Monday, 22 October 2012

Creating a compass for your business life

Some businesses are value-led: they have a strong sense of purpose, they have a mission or an ethos, they only work with certain types of clients. It can be easier making decisions in a value-led business - if the organisation gets lost or struggles with how to make a decision, they can check against their values. Those values become part of the operating manual for the business.

When I was on my trip to Barcelona at the beginning of October I found a delightful neighbourhood coffee shop - Cafe Cosmo, on Carrer d'Enric Granados. I felt instantly at home there and as I sat with my espresso I got out my notepad and without thinking, started a list. I headed it ‘My Charter’ and there and then, with no editing, quickly cranked out a list of twenty do’s and don’ts. I hadn’t planned doing it, but the vibe in Cafe Cosmo that morning gave me a sudden focus and clarity to articulate what matters most in my business life.

Until last Thursday that list was just between me and the pages of my Moleskine. But then I happened to have a coffee with David Hieatt, (ex-founder of howies clothing, founder of The Do Lectures, the entrepreneur behind Hiut Denim). We were talking about the values behind David’s restaurant venture The 25 Mile. And as we talked about the values at the heart of his business life, I remembered something that used to be on the walls of the howies shops he’d founded. It was a big list in the changing rooms of twenty seven lessons he’d learned, there for everyone to see.

As I remembered David’s list I realised something - my Barcelona list captured my values: this is my own compass to guide me when I get lost. For when I don’t know whether to take that meeting, to work with that client, how to take that decision: I can look at my charter. David’s story encouraged me to go further and post my list up on my own ‘shop wall’ - here it is below.

(thanks for helping to connect the dots David...)

Monday, 8 October 2012

A time to recharge, reframe and rethink

This was my view out of the window last Monday morning as I flew over the Pyrenees towards Barcelona. The guy sitting next to me asked if my trip was ‘business or pleasure’ and I struggled to give him a straight answer.

For anyone following me over the next few days, it may have looked like Ian was on holiday: sitting in cafes in the morning, a trip to the beach in the afternoon, meeting friends for dinner in the evening. But if they’d looked closer they would have noticed my trusty moleskine notepad by my side forever scribbling thoughts, answering questions. I was on my annual trip to recharge, reframe and rethink my business life (yes and I'd brought my beach towel).

We all get busy. Stuck in the same ways of doing things. Never stopping to press pause or stand back to look at things from a different angle. If you work in an organisation you might go on a company or team 'awayday', where you sit in a windowless hotel function room with a flip chart resetting goals and rethinking the business. If you’re like me and you work for yourself, you probably don’t have awaydays. Which is good news as you won’t have to sit in dull brainstorming sessions all day. But you could still benefit from posing those questions about the business, rethinking what you do and how you do it. So every year I try and take a trip away somewhere, accompanied by that beach towel and a list of questions to consider, ideas to generate and a strategy to map.

If you don’t have the time or budget to go away for a couple of days, try an afternoon trip out of town. For me a change of scenery and a journey someplace never fails to get me productive, scribbling ideas and solving problems that I would struggle to back home. I used to call these trips ‘inspiration jaunts’, prompted by how historically many artists embarked on trips to inspire their creativity.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: you aren’t going to solve those business problems or generate ideas in the same environment. Inspiration out requires inspiration in; so go somewhere and get inspired....