A Question of Trust

Two weeks ago I was heading to Denver, for the annual TAB conference.

The plane was circling Denver International, I could see the Mile High Stadium in the distance and I was feeling reflective.

It was 9 years since I’d first flown to Denver. I’d come as someone who’d just bought the TAB franchise for York. I’d pushed my breakfast round my plate in the service station, told myself there had to be a better way, looked at a hundred different businesses and opted for TAB.

“Are you sure?” my wife had said, looking at our newly increased mortgage and feeling the serious pressure to keep working.

“Yes,” I said. “Absolutely.”

But let me be honest. During that initial training in Denver I had some doubts. Would sceptical businessmen in the UK really pay for peer to peer coaching? And I’d bought the York franchise – surrounded myself with hard-bitten Tykes, people with a reputation for being careful wi’ t’ brass…

To use a well-worn cliché, the rest is history. Building TAB York was hard work, but it was simply the most rewarding experience of my business life. And I am now privileged to be in the same position with TAB UK.

This was my second conference as the MD of TAB UK. Looking back to last year, here’s what I wrote about the 2017 Conference:

The long flight took me to Denver, for TAB’s annual conference – as many of you know, one of my favourite weeks of the year. It was great to meet so many old friends and (as always with TAB) make plenty of new ones. The best part of it for me? It was simply going back to basics. After the whirlwind of becoming the MD of TAB UK – after spending so many hours with solicitors, bankers and accountants – it was wonderful to be reminded of the simple truth of why we do what we do.

And later in the post…

TAB is now in 16 countries and is becoming a truly international organisation. The latest country to launch is India.

Well, that needs updating for a start. TAB is now active in 19 countries and we duly had our ‘national CEOs’ meeting – which prompted an obvious question at the start of our two days together. ‘Is 19 too many for a meaningful meeting, especially as an increasing number of people don’t have English as a first language?’

The answer – which was obvious in the first few minutes – was an emphatic ‘no.’ The reason was simple – and in many ways that reason was the main message I took away from Denver this year.

Summed up in one word it was ‘trust.’


Trust is simply at the heart of what TAB is, what it stands for and the benefits it delivers to everyone in the ‘family.’ (Yes, another cliché but with TAB it just happens to be true.)

The annual conference means a lot of old friends for me – of course trust exists with them. It’s like the very best relationship with someone you’ve known all your life. You may only see them for three days out of 365 but instantly you pick up the conversation where you left it a year ago.

But this year there were a lot of new friends as well, especially those who’d made the significant decision to buy the franchise for a whole country. And what struck me was how immediate the trust was with them.

The atmosphere for our two days CEO meeting was unbelievably positive. We shared, we co-operated, we exchanged ideas and we trusted each other implicitly. Language barriers? They simply melted away.

So when I talked about ‘back to basics’ last year, what I was really talking about was trust – just about the most basic, and essential, human currency.

It’s the willingness to sit round a table with half a dozen other people and tell them the most detailed information about your business and – in many cases – to open up to them in a way you haven’t opened up to your professional advisers, your bank manager or even your partner.

I’ll confess it now: that was another worry of mine all those years ago. Would one Board meeting be much like the last one? Were there a finite number of business problems to solve? Would a Board – would I – eventually go stale?

I know now that nothing could be further from the truth. I’m renewed on a weekly basis as I meet with the TAB franchisees in the UK and continue my work with individual TAB members. And once a year I get a double-espresso shot of renewal in Denver – this year from the most important business commodity there will ever be.

Cufflinks, Bedtime Reading and the Off Switch

It was the annual TAB member conference on Tuesday. I had the honour (or drew the short straw, depending on your perspective) of being a headline speaker. “We knew you’d be willing to volunteer, Ed…”

Part of the presentation I gave concerned habits – a fine example of synchronicity, as the day before I’d read this article in Inc.

Several of the habits highlighted in the article meshed with points I made in my speech – so I thought it was worth sharing four of them that particularly struck a chord with the audience.

Dress for Success

In the article Chris Dessi recommends having your ‘dress shirts and suits’ custom made. I’m not sure I’m at that stage, but in this increasingly casual age I absolutely recommend dressing well. Why? Because it gives you confidence and confidence translates into success.

The TAB conference saw the debut of my new pink shirt from Charles Tyrwhitt. I like their shirts: they always fit me perfectly, and they’re suitable for business without being only suitable for business. So I was wearing my new shirt, and I felt confident. Was it a coincidence that so many people told me I was ‘looking well’ that day? I don’t think so.

…And cufflinks work for me. Somehow my cufflinks are almost like an NLP trigger. I can feel my performance go up a notch as I fasten them. If there’s a similar ‘trigger’ for you, use it.

Turn off the Electronics

Something that I’ve just started to do, but it seems to be working. If I’m playing golf or coaching rugby then by definition the electronics are off. Increasingly, though, I’m trying to have moments in the day when the tech is turned off – like now, for example. It’s human nature to feel wanted and nothing reminds you that you’re wanted (or needed) like that little ping when the phone announces yet another e-mail. But analysing your KPIs, working on a presentation or even writing your blog demand your full attention. The e-mail will wait.


I do know a few people who’ve gone one stage further. They’ve taken work e-mails off their phones. “It was the only way to stop checking them last thing at night and first thing in the morning,” one client said to me. I wouldn’t disagree…

Read more

That last point takes me neatly on to reading. In the old days we used to climb into bed and read a few pages before we fell asleep. How many of us now reach our phones or iPads where we once reached for a book? Reading seems to be under threat in our time-pressured lives, but for anyone running a business there’s never been more plentiful and helpful material out there.

If you haven’t time to read some of the great business books around, try a 30 day free subscription to Audible. And don’t forget podcasts either – an increasingly useful source of information and/or inspiration while you’re in that contraflow…

Stop worrying about ‘How’

I’ve written many times on the blog about the ‘how and why’ of business – and if you want to refresh yourself on the ‘why’ here’s the link to Simon Sinek’s compelling TED talk.

But it’s ‘how’ that I want to consider this morning – and why you should stop obsessing about it. As the old Nike ad said, ‘Just do it.’ And as Chris Dessi says in his article: Obsessing over ‘how’ will only lead you into full-on panic. Define your ‘why’ for sure, but let go of the ‘how.’

This echoes one of my favourite lines from Rework. ‘Planning is guessing.’ Increasingly business is intuitive and reactive. ‘Ready, aim, fire’ has given way to ‘Ready, fire, refine, fire again, refine again, aim.’ So get into the habit of pressing the ‘go’ button – and learn as you go along.

With that, have a great weekend. I’ll leave you to go through your wardrobe, turn your phone off, read a good book and stop worrying about how the grass is going to get cut…

The TAB York Conference 2011. In the sun…

Most of the time I like to produce blogs that are educational, informative, inspiring, amusing or (hopefully…) useful. This one is different, and I suspect – I very strongly suspect – that it’s the only blog of its type I’ll ever write.

As you know last week it was the Budget – and as you also probably know, the Government has decided to dispense with Business Link. What’s going to replace Business Link? The answer from the Government seems to be “you are.” Or at least Government approved mentors are.

Originally it appeared that the Government wanted the mentors to work for free. Naturally this unleashed a storm of protest as most people guessed that the only people who’d put themselves forward would be those with an agenda – something to sell to naïve business start-ups.

But buried away in the Budget small print – and Heaven knows why it was buried away as I think it’s a real plus point for a Government that needs plus points right now – was the provision for SME’s to receive grants for mentoring. The suspicion is that it is aimed at start-ups, but as the legislation is currently worded, the grants are available to everyone. This will almost certainly be corrected before the Budget actually receives Royal Assent, but as the legislation now stands, any business can apply for a grant of up to £500 to pay for “mentoring and business advice.”

I was slightly stunned when I was first made aware of this (by another TAB owner) and I’ve checked it with Louise Roberts Battison of Tax Perspective. Louise confirmed what my TAB colleague told me and said that the Government have indicated that they will honour applications made in good faith. This gives me a unique chance to organise something that has been a dream of mine since the members of my first board got together – The TAB York Annual Conference.

Again, I’ve run through the details with Louise and if we can get this organised quickly, then members can get their mentoring grant applications in and approved before the Budget receives Royal Assent. I’ve already done some preliminary work and this is what I’m proposing:

  • A 4 day TAB York conference over the weekend of Friday 23 – Monday 26 September
  • To be held at the 5* Don Carlos Hotel in Marbella – www.hoteldoncarlos.com  (I’ve been: it’s fantastic)
  • Accommodation will be approximately £500 per couple – so more or less matching the mentoring grant
  • Louise confirms that all your expenses – travel, accommodation etc – will be tax deductible
  • I will also try and bring one of TAB’s foremost coaches in the US, Rolf Apaloni, over to present a couple of ‘success clinics’

We’re never going to get the chance to do this again, so it’ll have to be on a first come, first served basis. Louise suggests we can probably get around 20 applications for the grant approved, so if you’re interested, could you please let me know asap – ideally by commenting on the blog so I can quickly & easily keep track of the numbers.

Sadly – back to normal next week, with a blog on overcoming your fears.

Blood pressure alert. Help wanted.

I was at a conference last week and somebody said –

No, wait. I have something important to say. I wish to petition the Devil. Beelzebub, Lord of Darkness – I want a favour. I assume certain people have a special place in Hell. Mass murderers. Conmen who swindle old ladies out of their life savings. The man who came up with ‘paperless office.’ May I add one more?

Once upon a time someone designed a chair. Hotels the world over bought hundreds of these chairs and stuck them in their conference rooms. Then people were invited to sit on them. All day. Through desperately bad speeches. With the air conditioning not working.

Satan, when the designer of that chair is delivered to you, just roast him a little longer, will you? Turn the spit a little slower, fan the flames a little higher. Make him suffer. As I suffered. As thousands of conference attendees have suffered thanks to his never-be-comfortable-again-after-20-minutes chair…

Right, where was I? While I was squirming on my chair, someone came out with that legendary piece of business nonsense:

55% of information in a presentation is visual; 38% is vocal and only 7% is the actual words.

We’ve all heard it, we’ve all heard people who are paid large amounts of money repeat it. Let us be honest, it is complete and utter rubbish. Yet now it seems to have entered the business world as a “truth universally acknowledged” – if I may take Jane Austen wildly out of context. And it’s a truth even more universally acknowledged when you’ve been squirming in the world’s most uncomfortable chair for four hours.

But it simply cannot be true. Anyone who thinks it through for half a second knows it isn’t true. If you want proof, go to Google and type in Mehrabian Myth. The trouble is, some time in the next six months you’ll be in a meeting and a speaker will say, “Studies prove that 55% of the…” Have the courage to stand up and say something.

Let’s hope he doesn’t mention the coalface. Because then you’ll be on your feet again. “I’ve been talking to the guys at the coalface.” No, mate. You’ve been chatting to the useless lumps in the IT department. Probably about football. What else? “We’re going to pick the low-hanging fruit.” Roughly translated as, “We can’t be bothered to do any real work.”

Am I the only one who thinks I might shortly have to reach for the blood pressure tablets? Feel free to let off steam. Let’s build up a list of management twaddle that should never be heard again. Send them to me. I will faithfully record them. And should I ever use them – any of them – in one of my Alternative Board meetings, then I’ll simply invite everyone to the bar, hand over my credit card and take my punishment like a man. Someone who’s not afraid to walk the walk. Oops…