have gone to (including my own), and everyone had a view on how it at last night's parties...

Gotta go, another session beckons. Awesome!

Scenes From Day 2 @SXSW

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Why My 3year old would love SXSW

Now this is what you call a proper lego collection. Next year I'll have to bring my 3 year old to SXSW.

Friday, 13 March 2009

What I have learnt so far at SXSW '09

Scenes From Day #1 at SXSW

Welcome to 'South By South Wet' !

Not quite what I expected Texas weather to be like....

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

'An Englishman In Austin'

So with a bag full of promotional cards for all my respective books, a Juggle poster, a laptop, a Flip Mino, and a huge bunch of business cards - I’m off to South By South West.

Lots to do and looking forward to it. I feel like a pioneer – off to the States to make my fortune (or something like that)..

Melissa's Trailer

My SXSW buddy Melissa Pierce created something really special with her trailer for our talk at SXSW.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

'Is The Planned Life Even Worth Living?'

Friday, 6 March 2009

Develop Yourself

Good to see 'Juggle!' - finally - hit the shelves in London.

Always interesting to see which genre, or is that 'sub genre' it's filed under.

Foyle's Charing Cross Road went for 'Self Development'...

Leigh-on-Sea to Austin Texas

Yesterday - as Richard reminded me on his blog - was World Book Day. So an apt date to hold the launch event for 'Juggle!' at The Book Inn in Leigh-on-Sea. Thanks to everyone who turned up.
Next weekend I'll be at The Barnes & Noble South By Bookstore at The Austin Convention Center, Austin, Texas.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

David Sloly On Juggling

This week’s Juggle Tapes interview is with David Sloly. David is Creative Director at the integrated digital marketing agency Mason Zimbler where he creates campaigns for technology brands like Microsoft, Toshiba and Dell. He’s eschewed traditional career development with a CV that has really mixed things up from writing books and DJ’ing to being a radio and TV producer. His work in radio won him a Gold Sony Award and a MOBO award. David is a real evangelist for digital communication and Web 2.0 and he’s also recently added hypnotherapy to his juggling.
I filmed my interview with Kevin Roberts of Saatchi & Saatchi on a rooftop overlooking the Arc De Triomphe, for this one I was in Bristol on a terrace overlooking Clifton Suspension Bridge.

- In the interview David talks about how having a rich background outside of advertising helped him become a Creative Director.

- Hear how he's applied hypnotherapy to business challenges

- and how he got away with writing a report for work while he was meant to be on his honeymoon!


Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Going 'On Tour'

Next Thursday I jet off to Texas to the annual South By South West Festival, along with 149,999 other people who head to this Interactive, Film, Music festival. I’m off to the ‘Interactive’ festival (only 10,000 go to this bit). This is the blurb:

‘The SXSW Interactive Festival features five days of exciting panel content and amazing parties. Attracting digital creatives as well as visionary technology entrepreneurs, the event celebrates the best minds and the brightest personalities of emerging technology. Whether you are a hard-core geek, a dedicated content creator, a new media entrepreneur, or just someone who likes being around an extremely creative community, SXSW Interactive is for you!’

I’ll be doing a few things at SXSW.

1) I’m very excited to be co-presenting a ‘Core Conversation’ with Chicago-based accidental film-maker and life coach Melissa Pierce, entitled ‘Is the Planned Life Even Worth Living Anymore?'. We’ll be in Room 5C in the Austin Convention Center on Saturday March 14th from 5 - 6 pm. Our session is all about the importance of a non-plan: With ever-changing technologies and globalization, having long term plans for lives, careers and business seems futile. Is your best plan not to have one?

2) Then on Sunday March 15th at 3.55 I’ll be signing copies of my books ‘Leap!’ and ‘Juggle!’ at the SXSW bookstore Barnes & Noble.

3) I am also going to be doing some video blogging from the event, here at planetjuggle.

Monday, 2 March 2009

If you're Struggling, Try Segmenting Your Juggling

Here's my latest excerpt from my new book 'Juggle!'

When you’re juggling, your work life can get confusing. Case in point: this afternoon while I am trying to write this, I am also dealing with two other projects; that’s three agendas at the same time. And it can be frustrating because I want to clear the decks and get stuck into one thing, not three things.

Although it’s a fact of life that Jugglers have to be adept at dealing with multiple agendas simultaneously, try segmentation to make sure you stay focused on one thing at a time. Segment the working day for different bits. Because when I said juggling was about doing more than one thing at the same time, I didn’t necessarily mean doing them all at 15:41 on a Monday, I meant in the same role, in the same day or week.

One approach to segmentation is to think how your job or role divides in simple disciplines. Is it Sales and Admin? Or Leadership and Project Management? Design and client liaison? Put simply, my job is ‘Thinking’ and ‘Doing’; that is applicable to every project – it’s ideas and delivery. Whilst they overlap constantly, to maximise productivity and performance, I try and approach them differently.

The ‘Doing’ bit is probably 70%. Meetings, emails, sorting stuff out, talking, managing projects, implementing. For that I need a desk, a telephone, a laptop, a meeting room, my project files.

The ‘Thinking’ bit might only take 30%, sometimes even only 3% but THAT is where the value is. For that bit my tools are my brain, a pen and a pad, an airline ticket, a beer. Asking questions, coming up with answers. Strategising, formulating ideas for my business, ideas for my clients’ businesses, ways to add value to projects, ideas for my next book. Some of this I try and do in a cafĂ©, on a train, or in a plane. But you can’t always contrive the climate for ideas generation; some results will just happen. During playtime, in the shower, walking to the tube station.

Segment your schedule, your to-do list, your working week to maximise your productivity. If your energy levels are not at their best Monday mornings, don’t attempt your big strategising then; save that for a Starbucks later in the week and get that sales report done instead. Work out where the ‘value’ is in what you do, and ensure you make the necessary investment in your time and your approach to get results.

Who's Asking Your Clients How Their Weekend Was?

I was talking to a friend of mine – David - last week; we were discussing the importance of client care and managing relationships. And he made this observation, often neglected or overlooked:

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Finally, I Made It to Broadway* !

(* When I say 'Broadway', I mean my local shopping street, Broadway West, Leigh-on-Sea)