Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Crab Bucket!

I came across an interesting blog post a few days ago talking about the crab bucket effect?

Know what that is, well I didn’t either, but apparently if you put one crab in a bucket within a few minutes it will climb out, put two or more in bucket and one rarely climbs out, the others continually pull the other potential escapees back in.

In the current climate, I think this effect is all pervasive. We are a product of

- the people we associate with
- the books we read (or other sources of continuing learning)
- our environment.

In the current climate it is easier to buy into the doom and gloom and go with the flow, be pulled back into the bucket by those other crabs.

I have just finished a wonderful and inspiring book, “the Flipside” by Alan J. Jackson. In it Alan, describes many many inspiring stories of how people have overcome adversity and have gone on to achieve greatness.

The adversity faced would by most have been considered fatal (personal, financial, physical),but these people found the flipside, another way of looking at things, and found opportunity where others would only have seen only problems.

In all cases those who found the flipside, described how relationships with others (the people they associated with) helped them to find that flipside, to look for those opportunities and to climb out of that crab bucket.

In fact they were all grateful for the adversities they had faced because these problems had made them stronger and allowed them other opportunities.

What didn't kill them, did make them stronger, but not only that it gave a world of new opportunities.

Pushing your boundaries, takes you out of your comfort zone, puts you in new and unexpected places, but quickly, these areas become your new comfort zone and you have to keep pushing those boundaries, expanding your new comfort zones and growing every day.

"Life is change. Growth is optional. Choose Wisely" Karen Kaiser Clarke

"There has never yet been a person in our history, who has led a life of ease, whose name is worth remembering" Theodore Roosevelt

Friday, February 27, 2009

My personal banking crises!

I had a very difficult day yesterday.

Our illustrious bankers contacted us a couple of weeks back with the delightful news that they were reducing our overdraft facilities with immediate effect on not one but two of my companies.

This news came out of the blue and was triggered, as far as I can determine, not by anything we did but rather the general economic conditions.

They asked if I would come in and see them and I rescheduled my next day and did.

The result that they forced me to convert a portion of the overdrafts into personally gauranteed term loans and reduced our overdraft facilities by approx. 70%.

Armed with this news we all buckled down on a overheads slashing exercise, debt collection sprint and combined that with a concerted effort to get some short term wins for the company.

We were successfull but the downside - the increased business and short term wins did not turn into pay off- none of the additional money has come in with one of the companies we did the business with repeating my own banking story verbatim back to me.

The bottom line for one of the companies is that I had to let 2 employees go. Now whilst they both have underperformed, they both had potential but whilst we have lots of business invoiced I cannot get the cash in and without the cash (or the banking facilities to finance the cashflow) I cannot continue to pay them

So whilst the day was difficult for me, it is considerably more difficult for the two employees I had to make redundant.

It does seem to be a crazy situation that the taxpayer has been forced to take on the risk now posed by the banks, a risk entirely generated by the ineptitude of the banks themsleves and viable businesses are now being forced to let go those very tax payers who now shoulder the burden of the bankers mistakes.

However, I did watch a program a few months ago titled "the banks never lose" and I guess its true.

Whilst I am not a religious person I do remember from the bible that Jesus hunted the bankers and priests out of the temple whilst keeping the prostitutes within. I think he was right!

Now what doesn't kill you does make you stronger, but I feel a little winded after yesterdays debacle.

Ps. want to know which bank it was - the bank that bears the countries name "Bank of Ireland"

Pps. we are currently seeking alternate banking facilities

I have often heard it said that when the sun shines the banks offer you umbrellas and when the rain comes they take them away, but what happens when the banks themselves are the rainmakers?

What have I learned - I need to sort out better long term banking deals for all of my companies.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Social Media?

We are total beginners in the world of Social Media and the marketing opportunities that it offers.

We do have our facebook pages, blogs and have recently started to use Twitter.

There is a fantastic introduction to Social Media by Hubspot and you wan see the webinar here - very simple, very clear, top class - enjoy and benefit.

The Power of Words

For one of my businesses we create a lot of Press Releases, every Monday at 11.11 am the press release goes out.

It is prepared the week before and from the leads that we have been able to track, we believe that out of all of our marketing PR gives us our best return on investment.....but again I digress.....three weeks ago I prepared a press release, detailing a very good news story about an emerging economy in which we do business.

I then had the bright idea to title the press release "Recession, What Recession?".

Seemed like a great idea.....I knew the good news that was contained within.

We released the press release on line and had the worst opening rate of any press release we have ever done. We sent it to our journalist listing and the same result.

Clearly the title was wrong, are people so inundated with Recessionary press releases that they refuse to open any more, did they feel that the good news story that might be implied within would just be rubbing their noses in it as they struggled in difficult times.

I'll never really know the answer but the one thing it did bring home to me is the importance of an excellent title (or subject line in an e mail).

As the press release only contains two words, "what" and "recession", one of them is wrong or the combination of them is wrong. I have used the word "what" before without negative effects......so I won't use the word "recession" again.

I hate the word anyway so no problem in that regard!

Of course the proof of the pudding is in the eating and we will re-release the press release in its orignal form with a different title in about a month and see how it performs.

Ps. Our best performing Press Release since the start of the year contained the words "Good News about.....", draw your own conclusions!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Climate Change and how to address it

I came across an interesting article published on yahoo about climate change and its challenges. You can see the full article by Richard Harris by here.

In the article the author highlights that the Obama administration have committed billions to the issue of climate change, proposing climate laws and treaties - but will it work?

Scientist Robert Correll, using a computerised model shows that even if those countries committed to addressing climate change reach their stated goal that we still won't reverse the warming trends.

Dan Sarewitz of Arizona State University is also sceptical about the current proposals to "throw money" at climate change.

Sarewitz is skeptical that politicians can deliberately manage a transformation of that scale, either through legislation or through climate treaties. He says, for starters, measures that will ultimately force everyone to pay more for energy are doomed both economically and politically.

"Politically, what you're asking people to do is to pay a huge upfront cost for benefits many decades down the road that they can't even anticipate or predict. And that is politically an extremely difficult sort of situation to manage," Sarewitz says.

It's harder still, considering that Americans rank global warming at the bottom of their worry list, according to a January poll by the Pew Research Center for People and the Press.

And even if the public became passionate about climate change, Sarewitz says, it's hard to imagine how they would warm to the idea of making carbon-emitting fuels prohibitively expensive. Just try to imagine how much that would cost.

But he is not just a naysayer he has a suggestion:

he has been trying to think of another way to deal with climate change. To do that, he's looked back in history to see how we managed other major transformations. One example is how America transformed agriculture over the past century. The United States government created a highly successful, century-long effort to make food more abundant and affordable.

"And it didn't do so by setting any particular target or timetable. It did so by investing in research and development — and very importantly, in institutions," Sarewitz says.

For example, agricultural extension programs brought together researchers to tackle the big problems, and farmers to put the solutions to work quickly. The key to it all was speeding up innovation. And the good news is none of this required an ugly political or public debate. That's the model Sarewitz would like to use for climate change.

"The idea really is to take the political heat off of climate change and instead move this into the realm of policy wisdom," he says, "where many many small decisions made across many agencies, many types of policies, many domains, set the conditions for moving in the right direction without demanding that people accept that this is the most important problem in the world."

Sarewitz is now hard at work trying to identify what institutions we need to drive that transformation in the coming decades. The ultimate goal is to make renewable energy about as cheap as fossil fuels. Otherwise, there's little hope that the nations of the world will agree to tackle climate change. Sarewitz says he knows the Obama administration won't abandon its current path to craft climate laws and a treaty.

"But there's no reason they can't at the same time… understand that the real action is going to be on the innovation front," Sarewitz says.

So what do I like about this article and suggestion, I like the idea that:

1. Firstly you create an environment in which change can happen

2. You don't take your eye of the big picture

3. You undertand that lots of small changes are required to make that big change

4. You encourage invention and innovation

5. You make lots of the small changes

6. You ultimately reach your goal of the big change

What a great plan - I like it.

Malcolm Gladwell covers many incidences of creating major change using similar methods in this book "the Tipping Point".

Thursday, February 5, 2009

If you're not scared are you making progress....

I saw this video this evening and it reminds me of one of my daily goals which is to push my boundaries every day, to do something that is a little more scary, a little more difficult than I really want to do because it is only when you push the boundaries that you learn and when you learn you make progress.

wingsuit base jumping from Ali on Vimeo.

What a great feeling it must be to have that feeling of falling and then stretch out your arms and fly ( I think these guys are still falling just a little bit more slowly!)

I used to dream a lot of falling and then flying, sounds like entrepreneurship in a nutshell, sometimes you need to fall a long way before you fly.

Freud said that the content of all dreams is wish fulfillment, perhaps if I dream of falling and flying again I should immediately proceed to Norway!

But I prefer Walt Disney who said "all of our dreams can come through if we have the courage to pursue them."

Best of luck with your pursuits
I firmly believe that we are a product of three things

1. The people we associate with

2. The books we read (or education we get through other sources).

3. Environment

The current economic enironment could be quite depressing particularly if we listen to the journalists. But when it comes to journalism "if it bleeds it leads", the worse the story the bigger the headline.

But be aware that by definition recession is an assesment of what happened in a previous quarter (or a previouos two quarters to be precise)... a recession is defined as a reduction of a country's gross domestic product (GDP) for at least two quarters.

You can only look at the previous quarter after it is passed. So you could be in a quarter of unprecedented economic growth when everyone is talking about recession which in fact refers to the two previous quarters.

We do not have to define our selves by what happened in the past and it is our choice to do so or not to do so......we can choose to look for new opportunities, better opportunities right now or we can choose to go with the flow and participate in the mass depression (psychological not economic).

Personally I am looking for new opportunities and better opportunities.

But I am not burying my head in the sand, my businesses have had to adjust, credit control has become a major issue as or course has cashflow.

Perhaps now is time to read more and associate with better people in an attempt to reduce the negative influences of the current environment and to that end following are

10 Great Quotes From 10 Great Business People

1. Jim Rohn : “Formal education will make you a living; self education will make you a fortune.”

2. Henry Ford : “Paying attention to simple little things that most men neglect makes a few men rich.”

3. Walt Disney : “All our dreams can come true - if we have the courage to pursue them.”

4. Peter Drucker : “Business has only two functions - marketing and innovation.”

5. Edwin H. Stuart :“Men who do things without being told draw the most wages.”

6. Vincent Lombardi : “Winning is a habit. Unfortunately so is losing”

7. J. Paul Getty : “To succeed in business, to reach the top, an individual must know all it is possible to know about that business.”

8. Sam Walton : “High expectations are the key to everything.”

9. Steve Jobs : “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”

10. Warren Buffett :“I like to go for cinches. I like to shoot fish in a barrel. But I like to do it after the water has run out.”

Thank you to Prevential for these great quotes.