Category Archives: Work

A Training Hiatus

I talked about a big day of triathlon training in May, however I have realised that over the next few weeks I will have to take a bit of a break in my training.

I do this swimming (and running and cycling) for ‘fun’. As a way to relax and unwind after work, but also as a way to push myself and get the best out of my [now noticeably aging] body. I do it because I enjoy all the aspects of it – the training, the events and the camaraderie. I do it for me.

However, I have other priorities in life – in particular family and work.

Family stuff is fairly settled at the moment and my son and I have got into some great routines and we [at least I do] enjoy the time we have together. It’s work though that’s going to need my attention over the next few weeks.

I run my own business and I’m lucky that I enjoy it – but it is mentally all-consuming. Recently we’ve won some new and exciting clients and on top of that there’s a big industry event coming up at the end of Feb. Over the next few weeks I need to ensure that I have 100% of my focus available for work every day. So until the end of Feb I’m going to rein in the training a bit.

I still plan to do as much as I can, but to make sure that’s out of fun and enjoyment and not forced or pressured. I’ll be using any exercise and activity as stress relief and enjoyment, rather than as training.

I need to prioritise things in life and for now work HAS to be my priority. I also need to understand how I tick and although I’ve talked about exercise as a stress relief I also know that I just need ‘time off’ to relax and perform at my optimum. I’m not someone that can whizz through life at a hundreds miles an hour, and rush from job to gym every day. I need some down time too. I need to be able to spend time on my own and with my own thoughts to recharge the batteries.

So that it what I need to focus on for the next few weeks – work and then myself to allow me to perform for work at my best level. Exercise will play a part in that, but putting myself under pressure to hit training goals certainly won’t.

Hopefully once this period is out of the way and March rolls around I’ll be able to get back into it

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Filed under Cycling, Running, Swimming, Thoughts, Work

Bash the PR…

I don’t normally post work related stuff here, but here’s [yet another] exception.

Earlier this week a Nottingham blogger blogged about how he had been ignored by a PR agency hired for the launch of a new hotel. He took the very easy route of assuming that the PR agency was therefore incompetent. I tried to engage with him on Twitter, but he didn’t reply. So I thought I’d drop my thoughts here instead.

Before I start though, a few caveats:

1 – I don’t know the PR agency in question and I don’t know anything about the hotel or the launch event (I clearly wasn’t invited either). So I’m not defending anyone in particular.

2 – I don’t know the blogger, Tony. He seems to have a lot of followers on Twitter, but I’m not one of them. So nor am I attacking anyone in particular.

3 – From what little I can see (and not withstanding the below) it seems that Tony probably should have been invited to this event…

Ok, caveats over, here’s my view on this.

The Brief

Before you can pass any judgement (positive or negative) over a PR project you have to know what the brief was. Other than the agency and client in question I suspect that nobody knows the exact brief or what was considered a success for this project. It may well have been about a ‘treat’ to contacts they already knew; targeted at a very specific audience; or alternatively maybe Tony was the perfect person to be invited and they cocked up. The point is we don’t know.

The Cost

Planning a PR event guest list is a bit like wedding invitations – “We can only invite 100 people and I’d really like great Aunt Emily to come, but then we’ll have to invite her seven kids too and we don’t have room for them all.” Maybe Tony was carefully selected and was the 21st most influential person on their list – the problem was the agreed budget was only for 20 people.

Followers isn’t Influence

This is a mistake that many people make on social media – it’s an easy trap to fall into too as we’re all sold the lie and follower numbers. However influence isn’t about quantity, it’s about quality. The two most important factors are:

  • What you say
  • Who you say it to

And not, how many you say it to.

Tony may have a lot of followers, but if they aren’t the demographic that this project was designed to hit (see The Brief above), then he isn’t influential for this brand. It’s as simple as that.

In closing his piece, Tony suggested he would like to start his own PR agency as he could probably do it better. I’ll let him have these three points as his first bit of training for that.

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Filed under Thoughts, Work

Money and fun

Not a swimming blog, but I’ve been chatting to a few people about my ‘philosophy’ for work recently, so I thought it was time to blog about it.

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I used to run a traditional, medium-sized PR agency – back in my London days. And when it was good it was great. We had a great team, we did great work and we went to the pub nearly every Friday.

However, when it wasn’t so good it was bloody hard work. We still did great work and we still went to the pub, but the team became a struggle to afford and it would weigh heavily on my shoulders. We had some work for them all, but not quite enough to make them profitable, but too much to get rid of anyone.

It’s the curse of medium sized businesses, especially service ones.

And too many businesses are wedded to this way of thinking. It means that if new business opportunities come in the only criteria they are judged on is income. Everything else is deemed irrelevant.

How can it be done differently?

I don’t know about you, but there are two reasons why I work – money and fun.

Money is important, it pays the bills, puts a roof over my family’s head and allows me an occasional nice thing. I like nice things, they make me happy and when I’m happy I work better – which is also why fun is so important. I don’t mean fun in a ‘wacky’ kind of way, but plain and simple enjoyment in what you do. I think that’s pretty important, especially as we all spend so much time working nowadays. So ‘fun’ also means doing a good job and seeing the results of your efforts.

But that’s it – money and fun.

I set up a different kind of agency to work in this way – and that’s how we judge whether a new project is for us: will we make money (and the best clients are those that understand that we all have to make a bit of profit along the way); will we have fun (which includes getting good results)? I’ll be honest, if one will be high, then we can accept sacrificing the other a little.

But money and fun, why else do you work?

 

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MWC 15 Summary

This is a work-related post, specifically about a recent mobile conference in Barcelona. If you’re hoping to read more about swimming nonsense, then please come back later 😉

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As I have done every year except one for the last 12 years I was out at Mobile World Congress last week. I spent two days at the show itself, two nights out in Barcelona and had two flights that were mainly full of congress attendees. Based on that short sojourn here are the key points I picked up from the show.

‘Mobile’ is dead
Although the show is ‘Mobile World Congress’ the term mobile is now pointless / redundant / undefinable. Does ‘mobile’ mean the handset you have? If so, where do we classify tablets, or even watches? Or maybe we use it as a verb and talk about ‘being mobile’ – but what about laptops or even fridges connected to data with a sim card? Or the fact that wifi is where all the ‘mobile’ traffic is now?
Throughout the show people were struggling with the concept of mobile and defining it differently for their own purposes in each different meeting attended.

Disruption of the network
One of the biggest issues that I came across was the fact that the OTT players are now the new norm in the content & platform part of the industry – leaving the operators in their wake. The next level of disruption they seem to be targeting is the network itself. This is of course linked to the announcement of a Google MVNO and Zuckerberg’s push for more free data to be offered to users.
This is all without talking about the event’s biggest elephant in the room. Apple never attends MWC formally, yet I heard some chatter about them ‘creating’ their own network. An iPhone-sized disruption to the network layer…?

Lots of buzz
There was lots of positivity around in Barcelona last week, possibly more than I’ve witnessed in the last few years. It may of course have been linked to my own positivity (I have a renewed enthusiasm for the show after a couple of years of it waning), but there were a lot of stands, visitors and, if the overheard conversations are anything to go by, deals struck.
And of course the biggest measurement of ‘buzz’ – there was plenty of beer drunk and ‘good times’ had.

A sleazy side to Barcelona
We have seen a sleazy side to the show in the past that appeared to be cleaned up by the GSMA (although apparently CBoss were back again this year). However this year we saw the sleazy side to the city with ads from the local ‘massage parlours’ being targeted directly at the show’s attendees.
While we can’t expect to speak for the city for the other 51 weeks of the year, there is a sense that the GSMA has to place itself above the likes of FIFA and when spending this much money demand a certain level of ‘behaviour’ from the city.

I loved it
Screenshot 2015-03-09 17.31.14My final point, as I’ve mentioned above, is I loved the show this year. Partly due to the fact that of where I stayed (thanks Helen), partly due to the Joshua PR sponsorship of Swedish Beers (and what a fun night that was!), partly due to the happy clients, partly due to people I met and partly due to the meetings I’ve already arranged on the back of the show’s activities.
Roll on MWC ’16!

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Just one headphone…

I rarely talk about work here, but it just occurred to me how much I love the current working style that I have.

I run a PR agency called Joshua PR that is a virtual company – which means that we don’t have an office full of staff, instead we set up dedicated project teams for each client. But while the company doesn’t have an office, I do. Although I can (and do) work from home, I like the discipline of coming into the office every day and the separation of being able to leave my work in the office when I go home. I share this office with a good friend of mine Lucy (who runs KuKu Apps).

Our work complements each other and I’d like to think that our personalities do too (she may tell you differently if you ask her). And so we both tend to work with just one headphone on.

I like the new modern way of working that you plug yourself into your own music collection and focus on the task in hand. Yet Lucy and I also share, chat and collaborate throughout the day. So we don’t plug in completely, we always have one ear ready to listen to each other.

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Filed under Thoughts, Work

Dear EasyJet

This isn’t going to be some rant about the planes or the flights or the punctuality. I’m actually generally positive about EasyJet when it comes to these things. Yes the seats are cramped, but you’re only in them for a couple of hours and the crew on EasyJet flights appear to genuinely enjoy their job, which makes for a pleasant flight (unlike an Irish based low-cost airline – where the atmosphere on board is generally terrible).

No, this is actually in response to me leaving my iPad on the plane as I flew out to Barcelona last week.

I took it on board to do some work (which I did), but then put it into the seat pocket in front once I’d finished. As the plane landed I remember to collect the free newspaper, but left the iPad behind.

Oops!

The social media team was great

I realised I’d forgotten it once I got into the cab to leave the airport. So as soon as I arrived at the show I tweeted the @easyJet team:

Tweet to @easyJet

Tweet to @easyJet

I’m sure they get hundreds of tweets (many of them not very complimentary), but they responded extremely quickly – told me what to do next, gave me a number to call – which I called and they had already found the iPad.

Because of their quick, friendly and efficient response my mind was put at ease and I decided to collect the iPad as I flew out again.

The crew at the airport need some work

So I arrived in good time to check in for my flight home so I could pick up the forgotten iPad. As I dropped my bag off I asked where Lost & Found was and was told – just in the next door building, a two minute walk away. As I was given no further instructions I assumed that it must be easy to find and so I set off with a spring in my step.

However when I got to the next door building (Terminal 2B) it was nowhere to be found. I walked up and down and up and down. Finally I asked at the information desk and they said that Lost & Found was in Terminal 1 – which was across the other side of the airport, at least a ten minute shuttle bus ride away.

Disgruntled I went back to the check-in desk to explain my annoyance and see what could be done.

– “No, it’s definitely in Terminal 2B.”
– “But I’ve just been told by the airport information staff that it is in Terminal 1.”
– “No, the EasyJet Lost and Found is in 2B, you just have to ask the security guard to let you through the Arrivals door and there it is.”

Now you bloody tell me!

A quick sprint back to Terminal 2B – asking the security guard – going through the side door into the Arrivals / baggage carousel area – finding the office – signing the forms – and finally I was reunited with my iPad. All I had to do then was sprint back again to Terminal 2C and run through the security gates without looking like a mad terrorist to get to my plane before it took off in the next 10 minutes.

Fortunately I did and me and my iPad made it back to the UK!

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Crowdfunding goes live

I’ve mentioned this before, but I believe that there are many links between swimming (especially open water swimming) and business. In fact I believe that there are many lessons from open water swimming that can be applied to business.

I’ve set up a new blog to explore this further – http://open4bizblog.wordpress.com/ – and my goal is to write a book on this topic.

To help me with the book I’ve set up a crowdfunding page and it has just gone live. I’ve already received some great feedback for this and the project has been backed by people already. Please check it out: https://www.sponsume.com/project/open-business

And here’s the launch post I wrote on the other blog:

– – –

I wrote the text, shot the video and submitted the forms. And now my crowdfunding site is live. Please check it out here:

As you can see I’ve chosen Sponsume as the platform I use, hopefully you’ll like it, find it easy to navigate and back the project.

The reason behind the crowdfunding is to fund additional research for the book, additional swimming (as part of the research) and allow me to spend some time dedicated to actually writing it.

For you, what it means is that you you’ll be able to pre-order the book, or if you represent a business be a sponsor with your company details included online and / or in the book itself.

Please do have a look at the project here – https://www.sponsume.com/project/open-business – and if it’s not for you, please do forward it to any friends or colleagues that might be interested.

Thanks

– – –

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Filed under Swimming, Thoughts, Work

London Calling

I used to live in London – but we moved out on purpose. However, I still visit regularly for work – and most of the time it feels like work. I kind of like it, but it feels a bit too big and busy for me and I’m always glad to be going home.

I’ve had a great trip this time though.

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Filed under Swimming, Thoughts, Work

Open for Business

When I’m not swimming I run a PR and Communications agency (actually the agency came before the swimming as I’ve been running it for six years now). As my swimming has developed, improved and grown in stature so too has the business. I’m convinced that not only are those things related, but that there are wider parallels that everyone can draw between open water swimming and business.

Many of the lessons that we get from the swimming can be applied to our business lives – and can help us to create better and more successful businesses.

So I want to bring those lessons to businesses and have started to present to businesses for an internal meeting, or to groups of businesses or start-ups at business events and conferences. If you’d like to find out more about this get in touch, or see more here.

I have also started to write a guest blog for the excellent open water swimming magazine H2Open. In these posts I explore the themes and lessons that we can take from open water swimming and apply to business:

H2Open online

H2Open online

Nothing Great is Easy – using Captain Webb’s quote I show that, like a channel crossing, businesses can be affected by outside factors, but that doesn’t have to mean you are blown off course.

Time to Get Your Face Wet – practice for the experience, but sometimes you just need to get on with it – in swimming and in business.

Taking the plunge in business – “Both open water swimming and running your own business, while growing in popularity, are outside of the norm. They both require a degree of bravery to set off and, if you will excuse the pun, take the plunge…”

Let me know what you think.

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Filed under Swimming, Thoughts, Work

Next Challenges?

Telling people that we’d completed our Channel Relay, the response from nearly everyone was: “solo next?” By that of course they mean do I want to swim across the channel on my own, without a team, swimming it all myself. And my answer has always been a resounding “NO!”

It’s not that I don’t want to, but I just can’t see a time when I could commit enough (money and effort) to completing a swim of that magnitude. I am in awe of the solo swimmers!

But I do want to do more swimming and face more challenges. But rather than swim further, I want to swim ‘more interesting’.

What I’d love to do is a series of [ideally global] swims that are iconic and interesting. Two on my list are the Escape from Alcatraz and Hellespont swims.

Can you help me out and recommend any more?

I’m also keen to do some presentations / speaking on the links between open water swimming and business. Please check out this link – http://bit.ly/jpropen – and if you know any business events that need speakers let me know. I’ve also written a couple of posts (here and here) for H2Open magazine and will hopefully do more soon.

Ok, self-promotion over.

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Filed under Swimming, Work