Archive for January, 2008
Following on from gaining a Bright Green shirt (always better than loosing your shirt), it’s interesting to note the amount of attention given to ‘green-collar’ jobs by the current presidential candidates stateside. Even despite talks of recession, it seems that the growth in the green job market is only just beginning.
One of the key things every entrepreneur struggles with is focus. I was talking to a business contact when I described my continual need to re-focus and prevent myself getting excited about unrelated opportunities. Shortly after he sent me an email with the following article, by Keith Ferrazzi:
“My biggest issue has always been my lack of focus, so one of my New Year’s resolutions is to step back in so many places, particularly my businesses, to assure I have the solid footing and grounding I need. Yoga is a nice proxy for life. As I do yoga and thoughts of the day race through my mind, I begin to stagger and cannot keep my balance. But when I focus my attention on the yoga move, I can execute it and it feels good. Then comes that next thought… and I’m stumbling around the mat again, not really enjoying myself or getting any physical or emotional value from the exercise. Richard Branson once told me that in order to sustain variety and growth, we need a solid foundation that will always be there. Actually, when I asked him how he can lead such an eclectic business when everyone else preaches focus focus focus, he said, “Variety is fine once you can pay the rent.” The idea that a solid foundation is critical before we look to expand is also true of friends, relationships with our significant others, and certainly work and career.”
Check this link to see his blog.
His sending this email sparked a few thoughts.
1) The need to be able to focus on any given task at any given time. When you are doing one thing and thinking of another, you loose out from both! My own ‘yoga’ is meditation, which I try to do for 5-10 mins each morning. Even 5 mins can dramatically impact my day.
2) That even those who have a life of variety like Richard Branson needed to focus on building the foundations in a structured and focused way.
3) That sending a present, whether a thought or something tangible, is a very powerful and thoughtful way of grabbing someone’s attention. At the World Entrepreneurship Summit I met Henry Stewart, Chief Executive of Happy. He was wearing a very Bright Green shirt and I commented on how great it was and where you could get them, so we can be a walking branding machine . Two days later, a parcel arrived and he’d taken the time to go and buy me one and send it on. Now, I’ll be recommending his company to everyone I meet, and looking very Bright Green at key meetings, as you can see from the attached photo!
Henry’s company has the following accolades. Check out the company when you can!
2008 Best Present givers of the Year
2007 Best Workplaces (Financial Times): No. 2
2007 IT Training Company of the Year, Silver (Institute of IT Training)
2006 Most positive Impact on Society of any small business in UK (Business in the Community)
2005 Most Inspired Workplace in UK (Inspired Leaders)
2003 Best Customer Service in UK (Management Today/Unisys Service Excellence UK Overall Winner)
China’s recent pan on plastic bags is a great example of another way in which governments CAN make a difference through being tough on certain products or services. I was in Paris this weekend, the home of Satre and smoky cafes, and yet they seem to have taken to smoking outside without much fuss according to French friends there. I certainly believe in the government taking a laissez-faire approach to many things, but plastic bags, flying without penalty and having access to the ‘wrong lightbulbs’ are all habits that the government can and should help us kick.
The Entrepreneurship summit was interesting and lots of the ‘old’ faces from the London/UK entrepreneurial scene were there. It was great to catch up with some of the key players in the world of enterprise. However, sometimes I wonder whether the true entrepreneurs are actually back at their desks getting on and doing it? Yes we need to encourage the next generation and these people are true evangelists for the power of entrepreneurship, but are they entrepreneurs?
I’m a doer, sometimes to my own detriment. I probably learn from my mistakes (or sometimes even then I don’t) and sometimes start ideas and get them moving before I’ve really thought them through – which is why I think my company Travelroots never really flourished. Fortunately I now have a business partner and staff at Bright Green who can hold me back when I’m about to dive too quickly. But does all the talking, whether at the UN, in Bali or at conferences achieve as much as getting out there and getting on with it? How much hot air is wasted and how much of it is about who’s traveling Club class and staying in the nicest hotel? Yes, we need to talk and discuss… we are social creatures, but does it occur to the detriment of action? It’s much easier to talk about things than to successfully deliver. Can we come up with an accountability structure that pushes the delivery of action?
I guess I’m being hypocritical at this moment, typing away as opposed to ‘doing’. But there’s a huge power in getting on and doing it. Ideas are there to be explored up to the point that they prove impossible. Note – impossible, not very, very difficult. Certainly we don’t have time to follow each and every idea we come across, but too many people don’t get the doing bit right. Nearly all the successes I’ve had have resulted not in an initial idea, but as a by-product of working on something else. Blue Ventures came about as a result of helping out with a University Expedition organization. My scholarship at Oxford came about as a result of an opportune meeting at the right time. Neither would have occurred through planning. Neither could have been forseen.
So, I vouch that you just go out and do it… Nike are on to something. Just do it.
I’m off giving a talk at the World Entrepreneurship Summit this afternoon, which is on today and tomorrow in Westminster. Although not normally a fan of conferences or meetings of this kind where people generally do more talking than doing, this does look like a very interesting event. I would recommend coming along if you’re keen to learn more about running your own business or making those ideas in the back of your black books happen.
I carry a notebook with me wherever I go and when I finish one, I mourn the departure of the weather-beaten old and the blankness of the new. But the format is always the same – quotes in the very front, business ideas in the very back, the two of which sandwich hundreds of to do lists and notes.
Here are the quotes that appealed to me since starting my last notebook in September. It’s interesting to read through them as they are indicative of some of the moods and thoughts that have developed in this period. Apologies if you feel this is indulgent, that is not my intention – instead I want to share these because they touched me in one way or another.
‘Everything popular is wrong’ Wilde
‘Please just use what works for you and let go of the rest’ Buddah
‘The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes’ – Proust.
‘A shortcut to riches is to subtract from our desires’ Anon.
‘Desperation is the raw material of drastic change. Only those who can leave behind everything they have ever believed in can hope to escape’ William S. Burrows
‘I would rather feel compassion than know the meaning of it’ Thomas Acquinas
‘I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you make them feel.’ Maya Angelou
‘Millions long for immortality who don’t know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon.’ Susan Ertz
‘A leader takes people where they want to go, a great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go, but ought to be’. Rosalyn Carter
‘If you want a rainbow, you have to put up with the rain’ Anon.
Almost every organisation, from Goldman Sachs to Greenpeace ‘sells’ something. As a result, it’s important to understand the mechanisms of selling. At Bright Green, I believe we have a fairly easy ride. The combination of doing something we’re passionate about, whilst also offering clients a contingent service (which means if we don’t find someone for them, there is n fee), means that it’s relatively easy to persuade people to use us.
However, there are still some basics when it comes to selling that are too often ignored. Here is a non-exhaustive list of a few pointers:
1) Selling is about LISTENING not about TELLING. Studies regularly show that someone who listens and asks questions is more likely to sell that someone who tells the client how it is. Here’s an article that explores this concept – ensuring also that you ask the right questions.
2) Planning is vital when it comes to selling something. Make sure you’ve done your homework.
3) Make sure that a call or an email moves you on to the next stage. Make sure you’ve thought about the outcomes of your call/meeting.
4) Take note of what works and what doesn’t. By keeping a log of your sales and how you think you performed, you can learn a lot about how effective you are.
5) Don’t get distracted by the internet or email unless you’re Ebay or you’re an e-retailer. It’s a great place to do your research, but nothing’s better when it comes to selling than talking to people.
So sell well. And in our book, creating a need and then filling that need (as many of the world’s advertisers, or the fashion industry seem to excel at) doesn’t count! It’s clever, perhaps even more complex, but what does it achieve?
Here is an interesting article about CSR and HR and how the two work together. Some of the key extracts:
- If there is something that is guaranteed to make businesses sit up and listen it is competitive advantage. Human Resources agrees that CSR practice adds value to busines.
- So why is corporate responsibility important for HR? When asked to rank the top three benefits of CSR in the workplace, the most votes overall went to helping to retain staff, followed by the ability to attract the best talent and helping increase motivation and engagement. But when asked to rank the single most important benefit, 57% of you said creating a strong organisational culture is the most important aspect of CSR.
- Research from resourcing communications agency TCS finds that 44% of employees say an organisation’s CSR policy is likely or very likely to affect their decision to apply for a job within that organisation.
- According to a survey by BPRI and BMRB last year, 44% of the public and 66% of MPs think the motivation behind CSR is enhancing image, rather than contributing to the community or motivating employees.
- Nearly 30% of people would compromise their salary to work for a company with a good CSR policy.
- Business executives, NGOs and policymakers believe that CSR will become a core business strategy in the next five years. A survey released at the Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) annual conference in San Francisco found that 82% of 330 business leaders polled at the event were optimistic that this would be the case.
Although completely unconnected with the environment or recruitment, or perhaps anything else on this blog. I want to pay tribute to George McDonald Fraser, who died aged 82. For any of you who have not picked up his Flashman novels, I urge you to do so!
Following on from my thoughts about a mandatory eco-tax on flights, here is an article which looks at other methods of forcing environmental issues upon us. Given the critical nature of our current situation, these might also be worth considering. After all, the government does have to take a lead and banning certain bulbs, although dramatic, would have a significant effect. Here’s the US taking the lead.