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Monday, 19 March 2012

Big Fish, Little Fish, Cardboard Boss?


The recent focus in the news on ‘tax avoidance’ and ‘excessive bonuses’ for company directors, in addition to the sense that what profit is being made is being wasted by a select few, are contributing to a palpable nervousness and unease. 

Words like ‘business’, ‘profit’, ‘growth’ and ‘expansion’ have recently been wantonly thrown around by the media like a dog with a toy rabbit - like said rabbit, these terms are looking a little grubby and have lost their true form...

There has been a great deal of focus on big businesses recently, in particular on their figureheads, the big bosses who are being demonised (some of them rightly so) and consequently drawing a lot of negative attention to the company as a whole. But, that’s a good thing, right? Calling out the baddies and making them account for their actions? 

Of course, highlighting misconduct and drawing attention to the difference between good and bad management of funds, personnel and business-to-business relationships is vital to setting a standard for good practice. The downside of these exposés, many of them sensationalised and exaggerated in the name of selling newspapers, is that they have the result of confusing ambition and entrepreneurship with dirty dealing and greed.

It’s a potentially difficult situation for smaller businesses and start ups. Faith in the very word ‘business’ is waning. It might sound simplistic, but investors need to have faith, be brave and feed the smaller fish. The bigger, more brutish looking fish might be at the top of the food chain, but without all those smaller, finned friends the whole system would fall apart. 

And how can smaller businesses help themselves? Ditch the cardboard boss also known as magnolia man or woman!  Personality, points of difference and stand-out characteristics of company directors, business plans and proposals are vital to inspiring investors, workers and industry competitors alike.

Dare to be different – you can be creative and ambitious while still maintaining an excellent public image. Be proud of being a small fish – you can get into tighter niches than the big ‘uns. And to all those would be investors, size isn’t everything – with the right attitude (just keep swimming...) those smaller fish can really fly.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Networking - a dog's life?

Even on a beautiful, sunny day walking Jemma, the faithful hound, on the village green, my fellow walkers refused to make eye-contact with me. When one chap’s glance flitted into the path of mine I smiled the ‘nice day, isn’t it’ smile, hoping for nothing but a flicker at the edge of his mouth in response. He not only looked away but stuffed his hands in his pockets and quickened his pace so that we might be out of range faster. It’s a curious thing, having a friendly greeting rejected outright by a complete stranger. As my four legged friend was ensconced in a bush, and I was a little puzzled, this old dog decided to take a load off his feet and sit down on the strategically placed bench donated by the last person who died in the village!

Ten minutes later I had been sniffed, snuffled and investigated by almost a dozen dogs of all shapes and sizes. It was like a reverse Crufts – I felt I should have been poised on a felt covered podium, such was the rigor of these inspections. Most of the curious hounds trotted off as quickly as they arrived, clearly called to an important meeting between nose and unidentified smell; evidently, I wasn’t that important to them. Some lingered for a while, checking me, my surroundings and my bag for undiscovered nasal delights; alas, I had nothing they seemed to want. Apparently, I was wholly unappealing to humans and dogs alike.

Then, just when I was about to lope off home, a perky little Dachshund, previously unsighted to me behind a hulking mastiff and an attention-seeking Spaniel, decided to stop and stay. What did he want that the others didn’t? What did he like that had caused the others, quite literally, to turn tail and flee? After the brusque treatment of the other brutally judgemental pooches, I was a little nervous at the attention. Maybe he was a biter? Maybe this was his bench and I was about to marked as part of his territory in the only way a dog knows how? Or maybe, just maybe, it was a case of the right place and the right time equalling a good match?

Striking out on your own, whether you’re going for a walk, looking for a job or setting up a business, can be an extremely stressful experience. The speed with which prospective employers, clients and networking opportunities seem to pass you off can set you in a complete spin and leave you feeling like it will never happen. But I learnt a few things from my jaunt in the park...

Old dogs can teach you new tricks: While I was being inspected, Jemma – fearless, even in her wobbly, later years – was actively inspecting other dogs. She had no compunction getting out there, seeing and being seen. Brush offs didn’t faze her – she just kept at it, unperturbed. An attitude to be admired, I think.

Anytime, Anyplace: Having a fixed idea of where, how and when you’ll make  connections in life and business is an easy way to be disappointed – keep your eyes and ears  (and even your nostrils) open all the times.

Don’t discount the Dachshund: The best connection might not with the big-hitting, hulking great mastiff of a company – the small, tenacious, can-do organisations of this world have a lot to offer too.

Sniff around, and prepare to be sniffed: The most important thing is to put yourself out there, however scary it might seem. Networking isn’t easy and it can feel like a war of attrition – but, if you keep at it, it pays off. 

Networking is a lot like a dog’s life but, take it from me, that’s no bad thing.

Be confident: Second guessing yourself, or shying away from something because you think it’s too good to be true, or over your head will find you sitting on that bench alone. 

Know what you have to offer, believe in it, and yourself and you'll find that persistent "sniffing" and checking up on people and indeed just talking to people will work.  People buy from people they like - so just be friendly!  Be prepared for some people to not like your smell but hey who cares - your smell will work for others and there's plenty out there.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Can you afford to ignore the new Pin-Up in town...?

With Apple launching the new iPad next week, Samsung and ASUS following closely with new Tablets and Sony, HTC and LG all announcing their 2012 flagship Smartphone’s, you might feel like a darkened room is preferable to investigating a relatively new social media app. But before you run back to cave and put your ‘Do Not Disturb, Luddite at work’ sign on the door, read on. Because Pinterest is, well, veeery P-interesting...

Remember when a Sunday afternoon could be frittered away with scissors, magazines, and a glob of BluTac? Making mood boards for that crucial redecoration of the living room? Snipping out inspirational photos and sayings to divert you away from the biscuit cupboard? Plastering your student digs with witty quotations and denim clad movie stars? It can’t have just been me. Well, cast aside your faded, dog-eared cut-outs – there’s a shiny new Pin-Up in town, and it’s a tool you can’t afford to ignore.

Pinterest enables you to pin images (either uploaded, or found on the internet) to your own personal ‘board’ which is as visible, or invisible as you like to your online audience. It’s a fantastic tool for an individual or a small company – instead of a lengthy, wordy ‘About Me’ page describing who you are, and what you do, it delivers an immediate visual impact. It’s an illustrative smorgasbord of who you are and what you’re all about. For creatives it’s a gift, an interactive portfolio of sorts. But it is also an opportunity for entrepreneurs and employers in all sectors.

Think about what an image of, say, the moon landing, an iconic moment of success and triumph, will say about your ability to push the limits, succeed and be the very best. What is more, having a company Pinterest board could draw your employees’ idle hands away from Facebook and give them an productive outlet for their inevitable internet trawling – a weekly motivation board (as amusing, in-joke ridden and creative as possible), created by the people for the people is much more use than endless pictures of cats chasing laser pointers... 

Technology and business are inextricably linked these days, and Pinterest looks like becoming the next ‘cut-out-and-keep’... 

Can you afford to ignore the new Pin-Up in town...?

With Apple launching the new iPad next week, Samsung and ASUS following closely with new Tablets and Sony, HTC and LG all announcing their 2012 flagship Smartphone’s, you might feel like a darkened room is preferable to investigating a relatively new social media app. But before you run back to cave and put your ‘Do Not Disturb, Luddite at work’ sign on the door, read on. Because Pinterest is, well, veeery P-interesting...

Remember when a Sunday afternoon could be frittered away with scissors, magazines, and a glob of BluTac? Making mood boards for that crucial redecoration of the living room? Snipping out inspirational photos and sayings to divert you away from the biscuit cupboard? Plastering your student digs with witty quotations and denim clad movie stars? It can’t have just been me. Well, cast aside your faded, dog-eared cut-outs – there’s a shiny new Pin-Up in town, and it’s a tool you can’t afford to ignore.

Pinterest enables you to pin images (either uploaded, or found on the internet) to your own personal ‘board’ which is as visible, or invisible as you like to your online audience. It’s a fantastic tool for an individual or a small company – instead of a lengthy, wordy ‘About Me’ page describing who you are, and what you do, it delivers an immediate visual impact. It’s an illustrative smorgasbord of who you are and what you’re all about. For creatives it’s a gift, an interactive portfolio of sorts. But it is also an opportunity for entrepreneurs and employers in all sectors.

Think about what an image of, say, the moon landing, an iconic moment of success and triumph, will say about your ability to push the limits, succeed and be the very best. What is more, having a company Pinterest board could draw your employees’ idle hands away from Facebook and give them an productive outlet for their inevitable internet trawling – a weekly motivation board (as amusing, in-joke ridden and creative as possible), created by the people for the people is much more use than endless pictures of cats chasing laser pointers... 

Technology and business are inextricably linked these days, and Pinterest looks like becoming the next ‘cut-out-and-keep’...