Help – recipes wanted that men can cook

October 29, 2009

I want to help the women of East Anglia encourage their men folk to cook.

Cooking for menI was twittering away, when one of the tweets I received, was from a lady on holiday relaxing, whilst her husband was cooking dinner. 

Nothing unusual about that you might think.  A kind and thoughtful gesture and away from the barbeque!

Unfortunately after a very short time, emergency help with the rice was called for, so moment lost!  

So, rather sadly, his kind offer didn’t appear to be matched by his skills, and the lady in question was in distress.

So how about it, let’s create a bullet proof cook book for men?  More sophisticated than beans on toast, tastier than a bacon ‘sarnie’, and something that will ‘wow’ the ladies.

I’ll put together an e-book of the top 10 dishes for blokes to cook, if you can provide the recipes.

It will require engineering details like a Haines car manual.  Then, specific information on where to get the parts from, and a thorough description of which are the correct tools to use.  And finally, details of the sequence in which to construct the masterpiece.

Think Meccano for cooks!

Are you up for the challenge?

Send your recipes to  I’ll credit your details and circulate the e-book to everyone who submits a recipe!


Is Self-Directed Support the death knell for charities or saviour for people with a disability?

October 19, 2009

Jonathan 191009Self-directed support is the new social care policy being rolled out, to be in place by 2011.  It means larger charities will no longer be able to provide a ‘one size fits all’ bulk contracted service to local authorities.  Instead, they will have to sell their services direct to each customer, skills which most of them don’t currently have. 

By 2011 the Government wants the SDS system in place and fully operational.  Currently the scheme is creating a major upheaval for local authorities.  Why?  Because they have to assess each individual, allocate a care budget, support the creation of a care plan, approve it and then help the individual and their carers put it in place. 

Many are running behind schedule and right now there’s no clear indication of how, when or what the volume of this fledgling market will be.  And that’s a big problem for charities as many of them are geared to work with local authority contracts worth £000’s and the customers arriving automatically, rather than one-by-one and direct payment in the £0’s.

Added to this potentially chaotic situation, the mindset of many charities could easily hold them back.  Historically, those without a retail operation simply haven’t needed to adopt a commercial approach where customers have to be found, courted and sold to.  Customers have arrived courtesy of a local authority contract or spot purchase.  And, as in any organisation where the customer doesn’t pay directly for the service, customer care and service flexibility is generally at the back of the pack.  Furthermore, a ‘one size fits all’ service is driven almost entirely by cost.  And ironically, one of the things that contribute towards high costs is administration, which without investment in IT and customer relationship management processes is very labour intensive.

One example of this mindset is a label often given to the people served through social care.  Rather than politely referring to those they support as ‘customers’ or ‘clients’, they are rather unattractively labelled ‘service users’; unique to the industry.  And if you Google ‘service user’, you will see that it’s a tag that doesn’t go down at all well.

So what are the specific challenges charities face to deliver in the face of SDS?

The first one is scoping the business.  As it isn’t at all clear how the market will segment, scenarios need modelling to explore shaping the service.  For example how will the provision of consultancy or advice and the service to be delivered be separated?  The cost/income equation needs exploring to see what is and what isn’t viable and the impact, if any, upon their current business should they stop delivering to this sector of the market.

The second is how to tailor what they do and package it in a way that is customer friendly, relevant to the market and presented and marketed in a manner that is attractive so people will buy it.  As many charities have never had to do this, they may need to put in place a basic customer relationship management system along with a sales process and assign and train a sales team to sell their products and services. 

The third is the marketing communications strategy and plan, to deliver the new service to the market, which will have a considerable cost attached to it; one which charities are neither used to nor familiar with. 

Then IT and the accounts process will need upgrading, as the number of transactions, invoices and hence potential for customer queries are likely to considerably increase.  And with this comes the need for tighter credit control.

The final challenge is perhaps the biggest.  That is to transform the culture that underlies delivery of the current service.  Let’s call the current approach the ‘professional gift model’.  Here, care comes as a ‘gift’, something those that receive it cannot control or reshape.  Everything is decided for them by the professionals who assess what they need.  

If this is to change to a system where the client and their carers decide what they need and how, many current assumptions about control, purpose and responsibility will need to be revisited.  Furthermore, where the client has the power of choice, most staff working within this area are likely to feel undervalued and undermined, as choice means there is a need for persuasion and selling, rather than professional advice. 

They won’t be at all familiar with selling skills and it isn’t an area that they will particularly want to become involved with, as selling is often viewed as unprofessional.  And that’s perfectly normal.  As up until the introduction of SDS there was no need to sell; customers just arrived as consistently as the sun rises each morning.

On top of all this, judging just when to enter the market is a lottery.  Too soon and competitors can re-define their offering and pricing to provide greater ‘added value’ and be more competitive.  Too late and the opportunity can be lost.

What remains far from clear is whether or not there will be a place for the major providers.  They tend to have fixed facilities with high overheads, so unless they can be creative and flexible in their approach, the whole market could fragment into a cottage industry of family, friends and acquaintances, providing highly personalised, flexible services at low cost.

However, you can have your SDS cake and eat it.  For the last nine months I have been working with one of the more forward thinking regional charities.  They now have in place their offering for the market, ready and waiting to be introduced and rolled out at the right moment.  And for a win, win scenario, the approach that has been adopted will ensure that current services are delivered in a much greater customer centric manner too, which will help change mindsets.

The last word should be for people with a disability, the group of people that the scheme is designed to help.  For them the concept of SDS is enlightened.  So if local authorities and charities can make it work, they really will have equality, choice and independence.

Things that ‘Make my Day’

October 15, 2009

I don’t mean in the Clint Eastwood sense, but things that just make me smile and feel good about life.  And I mean little things that just happen day to day, not involving family and friends.

iStock_000003077842XSmall[1]Generally, they are random acts. 

Perhaps a motorist stopping graciously at a zebra crossing, with a smile, so I can cross the road.  Or someone else stopping to let mother duck and her brood of ducklings cross the roads in Ely, safely.

Maybe it’s a casual smile or perhaps a cheery ‘Good Morning’ as you pass someone else walking down the street.  Or a shopkeeper’s small talk, remembering something you said when you last met.

I once heard about a train driver who sang information to the tune of “I Did It My Way” by Frank Sinatra.

So instead of “The next stop is Olympia where this train terminates.”

He sang, “And now, the end is near…… and now we reach…. our final destination.  We’ve come from High Street Ken….. and passed through all…… those other stations…..”

There was no reason for him to do it.  He wouldn’t get paid anymore for it.  Nobody would buy more tube tickets because of it.  There was no financial benefit.  No material incentive.

He was just having fun.  And the people on the train had fun, listening to him have fun.  It just made the people on the train feel better, helping to make the world go around.

I would like to have been on that train.

Yet it isn’t, to my knowledge, part of any Customer Relationship Management process in the world (apart from one internal South African airline who sing their safety message).  Can you imagine the conversation during the corporate planning process – the idea would be seen as far to ‘off the wall’.

Bring it on – it makes the world a better place.

What can you do if your star salesman’s upsetting the team?

October 12, 2009

Here are a few strategies to get the whole team pulling together should you find yourself in this situation.

Star salesmanIt can happen.  The team are struggling to achieve target, yet one salesman is consistently ahead of the game.  They won’t share leads, don’t follow the sales process and fail to put in the figures and paperwork on time.

You don’t want to lose them, because they are delivering business.  Yet at the same time they are de-motivating the rest of the team and not towing the corporate line; neither of which are a good thing and could encourage others to leave.

The start point is to accept that these folk are high maintenance and that there are big egos and pride at stake here.  Often they don’t wish to be promoted because their motivation is achieving the numbers and being paid big bonuses when they do so.

To tame this tiger (or tigress) will require finesse, skill and a delicate touch.  So start by spending time with them.  Find out what makes them tick, get to understand what drives them and then build on this.  For example, if recognition is key, turn some of their customers into detailed case studies – get their clients to highlight the ‘Added Value’ that the individual brings and acknowledge this. 

Perhaps they get frustrated by ‘red tape’.  If they do, a junior staff member can job shadow them and help with the administration. 

It might be that they just don’t agree with the sales process.  If so, get them to identify the stages they go through – perhaps it’s something that could be used to develop the overall sales training approach?

It’s about getting closer to these individuals and using their skills to highlight additional opportunity for the organisation.  By spending time with them and getting them involved on this level, you can achieve this. 

If you would like a few suggestions how this can be practically applied to your business, give me a call on 07971 006 446 and we can talk it through.

HRketing – blending HR and Marketing skills

October 6, 2009

PeopleJust like various fine Eastern cuisines have morphed into a tasty fusion, so have HR and Marketing in some multi-nationals.  The win, win result has generated considerable interest and improvement in candidate quality and experience.

Whilst using very different languages, the two disciplines actually do fulfil very similar functions.  Marketing targets consumers and potential consumers and HR targets employees and potential employees.

And whilst organisations may see the brand messages, aimed at these two groups as different; consumers and employees don’t!

This is where economies of scale can create significant benefits.  The approach ensures empathy between creative messages, common use of imagery and templates, improvement of the journey through the recruitment process and use of an HR marketing planning toolkit to prevent duplication of effort and save time. 

This is a novel approach that creates consistency and efficiency, cross pollinating the skills of the two disciplines to create a more professional approach.

The outcome for one of the organisations adopting this approach has been to cut the time from final assessment to job offer by half, considerably raise candidate experience scores and be far more cost effective in the recruitment process, as talent markets are clearly identified.

As my organisation combines marketing, communication, motivation and coaching skills, I can see how this novel approach has brought dividends to those with the vision to adopt it.