Dress / Think for the occasion

We attended an dual event for a programme on helping regional SME’s in Ireland to innovate, develop and grow their business

http://www.itcarlow.ie/enterprise/inspire/inspire-home.htm

The initial meeting was with the other tutors / consultants of the course and the organisers. As such, with a initial business meeting we dressed for the occasion, formal business – Suit & Tie.

The second meeting was with the participants on course. Most of us sat at the front of the the lecture hall, looking up at our prospective clients.This was the first information evening for the programme, most were here to gain a better understanding of the programme, work involved, outcomes and supports given by all involved. The presentations, happily I did not have to present, were all about the consultants own histories, past experiences, clients assisted, money (grants/ finance) raised by clients.

Most of the audience were dressed casual, jeans, jumpers, either straight from work, from home and perhaps unemployed. Looking at their appearance, it dawned on me, that we should dress for our audience, not a suit or tie in sight was looking down at me. My thoughts began to think, what if I was in their shoes, as I have been in the past. Looking down at a bunch of suits, what inspiration does that give to me. Yes I listened to their presentation, their clients, but would that inspire me ?

When we meet our clients we need to do some research into them.

  • Dress appropriately from the perspective of the person you are trying to impress
  • Know a lot, but don’t flaunt it.
  • Find a common business link or friend to warm up the connection.

We did not dress to match our client expectations, we bamboozled them with our stories, our language was that of consulting, not in the terms that they may be accustomed or  communicate in. Those moments of first impressions has more impact that any document you can prepare. We all know about that initial 7 second rule, by which new clients judge you, but when is professionalism or formal dress sense not appropriate to your clients.

 

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Fail Better, Fail Quicker, Fail incrementally

Fail Better, Fail Quicker, Fail Incrementally.

That is the theme of a recent event I attended, Flounders in the Science Gallery in Trinity College, Dublin Ireland on 9th April 2014. This was part of the Science Gallery Fail Better exhibition, which acknowledges the attempts and efforts of inventors, designers, business people and ordinary ‘joe soaps’ in their attempts to deliver their dream.

Flounders was an event organised by a number of Irish entrepreneurs as an alternative to the success of those who attend the F.ounders events, acknowledging that life is never straight forward.

flounders

Exhibitions included Dysons 2000’th attempt to perfect the new vacuum cleaner, dc54, Formula 1 analysis of the destruction under race conditions of a back axle & suspension assembly on a Formula 1 racing car during a race, failure of the authorities in Ukraine around Chernobyl to enforce the safe zone around the reactor, and the old ladies that live and survive in the shadow, with their own nuclear moonshine that they distil.

Science Gallery #failbetter event

The event #FailBetter from the Flounders was a celebration of failure, that we fail, pick up the pieces, learn from our mistakes and try again, hence the hashtag #FailBetter

The event as we Irish do well, storytelling. The night was on each individual story’s in their journey to build something that they had passion about. We all have our stories of achievements, but who has the ability to discuss those that did fail, either quietly or spectacularly as in some instants

It was a quazi panel discussion format, 3 judges on the night, Constantin Gurdgiev@GTCost   Jamie Heaslip @jamieheaslip & Ciara O’Brien @ciaraobrien with Paul Hayes as the compare for the evening.

flounders 2

We were treated to 8 different perspectives of failure, re-invention and carrying on with life, work and happiness including

  • Tech: Blowing 140K in a few months and company folding 3 days before getting married.
  • VC: Investing in a start up in form of programming work vs share capital, only to find this creeping into 6 digit figure, many multiples the actual value of the company, and then getting requested by Revenue, tax authorities for VAT on invoices reclaimed by the 2nd company, #twisting in the knife
  • Property: Discovering the joys of property bubbles, having 80% of nightlife clubs in a city only to discover the recession at your doorstep, and an establishment bought for €9M now 5% of that market value, oh the joys of property speculations
  • Journalism: Writing or failure to write an sizable article for a leading media outlet, informing your boss of failure to deliver on a deadline close to the deadline and then the ability of said person to deliver more expletives in a few seconds than thought possible, let alone the financial cost of not delivering this article.
  • Media: Having a well know personality on the show only to discover they weren’t interested in delivering any set pieces of their show, and audience figures plummeting.
  • Science Gallery #failbetter

    Science Gallery #failbetter

and my favourite, a Tech Entrepreneur;

  • Realisation that close to Christmas time that the company was insoluble and likelihood to fail. Acceptance that they could always get a job if it did; this wasn’t the end of the world.
  • Secondly, later in their entrepreneurial journey; the discovery having signed a multi-million deal for the purchase of the company, that the credit cards were maxed out and the inability to pay for the celebratory meal with friends.

This kind of sums up the life of an entrepreneur, living on the edge, using one card to pay the minimum payment on the other but forging on with their passion and determination for success.

I found it an enjoyable night with no sadness in evidence, it was the celebration of failure, failure is not an end point, just stepping stone to the next incarnation of your dreams. I have previously written about children’s ignorance to failure, how many times do they when babies fall over when attempting to walk. We have our hearts in our mouths, terror of the damage a fall will inflict, but does a fall stop them, the shock makes them cry, occasionally somebody is unfortunately hurt, but by far they carry on, pick themselves up and try again until they succeed. Similar to riding a bicycle. With or without stabilizers, we will fall, topple over, go astray and perhaps crash, but we get back up and with some practice gain the ability to cycle.

Failure is only momentary, it does not stop our journey, and we should celebrate the lesson learned, understand why it occurred and move ahead. Life is for living, work for enjoyment and failure only a knock that we bounce back from.

Time to Create

“All Work and no play makes jack a dull boy”

People frequently comment that if you enjoy your work, then it feels no longer like work. Working as a consultant with startups, micro and sme(b) business in Ireland,  I often see the translation of enjoyment of a hobby into potential self employment and to the creation of a micro business. Speaking personally, I would favour this transition, of making a business from a hobby, so then it never feels like work.

Whilst this blog post is not on that endeavour, I enjoy the freedom from an office. Ask family, friends, past co-workers, I am not an office person. I suffer from stagnation being in an office on a daily basis and require being released into the real world, meeting people, doing ‘stuff’

One of my hobbies from when I was a still in shorts was fishing. I have been brought fishing in the lakes in Mullingar, Co. Westmeath from when I was 5. I have enjoyed being in 19ft fishing boats out in the downpours, wind and waves along with the fair days when fishing was more productive. My fishing companion was my aunt’s partner of many decades, Mick Ward from Moyvore. He has forgotten more that I probably will ever remember on fishing in the lakes of the Irish midlands.mullingar_map_lakeswww.mullingarbusiness.com

Mick is unable to fish now and over several months, Saturdays and the odd Monday I have spent on restoring his fishing boat. The boat was left out in the weather for many years and was in need of major TLC. My first concern was to get the boat into a shed and preserve whatever was salvageable. This has been my endeavour and this is the initial post in my project to restore the boat which I have many fond memories of to a working condition. This the my story…..

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I first observed the condition of the boat in Sept 2012, and got Mick’s permission to take ownership of the boat during the Spring of 2013 and my thoughts then turned to restoration.

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Project:  Restoration of a 19ft Lake Fishing boat. Gunnels (top part) were of teak and the body of fibreglass.

Scope: Restoration of this boat

Cost: Budget approx € 500 for materials and parts. Minimise expenditure, factoring in a good condition 2nd hand boat is in the region of €3-4k. .

Duration: Open ended, this is a hobby and a challenge, no monetary gain involved, only enjoyment of task at hand.

When a project is initiated from a passion, many of the formal aspects of management are discounted and it becomes a labour of love, very true in this case for me.

My professional background: Fisherman, and school level ability of carpentry

Condition: Most of the timber that was exposed to the elements and appeared to be rotten or in a state that the safety of a user, Me, would be put at risk if these were not addressed.

  1. Perform an analysis of the timber condition; undertake if professional repair would be necessary or if I could undertake this as a hobby.
  2. Sourcing the necessary timber to allow restoration
  3. Removal of damaged timber
  4. Using appropriate tools preparation and construction of new timber sections
  5. Sand down timber & varnish
  6. Tidy up

My first step was to move the boat indoors into disused hay shed to save any further damage to the timber and protect the fibreglass from any frost damage. This was the quickest win for me of this whole project. Always nice to get a quick win under the belt. So in Sept 2012, I was able to analyse the timbers of the boat once they had dried out, which were rotten and unsafe to keep. The fibreglass appeared to be clean, no bubbles in the fibre and looked structural good.

Over the winter, I did research into the costs involved, sourcing of parts and materials and cost benefits of getting professional craftsman to restore the boat. I subsequently discarded this, as it was my project, I wanted and needed the satisfaction of saving a treasured memory.

In the Spring of 2013, with the permission of Mick, I started my hunt for materials. The primary issue was timber. The boat is 19ft long, but this is not like a car, which can be of similar length, a boat has a beam. This is the belly in the middle where the boat starts from a point at the front end (bow) and finishes at the stern (back) where the engine is attached. A typical fishing boat ranges from 17ft to 19ft long, but in terms of total length the beam is factored in, this amounts to approx. 22ft long for a 19ft boat.

In prior positions, I have been a project manager for a construction company and have project managed my own self build. So I knew that going into the local builders providers, that these lengths are ordered specially. Taking into the consideration, that most timber will rot when exposed to the elements specifically water in a short period of time, that Larch is the favoured timber of choice for boat builders. The character of larch is that it is not affected by water, you can leave it indefinitely immersed and it won’t be damaged, at least not compared to other timbers, beech, ash or oak.

Dilemma: Builder suppliers/merchants don’t stock 22ft length of timber and larch is not common and is a special order in this case. So off to my local timber yard and placed an order for 22ft lengths of larch, 2″ (inch) x 1.5″ planed by 22ft long.

I waited . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . and waited . . . . . . . .   you see they have to get a tree to cut of sufficient length to supply my needs, so mother nature has answered their call.

Roll on to late Summer 2013 when my order was finally ready. In the mean time I was able to measure out all the various parts of the boat that the timber needed replacing. These sizes were also requested from the timber yard, my order numbered over fifty pieces of timber of various dimensions.

On a cold Sunday morning in November, I loaded up the jeep with my timber, the 22ft lengths draped over the front & back, securely tied and I hit the road with my delivery.

Now the fun begins. A boat not only has a beam (belly), but the bow is several inches higher than the stern. So a single piece of time not only has to bend outwards but upwards closer to the bow. This creates the problem, have to form the timber into the shape of the gunnels.

The first challenge is to form the gunnels, 22ft lengths according to the existing timber. Out with the G-clamps secure the two lengths each side to mould the timber. This I intended to leave over the winter months and jokingly delegate the work to the clamps. This is the most critical part of the project, getting the shape formed correctly will ease my work later.

While the timber is clamped, I start the process of measuring out the other pieces of timber to allocate pieces, all have been pre-numbered as per the various locations in the boat.

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All sizes are correct, but cannot cut them until the gunnels are in situ.

Now for patience and let the timber mould into shape, its too cold to be in an exposed hayshed working over the Winter.

 

World Design Capital 2014

The City of Cape Town intends to use the World Design Capital (WDC) for 2014, WDC opportunity to take a critical look at how well we employ design and design thinking in their city operations.

“What has emerged is that design thinking has been and is used very effectively in many projects and processes. During 2014, the administration will be showcasing about 70 projects that will demonstrate effective design thinking. But what we have discovered is that there are many more ways in which design thinking can be used to improve service delivery.”    Grant Pascoe, Mayoral committee member for tourism, events and marketing.

It puts the end user right at the centre of all thinking. It is highly collaborative, which means that they consult broadly – users, experts, other interested parties – to inform their thinking. It follows a specific creative process that reflects the first two points and a process of developing and testing prototypes and improving them.

 

Innovation, keep your mind open to opportunities

There are many different places to go and ‘look’ for innovation but often we need to think through a little more of what is driving the changes before we ‘run off’ into finding solutions that are simply immediate to grow our organisations. Sometimes they are, of course in ‘plain sight’, but when you alter your thinking lens you might see innovation opportunities in different ways.

We might miss sizable opportunities in not exploring all the different drivers that are around to drive innovation and provide us opportunities. So why not take the time to ‘reflect’ a little bit more on all the different potential drivers of innovation available to you?

[ Take Time to Reflect ]

 

 

Understanding what can drive innovation opens up significant possibilities.

The central meaning of innovation relates to a quest for renewal. For this renewal to take place it is necessary for people to change the way they make decisions, to see things, they must choose to do things differently, make choices outside of their norm. Schumpeter stated that innovation changes the values onto which the system is based. So when people change their value (system) they ‘drive’ the old (economic) system to make room for the new one. When that happens innovation has occurred.

Understanding the options within the drivers of innovation is important. Knowing the options of what can drive innovation can help you choose multiple paths to explore and then grow from.

Crazy Idea

What do you think about this business idea:

You sell disassembled furniture in small pieces, which the customers have to transport home and then have to assemble them by themselves. Does this sound like a great idea?

If you think that this is not a good idea ask Ingvar how he got rich! If you don’t know who Ingvar is check here.”

Organisational Culture

We spend 40 or 50 or more hours at work each week. Many of us spend more time with those we work with than we do our families and to be content and fulfilled people, that time must be valuable for more than a dollar. . .

We want to be engaged in our work. We yearn for work that is enjoyable, meaningful and engaging because when we’re engaged we’re safer in our job, more productive and more willing and able to delight customers

Most organisation’s culture is that of sales and customer service oriented to ensure that while your staff are engaged and happy that your clients are satisfied and achieving their business goals. This is a win-win for all stakeholders.

Regardless of the focus on work, it is important for a business to think about the work environment, working relationships and “how we do things here.” By focusing on building and sustaining your business & workplace culture you are showing that your staff are your most valuable asset.

There are of course many other bottom line business reasons to focus on and build organisational culture. Here are seven of those reasons.

A strong culture is a talent-attractor. Your business culture is part of the package that prospective employees look at when assessing your business. Gone are the days of selecting the person you want from a large eager pool. The talent market is tighter and those looking for a new opportunity are more selective than ever. The best people want more than a salary and good benefits. They want an environment they can enjoy and succeed in.

A strong culture is talent-retainer. How likely are people to stay if they have other options and don’t love where they are? Your organisation’s culture is a key component of a person’s desire to stay and remain loyal to your organisation.

A strong culture engages people. People want to be engaged in their work. According to a Gallup survey at least 22 million workers are extremely negative or “actively disengaged” – this loss of productivity is estimated to be worth between $250-$300 Billion annually. Your culture can engage people. Engagement creates greater productivity, which can impact profitability.

A strong culture creates energy and momentum. Build a culture that is vibrant and allows people to be valued and express themselves and you will create a very real energy. That positive energy will permeate the organization and create a new momentum for success. Energy is contagious and will build on itself, reinforcing the culture and the attractiveness of your business and workplace not only to potential employees, but also to clients.

A strong culture changes the view of “work.” Most people have a negative connotation of the word work. Work equals drudgery, 9-5. When you create a culture that is attractive, people’s view of “going to work” will change. Would you rather see work as drudgery or a joy? Which do you think your employees would prefer? Which will lead to the best results?

A strong culture creates greater synergy. A strong culture brings people together. When people have the opportunity to (and are expected to) communicate and get to know each other better, they will find new connections. These connections will lead to new ideas and greater productivity – in other words, you will be creating synergy. Literally, 1 + 1 + right culture = more than 10.

A strong culture makes everyone more successful. Any one of the other six reasons should be reason enough to focus on your culture. But the bottom line is that an investment of time, talent and focus on your organisation culture will give you all of the above benefits.

Not only is creating a better culture a good thing to do for the human capital in the business, it makes good business sense too.

Pets

My morning can hardly be described as innovative, its a routine.

Wake, rise, bathroom, dress and then kitchen. Next stage gets me in the mood for work, our golden retreiver (dog) Finlay. Always a smile wag of the tail and a glance towards the dog leads. Pets are the embodiment of routine, they know you better than your spouse in my opinion. They like us are creatures of habit.

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My morning then goes outdoors for a dog walk. Off-lead through the fields or on down the town, I use this period to plan my day. The essential period when thoughts are unencumbered by emails, social media or ringing of telephones.

Rain, snow or fine mornings, I find these time periods critical in my day, its just me, my thoughts and Finlay.

We all need our time to be creative, focus our thoughts on our business; break our routines and challenges ourselves. Comfort zones are needed to progress through the day but we need diversity that innovation and creativity brings to our business to break the mundane of routine.

Business is the management of routine, innovation challenging there of. We need challenges to keep us sharp

 

 

Managing Clients – Consultants

Every consultant / department manager has experienced that one client or person who simply cannot knuckle down and focus on what he or she is supposed to be doing.  This can make life very difficult for everyone on the team, especially on the consultant who rely on client feedback to move the project forward.

These are the clients who simply do not reply to emails requiring action, or who are never at their desks when you call.  Needless to say, it can all get quite frustrating.

So how do you deal with these overwhelmed clients without being condescending, and without losing your patience?

Set Expectations and Priorities Straight from the Start

At the project start, when you meet with the client, establish what the goals of the project are, the short term, mid term and long term plans. This will allow you to allocate the resources and work priorities adequately during all stages of the project. Accomping these plans include in the project schedule key milestones and deadlines. Make sure that all stakeholders are on the same direction when it comes to the project.

If you have set unachievable, unrealistic goals or have them set for you, you’ll feel constantly stressed. If you believe that meeting your deadline is impossible, speak to your client and find out if there are any areas of the projects that they want completed on a priority basis and which ones can temporarily be held off.

Schedule Weekly Status Meetings No Matter Where You Are

If you are not in the same geographical location, modern technology is a virtue, making meetings easy to accomplish. Meetings with your clients are held on a regular recurring basis at a set time.

Weekly or set periodical meetings will suffice, be these face to face or virtual, projects that require frequent input may require a greater client interaction, especially at the initial project stages. Make sure that the client is adequately briefed via reminders both email and telephone. After a period of time, these meetings will become an expected touch point where you capture the attention of your client.

Follow up via Telephone to Report Critical Areas of Progress

When you send a progress report that contains critical information (action required or not), it is crucial you follow up with your busy client via phone.  Many times, the chances of your client actually reading the report are slim, and a follow-up phone call can be used to indicate any red flags or areas where action is required.  Do not simply call to ask whether the report has been received- only call with a purpose.

Patience and Persistence is Key

Dealing with clients who are too busy to focus on the present requirements can be annoying and at times off putting. By staying calm and being patient, this will allow you to focus on the big picture, as you are always the one who has to follow up. As a project manager, it is your responsibility to manage difficult situations.

Being a consultant can be difficult, but rewarding at the same time. Dealing with difficult clients, you will more quickly gain experience. The key to any project is clear and concise communication. People who are too busy to focus need a little bit of spoon feeding and a nudge in the right direction. It’s important to remember that it’s (typically) not a reflection on the work your team is doing.

Relax every so often

We all know how stressful projects can be and the things that can go wrong while they’re in progress. While that may be out of your control, try to arrange for you and your team to relax. It can be something as basic as getting away from your desks and out of the office for 10 or 15 minutes. Other members of teams might opt to plug themselves into their MP3 players for some music. The key is to not keep working full throttle–anytime you can avoid it–for the duration. Exhaustion is as bad as it sounds. It affects your ability to work fast and think clearly, not something you want for a successful project.