Brexit and the media

Political reporting needs a grip not a solution

Brexit just endorses the fact that our reporting climate focuses only on the problem fabricated or real. Airlines will be grounded, medicines will be unavailable, foods may run out and the 5th largest and economically strongest nation will be brought to its knees.

And will the reporting climate finally embrace a balanced perspective say in three years when the UK economy in or out is playing a stormer or will the’ Ah but ‘ polemical mentality continue to pervade. Remember the 2007/2008 scenario when we went from boom to bust? Before the outset of the disaster and the halcyon years preceding I did not hear the media informing me that we were in a boom situation. Rather, I was informed that finances were dodgy.

It’s interesting that ten years on we have left the bust far behind and have record numbers in employment and dividends never higher, apparently, we are still in a state of austerity and saddled with the legacy.

If commercial organisations adopted the same frivolous, emotive and unbalanced criteria to operate their businesses they would be insolvent within the year.

Brexit is currently in a state of negotiating where each party adopts posturing and tries to gain the high ground. Most of the provocative commentary from both sides is for the journalist’s ears in the hope that they will publicise it and enhance the author’s bargaining profile.

In business, negotiating is a journey not a destination. When the contracts are signed and the deal is done it is only then that we can know the outcome.

The process, format and tone of negotiation will take many turns and misleading journeys. To quote these antics and tactics verbatim as decisive opinion is misleading and a basic misunderstanding of the dynamics of persuasion.

Let’s hear it then from the media which informs us with the premise that issues, discussions and debate have a dual perspective. On the one hand ….. and on the other hand …. I shall then look and listen to be surprised, informed and perhaps even educated.

Remember, if we remain in the EU we shall be the 5th largest economy in Europe and if we leave the EU we shall be the 5th largest economy in Europe.

So let’s avoid the all the hyperbole and wait for the signatures when we can make informed commentary.

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Expectation can improve or damage your health

 

It is extraordinary how expectation is such a fundamental part of our DNA. How we manage it can affect our mood, our happiness and our stress levels.

When our expectations are balanced and realistic then the outcome of events will positively influence our quality of life at work or at recreation.

When our expectations are exaggerated and unrealistic then the inevitable outcome is disappointment and stress. Stress compounds negativity and worry and we become trapped in this spiral of expecting the worst. Potentially positive outcomes are recalibrated into ‘yes, but what if?’ scenarios. Colleagues and friends are classified as being too optimistic and not fully aware of the risks of events or situations.

The more stressed you become the more distorted your expectations. Stress promotes insularism and reclusiveness at a time when you need the help of others to keep your balance. This can be an albatross as you anticipate harmful outcomes though they are most unlikely to occur.

To rectify this negativity it is important you perform a mental log out.

Stand back from life. Get into a zone-free thinking space and look up ‘ Headspace ‘. This will encourage a more balanced perspective. Reflect on your worries within their contextual environment. Will it happen? Is it real or just perceived? Is it important? Can I discuss it with a colleague? Can I really influence the outcome? What are the good things I should look forward to? Talk to positive, happy friends and slowly your anticipations will meet your real expectations.

The standing back, logging out or stepping off the continuous treadmill or whatever we want to call it will always have a beneficial effect. You will enjoy life with a more contented outlook. It is rather like your friends and colleagues who will write long lists of the things they must do. It does not mean that things get done. In fact the lists may get longer.

Learn to recognise the signs when you start to worry about insignificant issues and engage less with colleagues and friends. Perhaps your sleep patterns become disrupted.Engage your safety switch. Do your mental log out, give yourself space. Take time out and enter a reflective zone which can be very therapeutic and helpful as, like the simple act of listing, you will have engaged with and tamed your monsters.

 

 

 

John Lowe

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Can I apply my MBA to being a successful Entrepreneur?

 

A good starting point might be to define what do we mean by Entrepreneur

I would define an entrepreneur as someone who manages a business or enterprise where they have part or whole personal financial responsibility for its success or failure.  I believe that the personal financial risk is the key element to true entrepreneurship.

I have interviewed many entrepreneurs who have been very successful and many who have been very unsuccessful and whom I have coached to mitigate their losses and close the business.

From the experience I have captured the key elements that are the strongest determinants for ensuring financial success.  So, let’s assume that each one here this afternoon has decided to go it alone and set up a business.  You have had enough of this corporate stuff where you have to carry out tasks which are pointless, deal with colleagues with a lazy attitude and agree to a boss’s self-indulgent, self-opinionated speeches which are normally just an ego boost

As MBA executives we know that our preparation and approach must primarily be commercially sound and justified, not just an emotive reaction to exit the large corporate political arena but a positive move which matches and meets sound criteria.

One thing you can be certain about in today’s global environment is change.  The business profile from its infancy to three years’ trading will be almost recognisable and how you adapt to and manage that endemic fluidity will be critical to the success of the business

I would define an entrepreneur as someone who manages a business or enterprise and who takes part or whole personal financial liability for its success or failure. I believe that the personal financial risk is the key element to true entrepreneurship. If the business makes an amazing profit, you are a financial star and if the business fails, you may owe a large debt.

I have interviewed many entrepreneurs who have been very successful and many who have been very unsuccessful. From this experience, I have captured the key elements that are most important for ensuring financial success.

I have developed and refined this experience and apply it when I am coaching entrepreneurs in managing their businesses. Change is always present. Markets change, people change, their outlook and their personal circumstances change. Government policies change and societal values change. Whether you view change as ‘riding the storm’ or reacting to a challenge will depend on your personality. Whether you go for risky expansion or safe consolidation will depend on your personality. Whether you find people or situations more difficult to manage will depend on your personality. Here, I am highlighting a factor that is most often omitted when we review the important issues of entrepreneurship – you.

I thought that an entrepreneur had to be good at all activities. After all, they have the ultimate responsibility for accounting, marketing, selling, designing and managing.

This is a good analogy as you will find out why, if you are an expert accountant, selling will not be your forte and, if you are an amazing designer, then you may have to delegate the marketing function.

Still want to be a successful entrepreneur? This is how you do it

There are five key elements to success:

  • Your market.
  • Your motivation.
  • Your personality.
  • Your preparation.

5   Your Leadership

Today’s work climate

The present working environment, whether it is a commercially focused corporation or a not-for-profit organisation, is demanding and has a short-term cycle. It will be influenced by the short-term trading culture that is so prevalent in today’s market.

Influencers such as global markets, off-shoring, employee mobility, technology growth, interest rates, booms, recessions, credit crunches, wars and global warming collectively and interactively create an ongoing and dynamic change in world economies.

A significant new development in today’s commercial environment is the fact that work or the task takes priority over the people factor.

Your motivation is a transient characteristic and can change with your circumstances. I know entrepreneurs who were very successful, became financially self-sufficient, retired early and now relish their freedom. These entrepreneurs could not wait to spend more time playing golf, sailing, cooking and generally socialising without the daily commercial pressures. I know entrepreneurs who are equally successful, but cannot contemplate retirement. They view it as a void in their life and have no substitutable meaningful activity.

Make more money

Be my own boss

Lifestyle change

New challenge

Own achievement

Unique market opportunity

Work/life balanc

Imagine you are funding a new start-up and you are seeking an entrepreneur to take total responsibility for the new venture. You draw up a job description listing the soft and technical skills required, and then describe the duties and responsibilities.

The job description should differentiate and demarcate between those skills that are critical for the successful conduct of the role and those that are not absolutely necessary but advantageous.

The critical soft skills outlined in your job description may include one or more from this sample lexicon:

Interpersonal and general communication skills, analytical, creative, organised, determined, resilient, commercial, adaptable, ambitious, energetic, work well under pressure, able to multitask, industrious.

Now list the technical skills for the job description. It is important in terms of competence that the entrepreneur matches the dominant technical skill. If the business is an accountancy service, they must be an accountant. If it is an IT service, they must be expert in that skill. If it is a design business, they will need to have experience in the chosen sector. They can bring in peripheral skills through contractors and freelancers.

So far, we have looked at the market choice from a general perspective. By describing its dynamic and then by benchmarking our skills against the entrepreneur’s role, we can see how well our competencies match the job profile.

Motivation is our next stage to review. What are your goals or objectives for being an entrepreneur? It can be a positive or negative choice. Positive might be: ‘I would love the freedom.’ Negative might be: ‘I am frustrated with constantly having to carry out other people’s bad decisions. I know I can do better. I am now prepared to take that responsibility working for myself.’

Let’s see what motivates you…

There is no such thing as the optimum motivation. If you think that your motivation is compliant with your market, personality, preparation and management, then there is a strong chance that it is robust and resilient enough to carry you through the tough periods.

Your motivation is a transient characteristic and can change with your circumstances. I know entrepreneurs who were very successful, became financially self-sufficient, retired early and now relish their freedom. These entrepreneurs could not wait to spend more time playing golf,sailing, cooking and generally socialising without the daily commercial pressures. I know entrepreneurs who are equally successful, but cannot contemplate retirement. They view it as a void in their life and have no substitutable meaningful activity.

Make more money

Be my own boss

Lifestyle change

New challenge

Own achievement

Unique market opportunity

Work/life balance

These are all credible individual reasons for making the ‘big leap’.

Motivation will be very personality dependent, and you will be able to test your motivation against your personality type in the next section.

Motivation will have both a rational and emotive component. This process of reviewing the five components listed earlier on page XX will ensure that there is a marriage of the two – that you have sensibly chosen a known market, developed a sound efficacious business plan and adopted a management style that capitalises on your particular personality strengths. If you can ‘tick all these boxes’, you will be excitedly motivated.

The next section is probably the most exciting and revelatory and its goal is not ‘can I?’ but ‘how do I become a really successful entrepreneur through the identification and application of my particular personality strengths?

In this next section I have described the four dominant personality types and what that means to you as an entrepreneur.

We looked first at the commercial market generally. Is it in recession or trading buoyantly? You will have identified a product or service you would like to promote. You will have asked the questions: ‘Why do I want to set up my own business?’ and ‘What is my best choice of product or service?’ You will have reviewed your personality and will feel confident that you have a better understanding of how, using your dominant traits, to be a successful entrepreneur.

Now you need to write it down in the form of a business plan.

My choice is always to use simple terminology or, practising what I preach, replace complex terminology with simple terms. For ‘global’ substitute ‘worldwide’; for ‘strategy’, substitute‘plan’. This way you will more readily identify with your plan as being a help and a guide in the conduct of your business. The overuse of terms such as ‘global strategy’ creates a plan that sounds impersonal and too formal.

Your business plan will include

Your market

product or service

sales forecast

overheads

first year profit

salary

timescales.

You will find many templates for business plans on bank internet sites, though I would advise that you compose your own. The generic templates can be too elongated and you may feel that many of the sections are not relevant to your circumstances.

The construction of your business plan will be dependent on your personality type in terms of how much detail you include and how realistic, pessimistic or optimistic it is in composition.

The case and advice you take at this point to ensure that your business plan is robust, transparent and professional, will later repay itself in dividends when you know your plan is working and you are meeting your goals.

In summary

The Influencer must pay close attention to detail and curtail their natural optimism with realism.

The Supporter should refrain from referring to too many third parties or taking advice that can be contradictory and cause confliction. Make it your plan – you can always change it. All business plans must be flexible and allow for change.

The Creative will construct a detailed and commercially focused business plan. Creativity as a product or service is difficult to define and ring fence and, therefore, their approach will need to be more client reactive rather than product or service specific.

The Analyst is good at detail and adopts a realistic approach and should ensure that they also build in the flexible element.

On my own or in partnership?

Do I go it alone or do I partner with a colleague whom I have known for a long time and with whom I have had many conversations when we enthusiastically discussed setting up business together? We are a good team. We share the same values and know each other well. We are realistic about our strengths and weaknesses. We could grow the business faster and being in partnership we would share the risk. It would be good for holidays and it would alleviate the endemic worry of own business – what if I am sick or injured and need time off

Supporters and Influencers will be inclined towards partnerships. They will enjoy the companionship and support and will feel more confident on this journey into unknown commercial territory.

The caveat, though, is that partnerships have a high incidence of failure and most often the cause is not poor sales results but disagreement as to the future direction of the company. A common scenario is where the company makes a significant profit and one partner considers it critical to reinvest the capital to accelerate growth, whilst the other partner may wish to cash-in profits in dividends so that they can buy that sailing yacht or new car, or join that expensive golf club they have always promised themselves and which has been outside their financial reach.

Previous familiarity does not help here, as the association was within a different environment and did not reflect the tensions you find within the business arena. Shareholding distribution is also important when you are partnering a business. 50/50 means equal authority in decision making. 75/25 means one party has a majority shareholding and, in effect, has the ‘final say’.

However, if the minority shareholder disagreed fundamentally with an important decision, it is difficult to imagine how that will not disrupt a meaningful working relationship. If you are the majority shareholder and you mentally decide that your colleague should leave the business, the severance compensation may be too onerous for the business to survive. Business disagreements, like divorces, are not always amicable and can involve irrational demands.

I have been elaborate in terms of discussing the pitfalls of partnerships and deliberately so. I have seen too many businesses set up with too much emotive content whereby the ‘what if?’ scenarios were not seriously discussed.

The golden rule is: go it alone, if you can. If you must go into partnership, concentrate on the ‘what ifs?’ as real possibilities rather than rare events.

The fifth and final element in the next section looks at how you should manage your business on a day-to-day basis. Reviewing your personality management style will help you to adopt the most effective approach, and reviewing the other styles will help you to empathise more sensitively with other personalities when you are in a meeting or a negotiation.

Finally,…

You are now highly motivated. You know your market and yourself. Your business plan looks great and you can’t wait to practise that management style.

Yes, you can be an entrepreneur.

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Writing a dissertation

A dissertation is not a long essay
It is not a thesis which necessitates research and generally leads to a PhD. Dissertations for a Bachelor’s or Master’s qualification can  incorporate physical or literary research but on a less comprehensive scale to a PhD.My description
of a dissertation is where “you nominate a topic with a strong propensity for
discussion and debate and which you take on an intellectual journey”.

Debate and discuss not just describe and analyse
The key words are debate and discussion eg  “Will leaving the EU benefit the UK
economically”? This topic offers great scope for balanced debate. For example we can discuss the scope to develop new global markets incorporating elements of speculative risk against the established trade and debate  its potential legacy of success. You will nominate advantages and disadvantages and their subsequent implications and outcomes.
The student writing a dissertation must develop a new mindset. You must defer
from a judgemental mentality. You must challenge yourself to debate issues and
incorporate new insights. Avoid the right/wrong perspective.
But why complicate issues? Can we not take a topic and decide on a logical
conclusion such as “Leaving the EU will put the UK economy at risk”. This approach which is conclusive and definitive in its composition does not give much scope for balanced debate as you would only cherry pick factors which endorse your premise.

Choose a topic which offers a platform for
debate and opportunities to be expansive and elaborative.
The tutor is looking for creative argument. They want to be informed and to
assess the validity of points made and their interactions they are looking for
clarity and force of argument. Relevancy and intellectual rationale are factors which must permeate your dissertation. Avoid truism and repetition.

Be creative
Imagine you are marking dissertations. You will be more engaged and captivated
by discussion or argument which may challenge convention and present a
persuasive and innovative perspective on your topic.
Today’s workplace is technology-driven and short-termist. Change is endemic
and this means that students must develop a highly flexible adaptable attitude.
Throughout your working career you will constantly meet the new where
answers will not be found in manuals. The challenge at work may be a first for
applications, for methodologies and for implementation.
An intellectually challenging dissertation can prepare you for these exciting
work related scenarios where you must think “outside the box” to successfully
capture and implement a successful solution.
Formatting and Organising your Dissertation
I have attended many lectures on this topical subject and have chosen a structure
which worked for me. When you have chosen your title (which should ask a
question) you will find yourself gathering information from many sources which
you consider highly relevant. When you decide to start the project you will
struggle to compile an Introduction which incorporates your intentions
regarding your material content and methodology. Where do I start will be the
issue. Your research material may not be coherent though it all appears relevant.
I would recommend that you leave the Introduction [ Chapter 1 ] until later when you have written Chapters 2 and 3. Firstly if you are going to embark on a journey of
intellectual debate you need two perspectives to discuss. Therefore start by
treating each subject or perspective separately.
There are two sides [Premises ] to every debate
My earlier example of “Will leaving the EU benefit the UK economically?” though
brief is quite a meaty title. You can plan it like this: treat the EU and the UK
economy initially as 2 separate parts [premises ].
Premise a) EU economy – describe its current function, its composition,
philosophy and modus operandi.
Premise b) UK economy- describe its current performance, its main influences, its
markets, its strength and vulnerabilities.
Now compare the two premises [Chapter 4 ] in the context of your title and demonstrate where they compliment each other and circumstances where they conflict. You must retain the focus of your title which refers to economic factors only. Social or cultural benefits for example are outside the remit of your dissertation.
This is a very important section as it is the core intellectual debating chamber.
You must not introduce any new references at this stage. Remember your tone
and style is one of discussion and debate rather than judgemental. You are not
looking for a right or wrong or a clever answer. Your comments will always be
contextual and demonstrate your ability and propensity for good debate.
The final section of your dissertation is the conclusion [ Chapter 5 ] which, just to confuse you, can be inconclusive. This is where you may add your own overarching feedback in terms of the intellectual journey you have just made. It may state: “From my
initial research I believed that leaving the EU would be economically highly
disadvantageous for the UK but having explored alternative options, I was
surprised that ……”
How Long?
A Masters dissertation is usually between 10 – 15,000 words. The Faculty or
Tutor will give you a guide and some will specify minimum and maximum limits.
A single spaced page normally contains about 3,000 characters or 500 words.
Summary
A dissertation should be academically challenging. It should develop your
intellectual skills whereby when confronted with a project at work with which
you are unfamiliar, you can confidentially research, interrogate and assess the
main issues and apply the similar skills to those you used for your dissertation.
The dissertation structure trains you to approach issues with a balanced
perspective. In the work environment you will consciously or unconsciously be
making balanced decisions. Corporate directors and business leaders must
frequently perform mini dissertations. Board meetings follow the format of the
introduction of the facts, the debate and discussion of the subject per the agenda
and the recommendations per the gathering of individual votes. And these discussions and debates will determine the corporate strategy and ultimately the future success or failure of the organisation.

Writing a dissertation is not an isolated event but from my experience as an executive coach it is an excellent opportunity to practice and replicate the challenges of today’s board leaders.

                                                          Chapter 1   Tittle and Introduction

Chapter 2 Premise A                                                                                       Chapter 3 Premise B

                                                  Chapter 4     Compare Premise A with B

 

                                                        Chapter 5      Conclusive commentary

 

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Driving style. Is it my personality or The Highway code

Read this and you will think again about your own driving habits and better understand when you notice some strange antics of others drivers. This could be another dimension to the highway code!

 

Drivers do not normally factor in their personality when they think of their attitude to driving. They most often refer to driving in the third party, “Too many hog the middle lane,” “Too many pointers”, “People just use the outside lane as a race track.”

But I purport that experience and skill are not the only factors which will determine your driving ability. I am a Head Hunter and Career Coach and from my research and experience of interviewing over 25,000 candidates have discovered 4 distinct personality types: The Influencer, Supporter, Analyst and Creative.

The Influencer is very aware of social status. If they can afford it they will buy a prestigious badge with all the ‘pigs and whistles’. They are showy and competitive and will rarely be seen on the inside lane keeping pace with the trucks. Tanking it in the outside lane and flashing the slowcoach in front is more their style. “Make way I’m coming through in my 3 litre, top of the range!” is their driving persona. Changing lane and constantly undertaking in queues is synonymous with their impatient personality. Mistakes are never their fault and they frequently use their lights and horn to chastise the other road ‘idiots’.

The Supporter is a people person, sensitive and caring. If driving alone they will enjoy using their hands-free mobile for social chat rather than business catch up. They are not speeders and will hold back to let drivers join their queue rather than the Influencer who will be sniffing closely at the bumper in front to give the message there is no room here or this is not your turn.

Supporters are moody drivers and if the social chat is the sudden conduit of bad or exciting news they will become distracted and their driving style will change. They will make a slow response at traffic lights and the news will be their dominant preoccupation not the driving conditions. They may be driving something a bit ” long in the tooth ” which they will have closely bonded with and given it a name like Susie. They are not bothered about all the dents and see them as adding character to dear Susie.

Supporters have a positive listening style and are receptive to learning from instructors. They are compliant with good road manners and have no truck with variable speed limits.

The Analyst is a conformist in terms of road signs. They are pragmatic and though they may not agree with the 40 mph sign on the traffic-free for miles dual carriageway they will philosophically comply. They will not react emotionally to the Influence’s flashing lights but will continue to overtake on the outside at their safe speed, pulling in when there is a sufficient gap to let ‘that lunatic’ through.

The Analyst is not into small talk and if they are using the hands-free it will be only in response to an important business call. They may call their wife or partner just to inform them as to their ETA but any conversational development such as ” whats for supper ” or “how are the children?” or “did you have a nice day” is more the domain of the Supporter.

The Creative is also a non-people person. Similar to the Analyst their thinking construct has predominantly an analytical or deductive focus. The Creative will buy the satnav which looks smart in terms of design as well as functionality. They may be driving a small, quirky, around town job which has a rather ostentatious shape and colour.

The Creative is not ego-driven and will drive in accordance with the rules of the road rather than the traffic flow. They are patient and not influenced by status. Similar to the Supporter they will establish a personal bond with their car and though it might be getting on for 15 years old they are happy to hang on to it as they feel safe in it and “it has never let me own”.  Unlike the Analyst who may change their car for a newer version as their scientific knowledge tells them that the’ big end’ or something else big is about to go.

The Influencer would not be ” seen dead ” in such an old crock and afford it or not they will grab one of those extravagant financial deals whereby you pay very little upfront and the future will look after itself.

The Creative will find the light flashing and horn blowing strange as they are driving roughly in compliance with the highway code which they learned years ago.

We might sum up the individual and dominant idiosyncrasies of the 4 Personality Types as:

Influencer:  car – big and flashy

style – I’m coming through!  Flash flash.

hands-free – I’m talking about me and you should listen.

Supporter:  car – long in the tooth. I’ll call it Susie.

style – patient, unselfish, goes with the flow.   Will only speed  due to                                      external influence – meeting/bad news etc

hands-free – Did you have a good day? Any gossip?

Analyst:      car – functional, within budget, not too old

style – per the rules and traffic conditions, not a speeder

hands-free – only when I have to

Creative:             car -personal, not for public preference. May keep it for a long time

style – per the rules. Will adjust speed if running late etc

hands-free – business and pleasure but no small talk

Being aware of personality types and how this might relate to driving styles can promote more toleration in what can sometimes be seen as a very aggressive, competitive activity.

I thought I was a very good driver and decided to take the Advanced Driving Test 46 years ago.  The experience helped me depersonalise situations and to develop a more collective focus incorporating road  conditions traffic volumes and driving behaviours. The Institute of Advanced Motorists maxim focuses also on my responsibility to respect others and to use my skills at all times.

So when someone flashes their lights or waves as a positive acknowledgement or perhaps gives me a very rude hand gesture I might metaphorically pull out my Institute of Advanced Motorists card and, with a placatory wave, wish them luck.

 

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The marriage promise

This poetic narrative endeavours to capture the core sentiment of that special day when a couple promise to share together all of life’s joys and challenges.

    

 

A day of joy, great friends to meet.

A day to remember, great occasion, great feast.

But there’s more than that, more purpose, more soul.

It celebrates a commitment and that’s its real goal.

It’s lifelong.  It’s real.  It’s founded on love.

That’s the anchor.  That’s the promise.  Nothing else above.

Through sickness, through health I’ll always be there.

My life’s now yours and now ours to share.

Never just a day, but a future to live.

Never just a moment, but a lifetime to give.

For better, for worse that’s the promise we’ve made.

With God’s help and our pledge our love will pervade.

 

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A very special mother

This striking short poem endeavours to capture the initial perception and role of many mothers and the appreciation we would like to express but do not have the words to do it.

 

 

There when you need her, always taken as read.

Appreciated? Not really. Just need clothes and then fed.

Told off many times, “Get up you’re late!”

That voice again! Is this my life’s fate?

The housework, the grub never known to fast

Mum’s a Trojan for work and had to be fast.

Grew up, grew wiser now Mum knows a lot less.

Now educated, now cleverer, think I am best.

But Mum’s birthday today makes me take stock.

Smarter than I thought, does come as a shock!

Kindly and generous, always giving, always there.

Never selfish, never judging, just there to care.

Love is a word often hard just to say.

But to my Mum I should shout it every blessed day!

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