Friday, 30 April 2010

The Best Recruitment Video Ever

Increasingly agencies and suppliers trade and compete on their attitude and culture. Not so much, 'what they do' but rather 'what they are like to work with'. Of course, that’s the bit that makes them unique. That follows through to recruitment and employee engagement where employers need to make sure that the people they hire reflect their attitude and organisational dna.

This video was recorded a few years ago by Connected Ventures, a group of friends in New York who work for Vimeo, CollegeHumor, Busted Tees, and Defunker. This single video communicates a lot about a bunch of people that a brochure, logo or website can never say. I love it. Whether it’s used as a recruitment tool, a brand statement, an exercise in employee engagement, or – more likely – just something they ‘did for a laugh one night’ it says a lot about the organisation and its people.

And you'll probably watch it and say 'I want to work there' (I did).

Lip Dub - Flagpole Sitta by Harvey Danger from amandalynferri on Vimeo.

Great Idea

Neat idea for tips at Nude Espresso, E1

Thursday, 29 April 2010

It’s All About Choices

There was a ‘handyman’ at my house yesterday doing some maintenance, minor repairs, decorating – all those things that have accumulated at the bottom of my to-do list. Most of that I could have attempted myself but you have to make choices about what you do, and what you don’t do.

Because, of course, it’s all about Time.

In managing time it’s all about decisions. Whether to read that blog post, whether to click on that link. You get bombarded with hundreds of choices every day, so you have to be ruthless. No more so than online, where you can spend (or is it ‘waste’?) hours on places like Tweetdeck. And the thing is there’s no sure-fire way of knowing what’s going to yield value. That blink-and-you’ll-miss-it tweet could change your fortunes in an instant, open your mind to something new, give you a business opportunity. Or not.

Similarly if you – like me – are one of the growing number of one-person business units, then you need to make judgement calls all our lives. Do we configure that wifi network ourselves, or outsource to an IT expert? Do we design that presentation template or hire a designer? Write that copy or hand to a copywriter?

Each of those choices has a cost implication, but like my outsourcing to the handyman, I may be a few hundred pounds poorer, but I’m richer in time. And whether that’s time to work, to play with my kids, or just to chill, it really doesn’t matter.

I made the choice.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Rip Up The Rule Book

Virgin Media Pioneers is a new initiative here in the UK to help young entrepreneurs ‘make their ideas happen’. It’s an online space where people can get help to develop their idea, pick up new skills and create their own network. The Virgin Media Pioneers Programme is a joint initiative between Virgin Media and Enterprise UK. I’m getting involved in the project as a mentor, giving advice: here’s my first video for them, reminding people that to be a success in business you don’t need to follow the rules, it’s more important to do it your way, and be the smartest not the biggest. 

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

Monday, 19 April 2010

Juggler Stories #4: Marianne Cantwell

Last week I met Marianne Cantwell of Free Range Humans. Marianne shares some of my own ideas when it comes to carving out work lives that reflect our multi-dimensional talents and passions. Alongside Free Range Humans, Marianne juggles a portfolio of business interests that includes running workshops for career changers and helping teams perform more effectively in organisations. I asked her about the challenges of juggling and what is it that unites her plurality (this was part of a two way interview; you can see Marianne interviewing me here):

If the video above does not display correctly, watch on YouTube here

Friday, 16 April 2010

Meeting New People

Do you go out of your way to meet new people?

If you work in an organisation living and breathing a single business culture you can get entrenched in a clique hanging out with the same bunch of people, having the same sort of discussions, about the same sort of things. Yawn.

How about going out of your comfort zone to spend time with different people? Crossing those borders can stimulate and enrich your business/ work life in directions you might never have anticipated.

I’ve made a conscious effort to meet new people in 2010. Not as part of some business-development drive but in a desire to enrich my work life, building social capital along the way.

I try to steer clear of traditional networking events because they can feel so contrived. The relationships I established at places like SXSW were inevitably in a bar, on a bus, on a rooftop or on a ‘plane - not in the convention centre. Of course, Twitter is also a great tool for meeting new people, and in the last year I’ve met 20 or 30 people face to face who I first connected with via a tweet. 

When I was reading Tom Peters’ ‘Little Big Things’ on the train yesterday I was reminded that in business "He/She who has the best story wins"; and that’s what meeting new people is all about, hearing their stories, sharing stories and adding to your own story.

Of the new people I met this week, from guests at a 100th birthday party to someone I met via Twitter, one meeting was actually a reunion with a guy I met when I was a kid on holiday. In Wales in 1978 we met an American family; we kept in touch for a couple of years with the guy who was there with his sister’s family. He went on to become a Superior Court Judge in LA, and last night 32 years on – via Google search - we got reacquainted*. There was no motive for meeting, other than he was a ‘nice bloke’ and it was great to meet properly, to share stories over a glass of wine.

So if you want to grow your network, forget a carefully formulated strategy; instead just open your mind to connect with people you would not usually hang out with.

* Photo: Richard F. Charvat and Ian Sanders, London April 2010

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Juggling, Korean style

So hot on the heels of the Turkish edition of my first book 'Leap!', here's a Korean edition of 'Juggle!'

Monday, 12 April 2010

A Short Story

Last year I approached someone about a project idea. We had a good telephone conversation; we suggested some action points and agreed how we’d move forward.

I fulfilled the actions and waited. I heard nothing, but I was patient as I knew this person was busy (but of course - aren’t we all). So I ‘phoned the person, left a message with an assistant, I emailed them (several times over several weeks).

But I still heard nothing. No ‘sorry, I’m really busy now – I can’t respond’; no ‘look I made a mistake I don’t want to work with you anymore’. Zero response.

What is that all about?!

Friends and clients who work for themselves or are freelance tell me this is a familiar tale. They often have meetings or conversations with people about doing business, they invest time and effort in follow up but then hear nothing back.

I have no great theories to offer here, no guarantees for avoiding such relationships, no magic wands.

But quite simply – I offer you this: “I just don’t get it”


Excited that my first book 'Leap! Ditch Your Job, Start Your Own Business & Set Yourself Free' has just been published in Turkish. Here's the book cover artwork.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

What are your business by-products?

One thing that got me thinking at SXSW was Jason Fried’s suggestion that we should work out what are the by-products of our businesses. What takes no additional effort to create, but are natural by-products of what we do? I kind of visualised it as the sawdust on the floor. In my own business and through my story, my natural by-product is know-how that I have repacked into a series of books: “Juggle!”, “Leap!” and now “Unplan…”.

As I write this I’m listening to a trailer for Zappos Insights. What’s ‘Zappos Insights’? It’s a management programme/ learning package developed by Zappos, the online retailer. It’s not what they ‘do’ as the core business, but in getting such great feedback from the marketplace on the Zappos factor, and requests for ‘how can we create a culture like Zappos at our company?’ they swept up their sawdust – their know-how – and packaged it into a development and learning programme.

So, what’s your by-product and what are you going to do about it?

*Picture credit Waldoj on Flickr

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Juggler Stories #3: Rajeeb Dey

My book 'Juggle!' is full of stories from people who have created multi-dimensional work lives that reflect their talents and goals. I love meeting new jugglers; last week I met Raj Dey. Raj only graduated from Oxford University in 2008 but already has carved out an impressive portfolio of business interests. He’s Founder and CEO of Enternships -a service connecting talented students and graduates to start-ups/SMEs; he sits on the Education Advisory Board at Channel 4; he’s a partner at Hereward Peer Ventures; a Trustee of UnLtd; an Advisory Board Member of the UK India Business Council; Founder of the English Secondary Students' Association and last year was named O2 Entrepreneur Of The Year. 

I chatted to him about why he chose to embrace plurality in his working life. Raj has found that having a diverse range of interests is really valuable as he can cross-pollinate ideas and contacts. Here's the video:

If the video above does not display properly, watch it on YouTube here.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Don't Over-Engineer It!

What is about an organisation that complicates what should be simple? Why when a small group of people grows to an organisation, do they become blind to simplicity? Why over-engineer problems and introduce unwieldy systems and operating procedures?

So I was in a restaurant in a hotel recently when I discovered the chicken I’d been served was undercooked. I called the waitress over and the meal was taken away. Then nothing much happened. So I called over the Maitre D’ and expressed my disappointment that what I thought was a decent establishment had a poor attitude to food safety. A few feet away from my table was the open-plan counter of a kitchen where the food was prepared. Somewhere around the corner was a chef. I felt like going off to find him or her to get answers to my question, it seemed so simple. The Maitre D’s response? “I’m very sorry sir. You can be sure I’ll be sending lots of emails tomorrow morning to sort this out”.

What the …?

All three people in the equation were there, just feet away. The chef. The customer. The manager.
Emails? A conversation would be a good start.

I figured that if I’d been in a small family or owner-run business it would have been sorted out quickly - and there’d have been no emails in sight.

So at all costs: if the problem is in the kitchen (or the sales office, or wherever), don’t send emails. Just walk in there and sort it out.

Don’t complicate something when it's really quite simple.