Monday, June 25, 2018

Phil Rigby – A Legend.

I’ve collected photos since the 60’s – my homes are full of them – heroes / icons of my youth – along with views of my hometown, my roots and my favourite place (The Lakes).  My two favourite Lakeland photographers are Old Lancastrian Jon Sparks and Cumbrian legend Phil Rigby – both of whom are totally in tune with the character and ebb and flow of life in Cumbria, Lancashire and The Lakes.

Jon has just published Lancashire in Photographs, a beautiful collection of images which captures the diversity of my home Red Rose County.  And Phil has just published Portrait of Cumbria, Life and Landscape – curated by Cumbria Life’s visionary editor (and Phil’s mate) Richard Eccles.

These books are a must for Lancastrians / Cumbrians all over the world.

Why am I telling you this?

Because Phil retired last week as Picture Editor of all CN Group’s magazines – 30 years on.  He shot both my Grasmere homes and became part of the ‘Family’, so connected was he to our homes and our ideas; the photos he took were a visualisation of our dreams.  A special man with a special eye and a special gift.

Cumbria will be poorer without him interpreting and sharing it.  But I understand via the Cumbrian grapevine that he’ll continue as a freelancer taking photos for Cumbria Life.

I hope that’s true.

Keep Going Phil.


Thursday, June 21, 2018

All or Nothing

Out now.  The first ever behind the scenes deep probe into the All Blacks – unfiltered and unplugged.  Available on Amazon Prime now.  Followed in August by a series on Manchester City – brilliant timing given the season the Cityzens had.  Bravo Amazon.  And bravo the All Blacks and City’s exec teams for having the courage to open the curtain for their fans.


Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Viva La Difference.

Last month Mark Smith, Vice Chancellor of Lancaster University invited me to speak to his (very!) heavy hitting University Council – two Lords, one Baroness, eight Professors and nine pillars of the Cumbrian/Lancastrian business royalty.

The topic – Winning in a Crazy World.

We talked about the importance of starting with Purpose, leading rather than managing, creating a winning culture, relishing change, building mental toughness and getting to the Future first.

And the diversity of the Council got me thinking about Differences – and how we should embrace these Differences rather than continue this mad march to Us Vs Them, and separatist polarisation.

In this VUCA world, survival and progress will be driven by flashes of inspiration, by streams of emotion, by buckets of passion, by pioneers forging ahead, and by encouraging differences not railing against them.

So here are 15 ways you can make a difference in 2018.

1)     Be Soft
     Soft is strong.  King Kong (and its director Peter Jackson of Lord of the Rings) are big softies.  And a kangaroo can’t jump unless its tail is touching the ground.  The future will belong to soft connections.  Emotion not reason.  Software not hardware.  Soft not hard power.  Soft is transparent.  Soft is enabling.  Soft is flexible.  Soft is inclusive.  Soft is slow Cumbrian food not fast fat food.  (Try Ambleside’s Old Stamp House and The Lakeside Kitchen.)

2)     Be in Spirit
     To be inspired means to be ‘in spirit’.  To be an Inspirational Player, a radical optimist, wherever you stand or fall.  Remember the return of Steve Jobs and Apple’s ‘Think Different’ campaign?  Said Jobs: “That ad was to remind us of who our heroes are and who we are”.  Want to be in spirit?  By the end of this month pass on the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given to 10 people under 20.

3)     Be Sensuous
     Touch.  Sound.  Scent.  Sight.  Taste.  Designing products, services and experiences around the five senses calibrates a better world.  Holistic is the new reality.  In the food business?  Sell all fruit with leaves attached so consumers see it’s fresh.  With all five senses put on high alert, magic happens.

4)     Simply Sustain
     Jeffrey Sachs’ UN Millennium Project Report on poverty is required reading.  An aperture is opening.  A beam of light shines, one energised by low-cost simplicity.  In The Lakes, join the Cumbria Community, donate to the Herdy Fund.  Make a difference to those in need in Cumbria.

5)     Sleep
     Joan Klempner said: “To achieve the impossible dream, try going to sleep”.  With 24/7 lifestyles, we’re getting less and less sleep.  Yet for success, achievement, and happiness, sleep is fundamental.  Now science says our best ideas surface when we drift into sleep.  Anytime sleep is pure competitive advantage.  Walt Disney got it right “If you can dream it, you can do it”.

6)     Go Loglo
     The local/global debate is the soap opera of business.  ‘Should I be thinking local?’  ‘Should I be thinking global?’ … ‘Should I be glocal?’  Start with action in Cumbria, in the local (there are no global consumers!).  Then cross boundaries.  Wherever you are, export is the way to go.  It’s not about thinking.  It’s about acting, and going.  Act local; go global.  Go LoGlo.

7)     Learn to say: ‘ni hao’
     Unlike other Asian countries China was ‘born global’.  The dragon opened up and ventured out simultaneously, putting the globe in a spin.  China is an Aladdin’s Cave for enterprise.  Open it!  Learn to say in Chinese: ‘Hello’, and ‘Welcome to The Lakes’.

8)     Invent and Innovate
     The difference?  World changing.  Arno Penzias, a Nobel Prize winner in Physics, makes the distinction.  An invention is the product of a creative or curious mind.  Born not made.  Innovation changes customers’ lives in some way or the world in which customers experience things – and is something we can learn, practice and do!

9)     Be Irreplaceable and Irresistible
     Hating America while loving all things American is the 21st century paradox says Louis Chunovic.  Wherever you stand (and despite President Trump), America’s innovative spirit remains irresistible and a beacon for modern enterprise.  Make your Business bigger than a Brand.  Create loyalty beyond reason – just as America has.

10) Don’t be a Polar Bear
     Polarisation of values – cultural conflict – is as big an opportunity as a threat.  Businesses that take sides will lose.  Businesses that listen and bring sides together can become Lovemarks.  In the US, stone barricades erected near government buildings post-9/11 have been replaced with stone containers filled with plants.  Lovemarks are part of a human conversation.  They make the world a better place.

11) Join the Consumer Republic
     Manufacturers and retailers now work for consumers, not vice versa.  Technology has given power to consumers.  We’re in the Consumer Republic, at last!  It’s a time of instant connectivity, transparency and accountability.  Message to marketers?  Stimulate me, surprise me, intrigue me, involve me, entertain me, love me, just don’t bore me.

12) Touch Technology
     Smart objects like adidas smart shoe.  Content co-creation like blogging.  Customisation like iTunes.  All are part of this power and control shift to consumers.  Question du jour: does technology make people happy?  No.  Does it make people happier?  Yes.  Let’s get over this one and move on.  It’s technology and happiness.  It’s And/And, not Either/Or.

13) Build it, they will come
     Globally, the supermarket experience is a 20 minute dash through hell.  Radio, lighting and air-con should be done for assault.  The store where lots of purchase decisions are made, is still the biggest opportunity in business today.  Solution?  Drip it with Mystery, Sensuality, Intimacy.  Build a theatre of dreams.  Go to Booths.  Go to Herdy.

14) Build Windmills
     A Boeing 747’s wingspan is longer than the first flight of the Wright brothers.  You can resist change and go backwards or embrace it and go forwards.  When hurricanes come, build windmills!  Pursue failure, you discover your limits when you crash up against them.  When others zig, zag.  Fail Fast, Learn Fast, Fix Fast.

15) Surprise with the Obvious
     The most popular first name in the world is Muhammad.  No piece of paper can be folded more than seven times.  The stall closest to the door in a bathroom is the cleanest, because it is the least used.  Obvious.  Overlooked.  For cut through innovation, communication, surprise with the obvious.

Viva La Difference!


Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Bring Back Bob.

In January last year I wrote about the new President: “Trump will be unpredictable, surprising, perplexing, dangerous, brutish, but I believe he will initiate a thing or two that will have a lasting and positive impact on America and the world.”

As to the latter, the blossoming signs of peace over the Korean peninsula appear to be a breakthrough for which President Trump is being touted for the Nobel Peace Prize.  It seems Denis Rodman has played an outsized role, introducing Kim Jong-un to the writings of the Donald (just imagine, Rodman sharing a Nobel would be emblematic of the warped zeitgeist we live in.  I got to know him a little at the Chicago Bulls when I was researching the Peak Performance book).

As to the former – perplexing, dangerous etc, the nomination of the White House doctor Ronny Jackson to be head of the Veterans Administration, seemed to be a somewhat unusual initiative.  If the VA was on the Fortune 500, it would rank as the 6th biggest enterprise in America.  It is an enormously important and complex organisation (the VA trains 70% of the doctors in the country and is the largest employer of nurses in the country), and putting up someone with zero experience of running a large organisation seems to be asking a lot of the good Doctor.

I was drawn to an interview MSNBC diva Rachel Maddow did with former VA head and all round good guy, Bob McDonald.  There are calls to bring him back, which I endorse.  Bob was an Army Ranger, a Captain in the US Army, and went on to a lifelong career at P&G, rising to the CEO role.  Bob was a character out of Central Casting for the VA role.  He was popular with veterans – surely a prerequisite for the leadership role.  There is the stumbling block of privatising the VA – Trump’s backers want this, Bob is opposed which is why it’s unlikely he’ll get the call back.  But America’s veterans would be well served with Bob McDonald back in the VA seat.


Friday, June 8, 2018

It is not the Mountain We Conquer, but Ourselves.

Almost 20 years ago I got to meet and then spend several Saturday mornings with one of the greatest leaders I have ever met, Sir Edmund Hillary.  In January 2000 he was kind enough to write the foreword to the first book I wrote with three colleagues from Waikato University – Peak Performance, Lessons from the World’s Greatest Sporting Teams.

Sir Ed passed away in Auckland on the morning of January 11, 2008.  He would have been 99 years old had he still been with us, and 2019 will be the centenary of his birth.

10 years ago I was invited to become a Governor of the Hillary Summit – a group of people coming together to recognise and support exceptional international leadership in mid-career, those who are in the game and can contribute more with peer support, advice, counsel, leverage and good-will.

We are just voting for the 2018 Hillary Laureate as we speak and it took me back to the mornings I spent in Sir Ed’s home talking to him about his experiences, his ideas and his beliefs.

Here’s an extract from the Hillary Institute’s Annual Report on a great leader.

SIR EDMUND HILLARY personifies essential human qualities of integrity, modesty, determination and service to others born of a life-time of exceptional achievement. He was raised in a quiet country town at the bottom of the world in New Zealand, and this unremarkable schoolboy discovered early a love of mountaineering which ultimately led to his becoming an international legend as the first man to climb Mt. Everest in May 1953 with Tenzing Norgay, Sherpa.
For the last 50 years he not only continued to lead expeditions to the most remote corners of the earth, but perhaps most tellingly, devoted himself to environmental and humanitarian efforts that have made a profound difference to the Sherpa communities where his famous summit climb was achieved.
In 2003 Sir Edmund and Lady June Hillary celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the ascent of Everest in Nepal, with Sherpa friends and the Tenzing family, and in 2005 he formally re-embraced leadership development as the patron of the Excelerator: New Zealand Leadership Institute, and internationally through lending his name to the development of the Hillary Institute and its associated Awards programme.
Knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1953 Sir Edmund was the recipient of numerous international citations including The Order of New Zealand, his country’s highest honour. He has also been awarded nine honorary doctorates and was the author of eight books. In January 2007 Sir Edmund returned to Antarctica for the final time for the 50 years celebration of his establishment of Scott Base for New Zealand. With Sir Ed in honoured attendance Prime Minister Helen Clark (as patron), formally launched The Hillary Institute there on January 22nd.
New Zealanders take great pride in this extraordinary, ordinary man, a world-wide symbol of courage, determination, leadership and humanitarian service. With the centenary of his birth looming in 2019, he will forever be an inspiration to us all.


Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Happiness Runs.

Richard Nicholls has just published ’15 Minutes to Happiness’, a book that outlines simple exercises to reduce negativity and increase happiness.

As a radical optimist who’s lived by ‘Make Happy Choices’ for some time now, I think his book is worth a read.  Guilt, worry, regret and stress are part of all our lives, it’s learning how to deal with them, reduce them and ultimately replace them with positive thoughts that make us happier.

An example of one thing he suggests.

Put Yourself First.  This is not selfish.  It is for everyone’s benefit.  A happy you is the you everyone wants to see, and they’ll be happy about that.  If you constantly put others ahead of you, it can lead to lack of self-esteem, stress and fatigue.  Learn to say no.  Check the book out.


Friday, June 1, 2018

Unfiltered Live 3: How to Win in Business Fast (p.m.)

Carla who attended the Unfiltered Live event has worked with me on gigs for the past two decades, she is EVP and GM International at SweeneyVesty. She attended the Unfiltered Live event. Here is the second part of her two-part guest post.

After a quick delicious lunch thanks to ‘Eat My Lunch’ box, we headed into the afternoon session of Unfiltered Live:
A peak performer, builder, exporter and employer of 900 staff globally, Brendan Lindsay founder of Sistema Plastics was an enthralling speaker, he everyone rolling with laughter with his stories and his honest, take-no-prisoners, advice. 

Avoid the drainers. Surround yourself with positive people. Trust your gut, don’t give in. Professionals don’t go to work, they do the work. Go after your dream.

Beware the perfect storm, never overexpose yourself to a position that you can’t afford to lose. Be prepared to commit your entire body and soul. Take ownership of your mistakes. Get to know your staff, don’t give turkeys to taxi drivers (yep!).

Be in front of your customers all the time, 3 ways to do this: email (easy for them to say no), phone (faceless also easy to say no) and in-person (really hard to say no). Always be prepared, every dog has its day.

And I think everyone’s favourite was his tale around “Don’t be a Can’t” and the joys of a Kiwi accent. It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it!

Next co-owner and COO Anna Mowbray of Zuru – the 14th biggest toy manufacturer and producer of Bunch O Balloons the number one selling toy for three years in a row in the US. Have laser focus. Be disciplined, how you execute, be focused to win, to be the best. 
Think about R.O.T. – Return On Time. Don’t get trapped. Businesses fail from lack of direction, not lack of focus. Simplify business, remove clutter. Remove complexity of your products and make them intuitive. Think of simplicity of your product, ie Google – is complex but to the user, very simple interface. Rationalise the offer to your customer.

Create meaningful relationships through partnering. Be passionate. Move mountains. Put your best people on the biggest opportunities – not your biggest problems.

Disrupt yourself. Do disruption on stable product lines. If you’re not disrupting, you are being disrupted. If you don’t have a competitive advantage, don’t compete. Hustle, never give up!
Self-confessed data geek with ideas and innovation in her soul, Carmen Vicelich, founder and CEO of Data Insight and Valocity made every one sit up when she put it simply ‘don’t let anyone steal your dream’, keep the fire in your belly. We are all unique and only you know what you know. Take advice but know where you are going. Know your why. At any stage you have the power to decide. 

Always have plan A, B, C. Plan A never survives first contact with the enemy. How do you make your luck? The power of attraction. Always make the boat go faster – but to which island? An athlete can go to the Olympics but without focus can get never get Gold. It’s all about people, solving a unique problem and what’s right for right now! ‘Better’ never stops. Play to strengths.

Surround yourself with winners. If it was easy everyone would be doing it. With data and tech everything is a race – Have to remember your ‘why’. You can have all the success in the world but if you don’t have the important things, what’s it for? Celebrate success along the way, and all the successes in the team.

Shit will happen 100% guaranteed. Focus on solving customer problems, avoid analysis paralysis. Be crystal clear on what problem you solve. There is no best, only better. Surround yourself with winners.

Successful serial Silicon Valley entrepreneur and angel investor Jeremy Cai, 22-year old, was upfront that technology is seductive. It’s not a solution but a means to an end, look for amplification of what you’re doing today. Put people first, not the tech. 

Focus on things you can control. If you choose the wrong market, you can’t change reality.  Advice is cheap to give, but expensive to take

Beware of raising money. It’s your life. If you don’t grow big, you die fast.

Value, pattern recognition (experience) is useful but it can fool you. You might miss something really big.

Follow your heart and head. Make it count. If you look back in 15 years will you be happy?
One of the most dynamic and ambitious entrepreneurs in mobile marketing using blockchain advertising is Brian Wong. He is the author of ‘The Cheat Code’ shortcuts to get a leg up on the competition, garner attention for creative thinkers and their ideas and to accelerate success, the book has been published in 40 countries and 3 languages. This Q&A with Jake involved a nice glass of wine from Villa Maria.  

Brian is driven, his mindset is to always be creative, always moving. Rule 1 – never freak out, it’s not life or death. Best lessons are experiences never expected.

When you are in product market research phase, if there’s too much data on the Internet to tell you if it’s a good idea, it’s already a bad game. Test your ideas with taxi drivers and see if their gut reaction is positive.

Know your superpower, ask your friends and family what you’re good at, what did you find effortless when you were growing up. Don’t try to fix things you’re not good at.

Be able to take no’s. Being afraid of rejection stops you. Put yourself in an uncomfortable position and ask, otherwise they won’t know what to give you. Keep asking, people will eventually break down.

Use your weaknesses and convert into a strength, i.e. looking young can be a good thing because people underestimate you and you can ask anything, people want to impart knowledge.

NZ’s Internet is superfast so go nuts with it. Our whole population is a city in other places, so use your broadband!

How to be legendary? Learn something a little faster than the next guy.

Jake then announced some exciting news that Brian has joined the Unfiltered Board of Directors. 

Founder of her own PR company, innovator and invaluable advisor, Deborah Pead had everyone sitting up listening when she shared her incredible experiences in South Africa, a place where car hijackings happen every 30 minutes. Her work included PR briefs to reinvigorate Johannesburg’s CBD retail after a bomb blast – you do this by creating a ‘bomb sale’ which was highly effective!  

Learn in business to embrace your fear, it can be a powerful motivator and also drive innovation. Use fear as a motivator, not to debilitate. Look for the up side in the middle of every difficulty. When bombs are dropping around you, you need to hustle to find the silver lining.

Don’t be motivated by money. Money is not the proof of success. Deliver excellence, be generous. Products fail due to poor decisions. Reputations are built on actions. Fill your start-up with PR. Invest in PR. PR is rocket fuel for start-ups. You only get to be new once.

Fill your head with brilliance from best:
  • Leaders think and talk about solutions – Cecilia Robinson
  • Never hire an island, success comes from working with collaborating, power of team work – Theresa Gattung
  • Get a proper goal – Geoff Ross
  • Business is like driving a racing car, put your foot flat to the floor at the start, if you need to break, break real fast – Frances Steel
If you feel like you are backed into a corner, ask what the walls are – Sarah Kennedy.
Don’t look for the problem in the opportunity, look for the opportunity in the problem.The last speaker of the day was Linda Jenkinson World Class New Zealander and brilliant entrepreneur with three multi-million dollar companies built and successfully sold, the first Kiwi woman on Nasdaq. Linda hails originally from the Manawatu.  

How do you win in business? The jellybean jar. Jellybeans are the gifts you give to people. In the US you tell people what you’re looking for, what you want people to help you with and they give you jelly beans. It’s the way you help people.

Start thinking about what you can do for others and the entire world would achieve our goals a lot more. Ensure your jellybean jar is not just full, but overflowing. It absolutely works. The universe has the answer.

Play poker. Business is a game, it’s numbers and emotions, the fun of getting it over the line and bluffing. Do it your way, have fun. For Kiwis what is IT you are doing? Find your IT.

Cycle of gratitude, we suck at this as Kiwis. How people feel is important. Take people on your journey. Go exploring. Don’t make assumptions about people. Give back. Buy a jelly bean jar and ask how you can help others.

Congrats to Jake, Yuuki, Kevin, Dom, Matt and the entire Unfiltered Live team who put together such an amazing event! The day was uplifting, optimistic, sometimes brutally honest, provocative, stimulating, and friendly.  I’d do it all again in a heartbeat!