Archive for the 'Articles' Category

Lighting Customers up

Over the past two weeks I’ve really enjoyed working with some great professionals and it prompted me to think what it was that did that made contact with them so pleasurable.

The first was John Cassidy who I asked to take some new photos. John specialises in headshots and had photographed David Beckam, most of the English football squad as well as Royalty. Not only did John create some great results but he was a joy to meet, very engaging and took time to find out what I wanted. “It’s what you would expect” I hear you say and I would reply “True, but I have been photographed by people who didn’t light me up and consequently got poor results”.

With John I relaxed, enjoyed working with him and the results were better than I expected. He explained how to get the most from his time with him and how to prepare for the session. What to wear, grooming, and what to do the week, day and evening before the shoot. That was certainly new for me and a three hour photoshoot seemed like twenty minutes!

Then there was a twenty-one year old graduate who once swam for Team GB Youth team called James Hosrfall who’s set up his own fitness suppliment company. I will be talking about him in greater detail in another blog. Then there was the builder, the lawyer and ….

We may, often, complain about the standard of work in the UK and I know I do so regularly, but there’s an awful lot of great and knowledgable professionals about. Thanks guys for lighting me up!

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Management guff awards

It’s great when someone comes along and pricks the bubble of management pomposity that is part of business today. It’s why I just love listening to Lucy Kellaway on the radio and on her blog and reading her regular column in the Financial Times. Lucy’s talent for stripping away and laying bare the stupidity of puffed up management makes her required reading and listening.

Each year she awards prizes for companies and managers who have butchered the English Language.
Like the Executive at Amazon who renamed books “Reading containers” and Toyota who now call cars “Sustainable mobility solutions”

Other awards go to HB Fuller coaching who state that they “invested in several key talent additions”

I don’t want to spoil Lucy’s adio blog for those who have yet to hear it but firmly believe that it should be required reading and listening for all executives, MBA students and Business school lecturers. Listen to it HERE and enjoy

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Should trading on the web carry a health warning!

As you can see from previous posts I’ve been investigating how people work on the internet.

The main surprise is just how sophisticated the medium is becoming in allowing people to trade and make money (or perhaps I’ve missed). The ability to have  a website designed in Thailand, upload one’s own or others products (by becoming an affiliate), take payment via Paypal or Clickbank and have a cheque for all that you sell sent to your bank and all within a few days has posed some interesting questions on the future of work.

Let’s first deal with the Hype! An awful lot of people are currently trading on the web and some of them are doing very well. Indeed at a seminar in London last month a parade of such people told an audience of over 800 how they were making anywhere between $2000 a month on Twitter to $20,000 in one week on Facebook. The audience were given titbits of information on “How it was done” and then offered to purchase whole programmes of products where they could do the same by following the speaker’s step-by-step fast cash formula!.

Now, before we go any further, let me say that I have the greatest regard for the organisers and what they are doing to inform people about the possibilities of making meoney on the web. I did, however, fiund the American way of selling through hype, the promise of easy riches and the buy NOW part of the sale because of product scarcity rather galling.

The problems for work and the individuals, as far as I see it, are these:

  • I suspect, that it’s going to be a very few in his audience that actually succeed! This may bring depression, feelings of failure and loss of a lot of redundancy money. (More than a few in the audience were seeking to plough their redundancy money into web based sales)

  • Trading on the internet is likely to become a “bubble”. Like any other bubble people are believing, being told, that having a product on-line is a path to instant and easy riches. The reality is that those who realise those riches will be the early adopters such as those on the stage at Mark’s seminar, whilst the majority will find the marketplace so saturated, with other traders as well as FREE items, that there are just cents rather than dollars to be earned.
  • Another possibility is that Twitter, Facebook, Amazon and possibly governments will find a way of monetising the trade for themselves more effectively and thus reduce the potential for huge incomes.

I later attended another seminar on making money from the web where some in the audience had been selling products on the web for up to five years and barely scraped together a living wage. A few seemed depressed and disheartened and quite possibly were making themselves unemployable in the long run!

Perhaps working solely on the web should carry a health warning?

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Headhunters gearing up for downturn

It’s estimated that the financial downturn is likely to increase job turnover at the senior levels as companies search for executives able to weather the financial storm.

Top search companies and Headhunters in The City are gearing themselves up for an increase in the number of companies searching for senior executives with the right skills and experience.

However, if you think that a financial downturn will reduce salaries or provide a better negotiation platform when discussing the remuneration package with a new hire…then think again.

Senior executives with the necessary skills and experience of working in a financial downturn are few. As a result we estimate that incoming top executives will be demanding higher salaries and more severe severance packages.

We consider that this is more likely where the incoming executive is also a “Change catalyst” and is being recruited to turn the business around or to protect it.

However, we also predict that recruitment for middle management will decline as “change catalysts” shed staff in order to make bottom line savings.

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How to negotiate on salary

Talented candidates for a job are all different, but there is one thing that they will all be looking for and that’s the best salary they can get. In today’s competitive market a company wanting to attract top talent to it must offer the chosen candidate an attractive salary.

The salary negotiation, however, brings hidden dangers if handled badly. Inevitably the company will want to recruit at the lowest salary they can whilst the prospective new hire is looking to increase it as far as possible. The moment a candidate knows the top end of the salary range they will strive towards that figure. The anticipated result is that both parties meet halfway so that everyone is happy! Too often this doesn’t happen

In the UK many senior jobs are advertised on a Circa £70k (salary about figure). This then becomes the expectation of the candidate whilst the Company will often have a salary figure between £65k to £72k in mind. So having identified their preferred candidate the company will come enter into salary negotiation and start at a salary bid below the one advertised(£68K) with a promise of an increase or bonus after a number of months satisfactory work.

The difficulty with this tactic is that it upsets the relationship with the preferred candidate at the earliest possible stage and the candidate now feels that the company is less trustworthy than anticipated. The result is that the prefferd candidate turns the offer down (causing wasted time and face as the company struggles to offer the post to the second or third candidate). If the preferred candidate accepts the job then it often results in early disgruntlement and the causes for early departure or lack of motivation.

The best position is for a company to make the salary a fixed one at their preferred rate of  £68K and to negotiate on a “reward package” which includes a bonus. Naturally the bonus will be based upon measurable results but the candidate will most likely accept this as a benefit that has been successfully negotiated from the company. As such he/she will congratulate themselves on gaining something that wasn’t on the table in the first place. Whilst the company can work within the salary scale they had originally envisaged paying whilst saying to the candidate that they have driven a hard bargain.

In this way both parties can be satisfied without any loss of face.

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How to… know when to jump ship

Some months ago I was working with a client who had a senior member of staff, James, in the same job for over ten years. Whilst James had done an excellent job for the first six years he had lately lost the drive to implement new ideas. In recent times James admitted that the jobwas easy and enjoyed the social aspects of his work. He was well liked by his colleagues and those that reported to him.

James was full of expectation that he could remain with the company for many more years. However, he felt that the company should be rewarding him more for his long and faithful service. He had mentioned his expectation of a substantial increase to his salary to his new boss at the last appraisal.

James thought his new boss, Philip, was difficult to work with and had a difficult management style. James often found that his boss gave him irritating tasks to do and he often didn’t understand their purpose. James thought that Philip was demanding and often rejected his warnings that change caused reduced morale and confused working methods. In particular James was able to point out to Philip when suggested changes had been tried before and failed.

Philip, his boss, saw things differently, however. He felt that James was the kind of individual that he longed would leave so that a more enthusiastic employee could be recruited. Someone with new ideas and who wouldn’t always verbalise the reasons why something couldn’t be done. In fact James was the type of employee that the boss dreamed of supplying a job reference that read, James Smith has informed me that he has led the production department for the past ten years to HIS entire satisfaction. Philip was against giving James a merit increase on his salary for his past year’s work.

Indeed, for the past six months Philip has been working with HR Director to develop a strategy that would result in the Company not being taken to an Industrial Tribunal in the event of James being dismissed. Over the past twelve months Philip and the HR department has been creating a log of the times when requests had been made to James and which had not been carried out or completed in an unsatisfactory manner.

You don’t have to be a soothsayer to predict that James is heading for trouble and whilst not every situation is as clear-cut how do you recognise when it’s time to jump ship? After all, the trick is to jump ship on your terms and to avoid the situation where you are being asked to leave where there is little chance of a good severance package and it will be difficult to find another job.

There are three distinct areas that you should consider:
The first is the way you feel about the work itself

  • Has the work ceased to be fun?
  • Has the work ceased to be a challenge?
  • Have you stopped learning?
  • You’ve stopped communicating with the boss
  • The work is comfortable without being stretching or bringing joy
  • Does the current job afford you the benefits of a desired lifestyle in terms of leisure time, time with friends and family?

Secondly consider the management style of the boss and the actions that your boss might be taking. Never concentrate on just one of the situations detailed below to decide the time has come to find another job. Consider them in clusters and based upon past behaviour: ( If the boss begins to check you expense claim form in detail it might just be because the Finance Director or Accounts Department have instructed all managers to reduce expenses).
However, if three of more of the situations below become evident over a period of three or more months then alarm bells should be ringing.

  • The boss has become critical or irritated over small aspects of your work
  • Appraisal (performance review) results arn’t as positive
  • The boss has begun to check your work in detail
  • The boss had begun to check your expense claim form
  • The boss reminds you of previous instructions and is micro managing
  • People in authority no-longer listen to you with the same concentration as before

Finally there is your overall career pattern.

  • Is your CV (Resume) looking as if you’ve been taking a long rest?
  • How well is the business doing in relationship to the competition?
  • Are you in need of a boost to your salary? (Gaining substantial increases from an existing employer is more difficult than from a new one)
  • Would another company look better on your CV than the present one?
  • Are you of an age where to move would be a benefit as far as pension etc is concerned?

However, before you rush to write your resignation letter you might like to consider gaining some career advice from a professional. There are many companies on the Internet that offer such services. However, be clear about the sort of advice you are wanting as many of the companies that advertise on the Internet are job search firms and their advice may not be what you are looking for.

Then you need to develop that network of contacts you should have but never got around to contacting. Too often people leave a business and find that they have few people outside their current employers that can help find a new job or offer practical help and advice if wanting to change career. Joining on-line networking clubs such as Linkedin and Ecademy long before you jump ship can provide many contacts. In addition begin attending those networking events run by the institute that you are a member of or join one. Networking isn’t just something that the self-employed do, it’s important to everyone.

Choosing the exact time to jump ship is always problematical, not least because it often has an impact of family as well as oneself. The art is to do it at a time that suits you, giving a better set of work results than exist and which provides a further career prospects when it’s time to jump ship next.

Stephen Harvard Davis is a leading business relationship specialist and the author of  “Why do 40% of Executives Fail?”  He advises senior executives and organisations on transition management and how to attract and retain top talent within the business. He is also a sought after speaker at high profile conferences and business meetings. Stephen can be contacted on 44 (0) 1727 838321 &

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Article published in Solicitor?s Journal Vol 150 no3.? 2006


An expensive failure rate

A huge amount of time is spent on attracting and developing appropriate contracts for lawyers when they join a new firm. Probably as much time as is spent advising the firm?s clients on a contract for their senior executives. Yet despite all of this legal work as well as a stringent interview process research shows that around forty percent of ALL lawyers/managers in a new job FAIL1.

The result is that additional and expensive time must be allocated to successfully divest the firm of the failing individual and recruit a replacement. The direct costs can account for 2.5 times the salary (management time, search company fees, training etc).? However, the hidden costs can be far higher. Research estimates that the lost opportunity costs of senior hire failure can be as high as twenty four times the base salary 2

The question to ask is, ?How many failures could a firm suffer before the bottom line was being seriously affected?? What projects would have to be put on hold, what expansion will be jeopardised?

In most successful businesses if you told the managing partners that one of their processes was only 60% effective they would probably make huge efforts to improve the situation. So, why do the statistics for new hire failure remain so unacceptably high?

One of the major problems can be of perception. HR will report that the attrition rate for a firm is 5%. To most firms this is probably an acceptable figure until one translates it into financial terms.

Take a firm with 100 people on an average salary of ?40,000. If 5% leave in any one financial year then the cost of replacement, at 2.5 X salary, amounts to ?500,000.? However, the lost opportunity costs at 25 X salary of one senior individual at this salary amounts to a staggering ?960,000.

However with planning the situation can be significantly improved. Firms can introduce transition processes and models that significantly increase the chances of success and with a positive affect on financial results.

The first step is to ensure that the firm recruits an individual with the best chance of success. Yet despite psychometric tests, interviews, assessment centres too often the candidate that is selected doesn?t reflect the business situation that needs managing.
For instance:?

One would assume that a law firm requiring a new partner would ensure that the correct legal knowledge and skills are held by a successful candidate. However, there needs to be other considerations:?


  • Appointing a change catalyst without explaining that strong aspects of the firm?s culture that need to be retained could cause internal friction.
  • Appointing a new partner to ?Turn around? the firm in a short time period with little consultation when in fact ?Restructure?, with greater time allowed for consultation, would be more appropriate.?

Therefore the first task is to identify the business situation.? What is expected to happen in the short, medium and long-term?? What would constitute success and how will such success be measured?
To reduce the risk of failure further the firm?s management style should be discussed. How the firm prefers to take decisions and what types of decisions must be referred upward.

Other information that a new appointment needs to understand revolve around the culture:
????????? What aspects of culture must be preserved and what can be changed?
????????? What behaviours does the organisation expect from the new hire?
????????? What change programmes have worked in the past and what has not?
????????? What does the firm view as a success and what does is not?
New partners know that they have a short time to prove themselves and will often seek to introduce ?Quick wins?. The result can be that processes and systems that have worked in the past are airlifted and introduced into the new job. Often this is done without taking account of the culture or the people and generally produces quick wins that are isolated from the long-term results that are required.
I recently came across a new HR manager called Helen who during an early team meeting asked her people to consider some quick wins that would ?Make her look good? to the managing partners. Her team informed her that she could save thousands of pounds by removing the free canteen lunch for part-time staff. An email confirming this was sent to all part-time staff. That day the senior partner arrived home to find that his wife, who worked part-time in the accounts department, had not cooked him dinner. ?You don?t give me lunch so I?m not cooking you dinner? She said. The free lunch was restored.

One action that improves the chances of success is creating coalitions. There is the need to develop relationships with the boss and the team. However, too many individuals spend too much time on these activities whilst ignoring colleagues that will be needed to provide help or co-operation at a later date.
A firm can usually help identify the key players within their organisation. Those people that control budgets, those that supply goods or services and especially opinion makers.
New hire failure is expensive and can seriously affect the financial well-being of a company and lose clients. However, the risks can be significantly reduced with a well thought out transition policy that allows the new hire as well as the firm to communicate with each other. Such success will allow firms to concentrate on attracting new clients and that actually help with business growth.


1 Anne Fisher, Don?t Blow Your New Job,? Fortune June 1998

2 Brad Smart, Topgrading, 1999, p50, Prentice Hall Press

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