Greatest Hits: Volume 1


June 26th – what a day it’s been…

1483 – Richard III became King of England (only to die at Bosworth Field two years later)

1843 – The Treaty of Nanking came into effect, ceding Hong Kong to Great Britain ‘in perpetuity’

1977 – Elvis performed what turned out to be his final concert in Indianapolis

And, of course, in 2010 (relatively loud fanfare, I think) this blog went live. Yes, the blog is five years old. We’re not quite at post no. 250 as I’ve selfishly had a few holidays, but five years seems an appropriate time to look back. So here are my ‘greatest hits.’ Five of my favourite blog posts from the last five years – posts that I liked at the time and that are still very relevant today.

Make Good Art was no. 99 – and it’s probably the one that I reference the most. The inspiration was a speech by Neil Gaiman at the University of the Arts – and the premise of the speech, and the blog, was simple. Whatever you do, that’s your art: it’s what you – and only you – do best. As I wrote in May 2012:

I can’t sing. I can’t dance. I can’t draw. I can’t design. But I can advise someone on how to run their business: I can help them get the most out of their business and their personal life. That’s my art.

If you can re-structure a company’s cash flow; negotiate an employment contract; guarantee that an event for 2,000 people runs smoothly or make sure the hospital flooring is safe to walk on…that’s your art.

And as Neil Gaiman put it, do what only you do best. Whatever it is, make good art – and enjoy the journey along the way.

In March 2012 I published The Shy Entrepreneur – a post which resonated with so many people. There’s a popular image of the entrepreneur: brash, confident and not even sure what the phrase ‘self-doubt’ means. In my experience there are just as many entrepreneurs who are the exact opposite: worried that they’re doing the right thing for their family and desperately trying to make sure their work/life balance stays balanced. Re-reading it three years later, the advice for people who’d rather eat their thumb than go to another networking event is still as valid now as it was then.

Moving from the entrepreneur to the company, the previous November had seen The 5 Characteristics of Successful Companies. What’s immediately interesting about that one is the comment about the prevailing economic mood at the time:

Any company that’s growing at the moment deserves our congratulations. And perhaps surprisingly – given the general doom and gloom – there are plenty of companies in North Yorkshire growing and succeeding.

But the reason that I chose it is that all the characteristics of successful companies still apply – especially the first one: hiring good people.

[And] once they’ve hired good people, the companies spend time, effort and money developing them. Do the companies I have in mind spend more than the average on training? That would be an emphatic ‘yes.’

Another of my favourites – and another from the Spring of 2012 (I must have been in form…) was The Whitby Test. I’ve always been struck by how clear Whitby’s marketing message is – traditional English seaside, fish & chips, Dracula, Goths, Captain Cook, ‘Heartbeat’ and so on – and I think there’s a great deal businesses can take from that. In the original post I used 16 words and came up with eight compelling reasons to visit Whitby – and challenged readers to do the same:

Come up with seven or eight succinct reasons why people should do business with you. (And no points for woolly nonsense like ‘we care’ – they’ve got to be reasons any objective observer could agree with.)

And finally to no. 5 – The Loneliest Place in the World. Building your team and building your business is a wonderful thing to do. But sometimes there are painful decisions to be made and sometimes being the leader is a very lonely job. You need psychological support, I wrote. Someone to simply say, “I understand how you feel.”

Very often the only person who does understand how you feel is another entrepreneur – one of your peers. And that’s where I hope TAB York has played its part over the last five years. And the last five years have, without question, been the most satisfying and rewarding five years of my life.

It’s been an immense privilege to learn from you, and to share your journeys. Thank you for your support, your loyalty, your friendship – and for reading the blog. And here’s to the next five years, for all of us…

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