Monday, 29 March 2010

Sometimes It Can Get Tiring Doing All The Driving

I was explaining to a new friend what it’s like running your own business: that feeling of being in control but at the same time the relentless need for energy and enterprise to drive things forward. I equated it to always being in the driving seat, never able to be the passenger.

For me, being in the driving seat means I have to be constantly proactive, whether it’s delivering a project, coming up with ideas, networking, looking out for opportunities, just staying on top of admin, or searching for the next gig/project. It’s relentless, so it can get tiring.

Here are my tips for avoiding running-your-own-business fatigue:
  1. Take a break. Life running your own business can be all consuming  so switch off from time to time. A friend of mine finds horse riding the only part of her week where she can really switch off, work out where you can do the same.
  2. Get support. Ok, so you might never be able to be a passenger but get others to support and help you where you can. Delegate, outsource, try and lessen the demands on you and your time.
  3. Avoid overload. Be realistic with your workload and try not to take too much on at once.
  4. Aim to enjoy what you do because when you’re working that hard, you’d better like – at least most of - it. And if you’re really not enjoying it, maybe you’re not cut out for it?

Friday, 26 March 2010

Ten Things You Need To Know from Rework

I really enjoyed ‘Rework’ by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, the founders of 37signals. I found some similarities in my own book ‘Juggle!’ in the theme of rethinking work and business. I have already evangelised about ‘Rework’ on my Unplan Your Business blog so to give you some value, here are my Ten Things You Need To Know from Rework:

  1. Ignore people who say you’re wrong.
  2. Forget business planning, forget about the details early on. Scribble ideas with a marker pen not a fine pen!
  3. Rethink success. You don’t have to build a big business, why not build a profitable, sustainable and comfortable business instead?
  4. Scratch your own itch: design a product or a solution for something you need yourself.
  5. Put everyone in your organisation on the front line from time to time. Don’t let people remain in their departmental silos.
  6. Lo-fi works. You don’t need comlex gadgets or over-engineered solutions. look at the success of the Flipcam – very basic, does what it needs to with ‘no bells or whistles’.
  7. What are the by-products of what your business does? Sell those by-products.
  8. Meetings can be toxic. A one hour meeting with 10 people is not one hour lost, its ten hours. Have shorter more focused meetings. If it only takes 7 minutes, don’t waste 30 or 60 minutes.
  9. Long lists don’t get done – focus on attainable goals for better productivity and morale.
  10. Inspiration is perishable – if you want to do something, do it now (later, you won’t be pumped): so if you’re inspired on a Friday, do it on a weekend. When you’re high on inspiration you can do two weeks work in 24 hours.
 I really think Jason and David are on to something, seeking to redefine ‘business’ and ‘entrepreneurs’: 
“You don’t need an MBA, a fancy suit; just an idea, a touch of confidence and a push to get started”.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

"An Englishman In Austin"

I have just written a column about my experiences in Austin Texas at SXSW for The Hospital Club's website. If you want to know what I was doing on a customised American school bus with the senior management of Zappos, check out the piece here.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Rethinking Results & Productivity

Here’s a guest video post I did for my friends over at Red Cube Marketing; recorded last week at South By South West Interactive with my take on Results & Productivity.

Whether it’s in our jobs, in the social media space, or our roles as suppliers and consultants, success is not just about showing up. In the old days (whenever they were) career success was about turning up and sitting at your desk all day. With new trends such as ROWE (Results Only Work Environment) employees are giving the freedom to work when and how they wish; they are accountable on results. I’m trying to introduce that spirit into how I work as a business coach and marketing expert: not quantifying my value in man hours but instead in results. But to balance that, another takeaway I got from the festival is that we must not get obsessed by data and analytics; some things are easier to measure than others and too much analysis can kill creativity. Anyway here’s the video version:
If the video is not displaying above watch it on YouTube here 

Wednesday, 17 March 2010


So as I reach the end of SXSW 2010 what's my takeaways from five days?

#1 Staying Authentic: whatever technological developments, whatever trends, new platforms or tools come along, (of course) success is about keeping it real. I was reminded of this many times in the last few days, not least by @garyvee in his keynote/ Q&Afest.

#2 You Don't Have To Grow It Big: I've been evangelising this for a while, that you don't have to build a business big to be a success; you don't have to scale up your people or your reach the whole time, you can grow in other ways. So I loved @jasonfried's message from 'Rework' that instead of building it big, why not focus on building a business that is sustainable, profitable and comfortable. Yep yep.

#3 Reaching out to others: I put 'collaboration' as one of my themes for 2010 and a session here reminded me of the benefits of reaching out to the crowd. @jeffrey and @scottbelsky ran a session on crowdsourcing showing how businesses/ brands can tap into consumer insight and the intellectual capital of the crowd. We're used to outsourcing so much in business today, going out to the crowd is a great resource.

#4 Unplanning our businesses: Of course, my own theme for SXSW was 'Unplanning' your business but it was great to hear this from other speakers, not just @jasonfried but also @Ev who reminded us that 'whatever you assume when you start out (in business), you're wrong'. I'm not anti-planning, just evangelising that passion and vision are more powerful/valuable than a business plan (check out my Unplan blog).

#5 It's all about results: another drum I've been banging is that we need to rethink' work'; that 'work is a mindset, not a place you go'. So I loved the session on ROWE (Results-Only Work Environment) led by @alevit that talked about the cultural change from workers being rewarded for 'just showing up' to instead getting rewarded for results. It creates some opportunities - and challenges - for freelancers and independent consultants to cease being paid by the day, but being paid by the outcome of what they do. That doesn't mean we need to get obsessed with data and analytics to look at ROI, but it's a much more realistic way of looking at productivity.

#6 Business doesn't have to be dull. These are tough times for business and we're having to work harder than ever. But as many speakers reminded us, we should not be total workaholics and we need to learn to 'switch off'. And from all the sessions, parties and connections SXSW reminds me that business can be fun. One SXSW moment sticks in my head; it was the evening I was lucky  (thanks for the invite @espreedevora )to be on Tony Hsieh's 'Delivering Happiness' bus, going around Austin - hip-hop playing, an on-board bar, a woman making balloons, and the senior management of Zappos and their friends having fun. No suits or traditional networking in sight.

#7 Rethink 'Business'. I think it's time we rethink what 'business' is. Someone - I think @jeffrey - said 'business is the mechanism for taking an idea from concept to delivery' and that's a good one. To some, SXSW interactive is about geeks, or technology, or creativity; to me - it's just about business. Not the business of Wall St, The City, your local Chamber Of Commerce or Business Link,not about suits, powerpoint presentations and business plans but THE BUSINESS OF YOU & ME. Doing it your way, your style and you don't need to give a damn about 'the rules' (whatever they are). I got a tweet today that my Unplan idea is 'dangerous rubbish' but I'm seeking to disrupt the assumptions of the status quo and show people you can be successful by doing it your own way. It's like what Tim Ferriss wrote to me in his book when I met him on a rooftop in Austin: 'here's to experimenting often and exploring the uncommon'.

SXSW Diary

A picture tells a thousand words, right? So here's the last week in pictures:

picture credits where not the author: @fosforus and @wmmarc

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Juggler Stories #2: Espree Devora

I’ve been so lucky in enjoying support from a great bunch of people who read my book 'Juggle!'. 12 months ago at South By South West 2009 Espree Devora saw a poster advertising the book; she got in touch with me just as I was leaving town, so we never actually met up. I was really pleased to hear the book resonated with her - so much so she sent 20 copies to her friends at Zappos - so finally, on Saturday we got to meet up, talk and hang out at SXSW 2010. LA-based Espree is founder of an action sports business Zex Sports and a classic entrepreneur, full of energy, ideas and ability. She is a great connector, adept at putting people together and making introductions. She invited me as her guest on board Tony Hsieh's 'Delivering Happiness' Bus later that evening and introduced me to a whole bunch of great people. Before we did that, I shot this video of her talking about juggling:

*if you can't see the video above, watch it on YouTube here

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Giving Your Small Business An Edge

I’ve just started writing some posts for BNET, ‘the go to place for management’. So if you like my blog posts here you might enjoy the series for BNET with advice to give small business an edge in fast changing markets. My first post ‘Rip Up Your Five Year Plan’ has just gone live.

Do you have a ‘WYT?’ person in your business or work life?

Many of us are working more autonomous than ever as one-person businesses, consultants, freelancers, work-at-homers. There is a whole new generation of workers used to being self sufficient in everything; juggling a sales role with doing the accounts. But however talented you are, and however well-tuned your instinct is, it’s essential to have someone else to bounce ideas off, to provide a reality check, or just to look over a proposal or important document.

I call them my ‘WYT?’-  What d’You Think?’ - people. And I have a few of them: people who have good ideas, others who will provide a fresh perspective on a problem, my wife to be really honest with me about whether something is good enough or not. I have a WYT relationship with my friend/ associate Richard – he calls it a buddy system (and blogged about it here). But whatever you call it, make sure you identify people in your life who you can call upon as mentors, sounding boards or just a fresh pair of eyes and ears.

You may be adept at being multi-dimensional, but you can still benefit from a completely fresh perspective.

BBC Radio Cambridgeshire Interview

Last night I was a guest on Sue Marchant’s show on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire talking about rethinking your approach to business and ‘Unplanning’. You can hear the interview again via the  BBC iPlayer HERE (link only works for 7 days). The interview starts at around 16:40 and lasts 10 minutes.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Unplan Your Business

In these turbulent economic times, the wise among us question every business certainty. Business-as-usual hasn’t served individuals, businesses or governments well. Traditional long-term strategy retains its place but, with web based tools revolutionising the speed at which we can launch and test ideas, I think the future requires we bust the myth that we can plan/guess the future and, that we need to UNPLAN OUR BUSINESSES instead. 

“How To Unplan Your Business” is my latest project; a collaboration with a friend and former colleague David Sloly.

In my research I have gathered various contributions from entrepreneurs and management thinkers including Tom Peters, Kevin Roberts (Worldwide CEO, Saatchi & Saatchi), Tony Hsieh (CEO, Zappos), David Hieatt (ex CEO Howies), Gary Vaynerchuk, Michael Schrage (prototyping guru) and Alan Webber (founding editor of Fast Company) - all of whom, for different reasons, support the idea.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Andy Hudson: Taking A New Idea To Market

Here’s a short video interview with Andy Hudson. I first met Andy in 1988 when I was doing work experience at a television production company. When I returned to the company in a full-time role in 1990 I worked with him on the music series ‘Friday At The Dome’ for Channel 4 and a number of other music and arts shows. We then worked together at his music events start-up Sol Entertainment and then at The Unique Broadcasting Company. Especially in the early part of my career Andy was a real mentor and encouraged me to think ‘plural’; that I could apply my skills to more than one area. It’s great to see how he’s reinvented himself from music and events to be founder of a technology business as he’s now COO of The Broadband Computer Company. The company has just launched ‘alex’, which offers safe, secure and easy computing especially for inexperienced users. I met Andy at the London launch last month and talked to him about how he’s developed the business from idea to market.

if the video does not display above, watch it on YouTube here