Monday, 29 April 2013

Can Someone Else Do Your Social Media For You?


Social Media seems to be a real can of worms for many. I made my position pretty clear in a recent ebook, I am not a social media guru*.

There are countless reasons why so many people don’t grab hold of the social media nettle. Quite rightly they see it as too confusing, a diversion, not core business, for losers, damaging the brand, a red herring, too time consuming to learn.  All or any of these can be true. Just depends on how you approach it.

More importantly, there is a certain size of business where social media can be really powerful and you don’t have the skill or resource to roll out a sensible social media strategy. Those businesses typically have the semblance of a marketing strategy and marketing team; the business might be 3-10 employees… with a fairly clear marketing message but they just don’t have the skills or resource or time to apply to a decent SM campaign. More importantly, without the experience of designing, implementing and rolling out a campaign they try to do things from first principles and just get lost.

So,can someone else do your social media for you?

Well my first response is ‘no’.

In my business I am proud that if you see a tweet, a blog, an article, a like or a video, then I can guarantee that it has come from my computer, from my desk, from my fingers. For me it is important that that is the case. But for some other businesses it is possible that you could out-source some of the work.

Some people just do not know where to start in putting together a social media strategy. What is the purpose? What can be achieved? What platforms should be used? How can they made to inter-connect? What works? What doesn’t?

Applying social media to a business can be an educational process, showing the difference between inbound and outbound promotion. It can help the business review and revitalise the entire marketing message, helping the business define its specialisation and gain clarity about who it seeks to reach (both customers and potential partners). It gets you to clarify whether to curate or create material, it gets you to figure out how to engage with the right audience. All this and so much more.

There is clearly an opportunity here. And there is no shortage of players out there. And then the potential customer has the next problem of figuring out who to choose. Well, that’s another story.

Of course it is possible to outsource your social media. The difference between out-sourcing and employing can be negligible. The issue is about getting someone on board who will deliver on your behalf. That means results.

Where does leave you if you are thinking about how to make social media work for you? Well you need to find a supplier that has the requisite skillset: the strategic thinking, the marketing skills, the back-office to deliver. What we find is that often we set–up a social media campaign, hand over the skills and walk away.

Social media is tremendously powerful if delivered well; it is not all smoke and mirrors. The trick is to acquire.hire/beg/steal/borrow/rent the skills you need to make your social media deliver the results your business is capable of.

 * Since writing the book we have been inundated with requests for help. So, maybe I need to change the title of that original book to ”I am not a social media guru but I do not how to help you get more attention and more sales using social media”. It is a clumsy title but describes the situation a little better.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Surf’s Up – The Surfer’s Guide To Management

Surf’s Up – The Surfer’s Guide To Management

Surfers come in all shapes and sizes but the really good ones are “obsessive”.

Go to Cornwall and you'll see the beginners, the vulnerable and the plodders floundering on the waters' edge. The 'real surfers' are far from the beach taking the big waves.

Surfers are always looking for the next big wave - They constantly scour the sea for the next wave - they look ahead, behind, beside, above and below for any clues as to where the next wave will come from. They constantly read the currents, undertows and rips of each beach. They are constantly aware and responding to minute changes in the weather and the immediate environment (including other surfers) - they recognise that their lives might depend on their ability to understand and respond to the environment. So, while they might try to plot a general course, their real interest (they have a nose for it) is in looking for the next big wave.

Good surfers are able to catch waves that others miss - They see, or rather they make, opportunities where others see none; they always seem to be in the right place at the right time.

Good surfers don't take risks but rather they do take calculated risks - Like good strategists, surfers recognise the need not to try and take every wave; they specialise, concentrate and focus their efforts to be as effective as possible - the 80/20 rule applies out with the waves as much as it does in the commercial environment.

Success and failure go hand-in-hand; the more you practice the luckier you seem to get - It takes practice to be able to successfully tackle the big waves: you start on the nursery beaches and work your way up to the really challenging waves. The big waves are not for the faint-of-heart; big excitement also means big danger!

Good surfers make it look so easy - Kelly Slater makes surfing through the rolling barrels of Tenerife and Hawaii look so very easy. Do not kid yourself - years of practice, hard work and learning from your mistakes are required before you can make it look so easy.

Spurts and fallbacks - The environment is not smooth. There are huge oscillations and short-lived surges for the surfer to conquer - the skill is to be able to spot trends, and harness your own strength to capitalise on often short-term movements - invest your energy to live to fight another day!

Relative power - Like most growing businesses the surfer lacks power relative to the market (waves) - surfers are often pushed and buffeted and seem to be as likely to go backwards as forwards - energy must be used to effectively leverage your own power. Use the power of the current and the wave to your own advantage.

Exploiting the environment - The skill is in recognising the surges and not to be thrown by them. The good surfer exploits the wave, no matter how temporary the advantage may appear to be. Watch a surfer as they paddle out to sea against the waves - no unnecessary energy is expended.

Flexibility and responsiveness - The surfer is able to tap hidden depths of physical and mental flexibility and responsiveness. The sea is unpredictable. You need to be able to react to whatever the elements might throw at you.

Entrepreneurs, like surfers, are driven by specific psychological attributes; some might describe these as flaws. Many have an all-consuming need to prove something to themselves and to others. Many suffer deep down from low self-esteem; some are profoundly insecure, always trying to prove that they can do better than the opinion that they hold of themselves.

Cary Cooper's description of entrepreneurs could be a description of a surfer - they are 'bounce-back' people with a powerful desire to achieve. They do not get distracted by either success or failure; they just plough on, never satisfied and constantly in fear of 'being found out'. Often after one success, they need to do it again to prove it was not a fluke.

Rupert Steiner's book, My First Break, goes on to explain that entrepreneurs see failure as confirming inner fears, but they do not give up. Instead they pick themselves up and attempt to show that they can get it right a second time - many do not care about anything other than the business in hand - it can be like a drug.

Steiner says that 'real entrepreneurs can never stop... once the buzz from the original fix has faded, many are on the look-out for their next fix'. Sounds like the classic surfer to me!

Friday, 19 April 2013

Carpe Diem! Seize The Day!

I am not one for Latin - the late Nick Earle gave up on me when I was about thirteen, and who can blame him.  

But, despite my appalling performance in the third form, I am full of admiration for Latin, at least since I heard the most wonderful phrase, ‘carpe diem’. 

And what do these nine little letters mean?  Well, the literal translation is ‘Seize the day!’ - but the real meaning is a motto for the very way we should be living our lives!
The quote comes from the movie, ‘Dead Poets Society’.  
In the movie, Robin Williams takes a bunch of pretty stuck-up, full of themselves, privately-educated pupils (much like myself at the age of thirteen) and he inspires them to make their lives extra-ordinary!
He takes the students to a photograph of past students and asks about the alumni, ‘How many of them really lived out their dreams?  
Did they do what they set out to accomplish?’  
And at this point in the movie, the teacher leans towards his charges and whispers, ‘Carpe diem! Seize the Day!’
I spend my life as a consultant and mentor working with managers, business advisers, pilots and bankers - very often these people are simply living out scripts given to them by their parents (‘Find a girl, settle down, if you want then you can marry…’).  
Or, even worse, they are completing a trajectory started when they joined the firm at the age of eighteen (suddenly they are 38, with two kids, a Rover 100 and the rest of their lives mapped out, or so it seems).


Well, it is not simply my mid-life crisis kicking in.  
Mind you, I cannot deny that starting to plan my son’s 18th  birthday party is only marginally worse than planning my own forty-something-th. 
And then I remember that there was that time when my band could have gone on to get a recording contract…
No, the significance of carpe diem is not purely of interest to my private life.  
The fascinating thing is that carpe diem applies to the business, to the manager, and to the personal life.  
Maybe I need to explain what I mean a little more clearly.
There are certain, some might say, fundamentals that can be applied to the business organisation, or the manager, or to one’s private life.  
Most of the focus of the American pop-psychology-type self-improvement movement focuses on the development of the self.  
There are several problems for me when I try to read or listen to the materials of the motivation and success speakers such as Anthony Robbins, Napoleon Hill, Brian Tracey, Stephen Covey and John Gray.
One problem for me is that I find it nigh on impossible to filter out the thick American accent; the American-ness seems to positively ooze out of every word in what is usually a ‘deep South’ and/or a highly evangelical tone.  
To make matters worse, these people have wives (usually) and children who, they take pleasure in telling you, are happy and loving and caring and hugging because this is the right way - to devote one’s energies to the love of one’s family.  
This psuedo-Waltons version of happiness is enough to send me reaching for a simultaneous overdose of honey, chocolate, pipe tobacco, sweet white wine, slippers and day-time television - life is never really like this!
However, and I do mean it, if you can only cut through the candy floss pink soft focus of the presentation there are some fundamental lessons that can be learned, most notably for the business, and for the manager and for the individual as well.
The three key lines as taken from the works of Stephen Covey as well as the Neuro-linguistic programmers (NLPers) run along the following lines:
  • Take responsibility and control - be proactive. 
  • Start with the end in mind - if you know what your endpoint is, then you can work towards achieving it
  • Prioritise - do the really important things first.
These lines are a really powerful message for businesses. 


Every successful business must, to a greater degree, take control of its destiny - you cannot simply be like a cork on the ocean, waiting for the next wave to sweep in the direction of success.  
Too many businesses have gone bust because they refused to accept responsibility for what was happening to them - they would not raise their head above the parapet.
I am loathe to admit it but, as a child, I used to collect frogs and put them in saucepans of water.  
We would then place the saucepans on top of the cooker - we would then turn the gas rings on under the saucepans.  
Frogs do not notice changes in the temperature of their environment - the water gets hotter and hotter, until eventually, the frogs explode.
Businesses are often the same - if they do not make themselves aware of the environment then they run the risk of blowing up - “strategic” planning is about planning bearing in mind the context and the environment that you are working in.


Businesses must decide their course and understand the obstacles and barriers.  
If you start with the end point you can often see what needs to be done more clearly than when you are simply looking ahead. 
And here we can bring in exercises such as ‘writing your own epitaph’.  The sort of epitaph that might be written is a direct result of the way we have run our businesses (or lives).  
Our behaviour to date determines our epitaph to date.  
But the good news is that if we want a different epitaph, it is up to us to behave in the way that will bring us the new epitaph.  
The issue is whether we are able to decide what the epitaph should say and whether we are able to live it out in our daily lives.


Clarity about goals brings with it clarity about what is really important in a business. 
Carpe diem is about doing and achieving things - don’t let the people who say that things cannot be done stop those who are doing it.   
Sometimes we need to ‘go for it’.  
My belief is that if we are clear about what we are trying to do (in general terms) then we can recognise the opportunities that are in front of our eyes. 
And remember that failure and success go hand in hand.
And another naff quote is ‘I wish I’d…’. 
What’s interesting about I wish I’d is that in interviews with elderly people, they do not regret what they have actually done - what they regretted was what they had not done.  
They ended up wishing that they had seized the day.
In the ‘New World’ the winners will be those who stand out from the crowd - but to do this, they need to be opportunistic and take some risks: 
  • Tom Watson - the founder of IBM was asked by a young employee, ‘How can I improve my success rate?’.  The reply was ‘Double your failure rate!’ because as long as we learn from our mistakes then we are progressing into new territory.
  • Thomas Edison - had 1052 patents in his name, had 7,000 failed attempts at designing a latex rubber plant and 11,000 failed experiments to design the filament light bulb.  At his 5,000th light bulb failure, the newspapers referred to his work as ‘Edison’s Folly’.  When asked why he kept on trying, Edison responded that he had simply found 5,000 ways that it did not work and so he was getting closer to success.  Persistence is often everything.
  • Colonel Sanders - had to visit over 1,000 restaurants before he could find one that would give him a royalty for his chicken recipe.
  • The Wright Brothers - who would have accepted their invitation to go up in one of their first aeroplanes? - often new things seem crazy!
  • Sylvester Stallone - to prove that persistence (and not even talent, it could be argued) is all that is required, he attended 292 film tests before he was given his first part.
We cannot separate failure from success - I’ll give a fifty-pound note to the person who could ride a bicycle on their first attempt.

Given the right culture, it is attitude that really matters - they do say that your attitude determines your altitude - or to put it another way, success is 15% about skills and knowledge and 85% about attitude!
Carpe diem, my friends!

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Chipped Plate Sells for £567,000

An Italian pottery plate, which was chipped, sold for £567,000 at the Charterhouse two day February auction in Sherborne, Dorset.

“It was almost an Only Fools and Horses moment as the pottery plate was hanging on a wire frame in the client’s cottage. Not only that, most of it was hidden by a door which was always kept open!” commented Richard Bromell.

“At first, I expected the pottery plate to be a 19th century copy, but after researching it, had it confirmed by Professor Timothy Wilson at The Ashmolean as being made in Urbino, Italy around 1540 and an important discovery.”


Charterhouse received enquiries from across the UK, France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Portugal, Switzerland and the USA.

On the auction day, specialist dealers turned up and battled it out with private collectors bidding by telephone, with the hammer finally falling to London dealers S J Phillips Ltd and setting a new house record for a piece of European pottery sold by Charterhouse in Sherborne.


The Italian maiolica plate, which measured 41.5 cm diameter, was decorated The Feast of Herod, after a print by Sebald Beham, showing the story of King Herod and the beheading of Saint John the Baptist.

If you think you are looking at a fortune hanging on the wall, or to arrange a free home visit, please contact Richard Bromell, Partner at Charterhouse, The Long Street Salerooms, Sherborne 01935 812277 or via email on

Friday, 12 April 2013

That Four in the Morning Conversation

That Four in the Morning Conversation

Anyone who has run their own business has had that ”four in the morning… couldn’t sleep so I got up to write some stuff down” moment.

It’s a scary time of the day. “Tick tock” goes the clock. “Brrrr” goes the fridge. Nothing there apart from you and your thoughts. “Whhhhrrrr” goes your brain!

The conversation is actually fairly brief and goes something like this:

“Sales have collapsed… we’re not getting as many enquiries or new customers as we were… it doesn’t help that competitors are under-cutting us on price… and yet costs seem to be rising for us... and profit is crashing and our cash-flow is getting seriously bad. What am I going to do? What are we going to do? Where next? Surely there’s some magic trick and, if I could find it, then everything would be OK… but we’ve tried everything… we couldn’t try any harder and yet it is not coming together.”

Familiar? It should be because roughly 60% of business owners are going through these exact panic attacks.

In the naïve belief that running a business can be a DIY affair, business people focus way too much on working in the business, making/doing/delivering/selling. They lose sight of the purpose, they lose direction and become busy fools. They stop working on the business; they forget to step back and look at the bigger picture.

You need to take the business apart and re-assemble it and do it now. Let’s deal with your doom and gloom scenario very quickly:
“Sales have collapsed”

Focus on key desirable customers; ignore the restMake sure that you are selling ‘benefits’;  tell people what they will get as a result of using your product/service.

“We’re not getting as many enquiries or new customers as we were”
·         Talk to all all your existing and past customers – ask for referrals
·         Go out and ‘ask for the business’
·         Make sure there is a ’call to action’ in everything you do
·         Focus your efforts and communications on your ideal customer type; ignore the rest

“It doesn’t help that competitors are under-cutting us on price”
·         Avoid a price war at all costs
·         Concentrate on what your customers want from you and not on what the others are doing

“Costs seem to be rising for us”
·         Ask for discounts from all key suppliers
·        Sack your bad or under-performing suppliers

“Profit is crashing”
·         Do not offer stupid discounts
·         If you can, increase prices
·         If you can, decrease direct costs
·         ‘fix’ or sack the underperforming staff
·         ‘fix’ or sack the underperforming customers
·         ‘fix’ or sack the underperforming suppliers 

“Cash-flow is getting seriously bad”
·         Collect money outstanding 10 days faster
·         Pay your bills slower

“What am I going to do?”
·         Take outside advice; DIY is almost certainly not an option
·         Decide if the business is viable in the short run and in the long run
·         If you haven’t got the heart or enthusiasm to make it work then get out now

“What are we going to do?”
·         Create a succinct plan with clear action points and timescales
·         Take massive action
·         Do it
·         Do it now

“Where next?”
Create the clear plan so you know where you are going

“Surely there’s some magic trick and, if I could find it, then everything would be OK… but we’ve tried everything… we couldn’t try any harder and yet it is not coming together.”

Hasn’t anyone told you about Santa and the Tooth Fairy? They are not real. Hope is not a method. But massive action of the right type is! 

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Three Little Words That Will Change Your Life (and they’re not “I Love You”)

Three Little Words That Will Change Your Life (and they’re not “I Love You”)

Sometimes I am given an hour or so to explain my point with great eloquence. I use props, slides and all manner of clever devices to make my point. And then I met a man who asked me to sum up my whole approach to business.

I don’t think he really meant me to use three words. But I did.

This one question has focused me on what it is that I am trying to say. “What is the message..?”

And the answer is:

“Stop p***ing around!”

I apologise for the language but that’s it in a nutshell.

You charge too little for your product because you haven’t got the bottle to charge realistic prices. You put up with slow paying customers because you are frightened of losing them. You tolerate sloppy performance from team members to avoid confrontation, You… you… you… It is all about you. There’s no-one else to blame. I am sorry the only person I am talking about is you.

So what’s going on? Well, at its simplest we blame everyone else for what’s going on: the government, the bank, the customers, the competitors, the staff, the product. Like a spoilt four year old who has had a rotten day facing the reality that is life, you need to come to terms with the fact that you are the problem. No-one else just you. It is because of your decisions and your ideas that you are where you are today. Or are you just going to blame someone else (again!).

Your business is like a rabbit frozen in the headlights, incapable of making a move or a decision, unable to move in one direction or another.  Or you will die.

You need to unfreeze, relax, take stock and weigh up the choices. With great speed you need to take the bold decision: left or right, up or down. Speed is of the essence. The consequences of making no decision are there for all to see. Do you want to be one more piece of roadkill for the statistics book?”

The world seems to be dividing into two camps and living in the middle ground is purgatory – similar to choosing the wrong side in the first place. So, are you going to be a) decisive or b) indecisive? Bold or meek? Strong or weak? Grown-up or child-like? Responsible or irresponsible? Bright or stupid? Clever or dumb? Fast or slow?

Action has a great power to it. The mere act of taking action opens up possibilities, energy and choice. Without action everything fades into a mediocre dull blob of emptiness.

Enough or just about enough really is not good enough. Not for anyone. SO don’t mess around. If you are going to do something, anything, then do it properly. Or just don’t bother.

Do you really believe you can create an effective quick fix DIY solution to what you are doing? Remember you are where you are now because of your actions. A word to the wise: try bringing in some experts to help you out. Do that unless you really believe that you are cleverer, smarter, more experienced and wiser than they are. Buyer beware: not all people who claim to be experts will be cleverer, smarter , more experienced and wiser than you… make sure that they can also get you and your business to move on up to the next level. It is all about results.

So, now is the time to grow up and take responsibility for the successes and failures of your business. Stop blaming other people and take on the challenge as an adult.

It is the classic epic hero story: our hero feels OK then realises that things aren’t so good. 

The hero goes on some journey and has to face his/her demons and comes out the other end a stronger and better human being. Lion King, Aladdin, Star Wars, Goonies, James Bond, Pulp Fiction, The Yes Man, Ace Ventura Pet Detective, Batman, and King Lear.

I am not sure if Shakespeare would approve of King Lear being summarised as “Stop p***ing around!” But I am sure you get my point. Anyhow, now it’s your turn!

Go for it!

Monday, 8 April 2013

Don Draper on Business, Marketing and Sales

"What would Don Draper do?" - what a great question.

Although he is clearly an irascible rogue (he lies, he cheats, he leads people on) he is also sublimely charming. His sales pitches and his ability to get under the skin of the client is a delight to watch. 

While his private life is really a total mess... when it comes to business he is great! 

Lessons From 'Mad Men': Sales Tips From Don Draper:
What a great quote:

"Based on what you've told me, this is what I suggest we do"
I suggest you try this with your  next client meeting.

By seizing the initiative, doing the hard work and appealing to hearts as well as heads, Draper establishes trust. The client in turn surrenders to a salesman who so obviously knows more about an aspect of his business than he does. And as viewers, like his colleague reduced to tears, we too surrender to Draper.

What If Don Draper Had An MBA? - asks an impossible question. It is just so un-Don

What Would Don Draper Do?

Why Don Draper Would Fail in Business Today - not sure they rated Don like others do...

The emotional intelligence of Don Draper

Be Your own MAD MAN, how to be Don Draper in today’s world

6 Marketing Lessons From Mad Men’s Don Draper for some great video footage

User Experience The Don Draper Way

Nurture your inner Don Draper I am afraid this one just uses Don in the title...! 

Handling Your Business Like A Mad Man – The Don Draper Way!

Mad Men: Meet Don Draper
Mad Men 100 Greatest Quotes Season 1

and some How Tos:


and check this out: 

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Why You Should Read 'The Snowball Effect'

Andy Bounds' book, The Snowball Effect, is first class.

I very rarely say that. Seriously.

It is a book that you want to devour all at once and yet you also want to absorb it line-by-line.

It is a brilliant extension to his `Jelly Effect', a book that is in my top three recommended books! 

The Snowball Effect takes his assumptions about effective communication (start with the end in mind, people buy afters, see things through the reader's eyes, sell the benefit, be simple and clear about what you want people to do) and extends these themes.

Bounds has created a series of short chapters each with a precise purpose. This makes the book a great desktop bible to go back to and refer to as each event appears: writing a better email, getting people to act, preparing a better presentation and so forth.

What I like about the book is that

  • It is not just another presentation book banging on about using better powerpoint slides
  • Bounds' quietly humorous sense of humour comes through without getting in the way
  • He appears to talk directly to the reader without being patronising
I do recommend Andy's new book and will be recommending it to all my clients.

PS Having read the book, I have the vaguely irritating feeling that I read it much too quickly. What you need to do is take one idea/chapter (maybe 2-3 pages) and implement and embed it before moving on to the next idea.

PPS I am in no way connected with Andy Bounds and make no financial gain from this review!

Are MBAs a waste of time for entrepreneurs? - the links

A great set of links and articles about entrepreneurship and the MBA