Where sport meets business performance

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In August I was invited by a good friend of mine who is an international wine expert to the beautiful golden wine mile in Spain.
The Spanish wine region of Ribera del Duero is one of the most prestigious wine producing areas in the world. Ribera del Duero´s vineyards blanket across the Duero river’s banks. This is the land of the “Conquistadors” and castles and ruined fortresses punctuate the dry arid landscapes throughout the region. The most impressive is Peñafiel, shaped like a battleship and located majestically on the top of a craggy hill. Mythical wines made here include Vega Sicilia, Pingus, Abadia Retuerta, Pesquera, Viña Mayor, Emilo Moro, Carmelo Rodero, Pago de Carrovejas, just to name a few and we did visit all the vineyards, including tasting from the barell. The famous “Golden Mile” in the Ribera features some of these wineries and some of Spain’s most expensive wines.

The good news when travelling through Spain was that we had hours to talk about practically anything and everything, including putting the world to rights.
My friend is also the Chairman of the International Federation of American Football Europe Technical Commitee and General Manager of the International Federation of American Football World Development Team, which I find incredibly interesting, he finds my world completely alien to his world of wine and sports, so lots to discuss I said, and he laughed.
He said winning is beyond important in Spain, look at soccer and Real Madrid. The team claim every important soccer prize in the Spanish professional league, as well as in European club competition.
Here in Spain, fútbol (soccer) is like a religion,” he says. “When Real Madrid plays a game, Real Madrid has to win,” he says. “There is no other option in our minds. This is part of representing our shirt, our emblem. When our players walk on the pitch, they know the only result is victory.

I started to think about the same synergies in business, as your business evolves and your needs change, your organisational structure must be flexible enough to meet those needs. If your business is demanding an excessive amount of your time with no goal in sight, you may want to recruit some of the following winning strategies into your business structure.
Your team may have a captain, but that doesn’t mean all of the decisions should be limited to that one person. In start-ups, the majority of decisions are handled directly by the CEO. But as the size of your business grows, the line of authority in making quick decisions needs to expand to meet the needs of your in-house operations and outside customers.
If a play stops working, smart players change it.
A well-timed hat-trick may score big at a pivotal moment in the game, but when circumstances on the field change, so must your strategy for continued success. Unfortunately, many entrepreneurs try to maintain their initial organisational structure despite stark growth or industry shifts within the company.

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Your structure is only as good as the people operating within it and how well they’re matched to their jobs.
As your business grows, it’s important to monitor the abilities of your employees to be sure there is still a good fit with abilities and responsibilities.
Recognising there are some departments that should remain in close connection with the executive level, such as financial decisions, accounting, and high-level human resources, many of the day-to-day decisions can (and should) be handled by your mid-management team.

Typically, on the field, forwards don’t communicate much with the goalkeepers. That is because their roles require focus on different things. Similarly, in a healthy business environment, different departments are given the ability to focus on their own goals.
By allowing your mid-management the latitude to gauge the commitment levels and abilities of their team members, they can restructure the perimeters of a job’s duties to best serve the satisfaction of valued employees and contribute to the overall success of the company.
By providing leadership that encourages growth, encouraging checks and balances between departments, maintaining strategic adaptations to changing business structures, and matching the ideal person for the ideal job, you are primed and ready to score in your business.
The obligation of ownership creates more of a public trust feeling than running any other business. The ownership group has the responsibility for the long-term viability of the franchise. It has to make bottom-line decisions that are best for them. But the last thing the fans care about is a discussion about profitability. They only want to win.”
In sport you want to win, in business you want to succeed, both disciplines and principles have the desire for entrepreneurial spirit.

As Vince Lombardi once said:

“The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor.”

A walk in the clouds for a second time

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I recently wrote a blog called: ‘Do we forget our first love or how people have made us feel or are we still in love?’ and I was talking to one of my good friends who lives in Spain on the subject and I asked her whether she would remarry if the right person came along? She said politely ‘no’….. and since then I have asked friends and associates the same, to which I received a mixed response…. So, what exactly has happened to society? Do we believe we need our independence too much, that Mr. Right or Mrs. Right does not exist, has love faded away into the Ethernet or are we all living in fear?

About a week ago I watched a great movie called ‘A walk in the clouds’ – it’s based on an Italian film: ‘Four steps in the clouds’ (1942). The former film is a 1995 American romantic drama film about a young soldier returning home from World War II, who is looking to settle down and start a family with the woman he impulsively married just before enlisting. After learning she is not what he imagined her to be, he heads north alone to Sacramento in search of work. Along the way he meets a beautiful young woman who is heading home from college to her family vineyard to help with the grape harvest. When he learns she is pregnant and was abandoned by her boyfriend, he offers to stand in as her husband so she can face her Old World domineering father. During his stay at the vineyard, they fall in love and face the angry rejection of her father together (watch the trailer here).

The question I asked myself is how many people would actually marry someone who was pregnant with someone else’s child, and how many people would wear a chocolate gold wrapper out of his box of chocolates as a ring wedding ring in today’s world, all because of love?
There is a great quote by Stephanie Meyer “After all, what was more important, in the end, than love?” which I feel really resonates with the story and life.
Why should statistics be a spokesman for people in love, why pounce on increasing divorce rates and the fact that only fathers’ names go on wedding certificates, suggesting marriage is still linked to patriarchy, to an old world view that women should submit to men.?

The ‘Proposition of Marriage’ (those against the idea) delivered a mix of interesting and engaging reasons for why they thought marriage is outdated, including that if we’re all going to live until we’re 95, do we really need to be with just one person?
In ‘Opposition of Marriage’, (those in favour of the idea) people discussed that the concept of marriage is not outdated. And that’s because the reasons for marriage these days are far different from years gone by. Marriage itself is changing.

Couples, it appears, no longer feel the need to get married as a constitution or status symbol, to do so before they embark on their lives together. Most people live with their other half years before marrying them. Marriage is no longer the path to having children either. I know lots of people who have kids and then decide to get hitched later down the line.
The beautiful thing about marriage is that, in the West at least, you don’t need to do it as a part of growing up. Marriage is no longer a prerequisite of adulthood. You do it if and when you want to do it.
Of course, you can have a perfectly good life without marrying. I know many couples who cohabit but just don’t feel the need to tie the knot.
They don’t need a bit of paper or a wedding ring to prove to the world they’re in love. And that’s absolutely fine and their choice; nobody should ever feel forced into marriage if they don’t think it’s for them.
The number of marriages that took place in England and Wales was 247,890. That’s about one marriage every two minutes. Marriage is still incredibly popular.
By comparison, there is one divorce in England and Wales about every 4 and a half minutes, statistics show.

So are we less free or restricted to those we share love with?
Love is and has always been an essential value we obtain from other people. In giving love, we are responding to our own values realized and made beautiful by another person. In receiving love, we receive a kind of reward for the virtues, habits, and qualities we have cultivated in our own characters.
It is often said that true love is “unconditional,” or that “love is blind.” If this were true, falling in love would be akin to throwing darts, and we would simply happen upon certain people whom we loved for no reason whatsoever. And if love were unconditional, nothing they ever did, no matter how hurtful or evil, could make us abandon that love.

Love is actually our response to those few people we meet toward whom we feel the highest respect, admiration, and attraction. It is not a blank check granted to random passersby, but instead the result of our careful examination and approval of another’s character. Granting unconditional love is like appraising a piece of property without examining its size, quality, or location: one is likely to grant unearned love to the unworthy and withhold love from those who deserve it most.
Before you can really grant love to those you value, you must be in tune with your own values and character, and know what it is you believe to be the right and the good, what qualities you are looking for in other people.
Another popular view of love is that it involves a great deal of self-sacrifice, that it is a selfless act. After all, don’t most lovers spend an inordinate amount of time and money on their relationships with each other?
Don’t we have to comfort those we love through times of hardship and failure?
Sex is also an important part of a romantic relationship. Just as Objectivists do not accept the false dichotomy between mind and body, they reject the traditional dichotomy between love and lust. When two people love one another spiritually, it is natural and good for them to express that love physically. This is not to say that sex should be taken lightly; it is our most intimate act and joyous expression of our love for another person. But the old idea—encouraged by religious conservatism—that sex somehow destroys or undermines love, I have found to be false in conversation with others.

The conclusion to this subject is in the essence of a healthy, loving relationship is often trade: one offers it as a recognition of others’ characters, and receives it as recognition of one’s own.

My belief is as Max Muller once said ‘A flower cannot blossom without sunshine, and man cannot live without love.’

To Love and be Loved is in essence everything in life.

The new business world, intensive vs integrative growth strategies

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Turning a small business into a big one is never easy. The statistics are grim. Research suggests that only one-tenth of 1 percent of companies will ever reach £250 million in annual revenue. An even more microscopic group, just 0.036 percent, will reach £1 billion in annual sales.
Is research correct, will most businesses start small and stay there?
A large percentage of entrepreneurs recognise that lifestyle models and staying small does not necessarily guarantee business survival, there are examples of companies out there that have successfully made the transition from start-up to small business to fully-thriving large business.

Marketing interview with Geoff Hudson-Searle

Some thoughts for entrepreneurs and companies on how they can create a growth strategy:

Developing a Growth Strategy: Intensive Growth
Part of getting from start up to large company is fundamentally down to leadership and a growth strategy, maximising performance driven results from the least amount of risk and effort. Growth strategies resemble a kind of ladder, where lower-level rungs present less risk but maybe less quick-growth impact. The bottom line for small businesses, especially start-ups, is to focus on those strategies that are at the lowest rungs of the ladder and then gradually move your way up as needed. As you go about developing your growth strategy, you should first consider the lower rungs of what are known as Intensive Growth Strategies. Each new rung brings more opportunities for fast growth, but also more risk. They are:

1. Market Penetration. The least risky growth strategy for any business is to simply sell more of its current product to its current customers.
2. Market Development. The next rung up the ladder is to devise a way to sell more of your current product to an adjacent market.
3. Alternative Channels. This growth strategy involves pursuing customers in a different way such as, for example, selling your products online.
4. Product Development. A classic strategy, it involves developing new products to sell to your existing customers as well as to new ones.
5. New Products for New Customers. Sometimes, market conditions dictate that you must create new products for new customers.

If you choose to follow one of the Intensive Growth Strategies, you should ideally take only one step up the ladder at a time, since each step brings risk, uncertainty, and effort.

Developing a Growth Strategy: Integrative Growth Strategies
If you’ve exhausted all steps along the Intensive Growth Strategy path, you can then consider growth through acquisition or Integrative Growth Strategies. The problem is that some 75 percent of all acquisitions fail to deliver on the value or efficiencies that were predicted for them. In some cases, a merger can end in total disaster, as in the case of the AOL-Time Warner deal. Nevertheless, there are three viable alternatives when it comes to an implementing an Integrative Growth Strategy. They are:

1. Horizontal. This growth strategy would involve buying a competing business or businesses. Employing such a strategy not only adds to your company’s growth, it also eliminates another barrier standing in your way of future growth – namely, a real or potential competitor.
2. Backward. A backward integrative growth strategy would involve buying one of your suppliers as a way to better control your supply chain. Doing so could help you to develop new products faster and potentially more cheaply.
3. Forward. Acquisitions can also be focused on buying component companies that are part of your distribution chain

As astronaut Chris Hadfield once said:

“Almost everything worthwhile carries with it some sort of risk, whether it’s starting a new business, whether it’s leaving home, whether it’s getting married, or whether it’s flying in space.”

Why is a marketing workshop, a small company imperative?

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A company without a strategy is similar to the blind leading the blind and without purpose. You may not be interested in strategy, but strategy is interested in you. And though we can all agree that no one likes wanton destruction, more and more we see tactics without culture and strategy in many of the potential clients that we consult with on a regular basis.

Often businesses are afraid of the word strategy and focus solely on activity – just doing something, anything. However, this hardly ever yields desired results without focused goals and attainable objectives that effect performance. Enter the marketing workshop: a hands-on approach to marketing and a sure-fire way to give your tactics a real boost and gain real value from your efforts!
Not all marketing people work in a team of marketers, with many in-house marketers working individually or in a team of solely Marketing Director and Marketing Executive. Therefore, there is not a lot of room for advice and discussion between marketing minds. Marketing Executives are at a point in their career where the need support in knowing what and how to do their best marketing work; a time where they need to broaden their knowledge and strengthen what they already know.

Here are some basic discussion points when reviewing a new strategic marketing plan.

Clarify the Company Vision
We often fail to acknowledge the information gap that exists between the leadership team of any given company and the rest of the employees. This gap is often the source of misunderstandings and sometimes results in people pulling strings at different directions rather than working simultaneously to accomplish a goal. Through the marketing workshop, many goals, visions and core values are crystalize that afford an explanation on why things are being done the way that they are and what are the things that are truly priorities for the company.
This discovery and crystallization of company vision and goals often results in a more focused team that works well together based on a shared set of goals.

Define Your Target Market
Through the workshop one of the most valuable insights you gain is how to successfully define your target market. Spending time and energy in understanding how to best provide your target information that can attract them to choose you, is an important cornerstone of a good marketing strategy.

Improve Communication
The marketing workshop is an environment where all members present interact with serious questions of the business. Often times, work to push the business forward falls second to more pressing client work (in B2B) or pushing the product out (B2C).
The marketing workshop allows you to set all other matters aside and focus on answering the tough questions that will help move your business forward. The time committed to understanding the challenges of communication and understanding the goals can help a team function more productively.

Lay Out a Comprehensive Plan/100 day revolving plan of objectives
One of the things that make a marketing workshop useful is the actionable items and plans that come from the workshop. The activities throughout the year, the aspects of your business that you will keep a pulse on, and the calendar that will go a long with it, help to structure your marketing. Though there is some built in flexibility, after the marketing workshop you will have a clear picture of the tactics and how they support the strategy. More importantly, you will often leave with a good idea of who is responsible for what, which means a lot less falls through the cracks.

Discover Your Purpose
One of the most powerful words in the dictionary is the word “because.” People often respond well to the understanding of why they are doing something. The marketing workshop does a great job at clarifying the reasons why your business operates the way that it does. At a high level what are the incentives and goals for the business. “Why do You Do What You Do?” – The act of just answering of this question often result in more engagement employees that are able to live the culture of the businesses more accurately.

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It is worth remembering as Ryan Holmes once said:

‘As an entrepreneur, one of the biggest challenges you will face will be building your brand. The ultimate goal is to set your company and your brand apart from the crowd. If you form a strategy without doing the research, your brand will barely float – and at the speed industries move at today, brands sink fast’.

Are we too distracted in this digital technology world for our real relationships?

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One Sunday afternoon early this year, I was editing my new book, “Meaningful Conversations“, and found myself reading the same paragraph over and over, a half dozen times before concluding that it was hopeless to continue. I simply could not marshal the necessary focus.
Instead of reading and absorbing the written words, I was distracted by the alerts of my device on apps, email and twitter.
“The net is designed to be an interruption system, a machine geared to dividing attention,” Nicholas Carr explains in his book “The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains.” “We willingly accept the loss of concentration and focus, the division of our attention and the fragmentation of our thoughts, in return for the wealth of compelling or at least diverting information we receive.”

Distractions turn on different part of our brains and do so more quickly than the daily grind of paying attention, neuroscientists have discovered.
Separate regions are responsible for the different ways our brain focuses on the world around us, according to the study by MIT researchers, and our brain waves even pulsate at different frequencies depending on the type of outside stimulus.
“Neural activity goes up and down in a regular periodic way, with everything vibrating together,” said study co-leader and neuroscientist Earl K. Miller. “It is faster for automatic stimulus and slower for things we choose to pay attention to.”

Addiction is the relentless pull to a substance or an activity that becomes so compulsive it ultimately interferes with everyday life. By that definition, nearly everyone I know is addicted in some measure to the Internet. It has arguably replaced work itself as our most socially sanctioned addiction.
According to one recent survey, the average white-collar worker spends about six hours a day on email. That doesn’t count time online spent shopping, searching or keeping up with social media.
The brain’s craving for novelty, constant stimulation and immediate gratification creates something called a “compulsion loop.” Like lab rats and drug addicts, we need more and more to get the same effect.
Endless access to new information also easily overloads our working memory. When we reach cognitive overload, our ability to transfer learning to long-term memory significantly deteriorates. It’s as if our brain has become a full cup of water and anything more poured into it starts to spill out.

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Are all the modern devices and digital conveniences we have at our disposal — from the web and social media to smartphones and tablets — making us more distracted and less able to concentrate? And is this harming our ability to think and be creative, and therefore by extension harming society as a whole? It’s a big question, the question is can we face the reality of the answer or are we afraid of missing something?
Is multi-tasking just a myth?

Joe Kraus of Google Ventures says he has an “unhealthy relationship” with his phone and is constantly pulling it out to check things, and that if he lets it, that behaviour “fills up those gaps in my day — some gaps of boredom, some of solitude.” The effect of all of this, he argues, is that we are increasingly distracted, and less able to pay attention to anything for a reasonable length of time, and this distraction is a “worsening condition.” We may think that we are getting things accomplished or multi-tasking, he says, but brain studies show that multi-tasking is a myth, and in reality we are just trying to do too many things at once and overloading our brain’s ability to concentrate.
The Google Ventures partner and former co-founder of Excite.com also quotes sociologist Dr. Sherry Turkle, to the effect that: “We are lonely but fearful of intimacy. Digital connections offer the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship. We expect more from technology and less from each other.” This explains the constant desire for virtual contact, Kraus says — and that contact gets in the way of real relationships.

To live life with less distraction, consider implementing one or more of these 10 unconventional habits:
1. Turn off smart phone notifications.
2. Read/Answer email only twice each day.
3. Complete 1-2 minute projects immediately.
4. Remove physical clutter.
5. Clear visible, distracting digital clutter.
6. Accept and accentuate your personal rhythms.
7. Establish a healthy morning routine.
8. Cancel cable / unplug television.
9. Keep a to-do list.
10. Care less what other people think.

There is little doubt our world is filled with constant distraction which is effecting real relationships. And there is little doubt that those who achieve the greatest significance in life learn to manage it effectively.
As Bryan Adams once said:

“Social media is a giant distraction to the ultimate aim, which is honing your craft as a songwriter. There are people who are exceptional at it, however, and if you can do both things, then that’s fantastic, but if you are a writer, the time is better spent on a clever lyric than a clever tweet.”