Monday, 25 October 2010


That’s how we are “in it” according to George Osborne and the government. … ”together”. And, no, this isn’t going to be a cynical disavowal of partnership…quite the reverse. Because, for once, I agree with the government.

Amy Williams, skeleton gold medallist in the winter Olympics talks about “we” the whole time. Hers is very much an individual effort but crucially underpinned and inspired by her team of advisors.

In a complex and dangerous world make sure you travel in convoy because pioneers get scalped.

Yet many people on business and in life prefer to go it alone…

“No I’m not really lost and I will not, no, I will not ask someone the way….I’ll work it out myself”.

Working it out yourself is daft and unnecessary when good dispassionate advice can sometimes save you from unnecessary embarrassment – take the wretched naked Emperor who was conned into believing he was wearing fine clothes.

I’d argue that the need for cryptic, experienced mentoring has never been greater. NLP expert Daryll Scott says unequivocally that it’s the cheapest and most effective thing any executive should seek today.

Experience counts.

Live through six recessions, live through the strikes and economic chaos of the 70s, live through the Thatcher years and the dotcom bust and come up smiling, battle hardened and very philosophical and you might just be worth listening to…

I’m constantly being asked for directions – it’s my age dear – but I’m reminded of a cat we had when I was very young, unadventurously named Pussy (creativity came late to the Hall household), of whom I was very fond saying, I’m told, “I like that cat. He knows where he’s going”.

It’s time to know where you are going and, if you aren’t sure, get help. Get a mentor.

Monday, 18 October 2010


This is the work of a 17 year old Singaporean, Leon Yuchin-Lau. Imagine what he’ll be like at 50 if he avoids being murdered by jealous rivals:-

If a boy must wonder

If a boy must wonder

Let him recall

Not the lightning grace of falcons,

The dizzying aeronautics, Darwin’s finch,

The voyage of the ancients

Who saw further, with their charts and sails

And bubbly telescopic minds

Brought ashore hope

To lift

A charioting god to the moon,

But how

Even a rogue dream of stars

Once birthed the possibility of flight.

The art of creativity which lies at the heart of business today (or should do) lies in making connections, in looking at an object and wondering “what if?” It lies in change. It lies in being like children at play and the stories they create. It lies in questions and “rogue dreams”.

Most of all it lies in our ”bubbly telescopic minds” – the ability to look further and to magnify and to feel that surge of approaching new worlds – of keenly wanting to know the unknown.

I really think the most exciting thing in the whole world is a white sheet of paper, a sharp pencil…and that sense of questioning and of potential to “birth possibilities”.

Get bubbling…..

Monday, 11 October 2010


Funny week.

Started by hearing Mike Geoghagan (outgoing CEO of HSBC) talking about global markets and especially about CIVETS (Chile; Indonesia; Vietnam; Egypt; Turkey; South Africa). Turkey was much on his mind. Crucial for the EU – he said – vast opportunity.

Turkey, I confess, had not been much on my mind.

Until Friday.

That was when I read an interview in the Financial Times with Suzan Sabanci Dinçer Chairman of Akbank, Turkey’s largest bank and indeed largest company.

The sooner we work more closely with talent like this the better…..

What makes a good banker (or leader, or executive of anything – I’ve added these…)?
“Confidence, the ability to look over the next hill and to think on your feet”
Fantastic, and it gets better…

Your golden rule?
“Leave things better than they are”

And your attitude to money…it’s ridiculous, she says to “poo-poo” it but
“Money gets things done: bling is a waste of time”.

She’s impatient, doesn’t suffer fools, and loves her door which can control her life – “something to close”.

I am smitten by two things here. Her straightforward English – not a piece of MBA jargon in sight and by her attitude to life.

Bring on the Turks – the EU needs you.

Monday, 4 October 2010


For a long time now I have been a sceptic about the value of using sport as a guide to success in business. Talks on how javelin throwing can help you gain market share have always seemed to me to miss the mark.

But I’m changing my mind after last week.

I went to a conference called “Ahead of the Games” at the Royal College of Physicians in Regents Park to hear a cluster of past Olympic medal winners tell their stories.

And something happened to me; it wasn’t, you see, just what they said but what lay behind their talks and the uniformly clean, enthusiastic positivism of their delivery and attitude to life that suddenly got to me. I became not just a believer in the Olympics but in this simple professional approach to life. There were no spurious words about market forces or external factors. This was simply you against them.

Three things particularly stuck in my brain (although if you want my list of all 20 top tips just e-mail me at )
  1. On marketing – here’s what I jotted down as they were talking “The Olympic buzz is a virus – think of how to create a marketing buzz in your business – create a build up: a sense that something’s going to happen; use real people to talk about it; make the event itself extraordinary; worry about how to exceed expectation and then how to leave a legacy of new talent.” Stop using military metaphors in marketing and start using medical ones. How to create a pandemic for your brand – that’s the marketing man’s real job….spreading the bug.
  2. On the big performance – be that the race or, say, a business presentation….one chance…one contest…one winner….or as someone said “it’s sometimes not so much winning a bronze as losing a gold”. They all talk about proper preparation, about smiling at the start and reflecting “I’ve done all I can”. If Olympic athletes were as prepared to busk as most business people seem to be we’d never win anything. Robustly thorough preparation is everything.
  3. On success – top athletes all surround themselves with good advisors on diet, on positive thinking, on aches and pains, on technique because the difference between success and failure is the small % point improvement such help can give. And all, literally all, talk about WE not I – “we met every week over four years”: “we talked about it”; “we discovered a better way”; “we ran…” Compared with the value of achieving success, good mentoring and coaching is really cheap. Not to be mentored is one sign of career damaging egotism.
This event taught me more about business than I’d expected as well as inspiring me hugely. The Olympics is coming. It’s going to be great. And if business in Britain is half as professional as the builders of the event itself and athletes competing in it then the next good times are just around the corner.