When process overtakes content

Hiring is one of the most important skills in being an entrepreneur. And no one ever gets its all right. I’ve now been an entrepreneur for 8 years and I can tell you if you manage to attract and retain a handful of truly world class people you are lucky and onto a winner.

A key lesson I’ve learn is that people’s qualities can broadly be split into two categories. Process and Content.

Content is the thing you produce in whatever vertical function you are in. If you’re a marketer it’s the stuff that will attract and retain new customers. If you’re in finance it’s the quality of your numbers and analysis. If you’re in product it’s the stuff you build and how it impacts your users.

Content is the real deal. It’s defines the quality of what you actually ship. But here’s the thing. For content to be great it needs process. Especially as you grow. And very few people I’ve met are actually world class at both.continue reading »

The next wave of British exports is in the making.

Here’s some interesting insight that we recently unearthed at PeoplePerHour.

In the past year we saw a doubling in the amount of time UK freelancers sell their services abroad. Doubling! That’s in a time when the UK is struggling to find its new export economy.

Think about this. A nation whose history dates back to colonialism. A nation which pioneered industrialisation and was sitting at the helm of the industrial world not that long ago.

Imperialism gave way to Industrialism, which then gave way to financial services. Whatever that means. And we all know what happened.

But that’s dwindling following the financial meltdown. So politicians, economists and policy makers galore are asking “what next”. (or should be!)

Well, guess what. We are witnessing a blossoming economy for middle class Brits and nobody knows it. Not your Oxford-educated bankers (gosh a Cambridge grad gave Oxford a plug, that’s a first) or Industrialists. No. your average Joe Blogs next door.continue reading »

Why we need more loners

 This post is inspired by a great article I read recently called “Solitude and Leadership” published in the American Scholar, which recites a lecture delivered by a Yale professor at the American Military Academy at West Point. It brought out a lot of thoughts and emotions I always felt or wanted to say  but didn’t.  We live in a world where social ‘norms’ define our lives more and more every day. Advocating solitude or wanting to be alone goes against the grain of modern society. Its almost heresy.

Yet what this article reminds us is of its profound importance. We are constantly diffused more and more by the ever increasing connectivity to other people, the  constant messaging, emailing, facebooking, tweeting, bbm-ing, and everything else-ing… we blend with the rest, we loose our personality. We become victims of the herd mentality. We stop imagining. We don’t stand out. And we don’t cherish Gods greatest gift: the ability to use our brain, to think in solitude deep and hard, to concentrate on things that matter, uninterrupted, without worrying who’s liked our latest Facebook upload or what the latest covers story in New York times is.continue reading »

Lessons on leadership from Dwight Eisenhower

The cliche “managers do things right; leaders do the right thing” is spot on.  And it’s a bitter lesson to many startups founders who don’t scale to lead instead of managing and watch their business crumble (or get ousted as CEOs).

Why do so many entrepreneurs struggle making this transition? They are by nature problem-solvers, scrappers, master-tacticians, people who get things done quick and dirty; survivors who scrape by. A crucial skill to get a business off the ground and prove a concept; the wrong skill to scale (at least on its own).

 One of the hardest things for a founder is to let themselves to step back, let others do the management so they can focus relentlessly on one thing and one thing along: figuring out the right next step for their business. And leading their organization by focusing everything and everyone around them to that destination.

I must have read dozens of books and probably hundreds of articles or blog posts on this topic. But the best single source of material to me on Leadership is this movie: IKE, Countdown to D-Day which shows a captivating close up of  the events just before the Invasion of Normandy in World War 2. More than a factual recount the film is a telling of the psychological dynamic that the leaders of the Invasion and in particular Supreme Commander Dwight Eisenhower (played brilliantly by Tom Selleck) in the run up to the event. It displays true leadership at its best.continue reading »

Big business is broken

Upon request form my PR folks I recently sat down to write ‘my story’ so they can use it in the company’s collateral.  In writing it I realised the irony in the story, of how a journey of ten years brings me back to serving a purpose for others much the same as that which drove me to go down this path.  Life, it seems, is not without a sense of humour.

Here’s the full recount:

“In 2003 – a fresh graduate from university, and refusing to follow the paths of my colleagues into Banking and management consulting,  I got  what i thought was a ‘real job’ in a  big Engineering firm to do one of those 18-month management trainee programmes.continue reading »