Elaine’s Blog

A Poppy Appeared in Winter

You tossed your peachy skirts into the air,
And stood, and shouted, “Look at me!”
Through gales and rains and frost you still stood there

November’s blasts made all the trees so bare
But still you stood so proud and solitary
You tossed your peachy skirts into the air.

The other plants around you would not dare
To face this season bravely and with glee
Through gales and rains and frost you still stood there.

You tossed your peachy skirts into the air,
Your urchin heart exposed for all to see.
You dared us all, and passers by, to stare.

You clearly had a message we could share
“Be strong, stand tall, embrace the storms like me.”
Through gales and rains and frost you still stood there

Life can be hard, and rarely is it fair
But we can thrive and Poppy helped me see.
She tossed her peachy skirts into the air,
Through gales and rains and frost she still stood there.

 

 

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How to be an epicurean – and it’s not about eating posh pickles.

I’ve been studying philosophy since a couple of years before I retired. Although much of the work was done over 2000 years ago, the thoughts of philosophers are as relevant now as they were when written with reeds on papyrus.

Epicureanism is all about the pursuit of pleasure. A selfish lifestyle choice? Maybe not when you consider that, by achieving happiness yourself, you can help others to do the same. You can become a radiator as opposed to a drain. Everyone likes to be around happy people.

According to the ancient Greeks, Epicurus in particular, the way to attain pleasure is to “live modestly, gain knowledge of the workings of the world, and to limit one’s desires. This would lead one to attain a state of tranquility (ataraxia) and freedom from fear as well as an absence of bodily pain (aponia). The combination of these two states constitutes happiness in its highest form.” (Wikipedia)

Happiness in its highest form – a goal worth pursuing to be sure. The freedom from fear and pain sounds pretty good too. Apparently, there is a fairly easy way to reach this enviable state. Just take the three steps described below:

1. Do an audit on your desires – get rid of the worthless ones that add nothing to your enjoyment of life. Epicurus lived on bread, water and olives with an occasional lump of cheese. His view was that occasional luxuries have more power when enjoyed less often. So turn your back on expensive cars, restaurants, clothes or whatever else has held you in thrall for so many years and see how you feel. Deprived, impoverished and bored or enlightened, enriched and excited about simple pleasures?

2. Write your own obituary – take stock of your life to date. Which parts are you happy with? And which could be improved? Do this once a year. It’s never too late to change.

3. Be a good friend – contact friends regularly and nurture good relationships. Good friends are all we really need to enjoy life once our basic physical needs have been met (bread, water, olives, a roof over our heads and a couple of sets of clothes).

So there it is. The formula for a happy life. According to the epicureans anyway. It seems to make good sense when you think about our over-consumption in so many areas of our lives. So many people are working too hard in jobs they dislike to buy things they don’t really need. Or can we only afford to take this view when we’re nearing the end of our working lives with pensions in place and all our belongings around us?

What do you think? Did Epicurus have a good philosophy or was it unrealistic? Can Epicureanism work for people in business? Does a simpler life always lead to happiness?

Your feedback, as always, is welcome.

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There’s no place like it

I went to the garage yet again with my ageing car the other day. The mechanic said, “You’ve had it for 10 years – that’s a long time to keep a car.” As I reluctantly agreed to a batch of repairs to make it roadworthy again, because I still love it, I said to him, “That’s how I am. Same car, same house, same husband ….” As he joked that it might be time to think about changing at least one of the three, I thought about the pros and cons of sticking with what you know as opposed to moving on.

I’ve lived in the same town for all of my 61 years and the same house for over half of those years. Boring? I don’t think so. Shrewsbury is one of the best places to live in the U.K. And our house, although it guzzles money, is where we want to be for a while longer; at least until the maintenance costs outstrip our means.

I like the fact that I see people I know every time I go into town, every time I walk the dogs, every time I go anywhere locally. Is this loyalty to the environment I know or fear of change? What’s your attitude to change? Do the benefits of new and shiny outweigh the comfort of familiarity?

In business, we evolved our activity to meet changing market needs but, on the whole, we ploughed the same furrow for many years – a quarter of a century and more. Because it was what we knew and where we felt we could most effectively meet our goals. And I could give numerous examples of businesses that have survived the downturn since 2008 purely because of their refusal to compromise, in terms of their core values and brand identities at the very least.

Your feedback, as always, is welcome. How has change, or refusal to change, affected your life and your business? email elainenester@adm-group.co.uk or call 07801251767

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Harvey who?

Am I alone in feeling disturbed by the tumult of hatred that has been, and continues to be, directed at Harvey Weinstein, a man of whom I had never heard until a couple of weeks ago? Have I missed something or is he yet to be charged, let alone convicted of a crime? It seems that people can be pilloried by the media so quickly these days and there is no going back once the genie is out of the lamp. This man’s reputation is in ruins – maybe justifiably. He has made mistakes, by his own admission, but if the intense media witch hunt continues, there could be tragic results.

Abuse of power is abhorrent, rape even more so – there is no question about that – but times have changed and women are now able, thankfully, to speak out about these incidents with the knowledge that they will be heard and believed.

Growing up in the 70s and 80s was not the same. Sex education at an all girls school taught us to “Jump up and put the kettle on if boys get too keen. If you let them go too far, they won’t be able to help themselves”. The clear message was that it was the girl’s fault if unwanted attentions went too far. And we took that on board. We kept quiet out of shame. Or we shouted “rape” knowing that would absolve us of responsibility, or of contributing in any way to a situation that escalated. I don’t know what sort of advice was given to young men but, if it was similar, they might well have felt it was OK to “go for it” – sometimes they might strike lucky.

There must be many, many men feeling a bit uncomfortable right now about past behaviour. There but for the grace of their “victims” go they, and how long will that grace last now that the victims have found their collective voice?

One man cannot be made the scapegoat for his generation and I think that Harvey Weinstein must have numerous replicas, whatever the reality of his behaviour.

Let’s apply some reason to this situation; calm it down a bit. Does anyone agree?

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Desirable brand WLTM partner for LTR and lots of moments of pleasure

We started a chocolate business a few years ago to learn more about the retail food sector. An increasing number of our clients were in that sector and we needed to know about the issues they faced from the sharp end. Mission accomplished. 

Now that we are pretty much retired from Alpha (but please keep the interesting enquiries coming in) we have a product that has achieved brand awareness and modest early success in retail and direct sales – but it has a long way to go in terms of becoming a seriously profitable business.

We’d like to hear from companies with established distribution who feel that Beyond Dark would complement their portfolio. Please call me on 07801251767

Many thanks,

Elaine Nester

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For those who have finished work, or are thinking about it ….

What do you say when asked – “How are you enjoying retirement?” Or is this a question you’ve asked others? The usual answers include, “Don’t know how I found time to go to work”, “Should have done it years ago”, “Can’t stop – I’m off for a round of golf.”

The truth is, it’s a shock to the system with a similar magnitude to other major life events. And you can’t be fully prepared for it any more than you can for setting up home for the first time or becoming a parent. You can imagine, you can plan but the actual reality still has to be experienced to be understood.

Downsides are a sense of loss of:

1. Identity

2. Status

3. The company of colleagues

4. The reason to dress up in the morning

 – to mention just a few.

Upsides include a huge sense of freedom from:

1. Routine

2. Putting on the work face every day

3. Worrying about finances (you probably won’t be earning any more so why worry?)

4. The daily commute

– there are many more.

One of the main benefits I’ve found is that retirees seem to have an enhanced honesty about them. They can agree with one another that running a business, or playing the corporate game “wasn’t all that”. It takes a while to relax into it – it will be 3 years for me this Summer – but there really is life after work and it can be very good. Your comments are welcome.

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Am I hopelessly out of date?

This week I engaged in a discussion on LinkedIn about the type of interaction that is acceptable between new business connections. Is it OK to pitch your business at a new contact, or should you shield your true intent until you’ve wooed them with articles, wise comments and other displays of how brilliant you are? The initiator of the conversation thought the latter. I defended my corner in favour of the direct approach. Surely LinkedIn is today’s alternative to working the room at a networking event? Identify likely prospects, tell them what you do and, if the signals are good, proceed to set up a meeting and sell to them. People who are in the market love to be sold to.

OK – I learned my sales techniques three decades ago. Rapport, reputation, fact-find, presentation, close. A process that was widely understood with no fluffing round the edges. Does this still work now or must business people remain coy; entering into vague flirtations with no clear agenda, no timescale and a lot of wasted effort? Should we just hope that customers will somehow work out that we rank above our competitors because our tweets are regular, our Facebook profile is compelling and we must be a  desirable supplier with our massive online following?

I challenge any business owner to report a ratio of social media activity to sales.

Consider these equations:

Decision maker contact x 10 = meeting x 1

Meeting x 3 = sale x 1

In other words, if you speak (that’s speak, as in using your voice, not via email) to 10 decision makers, you will get one meeting and one out of 3 meetings will result in a sale. These figures hold true over a period for anyone who believes in the product or service they aim to sell. Believe me. It works. I did it, and trained others to do it for 25 years.

All the other stuff you do is not sales but marketing and PR – very important too – but don’t kid yourself that you are selling, unless you are making real life connections with real life buyers.

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Is your time really your own?

Yesterday I passed the time of day with a man who was waiting in the reception area of a business where I also waited. The usual topic of weather came up and he remarked that, as a business owner, his staff holidays took precedence over his own and that he’d missed the best Summer weather this year so far. This reminded me of the many occasions when I had to cancel my own plans to take time off over the years. A notable one was the week before our son’s wedding when we planned to host his bride’s relatives. A key staff member took paternity leave unexpectedly early so my husband and I had to take turns to cover the absence.

Not complaining – it goes with the territory.

It’s easy though to allow yourself to be buffeted by the needs and demands of other people, and of inanimate bodies such as businesses. Baby boomers in particular are often the filling in a family sandwich and they can experience multiple conflicting demands at times – having to deal with the most pressing need and pushing their own preferences to the back of the queue.

It is the ability to prioritise and keep plates spinning that distinguishes those who survive and thrive from those who fall in a heap under pressure. When coaching business owners, I try to pass on    ideas for coping with multiple demands whilst not sacrificing things they may later regret. It’s sometimes a case of “do as I suggest, not as I did”! When, or if, work comes to an end, it’s important to feel that you made the right choices for the right reasons, at least most of the time.

I recommend the free app Headspace to anyone who struggles to find “me time”.

For an informal discussion about how coaching can improve business performance and work/life issues, call me on 07801251767 or email elainenester@adm-group.co.uk

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A rose by any other name…

…might smell as sweet but unless it has name awareness, it could sink into oblivion alongside lesser known plant varieties. Finding appropriate names for brands is THE most favourite part of our work. It’s creative, of course, but there is a clearly defined process that we have honed over the years to make it more effective for our clients.

1. Brand positioning questionnaire – to unearth our client’s objectives for their brand.

2. Brand positioning statement – we agree with the client a defined statement about what the brand is to represent, the target market, any differentiating factors and evidence of differences that can be used as part of the marketing messages.

3. Examination of the market sector and the competition. Easier these days with online resources but we still do field work too. What is out there? How should we position our client’s brand so that it fills a gap?

4. Naming – the best bit. At this stage all feasible names are laid out for consideration. There should be a back-story attached to each name – a reason that makes it fit with the brand proposition. We need to think ahead and consider long term potential here, not just the new-born that has been presented to us. 

5. The names are short-listed and the favourites are checked against the trademarks register in the relevant classifications for the brand.

6. Names that have the potential for trademark registration are presented to our client. We normally offer 2-3 at this stage. This may seem like a limited choice but the client can be sure that the names offered are robust in terms of suitability by this stage and it is usual for us to get an instant positive reaction provided the client gave us an accurate brief.

This process ends with a design brief, which is the start of the next creative stage. Over the past 26 years we have named, created and helped to build countless successful brands. You will see them in supermarkets, on billboards, on TV, in magazines and in your home.

Call me if we can help – 07801 251767

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Could the creation of a product be key to reducing your dependence on your service business?

A business advisor once suggested that our business needed to create a PRODUCT in order to become more sustainable. This was an alien idea to us at the time – our business model was based on the supply of bespoke marketing consultancy and design services. We took the suggestion on board however and thought about how we could use existing skills to create something tangible. 

It’s not unusual for consultants to enter publishing of course, with books, periodicals and dissertations providing an income stream. The most obvious idea therefore became our first product – a magazine entitled Business Solutions. It was a showcase for our core business and a really enjoyable exercise. For over 4 years it was both a marketing tool and an income generator in its own right. 

Publishing a profitable magazine is hard work and Business Solutions depended on the continued input of us as the business owners. The publishing industry was also undergoing a digital revolution in 2005-6 when we reluctantly decided to change direction. We wanted a product that could stand on its own feet – a product that had the potential for generating, if not a passive income, repeat orders without constant reinvention.

The story of our chocolate brand, Beyond Dark, developed from this requirement. http://www.beyonddark.co.uk

You might like to explore the potential for your business to develop a product. Call me for a free initial discussion on 07801251767 or email elainenester@adm-group.co.uk

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