Friday, 31 July 2009

Think Rapid!

Here's a simple yet obvious tip (so obvious that people consistently fail at it).
In business if you want to stay ahead of the game, keep your clients happy or just stay on top of your projects & commitments, make sure you deal with things rapidly.
Watch the video:

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Take A Zoo Day (But You Don't Have To Actually Go To The Zoo)

If you work for yourself or have enough flexibility in your working life, once in a while give yourself a treat; take a Zoo Day.

What's a Zoo Day? It's an impromptu day off.

Why 'Zoo'? Because one morning I was sitting having breakfast with my wife and kids and she said to me ' why don't we go to the zoo today?' and I said don't be so silly I'm far too busy for that. But then I thought, I had no meetings; yes I had some time critical stuff to do but that could be done in 2 hours so yes I could actually free up the day just like that. I realised what's the point of working for myself if I couldn't take some time off.

Having a Zoo Day is great to remind yourself of the benefits of doing your own thing, of taking a break from work pressures to get a breath of fresh air, to recharge your batteries, do something different. Of course, that gives your job or profession reinvigoration or some new ideas.

We did a Zoo Day yesterday; we went to the countryside for the day, for a walk and a pub lunch. Inevitably I sweated at the start and end of the day to make sure I got everything done and as a result I started this morning at 06.30 but I did get great value in return.

(But I never did actually make it to the zoo. Oh well, next time....)

Monday, 27 July 2009

Take Your Office Out Of The Office

When you’re busy juggling, different places can help reflect the multi-dimensional you. You’ll have your office, perhaps a workspace at home, favourite coffee shops where you do certain things and weekend places where you do others, a summerhouse at the end of the garden or a park bench.

When the coffee shop trend started up in the early ‘90s they were trying to create what was billed a ‘Third Place’ between work and home, a space that mixed social with work. Well forget Third Place, in 2009 it’s more like thirty three places. We are nomadic, working from airplanes, trains, wherever. There are no rules and no walls to where and how we work.

In the week I met him in Paris CEO Worldwide of Saatchi & Saatchi, Kevin Roberts’ schedule was taking in Mexico, Miami, Peru and Brussels. With his offices in New York and New Zealand and homes in New York, New Zealand, St. Tropez and Grasmere in the UK, this guy travels a heck of a lot. All contribute – in different ways – to making him an effective Juggler.

‘All of them connect past, present and future. All of them have work, play, friendship and family relevance. All of them are perfectly set up for me to be effective and efficient in terms of work. The different bases help me juggle because all of them are themed differently and are typical of their regions. They all have meaning and all serve to inspire me. New York is an abstract art driven Tribeca loft, Grasmere is a typical Lakeland cottage in National Park land. St. Tropez is a Provence villa, and New Zealand is an environmentally friendly sports complex’.

But you don’t need to have four homes around the world to be a good Juggler. You can create your own diversity through different spaces that energise and stimulate you, whether hotel rooms, cafes, workspaces or open spaces. These can reflect different sides of your personality. I have a mix of ‘zones’ - client offices, member clubs, coffee shops, workspaces - that I have available; each of which has played its own contribution as a space to juggle. Spaces for meeting, for thinking, for writing, for problem solving, each with their own source of inspiration.

So forget just one room with four walls, make your office a variety of environments that will help you get results in whatever you do, however you want to work...
[An excerpt from my book ‘Juggle! Rethink Work, Reclaim Your Life’]

Interview with

Here is an interview I did recently with John Bardos of John interviewed me via Skype from Japan about my business and writing career. You can see a transcript at his website.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Everything You Wanted To Know About My Book ‘Juggle!’

I've had a few questions recently about my latest book ‘Juggle! Rethink Work, Reclaim Your Life’ so have put together some FAQs:

1. What’s the book about? ‘Juggle!’ is about carving out work lives that reflect our multi-dimensional talents, of going beyond a single job title where the Work You becomes the Real You.
2. So it’s not about juggling balls or circus skills? Nope.
3. Does it feature anyone I might have heard of? It features contributions and anecdotes from a range of jugglers including @garyvee, @mikesouthon, @roxannedarling, Saatchi & Saatchi CEO Kevin Roberts and Hollywood talent manager Melanie Greene.
4. How’s the book going to change my life? Good question. If you’re stuck in a rut in your career, this book will give you the courage and inspiration to re-craft your working life based on what you love and what you are passionate about. It’s not always about making choices about whether you quit your job to run an eBay business; you can juggle both at the same time. Juggling can make you happier and more fulfilled as well as more of an asset in the job market if you have more than one skill to offer.
5. What practical advice is in the book? There’s a whole section on tactics to improve your juggling from time management to staying fresh and stimulated.
6. Can I see a free preview? Sure, there’s a free sampler here
7. Is it a conventional ‘business book’? Not at all, it’s written in a really accessible way, no jargon, in short punchy chapters that you can deep in and out of. It’s an easy, but stimulating read!
8. So you say it’s great, but can I read some impartial reviews? Sure, there’s a review from @macala here and one from blogger Jon Knight here
9. Got anything I can listen to? Sure, there’s a podcast interview with @800ceoread here and a radio interview here.
10. Got anything I can watch? Yep, there’s video interviews with Gary Vaynerchuk, Kevin Roberts and Mike Southon here
11. Where can I buy it? All good bookstores (and crap ones too) and here on and here on
12. So have you written anything else? Yes, my first book was ‘Leap! Ditch Your Job, Start Your Own Business & Set Yourself Free’

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Don’t Listen To Anyone Who Says ‘No’ To Your Dream Or Goal

Yesterday I started reading Hugh MacLeod’s book ‘Ignore Everybody’; he makes some good points about the genesis of ideas, that ‘good ideas have lonely childhoods’ because people just don’t get them at first so you have to ignore resistance and just persevere.

The same principle applies with any other dreams or goals you may have; ignore anyone who says they can’t be achieved. It was like the time I wanted to apply for a promotion to be a manager in a company I was working for at the time. My boss memo’d back that he didn’t think I was up to the job, I didn’t have enough experience. But I persevered and over a pub lunch persuaded him that I was the right guy for the job. I had the same tenacity when I was trying to get my first book published; some people said that’s its so tough trying to get published, don’t bother. Someone else said my chances of working with a company were ‘1 in 100’. But that didn’t deter me trying; it motivated me to prove the naysayers wrong.

And it reminds me of a chapter in my book 'Leap!' about a discussion I had with my head teacher in my last year at school:

"When I was in my final year at school I told my headmaster I wanted to study media at university and planned to pursue a career in broadcasting. Sitting in his office the headmaster suggested that was an impractical goal and brought out a prospectus on a course in company secretaryship and said ‘here, you should do this course instead’.

To this day I have no idea why he did that, it seemed an odd piece of advice. But I ignored him anyway.

6 months later I was presenting the gig guide on local radio.

12 months later I was co-presenting a show on local radio.

10 years later I was asked to return to the school to advise students on careers in the media. Part of me felt like not supporting the school that had failed to support my own ambition; but a bigger part of me realised the students probably needed all the help they could get.

My booth had the biggest queues".

As Hugh MacLeod said to me yesterday on Twitter, ‘a dream is only as good as the number of naysayers who come out of the woodwork’.

So whatever you do, never give up.

Monday, 20 July 2009


My wife just did a great painting/collage of me: sums up a lot of the things in life that I am passionate about...

Thursday, 16 July 2009

‘If You Don’t Want To Know The Score, Look Away Now’

I’ve done a couple of interviews recently about working for yourself and yesterday got asked the question ‘can anyone work for themselves’? Whilst I think most people have some entrepreneurial spirit in them (however small), it does take a certain personality-type to pull it off; it’s not for everyone. The fact is that I have seen some executives who are brilliant when they’re working in an organisation as part of a team with all that support infrastructure around them; but as soon as they go solo they’re no good at getting results by themselves – they can’t perform. Whilst you can delegate and outsource lots of tasks when you work for yourself, there are many things you can’t: so you have to be highly motivated and disciplined at getting stuff done.

Whatever the benefits of working for yourself - by yourself - (and there are plenty) there’s lots of challenges along the way and I think it’s important people have their eyes open before they take the leap.

Here’s an extract from my book 'Leap!' on this very subject:

"Let’s get the bad news about working for yourself out of the way now.
It’s going to be tough at times.
You’ll get lonely.
Cashflow can be difficult.
Getting sales is not easy.

So what’s going to make it easier?

- A support network of co-workers and mentors.
- A positive outlook.
- Friends and family who understand this is different, and offer support and encouragement.
- Clients and the promise of work
- A financial safety net for those lean months.
- A physical – and dedicated – workspace (not the corner of your bedroom).

What’s the journey like?

It’s like what I heard on the radio this morning in the bathroom, a lone round the world yachtsman talking about his current voyage. ‘What’s been the best thing about the trip?’ he was asked. ‘Freedom’ I mumbled to the mirror as I shaved. ‘Freedom’, replied the yachtsman. ‘And the worst?’

‘When you are in a gale and being blown against the rocks’, came the response.

And that’s what it’s like in the scrambled up world of work."

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Playing it Straight

Like it or not, you'll experience lots of bullshit in business.

People playing games. People promising you a piece of business when they’ve no intention of paying you. Clients asking you to pitch for business when they already decided who they were going to give the project to. Suppliers telling you what you want to hear, not what they can deliver.

So I was reminded yesterday how refreshing it is to deal with people who cut through all that crap.
A client – who I’d only worked with once before - called me. He wanted a ball park quote on a job for a meeting. I said I’d put a few scenarios on an email to him. ‘Don’t worry wasting your time’ he said, ‘let’s just deal with it now to save you the hassle’. So we talked through some options and I gave him some prices. He didn’t bullshit me, he said if the project would happen it would be next year. But he also said he wasn’t the kind of guy who ‘phoned a supplier to get quotes and then went with someone else. ‘If the project’s happening, it’s yours’.

I’d only worked with him once but he likes working with people he knows and he trusts me to deliver. His attitude is more old-school than new-school, but it’s really refreshing to have a dialogue like this and it reminded me we should all tell it like it is and avoid that business bullshit.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

The Important Bit About Personal Branding

There’s been a lot of talk about personal branding (I’ve blogged about it before and also conducted a blog interview with one of its most experienced advocates, Dan Schawbel).

When we talk about creating and communicating a personal brand, remember this is not about creating a pretty logo. This is about your professional DNA.

Personal branding is about ensuring that you have a homogenous brand style - your ethos/ attitude that pervades all that you do. It’s also putting your personality at the heart of all you do.
Sure, the communication of that brand ethos is also important: the networking, your blog, your LinkedIn profile, your Twitter stream et al. But don’t over focus on the tools and the funky logo; it’s more important to focus on the message.

In a crowded and competitive marketplace, your approach to personal branding can be the difference between failure and success. It’s wrapping up your skills, talents and business attitude in a compelling message to your target audience(s).

Monday, 13 July 2009

The Facts Of Life When You Work For Yourself

I’ve been talking to a few people recently who are thinking of taking the leap to work for themselves. Taking the leap is usually a frightening decision to make, even more so when there is such uncertainty out there. But it can also a liberating process, as you go ‘back to basics’ to look at your raw skills and talents and how that can be turned into a business. If you can pull that off, it’s a very rewarding transition.

I was reminded by a quote from my first book
(‘Leap! Ditch Your Job, Start Your Own Business & Set Yourself Free’):

Life in this scrambled up world is always unpredictable, sometimes scary, almost always liberating. And whatever changes you’ll have to make, whatever the highs and lows, the bare facts remain the same:

“All I have is my bare hands, a bunch of contacts and a few ideas. And with that I have to make a whole load of money”

It’s that simple. GULP (And that scary).

There’s no pay cheque going in your account anymore. There are no guarantees; this is different.

And whatever the challenges of trying to launch a new business or go solo, those bare facts of life can help motivate you to turn your talent into a commercially-viable proposition.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Helping Creative Talent Take The Leap

Yesterday evening I hosted what I billed ‘A Big Conversation’ at London’s Royal College Of Art on the theme of ‘Taking The Leap’. The RCA is very progressive in running a professional development programme ‘FuelRCA’ to provide students with business & life skills to help them make the transition to life outside the college. My talk was part of that initiative with the attendees including 2009 graduates & continuing students from disciplines across fine art, textiles, fashion, illustration and industrial design engineering.

Each student has a real creative talent to offer the outside world, whether they are looking for commissions, exhibitions, work placements, freelance work or setting up their own studios. As I stressed, of course there is no prescriptive route for success in this rapidly changing ‘scrambled up world of work’ but I did impart the following Survival Tips:

1. PUT PASSION AT THE HEART OF ALL YOU DO. You need to love what you do & be passionate about your talents.
2. SELF-BELIEF. Whether you are freelancing, job hunting or working for yourself have stacks of self-belief/ confidence in your talents.
3. BE DISTINCTIVE. It’s a crowded market out there and success – and survival – is about having a clear point of differentiation. Work out what makes you different.
4. YOU ARE A BRAND. Whether you’re working for someone else or setting up your own design studio you need to think like a brand. What is the spirit at the heart of your DNA? Make sure your personality pervades all that you do.
5. SHOUT ABOUT YOUR TALENTS. Get over the taboo of self-promotion and use social media tools - blogs, twitter, videos – to stand out from the crowd.
6. UP YOUR GAME. Professionalise your offering, embrace a style of how you adhere to deadlines, deal with clients, honour commitments, run projects etc. But you don’t need to wear a suit!
7. BE AUTHENTIC. Your personality is at the heart of your business, don’t try and be something you’re not. Don’t bullshit. The goal is that ‘The Work You’ is ’The Real You’.
8. SELL YOUR TALENTS. Winning clients or getting a job is tougher than ever; get over the ‘Sales taboo’ and use friends/family and word of mouth to sell your creative talents. ‘Sell’ is not an expletive; it’s all about establishing and managing relationships.
9. HAVE AN ENTERPRISING MINDSET. You don’t have to ‘sell out’ as an artist but you do need to be focused on turning your creativity into a business commodity. Recognise the importance of creating business opportunities, of charging the right fees and becoming a commercial success.
10. DON’T OVER-PLAN. Forget a detailed business plan; it’s more important to just put your ideas into action rapidly and with online tools, that’s easier than ever. Tweak as you go.
11. BE A JUGGLER. Career choices don’t have to be ‘all or nothing’, embrace plurality. Carve out a work life that reflects your multi-dimensional talents.
12. LOOK AFTER YOUR CLIENTS. Super-serve your clients, don’t neglect them, keep in touch and nurture relationships. Repeat business with existing clients is often the best foundation for growing your business.
13. KEEP IT LEAN. If you’re setting up your own business, it’s recession-friendly to keep it lean. Keep overheads to a minimum, use freelancers rather than staff, share office or studio space (or work from home).
14. STAY FLEXIBLE. Be prepared to re-invent your offering or business model when things change. You might need to change to keep pace with market demand or technological developments.
15. GO FOR IT! Take a leap of faith into the unknown. Act on instinct!

Thursday, 9 July 2009

'Is The Work You The Real You' ?

It's a simple question.

I know people who answer 'yes' and 'no' to that. A guy who works in banking, but when his suit is off the real him is the passionate windsurfer, that's where he wants to be everyday, his job does not drive him. Then there's the bloke I know who's marketing director of a global car brand. He's passionate about cars, always has been. He loves them. And he loves his job 150%. Whether he's driving to work or entertaining clients at the Grand Prix, he is his job. A woman I know is a senior manager but still lets her personality shine; there's no mask - what you see is what you get whether how she dresses, her business style or sharing a joke with her team.

But inevitably we've all had times where we've put a suit on, performed a role, put on our best voice and tried (too) hard for a presentation or job interview. We all have (I used to).

But with time and experience comes the confidence to JUST BE YOURSELF. Total authenticity. No pretence, no having to put a 'work mask' on, no stuck-in-a-rut doing something you hate. If you're stuck in a dead-end job and you'd love to be outside teaching and playing tennis, maybe it's time to become a tennis coach? The fulfilment and passion of being true to your desires is very liberating; it's at the heart of my book 'Juggle! Rethink Work, Reclaim Your Life', the notion that if you love what you do, you'll be more productive and successful.

Remember, the goal is for 'The Work You' to be 'The Real You'. So re-craft your job or role to make sure it reflects your talents, personality and desires.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

The Importance Of Customer Engagement.

It’s what we all aspire to – grabbing the customer’s attention and establishing a relationship. Whether you are Blur, Tesco, BMW, a radio station, an author, a freelancer, a small business, or the corner shop you need to engage with the customer. It could be via a download, it could be a TV commercial, it could be a print ad, an email, a video on YouTube, a website, a meeting or a shop window; but whatever the platform, it’s about communicating and connecting with an audience.

Take the shop analogy: you have your shop window to sell your wares but the real potential for engagement comes from when you walk in the shop and connect with the person behind the counter. When they attempt to build a relationship. Whatever the economic challenges of the marketplace in 2009, this is where the independent shopkeepers and boutiques have the potential for the upper hand over the big stores and supermarkets. It’s that personal intimate service that you could rarely get in a huge hypermarket. In a small shop where the proprietor might be in the store herself, and with a constant and small number of staff, meaningful relationships can be established with the customer. The kind of connection that will make you a loyal customer, coming back for more.

Last week I went in to two – very different – (very small) independent shops. The first, to buy some swimwear. I walked in, the shopkeeper was at the till pouring over some paperwork. I attempted to make a connection but he didn’t look up; zero acknowledgement, no hello. There was a rack of items I wanted to browse but a stepladder had been left against it and it was too difficult to look. Sure, I could have asked for help, but there’d been no attempt at engagement so I decided to walk out. #Fail.

Later that day I went in to the
Monocle shop in London, a small concept store selling Monocle-branded items and a small selection of menswear and luggage. I was probably in the shop no more than 5 minutes but by the time I left, I’d shaken hands with the shop assistant, we’d exchanged names and we’d talked about the shop, its products, its other stores. He’d initiated that engagement by welcoming me in. Okay I didn’t buy anything that time, but I’ll go back for sure. #Success.

I know consumers have strong views on this subject. Many people tell me they would rather shop in silence than have a shop assistant talk to them. But this is not just about shopping. This is about business and brand relationships, it’s about taking the initiative to engage the customer in that valuable first minute in your store/ on your website/ in the meeting/ wherever.

So make sure your brand, your website, your brochure, your shop – or whatever medium of communication it is – succeeds in engaging with the customer. And don’t do the business of equivalent of not looking up from the counter (and certainly don’t leave the equivalent of a stepladder across your products).

Monday, 6 July 2009

When There's A Delay, The Importance Of Saying Something (Anything…)

My tube journey on Friday morning was a familiar tale. Delays on the circle line, a 20 minute wait for a train at Tower Hill. As passengers got agitated, checking their watches and the indicator boards, we were treated to repeated recorded announcements saying ‘the circle line is running normally’).

There was zero communication, no tannoy announcement saying when the next train was due, so we could consider other options. Nothing. In the circumstances, even an announcement saying ‘Sorry, we have no idea why the delay is, we’re looking into it’ would be better than nothing. It would have been reassuring, and it would have been courteous.

And – of course – the same is true in business. Don’t give your customers a Circle Line communication void when there’s a problem. Tell them what’s going on, tell them you’re looking into it, tell them if you’re anticipating a delay. I've seen too many suppliers guilty of not bothering; they're scared about how to fix the problem so they say nothing. Even small companies – where communication should be easier – fail to get back to you; they don’t know anything their end, so they don’t know what to say to the customer.

The answer is simple. As soon as you spot a problem, a delay or a headache that’s going to impact the customer you jump on it right away. Tell them, ‘we have a small problem, but we’re on the case and we’ll get back to you soon’. Keep them appraised at every stage.

How did I resolve my frustration on my wait for the tube? I marched up to the ticket office, found a member of staff and asked what was going on and why we weren’t being kept in touch. He radio’d control and asked what was going on, and I got my news on when the next train was.

A good move but should’ve done that from the start. I felt like grabbing the tannoy and telling all the passengers myself. Next time maybe I will....

Friday, 3 July 2009

Living The Juggle Life - Radio Interview

Here is the radio interview I did last weekend on Irish station 4FM, where I appeared on the Michael Comyn show. Michael is a true juggler, mixing radio presenting with a business portfolio that embraces communication training, psychotherapy, coaching for individuals, plus he’s a voice over artist.

The interview is about 10 minutes long and you can hear it by clicking 'Play' below (audio only).

(I got a call from the station half an hour earlier than scheduled to do the interview so I was in a shop with my wife and not quite ready. Told I had 16 seconds before going live, I quickly dashed out so apologies for background traffic noise...)

Thursday, 2 July 2009

There Is No Briefing

I saw this sign on a building site the other day. Whilst there are some environments where – absolutely - you should be briefed before you start work (building sites, operating theatres, trains, nuclear reactors, you get the drift…) in the ever changing world of work and business, increasingly it’s a case of learning as you go. And in this scrambled up world of work, there is often no briefing.

Most of us were never ‘trained’ in business or whatever we are talented in. I didn’t go on a course on how to write a book. None of us went on a course to learn Twitter or Outlook or the iPhone. I didn’t go to business school either. There are millions of successful executives and entrepreneurs with no formal ‘training’; their training has been doing the job, learning at the coal face.

We are a generation of workers that learns as we go. Having come from an organisation that used Amstrad word processors, I remember using my first PC in 1993, it was the first time I used a mouse. There was no preparation or computer course for that, you just learnt as you went. And that’s the best way to learn, by actually doing it.

So when people say to me they want to be successful in business, should they take a class at business school? Or they say, I’d like to be an author, is there a writing course I recommend, my advice is simple:


Wednesday, 1 July 2009

How investing 90 seconds in research can make a difference

When we have so much information available at our finger tips easily – and quickly - there is no excuse for not doing your research in prepping for that meeting, job interview, whatever.

When I was invited to be interviewed for a radio show recently I checked out the presenter’s page on the radio station website, skimmed his biog and then found out about a separate business he ran. Total time invested = 90 seconds. But it informed the approach I took being interviewed and he was also impressed as I then knew something about him. Maybe the interview went better as a result because he warmed to me; either way, it made a difference.

I met a guy recently who had asked to see me for and it was obvious he hadn’t even checked out my website. Someone interviewing me didn’t know the title of my book. But it was there on my website.

It’s not complicated and it doesn’t need to take stacks of time. But doing that homework can make that all-important difference in a job interview, when you are pitching for business, or if you are just making a new connection with a person or organisation.

So make the effort.