Thinking ahead isn’t easy because the present can hold us back

May 14, 2012

In Victorian times, due to industrial grime, the Midlands was called, “The Black Country” and London had shocking pea soup “Smog”. What was normal then, would horrify us and be unacceptable today.

So, not everything about prosperity is good. The industrial revolution’s pollution is one very good example. Things had to change and they did, yet breaking free can present a difficult challenge.

Today’s equivalent to the Industrial Revolution’s pollution is “Austerity”. A great word – it sounds serious and severe, yet full of traditional virtue and values. It covers a gambit of situations, primarily politically and banker made, yet with the impact pressing down firmly on the shoulders of the populous.

The result is that money is tight, the banks won’t lend. Jobs are becoming scarcer, particularly for youngsters. Wages are static, costs rising with customers demanding better value. And dealing with customer complaints has got to the bureaucratic point of idiocy.

The face of retailing has changed forever, as the ability to research any topic is a mouse click away, meaning that we are all getting much more ‘Savvy’ in the way we do business. At some stage soon, the next sea change will come about and to survive society and business needs will change yet again.

So what we need right now are special gifted people and organisations who have the insight to work out how to get us out of the “Austerity” dilemma. To find the Higgs Boson particle of the business world, what Donald Rumsfeld famously called, for different reasons, his “Unknown unknowns”.

These people are the next generation Branson’s, Job’s and Zuckerberg’s. The true innovators, whose challenge is to create something new rather than ride on the back of an existing opportunity wave.

Some may call that crystal ball gazing. Others may call it vision or foresight. And others may say that evolution is better than revolution. But whatever way, it takes a very special organisation or individual to achieve this. And generally one where the leader has a clear and radical view of the future and is seeking the solution to get there with an open mind.

So, what’s your take on this? And what message do you have for the business community so it can kick “Austerity” into touch?

Jonathan Wainwright

enables organisations to create commercial success through digital marketing, traditional communications and team development.

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Succeed in 2011 – KIS and get on

January 4, 2011

Business doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact the basics are very simple, so keep it that way, why complicate things. It’s all about keeping it simple and on track – that’s the challenge most of us face.

So, my 5 Mantra’s for 2011 would be:

– Create a business plan and work it (and it might just be one page)
– Remember, cash flow is king
– Profitability rather than the vanity of turnover should be the goal
– From day one, have an exit route that leverages on what you are doing
– If you don’t love your business, do something else.

If you can manage to do all that you won’t go far wrong.

And if it’s a struggle, executive coaching is a great way to gain clarity, objectivity and focus.

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The secret behind Steve Jobs Presentation skills

October 5, 2010

I’m a great fan of Steve Jobs and Apple; stylish products and the most loyal customer base in the world. And Steve’s presentation skills to inform, educate and entertain are legendary. So I spent some time investigating how he does it.

Here are my top ten tips for creating a presentation the Steve Jobs way…..

1. Before you turn on your computer, map out how you want to communicate your message. Think in terms of making a Blockbuster film trailer, with all the ingredients you would expect such as plot, heroes, heroines and the odd villain or two.
2. Work out how to choreograph your delivery to keep interest levels high by including demonstrations, video clips, other presenters, emotionally powerful images etc.
3. Focus upon what your product or service will do for others, the benefits, rather than features. Create a compelling and passionate need for what it is you offer. Get theatrical here. Your ‘Bad guy’ can either be a competitor or a serious problem that needs fixing. Then along comes the ‘Hero’, your product or service, which saves the day.
4. Create a ‘Killer’ sound bite to form the focus. Everything else you say should then support this. Steve Jobs launched MacBook Air with the phrase, “The world’s thinnest notebook”, instantly creating a memorable difference and highlighting the massive convenience benefit over the competition.
5. Make large numbers meaningful by putting them into context using a reference that people understand.
6. Use the rule of three. With a verbal delivery this is crucially important as this is about the maximum people’s short term memory can retain. Send them elsewhere for the detailed story; website, handout pack etc.
7. Create memorable and visual slides by using images, rather than words, to communicate your message and KIS, keep it simple.
8. Use simple words. Avoid jargon and ‘Industry’ speak.
9. Introduce a Eureka moment, one that people will remember.
10. Practice, practice, practice!

If you want to know more, Carmine Gallo’s book, ‘The presentation secrets of Steve Jobs: How to be insanely great in front of any audience, makes a great read.

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Just what is a ‘Critical Friend’?

September 16, 2010

Someone asked me about this, as they thought that criticism and friendship didn’t really go together. And in the cosy world of chatting with your mates, they are right!

However, in the tough commercial world these two aspects go together hand in glove. It’s a powerful mix too, a cross between Coach, Mentor and Critic.

What I’m talking about here is adding a kind of ruthless positiveness to your agenda, one that really helps fine tune plans by providing a sounding board and reality check.

There’s an element of tough love, as an outsider I can question and challenge in a way that people working within your organisation never could.

It’s quite possible to be critical and constructive at the same time.

It’s about adding lots of fresh thinking to the mix, in a manner that really assists the decision making process. And this is one of the areas of consultancy that I love, as ideas from different industries can be highly transferable.

Something that never ceases to amaze me is how organisations often organise customer support around their own needs rather than those of their customers. They wouldn’t do this if they had a Critical Friend.

A Critical Friend can also introduce new ideas into difficult discussion areas, and help you take a 360 degree walk around the issues you face. This will help you really think deeply about all the possible solutions, hence becoming more confident with the decisions you are making.

So being a Critical Friend is a mixture of tough love, acting as a sounding board and about injecting new ways of thinking to help organisations?

Yes it is. But above all it’s about being honest and open providing realistic and reflective support so that those you are working with, achieve their goals faster and more efficiently.

If you would like me to be your Critical Friend, please call me for an informal chat on 07971 006 446.

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How to create winning business ideas – the final chapter

August 24, 2010

If you have been following this series, by now you will have added a new dimension to make Brainstorming more productive. But, having gathered the necessary information and mentally digested it, what do you do next?

Before I describe the final stage of the process, if you wish to read Parts One and Two, click on the hyperlinks.

The next step is very easy. Do nothing, stop thinking about it, drop the whole subject and put your subconscious mind to work. Turn to whatever you do that stimulates your imagination and emotions; music, theatre, arts, extreme sport.

Behave rather like Sherlock Holmes dragging Dr Watson off to the theatre half way through solving a case; incredibly irritating for Watson, but essential for Holmes’s creative process.

Now, if you’ve done your preparation work effectively, the idea will suddenly appear out of the blue, often when you are least expecting it. Sometimes this is described as a ‘Flash in the Pan’ or having a ‘Eureka moment’.

Then you get to the very last stage; is your idea ‘Fit for purpose’?

And this is often the hardest, as it means exposing it to the criticism of others to shape and develop the idea to practical usefulness.

These stages may all seem to be very obvious and they are. The secret is to diligently complete them in sequence. The half tone printing press was invented through this technique. You never know, that next big invention might have your name on it.

If you want to buy James Webb Young’s book, you will find it here. It’s a fascinating book and takes less than an hour to read; some great reviews too.

Alternatively, if self-help isn’t for you, three of my one-to-one coaching sessions will help you through the process, to help you approach any specific problems you wish to solve.

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How to create winning business ideas

August 9, 2010

Brainstorming can be very one dimensional. Minds go blank and participants can feel awkward about contributing. So just how can you and the team create winning ideas, to inspire and motivate, in these difficult times?

The good news is that creativity and ideas generation can be approached as a process. This means that anybody with an interest in exploring new ways of doing things, who cares to apply themselves, can do it.

And you don’t have to be creative or free thinking. The art of producing ideas is down to two things; principles and method. James Webb Young is the inventor of the process, described in his book, “A Technique for Producing Ideas”.

The principle is straightforward. That a new idea is simply discovering a new combination of existing elements and that the ability to make these connections arises from the way people view relationships.

There are five stages to the process and for it to work, each stage must be completed methodically, conscientiously and in the correct order.

Today, I’m going to describe the first stage. Let’s take a hypothetical problem, albeit a very common one in the current market place.

“Client buying patterns have changed. Their purchase decisions are now much more price sensitive and have you started to lose sales to competitors?”

You need to come up with ways of preventing this.

The first stage is conceptually simple, yet a real challenge to achieve. You and your team need to explore and collect the raw data surrounding this problem.

The challenge is to establish the minutiae of what’s specifically going on – putting the problem under the electron microscope to examine the detail from every angle. You also need to gather general information about what’s happening in the market place too.

Most of us start to find this irksome after a while and the temptation is to stop gathering and start looking for the solution. Don’t, the more diligent you are with the gathering task, the better your chances of success later.

Next week I’ll describe what to do next with the information you have gathered. If you click on the subscribe link, top right, the post will be sent to you automatically.

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