Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Five things to think of when you're moving country for work or study

MBA Class of 2008 dinner
Boston, Massachusetts, USA
(that's me second from left).

The first big move I made for my career was in 2005 when I made a decision to take two years out, to study for a full-time MBA in the USA. I hoped to work in the USA for a few years afterwards and get some good experience there.

If you gain a Master's degree in the US, you are allowed to work there for one year afterwards. Often foreign graduates are then 'sponsored' by their employer company to continue working in the USA with an H1B work visa.

I got a scholarship as well as a part-time job in the Marketing Department at Northeastern University - Office of Corporate Programs. So that also helped financially.

Returning from Boston to move back to London, 10 years later (2015), was a far bigger and more complicated affair. I was now married, with a 6-year-old son, with disabilities (ADHD and Dyspraxia) and a 9-year-old daughter.

My wife, Catherine, had always wanted to live in the UK. She was running College recruiting at her company, Akamai, in 2015, when she was offered the chance to go to London, to run EMEA recruiting there, managing a team of twenty-five recruiters.

I found a great job too, setting up Lead generation in the UK and Europe, for a little-known Cybersecurity start-up called Zscaler. It has since had an IPO and is now valued at ten billion US dollars on The NASDAQ

This brings me to my next point:

1Paperwork: Other than the usual challenges of getting an MBA; Taking The GMAT, making the applications, writing the application essays, interviewing for the schools, finding the money to go; I'd say getting the Visa sorted out was the hardest part.

It required me completing a lot of complicated paperwork. Further down the road, when I finally got my US Permanent resident card ('Green Card'), it was even harder. There were so many hoops to jump through that I eventually had to hire an Immigration lawyer at considerable expense to expedite it.

Equally important, though not as hard; after two years of living in the country, I had to pass my US driving license - many years after passing my British driving test.

Help, Where's my car? I need to get to work!

2The Weather; My second shock was rather more prosaic; I was just not prepared for the weather in Boston. In the winter, it gets down to -10 C. You also have big snowstorms.

For example, during the last winter, I was in Boston, in 2015, over 14 feet (4 meters) of snow fell in the city. In the summer, you need air conditioning in your apartment. It gets up to 40 degrees centigrade.

3Get help: Make sure you employ all the help you can. For this, we used a corporate relocation company to manage our move. Moreover, we used an army of staff, from childcare professionals to cleaners.

Corporate relocations have experienced a paradigm shift in the last fifty years. In the twentieth century, the husband usually worked, and the wife, who did not, would manage a lot of the move.

Today, more often than not, you are dealing with 2 parents, who both have to manage demanding jobs. Consequently, anything that will save you time is an absolute necessity.

My son, Jack, in our dining room in Boston, Massachusetts, USA 

4.  Make sure you employ technology to your advantage. We live in a digital world for a reason. It's fast and efficient. Everything from using DocuSign to sign all our documents (including the sale of our house in Boston) to Skype for all those international calls, to using video surveying tools to track where all our furniture was.

5. The importance of having flexible work. There is no way We would have managed this move so effectively without remote working.

I had two weeks training in Austen, Texas, and I travelled back to Europe several times to run conferences there. One time, just after the move, I had to go from England to a Sales kick-off in Las Vegas.

During this time, I was partially renovating and selling our house. We were unhappy with our real estate agent, so we had to switch agents mid-way.

Throughout this, Zscaler allowed me to work remotely for the UK office, from Boston, USA, for almost four months. Zscaler's and Akamai's flexibility made a big difference to Catherine and me.

Read my original post on buzzmove.com

Sunday, April 26, 2020

The dark side of shiny happy startup culture

Part of my #leadershipbyexample campaign - watch out for more on social.

I've noticed a trend in the tech startup world recently. The startup posts a job, say Demand Generation manager. They ask all the applicants to put together a detailed marketing plan for them. Each of the applicants is vying with each other to discover the best insights and ideas. 

Frequently these ideas may be quite a bit more inspired than those that the startups own marketing team is producing. Then the startup closes the job without hiring anyone. Sometimes they lie and tell the candidate that they lost the job to another 'stronger' candidate.

Perhaps as has happened recently, they then re-open the same position in a variety of guises - performance marketing manager, SEO manager, Paid search manager. 

Maybe they even throw in a few searches in other countries, Canada, say, for Demand Generation Manager in Toronto. The startup still doesn't hire anyone, but guess what? They now have a ton of free ideas and insight. 

One startup who interviewed me recently, expected their job candidates to provide them not only a marketing plan but an infographic as well. This is at least ten hours of work. Any idea how much that would cost them on the open market?

I charge £50 an hour as a contractor, so that's at least £500 of work. The analytics software I used for the project was also expensive: Buzzsumo for social media costs £143 a month. SEMrush the tool I currently use for web analytics is £159. I also used Shutterstock which is £89.99 a month, Adobe stock photo which is £25 a month and adobe photoshop which is £49.99 a month, for the images in my presentation.

So in effect, this company has now illicitly gained £920 of free consulting work from me. I wonder how many others gave them free consulting? If they did this with ten other candidates, they may have gained around £10,000 of free consulting from these bogus interviews. Does that seem fair to you?

Is it ethical to ask that much from your candidates and then provide nothing in return? (i.e: you are not giving anyone a job at the end of this). I would argue that a job interview is a form of contract.

You provide your effort and ideas and in return, the company hires one of the candidates. That social contract is broken when the company does not hire anyone. It goes back to the ancient and well-established fairness principle of reciprocity

Now, you could argue - well, it's not their fault. This company is just poorly organized. They had no idea that they wouldn't hire anyone when they opened all those roles. 

My response? Even if you did not 'mean' to waste your candidate's time and talent, by not hiring anyone, you cannot 'unsee' all those ideas presented to you. You have benefited from gaining a lot of costly work for free.

That's why I will no longer be doing any more plans or deep-dive insights for startups unless they pay me an hourly rate. It's sad that I'm forced to do this by some bad apples, like the transcription software company Trint. Check out their appalling glass door interview reviews here.

Startups often present themselves as 'fun' places to work - ping pong tables, flexible working, relaxed dress culture. But in my fifteen years of experience working at some of the most successful startups in the world, I've experienced it often more as the TV drama 'Game of Thrones' than the comedy 'Silicon Valley'.

Inevitably investors are breathing down the CEO's neck trying to get everything cheaper and faster - growth at all costs, and employees are expendable. It's a tough environment and you have to be super resilient to deal with it.

Startups typically work on the US 'maximize shareholder value' business model, not the German 'responsibility to multiple stakeholders' model. Startups can even operate according to the tenets of Social Darwinism: Survival of the fittest.

Several times I've worked at startups where the team that sweated blood building the company was dismissed unceremoniously when the company went 'corporate' - via IPO or buyout and Senior management suddenly wanted a different type of talent. 

The latest worrying trend I've noticed is for-profit startups asking furloughed employees from other companies, to come to work for their startup for free. I’m all in favour of people working on furlough for non-profits. 

I work five to ten hours a week for free for a non-profit that benefits society. But startups and for-profit companies asking people on furlough to work for them for free? That's unethical. Unfortunately, some startup founders have not developed the wisdom yet to recognize or deal effectively with ethical problems like this. 

Perhaps that's why the average age of a successful start-up founder is not mid-twenties, as is often portrayed in the media, but actually 45 years old, when the founder has built up more life experience and hopefully more wisdom too. 

Don't get me wrong - I'm still a big fan of startups, and I continue to like working for them. I'm merely trying to conduct a reality check on this culture and how startup founders are occasionally disingenuous about presenting them.

Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. once stated, “Life's most persistent and urgent question is: 'What are you doing for others?'  

Bored during your furlough and looking for unpaid work? For God's sake get work at a non-profit or hospital, not for a for-profit start-up. #leadershipbyexample

Martin Luther King Jr. - Day, Quotes & Facts - Biography

Friday, April 10, 2020

Black Swans and the post-coronavirus Economy

"The problem with experts is that they do not know what they do not know."
― Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable

The phrase "black swan" derives from a Latin expression from the 2nd-century Roman poet Juvenal's characterization of something being "rara avis in terris nigroque simillima cygno" ("a rare bird in the lands and very much like a black swan.").

When Juvenal wrote this, the black swan was presumed not to exist. The importance of the metaphor lies in its analogy to the fragility of any system of thought.  You can undo a set of conclusions once you can disprove any of its fundamental postulates. 

In 1697, Dutch explorers led by Willem de Vlamingh became the first Europeans to see black swans, in Western Australia. The term subsequently metamorphosed to connote the idea that a perceived impossibility might later be disproven.

A few days ago, I was reading the Estate agents Knight Frank's Economic prediction about Coronavirus's impact on the housing market. Knight Frank confidently predict that ‘House sales in the UK will collapse this year as the coronavirus pandemic puts the property market into a deep freeze. But prices will fall by only 3% and will rebound next year.’

My immediate thought was, how can they be this certain? Plus, isn't it a bit like going to a casino and asking the croupier whether playing roulette is a good idea’.

I am as wise as Socrates in only one way, and that is 'that I know that I know nothing'. However, at this juncture, I trust the Economist Nassim Taleb more than I do a bunch of estate agents. Just to get their new evaluation in perspective, this is what Knight Frank predicted in December 2019.

In 2000 Nassim wrote that the problem with the financial markets was that they treated their data and models like it was science. But their financial models always miss vital information that means that their analysis will always lack scientific rigour. Nassim Taleb speculated how the markets would handle a random, entirely unpredictable event and less than a year later we had 9/11. 

Then in 2007 in his classic book Nassim Nicholas Taleb talked about how the financial system was vulnerable to black swan events:

“Consider a turkey that is fed every day. Every single feeding will firm up the bird’s belief that it is the general rule of life to be fed every day by friendly members of the human race “looking out for its best interests,” as a politician would say. On the afternoon of the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, something unexpected will happen to the turkey. It will incur a revision of belief.” (extract from the book).

Initially, when he wrote 'Black Swan', he was booed off stage by eminent economists and ostracized by the financial community.
Then in 2008, the entire global financial system collapsed and had to be bailed out to the tune of thirteen trillion US dollars.

Nassim Taleb argued recently in the New Yorker that this current pandemic is not actually a black swan since to use Donald Rumsfeld's terminology this was a 'known unknown' not an 'unknown unknown'. Nevertheless, it's still a risk factor that was hard to predict and certainly, no mainstream analysts were predicting this pandemic or factoring it into their Financial modelling, prior to December 2019.

Therefore, I would be sceptical of any financial analyst writing with confidence about the future. His salary is paid by those who benefit from them putting one view across to us.

Wide-scale negative equity in the UK housing market?

*There is still a fundamental imbalance in the UK housing market, at least in the places where people want to live. The housing stock has always lagged behind growing demand, pushing up prices in the long term well beyond inflation. 

In the short term, a drop looks inevitable, as the lockdown, or lockdowns will hammer incomes and GDP when the cost of housing already claims a much larger share of disposable income than in the past.  

Where the price level will settle, and when it might pick up, is anyone's guess. The real pain will be felt by those going into negative equity, not able through reduced income to pay down the mortgage, and unable to sell without triggering bankruptcy.

This would also apply to heavily geared buy-to-let landlords, facing falling rental income but with fixed debt repayments. Those who have taken on mortgages at large multiples of income or landlords who have relied on substantial capital gains to protect against insolvency will, or ought to be, very worried at the moment.*

*acknowledgement to my father, Sir Kenneth Parker, retired High Court Judge, who is currently working for various government organisations, for this observation.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

How will the Coronavirus affect yours, mine and everyone elses finances?

In my last piece, I talked about the financial situation we were in before this coronavirus pandemic. In this article, I'm going to talk about right now. 

What will happen to my job? What about my mortgage? How about the stock market and my pension? How will the UK governments stimulus package help me personally and the Economy generally?

How the government lowering interest rates makes borrowing cheaper and so boosts the Economy

Firstly it's important to remember that the typical way that we've gotten out of these downturns is for the central bank to lower interest rates. If the interest rate is 15% and the bank of England reduces it to 7%, suddenly it is becoming cheaper to borrow money. 

In this diagram I created above, you can see that Initially, at 15%, I could borrow one million pounds, by paying eleven thousand a month (payment in yellow). When the Bank of England cuts interest rates to seven per cent, I can now pay only six and a half thousand a month to borrow the same amount (payment in green). If they then lower it one more per cent, I will pay less than six thousand a month (payment in blue).

If it's cheaper to borrow, obviously more people will do it, to invest in their businesses, to buy houses, to buy cars and other items. It will make the Economy expand.

However, here’s the big problem now – We can’t take the interest rates much lower since they are at close to zero. So What has Rishi Sunak, our Chancellor, done? Well, he has put in a significant stimulus of three hundred billion pounds. 

The stimulus is effectively using the 'printing more money' method of boosting the Economy. Now I'm not saying that can't work. There's lots of evidence to say that the US government's stimulus packages in 2008 and 2009 helped pull the global Economy out of recession.  

How a Stimulus package can increase inflation 

In the chart above, a hundred billion pounds in the money supply divided by one billion articles = £1 per article. But if Rishi Sunaks stimulus is an extra fifty billion, you will have the same number of items but 50% more money. So the price will go up for an average item to one pound fifty. 

But there's also a danger here. The same approach was used by the Weimar Republic in Germany to attempt to pull the german Economy out of recession. It caused massive inflation. People's lifesaving were made worthless in a matter of months.

Picture – a man with a wheelbarrow of money to buy a loaf of bread in Germany in 1923.

The price of a loaf had gone from sixty-three marks in 1918 to two hundred billion marks in 1923. So this is the big picture view of the Economy. 

Goldman Sachs is predicting a 24% drop in our GDP next quarter, which has never happened in living history. To pick one example, Insurance, will be in dire straits. Many people are claiming right now – loss of income, holiday cancellations, mortgage insurance for people who've lost their jobs. 

Insurance companies will not have anticipated having to pay out such large sums of money. If they go bankrupt (as AIG very nearly did in 2008, when thegovernment bailed it out for $70 Billion), then it will have a knock-on effect on many other businesses too. 

In terms of Sunak’s bailout. Firstly for self-employed like myself currently, Sunak reveals coronavirus bailout for self-employed, but they must wait until June.

£50000 is an arbitrary cut off point for this payout. It is evident also that numbers of self-employed will continue to earn (taxi drivers), and will be receiving a taxpayer windfall, made even less justifiable if they have historically understated profits to evade tax. 

Some companies (BBC included) compelled their employees to set up and use service companies so that the companies avoided national insurance contributions. These workers will now not benefit from the employee scheme or the self-employed scheme.

The “mortgage holiday” that the banks have promised is also somewhat misleading. Sure, you will not have to pay your mortgage for the next three months. Also, fortunately, that will not affect your credit rating.

But the banks will be adding the unpaid interest to principal, and increasing the future instalments to achieve the same return on loan. It is, therefore, a pure cash flow palliative with no effect on the banks' return or profits. 

It is a "holiday" in the same sense as an employer today giving an employee seven days immediate leave, but requiring that the employee work seven days through his regular Xmas vacation - typical bank smoke and mirrors.

One also has to be aware that mortgage companies are changing their models to anticipate a ten per cent drop in the value of house prices in the UK. They are also re-evaluating the value to loan ratios (ie you'll need a bigger downpayment than before to get a mortgage for a property of equal value).

Bear Market coming?

Monday, March 02, 2020

Bullying and discrimination at work.

Workplace bullying is in the news again. This time Priti Patel, the UK Home Secretary, is accused by her department’s top civil servant, Sir Philip Rutnam, of 'shouting and swearing' at staff, lying, bullying and making 'unreasonable and repeated demands'.
His story has now been corroborated by other colleagues at the Department of Work and Pensions and the Department on International affairs. Apparently, she pushed one of her team to make a suicide attempt.
My first experience of bullying at work was in one of my first jobs. My boss used to scream and shout at me regularly. He also would belittle me, especially when his 'sidekick', let's call him 'Fergus' was around.
I endured it for about a year and then left for another job. He was the classic 'bad boss'. Early on, I learnt about harassment at work and bad management.
Many years later, just before I moved to get my MBA in the USA, I ran into him in the street, and he made a confession and apology to me.
He said 'I was in over my head and the Company was pressuring me every day. I was also using drugs and drinking far too much at the time. I'm sorry. I know the way I treated you was unforgivable.'
That doesn’t happen often in life! But I then had that vital information. When a manager has to shout and scream or humiliate or undermine you, He can't handle the rigours of the job. It did help me have some compassion for workplace bullies. However, I still would not put up with workplace bullying.
In a recent UK national survey, the Workplace Bullying Institute found that 19% of adults said they’d personally been bullied at work, while another 19% said they’d seen it happen to someone else.
I’ve since talked to numerous friends who have been bullied at work. In one case, the Company agreed that the manager had set about constructive dismissal (in effect, her bullying had forced the employee out). They paid compensation too but the person had to sign a non-disclosure act (so no one would find out about it). That boss is still there.
In another case, this person's manager bullied them into leaving. My friend is long gone, but she is still there. There is now a catalogue of people that this manager had bullied and who have all left the Company.
What employees should do if they’re bullied or harassed?
The first thing you can do is go to Human Resources. If this does not work, you can make a formal complaint using your employer’s grievance procedure.

If this does not work and you or your colleague is still being harassed, you can take legal action at an employment tribunal. There is no doubt that the company will take notice when a lawyer is involved.
Employers’ responsibilities
Employers are responsible for preventing bullying and harassment - they’re liable for any harassment suffered by their employees.
Anti-bullying and harassment policies can help prevent problems.
Harassment is where someone creates an atmosphere that makes you feel uncomfortable - this could be because you feel offended, intimidated or humiliated.
If you’re being bullied, your situation might also be harassment under the Equality Act 2010. If it is, you can take action under that law.
If the bullying isn't harassment under the Equality Act, you might be able to deal with the problem another way.
It might be harassment if someone's:
verbally abused you
asked very personal questions, for example about your disability or religion
put up posters that make you feel uncomfortable
made rude physical gestures or facial expressions towards you
told you jokes of a sexual nature
made comments you find offensive, for example on social media
If your colleagues say the behaviour was just friendly banter, it might still be harassment if it meets the definition of harassment in the Equality Act.
If the harassment is severe, it might also be a crime. For example, it's a crime if someone has sexually assaulted you or made physical threats. Contact the police if you're worried about your safety.
For all types of harassment, the behaviour you’re complaining about has to be something you didn’t want. The law calls this ‘unwanted conduct’.
You also always need to show that the person who harassed you meant to make you feel a certain way, or that you felt that way even though it wasn’t their intention. This is called ‘purpose or effect’. If the person didn’t mean to make you feel this way, it also has to be 'reasonable’ that you felt that way.
You need to show that the purpose or effect of the conduct was that it violated your dignity or created an environment that:
humiliates you
offends you
intimidates you
is hostile
is degrading
Being bullied at work can harm both your mental and your physical health—with potential effects, including significant stress, anxiety, depression, trauma, high blood pressure, gastrointestinal issues, and more.
Go to my website.

Tuesday, February 04, 2020

Can we be happier?

'Did you know the time in the week that the average British worker is most miserable? When He's meeting with his line manager!' As Professor Lord Layard said this, the entire audience erupted into knowing laughter. This is from his research from his latest book 'Can we be happier?'.

I attended a great lecture last night with Professor Lord Layard, who is the happiness expert at the LSE. He is a friend of a close friend of mine who sits in the House of Lords, Clive, who is active in UK Politics.

     Below: Dame Minouche Shafik and Professor Lord Layard 


Lord Layard started off by talking about the foundation of the LSE, by Beatrice and Sydney Webb, Fabians, who believed in the importance of improving society. William Beveridge, who set up the modern welfare state in the UK, was a Director of the LSE and also deeply concerned about the happiness of society.

The USA is one of the richest countries in the world yet it's citizen's life expectancy is falling, as it is in the UK.

Then Lord Layard talked about how society seemed to be getting less happy. This is confirmed by looking at life expectancy, which is now going down for the first time in recorded memory in the USA and to some extent in the UK. I believe that Coronavirus will accelerate this trend.

Professor Lord Layard mentioned that the best way to determine an old persons life expectancy is not their doctor's 'physical' exam, but simply asking the patient 'are you happy?'. 

We put together a stimulating group for drinks and dinner after the event. This included a school teacher, Polly, and her husband, Ben, a software programmer. My old school-friend Lucas, who studied PPE at Oxford University.

Lucas was the smartest pupil at my school - he got the second-highest mark in his year at Oxford and then took a PhD at the University of Pennsylvania and is now a Professor of Philosophy at Bogazici University, in Istanbul, Turkey. 

A close friend of his from Oxford University, Tara, who is a management consultant. To round it off, another friend, Steve, who also studied at Oxford, is a retired surgeon and professor of medicine. We had a wide-ranging discussion about happiness. Some of the topics we covered:

Tara and Clive agreed that people with religious faith seemed happier. That is one area that Lord Layard neglected to cover at all. I did notice that clergymen self-reported as the happiest profession (despite having salaries at the low end of the spectrum) in his latest book. However, we all agreed that it's pretty hard to measure happiness objectively. 

Steve said that he preferred this word eudaimonia —Aristotle's concept of flourishing—rather than happiness, which seemed to be more based on luck (Eutuxes) than living a good life.

Tara said that certain people' Eeyores' are always going to be miserable, and others' tiggers?' are usually going to be happy. Then, Lucas, Polly and Steve got into a discussion about how bad the education system had become in the UK.

They all agreed that the institutions' constant monitoring of performance was sucking the life out of any innovation. You can read more about this here - Moonshot thinking to unleash innovation.

- £5,500 Metronap "sleep pods", a top-of-the-range gym, spinning studio, a 90m indoor running track (when you see the free food, you realise Googlers need it), on-site cookery and butchery lessons by former Jamie Oliver chef Dan Batten. 

There's also a huge roof terrace — which has lightning-speed internet. These will all be features of Google's new one billion pound ($1.3 Billion) office in Kings Cross, London, UK.

What have all these features have in common? Google wants them to make their employees happy. 
A lot of the appeal of tech startups generally is that they are supposed to foster a 'happier' working environment: More relaxed, informal, even down to small things like no-one in tech having to wear suits or ties.

I put together this word cloud of what Facebook, Google, Apple et al. provide to their employees at their HQs to give you a 'flavour'. Will these features and the beautiful offices they work in make their employees happier? - what do you think?

Go to my website.

Sunday, February 02, 2020

Five reasons why long-term productivity growth has flatlined in the UK .

One business issue that keeps resurfacing here in the UK is that of productivity. The big question is 'why has it flatlined here since 2008?' I noticed that, yet again, the Bank of England has predicted 0% productivity growth for this year in the UK.

I have much experience of living and working in other cultures. I am half Dutch and lived there for a time. I have also lived and worked in Colombia, Venezuela, India, Spain and most recently, in the USA from 2005-2015. Therefore, I would argue that I'm uniquely able to give a good explanation as to what's going on here.

Besides, I have worked as a contractor in the UK for the past two years. So I have quite a bit of experience job hunting in the UK. I have also bought and sold houses in both the US and the UK.

1. Business transactions take too long to carry out here in the UK. For example, when we bought and sold our house in Boston, it took less than a month. In the UK, it takes far longer.

2. Business people can't make decisions. When I was job hunting in the USA, generally it was a fast, efficient process. In the UK, often it is not.

I've noticed a troubling hiring trend here; Company A posts a job. Then many people are interviewed over many months and many stages, with the final result; Company A hires no one!  

This happens regularly in the UK. Imagine the damage to UK productivity of just this one issue alone on a country-wide scale?

3. Training and education. A lot of British businesspeople can't write accurate, grammatical English. They can't do basic maths. 

Lack of education has got to be a key reason for our poor productivity. We need better education - more executive coaching and business education, both online and traditional. 

And the general level of primary education needs to improve here. Spelling, grammar, maths, you name it. Some knowledge of foreign affairs, news and even a foreign language might be good too.

4. Investment has got to come a close second. If you want to be a productivity ninja, you do need the tools. I worked at one company as a contractor where I was managing a six-figure marketing budget, but the company gave me a faulty computer that crashed the entire time. 

Talk about an unproductive false Economy! All the evidence points to us not spending enough on equipment, from essential productivity apps to tools like DocuSign or Microsoft teams, to speed up business interactions. 

5. We in the UK have a fatal weakness for conventional wisdom. I'm paraphrasing Dominic Cummings here. But undoubtedly one of the reasons his Brexit campaign was able to defeat the much better funded and institutionally backed remain campaign was because his team was creative and unorthodox and the other side was neither.

I do agree with him that we need to encourage more of these counter-intuitive thinkers in the UK. Part of that is evolving from the 'culture fit' idea of recruiting which can kill innovation to the 'culture add' concept. Lack of innovation is one of the main causes of poor productivity in the UK.

And just so you don't get too downbeat about it all, the UK economy is actually growing faster than the rest of the European countries as you can see here.

Go to my website.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Bela Hatvany, Harvard MBA, inventor of the touch-screen, talks about keeping his investors and employees happy.

 Successful business founder and investor, inventor of the touch screen, Bela Hatvany, talks about founding your own business.

After selling multiple companies for many hundreds of millions of dollars, Bela founded the world's first charitable giving site in 2000, Just giving.  

Bela talks about his start-up business philosophy: He embraces not only looking after his investors but his employees too.

Image result for justgiving

Monday, November 11, 2019

Four reasons you should be allowed to work from home.

A long time ago, I had a boss who insisted that we always meet up in craft beer pubs even though two of the marketing team were non-drinkers and none of the group enjoyed craft beer.

He also insisted we wore jackets at a retail digital marketing event in July in Chicago when it was baking hot and all the other attendees were in t-shirts and button-downs.

He got mad at me because I took a day off after an exhausting three-day event to go skiing at a mountain resort nearby. 

Well, he also didn't allow our team to work from home on Fridays when the ENTIRE rest of the office (including him) was working from home on Fridays. 

Why do companies, even some nimble tech startups insist that all their workers work in the office EVERY. SINGLE. DAY?

Here are my reasons why you should let your employees work from home

1. Productivity. In the UK this is at an all-time low. And I have to assume part of the problem is created my distrusting management who can't believe that their team is conscientious enough to clock in a full days work while they are at home.

The most productive I've ever been is when I've worked from home one day and in the office for four.  I almost always end up getting more done on that one day I'm working from home.

But I'm a big extravert (100% extravert in Briggs Myers). If even someone like me who thrives on working with others, benefits so much from working from home, imagine how much your talented, hard-working introverts will gain from it.

2. Open-plan offices. The preponderance of open-plan offices is proof that, as the writer, Somerset Maugham put it “The fact that a great many people believe something is no guarantee of its truth.” 

Almost every company has them, and virtually every piece of research on them shows that they are ineffective. They do not create open, warm, friendly, convivial environments. Generally, they create the opposite. 

If you want to have a great, honest conversation with a colleague, your open-plan office is not the place to do it. 

3. People have lives. When I had that boss who refused to let me work from home on Fridays, I had two small children. My wife was also working a demanding job, full time as a recruiting manager for another tech company. 

I also had some health issues which thankfully I don't have anymore. It would have meant the world to me, my wife and family. It would have multiplied my loyalty to the company more than anything, including money. 

4. Commute. Some of the companies I've worked for have been one and a half hours from my house. If I had had to go into the office every day, that would be fifteen hours travelling a week. Some part-time jobs are fifteen hours a week! Not to mention the toll on the environment of all that travelling. And the cost. 

And two of the ways companies still manage to screw up the work from home experience....... 

1. Out of sight. Out of mind. Yes, I'm working from home. No, I'm not happy to be ignored entirely. I've worked in a few roles that were WFH almost wholly, and this happened way too often. When it did, I found it almost impossible to have those tough but necessary conversations like thrashing out the annual budget.

2. Some people don't adapt to it well. HR directors having conversations over the phone that should be done face to face, at the very least on a video call. 

Bosses that keep shifting conference call times, or being late for them, in a way that they would never do for in-person meetings - they'd be too ashamed... You get the picture!

Saturday, November 02, 2019

Social media has turned the world upside down - How have marketers responded?

The Doors is my favourite rock group. Their lead singer, Jim Morrison, graduated with a degree in Film at the prestigious UCLA Film School, where he studied with acclaimed film director Francis Ford Coppola. Jim Morrison was also a poet*.

One important aspect of Marketing is getting attention. Almost fifty years since he died, Morrison still generates a massive following on social media and The Doors still sell a lot of records.

Back in 2005 when I was at Boston University School of Management, pursuing my full-time MBA, I had the idea of writing a paper about organisations like the Doors that had a devoted fan base that was drawn, above all, to their authenticity.

When I wrote my paper about 'realness' in Marketing back then, I was influenced by a Harvard Business School case study** written by the new Dean of Boston University's business school, Susan Fournier. 

The case study she wrote was about the Harley Davidson Owners group or ‘Hogs'. It was HBS's first-ever 'multi-media' case study.

Harley Davidsons do not compete with other motorcycles in any typical way. They are not particularly fast, reliable or eco-friendly.

They are certainly not cheap. BMW’s, Yamahas, Ducattis or Honda’s will outstrip them here in every way. But what Harley Davidsons do have, which the other brands lack, is a unique bond with their customers.

The Harley Davidson Owners Groups ('Hogs')

The Hog club goes on rides, and the riders catalog all of their adventures. A few years ago a marketer suggested that Harley start using dirt and grease-free chrome. 

But the Harley team shot this idea down instantly. They believed that part of the appeal for a Harley owner of having that bike is cleaning the grease off of it after a hard day's ride.

Lululemon (image below) is another top brand that's established an almost cult-like following. Lululemon isn't just a product, it's a lifestyle.

Since I wrote that paper, a celebrity and property developer, Donald Trump, first put himself forward as a candidate as a publicity stunt to increase TV ratings on his show 'The Apprentice'.

The now, US President, Donald Trump made many outrageous statements during this period. Yet every time the political experts said ‘that’s it, he’s crossed the line. He's finished’, he just got more popular. The pundits couldn't believe it.

Similarly, Nike took a decidedly political stand on Colin Kaepernick, quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, kneeling during the National Anthem to protest against racism in the USA.

Most marketers at the time said that Nike made a terrible mistake bringing out this ad. 80% of marketers today still say that you shouldn’t take a strong position at risk of alienating your customers.

But just as in the case of Trump, being controversial worked for Nike. Nike has made six billion US dollars since that ad, that was loved and loathed in equal measure. 

*‘The Movie’ a poem by Jim Morrison
The auditorium was vast and silent
as we seated and were darkened, the voice continued.
The program for this evening is not new.
You’ve seen this entertainment through and through.
You’ve seen your birth your life and death
you might recall all of the rest.
Did you have a good world when you died?
Enough to base a movie on?
I'm getting out of here.
Where are you going?
To the other side of morning.

Please don't chase the clouds, pagodas.
Her cunt gripped him like a warm, friendly hand.
It's alright, all your friends are here.
When can I meet them?
After you've eaten
I'm not hungry.
Uh, we meant beaten.
Silver stream, silvery scream.

Oooooh, impossible concentration.

Go to my website.

** Harvard Business SchoolBuilding brand community on the Harley-Davidson Posse Ride