creative thinking

Creative Thinking

Think differently!


Creative thinking matters now more than ever. Ever since computers were first invented, we have all been told that the world is changing very fast. This is true, and never more so than now.

The pandemic means that we are facing huge upheavals to our businesses. It is absolutely crucial if we are to succeed in the future that we recognise these changes and build them into our thinking.

I am a great advocate of strategic thinking and I believe that right now is probably the most important time in our business career to do some of that strategic thinking and planning.

This cuts across most areas of our businesses. Just to pick a few examples:

HR and staffing

We need to adapt to new ways of working, (working from home is just one example). It is vitally important to involve staff in working out how best to work in the future – including the use of office space.

IT and AI

In order to work in different ways we need different IT. Every single business should be considering it’s IT strategy right now.

AI and algorithm driven decisions are now embedded in our daily lives, across almost everything we do. How should we take account of this in our business decisions?

The environment

Everything we do must take account of our environmental impact. This cuts across everything from how we build our houses, to travel, to use of plastics, to food wastage and use of fossil fuels. If your business does not have this as a central feature of your thinking then you will probably not survive.

Sales & marketing

We need to think of different ways of getting our products to our customers. This is not just the packaging it is in but also how we get our messages across. This is linked closely with the use of AI. Buying decisions are often made now on the basis of what the computer recommends rather than what a human thinks.


We need to be agile. We need to be creative in our thinking. We need to think outside the box. We need to change, and we need to learn how to change. It is all too easy to try to carry on as before. This simply won’t work any more.

The businesses with the new and innovative ways of working will be the stars of the future. I implore every business to put some time into this, and change.

courtesy in business


Common business courtesy

This is actually a very simple subject, but one that will make a huge difference to the success of your business. First of all, let us identify some of the common problems:

The problems

  • You send a text and get no response or acknowledgement;
  • You ring and leave a message, they don’t get back to you;
  • You email, but don’t get any response;
  • You arrange a meeting, and people turn up late;
  • You arrange a meeting and attendees are un-prepared;
  • The list goes on…..

Why does it matter?

For me, the main reason it matters is that it is just plain rude. I accept that people do not have the time to deal with my query immediately. However, if I am a potential customer then I expect the company to care about whether they sell to me. I do not want to deal with someone who cannot be bothered to get back to me. If I am looking to buy, I will very quickly move on to an alternative if I get no response.

A business leader I used to work for many years ago always insisted that if the phone rang then it must be answered within 3 rings. This applied even if it was someone else’s phone and they were away from their desk. His logic was “that person wants to give you a £1m order. If you don’t answer the phone they will give it to someone else”.

The Solution

It is very simple, here are some suggestions:

  • You receive a text, answer within 5 minutes “Hi, thanks for that, I’ll get back to you ASAP”
  • Check your phone voice messages often – and RING THEM BACK
  • You receive an email, within a couple of hours or so, reply “Thanks for that, I will get back to you”
  • DO NOT turn up late for meetings
  • PREPARE before the meeting

These are just simple, common courtesies, but they will give the right message to your customers and colleagues. You actually do care. They matter.

Corporate Social Responsibility

Corporate Social Responsibility

Corporate Social Responsibility

Corporate Social Responsibility is a very wide subject area. It covers everything from how you treat your staff, equal opportunities, supporting your local community, ethical business practise and  supporting charity through to caring for the environment.

For this article I would like to focus on the environment as it is today’s hot topic.

I am a hypocrite

I believe that we should be doing more for our environment and yet….

  • I drive a gas guzzling car – and I like it;
  • I use my car for most journeys of more than half a mile or so;
  • Most of the “things” I buy, I buy on-line and a gas guzzling van delivers them;
  • I have a bad habit of printing documents when I needn’t;
  • Most things I buy in supermarkets come with plastic in some form;
  • I leave lights on when I shouldn’t;
  • I fly abroad for holidays.

If I sit and think then I could come up with many more bad habits.

In business

If you are a small business then you should also be thinking about your bad habits and trying to do something about them. Some examples might include:

  • Have you swapped out your light bulbs for LEDs?
  • Have you considered buying your energy from a green energy supplier?
  • When staff need to travel for work, do you encourage them to use public transport where they can?
  • If you have lease vehicles for business use – are they green?
  • Could you install a vehicle charging point at your offices?
  • Do you actively look to source your supplies from ethical sources?
  • How good are you at managing your waste?
  • Have you thought about doing all your orders, invoices, remittances etc. electronically? You don’t need to print them.
  • Do you supply water in plastic bottles for your staff and/or visitors?
  • How good are you at switching lights and other equipment off when not in use?
  • Have you looked at more working from home, rather than your staff having to commute?

Depending on what type of business you are in, there are likely to be many more opportunities for you to do your bit and be a little bit more Socially Responsible.

We small businesses are not going to be able to save the planet all on our own, but that is no excuse for not being better than we are.

The current environmental issues are as much about mindset as anything else. We need to change, but first we need to WANT to change. This is the really hard part.

I hope this little article has inspired you to at least think about it, and make some changes.

worn out business


This is something you need to keep a close eye on. “Worn out” can apply to your team or to your products or services.


Let us consider the team first. Your team are the single most important aspect of your business. They can get worn out when you put too much load on them. We hear of many examples of people off work with stress. This is often because the manager has put too much pressure on the individual. Talk to your people and do something about it if they are not coping with the workload. People perform at their worst when they have too much to try and get done. There are then lots of knock on effects, not just to the individual but also to the quality of work they do. This then impacts on colleagues or customers.

It is fundamental that you really, truly care for your staff.

With regard to your products and services, it is equally as important to keep these fresh. People want the latest, newest, shiniest that is available. Your competitors are supplying them. This means that very soon your sales will drop because you are not keeping up.

You need to keep a constant eye on ensuring that what you provide is fresh and interesting. It is part of the same mantra that if you are not growing or constantly changing then you are effectively moving backwards in relation to your competition.

You should not be trying to play catch-up with your competitors but should be leading the way instead. New ideas, new thinking will make all the difference.

Getting worn-out can sneak up on you, both in your people and your products and services.


Keep a watchful eye.

Victory for your business


Winston Churchill is famous for his V for Victory sign. Also one of his characteristics was that he truly believed that victory would come, despite the odds. The lesson here is to truly believe in yourself. It is commonly said that you can achieve anything if you really believe that you can.


In business this belief matters at least as much as anything else. You need to have belief in yourself, belief in your team and belief in your product. You should adopt a policy of banning the word “can’t”. This negative attitude will mean that you actually “won’t”. It will mean that you don’t try, and consequently your business will languish.


Victory means success. This may be only a small success, winning an order from a new customer, receiving some positive feedback, or it could be no more than managing to get your customer to pay on time! All of these little things add up to business success – and business growth.


Business growth is not about some magic wand waving. Victory will come from getting all the little things right. It will come from “daring” to go for it. It will come from belief that your business can be a great success.


So, focus your energy on all those things that you know you need to get right. Think about some of the challenges you need to face and face them. Above all get into “positive thinking”. Start truly believing that nothing can stop you. Victory is there for the taking. There may be some hard work involved, but a little bit of hard work never hurt anyone.

you are unique

You are unique

Your business is unique. There is nothing else quite like it, and you should celebrate this uniqueness. I work with many businesses, mentoring, coaching and advising. I have never yet found any two businesses the same. This means that their problems and difficulties are always different. More importantly it means that your opportunities are also unique.

You have something that no-one else does. It may be that your product is just that little bit different to everyone else’s:

  • In the way you serve your customers;
  • Your pricing;
  • The way you package it, (think of bouquets of flowers);
  • After sales service;
  • Uses of your product.

It could also be the way you go about your business. This could range from how you work with your teams through to the way you market your business.

You hear phrases such as “niche marketing” or your “Unique Selling point (USP)”. These are important and define you and your business. The secret of growth and success is understanding your uniqueness. It is understanding what it is that makes you special and then finding the customers that want that. It can even mean you “persuade” customers that they want it.

Get underneath what is so special about you and your business. You should also make sure that you understand why this matters to your customers.

An Example

Perhaps you pride yourself on how well you look after your staff and can honestly say that your team love working for you. This will mean that your team will really care about how well you do and will care about how well they treat the customer, (After all it is in their interest for the business to succeed, because it is such a great job!). This message will soon get out and you will grow as a result.

Identify what is unique and special about yourself and tell the world about it. Celebrate it and nurture it. It will pay you dividends.

working from home

Working from home

This is an entreaty to all employers. Let us encourage more of our staff to work from home.

Many businesses are now looking at allowing their people to work from home. The problem is that this is not happening anywhere near enough.

There is a very long list of reasons why this is beneficial and a very short list of reasons for NOT doing it. Whilst I accept that there are some jobs that cannot be done from home, (an example might be digging holes in roads), conversely I passionately believe that there are massive opportunities for everyone if businesses would look harder at this subject and get more pro-active.


The most obvious beneficiaries are our staff. Some of the benefits could include:

  • More flexibility with balancing work and home life;
  • Less time wasted travelling;
  • Less stress when travelling;
  • Can work in an environment of their own choosing rather than an imposed one.

 The business

Benefits to the business might include:

  • Happier staff – improved staff retention;
  • Able to recruit easier (they will WANT to work for you!);
  • Less office space needed;
  • No problems with people travelling to and from work in poor weather;
  • Less opportunity for illness to spread around the office.

 The environment

For me, I really do think that if we get serious about allowing people to work from home, then we could significantly reduce the amount of travelling that we do. How much less air pollution would there be? Cars would also produce much less noxious gas contributing to the greenhouse effect? Also how much easier would travel be for those that have to travel?

The disadvantages

The usual retort from business owners is one of “How do I know they are working when they should be?” This question makes by blood boil. Furthermore, we are no longer living in the Victorian era. The reality is that:

  1. Any member of staff given this freedom and trust from their company is going to be much more likely to want to stay employed by them, and
  2. People actually do MORE work if they work from home

In this day and age, setting up the technology is relatively easy – you can switch company phones to mobiles and computer access is easy.

There are always going to be SOME circumstances where your staff have to work from an office somewhere, but a little bit of an extra caring attitude could benefit everyone. So let’s start putting more thought into what people want and as employers – give it to them.

I would like to see office buildings full of office workers, become a thing of the past. Let’s get 21st century.

So – if you are considering encouraging more working from home – take the plunge.

If you are not – then I urge you to do so.


Timeliness is vital

There are two main parts to timeliness to consider. Firstly punctuality, and secondly, doing things at the right time.


One hears many stories about the effects of being late. Missing the plane or train or missing the important appointment. In actual fact there is something rather more fundamental about being late and that is that it is just plain rude.

If you are going to a meeting, what message are you giving someone if you are late? You are saying that this meeting is not desperately important to me. I have not made any special efforts to be there on time. Something else I was doing was more important that coming to see you. More than that, it can cause problems with those you are seeing. They may have other things planned and your lateness means they have to cut the meeting short or turn up late for something else or even just spend less time doing something than they had planned.

Another aspect is that of your working time. If your work start time is 9am, it is simply not good enough to turn up for work at 9am. You are being paid to START at 9am, so need to be there before that so that you are ready to start at 9am.

The final point about being late is that you “antagonise” the other person. You start your meeting with them being unhappy or feeling negative. You are on a back foot before you start.

At the right time

Timeliness also means doing things at the right time. Get your invoices out when they are ready. Talk to the unhappy staff member immediately, don’t leave it to fester. Reply to your emails, even if only to acknowledge them. Get the customer order to the customer when you have said you would.

Effective time management is very important. It can mean the difference between success and failure. Getting it right won’t mean you always succeed, but getting it wrong will lead to problems.


What is a Director?

As business owner you probably give yourself the title of Director or Managing Director or something similar. Whatever you call yourself – you are the director. Stop for a moment and have a little think about what the word “Director” actually means. Keeping it simple, it means to direct something.

You need to be directing your business, (sometimes you will hear the phrase working “on” rather than “in” your business).

This is often one of the biggest difficulties of business owners of small businesses. I also hear excuses such as “someone’s got to do it” or “if I don’t do it, no-one will”, “I’m not a big enough company for me to be able to afford to take a back seat and let someone else do everything”.

All of these points are valid – TO AN EXTENT.  The point is certainly that if YOU are not setting the direction, there is no-one else who can or will.  You are a very expensive resource to be emptying the bins every day!!

Take some time out and MAKE some time to do things like planning, strategy, setting goals, giving your team goals and objectives, identifying key priorities and setting things off that will get you there.

When I talk with business owners most will accept that they need to be putting time into this and recognise the importance of doing it. Very few then actually do something about it. You really do need to find that time – you will be richly rewarded.

true customer care

Care for your customers

Customer Care is a subject I feel passionately about.

Customer care really does matter. This is even more true in the modern world where there is a plethora of suppliers that the customer can go to. You will hear lots of phrases about customers such as “The customer is King” or “The customer is always right” but do you really think about this and apply it to everything you do?

If you really want to grow your business you must, must, must put your customers first. Give them what they want, meet their needs, go the extra mile etc. etc.

Customer Care is about really genuinely CARING. It must matter to you whether your customer is happy or whether they feel they have got what they wanted or whether they feel they have got a good deal.  Do they like working with you? Will your customers actively promote you to their friends and colleagues? Do they keep coming back for more?

Loyal customers

A really happy customer will not only remain loyal but will actively WANT to buy more from you and will enthuse about you to others. They will be hostile to anyone else trying to sell them a similar product. (“I would never buy my xxx from anywhere else…”).

Unhappy customers

The converse of this are those customers that feel vaguely dis-satisfied or disgruntled or even (perish the thought) ripped off. It can also be tempting to write these customers off. Perhaps you feel you should just try to stop doing business with them. Don’t. You can even turn round those customers that really don’t like you. After all, they have as much right as everyone else to good quality care. Furthermore if you convert one of these customers to one that will sing your praises, they will be more loyal than any other.

If your customers like you they will come back again and again. This will also mean that your reputation will grow and you will gain new customers.

Care for your customers – they matter more than anything.