Business Bravado – The Game of Stress

Whatever you do, don’t mention business stress & problems!

Illustration © Georgie Rock 2015

Business Bravado – the stance that lots of business owners adopt, so they look positive & up beat and show no cracks in the facade of confidence to competitors, colleagues & customers.

After all, saying “Great!” in reply to the question “How’s business?” and bluffing your way through, is only doing what everyone does isn’t it? It’s just a game. What can be the harm in that? Well, read on! (or skip to the end for the sane solution)

It Depends How You Play The Game – and on the rules you’re playing to and the size of the stake. There are after all several versions of Business Bravado and each one has it’s own set of very different consequences. The trick is to be honest with yourself, so you know exactly which set of rules you’re adopting.

  • Oblivion – even though everything is falling apart, you just completely ignore it and pretend it’s all an enormous shock when you have to call in the receivers and go bankrupt
  • Head in the Sand – when you’re aware that things are pretty bad, but not wanting to take a look at the details just in case it is as horrendous as you think it is
  • Catching Balls as They Drop – a last minute game of denial, nerve, agility and dexterity that requires a steady hand and good health as you juggle relentless stress and anxiety
  • Rabbit in Headlights – when you’re aware things aren’t right, but you haven’t a clue what to do about it, or where to get help and advice and you do nothing but remain transfixed with fear
  • Aware, Tired & Nervous – often adopted by new business owners, you are delighted to have survived the early stages of setting up, but then run out of energy and start to have doubts
  • Hanging on by a Thread – when everything you’re doing seems to be working, but it’s touch and go each month and you have a strong hunch it will get better and each week that seems to be the case. Also known as ‘Wing and a Prayer’
  • On Top of My Game – for when you’re confidently and successfully working the business, getting external help and advice, learning new skills – and suddenly you’re not playing Business Bravado!

The Toll on Your Business, Sanity, Family & Health – Difficult to hear though it might be, as a business owner it’s entirely up to you how hard you work, how successful you are and how much it takes out of you and your family getting there. You are in control – or at least, that’s the idea.

Build Care Into Your Business Plan – Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it’s a smooth ride. ‘The economy’, market trends, fickle customers and a myriad of other conditions buffet you all the time. How you take care of yourself through those storms is what makes the difference and unless you plan for the long term, your health and quality of life will inevitably suffer. Build care for yourself into your business plan.

Snickers advert

Joan Collins – Snickers commercial

Professional Supervision / Mentoring – Having a safe and confidential place where you can regularly go to say whatever you want, complain about customers, talk about staff, confess concerns and anxieties and maybe just let off steam, can be transformational for both you and your business.

De-stressing in a neutral setting with a professional confidante can help you get things back into perspective and reset the dials. You make better and more considered decisions. Joan Collins’ football diva in the Snickers adverts, isn’t that far from reality.

Not to be confused with Counselling, Therapy, or Life Coaching – there is, however, structure and purpose to the conversation and every one of the men and women I talk with from across a whole spectrum of professions, takes away some key understanding, or action from every visit they make.

Take Action – Book a Session – start improving the quality of your business life, contact me on 01273 508207 or via for an initial meeting.

ARKA Original Funerals – Inspiring Change

Cara Mair - ARKA Original Funerals, Brighton, East Sussex

Cara Mair – ARKA Original Funerals, Brighton

There are key times in our lives, when we want and need the people we’re dealing with to be open and honest, so we know we can trust that they will genuinely do their best for us.

When we ask the same trust and honesty of someone we’ve never met before and of a business, that feels like we’re stretching the bounds of likelihood and credibility. Yet that’s what we ask of the funeral director we’ve never met before and who we put our trust in at one of our most vulnerable moments.

ARKA Original Funerals – Genuine and Caring
Cara Mair founded ARKA Original Funerals in 2003 with the vision and clarity that the services she offers are based on warm and genuine care for the families she works with and on a palpable respect of the deceased. As people first and funeral directors second, the rest flows very naturally.

Cara is one of the most inspiring people I have ever met and for over 12 years has been a leading light in the creation and establishment of natural funerals. Her vision is unfaltering, despite the many snipes at her approach and style from the traditional funeral industry. That takes grit and determination as well as vision.

Doing It Right And Standing By What You Believe
In Cara’s words, “We believe in people’s individuality and celebrate the diversity of our unique community and we work hard to ensure that we do it justice. We are firmly committed to a more natural approach and ARKA Original Funerals 2017to a gentler way of doing things – from the coffins and urns that we promote through to the ways in which our celebrants work with families and friends of the deceased.

7 Essentials for a Strong Company Brand
As you can read in a recent blog from Hubspot, Cara’s clarity of vision and purpose, is one of the reasons why her other business and strategy related decisions fall very quickly into place. From the manufacture of ARKA’s own unique design of the “Brighton Original” pine coffin, by Tom Robinson, a local cabinet maker, to colleague Sarah Clarke winning Funeral Director of the Year in the Good Funeral Awards.

“That was the best funeral I have ever been to!”
Those probably aren’t the words you expect families and friends to say after a naturally sad occasion, but it is regular feedback to Cara and her team at ARKA Original Funerals. So if you are enthusiastic about what you’re doing, don’t be frightened of standing out from the crowd by offering something very personal and genuine. Believe me, it pays more dividends that you can imagine when you do.

Photograph of Cara Mair © Alexa Clarke Kent and used with permission.

Focused Support for You and Your Business Decisions

Practical Small Business Entrepreneur

Ann's Pasties Bakery

Ann’s Pasties, The Lizard, Cornwall

Clearly I should get out more, because every time I do, I come across more examples of imaginative, fun and genuinely nourishing small entrepreneur businesses.

At the Lizard Point, Cornwall is Ann’s Pasties, a family run business that started small and blossomed, through the hard work and commitment invested in it and the quality of its produce.

The Founder
If you click on Ann’s picture, you can read her story about a venture that has is founded in tradition and family skills and which has clearly benefited from spreading its wares even further afield, through the internet.

A Growing Number of Outlets
Painted a distinctive orange (from the shield of the Dutchy of Cornwall) and flying the black and white Saint Piran’s Flag, the building is not hard to find, particularly at lunchtime, when a steady stream of people to and from the counter, mirrors the fresh baked smell drifting down the street.



While I didn’t meet Ann on the day I was there, her very friendly staff kept everyone happy in the heat of the kitchen, by chalking up pre-orders on the wall as supplies became challenged by the relentless flow of customers happy to wait for an authentic pastie, rather than face a mass produced one from another retail outlet.

The Great Core Values You Experience
We felt like we’d stumbled across a hidden Cornish gem and eating in the park opposite with several others added to the experience, as we all delighted in this delicious home made treat that clearly emphasises traditional values.

The Essential Offer For Your Business
I can’t help but have a warm feeling and fondness for this business, built on strong core skills and values, supporting local suppliers and offering a local and national delivery service that spreads the love. So if this is making you hungry, buy some of Ann’s pasties on-line, and for some nourishment for your business, give me a call and lets find and market your warm hearted values.
01273 508 207

The Importance of Great Branding

Cornwall Soapbox Screen CropFinding imaginative and vibrant products in the crowded handmade soap & skin care market is a particularly rare treat, so stumbling across the Cornwall Soapbox shop situated in St Ives, Cornwall while on holiday there was a particular delight.

Cornwall Soapbox LogoThe crisp and compelling, yet subtle aromas that gently wafted through the open shop door, was the first elegant contact with the brand and said very clearly that this was going to be a sensual caress, and far from the more full frontal, overpowering attack that comes from Lush stores on the high street.

Cornwall Soapbox is a family run business that has been making high quality, natural handmade soaps, scented candles and aromatherapy skincare products for over ten years. Founded by Suzanne, a qualified Aromatherapist and Mike, a maker of traditional handmade natural soaps, they only use the finest natural raw ingredients, and still make in relatively small batches.

The colour palette used for the candle tins and the textured paper wraps to the soaps draw you in and the neat and clear roundel completes the very creative image. The website is clear and simple to use and the copy is written with a very nurturing and confident tone of voice, the same welcoming experience we had from Mike in the shop on the day we visited.

With a new offer already in the pipeline for release later this year, you might want to follow them on Twitter or Facebook, so you’re immediately in the know when that happens and absolutely have it for when you’re thinking about your Christmas shopping.
01273 508 207

Inspiring People – Alice & Nina Pulford

Alice Pulford

Alice Pulford

The Tilinanu Orphanage in Lilongwe, Malawi wasn’t a place I’d ever heard of before I met with Alice & Nina Pulford.

I’d been recommended as a source of mentoring & honest, impartial advice around their business plans & strategies for the two charities they had already set up.

Tilinanu provides an orphanage home of love, hope and opportunity for 34 young girls, and Love Support Unite establishes and supports small-scale projects in Malawi by raising funds and finding volunteers.

You don’t have to be in the presence of these two young women for very long before you recognise how remarkable their determination and passion is for making a long term difference in the communities that Alice first met in 2009. TilinanuWorking alongside local families and teams, they have already contributed to genuine, long-lasting development projects and have provided much-needed healthcare, education and skills workshops.

Alice and Nina Pulford are unassuming young people making a staggering and wonderful difference through the work they do, and this year Alice was voted Volunteer of the Year 2015 in the Small Charities Coalition Awards, in recognition of what she has already achieved.

There aren’t enough opportunities, or public places, for inspiring people like this to be seen and their work to be recognised. If you’d like to know more, please follow the links and to support them with a financial contribution, please follow this one to the Tilinanu Orphanage page at Just Giving.

Excellent Customer Care

Excellent Customer Care

From Ford Focus to Mercedes C220 in 8 minutes

While writing a blog about it is perhaps a sad reflection of how infrequently I come across excellent customer service, when I do it’s a joy and very worth while sharing, to acknowledge the deed and to spread the word about the person and the company.

Invaluable Word of Mouth
Positive feedback and reviews are at the heart of creating a good business. Word of mouth recommendations can be some of the best you ever get and the ripple effect can last quite a while, especially when they’re also passed on through social media.

Being taken good care of as a customer makes anyone feel valued and appreciated. Excellent customer care can be a surprise and very exciting, as we’re helped to feel that we stand out from the crowd and are worth making a fuss over. If the customer care is in response to a mistake, or problem caused by the company, then in terms of loyalty, what you just did to make things better made you a ‘friend for life’.

Enterprise Car Hire – understanding customer service
I recently pre-booked a hire car from Enterprise, a company I’ve used several times before, for the very reason that they are efficient, friendly and very helpful. Keeping the cost of the three day trip as low as possible, I’d gone for a Ford Focus. When the paperwork was completed for a close of day 6pm pick up, I was told there was a slight delay, as the vehicle being delivered from another site hadn’t yet arrived.

When that was still the case 10 minutes later, rather than making excuses, or making me wait any longer, I was immediately given an apology and upgraded at no additional cost to a Mercedes C220. At least three vehicle classes up from the car I’d ordered, the 700 mile round trip turned out to be very much more comfortable and enjoyable than it was otherwise going to be.

So if you’re looking for great service, give a try – and this is NOT a sponsored blog!

Inspiring Business – The Bakery, Lyme Regis

The BakeryThe Bakery – Lyme Regis, Dorset

I discovered The Bakery purely by chance on a recent short break to Dorset and it’s one of those experiences that shakes you to the core.

This is a creative and nourishing business that invites you into its very heart, as you step across the threshold and are fed not only by the incredible food, but by the energy and heart of the owners, staff and atmosphere.

The concept is simple – walk in and grab a board (no plates), add food, eat and enjoy, pay on your way out. And food is a bowl made of their bread, which you fill with hot, tasty vegetarian delights – and believe me it’s the most wonderful bowl licking (well, eating) experience I’ve ever had. I won’t describe the absolutely stunning cakes . . . . .  I’ll let the picture tell the story and just say, be ready to share!

The Bakery Lyme Regis Inspiring BusinessThe Bakery does everything the text books say, in giving the customer an experience of its ‘core values’ across all aspects of it’s ‘brand’? Those are crass words of descriptive jargon and completely out of place in this setting where the owners clearly just ‘are’ and where these things come as naturally as their desire to be artisan bakers ‘making bread the old fashioned way using recipes, processes and ingredients your great-grandmother would be very familiar with’.

At their core is clearly great skill and passion, that they have translated simply through their vision, energy, like-mindedness and teamwork – and certified organic flour with no improvers, preservatives or stabilisers.

Their website is equally low key, as are their Twitter and Facebook pages, where yet again they get it right, with customers doing all the advertising necessary by posting glowing reviews and praise. This is a great example of ‘when its right its just right’. I’m just sorry there isn’t one in Brighton.

The Bakery, 2 Coombe Street, Lyme Regis DT7 3PY
01273 508207