Saturday, 29 June 2013

The Shortest (and Best) Book on Self-Development and Self-Help

After the success of The Shortest (and Best) Book on Business, I now bring you 

The Shortest (and Best) Book on Self-Development and Self-Help. 

1: Be clear about what you want
2: Be clear about:

* Where are you now?
* Where are you going? Where do you want to be?
* How are you going to get there?

3: Focus on what you want and how you are going to achieve it

4: Stop p***ing about! Take massive bloody action.

That’s it. All the rest is comment

Friday, 28 June 2013

Robert Craven CV etc

I have just been asked for my CV so thought it would be more interesting to create an electronic CV linking some key articles and case studies to explain what I do. So, here goes...

In  a nutshell
"Keynote Speaker, Business Author and Expert Adviser" 
"growth, entrepreneurship, business, strategy,marketing, sales, profits"
"free of nonsense approach to growing businesses"
"stop messing about".
Bragging rights
- #1 Article, Business Zone (2012)... 
- #1 UK Business Speaker at speakermix...
- two books with Forewords by Sir Richard Branson...
- "The Entrepreneurship Guru" (The FT)

Case Studies/Client Stories

and some video: 
Robert Craven Showreel:

Three Tips (4 minutes):

See also a  series of five videos on the Mastermind process in the clients' words

And then I see that LinkedIn does it all so maybe you should just go to my LinkedIn profile here and help yourself!



Thursday, 13 June 2013

New workshops on strategy and marketing to grow your sales and profits

The Bright Business Tour
London, Bristol, Manchester and Birmingham

Like a double-espresso of business tools, the seminars are practical and action-focused. You will take away tools to implement in your own business. Tools that work!


London, Thursday 11th July - Book Now
Bristol, Friday 12th July - Book Now
Manchester, Tuesday 17th September - Book Now
Birmingham, Wednesday 18th September - Book Now


The Bright Business Tour was conceived on a rainy afternoon in early May. After a lengthy discussion about what types of business seminars are available we decided to run a survey and ask people what they wanted. A few days later we had received hundreds of responses from businesses across the UK telling us what they looked for in a seminar.
So far the survey respondents have decided the following:
  • Where the seminars are
  • How long they should be
  • The subjects of the seminars
  • How much the tickets cost.
That is not the end of your involvement in creating the seminar!
When you buy a ticket you will be allowed to submit your question or request to Robert. In each session Robert will answer these questions and queries as part of the seminar content.


Where are you going, how are you going to get there and how much are you going to make?
A boring title but totally crucial! Too many businesses create lame strategies (if they have one in the first place) so it is little wonder that they also deliver lame results. While this is not a ‘get-rich-quick’ programme it will cover the basics of how to put together a strategic plan that actually delivers for your business. We then go on to talk about pricing and cash and the implications of getting it wrong (or right). You will be taken through a masterclass in how to design, set up and deliver a profitable strategy for you and your business.


How to attract the right customer and get them to buy from you (so you make a profit).

Most people feel that their marketing just isn’t delivering the promised results. It is easy to sell ‘loads of stuff’, just give it away for free! However, what is clever is to sell the right product to the right people and at the right price. Everyone wants to know the ‘secrets of…’ but actually the marketing fundamentals are pretty straightforward. You will be taken through a step-by-step process to significantly improve your sales.


The programme is delivered by Robert Craven (‘the entrepreneurship guru’ The FT), author of five best-selling business books including: Kick-Start Your Business, Bright Marketing and Grow Your Service Firm.
Robert has worked both sides of the business school fence. He has a Warwick MBA and was Director of Consulting and Training at its renowned SME Centre, designing/running their Business Growth programmes. He is visiting professor and guest lecturer at Toulouse, Cranfield and other business schools.


"…one of Warwick Business School's most highly regarded presenters. His animated action-packed style demands participation. Robert does not give his audience the option of sitting back and merely reflecting."- Professor David Storey, Warwick Business School
“Robert Craven says that ‘your whole business hinges on what your customer gets from you’. I wholeheartedly agree."
- Sir Richard Branson
You can see more testimonials and videos here.


Marketing And Sales Seminar 
It is for professionals who are responsible for delivering marketing or sales for a business, whether they are a marketing professional, an owner or a director. People who want to learn the latest techniques or people who are new to sales and marketing and want to get up to speed quickly.
Strategy And Money Seminar
It is for owners, managers and directors who are responsible for delivering company strategy and improving the profitability of the business.
Both Sessions People who what to be able to gain a full undertanding of the latest business tools and techniques across both subjects.
Robert Craven


Ticket prices:
£250 + VAT - Full-day: Attend both sessions
£150 + VAT - Half-day: Attend 1 session
You can book your ticket by emailing or calling 01225 851044.
Or you can purchase tickets online below.





You can also book your place by contacting The Directors' Centre (details below) and purchasing your ticket directly.


For further information and booking forms, contact Tricia Yockney at the Directors' Centre on 01225 851044 or email

The End Of Competitive Advantage - it is official

The End of Competitive Advantage: How to Keep Your Strategy Moving as Fast as Your Business by Rita Gunther McGrath may make strategy's death "official".

Readers of my blog will know that I have little time for Professor Michael Porter (“sustainable competitive advantage” and five forces etc) and much of the how/why/where strategy is taught at business schools. (See Are MBAs a Waste of Time?)

Let me quote extensively from the book and an excellent review of the book 
The End of Competitive Advantage: How to Keep Your Strategy Moving as Fast as Your Business in Forbes

“Virtually all strategy frameworks and tools in use today are based on a single dominant idea: that the purpose of strategy is to achieve a sustainable competitive advantage."  

"Strategy was... find a favourable position in a well-defined industry... exploit a long-term competitive advantage." 

The problem: "competitive advantage is transient, not sustainable."

"To operate, we need a new set of assumptions about how the world works."

In the Creative Economy, 
“companies are getting better at figuring out what people really need and will pay for, at designing better experiences, and at wresting new efficiencies from existing assets.” 

“The best firms look candidly at what happened, figure out how to do it better the next time, and move on."  

"It’s a bit like surfing a wave— you might fall off and find yourself embarrassedly paddling back to shore, but great surfers get back on that board. So too with great companies. They move from wave to wave of competitive advantages, trying not to stay with one too long because it will become exhausted, and always looking for the next one. It has been fun getting to know them." (See Surf’s Up – the surfer’s guide to management)

"To compete in these more volatile and uncertain environments, you need to do things differently.” 

“Music, high technology, travel, communication, consumer electronics, the automobile business, and even education are facing situations in which advantages are copied quickly, technology changes, or customers seek other alternatives and things move on.“ 

"The presumption of stability creates all the wrong reflexes. 

  • It allows for inertia and power to build up along the lines of an existing business model. 
  • It allows people to fall into routines and habits of mind. 
  • It creates the conditions for turf wars and organizational rigidity. 
  • It inhibits innovation. 
  • It tends to foster the denial reaction rather than proactive design of a strategic next step… "

"Stop thinking of within-industry competition as the most significant competitive threat… "

In more and more markets, we are seeing industries competing with other industries, business models competing with business models even in the same industry, and entirely new categories emerging out of whole cloth.”

Today, competition can come from anywhere. It’s not just cheap substitutes to their products, capturing low-end customers, and then gradually move upmarket to pick off higher-end customers. Now entire product lines—whole markets—could be destroyed almost overnight as customers defect in droves by big bang disruption". (See Disrupt - the 12" Mix)

A new level of analysis that reflects the connection between market segment, offer, and geographic location at a granular level is needed, “an arena”.

Arenas are characterized by particular connections between customers and solutions, not by the conventional description of offerings that are near substitutes for one another… The driver of categorization will in all likelihood be the outcomes that particular customers seek (‘jobs to be done’) and the alternative ways those outcomes might be met... Most substantial threats to a given advantage are likely to arise from a peripheral or non obvious location.” 

“The arena concept also suggests that conventional ideas about what creates a long-lived advantage will change." 

"Product features, new technologies, and the ‘better mousetrap’ sorts of sources of advantage are proving to be less durable than we once thought."

"Companies are learning to leverage more ephemeral things such as deep customer relationships and the ability to design irreplaceable experiences across multiple arenas." 

"They will be focused on creating capabilities and skills that will be relevant to whatever arenas they happen to find themselves operating in." 

She refers to Eric Ries’s book, The Lean Startup, in which innovation is driven, not by what managers or strategists think makes sense, but rather by direct feedback from customers in carefully designed A/B experiments. See Eric Ries - Lean StartUps - but not just for start-ups)

See the article, "It's Official! The End Of Competitive Advantage" in Forbes

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

What is the return on investment in customer service?

Google the phrase "What is the return on investment on customer service?" and you get sent to the Institute of Customer Service Website and their report, 

"return on investment in customer service: the bottom line report" from which I will quote later.

Their research examines:

  • which customer service activities bring the best returns, 
  • how to go about measuring customer intangibles and 
  • how to achieve an ROI from customer service.

My point!

Everyone claims that excellent customer service creates direct bottom line benefits (as if it is cause-and-effect relationship rather than just a simple correlation...) eg 8 out of the top 10 Fortune 100 businesses are customer obsessed... 

This report is a real starting point recognising the need to attribute ROI to customer service activities. While most measures of success are soft or qualitative, there is a growing need to demonstrate the relationship between excellent customer service and the ensuing bottom line benefits. 

Quite how you measure this is another matter!

Key findings

"The research found that organisations believe that there is a link between investing in service and achieving some form of ROI. More often than not it's investment in more complex, harder to define activities such as empowering staff and gaining an understanding of the customer viewpoint that bring the best returns, rather than ‘harder’, cost cutting activities such as moving the contact centre off–shore.

Similarly, the research concludes that some harder to measure goals — such as establishing trust, loyalty and some form of emotional connection with customers — bring the highest returns.
  • 81% of respondents believe that gaining an understanding from a customer viewpoint is very likely to lead to an ROI in customer service
  • More complex people-driven concepts such as ‘culture of service quality’ and the ‘whole customer experience’ are expected to be much more important in the future
  • 47.3% of respondents say off-shoring/outsourcing is unlikely to lead to ROI in customer service
  • interaction between frontline staff and customers is a key activity leading to ROI
  • right staff with the right ‘inborn’ attitude to customer service is a major contributor
  • empowering staff to make decisions delivers increased value for both customers and the organisation
  • customer satisfaction is easy to measure and the dominant metric among service providers
  • customer service is beginning to play an increasingly strategic role in organisations"

You can buy the full report from the Institute of Customer Service Website 

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Seth Godin - a small collection

In the past I have talked a lot about Seth Godin and thought it was time to pull together some links about the man's work. 

Godin always seems to be slightly ahead of the curve with his prolific output. He doesn't always get it right but what he does do is challenge people's assumptions about what is possible. 

Love him or hate him... he always makes you think!

Here is a promo video for the Icarus Deception:

See also: Why is it better to be safe than sorry? (incl video)

Seth Godin on making your small business indispensable:

How to get your ideas to spread:

This Is How You Create A Remarkable Product This post originally appeared at Open Forum.
In the past, brilliant marketing could sell even the most ordinary product or service. But today, competition is so fierce that you actually have to create something remarkable in order to succeed, says marketing guru Seth Godin in his book, Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable....