Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Merry Christmas

It's been a lovely week of wrapping pressies, putting the cards up around the house and last minute shopping.

And this year I've received many wonderful ecards from various diverse friends, all from a fabulous site - so many that I ended up signing up myself!

It's actually a brilliant business model - you pay a one-off annual subscription of c£6 for which you can send as many cards as you like whenever you want, and of course the more cards you send the more likely Jacquie is to attract additional subscribers.

Once up and running all she has to do is focus on creating great new cards - and her customers do all the marketing.

What a fantastic business!!!

Have a lovely Christmas.


Monday, 22 December 2008

A Fire Inside: Thoughts on the Credit Crisis and the Creativity of Winter

My thanks to Nicholas Janni at Olivier Mythodrama for sending through the following insightful piece by visionary poet David Whyte:

Outside my window the wintry English fields spread, as they have for centuries to the dark, smoke blue line of woods that limit the horizon of the valley. A bright fire burns in the grate to my left, while outside I can hear the call of a barn owl cutting the still, even air. All is exactly has it has been for many a hundred year in these Cotswold hills where I happily find myself this winter's day.

Everything from horizon to horizon is eternal and quiet and seemingly unchangeable - except, that is, for one tiny but extraordinary portal I can open on this laptop to a parallel world of web-borne news, a world supposedly more real than the quiet one I inhabit this cold but beautiful evening. With a few clicks, I can enter an astonishing world of worry, anxiety and for many individuals, and indeed whole societies, material hardship, brought on by the cessation of credit.

Out of the hermetic silence of a quiet winter day I can take a few short steps and almost touch the sense of panic and the extraordinary breakdown in trust that has stopped the flow of currency from one person to another, one bank to another, one society to another. It is as if the cold hands of this financial season have touched every last monetary stream and rivulet, and frozen them over.

It is winter here in the countryside with all its well-loved beauties, but out in the world of money, it is winter with another form of terrible beauty, the winter of disappearance, immobility, and the worry fret and anxiety that comes from seeming to have very little shelter from its effects. It is always a trauma for the human psyche when those elements it has over-invested itself in at the periphery of life are withdrawn, and the spring-like world of growth and opportunity seems to close down, as if the old currencies have become worthless while we as yet do not know how to value or harvest the following season.

But this form of trauma has also been seen by many of our great religious, contemplative and artistic traditions as an invitation back to another kind of valuation, a return to a more internal focus, an opportunity to revive an old friendship with the place from which all the peripheries are recognized, priced and named. This internal, alchemical, almost catalytic core of identity-making and decision-making has long been associated with the soul of an individual; the part of us attempting to belong to the world in the biggest way it can; the part that witnesses our outer actions, stirs our conscience and quite often seems to be at odds with those other parts of us trying to game the system at the periphery.

It is interesting to think that what may be a financial trauma for the surface personality may be a break for freedom for a more serious, central core of the psyche, the part that understands its own mortality and secretly knows that it will eventually all come to a place where we have to give up on all the peripherals anyway, at that unknown, appointed crossroads when our particular individual life as we know it, comes to an end. In times of difficulty, it is tempting to think that creativity, vision and new possibilities must be put aside simply in order to survive.

It is tempting, when the financial tide goes out, to act from a sense of impoverishment; it easy to feel abandoned when the source and sense of our riches are no longer in the summer air but hidden deep in a form of winter potentiality. It is always very hard to understand that the world has shifted to another axis of generosity; one not so readily recognized.

When we feel bereft of one form of support we can easily forget that it is because we might be meant to put that particular form of comfort aside and look to a fiercer more internally grounded stage of our maturity, one that might emanate from a simpler but surer ground than the outer sky of mirrors and monetary instruments we might have constructed for ourselves in the so-called real world.

It also might be surprising to think that there are just as many forms of courage and creativity associated with disappearance and doing without; just as many satisfying elements of aliveness associated with a winter as with spring.

This central, core conversation to which we return in each succeeding winter is both nourishing and deeply disturbing, it seems heedless of any flimsy structures we may have erected, it seems fiery in that it burns familiar things away and yet provides another form of warmth emanating from a more nested, interior hearth.

In my experience the first necessity of an individual in finding this fiery, core conversation is a radical form of simplification. To get to the core conversation we have to withdraw from the edges. Whatever expenses we have been making at the margins of our lives in terms of emotions, finances or time-based commitment must be brought back to the central conversation that makes the most sense. Radical simplification often entails a seemingly ruthless withdrawal from secondary involvements, it also involves simplifying wants and needs to grant us another form of freedom not necessarily involved with the freedom to buy anything we want at any time.

Arguments for indiscriminate buying to revive the economy are circular and lock human beings into a never ending cycle of buying goods that are non essential, with everyone encouraged to live beyond their means, to the ultimate dismantling of the natural systems that supply those wants in the first place. The practice of radical simplification, however, might not mean living in a desire-less, enlightened state, but simply catching our desires as close to the centre of our experience as possible.

Practically, we can catch a need for an expensive new sports car early on in the process by buying a second hand version of the same, we can catch it even earlier, nearer to the center, by renting one every now and again, without having to go to expense of maintaining it, we can catch it very close in indeed, by attempting to live out directly the very qualities that underlie the desire itself. Without the prop of the car, we might try to cultivate a certain air of freedom as if the wind was always in our hair.

The withdrawal from the literal, over- concretized periphery where everything is counterfeiting for something closer in, almost always leaves us dealing in another more imaginative currency at the center. Now that our focus is shifting away from the peripheral bubble of promised riches, we are just beginning to be reminded again of the depths of poverty, both in the developing world and the United States where the social safety net for those in difficulty has been worn almost to nothing.

But it is exactly this re evaluation of the periphery and the renewed emphasis on what is essential that will bring spending back from mere baubles to infrastructure and education, back from foreign adventurism to a coherent approach to the sources of terror; in the United States especially there must be an attempt at a better health care system, a more cohesive, less poisonous political conversation and a renewed relationship with a world in desperate need for it to return to its foundational ideals.

This new faculty of valuation can be quite disturbing to the way we might have priced and measured out our life in the recent, unbalanced, heady times. The road of radical simplification almost always leads to the door of the great and unwanted unknown. The door to begin with seems to open on to nothing we at first can recognize.

To enter through that door we have to cultivate what Suzuki Roshi called beginner's mind, where we stop having to know and name everything in advance and allow ourselves the satisfactions of discovery and revelation. In doing this we actually start to re mould our identity in the form of the learner and listener.

Learning, listening and radically simplifying as we go we might have a possibility of opening up that catalytic core where very few elements need combine to create a great deal of new energy. A decision made from this core has enormous leverage on the outer world where we see, hear, work and have relationships.

This internal center appears when the outer peripheries have bankrupted themselves, fallen and become a loam that we must plough back to enrich the ground. In the depths of winter under the cold night of wind and stars and shut off from the garden, we look for those hidden and invisible springs that will uncoil, in the still summer air, each new, yet to be imagined rose.

Monday, 15 December 2008

£1 = 1 Euro

If there were any greater indication that the United Kingdom is in a gigantic mess look no further than our falling exchange rate. The £1 is simply dropping in value like a stone.

However, to paraphrase Napoleon Hill, 'In every adversity lie the seeds of opportunity'.

So, if I were in charge of this country, here's what I would be doing:

- Restore our manufacturing industry.
No, even with the exchange rate we may not be able to compete with China on price - but we could compete on QUALITY.
Anyone else sick of cheap imports that break within days or weeks?
Anyone else remember the days when things actually LASTED?
I would be reinstating the 'Made in Britain' tag with regulated standards and pride in British workmanship to re-establish our brand worldwide.

- Restore our farming industry.
All but lost, and now imports from Europe are incredibly expensive. Yet we have acres and acres of verdant fertile soil.
Let's use them - and at minimum become self-sufficient in inexpensive food for all.

- Encourage future growth industries.
There's a huge tide in entrepreneurial instinct in this country.
Let's use business incentives wisely to divert this talent and passion away from 'no hope sectors' and into future growth sectors - like renewable energy, bio tech science and alternative therapies/well being.

- Encourage tourism like mad.
Britain may not have the best weather but it is incredibly beautiful. The weak pound now makes us a very cheap destination.

- Encourage enterprise skills in schools with a passion. Soon the days of being 'an employee' will be gone forever.

What's needed right now is long term, joined up thinking.

Not short term fixes.

Let's look at what real value and competitive advantage we can create in this country - and then GO FOR IT !

With the decline in the financial services sector it's our only hope to re-establish ourselves as a worldwide 'power' economy.

Friday, 12 December 2008

Christmas Surprises for my birthday...

I came back home to Bakewell last night after a couple of days in London to a lovely surprise - a Christmas Card from David Cameron!

Then what should arrive in this morning's post but one from HRH Prince Charles !!!

Wow I must be moving up in the world...

[Sorry, I am just a humble Essex girl; these kind of things impress me I'm afraid.]

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Jofli Bear

Great breakfast gig at Barnsley and well worth getting up at 5am for...

Here I am with Jofli Bear, a great gift concept, the bear with a travel log and scrap book which records where he's been and who he's met. Fabulous business idea!

Monday, 8 December 2008

Barnsley Bites Back at the Credit Crunch!

OK back to 'business'...

Several people have asked me to announce where I'll be speaking next.

Well tomorrow morning I am at a breakfast event in Barnsley, the topic is 'Barnsley Bites Back at the Credit Crunch'. I'll be kicking off the event with a keynote speech, followed by 4 specialist speakers each giving practical advice and tips on how to survive the recession.

It looks to be a great event - it's being organised by Business Link Yorkshire at the Brooklands Hotel, Barnsley from 8am to 11am. There are currently only 14 places left, tickets are FREE and you can book by calling 08456 048 048 .

Look forward to seeing you there!


Friday, 5 December 2008


I've just been reviewing all your comments on the last post...

What a kerfuffle!

Anyway, just to say apologies for not having posted anything recently. To be honest I am quite depressed at the moment. No particular reason, just that low energy thing that occasionally descends where my normal enthusiasm and passion aren't flowing as they should.

Maybe it is because I am 44 next week, maybe it is because I haven't managed to get any Christmas cards written or the Christmas tree up yet or maybe it is because I am worried for the future.

Anyway I just wanted to let you all know how much I appreciate your participation on my Blog. It has become one of my most enjoyable pastimes - and it just wouldn't be the same without the Stephens, DLOGS, Annes, Cs, Brads and Anonymice of this world...


Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Thanks a bunch Darling

I'm just incredulous that Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling think that a 2.5% cut in VAT is going to kick start the economy by getting consumers spending again.

Firstly, retailers can't even shift the stuff on 20% off super duper mega discount splurge days.

Secondly, has anyone in the Government ever had any experience actually running a business? If so they would realise that the administrative cost - not to mention the sheer hassle - of changing all their prices (including the cost of re-printing catalogues and menus etc) is an absolute nightmare. And is any retailer really going to reduce their price from £9.99 to £9.78? I think not.

A friend of ours is the retail director of one of Britain's biggest chains. He has 20,000 different products on sale at 300 stores. We've already offered to send our children over to help out with all the re-labelling...

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Should We Re-Possess People's Homes?

A friend of mine Emma Harrison (she's the social entrepreneur who runs A4e which manages a lot of the government training schemes) was explaining to me recently about understanding the 'lifetime value' of every member of society.

All the time you are in work or enterprise or producing in some way you are adding value to an economy, and every time you are in education, training, hospital, prison, on benefits, drawing pension and so on you are a cost.

Therefore your lifetime value is all the value you bring over the years minus all the cost of supporting you along the way.

It follows that ensuring people are healthy, happy, secure, well-trained and employable is the best way of creating long term value and prosperity.

So WHY OH WHY are we allowing all these state owned banks to re-possess people's homes? (Not to mention HMRCE being the main initiator of so many bankruptcies...)

When someone loses their home they are an immediate and long term cost to society.

The likelihood is that they will go on benefits, need council housing, their security confidence and happiness are immediately destroyed and the stress is the most likely cause of long term illness. It takes a long time to recover from that kind of meltdown.

It is simply not joined up thinking to allow these re-possessions to happen.

The Government should be taking immediate action to prevent banks making people homeless so easily. And if the court does order a re-possession there should be an obligation for alternative accommodation to be sourced (this could be council housing, but a better option would be to provide a guaranteed tracker rate re-finance over a cheaper property to replace the old, more expensive mortgage).

Yes this may cost. But compared to the long term cost of making tens of thousands homeless and/or bankrupt along with the associated social meltdown it is surely worth it?

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

The Chain Reaction

It's not often that I attend conferences where I'm not due to speak, but something urged me to get along to the Chain Reaction event - all about international social leadership - yesterday at London's South Bank.

The attraction for me was a session entitled 'Can Entrepreneurs Change the World?' (to which the answer is of course 'YES WE CAN!') - but I was intrigued to know what the line up of Peter Jones, James Caan and Sir Richard Branson (albeit by video) amongst others made of the debate.

I often make the joke in my after-dinner speeches that Peter Jones rarely bothers to show up at enterprise events unless Gordon Brown is speaking - and true to form an unexpected bonus was the appearance on stage of our very own PM Gordon Brown.

And so we had them. Peter Jones swept in no doubt by his chauffeur driven Maybach to tell us that 'Scarcity is a real driver of innovation' and 'Am I the only one on the positivity bandwagon here?'; James Caan telling us that making money is brilliant because then you have lots to give away to charity like Bill Gates does; and then Sir Richard Branson beamed in via a pre-recorded satellite link where he was clearly sitting on the sun-drenched terrace of his holiday home on Necker Island, telling us how wonderful it is to encourage enterprise.

Finally Gordon Brown joined the debate, who reminded me of a Finance Director I used to have who arrived at every Board Meeting looking a bit shabby and crumpled, so busy scribbling notes on to a bit of a paper during the debate that he didn't really seem to be paying attention to much of what was going on, whose every bit of body language seemed to scream 'No you can't!', only to get up and tell us with as much gusto as he could muster that the UK economy was due to double in the next 20 years and that NOW REALLY IS a great time to be in business.

Meanwhile, back over here in the real world, before I set off for London yesterday morning I opened three emails all about entrepreneurs absolutely on the knife edge brink of bankruptcy, about to lose their homes, and in desperate need of my help (or anybody's help for that matter) while meantime at the weekend my own husband received a letter from his company stating that one person in his team of three at work would be made redundant this week, as a result of the tightening economy. By the way, I don't have an army of PAs handling all my correspondence, plus I go and talk to entrepreneurs around the country at business events every week, so I really do feel that I am at the sharp end of what is really going on.

Maybe I should reassure all of these people that, not to worry, in 20 years' time everything will be OK?

The only speaker who really captured the imagination of the audience yesterday was the fabulous Tim Smit, founder of the Eden Project, who spoke with passion about the ability of business to deliver so much more than the constricted City-lead profit expectation of big corporates, whose CSR initiatives are nothing more than a few marketing frills to attract extra shoppers. In other words the current system of capitalism and 'much to few' isn't working - not for business, not for individuals and certainly not for the environment. He would be my vote for PM (or at minimum Minister for Business) any day.

It was a great event and I'm glad I went but all of this left me a bit angry.

Real businesses currently on a knife edge don't need this patronising happy clappy rhetoric from those living in a fur lined sunshine bubble any more.

Firstly we need an urgent law which will suspend the ability of any UK citizen to lose their home until the economy has recovered. And we also need an emergency fund which can intervene to help struggling businesses re-finance in the short term as well as give them advice to help them to restructure and adapt their businesses to get back towards profitability in the long term.

And if I were involved in 'restructuring the global financial architecture' I would start with the premise that capitalism as we knew it cannot be the basis for generating future prosperity for our planet and its people.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Have you got news for us?

Another chance to attend the fabulous workshop on PR for small business run by my PR Louise Third of Integra Communications and Daily Express Business Columnist Maisha Frost...

It's at the British Library Business Centre on 11 December 2008 from 5pm to 7.30pm and costs £47.50 + VAT.

Well worth going along for the secrets of how to promote your business inexpensively through the power of PR - my favourite form of marketing!

Friday, 7 November 2008

Bizchicks vs The Eggheads

Something I've been keeping under my hat that's more exciting to report than the 1.5% cut in interest rates - and even more exciting than the election of President Obama...

Yes, the Bizchicks vs The Eggheads episode is due to be screened on Monday 10 November at 6pm on BBC2!

Here we are on set with the Eggheads and the delicious Jeremy Vine - Lynne Franks (PR guru supreme and founder of Seed Network), Emma Harrison (Social Entrepreneur and CEO of A4e), Laura Tenison (founder and CEO of JoJo Maman Bebe) and Gill Fielding (wealth guru and CEO of The Wealth Company).

I can't reveal whether we defeated the Eggheads but we did the show in aid of NEMA the charity which is working to relieve poverty in Mozambique.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

A New Era Dawns

Woke up this morning at 4.30am with the burning desire to go switch on the TV and see what was going on in the US...

And just witnessed Obama's incredibly powerful midnight victory speech.

It feels like we are at the dawn of a new era not just for America but for the whole world. The election of Obama is the signal that people ARE crying out for change; towards a more collaborative, peaceful, fulfilling way of existing, at harmony with others and with the world.

Feels like we had to go through the awful 8 years of George W Bush tyranny of war and greed, and the resulting financial and environmental meltdown, and emerge from that dark tunnel to enable us to appreciate the power of this bright new future. One of hope and daring to dream.

Times, they are a changing.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

We need a new vision to live by...

Many thanks to Nicholas Janni at Olivier Mythodrama for sending me the following article from the Times this week by Ben Okri:

Our false oracles have failed. We need a new vision to live by.

So many people are now saying the same things.

"Success justifies greed and greed justifies indifference to fellow human beings."

Seems to me we need a new definition of 'success'.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

If I Were President

Now that baby Jack has got into the habit of waking up at 6.45am I have got into the habit of watching Sky News Breakfast programme for my daily dose of worldwide meltdown and catastrophe. And on the show they have a great 5 minute cameo of historic/important people saying what they would do if they were President of the United States of America.

This morning's slot was a Red Indian campaigner for the rights of indigenious people who pointed out that the whole of the US constitution was based on theft and that what the US (and the world) needs is a move from patriarchy to matriarchy where people live with individual freedom but within communities which function as families with love at the heart of things and where resources are shared and each makes their own contribution in whatever way they can. The community educates the young looks after its old and also respects the land it occupies.

Which I thought was a wonderful way of putting it.

In short a more feminine and harmonious way of existing.

Now that the system which allowed brute force to grab all it could and rape the land, and whose greed has now lead to financial and environmental meltdown not to mention so much war and destruction, perhaps it is time to consider returning to a more natural and peaceful way of being?

Monday, 27 October 2008

Million Possible!

I love helping others on their entrepreneurial journey and last week was at the Business Show in Bolton speaking about my entrepreneurial experiences, signing copies of my book Business Nightmares and taking part in the panel for a Dragons' Den style entrepreneur pitch.

In return for me speaking the organisers gave me a stand at the show, which I gave to the Million Impossible team - here I am with Bradley Chapman (a regular commentator on my Blog) and his team. Next stop we will be at the Business Start Up Show in Olympia on 28/29 November.

I'm so privileged and honoured to be able to be part of such great events.

Sunday, 26 October 2008


I was at an All Party Parliamentary Small Business Group breakfast at the House of Commons this week; the subject was 'Growing or green - can businesses expand and stay ethical?'. Gathered were various MPs from all parties as well as entrepreneurs and influential people from various organisations.

One of the speakers was Andrew Valentine - co-founder of Streetcar, a pay-as-you-go car club which provides cars across the country for occasional use. So many people are now using this car share system instead of owning a car that every car they provide takes 6 off the road.

The other was David Boomer Head of Climate Change at the Institute of Directors.

There followed a debate about business and green issues and every time the discussion came down to one thing: MONEY. Eventually I made the observation that the thing that we had to change first before we could make any real in-roads to saving the environment was to move away from Capitalism; that the current financial meltdown had been caused because there was no real value underlying the huge growth of the past decade (all the money was borrowed and we now find never existed), and that given Gordon Brown's ambition to create a new 'global financial architecture' government actually has the golden opportunity NOW to do this.

Stunned silence from all present and then a flippant comment from the chair Andy Love, Labour MP for Edmonton who later blanked me.

After the meeting David Boomer said to me, 'What you said back there was pretty radical, but what I think you were trying to say was that what we need to do is move away from money as the measure for everything and replace it with a measure of true wealth.' Which I thought was a pretty succinct way of putting it.

True wealth = happiness, health, harmony, safety & prosperity, not just for oneself or one's family, but ultimately for everyone in the world.

I was laying in bed during one of my 3am wakeful moments recently, thinking to myself what would I call this new way of being?

Us humans have tried Capitalism, Communism, Facism, Marxism and then of course we have the great religions of the world all worthy, but also the reason for great violence and conflict.

The word I settled on was Harmonism.

Harmonism would celebrate the value of every individual but would have no space for ego.

Harmonism would recognise the desire for abundance, but have no room for greed.

Harmonism would encourage the magnificent energy of every individual but have no place for power.

Its values would be:


After the above thoughts had streamed through to me I went on Google and found a site for Harmonism, already sitting there in beauty and simplicity, saying much the same things.

I looked for the name/s of the person/people behind Harmonism - but there are none on the site. Why am I surprised? Of course there are no names! There don't need to be any.

Do Direct Marketing initiatives and Search Engine Optimisation all you like - a far more powerful way of communicating is to send your positive energy out to the Universe and let others who are tuned in to catch the essence of your thoughts.

Perfect synchronicity.

This is how Harmonism will spread - which is why the 'lightworkers' are simply focusing on helping people raise their vibration so they too can get 'tuned in'.

There IS great change coming, and this is how it will happen.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

The Tale

Once upon a time there was no ownership.

There was, as now, life and death, the strong and the weak, but if you took, you always gave something in return. Just as in-breath is followed by out-breath, so receiving was always followed by give away, or giving back. Sometimes this was as simple as giving praise, or thanks. Sometimes it was physical action, such as providing food or care, or the guarding of the young and tender. This applied both to other human beings and to trees, animals, plants, rocks, rivers, springs, fish, insects and all manner of earthly life.

Then there came to the land that was loved and cared for people who knew only ownership. They wanted to have, to hold and to take. Because they did not want others to have what they thought was theirs, they were obliged to defend what they wanted. Out of this defence grew aggression. Soon the ownership people got aggressive in advance of defence… just in case someone else made the mistake of taking what the ownership people thought was theirs. The strongest in the owning people got to have lots of what they wanted to own. The weakest got less. Soon the weakest began to feel that in failing to get, and own a lot, they were not as important or as good as the strong. But they wanted to be. So they tried to get, and to own, in any way possible, including aggression.

The land to which the ownership people came got to be owned. It got to be fought over, occasionally loved and appreciated, but mostly it, and life both above and beneath its surface, was taken, used, discarded and hoarded. The people who practiced give-away found that give-away too was taken.

Some people who lived give-away maintained the vision of that way of life even in the midst of Ownership. They called it The Way of Beauty to remind themselves, and perhaps others, of the loveliness of a life of praise and gratitude. They kept alive a way of being that was difficult to live in the midst of great having, taking, holding, hoarding and warring. They found it was better to keep the Way of Beauty not quite secret, but not quite open either. Ownership wanted everything, even what it did not understand. If it was something that it could not actually hold, hoard or make use of, then it wanted to be sure that no one else could have it, so Ownership took the life of others who might have something that Ownership could not understand.

In time, Ownership became the dominant way of life. With so much owning and warring and making of more and more things to own, life on earth grew further and further away from the Way of Beauty. More and more people born into the way of ownership realized their own discontent but did not know how to alter things. So some of the people who had quietly maintained the Way of Beauty agreed to be born among those who were steeped in Ownership. As children they tried to live give-away but often found that they had just the same experiences that they remembered from the time when the Ownership people first came to the land of the Way of Beauty. Many of these people steeped themselves in Ownership, but one by one, sometimes in partnership and from time to time in great gatherings or shared experiences, there came a stirring, an impulse to change or to bring about change.

These Way of Beauty in the midst of Ownership people were rarely clear and strong. Most of them had grown into a mixture of public Ownership and private Beauty. So even though they wanted to live differently they weren’t quite sure what the Way of Beauty meant. Was it enough to live it privately or in little communities? Could they hold on to possessions and still live give-away? These people wanted to live more beautifully but they found themselves having to defend their private Beauty against the aggression of Ownership. In short, they were thoroughly muddled, uncertain and sometimes a bit cross about not really belonging to Ownership or the Way of Beauty.

Mostly these people had forgotten the magic of praise, or wonder. But when magic struck, they remembered, not in words, but in ways of being or of feeling. Still they vacillated or cast doubts among each other or upon themselves. And so it came about that the Way of Beauty people born in the midst of Ownership began to journey to places on earth where the Way of Beauty was still remembered, or where beauty itself was so great that praise rose spontaneously. In this way these people grew stronger, more certain, and yet still they lived in part by Ownership. They tried to reason or think their way out of their double world, but that did not bring them to their inner wisdom. How to remind them of wholeness, of the inter-connectedness of all things, of the possibility of finding beauty within ownership?

Of course, only wholeness itself can remind anyone of the whole, so when these people were sufficiently willing or sufficiently desperate to abandon the notion of either/or, right/wrong, good/bad then there began the song of all the cells within the bodies of these people. Sometimes they listened; quite often they were caught unawares and heard or felt something that they could not explain. Best of all were the times when someone who remembered the Way of Beauty all the way through their being sang the songs of wholeness.

Then the people who knew the Way of Beauty but who had grown up in Ownership grew big and strong and beautiful. They were filled with peace. They knew more than they could speak. Then was it time for them to return to the lands that they had once loved and hear again the songs of praise that had once kept the Way of Beauty alive through all the cycles of the earth and stars.

This tale was written early in 2007 by Judith Seelig to speak, as she puts it, on behalf of all those people who still live the Way of Beauty despite the often rapacious presence of consumer interests in their landscape, and also to remind those of us who
are Western consumers that we have choice.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

The Future

As the G7 countries meet this weekend to discuss the financial crisis, it's tempting for them to come up with an incremental solution to the world's financial problems.

However, I believe they need to think ahead and work back from what could be a completely different and innovative way of working the system.

How about one international bank and one international currency? And how about letting the system re-base so that all current debt is wiped?

OK the rich would get poorer and the poor would get richer, and jobs would be lost - but then so would time be freed... And maybe people would be freed from the shackles to enable them to do real good in the world?

I read about the troubles in Iceland this weekend. Essentially a country in meltdown without even the money to pay for imports of food. Are we going to bail them out? Or let them live on fish?

Have we now got Western countries which now threaten to become third world countries?

Where does the bailout end?

Shouldn't the entire world now take responsibility for the entire world?

Friday, 10 October 2008

Why We Should Say No To Barclays

This is a bit of a delayed reaction post, in response to the news that Gordon Brown has offered Barclays (amongst other banks) a #7.5 billion refinancing package to get themselves out of their sticky financial situation.

This is the same Barclays that three years ago pushed my company Red Letter Days into administration on the grounds that we were an 'unacceptable risk' and they had to 'answer to their shareholders' - despite the fact they held #4.3 million in cash and other securities against a liability which eventually proved to be little more than #1million.

The same Barclays (which I have since learned through the numerous emails I have received from other entrepreneurs) which has the worst reputation of ANY UK BANK for ruthlessly pulling the plug on great British businesses which could otherwise have been saved.

The same Barclays that just two years ago posted a #7 BILLION PROFIT.

The same Barclays that just TWO WEEKS AGO danced Lehmans up the garden path - only to withdraw at the 11th hour and then go back in to cherry pick the assets, like a graverobber picking over the contents of the coffin while the corpse was still warm.

The fact that we are now offering #7.5 billion of TAXPAYERS' MONEY to bail this greedy, power hungry, ruthless bank out of financial difficulty is a total and utter disgrace and insult to the British people.

I say LET BARCLAYS CRASH - as they have allowed (forced?) so many other UK businesses to crash - then pick the entire business out of administration, sell off the assets and use the #7.5 billion (if it is needed) to supplement any funds which are needed to ensure depositors' monies are protected.

Give the b*stards a taste of their own medicine.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Emporer's New Clothes type question...

OK so the US has bailed out the banks to the tune of $700 billion, the UK has put up #50 billion to invest in ours, Ireland has guaranteed unlimited protection for savers in Irish banks and Iceland has just nationalised one of its biggest banks.

My question is, where is all the money coming from?

How much money do we actually have in the kitty - and how much have we now got left? Basic housekeeping type questions which I haven't yet heard anyone ask.

How long before the countries themselves go bankrupt?

News Alert From Japan

Latest Financial News from Tokyo:

The Origami Bank has folded, the Bank of Bonsai is trimming branches, the Sumo Bank has gone belly up, Kamikaze Bank has taken a nose dive, the Karaoke Bank has gone for a song, but the Ninja Bank is still in the black.

Plus there's something fishy going on at the Bank of Sushi...

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Mrs Angry of Bakewell

Yes, I am ANGRY.


Because today a good entrepreneurial friend of mine has told me that he is putting his company into a CVA (Company's Voluntary Arrangement).

Is this because his business is loss making?


It's actually a great British manufacturing company, which turns over getting on for £500k and is profit making every year.

The reason is that the business has fallen behind with their VAT. But instead of HMRCE being willing to negotiate terms, they are forcing the company into the action because of continued threats to send in the balliffs.

OK, OK I realise everyone has to pay their VAT, and if people don't it's not fair on all the rest.

BUT at a time when literally BILLIONS of pounds are currently being pumped in to try to make Britain a more enterprising culture, and encouraging people to go into business, WHY OH WHY are we condemning successful existing businesses to death in this way?

(Only about 5% of companies which set up in the UK go on to become profitable companies like my friend's)

Gordon Brown, Peter Mandelson, PLEASE - you guys need to sort out a more supportive solution for companies that get into trouble rather than just condemn them to death.

Call off the dogs and give these entrepreneurs some help in their time of need - so they can survive and be part of this country's future - not thrown on the scrapheap as another insolvency statistic.

Saturday, 4 October 2008

A Wonderful Evening at Cass

There's always a lot of pressure to deliver when you do a paid speaking event - my normal fee equates to around £1 a second - so it's quite nice to do one for free from time to time, and this week I was talking to the MBA students and alumni of Cass Business School in the City of London.

It was a wonderful evening during which we heard all about the new Peter Cullum Centre for Entrepreneurship including a new £10million seed fund available for Cass students, and then I spoke about my own entrepreneurial journey plus my book Business Nightmares.

A great audience, lots of questions, all my books sold out in seconds, plus a great networking session afterwards during which I was plied with copious amounts of wine.

Then yesterday I received the following email:

Hi Rachel,

I am Philip Mathew from Cass Business School. I was fortunate to attend your session yesterday. It was simply amazing. Thanks a lot for your great advice and help. The humbleness you have in spite of your achievements is what really touched me. Thank you once again.

Warm Regards,

It's great events and emails like that which keep me in this game!

Saturday, 27 September 2008

The Fifth Element

I wrote a while ago about meeting the amazing Richard Olivier at an event in Ireland. Richard is Sir Laurence Olivier's son and has used his experience as a theatre director to create the leadership training company Olivier Mythodrama.

Well, this week Richard very kindly invited me on one of their courses 'Leadership Presence: Developing Personal Impact and Peak Performance'.

10 of us took part, most of them top executives from big corporates and government organisations, many of whom had flown in from far flung places - Beijing, Johannesburg, Finland, Northern Ireland - and the event was made all the more special as it was held at Sir Laurence Olivier's family home near Brighton, crammed full of the most fascinating memorabilia not just from his life in the theatre but also the memorabilia of his wife, the actress Joan Plowright.

The course was run by Richard's business partner, the charismatic and profound Nicholas Janni, and was all about understanding your personal impact and ways to improve it. But there was also a strong spiritual element, which was that leadership is also about creating positive change in the world.

One of the most powerful exercises at the end of day 1 was to write a poem about something we felt strongly about and bring it next day to present to the group.

We didn't end day 1 until after dinner at 9.30pm and everyone was exhausted, so I went to bed and sent a message of intent for my poem to be delivered to me. Here's what I woke up with at 5.30am next morning; it is called The Fifth Element:

Our World.
Creaking at the seams.
Much to few
Unfairness reigns.

Cities burn
Markets churn
Mothers crying
Anger rising.
When will we learn?

In love with the tangible
We hold tight and cower
Door shut to the place of infinite grace
Closed off from true power.

Open your mind
Think of a time
When happiness reigned.
Great beauty above
Soft motherly love
Know we must change.

Let go and fall
With faith and grace
Into the space
Of delicious infinity
Where nothing is necessary
And once again
Be whole.

I have to tell you it was difficult for me to actually read my poem to the group such was the emotion it carried for me, and similarly everyone else's poems were incredibly powerful and poignant.

We started the course by making a 2 minute speech to the group, and we ended by making another 2 minute speech. The transition every single participant had made during those two days was simply phenomenal.

I have to say it was one of the most powerful courses I have ever attended in my life.

If you can't attend the course you may want to get hold of the book written by Richard and Nicholas Peak 'Performance Presentations: How to Present with Passion and Purpose' which contains much of the magic.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Why things must change...

My last post generated some interesting comments; here's my take on what's going on.

Mass consumerism is a very recent thing, it started post-war and really gathered momentum in the 1970's - suddenly it seemed you could have anything you wanted, but at a price. People started getting very rich - and as those of you have been rich will know - it is very addictive; you always want more.

So us entrepreneurs found cleverer and cleverer ways to entice you to buy more - brilliant marketing, enticing ads, messages that our product would make you sexier, thinner, more attractive. Fashion cycles accelerated and as soon as you had the latest thing, it wasn't the latest thing anymore - so was given to Oxfam. The world's resources started being consumed at an alarming rate.

And of course people's earnings could not keep up with the rampant demand, so a handy little thing called credit was introduced to enable the whole machine to continue being fed. The economy continued to expand, Gordon Brown crowed about his 'stable economy' and 'record growth' and for a while everything in the garden was very rosy.

But in the gold rush for more business, the financial institutions started getting a little reckless and started lending to people who really, really couldn't afford it. And so the inevitable started - defaults on loans, people posting the keys of their houses back through their bank's letterbox, thousands forced into bankruptcy and thousands more choosing it as an easy option to wipe their debt.

And the cancer of this 'sub-prime' debt spread throughout the banking sector as institutions swapped liabilities, undermining the whole financial system.

Hoping the problems were isolated, bits and pieces of government and institutional intervention followed; Northern Rock, Bradford and Bingley, RBS, Barclays, Merrill Lynch, AIG all bailed out in some shape or form. And now the US suddenly finds $800billion to try to solve the problem once and for all, the stock market shoots up, the traders breathe a sigh of relief - and everyone starts gambling again.

But it's obvious that this rampant consumerism can't continue.

There isn't enough money to feed the monster (especially now people are losing their jobs as well as their homes), there aren't enough resources in the world to feed the monster (especially now people are running scared through global warming), there isn't enough time to feed the monster (people are working harder and faster just to stand still) - and what's more, none of it is making anyone happy.

Plus how many crises and wars can the US rustle up the money for before the country itself becomes bankrupt?

Meantime, there is a growing awareness of the unfairness of a 'many to one' system in which capitalism allows a small number of individuals to share the spoils at the expense of the many billions who live on our planet in poverty, too weak to be able to fight their oppressors.

So, to me, the predicted 'Apocalypse' is not anything about an asteroid colliding with Earth, it is about the necessary breakdown of the current way of working to allow a new world order to come in.

My view is that this new world order will be able to meet every one's needs (not greeds) in a much fairer and collaborative way, in harmony with the planet and one another. Already there is an awakening of the 'collective consciousness' which is calling people towards a more spiritual way of existing.

Our human efforts to change things (what one might call the 'low energy light bulb' approach) are not enough to cut it; when the Universe finally delivers the solution mankind needs (and we are just starting to glimpse the changes now) it will deliver in a spectacularly powerful and infinitely intelligent way.

Friday, 19 September 2008

Apocalypse Now

A few months ago I placed a post about talk of an impending Apocalypse in 2012 and the prediction that preceding this there would be a meltdown in the financial markets...

About the same time I had a meeting with Merrill Lynch on quite a different matter, during which I mentioned the Apocalypse theory - much to the shock and disbelief of those present (who clearly thought I was a nutter!).

Well, yesterday I received an email from one of the guys at Merrills who was at that meeting, to say 'Rachel you were right' - and pointing me to an article in the FT yesterday along similar lines.

It seems that even in the Alpha male world of money, greed and power there are those (the short sellers) whose avarice is now being frowned upon... It is not an external enemy that will destroy the financial markets; it is the beast of greed that will end up consuming itself.

If we are to have a new beginning there first has to be a breaking down of the old structure; in my view we are heading to a world in which there is a much fairer distribution of wealth. A world where we are starting to live in harmony with one another and the planet.

This week's events are just the beginning.

Saturday, 13 September 2008

On Going Vegetarian

DLOG mentioned in his comment to my last post that I was a vegetarian and I was explaining to him when we met over lunch this week how this came about...

Not that I didn't like the taste of meat you understand - there was nothing more delicious to me than a barbecue cooked steak - I was just becoming increasingly uncomfortable about eating an animal that had been killed for my gastronomic pleasure.

Added to this, we live close to the farmers' market in Bakewell (i.e. the place where they trade cattle, sheep, pigs etc), where on market days you can hear the moans of the animals in their pens all day and through the night, waiting to be sold to the highest bidder.

But the final straw was going to one of Mr Badger's friends (also an Alpha Male) for a party where a whole baby pig was being spit roasted, trotters hacked off and eyes still in his little head. Ugghhh!

I've delayed writing this post - so its now been 6 weeks since I stopped eating meat; here are a few observations.

Firstly, from research, the human body only needs 50g of protein a day which is easily obtained from a whole variety of beans, seeds, nuts and vegetables - as well as milk, eggs and cheese. Contrary to popular belief, it's simply not necessary to eat meat.

Secondly, I feel lighter, healthier and fitter, and I've also lost a lot of weight.

Thirdly, that most of the flavour in dishes is actually in the sauce - the meat is just a carrier, so substituting it with potatoes or beans is just (if not more) delicious.

Fourthly, shopping bills are noticeably lower...

Finally, that most restaurants/pubs seem to have a single, gratuitous and usually pretty unimaginative concoction as their vegetarian 'alternative' afterthought. It's pretty disgraceful!

But when a restaurant does vegetarian well it is absolutely delicious - like the meze platter I had at Ozer where DLOG treated me to lunch.

I'm still cooking meat for the family - not eating beef is rather alien to my Yorkshire husband, plus I have 5 growing boys - but at least by having a vegetarian option available at every meal they can now choose whether or not they wish to eat 'dead animal'!

As meat costs spiral I think more and more people are going to realise they simply don't have to eat quite so much meat, if any at all!

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Rachel aka Linda Lucious

Well, today has been interesting to say the least.

Firstly my second lunch with the charming DLOG. Which went to prove there IS such a thing as a free lunch...

Secondly, an evening at the Soho Revue Bar for the launch of the new book The Accidental Pornographer by Gavin Griffiths. I was honoured to have been asked to write the foreword; all guests were given a name badge with their aka ... Of which mine was Linda Lucious! Seriously though, it's a great book, hugely funny and well worth a read.


Tuesday, 9 September 2008

From Strength to Strength

I was incredibly proud to have been invited to the opening of PhotoArtistry's new premises in Northampton last week.

PhotoArtistry is the UK's leading digital print reproduction company and their products are just fantastic.

Here I am with Anne Herbert, founder and CEO - who I have been mentoring for the past year or so - who has done a brilliant job of bringing the company's sales from strength to strength.

It's so wonderful to see entrepreneurs blossom!

Saturday, 6 September 2008

The Five Magic Words

Well, I am currently preparing for my next Entrepreneurial Masterclass at the British Library Business Centre - 17 entrepreneurs booked this week to take a step back from their business and get clarity about their brand and ways they can potentially market their business more successfully...

It's a very practical course, and one of the exercises I set is to arrive at the 5 words which sum up their brand. For example MAGICAL + CHILDLIKE + FANTASY + KINGDOM + FUN can only be Disney; Disney now 'owns' these words - and that's very powerful from a marketing perspective.

So my question to you this Super Saturday is: What 5 words do you think I have chosen to sum up the 'Rachel Elnaugh' brand?

Closest answer by next Friday (12 September) gets a FREE place on my next Masterclass on 22 January 2009 - worth £495 + VAT.

Sunday, 31 August 2008

Great Publicity!

I was a little perturbed (miffed?) to read in today's Sunday Times that Katie Price had been nominated 4th in a BT Tradespace poll of Britain's 'most admired entrepreneurs'.

Naturally I had to find said poll - to find out where I had been rated of course - only to discover that it consisted of 10 choices of entrepreneur with just 119 votes cast, of which Katie received 9. Highly conclusive then...

But what great publicity for BT Tradespace!

Friday, 29 August 2008

Quality of Vibration

Further to my last post about Gratitude I thought I'd write a bit further about the Law of Attraction, and my own experience of how the quality of your vibration is really key in getting good results...

As SKY commented on my last post, whatever you are putting out there in terms of your vibration pretty quickly starts to show up in every area of your life.

For example, last week I was on holiday in the Algarve, reading Esther Hick's book Ask and It Is Given, enjoying every moment of the beautiful sunshine, the kids having fun playing on the beach, eating delicious food and generally vibrating in a place of joy, positivity and empowerment.

I then came back home to 400 emails full of great wonderful stuff - new opportunities, fan mail from America (Dragons' Den has just started airing there), lovely thank you emails from people who'd read my book Business Nightmares, various invites to speak at business events plus some nice cheques in the bundle of post.

Then this week we took the kids to London and had a very stressy, angst filled couple of days... Returned home and next day had a visit from a business acquantaince (who I thought was popping by for a coffee and a catch-up) who was incredibly negative and nasty to me (her own energy soured by various events in her life) - to the extent that I ended up asking her to leave my home. (By the way, this is someone who constantly puts out requests for more money but is constantly penniless and scrimping, because the money never seems to manifest.)

Plus various irritating emails and negative blog comments also showed up on the same day.

Luckily I was conscious of what was going on - I had allowed my personal energy to slip and so had attracted the negativity, which was sucking me further down the spiral - and immediately started to restore my equilibrium by focussing on positive things. And today has already been 1000% times better than yesterday!

The point I am making is that whatever frequency you vibrate at will attract things with a similar frequency into your life. Therefore the simple act of trying to stay positive (even in the face of hatchet faced bitches arriving on your doorstep!!!) works wonders to attract wonderful things into your life.

The more consistent and stronger your vibration, the faster the energy will flow - and the better the results will be, especially as they build over time.

I'm still working on it (you may have noticed I do still get a little angry when people piss me off) - but I will know I have been totally successful at this when I no longer attract any negative comments on my Blog !!!

Have yourself a great weekend!

Monday, 18 August 2008


There are moments in life where everything feels so perfect that you can't help sitting and relishing the wonderfulness of the moment... Those moments can be as simple as sitting in the garden watching the children play or sitting on the verandah of a 5* hotel enjoying the warm breeze and a cool spritzer.

Today I am revisiting one of my now favourite books (which arrived into my life directly as a result of a comment on this blog)- Ask and It Is Given by Esther Hicks. It has reminded me that the source of the Universe is a stream of well-being and joy, available to everyone to the extent that they allow it...

It has also reminded me that the most powerful gift you can give yourself is to fully experience the delicious joy of the moment, and in that moment you have the absolute power to shape your destiny.

Enjoy the moment!

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Changing Opinions...

Now I am on the train I will write a slightly longer response to the comments from the 'anonymice' elsewhere on this blog that I 'have a breathtaking inability to see myself as others see me'.

As the person who reads my postbag/email inbox, as well as receiving google alerts on myself for the past 3 years I think I am probably in the unique position of being the only one able to truly assess public opinion.

Immediately after RLD crashed I would agree there was a lot of hate - probably one piece of hate mail to every two messages of positive support.

These days there's still the odd nasty message (or blog comment) but for every negative one there are now 99 positive ones - whether in response to speeches I have made, from people who've read my book, taken my profiler or who I have helped in some way.

How have I done this? Through a three year long process of focusing my energy on helping people in the small business sector, being candid about my experiences and the associated emotions, and generally being accessible via my Blog as well as replying to my own emails ( rather than having a PA bat back responses).

The work continues, but I would suggest that it is the 'anonymice' who are the ones stuck in the past with the breathtaking inability to see that their views on me are old and outdated.

Time to move on guys don't you think?

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

The £Million Desk

I've got some wonderful clients and none more so than Northampton based PhotoArtistry. They reproduce digital prints in all types of media - on canvas, wood block, aluminium and embedded in acrylic - and in return for my help created this beautiful bespoke acrylic desk for my new office.

Those of you who follow feng shui will know that it's good to have lots of wealth and money symbolism in the area you work; the desk is a bed of £50 notes sandwiched in acrylic, and is a nod to the piles of money the Dragons had in the Den.

Thank you PhotoArtistry - the desk is just fabulous and is loved by everyone who sees it!

Friday, 8 August 2008

WrapIt Crashes

You may have seen the news that WrapIt, the wedding gift list company, went into administration this week after its credit card takings were bonded by its bank.
Exactly the same scenario that happened to Red Letter Days in 2005 and Farepak in 2006.
In Red Letter Days' case, Barclays bonded £3million of the company's cash (as well as holding a further £1.25million in other security against their perceived contingent liability on experience vouchers purchased by credit card), causing a cashflow crisis which forced the company into administration.
12 months after the company crashed, the cost of fulfilling the vouchers claimed by customers (and bear in mind the media surrounding the collapse caused a huge run on vouchers) was less than £1.5million. The rest of the bonded money, instead of going to the company's creditors, went as a 'bonus' to the new owners of the company. This was a deal done by Barclays and the administrators which to my knowledge was never reported to the creditors.
The practice of 'bonding' a company's takings in the way that happened to RLD and Farepak and WrapIt will almost always certainly cause the business to fail. Its quite easy to see why the bank takes the action it does, justifying that it needs to protect itself in the event the company fails but this always becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
If we are to prevent similar business failures, the legality of the practice of 'bonding' should immediately be reviewed by DBERR. In my view bonding acts to make the bank a preferential creditor which I believe under current insolvency law is illegal.
If credit card facilities are extended to a company without bonding terms (effectively giving that company the ability to utilise revenue as working capital, upon which they will then base their financial forecasts) then banks simply should not be allowed to alter the terms of the agreement down the line, at least not without a minimum of 12 months' notice.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

The Million Makers

In my new capacity as Ambassador for The Prince's Trust I was proud to be asked to Chair a 'Million Makers' event for them last Friday - a brilliantly innovative idea where companies create enterprising teams who are awarded £3,000 seed funding and are challenged to turn it into £20,000. 50 teams across the UK are expected to take part with the total result that £1million will be raised to help The Prince's Trust support more young people to get into business.

Our Dragons' Den style panel gave really helpful and positive feedback to three fantastic teams from Flogas, RBS and SpecSavers - here I am with my co-Dragons from left to right Colin Walton (Chairman of Bombardier), Brian Kingsley (Director, Specsavers), Paddy Kilmartin (CEO Flogas), Liz Smith (Regional Director, RBS), Nic Hanlon (Associate Director, RBS) and Darryn Hedges (CEO, Bridge McFarland), together with Mir Juma (Regional Director, The Prince's Trust).

The DLOG Blog

At my suggestion The DLOG has created a Blog - so why not swoop by and leave a rude comment or two? :-)

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Red Letter Days still in the Red

Last week was a painful anniversary for me - 1 August 2005 was the date my first company Red Letter Days went into administration, 16 years after I founded it.

An administration which could have been avoided had I managed to raise £2million in equity to match a bank finance offer from HBOS of £2million before I ran out of time. The company of course already had £3.3million cash at bank (most of it held in bond by Barclays which they wouldn't let us touch) so the additional injection would have given it the liquidity it needed to trade through, correct its various problems and then float on AIM.

Interesting therefore to see the latest accounts of the new Red Letter Days just filed - which show a £2.8million loss to 30 September 2007 - that's cumulative losses of nearly £10million (£13million if you exclude the £3million handed to the new owners on a plate by Barclays) since the company was acquired out of administration for the 'bargain' price of £250k.

Losses which are, of course, still being blamed on the old company, despite the fact that most of the old company's vouchers expired on 31 July 2005 and those remaining in retail all expired well before the end of the previous accounting period.

The sad fact is that pushing an ailing company through an administration process is a really tempting trap. The thinking goes: wipe the debt, take the brand and everyone's a winner - except of course the old owners.

The reality is that the administration process DESTROYS huge amounts of value.

In Red Letter Days' case, as a result of the high profile media fallout the brand was severely damaged, it caused a run on voucher claims - which the voucher owners would probably have forgotten about if the crash hadn't been so high profile - and the majority of the suppliers had to be paid out anyway because there is a finite number of experience suppliers in the UK, and these suppliers refused to honour any new bookings unless all old debts were paid.

Think how much cheaper it would have been for the new owners just to have injected the £2million equity required (which, under the circumstances, would have secured a massive equity stake), let the company recover and then sell it on a year or two later at a massive premium (our Brokers predicted, given the profile of the brand, that the float value would have been c£25million).

But then sometimes greed just gets the better of people.

An expensive mistake to make!

And a reason why I urge the government to review the current administration and insolvency laws - which often act against the growth of UK enterprise.

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Dear Rachel

I am delighted to let you know that I am now the Business Agony Aunt for the Financial Mail on Sunday's online website

If you'd like my advice on any problem facing your business please email Featured problems will appear on their website shortly!

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Will I return to the Dragons' Den?

One of the questions I am most often asked these days - especially given the new series which has just started on BBC2 - is: Will I ever return to Dragons' Den?
(Apparently people believe my re-appearance would introduce a slightly more feminine and compassionate element to the panel.)

The answer is, of course, no!

Firstly, because most of my work these days is in the small business sector, inspiring, motivating and helping entrepreneurs on their business journey - and I don't feel that the 'coliseum entertainment' nature of the show is conducive to encouraging entrepreneurship in the UK.

Secondly, because I'm still in financial re-build following the meltdown of Red Letter Days and not currently undertaking any angel investment.

And thirdly because I'm sure the BBC would never invite me back!!!

But I do agree that the show has become too formulaic and that the panel is in dire need of a shake-up...

But, hey, why ruin a good formula for 'entertainment of the masses' in favour of a show which is more representative and supportive of British enterprise?

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Lunch with DLOG

As you can imagine I get emails daily from people asking for my help and advice and I try to provide assistance where I can.

But just occasionally I get email bombardments asking for a one to one meeting so insistent and relentless that I occasionally succumb - usually if accompanied by the offer of lunch and a couple of glasses of white wine. And so it was today that I enjoyed lunch with an entrepreneur in the City and provided my insights on where to take his family business.

During the course of our conversation it became evident that the entrepreneur in question was none other than DLOG who regular followers of my blog will know is a regular comment maker.

I guess it just goes to show that persistence (one of the great traits of the entrepreneur) pays!

Most impressed by HSBC...

If you follow my Blog or have read my book Business Nightmares you will know that I have something of a love-hate relationship with banks. At last week's parliamentary session looking at ways we can encourage enterprise in the UK the crucial role of banks in supporting the business sector was discussed extensively and it is clear that banks have a huge role to play not just in providing support with initial funding but also providing positive help when a business encounters hard times.

Therefore I was delighted to be asked by HSBC for the second time to be part of a training programme yesterday for their small business retail team (this time the West Midlands region), to talk about the mindset of the entrepreneur and ways they can proactively support their small business clients. What an amazing, highly enthusiastic and dedicated group of people, under the charismatic leadership of regional director Leon Marklew.

My own business banking is with HSBC and I have found them to be absolutely fantastic. They are also in the wonderful position of having perhaps the best liquidity of any UK bank which means ( unlike many other major names) they actually have money to lend. If you are looking for a bank for your new business venture or are currently struggling with another bank, I really recommend you give HSBC a try. It could be the best business decision you ever made!

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Giving Evidence

Further to my last post, you can hear the entire audio recording of yesterday's parliamentary committee session by clicking here.

Doug was very vocal, particularly given that he has just finished a somewhat scathing report on the current state of business support in Britain, but I did manage to get a few words in edgeways!

The key outcomes were:
- If we truly want to encourage entrepreneurship in Britain then enterprise skills need to be woven throughout the educational curriculum.
- Formal enterprise qualifications (like an MBA for entrepreneurship) sponsored by the government could be put in place. Not intended to be compulsory, but banks and other backers might be more willing to finance individuals who have undergone proper business training. Such a qualification would definitely reduce the level of early start up failures.
- What businesses most need is customers. Therefore not only open government procurement to small businesses but also provide incentives/programmes where entrepreneurs can create products/services to solve areas of concern in the UK - for example energy innovation.
- The role of banks needs to be reviewed, not just to encourage more support for start ups but also their role in frequently 'pulling the plug' on businesses which could otherwise be saved. They need to be made as culpable as directors in any post business failure review performed by DBERR.
- Improve the EIS scheme to give 'friends and family' type investors bigger tax breaks for putting up funding for small business. (For example, under Thatcher's Business Expansion Scheme you received 100% tax relief for investments in small business)
- As in the US, your home should not be at risk if your business fails.
- As in the US, a 'Chapter 11' type provision should exist to assist companies in difficulty protect themselves while they restructure.
- We need to change our attitude towards business failure which is still considered a stigma in this country - towards an attitude like the US where failure counts as your 'stripes of experience'.

All in all it was a fascinating process to be part of - let's see if any changes emerge!

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Qualified by Experience

Yet another bitchy article in The Telegraph, this time criticising the Parliament's Business and Enterprise Committee for selecting James Caan, Doug Richard and myself to give evidence this week on how Britain can create a 'higher added value economy', on the basis that James and I have experienced the failure of a business and the fact that Doug has stated he admired Eos, the business class only airline which subsequently failed.

Not sure if the author Jonathan Russell has been living under a leaf for the past few months, but given the number of businesses which have already failed so far this year, and the number likely to crash and burn over the next year or so I would have thought ways to assist and support business survival would be pretty high up the agenda for any enterprise review.

Something like two thirds of all UK business start-ups fail within their first two years (with huge numbers of associated personal bankruptcies), and less than 10% of businesses will survive more than a decade. It's not only market conditions which are to blame; the current insolvency laws - which allows ailing companies to essentially phoenix themselves through an administration process, emerging next day with pretty much identical directors & shareholders, but wiped of their debt - are a huge contributor to the statistics.

How could one of the elite few entrepreneurs who has never experienced tough times in business (and believe me, there are very very few) possibly be able to give meaningful comment?

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Queen for a Day

For someone who used to run an 'experiences' company, my life seems to be full of them!

I was very honoured to be asked to crown the Bakewell Carnival Queen and lead the carnival procession at the weekend - here I am with the Mayor of Bakewell Carol Walker.

Unfortunately the Classic Car we were riding on over-heated towards the end of the route but two very kindly gentlemen ran out from the crowd and pushed us for the rest of the way! It could only happen in Bakewell...

My thanks to family friend Alan Fern for taking this photograph - he's based in Chesterfield and if you need a high quality professional photographer for any reason his number is 07966 546684.

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Yeah Baby!

The fabulous thing about my life is that I never know what is going to happen next!

I recently went to a book signing for Business Nightmares in Derby only to have Austin Powers lookalike Emilio Federico turn up with champagne and a lovely cake to thank me for helping inspire him to start up in business. He is an avid follower of Dragons' Den and decided to create his company Groovy Entertainment after watching the show.

He doesn't have a website yet, but if you would like Austin Powers to add a bit of mojo to your next party/product launch/whatever then you can contact him on 07971 556935.

Wow, how wonderful it is to have such great 'fans' !!!

Saturday, 28 June 2008

Amazing Piece of Synchronicity!

If you follow my Blog you'll know I am fascinated by the 'Law of Attraction'.

Yesterday I experienced an amazing example of it...

About a month ago I received an email from a guy called Paul Avins who'd read my book Business Nightmares, thought it was great and wanted to send me a book on the Law of Attraction as a thank you for writing it.

The book duly arrived, I read it, thought it was fabulous and sent Paul an email to the address on his compliment slip to thank him. The email bounced back, so I left the compliment slip on my desk with the thought 'I must find a way to thank him'.

(Of course, logically, that meant when I got a moment to look up the original email or visit his website for a different contact address. However, when you send a message of pure intent to the Universe it will always find the most elegant way of bringing you your request.)

Anyway, there the compliment slip sat, not really at the top of my priority list, but still to be dealt with at some point.

Yesterday I had a free invitation to go along to a Christopher Howard event; I almost decided not to go, but then decided I really should make the effort... I arrived about 20 minutes late, went to the VIP check in desk, and who should arrive immediately next to me, also apologising for being late, was a guy saying his name was Paul Avins!

I didn't immediately make the connection, but said to him I'm sure I've heard your name from somewhere? To which he replied 'I'm the one who sent you the book'!

Wow, I said, that's amazing! I have your compliment slip on my desk, your email address wasn't working and I've been wanting to find a way to thank you!

There were about 2,000 people at this event, the place was 99% full when I arrived, so the chances of meeting this guy at that exact moment were slim to say the least.

One other spooky aspect was that for the second exercise of the day where you had to pick a partner, I chose Paul. The purpose was to share our life goals - and strangely enough on a professional level our goals turned out to be almost identically the same.

This thing is incredibly powerful!

To me the Law of Attraction is an incredibly interesting area - and I'd really like to hear about your experiences of how synchronicity has also manifested in your life.

Enjoy your weekend!

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Sexist Comment?

Seems I have caused a bit of a stir in the UK Business Forum over a comment in my last Post that 'women tend to have much more emotional attachment to the companies they create than men'.

A lot of (male) comment that it's a sweeping statement and I offer no evidence etc. etc.

Well, you may know that I have an Entrepreneurial Profile Test on my website and having just run an analysis of c3,000 entrepreneurs profiled so far, here are the results:

54% of men profile as having strong money/material drivers vs 45% having predominantly emotional drivers, whereas only 34% of women have strong money drivers vs 65% having strong emotional drivers.

I think this safely proves that my comment is pretty accurate - and all the anecdotal evidence I have points to the same theory too...

Put that in your pipe and smoke it gentlemen!

Saturday, 21 June 2008

The Boycotts

Just to let regular visitors to my Blog know that I have removed the two recent tongue-in-cheek 'boycott' posts, following today's Sunday Times article, which I think has rather taken everything too seriously.

I really don't want to cause any trouble, the point of the original post was that in business I think it is a mistake to insult women as they now make or influence 70% of all purchasing decisions.

As to Red Letter Days being my 'baby', the comment I have made in the past is that I think women tend to have much more emotional attachment to the companies they create than men. However to me my Red Letter Days era has long since passed, and while the company now owned by Peter and Theo has the same name, it bears little resemblance to the company I created.

And because so many great things have happened for me in the past few years, it would be impossible for me to wish that I was back owning or running it.

New Masterclass Dates

Following this week's successful event at the wonderful state-of-the-art new training facility at the British Library Business & IP Centre, I have now added two new dates for my Entrepreneurial Masterclasses on Thursday 11 September and Thursday 23 October - full details are on my website.

Apocalypse 2012

I really don't wish to worry anyone, but in just the past few weeks I have been alerted by four completely separate and random sources about an apocalyptic event which is due to take place in 2012.

As you may know from my earlier posts, many strange and synchronistic events are happening in my own life at the moment, and experience has taught me that these events cannot always be considered to be coincidences!

Further research suggests this Apocalypse was originally prophesied by the Mayans, the exact date being 20 December 2012... The ending of a 26,000 year cycle.

There is a mix of opinion as to what will actually take place; certainly a breakdown in financial markets, possibly the catastrophic effects of climate change, a shift in human consciousness, even a comet colliding with Earth.

Naturally there will be the usual cynical readers of my Blog who will think that this is a load of poppycock - I'm not really interested in hearing from them on the subject; however, what would be great is to receive any insights from the more enlightened visitors to my Blog about this 'event'.

It would seem to me that already processes are starting to take place to help us to prepare and I am contemplating what else needs to be done to accelerate that preparation.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Where did it all go wrong?

Fascinating to watch last night's Channel 4 Dispatches programme on Gordon Brown.

Although the answer really is very simple.

Never make the FD the CEO - it always ends in tears.

Monday, 9 June 2008

WOW! That was great service...

Lest you think my Blog is full of negativity, I thought I would share with you a wonderful way of recognising great customer service when you encounter it.

I regularly set off from Bakewell to various events and meetings around the country and my first port of call is usually Costa Coffee at Tibshelf services on the M1 (near Jct 29). Normally the service is agonisingly slow, but I put up with it simply because I love their latte! Then, on one occasion I arrived on a particularly busy day and noticed how a new lady behind the counter was managing to serve everyone extremely quickly and efficiently while still staying friendly and polite. Her name was Annette and because I was so impressed by her service, I nominated her for a WOW Award - it's a simple and free (for both nominee and recipient) way of recognising great customer service.

Here I am with Annette and her regional manager, presenting the Award... She was chuffed to bits and even invited her friends and family along to see her receive her certificate!

We all love to complain about bad service in this country, so it's nice to have a mechanism to reward people when you notice them doing great things.

Thursday, 5 June 2008

The Power of PR

My PR Louise Third of Integra is doing one of her fabulous PR workshops with Daily Express journalist Maisha Frost at the British Library next Thursday evening (12 June from 5pm to 7.30pm).

Last time I recommended this to you, an entrepreneur called Tony Kinch who runs The Real Tea Company went along - and a few weeks later secured himself part of a half page article with picture in the Sunday Times! Worth probably £25,000 in equivalent media value.

Tony came along to the Business Start Up Show to thank me in person for recommending the workshop.

So if you are around in London next Thursday it's well worth attending - if you can still get a place - the cost is £47.50 + VAT and details are on Integra's website.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Crisis of Confidence

You know that feeling that comes sometimes when you wonder whether you should keep going with what you are doing, or maybe consider changing your direction in life?

Well, it happened to me this week, and having completed my book (which was a real labour of love, and took me 18 months to complete), I did ask myself whether it possibly represented a closure on the entrepreneurial chapter of my life.

The answer came yesterday - I was asked to present the 2008 Enterprise Awards for the IAB at the House of Commons, and quite unexpectedly at the end of the event they presented me with their special award for 'Championing Entrepreneurship in the UK'.

I really thought my award winning days had ended when Red Letter Days crashed, so it was a real honour and delight to have my work in the small business sector recognised.

And I also think it was the Universe giving me the answer I was looking for.

So here in the office of Rachel Elnaugh Ltd today it's business as usual!

My thanks go to the IAB for giving me the wonderful gift of clarity.

Sunday, 11 May 2008

A Big Thank You... all who came along to the official 'Business Nightmares' book launch party and signing at Borders Oxford Street on Thursday evening.

It was a wonderful, memorable night for me with lots of friends and contacts making a big effort to attend from afar - including some of you who regularly leave comments on my Blog!

I am pictured here with various guests including my brothers Mark and Joel, two of my sons MJ and Paul, and my mother-in-law Pam.

For those of you who couldn't make it but who live in the Essex area I am doing a signing at Waterstone's in Chelmsford High Street at 12.30pm this Tuesday 13 May.

Hope to see you there!


'List of Culprits Worthy of an Aria from The Mikado': An Explanation

I am indebted to Joan Yeadon who has emailed me with an explanation of Jonathan Guthrie's comment in his recent (rather nasty) review of my new book Business Nightmares (see my recent post 'And so it begins...(again)'

"Dear Rachel

I would not lose any sleep over what Jonathan Guthrie wrote about your book if I were you. What he says in his second paragraph will strike a chord with a lot of potential readers.

Now for the quick tell on what Mr Guthrie might mean by: “a list of culprits worthy of an aria from The Mikado” in his first paragraph.

The Mikado, is a comic opera in two acts, with music by Arthur Sullivan and libretto by W. S. Gilbert, their ninth of fourteen operatic collaborations. It is the most frequently performed G & S opera and it is especially popular with amateur and school productions. It was first performed on 14 March 1885 in London at the Savoy Theatre.

The Mikado is a comedy that deals with themes of death and cruelty. This works because Gilbert treats these themes as trivial, even lighthearted issues. Setting the opera in Japan, an exotic locale far away from Britain, allowed Gilbert to satirize British politics and institutions more freely by disguising them as Japanese.

The aria referred to by Mr Guthrie could be one of two:

- 'As some day it may happen' in Act I where Ko-Ko, the Lord High Executioner, goes through a "little list" of "society offenders" who, if executed, "would not be missed"

- A more humane Mikado in Act II where the Mikado lists “society sinners” and punishments that fit the crime

I consider the first song, As some day it may happen, to be the most likely reference and the lyrics for this song only are set out below. If you would like me to send you the lyrics to A more humane Mikado, let me know and I will ping it across to you.

The original song, As some day it may happen, manages to be racist (”the banjo-serenader and the others of his race”), sexist (”the lady novelist”), and classist (”the lady from the provinces”) all at once

As some day it may happen

As some day it may happen that a victim must be found,
I've got a little list--I've got a little list
Of society offenders who might well be underground,
And who never would be missed--who never would be missed!
There's the pestilential nuisances who write for autographs--
All people who have flabby hands and irritating laughs--
All children who are up in dates, and floor you with 'em flat--
All persons who in shaking hands, shake hands with you like that--
And all third persons who on spoiling tete-a-tetes insist--
They'd none of 'em be missed--they'd none of 'em be missed!


He's got 'em on the list--he's got 'em on the list;
And they'll none of 'em be missed--they'll none of 'em be missed.

There's the banjo serenader, and the others of his race,
And the piano-organist--I've got him on the list!
And the people who eat peppermint and puff it in your face,
They never would be missed--they never would be missed!
Then the idiot who praises, with enthusiastic tone,
All centuries but this, and every country but his own;
And the lady from the provinces, who dresses like a guy,
And who "doesn't think she waltzes, but would rather like to try";
And that singular anomaly, the lady novelist--
I don't think she'd be missed--I'm sure she'd not be missed!


He's got her on the list--he's got her on the list;
And I don't think she'll be missed--I'm sure she'll not be missed!

And that Nisi Prius nuisance, who just now is rather rife,
The Judicial humorist--I've got him on the list!
All funny fellows, comic men, and clowns of private life--
They'd none of 'em be missed--they'd none of 'em be missed.
And apologetic statesmen of a compromising kind,
Such as--What d'ye call him--Thing'em-bob, and likewise--Never-mind,
And 'St--'st--'st--and What's-his-name, and also You-know-who--
The task of filling up the blanks I'd rather leave to you.
But it really doesn't matter whom you put upon the list,
For they'd none of 'em be missed--they'd none of 'em be missed!


You may put 'em on the list--you may put 'em on the list;
And they'll none of 'em be missed--they'll none of 'em be missed!

W. S. Gilbert

People often adapt this song and come up with contemporary lyrics.

For example:

Peter Lilley's version at the 1992 Tory Conference which has bite and is tightly constructed:

As some day it may happen that a victim must be found
I've got a little list - I've got a little list
Of benefit offenders who I’ll soon be rooting out
And who never would be missed, they never would be missed –
There are those who make up bogus claims in half a dozen names
And councillors who draw the dole to run Left wing campaigns
Young ladies who get pregnant just to jump the housing list,
And dads who won't support the kids of ladies they have ... kissed

Tim Rice’s list constructed on behalf of the late Colin Cowdrey which he read at Cowdrey’s memorial service:

As some day it may happen that a victim must be found
I've got a little list - I've got a little list
Of some cricketing offenders I would banish from the ground
And who never would be missed, they never would be missed.
Such as coaches who would rather run ten miles than hold a net,
And chaps whose innings end because some blighter placed a bet.
I used to think that sledging was a sport that needed snow,
But now I know it’s something else it really has to go ...

Kindest regards

Joan Yeadon"

So now you know!