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It’s not often I go to the gym at 6.30 in a morning, I usually prefer midday to give me a break during work.
But today I was up early, the sun was shining and I felt great. So a workout and a swim before work seemed a good idea.

I now regret not having been at this time before. The amount you learn about what’s happening in business is really interesting.
Makes the BBC’s Today programme look positively short of news.

For instance today’s headlines from the gym are:

“Kevin’s just not pulling his weight…
and as he’s responsible for increasing sales and as they are targeted on a team result it’s not pleasing the rest of his team. The boss won’t find out till it’s too late to meet target because if he’s so stupid that he can’t see it himself then it’s his look-out.

“The new sales push will knock the competition for six”
A company has come up with a new product and pricing structure to steal some of the competition’s major clients in September. By the time the competition has leant what’s happening it’ll be too late for them to do much.

Preparing for the future

Having listened to all this news I wondered if the boss did know about Kevin, or was he relying on monthly statistics. If he’s relying on the sales stats he will have little chance of reversing the situation before targets become impossible to be met.

More imporantly, does the competition not know that they are about to have their sales attacked? If the new product line and pricing structure is as effective and destructive as anticipated then there will be a panic and a rush to “Fix the problem” in September. In my experience this will always be a costly and time consuming exercise.

The gym’s news confirms that It’s always worth having an early warning system to identify what the future might bring and obviously the Gym at 6.30 is a place I will be going to more often.

As for my early warning system…I think the picture below shows my future

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If I can’t answer… it doesn’t mean I’m stupid

I was interested to listen to BBCs Bottom Line last night to hear the discussion on how CEOs weaknesses

One answer given to “What are your weaknesses?” replied that “understanding weaknesses were really strengths”…much laughter.
However the statement is so true. In my work I’ve met a few CEO’s who suffer from an excess of ego and self-confidence and find it difficult to admit to weaknesses. This reduces effectiveness and encourages those around the CEO to fail to challenge thinking. Having one’s thinking challenged is always healthy and being aware that not being able to answer a question posed by an employee doesn’t mean I’m stupid!

Interestingly I was surprised that none of the people on Evan Davis’ panel (John Molton, Deborah Meeton and David Haynes) admitted to having a mentor of coach and yet they all agreed that a mentor can bring a person “Back to earth”. They also agreed that a mentoring programme should tell you what you “shouldn’t be doing” as well as what you should. It’s certainly part of the Assimilating-Talent mentoring programme.

One of the final lines was “I go to the right people (for advice)”.
I think that’s essential if you are to get a quality mentor.
So perhaps the panel DO have mentors…It’s just that their EGO insists on calling them something else

Stephen Harvard Davis

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Mr Cameron, I’m No Trotsyite!

I must admit to being concerned that people are being pressed to gain “work experience” by working for free for companies. I’m not against the project to enable young people to gain work experience, just that the work is unpaid!

A Panicked multi-millionaire
The label given by David Cameron describing those that oppose the programme as “Trotskyites”, as reported by the BBC, is untrue and shows how panicked the multi millionaire happens to be about getting the peasants back to work!

I agree when Mr Cameron told MPs: “The whole country wants young people given the opportunity that work experience provides.” . It’s essential that young people gain work experience but one aspect of that experience is the individual being given a sense of achievement that’s been appreciated with a reward. In this instance some sort of payment. Even the boy Scouts understood the relationship between reward and service with their “Bob a Job” scheme.

Concern from Business
Concern about the project comes from Supermarket Tesco who changed its policy within days of a protest
at one of its stores, saying it would start to pay those on work
experience and guarantee a job when placements went well.

Baker Greggs has offered 40 placements since June, with 14 of the participants going on to secure permanent jobs. Its chief executive Ken McMeikan said his firm still believed in the scheme but the benefits penalties for those that dropped out had created concern.

In the depression of the 1930s the Government at the time created “Work-camps” for the unemployed where they were centrally housed and “did unpaid work” and these work-camps were in operation up to the start of the Second World War…..
Do I detect the Government doing something similar today but without the camp?

What do you think?

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Unproductive workers rights

What a storm the report proposing change the rules regarding unfair dismissal has had. This is despite the fact that any changes, in the current climate, are unlikely.

Unproductive workers should lose rights
As reported by the BBC The report, commissioned by the prime minister, argues that unproductive workers should lose their right to claim unfair dismissal”. The Daily Telegraph
quotes the report as saying that under the current rules workers are
allowed to “coast along” with some proving impossible to sack.

Sarah Veale head of the equality and employment rights department at the TUC said that there were less than a million unfair dismissal claims last
year which was “absolutely nothing” out of a large workforce. TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: “The clue is in
the name. Employers already have plenty of powers to make fair
dismissals”. I find myself agreeing with Mr Barber! The only problem is that almost 40% of applicants withdraw their cases, but employers still have to pay legal fees in preparing a defence.

Informal discussions
I believe that employers should have the right to informally discuss with their staff issues surrounding employment, such as retirement plans, production and productivity without the fear of having to face an industrial tribunal. To do so would allows the employer to plan staffing needs, recruitment and other issues that make a business profitable.

In fact, if done properly, can’t an employer have these discussions already?

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“The end of the world is nigh!”

It’s not often that I blog twice in one day but I’ve been motivated by two pieces of news today. The first came from the BBC who predict that 1 in 4 children will grow up in poverty within the next ten years. The second piece of doom and gloom news was reported in Management Today that said “More doom and Gloom as BCC cuts UK growth forecast”.

The end of the world is nigh!
The world seems to be talking itself closer to the precipice faster than the village idiot saying that the end of the world is nigh! Quite frankly I’m tired of listening to doom and gloom merchants. Now I understand that good news doesn’t sell newspapers or advertising space on TV but can’t we have some success reported. There’s so much out there!

Such as the hugely successful and multiple award winning Riverbanks Clinic. Only recently established but already one of the UK’s leading Aesthetic Medicine Clinics and run by a brilliant team of dedicated professionals.

That Selfridges was voted the “Best Department Store in the World” at the Global Department Store Summit in New York in 2010

Lebara, the mobile phone company, that won the UK Customer Service award at the Mobile News Awards 2011

there’s so much good news to talk about do you know any other business success?
If so, let’s start to publicise them.


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More Change for Insurance Companies

Having just paid my car insurance fee that, despite having nine years no claims bonus, rose once again I was delighted to hear that referral fees are to be outlawed and that The Office of Fair Trading is putting motor
insurance under the spotlight after premiums rose by
40% on average in a year.

First step in tackling dysfunctional compensation system

The Association of British Insurers – said it welcomed the announcement. As reported by the BBC, Director General Otto Thoresen
said: “We are very pleased that the government has listened to the
insurance industry’s campaign for a ban on referral fees.

“Banning referral fees is an important first step in tackling
our dysfunctional compensation system, and needs to be accompanied by a
reduction in legal costs and action to tackle whiplash if honest
customers are to benefit from these reforms.”

Change in culture and teams
Insurance companies, law firms, garages and other interested parties in the referral system merry-go-round will have to change their systems and their teams to reflect these changes.  That either means redundancy or allocation to other jobs (on the basis that the entire system doesn’t move underground).

Reduced bills

It’s interesting how there is expectation that once the system is outlawed and the teams that manage the current the system are disbanded, saving employment costs, and the huge compensation costs reduced that insurance premiums will fall.

I will await next year’s policy renewal notice with interest!

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Why is finding a job a problem?

It’s tragic that at the start of the summer, nearly one million 16 to 24-year-olds in England were out of a job, not in education, nor in training. Known as Neets, this group seems to be growing and growing and doesn’t include school leavers this year, according to the latest official figures and reported by the BBC.

The BBC highlights Jordan Millward a 24 year old from Stoke-on-Trent who has two degrees, a 2:1 in politics, and a 2:2 in law, as well as a post-graduate law diploma.
He says “I’ve had no replies to more than 100 applications to different law firms looking for both jobs and work experience I’ve made over the last year, and only two interviews from the 90 plus applications I’ve made over the last two months”.

Little advice from Universities
Why is finding a job so difficult for this group? In discussions with students at my local University it seems that there is very little practical advice is given on how to find a job. I’m told that there is the “odd talk” about developing a CV (Resume) but very little else! Doesn’t this place too many in the area of “working it out for themselves”.

More practical help could and should be given! For instance, why is it that most students know how to use social media to find friends and entertainment at the weekend but they find it difficult to use when looking for a job? Why is it that so few place their details, qualifications and interests on the business pages of LinkedIn, Facebook or other SM sites?

Meet the employer
Perhaps organisations such as the IOD (Institute of Directors), Chambers of Commerce, FSB (Federation of Small business) could help more by regularly offering FREE places at their events for graduates or students to meet people in business and thus potential employers.

A small contribution of my own is given below:

Questions you should ask the interviewer

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Do we expect too much?

The Office for National Statistics as reported on the BBC have reported today that the UK saw its service sector sales have the biggest fall in fifteen months April. Blame was allocated to the Royal Wedding, an extra bank holiday and the hot weather which seems to me to be a similar excuses as trains running late due to leaves on the line.

Is it sensible to expect that every month and every year things will always improve?
A few years ago a friend of mine went to his doctor and said that he felt depressed. He described how some days he felt great whilst on others he felt “tired and down”. His Doctor explained that this was normal and indeed it actually has a medical name.

Isn’t business the same? One month will be great and often another poor and it’s actually destructive to expect that growth must always be the norm. Reviewing things as they become quiet and business situations change is healthy. The best time for such reviews is when things are quiet.

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Lord Sugar and The Apprentice

I’m drawn to watching the apprentice because the producers of the show seem to have brought together the usual group that will inevitably make good television!
Billed as the “cream of UK’s entrepreneurial management” one can only cringe at how some behave and the delusions that they have of themselves. The best line of the night was when one of the men described himself as “good looking too”.

Sympathy for the contestants
However, perhaps I have more sympathy with the contestants this time than in earlier contests. In the past the prize on offer was a job working for Alan, sorry Lord Sugar. Now the prize is £250,000 investment into a business partnership on a 50/50 basis. Thus ensuring Lord Sugar’s continual presence.

On the basis that one chooses ones business partner more carefully than one’s life partner the process seems very one sided when Lord Sugar does all the choosing and ends each edition with…”You’re fired!”

Will the last contestant be brave enough?
When the last contestant is revealed will they, having considered the tedious selection process, Sugar’s knit picking and criticisms and the defence of their own ineptitude in the boardroom week after week, be brave enough to say something like, “Over the past weeks I’ve seen you in action and on reflection I think I’ll find someone else to invest in me”

Now if that were on the cards wouldn’t that make watching the series more fun?

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UK Tourism displaces Banks in Carary Wharf

I listened with interest a feature on BBC Radio over the Easter holiday talking about how tourism should, be the UK’s main focus and make the UK the world’s leading holiday destination. The Royal Wedding, The Queen’s Jubilee and of course the London Olympics all expect to generate huge revenue from foreign and domestic tourism.

But it was not just events such as the Olympics that are highlighted as the main draws of tourist pounds. London, country houses and castles, the lakes and all parts of the UK were also mentioned in plans to make the UK a primary holiday destination.

UK tourist industry can’t relocate
One of the comments I particularly liked was, “The UK tourist industry can’t threaten to relocate their Head office abroad”. I chuckled at a vision of tourist boss’s taking over the top floor of One Canada Square to look over the jewel in the tourist crown (London) whilst displaced bankers roam the poorer parts on London with their posessions in a black bin liners looking for cheaper office space. 

Business focus changes
I wonder if this represents the discussion, in some quarters, that perhaps the UK could cope with a less influential finance sector and that like past changes in the UK’s business such as the woolen industry, coal, steel, shipping and so on that, like nature, business abhors a vacuum and something would replace it, and why not tourism!

On the other hand instead on focussing on an either or solution perhaps the Banks and the Tourist Boards could share the top floor of Canada Square?

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