What Business Model Do You Follow?

Business Model

If you are part of a large organisation you probably won’t know the specifics however, in general terms, you probably follow a similar business model to the rest of your competitors.

Does your business model still work?

Big banks follow the same basic methodology as everyone else in their field as do investment houses, insurance companies, accountants, solicitors…and so the list goes on. Therefore most businesses are caught and spend their days in executing business models. They follow a fairly standardised model accepted across their sector.  This is why change or an alteration in their course is so hard to achieve.

Now think about the disruptors that have shown themselves in recent years.  Uber, AirBNB, Fintech’s etc.  These companies are not following a standardised model.  In fact, when they started, I doubt that they had even conceived a business model at all.  They were in the process of discovering what their business model was which left them free to try things out and find what worked and what didn’t.  Hence they were able to angle themselves into industries with new, fresh outlooks and new ways of doing things which caught their larger competitors by surprise.  Consequently, they stole a sizeable, sometimes huge, chunk of that particular market share.

Discover your business model and become an industry leader

When you are discovering your business model you are unencumbered by all the things that weigh down your competitors.  You may have to make room for concerns such as regulation and legalities but for the most part you are able to play and experiment with what you are offering and then provide your consumer, user, client with exactly what they are looking for.

Disruptors such as these also, in the main, have the advantage of being small, are agile and nimble enough to adapt to changing circumstances and demand.  However, the most successful ones don’t then sit back and follow the same business model year on year.  They are always looking forward, testing the water with new ideas, new avenues, different structures to see where they can go next (think Netflix – from video hire to streaming).

Business models should be a journey of discovery and one that never finishes unless you want to become stale, static and eventually irrelevant.

Don’t get overtaken by competitors, adapt your business model

There are no reasons why larger or established companies can’t adopt the discovery attitude. It doesn’t mean they having to instigate major upheaval or close down in anyway.  What they do need to do is look at start-ups and pay attention to the new skills they display, especially mind set. Setting aside a few people and resources, perhaps a separate department, dedicated to the concepts of discovery, change and disruption could work wonders and catapult your business forward.

So my question to those of you in larger institutions out there is; are you courageous enough to experiment?  If your business model isn’t working, do you have the foresight to change it?

The Power of Thank You (the personal power tool that costs £0!)

The Power of Thank You

Have you ever been in the situation where you have held open a door for someone and they sailed through without saying a word? Or how about letting someone in front of you in a line of traffic and they make no sign of acknowledgement. Or, as happened to me recently, you spend an entire day preparing a feast for a dinner party to have someone turn up empty handed, they eat your food, drink your wine and never say thank you, not even a text!

Annoying isn’t it? It can make your blood boil, and have you noticed the unpleasant sensation it leaves you with afterwards? The only thing greater than the power of thank you is the sour taste a lack of thanks can leave.

The power of thank you is seriously underestimated

Some employers make the mistake of thinking that things such as money, extra holiday entitlement, or promotions are the only ways to keep staff happy. Of course these are great to receive but it all costs money and eats into profitability if they are the only tools used.

There are plenty of things leaders can do that cost absolutely zero £.  The first of these is the all too obvious but much underused words of ‘thank you’.

Human beings respond much more positively to praise.  If you actively look for what is good in a person or what they are doing which is spot on if not surpassing your anticipations, then actively bring attention to this by acknowledgement and a thank you, that person will respond in a favourable way. The power of thank you is the warm glow it gives a person.

You don’t need awards or anything over the top by way of a thank you.  Just stop and consider how good you felt when someone took the time to notice something you had done or achieved and then went out of their way to come up to you and say something great about it.  How did that make you feel for the rest of the day? It’s that feeling you should be instilling in those you are responsible for.

The power of thank you costs zero £ but a few moments of time

Even when you’re busy there is always time to glance up and outwards to review how your team members are doing and, if you are a good leader, how their morale is.  Some may need more encouragement than others, some may not trust their own regard for themselves and some may need support and help.  But how are you going to know this unless you take the time? Acknowledgment and thanks are extremely powerful, especially when times are stressful or tough.

It is very easy and often the norm to watch employee’s performance and pull them up on what it is that they are not doing or are doing imperfectly.  While this may be regarded as positive feedback because it will help them improve, it quite often isn’t and doesn’t.  Criticism and having what are perceived as negative points raised can be viewed as an attack on their personal identity and I’ve never known a person respond well to it.

Of course, sometimes it is necessary to address performance issues for the overall good of the team and company, however first look for the good and start with that.  Think carefully about the more negative issue you need to raise and how you can do so without attacking their personality and always finish with a positive phrase or aspect directed back at them as a person.

You’re human, they’re human – treat them as you would yourself – with positive regard and humanity. Use the power of thank you constructively and enjoy the smiles you get in return.

(Oh, and thank you for taking the time to read this article)


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Are we really all born equal?

I was recently watching the movie Made in Dagenham which is based around the story of the 1968 female workers at Ford walking out in protest over unequal pay.  They succeeded in their battle and it led to the 1970 Equal Pay Act being introduced.

Have things changed since the 1970’s? Or, is being born equal irrelevant?

As I watched a scene where the fictional heroine orders a Babycham, I mused over how you would never hear that phrase in a bar today and perhaps it was just as well that things have moved on since then.

But have they….?

The Equal Pay Act 1970 was replaced by the Equality Act 2010.  Under the Act all employees have a right to equal pay for equal work, men and women, and pay includes the complete pay and benefits package. The pay received for a role can be compared to anyone who is doing the same job, used to do the same job or is in a directly comparable role.

In 2018 companies with more than 250 employees were obliged to provide gender pay gap information to the government.  The figures are imperfect as, due to some unexplained exemptions, high level executives pay was excluded.  However, I’ve looked at some of the companies and their reported gaps and was appalled at what has come to light (I suspect the picture is probably worse because of the exemptions).

On average women are paid 9.7% less than their male counterparts for the same role.  Doesn’t sound too bad? (though there shouldn’t be any gap at all)

We may be born equal but are we treated equally?

But I then delved deeper, specifically looking at the financial services sector, I checked out 12 well known, respected and, I would have hoped, forward thinking companies and this is where my jaw dropped open:  the lowest gap was 23.4% and it then ranged upwards into the 30%, 40% with the highest a staggering 59%!

I am not going to name the companies concerned, suffice to say anyone can check out the same information at https://gender-pay-gap.service.gov.uk  It allows you to look up individual companies as well as running comparisons to get a broader picture.

Thankfully the government’s requirement for companies to continue reporting their gender pay gaps will continue every year so logic dictates that these companies will be forced to address and equalise their pay structures tout suite.

I sincerely hope they do act quickly as 50 years on from the original, unambiguous and clear Equal Pay Act is quite long enough for parity to have been achieved and it is a disgrace that it hasn’t as yet.

We may propound the notion of being born equal; now we literally need to put our money where our mouths are and make sure all are treated equally.


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4 Tips Guaranteed to Increase Productivity

increase productivity burning midnight oil

Sleep – increase productivity

You simply cannot take getting enough sleep for granted.  Without enough sleep you will, literally, slow down. Whether you work shifts, or 9-5 you need enough sleep if you want to increase productivity. Forget about our concept about time – the minutes and hours we stipulate as day and night.  The human body has its own internal circadian clock (which happens to be roughly 24 hours, just over) which, when factored into our routines, keeps our bodies, minds and organs functioning at optimal levels.  We are, of course, able to over-ride these natural rhythms (paying more attention to external clocks) however, over a period of time this will affect our ability to perform at peak levels and decreases our productivity.

Sluggishness, irritability, feeling unwell, compromised immune systems are just a few of the effects of becoming sleep deprived and can lead to serious and long term mental welfare problems if left unaddressed.

There are plenty of articles, advice and tips online about how to get enough sleep (approx. 6-8 hours) and it’s important to know what your individual body needs. Proper attention to knowing what you require and then doing everything you can to ensure you get it, is the easiest way to guarantee your ability to perform at your peak level and increase productivity.

Meditation and/or Mindfulness to increase productivity

Managing stress can sometimes be easier said than done, especially if you work in a highly challenging environment.  However, to mitigate some of our stress levels meditation and mindfulness definitely help. If your mind is over busy, your body slows down, and everything is a struggle. To increase productivity, you need to help your mind regain focus.

Both meditation and mindfulness are terms bandied about a lot these days.  In simple terms they are both used to calm our frenzied minds.  Meditation is an umbrella term, which can include mindfulness, and denotes acknowledging your mind and self-regulating it.  Mindfulness is the act of focussing in on the present whether that be drinking a cup of tea, peeling vegetables or concentrating on your breath.  You are so present in whatever you are doing you can banish any other thought or worry from your mind and only be aware of the act you are doing.

Again there are plenty of exercises in both meditation and mindfulness online, find the one that works for you.  Starting your day with at least 10 minutes has been proven to improve brain functionality for the rest of the day.  Where possible repeating the exercise when you get overwhelmed will also help as it will with sleep if done before going to bed.

Daylight – nature’s way to increase productivity

Going back to the body’s natural rhythms, daylight plays a large factor in our overall well-being.  Before time or clocks were invented we would rise with the daybreak and sleep when night fell.  Today, we are cooped up in buildings with artificial light or in transport travelling to and from our occupations so we get little opportunity to get natural daylight.  This does inhibit some of our bio-chemical messages which in turn affects our productivity.

Standing outside, even on a cloudy of rainy day, with our faces turned up toward the daylight for at least 15 minutes a day gives a boost to our bio-chemistry. By looking into natural daylight your eyes take it in and produces the hormone Serotonin which helps us feel calm and focussed.  It also boosts our vitamin D levels which helps our bones, staves off anxiety and depression and is speculated to assist in fighting off some forms of cancer. So, daylight is nature’s easy boost to increase productivity.

Move More – yes, it’s true, our bodies need exercise to increase productivity

I can hear the groans from here.  We all know that exercise is beneficial for us yet so many of us don’t do it.  ‘Too busy to fit in’, ‘hate the gym’, ‘I don’t want to get sweaty’, we can spend an inordinate amount of time thinking of ways not to exercise.  However, it needn’t be that regimented.

Walking is one of the best forms of exercise when done briskly and in the fresh air.  Taking stairs, cycling, swimming, doing yoga.  It doesn’t really matter what the exercise is just find something that you enjoy or don’t mind doing and doesn’t interfere with your daily routine too much – you’re more likely to keep it up.  Check out my stress busting exercise tips here

The trick is to make sure it puffs you out a bit and gets your heart pumping.  That oxygenates your blood which in turn helps your little grey cells and eliminates nasties from your system at the same time.  If you can find 10/15minutes a day to get a coffee you can substitute one of those times to get a bit of exercise.

If you’re in a sedentary job then get a standing desk at the very least.  You’ll be surprised how much energy you burn when you stand regularly and work at a standing desk, plus it improves posture.

With so many days of productivity being lost to stress as well as back and neck pain, these 4 simple, easily implemented, non-onerous tips really will help you feel better and get some positivity back into your work. Rather than burn the midnight oil trying to cram more work in; try these 4 tips to increase productivity.


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Unlock the creative brain – try being a southpaw

A few weeks ago, I wrote about a study I found intriguing with some interesting findings around the brain and its function with creativity. I decided to try an experiment to unlock my creative brain.

Your brain has 2 hemispheres, left and right.  Your left hemisphere functions  with things such as logic, practicalities, reason etc. and the right is where our more creative impulses lie; creativity, imagination, dreaming, artistic leanings.  In normal day to day life we tend to use our left hemisphere most of the time and the right remains somewhat under-used (unless you are an artist of some sort or lucky enough to be left handed). Are we denying our creative brain?

Our right hand communicates towards out left hemisphere and our left hand towards our right.  The study suggested that encouraging more use of our left hand would ignite more synaptic pathways into our right hemisphere and lead to more creative thinking – which we could all do with in this day and age.

Experiment for the creative brain

I decided to give it a try by practising writing left handed, every day, for 10 minutes at a stretch for a month. My very unscientific experiment found some surprising outcomes.

I believe it did indeed unleash more creative thinking for me.  I found that, whereas I might have had to stop and think about one problem or one thing at a time the ideas started to flow with ease.  In fact they started to flow so fast and often I had a hard job keeping track.  It was like a grasshopper on speed!

Others noticed it too.  I didn’t realise at first that when I was speaking to someone, I would be verbalising ideas, thoughts, solutions as fast as they were popping into my head. They would sometimes spiral from immediately obtainable to possibilities and then eventually away into fantasy that would need a few more inventions to make reality. Those listening to me found it difficult to keep up with me and my thought-flows.

Warning, the creative brain can need controlling

I have had to make a concerted effort to rein it in.  To consciously re-introduce my left brain thinking so I can explain my ideas slowly and deliberately to those around me so they can grasp each portion before we move on to the next.  I’ve also lessened the amount of time I spend cultivating my left-handed writing to calm my excited thought processes. My creative brain needed a little more discipline.

I would therefore surmise that there is some truth in the study’s findings I read.  If not injecting you with some sudden creativity chemical I would speculate it at least breaks down blockages and opens avenues in your brain that have been under-utilised before.

Don’t just take my word for it – give it a go for yourself, after all who couldn’t do with more creative thought processes in this day and age? Try unlocking your own creative brain by writing left handed, 10 minutes per day.


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Resilience and being tested

being tested and surviving

Some time ago I wrote an article around resilience as I am asked so often how I find the resilience to keep doing what I do and then something happened recently that highlighted what I had tried to explain in a simpler and more human way: It was an example of being tested.

Though I catch the train into London again I try to avoid rush hour commutes as it is just too frenetic, crammed and stressful for my PTSD condition (a legacy from the crash) However, I was on a 3 day training course in London that necessitated peak hour travelling.

Arriving at the train station on the third day I found (along with thousands of other commuters) that some electrical lines had come down just outside of Paddington which had closed the routes into and out of Paddington.

Rather than give up on the day (I hate not finishing anything I start) with the rest of the masses I traipsed off to the Waterloo stopping train that would take hours to reach London.

Being tested can occur at unexpected moments

There was standing room only and, as more and more people squeezed on, I found myself crushed into a corner near the far door, unable to move or hang on to much, mainly held in place by other bodies. My resilience (and PTSD) was being tested and it was a thoroughly unpleasant experience.

As we set off, I could feel the panic rising in my throat. I began to sweat profusely, mouth went dry and the nausea rose from the pit of my stomach. I bit my tongue hard in an effort to ward off the crying out I could feel welling up in me as the flashbacks began again, coming ever thicker and faster. Alongside all this the arthritis in my legs began to flame with painful heat making standing excruciating but there was no way I was ever going to find anywhere to sit.

I was literally stuck in a corner with no visible way out, feeling absolutely terrible and in pain…and this is where resilience all stems from.

Resilience - Being Tested

When you are being tested you have choices

You have, at that moment a very simple choice. 1. Give up – give in to your doubts, fears, circumstances and let them wash over and engulf you. There is nothing that can be done to help or alleviate your immediate predicament so find the nearest or soonest escape route and take it.

Or 2. Fight back – accept whatever is happening to you but search for a way to cope with the immediate discomfort however rotten you feel, think about ways you might be able to improve the situation for yourself (in my case squirming around until I could reach my painkillers), and then work out how you will do it differently if circumstances were ever to repeat themselves. For the entire time know and appreciate that it will not last for ever and will, in some way, eventually be over. “This too will pass” is a mantra I use a lot! It is all about how you deal with your resilience being tested.

being tested triumphing

Assuming, like me, you always choose option 2 then you are resilient-proofed pretty much for the rest of your life.

I did get to my course eventually. After 30 minutes of pulling myself back together in the ladies I was able to re-join the rest of the group and carried on with no-one else the wiser. Oh, and I passed the leadership training accreditation it was teaching me so option 2 always trumps option 1.


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Don’t be too proud to ask for help

Ever had one of those days when your decision to be an entrepreneur seems like a mistake? Do you ask for help? It can be tricky, especially if you are a solopreneur. Everything seems to have gone belly up and you are soldiering on trying to ignore the feelings of doom and gloom. To quote a well-known phrase, “no man/woman is an island”.

Build a network and ask for help

If you are just starting out I cannot stress the importance of building a network of support. Those early days of a business can be terrifying. If you are an established business going through change you may need to extend your network to include new skills and different contacts to help manage that change.

Nobody is good at everything. My area of expertise is finance and change disruption. I was reluctant at first to tackle marketing, so I enlisted experts. I found social media at best irritating, at worst overwhelming. That was until I understood that I didn’t have to be EVERYWHERE, just where my potential clients were. My marketing expertise is growing because I found experts who were willing to educate me as I went through the process.

Sometimes you need to ask for help on a personal level

You may be awesome at your job, but you are only human. Life can derail the best of us and that is when we need to ask for help. If you have others depending on you, don’t struggle on regardless, it could jeopardise their wellbeing. Ask for help and admit that, today, you are not handling things well. You would be amazed at how people step up when you ask and may even find an employee who could share the load in some areas. When you ask for help you often empower others and get to see the best of them.

I am reminded of several friends who used to joke that their partners would never ask for directions, preferring, instead, to get hopelessly lost. I wonder if that is the case nowadays with Sat Nav? If you are unsure of the direction your business should be going and it is giving you sleepless nights, then get some guidance.

Ask for help to get back on the right track

The UK and the USA have a huge variety of business networks, advice centres, professional associations and consultants out there all whose sole purpose is support and help. It is arrogance to think you can do everything. As an entrepreneur, solopreneur, business leader, whatever your position; you are not the fount of all knowledge.

Great business consists of great teams and your teams’ expertise is there to be used. Great business makes connections and knows where to ask for help.

Great business leaders have friends and colleagues who willingly offer support and who are happy to help. So, if today is not a great day, reach out, ask for help, share the load. Tomorrow will be better.

Interdependence vs independence; the argument for cooperative working

In today’s workplace I hear a lot of verbalisation on giving employees ‘independence’ in their jobs to promote greater productivity. Is independence the right route to follow?  I believe not. I would argue that interdependence is the way forward.

Independence isolates, interdependence brings together

Independence is the ability to live your life without being helped or influenced by other people. This sounds good on the face of it however, if taken in the work sense, it suggests working on tasks without support or assistance which does not promote a team environment nor a sense of ‘us’ which is where productivity stems from.

interdependence

Although employee independence is bandied around by employers as being a reality in their organisations I was reading with interest a recent FT article which seems to contradict this;

“It was found that the proportion of people who have a lot of discretion over how they do their jobs has declined, from 62 per cent in 1992 to 44 per cent in 2012 and to 38 per cent in 2017. There is a strong correlation between people having control over their work and enjoying their jobs.”

(the findings come from the 2017 Skills and Employment Survey, a government-funded study of about 3,300 people conducted every five years).

So it would appear that independence is not actively promoted as much as is claimed and the old command and control mechanism is alive, well and being invoked.  This is a tactic of the scared.  Things are changing so fast that it appears upper management are defaulting back to archetype because they don’t know what else to do and, as history has shown, command and control structures will ultimately fail.

What they should be looking at is an Interdependence structure.

Interdependence is where two or more things are dependent on each other.  A subtle differential however it makes a massive difference and surely makes sense?

If employers and employees recognise that they are dependent on each other (without both the other fails) then combined business strategies automatically follow.  Allowing for both sides of the equation means everyone is invested in the same goals and, just like an equation, aiming for exactly the same result beyond the = sign.

interdependence and AI

AI has its role to play but in what way makes a huge difference too. In the command and control structure its main focus is to watch and monitor employees illustrating the heightened lack of trust that change seems to have created in management.  In an interdependent culture AI’s focus switches to becoming one of the team, something employee and employer can both use for productive outcomes without the ‘big brother’ attitude.

Interdependence allows for autonomy but when structured correctly provides support, advice, and feedback when and where required.  It brings both parties closer into alignment with each other which, in the very few companies I have witnessed it, provides a far more enjoyable and harmonious workplace.

Are you feeling isolated? We all need human connection

Isolated leader

When talking to prospective clients one of the things I try to do is delve a little into their personalities and their wishes for their work.  I ask questions such as ‘what makes you happy at work’, ‘what would you ideally like to accomplish’, ‘what do you think is your biggest challenge’, ‘how do you feel now’.

Some of the common words that have been cropping up recently in answer to the last question; ‘how do you feel now’ has surprised me.  “Lonely”, “Isolated”, “Alone”. Why would this be? Most companies I deal with still have offices teeming with people, many working in teams on various projects so how is it possible to feel isolated and alone?

Isolated Workplace

Leadership loneliness and being isolated at work

Exploring a little deeper I am finding that quite a few of the leaders have the idea that they cannot show any vulnerability as that will be seen as a sign of weakness.  They feel that they have to tread a lonely path so that they will be respected, be seen as the authority figure and have their orders obeyed.  I would suggest that idea of what a leader should be like is a misnomer.

When talking to team members it appears that many are using these words in terms of their tasks.  Some work from home the majority of the time and are feeling less connected with the rest of their team and office.  Some are given their task and then expected to go off and just get on with it with very little, if any, support. This leads to a sense of being isolated from the rest of the team.

As a solopreneur I am quite used to working on my own, it suits my personality.  However, I know that there is a danger of becoming isolated, separate from other people.  To stop this happening I make a point of arranging and going out to physically attend meetings.  My work, of course, means I am constantly meeting and mixing with new people and with new connections I encourage 1-2-1 coffee meetings so I can get to know them as people.  I would say I have a 50/50 balance between working alone and being with and around other people.

I can see that the newer, faster paced world of work requires people to concentrate on their job in hand and doing so alone negates unnecessary distractions, however, are we not in danger of forgetting a core essential for any high performing productive team? Is it healthy for people to feel isolated?

Feeling isolated is contrary to our DNA

Isolated & Alone

Social interaction is one of our basic human needs.  It is within our DNA and has been since the beginning of Homo Sapiens roaming the earth.  Whilst striving for more productivity we need to ensure that this fundamental need is catered for.  We need to be more genuine, authentic and open so that other people can relate, listen to and talk to us.  We should encourage and facilitate areas, events or times when people can get together and have a good old chin wag and we need to get better at asking others questions as to how they are feeling.

Everyone needs someone to lean on occasionally whether they are the very top executive, somewhere in the middle or on the front line.  Feeling isolated is not a necessary part of leadership or 21st century working, People are, first and foremost, people after all.

Are you genuine and authentic?

genuine and authentic

Being genuine and authentic are much under rated qualities in the modern workplace however they are the foundation and essential to everything that underpins every success story.

I recently had the pleasure of delivering a keynote talk, the remit for which was to inspire people to change, create change and be open to change, in the field of inclusion and acceptance of others.  The fact that such a talk was required highlights the realisation that such humanity is required but perhaps has been given lip service before without much action to bring it about.

genuine and authentic connections

Throughout my adult life I have been unable to act in any other way.  Yes, it has sometimes left me exposed to machinations or being taken advantage of by others however I still prefer to remain the way I am.  I treat everyone I meet as though they do too and are being genuine and authentic with me in return.  It is with some sadness that I admit perhaps this is not always a universal truth.  However, what does gladden my heart is that there appears to be a shift back towards these ideals and the honest desire to now promote individualism and caring towards people as human beings, certainly within the financial sector I work in.

As one of my audience members put it: “The sharing of your experience has been truly authentic and this is not something that people can fudge. You have to be an authentic caring individual to have the desire to put your personal experience at the service of a wider community, to give people reassurance, strength, and hope. You have made me smile and cry in short distance and I felt very much alive!”

Being genuine and authentic is a strength

And there is the crux.  Revealing your genuine and authentic self is not a weakness, it is a strength.  It is not something to be feared but something to be celebrated.  Humanity comes in all shapes and sizes and exposing your true self can be scary but the more you do it, the more ‘human’ you are, the easier it gets and the more people will respond positively towards you.

The next time someone asks you; ‘how are you’ don’t just reply ‘fine’.  If it’s a good, or indeed bad day, tell them and why that is.  More importantly if you are the person asking listen to what the other says and if it’s appropriate perhaps offer a cup of coffee or a shoulder to lean on.  Take the time to appreciate each other as people and see them as a fellow human being with the same feelings, problems and desires as yourself.

We all want to be ‘successful’ (however you may measure that term) but sometimes it is forgotten that being genuine and authentic is actually a short cut towards that goal.