Wednesday, 25 November 2009


As we reinvent our work lives, more of us are working very differently from our parents’ generation. Lots of us don’t work Monday to Friday in offices anymore, we work from home, from cafes, we work ‘on the road’. That’s all very liberating but it does create challenges for the work-at-homers, the solo-entrepreneurs, the freelancers and the self-employed: yep, it can get lonely.

It’s like Phill Jupitus said to me recently. As a one-man stand up comedy act, gigging could be a lonely business. But now he’s joined the cast of Hairspray he’s really enjoying being part of a team of around 50, comprising crew and cast. And being part of a team feels good.

But it’s not just the social benefit. Teaming up with others is essential for providing more klout on a project or offering. I’ve spent the last week or so meeting lots of new people talking collaboration, thinking about areas where we can team up to develop and implement new projects and ideas.

Have a think about collaboration that can give you that social and business reinvigoration:

- organise a Tweet-up with your social media friends, or arrange to meet up next time you visit their city (I had a lunch last week in Edinburgh with two women I’d met on Twitter; great meeting new people and transferring online relationships into face to face ones).

- Start a neighbourhood coffee club for people in your industry or for like minded souls in your locality

- Collaborate with someone on running a workshop or event

- Partner with someone with complementary skills on an idea or project

- Join a co-working space or membership club to hang out and work alongside others

Remember, collaboration doesn’t have to be about making money; it’s always stimulating meeting new people and working in a team is often more fun than doing it solo. You can be more productive and it can fuel better ideas and results.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Sarah Beeny On Juggling

Sarah Beeny might be best known to people in the UK as the presenter of the TV series ‘Property Ladder’ and ‘Property Snakes & Ladders’ but she’s also a successful entrepreneur.

Having launched her own building company and written a handful of books on property developing, she now juggles a broader portfolio including two online businesses. She launched the dating website and more recently she set up a, a website where you can buy and sell your home for free.

Sarah also has four young children; so she got a lot of respect when she appeared at this month’s Social Media ’09 conference along with her baby son.

So Sarah was a great candidate for my Juggle Tapes series; I went to meet her a couple of weeks ago to talk about what drives her business ideas and how she juggles everything. Watch the video below:

*if the video above is not displayed properly, you can watch it on YouTube here

Monday, 16 November 2009

Think Like An Entertainer

Whilst the notion of juggling might be a new concept to some, others have been successfully living multi-dimensional lives for years. Look at the entertainment world, where performers regularly cross disciplines from comedy to broadcasting to writing to acting.

Of course the challenge with that plurality – not just for entertainers but for all jugglers - is how people get labelled. As Dave Gorman said on Radio 4 a couple of months ago (‘Loose Ends’ 08/08/09):

‘You just want to move on and do something different every time. Whatever you do first, people label you as that and you’re never allowed to try your hand at anything else. So if I write a book, it’s comedian turned author; never just an author and you’re always pegged in that way. Personally I don’t see why I can’t make a documentary one year, a book another and do some stand-up. They’re all strings to the same bow to me’.

The key is to try not bother about the labels and just carve out that work life based on your talents and passions. I had coffee with Phill Jupitus last week - he has an awesome portfolio that includes: comedian, podcaster, newspaper columnist, broadcaster, actor (he’s currently starring in ‘Hairspray’ in the West End), cartoonist and musician. That’s not a list of his career history; that’s what he does *now*.

Like any successful juggler Phill has to be ruthless about how he manages his time but that broad portfolio is the result of his multi-dimensional talents. He seems to place no limits on what he does; proof being taking to the stage in a musical for the first time in his life. And ‘Hairspray’ is quite a leap from where it all started for him as a one man stand-up act ‘Porky The Poet’ (the guise I first saw him as, at Peckham Town Hall back in 1985).

So if you’re looking to juggle in business, you can learn a lot from the entertainment industry where reinvention and plurality of talents is behind much success. Take a leaf out of Phill’s book: extend your portfolio to wherever your passions and talents take you; go out of your comfort zone to find your career equivalent of taking a leap to the West End stage.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

If You’re Looking For Success, Get Over Sticking To One Thing!

One myth I aim to bust in Juggle! is the notion that you can only be good at one thing in life or business: you find a single talent or profession and you stick to it. Crap.

But encouraging plurality does not mean diluting your talents. You need to stay focused to make sure you’re good at one skill, project or venture before adding another one to the mix. It’s a tricky juggle but what successful entrepreneurship is all about.

You don’t need to think like a plural brand such as Virgin to spread your expertise from one business to another. It’s about taking an honest approach to your juggling. Taking on a new project because you know you have a compelling business idea, because you know a lot about a subject or just because you’re passionate about making a success of something. Passion should not be underestimated as a tool in the proverbial entrepreneurial tool kit. It’s the essential ingredient to drive success, especially where you are trying new ventures.

I’ve been talking to entrepreneurs recently about how they’ve transcended their core specialism. Look at Gary Vaynerchuk, morphing into new business areas beyond his core specialism of wine. He’s making a success of juggling other ventures because he’s passionate about his portfolio reflecting his - multi-dimensional - dna. Last week I met up with Sarah Beeny (a Juggle Tapes video of our chat will be ready later in November). Most people in the UK know Sarah as the ‘property development expert’; as presenter of TV’s Property Ladder and author of a handful of books on property development. But like Gary she’s transformed her portfolio beyond her core specialism to include new ventures including her dating website Just because you’re good at property, doesn’t mean you can’t do dating too. Why did she set up a dating site? Because she wanted to, because she had a good idea and thought she could make a success of it (she was right).

So don’t place too many limits on your talent, role or project portfolio. Follow your dna, your passions and transfer your success to new areas.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Five Big Lessons From Small Shop Keepers

Convention was that if you were thinking of launching a small business you should look at big business for inspiration. Now with many big businesses failing that's being turned on its head as the business world looks at the small independent shop keeper to learn lessons for success: when global brand Starbucks rolled out its new store concept recently it resembled a local unbranded independent coffee shop.
A successful independent shop is what enterprise is all about and recently I've been chatting to neighbourhood coffee shop owners, barbers and shop keepers. Here's what I've learnt:

1) TIME. Success is about putting the hours in, and being patient – it won't happen overnight. From the coffee shop owner putting in 12 hour days to the barber on his feet all day, you have to invest hands-on time in your business. Many people I spoke to didn't even have hire staff for the first 6 or 12 months, keeping the operation lean whilst building revenues and a reputation.

2) CONTROL. Everyone I spoke to stayed across the whole operation, especially the details. From knowing they need to budget £10 a week for window cleaning to checking the utility bills, these proprietors keep their eye on everything.

3) NICHE. The successful guys are filling a niche in the market. The coffee shop that roasts its own beans on the premises is the only one in town. The barber shop that cuts men’s hair for £10; that's what he and his team do. And it's what people queue for, 6 days a week. No-one else around is providing that damn-simple offering; he's not trying to compete with the £30+ hairdresser visit with complimentary cappuccino.

4) SERVICE. Tom Peters quotes a Chinese proverb in one of his presentations: 'Man With Unsmiling Face Must Not Open Shop'. Dead right. These guys are going the extra mile. Welcoming customers, engaging with them. Offering free coffee samples, providing a venue for community groups, discounts for pensioners.

5) WORD OF MOUTH. Sure, social media and on-line will help buzz marketing but success here is about good old-fashioned word of mouth, something every entrepreneur aspires to. We get good service, we talk about it, we spread the word.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Forget Job Titles And Tell It Like It Is

Business – and society at large – has always been obsessed with giving labels to people. ‘What does he do?’ we ask a friend who announces she has a new boyfriend; application forms ask us to put in our job title; and we exchange similar data every time we go on a date, to a dinner party or networking event.

10 years ago when I was Managing Director of a small business, I had that simple 1-dimensional answer for what I did; but now it’s much more complex we have become multi dimensional. Our professional identities need to reflect that plurality – we need to rethink how we describe ourselves. Look at your average Twitter bio and it’s plural not singular: a list of talents, hats we wear, balls we juggle. There are some more creative descriptions too: Kevin Spacey describes himself as the ‘Former shoe salesman now making a go at film and theatre’. Queen Rania is ‘A mum and a wife with a really cool day job’.

Rethinking our identity is at the heart of ‘Juggle!’; as we carve out portfolio careers our personal brands need to reflect and communicate our multi-dimensional talents to the marketplace. That means ditching one or two word job titles and coming up with a phrase or bio that tells it like it is.

The obsession with labels struggles with the notion that people may be talented at more than one thing. It’s like the sportsman and academic Myron Rolle who I heard on Radio 4’s ‘Saturday Live’ at the weekend. Myron was ranked as the number one high school American Football prospect in the United States in 2006. He is also a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University where he is undertaking an MA in medical anthropology. Myron said:

‘Society and people want to categorise you, compartmentalise you as either a jock, a sportsman or an academic, a nerd. Why can’t you do both? Why can’t you …marry both into a wonderful life?’

Gaby Hinsliff is also learning how to deal with her new-found plurality. Having just resigned as Political Editor of the Observer, she wonders how to describe herself now she is carving out a portfolio career. Indeed her blog is called ‘Used To Be Somebody’. She says:

‘The plan is for a portfolio career, juggling several writing and policy projects part-time, but that is still a tricky concept to explain. "I'll just put homemaker, shall I?" said the woman arranging our new mortgage, apologetically. "You don't fit any of the other categories".

So re-think how we communicate and promote our offering. Whether it’s a multi-dimensional sales pitch or a unique blog, we need to create personal brands that reflect our talents. It’s about going beyond a job title to describe ourselves. That may make form-filling in a little more difficult but dinner party exchanges a little more interesting. So tell it like it is!