Sunday, 30 March 2008

A Star is Born...

If you saw the 'I'd Do Anything...' Oliver and Nancy recruitment show on BBC1 on Saturday night I hope you too were blown away by the final Nancy of the evening, Niamh.

She was so absolutely spellbinding, mesmerising and captivating it is difficult to imagine her not winning the show.

A star has truly been born.

Shoot the Ad Agency...

I opened my Sunday Times Business Section today to a huge BAA ad across the centre pages headlined:

'Heathrow Terminal 5. From here, you can see tomorrow.'

The ad goes on:

'Wherever you're going, you want getting there to be as easy and enjoyable as it can be. That's the reason we've invested £4.3 billion building Terminal 5 at London Heathrow. It's designed the way tomorrow's airports will be - around people, not just planes. So our new technology will help make your journey simpler and faster. We've brought you some of the world's best eating and shopping experiences. And we've added lots of places where you'll want to relax and enjoy the view.'

'Heathrow Terminal 5. It's more than a new terminal. It's a new beginning.'

Now, I realise how easy it is to sit on the sidelines and criticise when a business hits problems. However, in this instance, the media agency has been totally negligent in allowing these ads to run, given what took place this week. The media space was clearly bought months before, but why oh why didn't someone at the agency replace the planned ads with a simple statement of heartfelt apology from either CEO of the two companies involved - BAA or BA?

The copy deadlines would have been on Friday and with some foresight some quick thinking person could have averted this media disaster.

If I were BAA I would be sacking my ad agency.

Friday, 28 March 2008

Terminal Disaster

Mr Badger was at British Airways' Head Office yesterday morning, hearing their CEO Willie Walsh tell the assembled staff how successful the opening of Terminal 5 had been... How sorry I felt for their Operations Director to later be filmed nervously for the 6pm TV news programmes apologising for all the logistical nightmares that subsequently unfolded. Heads will no doubt be rolling today.

From it's glory years of the 1980's, BA has had a real string of disasters in recent years, and they can all be traced back to the moment they moved into their new HQ at Waterside. If you've ever been there you will know there is a river running through the centre of the building, which is absolutely disastrous feng shui. This has been widely reported and commented on in all the feng shui publications since - yet nothing has been done to remedy it.

I had a similar experience at the M&S Baker Street Headquarters back in c2000.

Their entire business had just unravelled due to terrible trading in the late '90s and arriving at their offices I immediately noticed that they had not just a three door alignment but a five door alignment - main doors opening into internal doors, leading to turnstiles, then another doorway, a long corridor and a window at the end of it. This is hideously bad feng shui, and I felt so strongly about it after my meeting I actually wrote to the buyer and said they should get it checked out.

Next time I visited they'd re-arranged the reception in a much more auspicious way and already the company's fortunes had improved. I haven't seen their new offices though but hopefully they will have received proper advice this time around.

Yes I am sure 'anonymous' will shortly be posting to say this is a load of poppycock, but over the years I've experienced enough of my own 'feng shui' disasters to believe that there really is something in all this. Red Letter Days' first office in North Finchley had brilliant feng shui and the company grew and grew and eventually took over virtually the entire building. We then moved to our Muswell Hill offices (right next door to the sad and ill-fated Alexandra Palace), and literally overnight everything started to unravel. (We also had a 'three door' combination but it was in the common parts of the building, so difficult to remedy).

Similarly I moved house in November 2002 and my entire life completely changed during the following three years - whatever I tried business wise turned to dust and finances started to go down the toilet (although relationships blossomed, and I had two wonderful babies and also got married while living there).

I am sure you will have experienced this - some houses/offices have a great energy and life is wonderful, then you move and everything goes wrong.

So if I were Willie Walsh I would immediately be switching off that river and filling in the channel with a pavement of gold - and then watch as the fortunes of the company transform.

Monday, 24 March 2008

Alpha vs Zeta Continued...

Just to clear up the misunderstanding that Alpha vs Zeta is just about Male vs Female, you need look no further than the US presidential elections where in a strange twist we have the 'Alpha' Hillary Clinton lined up against the 'Zeta' Barack Obama.

Not so many moons ago the US people faced a similar choice...

By a very small margin they opted for the 'Alpha' Bush - and in doing so chose war, destruction, a weakened economy, and going from being one of the most admired people on the planet to one of the most hated.

'Zeta' Gore meantime went on to make one of the most influential documentaries of all time in 'An Inconvenient Truth', has dramatically increased global awareness of climate change and won a Nobel Peace Prize into the bargain.

When you work from 'Zeta' values you understand that temporary defeat can lead to far greater prizes.

I do not make these comments from anger or bitterness (those are very Alpha traits), but from empowerment, knowledge and the desire for increased awareness, accompanied by positive change.

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Alpha vs Zeta

Following the comment on my last post, I just thought I would write a few words to clarify my thoughts on the Alpha vs Zeta battle we are seeing manifest - not just in business but in the world.

Alpha values = pursuit of money & power which leads to desires like control, revenge. These are traditional male values (although there are many 'Alpha Females').

Zeta values = pursuit of harmony & collaboration which leads to ethics, integrity and desire to help others. These are traditional female values (although there are many 'Zeta Males').

The traditional business world is built on Alpha values - the vast majority of the world's wealth controlled by a very small number of very powerful people; the pursuit of wealth at all costs having reaped huge damage to the environment, as well as issues like exploitation of child labour, horrific animal farming methods and so on.

However, the most powerful people in the business world are ultimately the customers - and because 70% of purchasing decisions are now made or influenced by women, and because the explosion of communication has revealed what is really going on, women are becoming more and more drawn to Zeta brands - who trade with ethics and integrity, not the pure 'Alpha' profit motive.

The 'Zetas' are also increasingly finding/intrinsically know that happiness is not found in material possessions (as the advertising world would like to make them believe), hence the retailers having to work harder and harder to maintain the sales of things that for the most part people do not actually need.

Of course the traditional Alpha businesses have recognised the trend, and are desperately trying to re-brand themselves as 'green' and 'ethical', yet at the heart of it they are run by the City, which is only interested in short term results.

Meanwhile, some of the most enlightened wealthy are now devoting an increasing amount of their time to Zeta causes (Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Branson)

And we are starting to see an increasing polarisation between the two groups.

If you don't believe this, take a look at some of the footage coming through from the Far East - lorries of soldiers heading for Tibet horrific scenes of violence against religious and intrinsically peaceful people, and the Dalai Lama declared a 'Jackal in monk's robes' by the Chinese government.

Meantime we see stock markets in meltdown and hoards of 'Alphas' on telephones desperately trying to protect their money as The Establishment tries to stop the credit bubble bursting - imaginary money which was provided to keep fuelling a sales lead economy.

Just to bring this back to small business, which is the sector I am most active in, I would say to people going into business, look at these trends and think ahead to the natural consequences of what is happening.

A shift away from materialism, a growing desire for harmony peace and self-understanding and a customer base which is increasingly being drawn to ethical and honest brands.

Look at any projection of the future whether it is Star Trek or Stanley Kubrick and you will see minimalism and the search for knowledge and understanding, not more 'stuff'.

And if all this sounds 'bitter', no doubt 'anonymous will let me know...

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

If I were Heather...

I did feel a bit of empathy for Heather Mills but I really don't think her impromptu outburst outside court this week did her any favours, and of course The Establishment (run by the Alpha Males) was always going to make an example of her.

If I were Heather I would either a) immediately give my entire settlement (or at least £20million of it) to the charities which I work with, or b) bugger off with the money and live in New Mexico.

The Alpha Males may think they have won but I really hope Sir Paul has built a clause into the settlement that Heather and Bea must remain in the UK - because option b) must be looking pretty attractive to Heather right now...

Monday, 17 March 2008

What if?

Mr Badger is not a happy man today. He works in the banking software sector and one of his biggest clients is Bear Stearns...

But the banking sector has every reason to be worried after this weekend's events across the Pond.

Did you know that banks in this country are only required to hold 5% of customer deposits in liquid cash reserves? That means if more than 5% of their customers decide to withdraw their cash and put it under the mattress certain banks might just possibly run out of money. (I discovered this when my FD at Red Lettter Days was arguing against Barclays' rationale to bond 100% of our credit card takings - a £3million pot of money we couldn't touch, which eventually brought the business down due to lack of cash. All it took was a loss of confidence via a few negative media reports, suppliers subsequently withdrawing credit and within days the whole company had collapsed.)

Of course the banks could always pull in monies they have lent out - but with the property market destabilised and so many people in huge credit card debt, just how much of it could they collect without putting scores of people through bankruptcy?

And if the banks run out of cash what happens to all the people who need to get their hands on it?

Sorry to be all doom and gloom, but it would seem to me things are in a very precarious state.

Time to start stocking up on food and planting a vegetable patch...

Bonnie Scotland

Just back from the New Start Scotland show in Glasgow last Friday, and I have to say I really enjoyed the entire experience...

Billy Connolly has done the people of Glasgow a great service as the minute I hear a Glaswegian accent I find myself smiling!

As always, the Scottish people are so positive and friendly it is such a joy to speak to an audience of them, and they are always receptive to new people and ideas. I've already had lots of emails with positive feedback and it is great when so many people write with their appreciation.

It made me realise once again how much I love working in the small business sector, inspiring, motivating and helping entrepreneurs achieve business success. And at the same time being paid for it! As I said to my audience, putting your passion at the heart of your business is the greatest gift you can give yourself - as you'll never have to 'work' again.

As well as speaking in the main seminar hall, I also did the debut of my new 'Magnetic Marketing' workshop at the Show which seemed to go down really well. Essentially 'Magnetic Marketing' is all about creating products services and experiences at the heart of your business so attractive that customers naturally come to you (rather than you having to go to find them)- and then making those brand experiences so emotionally intense that people can't help themselves but buy from you.

It's a much more feminine and seductive way of marketing than the old male 'sell sell sell' techniques, and a much more powerful way to build a business longer term.

Watch this space for more on Magnetic Marketing over the coming months...

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Enterprise Academy

Brilliant news that Peter Jones has pioneered a new Enterprise Academy backed by Gordon Brown, which will open in 2009.

The UK is on a journey here, and actually if we want to change the culture in my view it needs to start at the beginning of a child's education (and by that I mean from babyhood onwards), and must encompass giving our children the 'positive thinking' tools which foster self-belief, determination and drive. In my experience, if an entrepreneur has these three qualities embedded in their psyche, they don't actually need anything else.

Sunday, 9 March 2008


If you follow my Blog you will know that I do make an effort to only Blog on positive subjects (Alpha Male and Dragons' Den related subjects excepted of course :-), but occasionally there comes a customer experience so hideously dire that I feel moved to report it to you.

And that occasion came today in the form of my third son's 5th birthday party which (at his insistence) I chose to hold at the Easy Tigers Play Centre in Chesterfield. [This is one of those industrial units with a huge climbing and soft play zone where you can let the kids run loose for an hour or so while parents can sit and have a cup of coffee.]

Said party was booked to start at 10.30am so we decided to arrive nice and early at 10am to ensure we had time to set up before Eddie's friends arrived. Mistake #1.

'I'm sorry madam, your party is booked for 10.30, your table is not set up yet, you'll have to wait until you can go in.'

It is a Sunday morning, the centre has only just opened and we can see there are lots of free tables inside, plus other kids are merrily arriving and going inside, but we (my husband and I, plus our 5 kids - including baby in carry seat) are left in the draughty foyer to wait for half an hour.

I query the decision only to be told 'It's policy'.

So I ask to see the manager.

A black and flame haired lady materialises (who can't be much older than 25) to tell me once again 'It's policy' but this time with a 'darling' added for good measure.

In my most persuasive and friendly tones I say 'Look, we're here parked in the foyer with 5 kids in tow including a baby; you're empty in there, SUUUUUUUUURELY we can just go in and get a cup of coffee while we wait?????' Eventually she relents and (after another 10 minutes or so mind) we are finally shown to our table.

Kids then arrive and play, but unexpectedly we have about 10 mums who decide to stay and wait - not a problem of course and they all take a table for a coffee and a natter.

An hour later the play session ends and the kids go to their party zone - a 'cage' with tables for their lunch. This is when the fun and games really commence.

I have ordered a 'platter' of food for the adults and ask where it is so that the mums can eat while the children tuck into their nuggets and chips.

'Sorry, we can't serve the adults food in the party area, they'll all have to sit at a table outside.'

'Why is that?????' I ask.

'Company Policy' I am once again told.

So, all the mums reluctantly leave their little ones and move back into the seating area; 5 minutes later a tiny plate with literally 2 rounds of sandwiches arrives; 4 ham triangles and 4 tuna ones, plus a small bowl of crushed up tortilla chips and salsa dip.

OK, my fault for not ordering enough, so to correct the situation I ask where Eddie's birthday cake has been taken so I can cut up some slices of cake for the mums to eat. It is plenty big enough for everyone.

'Sorry, we can't cut up the cake in the party area, we don't allow knives near the children. It's company policy.'

'OK' I say 'Can someone cut up the cake in the kitchen?'

'No, the cake has to be cut in the play area, it's company policy.'

'OK, let me take the cake and the knife I brought along out to my car so I can cut it up there and bring it back in for the mums.'

'Sorry, we don't allow any food to be eaten on the premises which has not been purchased here. Company policy.'

'But I've got 10 mums out there with a tiny plate of 8 sandwiches and I'd really like to be able to give them a slice of cake while they wait!' I protest.

'Well you should have ordered more food then.'

GRRRRRRRR !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

At this point, I express my exasperation with their 'company policies' which seem to have the business so tied up in red tape it is impossible for the party to be an enjoyable and stress free event. After all, the Easy Tigers website does state that the founders mission was that 'We wanted Parents to take it "easy" whilst their "tigers" were having fun.'

I ask to speak to the centre owner.

'They own the business but they're not often here' I'm told.

'Well that's clear!' I say - if they were around a bit more often they might know just how their centre is being run.

So I ask for the owners' names, so I can write to them about my customer 'experience'.

'We're not allowed to give you the owners names' I'm told. 'Company policy.'


Flame haired manageress then materialises once again to say 'Is there a problem darling?'

'Well, yes actually there is' I tell her, and recount all the events of the day and my frustration at how stressful the entire process has been. I am conscious that, by this point, I have turned into the 'Customer from Hell' - someone to be viewed with much amusement by all concerned. After all, they're all low paid workers doing part-time jobs and it isn't their business to worry about is it?

'There's no need to write to the owners' I am told, 'we have a feedback form here for you to fill in if you like.'

'Somehow I don't think the boxes on your form are big enough for what I want to write' I tell her, and disappear off to join the mums.

Party then draws to a close, and I ask if the coat racks on wheels can come to us at the mum's table so everyone can collect their party bags before leaving.

'Sorry they have to go to your party table' I am told, meaning everyone has to once again relocate before departing. By this point I am too stressed to argue.

Well, the main thing I guess is that the kids all had a good time, but I have to say as an adult I don't think my stress levels could have been any higher than at the point when I departed that building. So much for an 'easy' experience.

Oh well, the kids are 12, 9, 5, 2 and 5months - so I figure that is only another 60 or so birthday parties to endure before they have all got to the age where they don't want them any more... *sigh*

I don't suppose the owners of Easy Tigers will care much about this post or my complaint either - it's a great little business with hundreds of mums and kids crammed into every weekend session all overseen by what are clearly low cost staff none of whom seem to be old enough to have kids of their own. And I'm sure they generate more than enough business not to worry about losing mine.

It just really frustrates me - as an entrepreneur and a business advisor - to encounter businesses which are so tied up in 'company policy', it results in them actually being really badly run.

Saturday, 8 March 2008

International Women's Day

I'm not sure who creates these special days in our calendar, but yesterday was 'International Women's Day' and this week I spoke at two events in celebration...

The first was for the ladies of the Sheffield Chamber of Commerce at a special lunch on Thursday; the second was later that evening for a women in business event for Business Link London.

I have to say that I love speaking to all female audiences - they have a great energy and are much more responsive than men. They are also very receptive to some of the more 'touchy feely' subjects which I frequently visit in my Blog.

At the London event (which I did in partnership with Julie White who is the entrepreneur behind Truly Madly Baby and who appeared on Dragons' Den) we did an open workshop to over 200 hundred women which involved the audience on three subjects: Celebrating Success, Overcoming Obstacles and Mental Attitude.

First we enjoyed some great stories of success amongst the women present who were all cheered by their contemporaries - like the lady from Elizabeth's Emporium which specialises in making fabulous cakes and who won a commission for Wedgwood quite by chance after asking for a big break. Her creation is now on display in the Wedgwood shop in Regent Street.

Secondly, where people in the audience were bold enough to share their dilemmas there was always someone in the audience with the solution they needed - like the lady who was facing the eviction of her business premises in four weeks' time and who was instantly offered a low cost incubator unit which she could move into with immediate effect.

And finally when it came to mental Attitude I asked about who was using the 'Law of Attraction' to manifest positive results in their life. There was lots of excitement in the audience as we talked about this topic - a raised vibration if you wish - and we had some wonderful stories about women who had attracted amazing opportunities just through using positive intention - in particular a lady who responded to her intuition that she should become a midwife and ended up attracting all the support she needed to become a 'doula'.

Julie and I enjoyed doing the event so much that we have decided to join forces again for other events so watch this space for news!

Have a great day!

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Back From Florida

Just back from a fabulous holiday in Florida courtesy of Mr Badger's US parent company - our first vacation for a long time what with Baby Jack being born last October. We went without the five children which, much as I adore them, was a really welcome break.

We stayed at The Breakers in Palm Beach (just along the coast from Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort) - fabulous, if not a little windy...

But the one thing I wanted to mention (following on from previous posts) is that the whole of Palm Beach (not just people in the resort but everyone from taxi drivers to shop staff to toilet attendants) vibrated with the same soft warm positive energy. In fact, I didn't encounter a single person who wasn't happy and optimistic and friendly. And if you have ever been to Palm Beach you will know that it is lush and beautiful and dripping with money.

In direct contrast to the edge of the people in New Jersey which we transitted through en route - who seemed to do misery en masse.

So, an interesting observation: that places have an energy which seems to rub off on everyone who lives there. The question is, what created the energy of the mass?

The people or the place?

Yes of course you could argue that sunny places are always going to make people happy, but here in Bakewell we have a similar 'warm & friendly' phenomenon - and it rains most of the year.

Comments most welcome!

PS Glad to see the Blog is still attracting lots of controversial debate...