‘We are sorry for the disruption and any inconvenience this may cause’ 

This is surely THE slogan of the early 21st century in the UK.

Today, the 6th of September was no different…

An airport vital to business that fixates on ensuring people remove their belts and confiscates Nutella (it happened to my partner a few months ago) but allows people on to its runway and permits them to stay there for hours. ‘Britain is open for business!’  Really? When 9 misguided, albeit well intentioned people can bring chaos to flights across the continent! 

A train provider, Virgin, which believes re-upholstering the seats and paying James Martin to endorse it’s food, changing the title of ‘cleaners’ to ‘Train Preparation Crew’, (‘enhancing the journey experience’ emblazoned on their backs.) That gives the title ‘revenue enforcement and fraud prevention managers’ to those once known as ‘conductors’, is in some way going make up for the train prematurely terminating at York, because it’s now ‘cancelled’, and everyone has to change, dragging their cases, food and drink, to another one, only to have it crawl from Hitchin, signal by signal to its final destination, due to ‘power line failures’. 

What do these two organisations have in common? Window dressing!

 Messing around with the little stuff, the stuff we couldn’t care less about but no doubt occupies the minds of those employed to ‘enhance our experience’, forgetting that what we actually want is to get from A to B on time, which is what was implicit in our agreement with you when we bought the bloody ticket (£177 first class ,one way with Mr Branson’s outfit) or chose their airport. 

I’m not in management. I’m a self employed, one man band, trying to earn a living. So please can those of you in positions of responsibility focus on getting the basics right rather than fart about creating what are no doubt referred to as  ‘Strategic Customer Experience Enhancement Solutions’! 

Nutella isn’t a threat to national security and paying a celebrity chef to use his photo and name doesn’t make a bloody egg sandwich any more than what it is! 

Apologising and even the offer of refunds doesn’t make it better!


Why do you do what you do (or are thinking of doing)?

Do you watch ‘Ted Talks’? You should.

www.ted.com is a website loaded with short films featuring speakers on all manner of subjects.

One of those speakers is Simon Sinek:


He has a couple of talks on there, one of which is about leadership, the other regarding the essence of why it is people do what they do.

I want to use this post to outline his talk, or more specifically, one element of it, in order that you might search out the original yourself.


That word is at the heart of about what he talks. Why do companies, organisations and individuals do what they do?

Have you ever asked yourself why you do what you do?

If you are in a job, you probably replied: ‘to earn money’.

Why do organisations do what they do? When I have asked partners in law firms and senior executives in corporations, their reply has always been: ‘to make a profit’.

Sinek opines that profit and earning money is the result of doing what you do, rather than the reason why you do it.

I only watched his talk a few months ago, since which I have viewed it on a further 5 occasions. I have also posed the question to several individuals with the same result each time: silence (once they had said ‘money’ or ‘profit’)

I asked a trainee lawyer this morning. His reply was: ‘to make my father proud’, which is interesting because it means he has embarked on a career, not because he wants it but to make his dad happy. (As a father myself, I suspect his dad would be proud no matter what he did, as long as it was legal and not causing harm to others.)

Of course, this has led me to think about why I do what I do.

I already knew, sub-consciously but never articulated it.

I train people in communication skills, in the style and manner that I do (I am not like other trainers – my delegates tell me) because I believe, fundamentally, that virtually all cock-ups in the world originate from ‘a break down in communication/failure to really listen and understand’ and that training is, in the main, delivered by well-meaning people who take themselves and their subject far too seriously.

Training should make people laugh, smile, think. It should be provocative, engender discussion, debate, enrich and be entertaining because when people are entertained they remember so much more and because life really is far too short to regard presentation skills as anything more than fluffy, frothy, frippery.

Why do you do what you do?

Yuletide Gossip

Radio 4 have recently aired a two-part programme on the subject of gossip, called, rather aptly, ‘Hot Gossip’. It was fascinating.

I have, during my networking courses, for many years extolled the virtues of ‘small talk’ and the vital importance discussion of weather, travel, the weekend, football, kids, and what your plans over Christmas are, have in establishing and building relationships. In fact clever people who study such things, (Social Psychologists) refer to what’s going on during this seemingly inconsequential chat as ‘self disclosure’: and it’s fundamental to human relationships.

The Radio programme, however, provided deeper insights, from which the listener gleaned the following, additional information:

  • Social conversation is remembered for much longer than factual conversation
  • Friendships depend on how many shared dimensions we have – morals, humour and interests – and we discover these through chit chat
  • We use gossip to manage and maintain our social reputation
  • The brain selects the faces of those people associated with negative gossip and prioritises remembering them. In that way we don’t have to go through having a negative experience with these people ourselves; we have, via gossip, learned that such individuals should be avoided

Christmas is a time filled with Secret Santa, German Markets (Are there ‘British Markets in Berlin, Hamburg, Munich and Frankfurt?!) and networking events.  Take delight in the first, go easy on the Gluwein and hand-carved decorations at the second and don’t underestimate the importance of having a natter or for being talked about for all the right reasons at the latter.

Christmas Cards – again!

Last December I posted a note about emailed Christmas cards: I’ve repeated it below.

Read it and then read my additional thoughts.

‘Tis the season to be jolly…unless one is the recipient of an ‘E-Christmas card!

Hateful, less than thoughtless, meaningless, soulless impersonal and just about the surest way to tell those that spend money with you that you really don’t give a crap about them.

“But the money we save is being donated to charity and it’s more environmentally friendly”

Well why don’t you give the money to charity any way (you surely make sufficient?) plant some trees and turn off those office lights you keep illuminated at all hours of the day and night!

Look, I appreciate that it is virtually impossible for huge organisations to send real Christmas cards to every one of their clients but it is absolutely possible for each person within your firm to make sure their top 20 key contacts/clients/customers get one.

Nothing says “I really appreciate your custom, business and money” more than a personally chosen, hand written and addressed card with a festive stamp in the top right hand corner.

And those clients who don’t receive the ubiquitous E-Card won’t notice anyway: do you?

If you are to persuade your existing clients or customers it is worthwhile continuing to buy from you, you have to make sure they feel loved, desired and cared for.

A relationship with a client is akin to a personal relationship: the honeymoon is soon over and the business of day-to-day living kicks in.

Listen to those that have been married for many years and they’ll tell you one thing – they had to ‘work’ at their relationship.  You need to work at yours, your business relationships.

Still considering sending out Christmas greetings via email?  Ok, send your spouse an e-card next birthday or anniversary and just see how well that goes down….

Aggregation of Marginal Returns

There is a wonderful word they use in Scotland when one cannot decide between a number of options: ‘Swither’.

“I was swithering as to whether to vote ‘Yes’ or ‘No’”.

It’s a wonderful word, which for reasons I cannot fathom has not settled on the south side of Hadrian’s Wall.

And so it is I find myself ‘swithering’ as to what topic to ponder in this, the September post. Should it be ‘The Aggregation of Marginal Gains’ or the wonderfully, powerful influence the offering a cup of coffee can bring to bear at a networking event?

Mmmmm, the former, I think!

I teach lots of people how to get better at developing business. One of the things I stress is that they need not attempt to morph in to some wizard sales person, cloaked in magical sales-like powers to be effective; they simply have to do a few, minor things better.

Sir Chris Brailsford is the guy responsible for the meteoric rise in the fortunes of British Cycling, a sport, which wasn’t even on our radars just 10 years back. However, huge successes in velodromes (who even knew what one of those was? I thought it was an over the counter indigestion remedy) has sorted that out.

His and the teams’ success is down to hard work, dedication, large thighs and something call the ‘Aggregation of Marginal Returns’.

AMR (I cannot be arsed typing it out each time) is the idea that if you improve small, easy things, they will amount to a big impact – which in cycling means 10ths and 100ths of seconds – and a necklace of gold medals.

Let me share a couple with you:

A hand-washing regime – All members of the team dedicated themselves to making sure they washed their hands after going to the loo, prior to eating, after working out and at various other times of the day.


You reduce the chances of infection, the spread of germs, cross-contamination, which reduces the chances of the cyclists picking up bags and infections, becoming ill and having less time on the practice track.

Pillows and mattresses – the team members’ preferred pillows and mattresses followed them to wherever they were staying, thus improving the chances they would get a decent night’s sleep and be fresher, rested and raring to get practicing.

There were loads of others but that’s a brace.

Little things, added together = big improvements.

Apply this to your business development activity and you’ll witness the same thing. Here are some:

  • Thank everyone that gives you business no matter how small it is
  • Follow up on EVERY lead and enquiry
  • Pick up the phone and speak to people rather than just email
  • Send cards to people
  • Write up personal stuff when you leave a meeting – football team, where they are going holiday etc
  • Make sure your shoes are immaculate
  • Let people know if you are going to be late
  • Make sure you know where you’re going and how to get there before you goNone of these are going to ‘set the heather alight’ – another Scottish phrase but you’ll warm your BD prospects up.








Cross Selling Secret

“Can you tell me where the gluten-free bread rolls are please?”


A simple enough request made by me to a chap in a pair of slacks, corporate shirt and tie working in a grocery store from which I wished to purchase rolls/baps/bread-cake/muffins/cobs/barm-cakes (delete as appropriate to your region) suitable for the daughter of a friend of mine who is ceoliac/celiac – (intolerant to gluten)


He was busy dressing semi-nude shelves with loaves of bread when I approached him and asked.


He stopped what he was doing, turned, smiled, listened to my request and replied, “Yes, of course sir.”


He led the way past at least 6 aisles until we arrived at the pertinent one.


“Here they are sir, along with other bread-based products and everything else we stock that’s gluten-free. We did used to have the gluten free items within relevant product sections but customers told us it was easier if we put everything in one area”


I was impressed and thankful for his excellent customer service, so I expressed my gratitude. However, he was not finished and enquired:


“And is there anything else I can help you with whilst you are in our store today?”


WOW: The customer service coups de grace! Cross Selling!


I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been in meetings or delivering training when the subject of cross selling has been raised.


Partners and directors ponder, discuss, strategize and eulogise about the subject. They expend hours attempting to develop ‘strategic initiatives’, which will maximise ‘client involvement’ and ‘deepen the client experience’ (all meaningless arse) and yet here was a guy in a local supermarket doing it in one, simple, elegant sentence.


The message is simple: when someone buys something from you, be that product or service, ask them, if there’s anything else you or your organisation can help them with. It’s common sense and above all GOOD SERVICE!


His corporate shirt and tie combo?








Enjoying cake – even if you don’t like it

Having your cake and eating it



A long time  ago I was having a discussion with a bloke regarding a new role within an organisation during which the subject of my remuneration package inevitably arose.


I detailed what I needed by way of hard cash and the kind of working relationship I wanted: level of autonomy, holiday entitlement, flexibility of working hours to fit in with kids etc.


At the conclusion of my list and having listened attentively, the guy paused before replying; “You seem to want to have your cake and eat it?”


This was said with more than a whiff of amazement, tinged with a hint of incredulity, as though asking for such things was quite shocking in its brazenness. Yet all I’d done was answer his question; ‘what would you want if you came to work for us?’


I’d never regarded what I desired from life as being the equivalent of having my cake and eating it, or rather that others would perceive it such, it just seemed like common sense to me: why wouldn’t you want to have everything?!


I don’t even like cake. Really, I am not that keen on it, I don’t see the point. But if I did like cake, if I worshipped at the alter of Mary Berry, if I watched ‘The Great British Bake Off’ (see, I know there are cake-based entertainment programmes) then I would definitely wish to eat it!


What the hell’s the point of making or buying a cake and NOT EATING IT!!??




What do you want from your job, your life? Are you without cake or have you an abundance but are, for some reason not tucking in and if so why not and what would you need to do to change it?