Sharpen your Axe.

I was up a tree at the week-end. Believe me, that is well outside my comfort zone. The heavy rains had brought many branches down in front of my TV satellite and after, probably a year, of putting up with this I decided it was time for action. I dug around in the shed and eventually found a rusty old saw that hadn't been used for ages. Back up the ladder and eager to get stuck in. I sawed away for ever and exhausted myself without much progress. Frustrated, I finally caved in and cycled the whole 10 minutes to the local hardware store and purchased a new blade for the princely sum of 50 Rand. Soon back on the job at home and within 15 minutes had felled 6 hefty offending branches. Problem solved. Don't worry it was more of a manicure for the tree so it will more than likely flourish as a result.

Lessons learned and obviously I am drawing an analogy to personal and business growth here.

Don't procrastinate

Plan ahead

Have the right tools (systems)

Keep the tools sharp

Be efficient

Dr Stephen Covey, who popularised the term, believes that it means “increasing your personal production capacity by daily self-care and self-maintenance”.

Surmount the insurmountable 

I was helping out at a Border Collie Rescue dog walk this morning at the Big Red Barn. It is an excellent local mountain biking track set in a Blue Gum forest. After overly keen early dog walkers had registered and headed off with their overjoyed mutts, things quietened down a bit. I took a break and hopped on to my mountain bike to tackle some of the bumps and jumps. Big Red Barn is where I first went mountain biking 5 years ago. Prior to that I was a 100% roadie. Today I reflected on the first time I attempted these more technical tracks with twists and turns and jumps and drop offs. Everything seemed way bigger and even insurmountable back then, but now those original jumps seem so easy. Naturally, the genius sadists at the Red Barn have created more audacious and technically challenging obstacles. I tentatively tried them today without a lot of bravado, I have to say. 

The analogy I am making is with building a business. So many things seem like huge obstacles to us at the beginning, but as we practice them consistently, they get smaller and smaller and, eventually, we master them. Things like reading a balance sheet, cold calling, selling from stage, creating a new marketing strategy, raising finance, committing to capital expenditure etc. As the business grows, and becomes more complex, unknown challenges will present themselves. Sure, you need the right tools, an expensive dual suspension bike, in my scenario, and often - a coach. Someone who has ridden the track before, who can point out the pitfalls and danger zones. Sometimes we will get cocky and take on a jump a bit too enthusiastically and fall. But we get up again and on we go. Like Brad Sugars, Action Coach founder, often says: “Why is the first million the hardest to make? Because you haven’t done it before”.       

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Achieve your goals in 2022!

One of the fundamental principles we apply as Action Coach coaches is DGLPA. Dream, Goal, Learn, Plan, Action. These are all interdependent and the desired outcomes will only be achieved if all aspects of this formula are followed rigorously. But there is something else. Over the past three years of running our 90 day planning workshops where clients diligently put to paper their action plans for the next three months that will take them on the path to their ultimate dream. I see time after time that business owners fail to achieve the results they have etched out 90 days previously. Hunger, desire, fire in the belly!! We pin pictures on our dream boards but where is the burning desire to actually acquire that shiny object, to seriously improve our health or make that change in ourselves that may improve the lives of others. I am not sure we can learn to have a burning desire but we can learn through improving our understanding of the power of the human brain to open up unbounded possibilities to change our futures.  I have laid out my reading list for 2022 and the majority is related to mindset. Maybe take the time over the festive break to research some great books that will work for you.

The importance of adaptability

There are many changes in our lives right now. The online/virtual world is booming. One of my favourites right now, apart from pub quizzing and dancing to my friend’s online disco on a Thursday night ( is online safaris with WildEarth. Having been on many safaris in South Africa I am always more interested in the small things rather than a sleeping lion. We can learn a lot from nature about how to survive and, more importantly, thrive through this pandemic. My favourite story is that of the Common Diadem butterfly. The African Monarch is actually poisonous to birds due to its diet and predators have learned to steer well clear. The Diadem, who is not poisonous, has adopted the same pattern to fool the birds into believing they are also toxic. That is a phenomenal feat. In this uncertain time it is crucial that we learn what others are doing to adapt to this new environment and how they are pivoting their businesses, what new or intensified marketing campaigns they are adopting and how they are cutting costs. This is the time to do what we should have done a long time ago in order to thrive.  

June 2020 

Einstein’s definition of insanity …

We all know it right? I was very encouraged when lockdown started. So many business owners  started to take their time to view their operations from a coaching perspective. Because they had time. Why don’t we have more than three months’ worth of expenses in cash in the bank? Why do I not feel I can rely on my staff to perform when working remotely? Why do I feel my suppliers and customers are not there to support me? Great questions, and ones that should be asked all the time. But a mere few weeks later I see businesses scrambling to get back to doing the things that did not get them to where they wanted to be in the first place. That is insanity. Rather focus on another of Enstein’s genuius quotes. “In the middle of difficult, lies opportunity

Company Culture

I felt compelled to write this article following a conversation with a young entrepreneur who had attended one or two of my Growth Club workshops. I call him an entrepreneur because he has had a couple of business failures and has built a successful tutoring business and sold it, or a strategic portion of it. He now runs a Google Ads business called BaseCloud, which he and his partner are in the process of franchising out on an international level. When we chatted he was glowing, having just completed the hire of a new team member, and he showed me the onboarding process, involving, amongst other things, an introduction to the company’s vision, goals and core values. In summary, the company culture. I reflected on the importance of embedding this into the company’s way of life from infancy. This is so much easier than having to undo an existing company culture that has grown toxic and stale. It is something that most businesses see as airy-fairy: something they can deal with much further down the track when they have grown big enough to afford an HR manager and have a CI budget. I am currently helping another one of my clients, who has grown into a medium-sized business in the past 15 years, to build a positive company culture. Man, is it hard! I had the pleasure of working with Stef du Plessis a few years back, and he helped me understand how powerful the “unwritten ground rules” within an organisation can be. This has been of immense help over the last few years as a tool for coaching my clients. 

The vicious circle of poor self management

So let’s clear something up from the start. Time management has been a hot topic in the pages of many business and motivational books for the last half a century. However time is never going to change, you cannot control it, it is going to tick on long after our beautiful planet has been destroyed by the selfish and greedy non environmentalists. So it is self management that we can control and improve to get more things done and up our productivity. The challenge I find with many of my clients is that they struggle to find the time to invest in improving their self management skills. To do lists are often purported to be a useful tool and I don’t deny that but quite often one can find that you spend way too much time adding things to the list and managing it rather than actually attending to the tasks themselves. I would recommend starting with a time log. Don’t make it too complicated. Create a number of categories such as Admin, marketing, quotations etc. Every hour log what you spent the majority of the time on during that hour. Do this for a week. Once you get comfortable with it make it a bit more sophisticated break the categories down or start doing it every 30 minutes. Once you have some decent analysis see how much time you are spending on revenue generating tasks and other tasks. Take the non revenue generating tasks and start to look at ways of delegating those or reducing them or automating them so you have more time to invest in working “on” your business. A client of mine did this last week and found that of the 15 hours he spent on preparing quotations 80% of that time was basic data entry that could be delegated to a more junior member of the team. I also called the Finance Manager of a client the other day who I helped recruit through one of our efficient and cost effective recruiting systems to catch up on how things  were going with a new systems implementation. He was stressed, because like many accountants, being so clever (you guessed it I am also a qualified CIMA) he was being pulled into many other areas of the business which was distracting him from the job in hand. I suggested the time logging thing to him and he replied “already doing it mate, every 15 minutes”. 

Give it a go I find it is a very useful methodology to begin the path to effective self management. Once you have mastered it get your team to do it. You will be amazed. 

Lessons learned from the UK National train strike in 1982 – the other eight hours

  • I was working in London for Conoco, a major US oil company, at the time subject to the biggest takeover in history by Dupont for US$7.3 billion. The early 80s were interesting times. Maggie Thatcher was trying to distract the nation from domestic troubles by going to war with Argentina in the teeny weeny Falkland Islands. A successful tactic, I have to say, while it lasted, but the real battle was on British soil – Thatcher vs the unions. One of the big ones was against ASLEF, the train drivers’ union. This resulted in a national all-out strike of British Rail. As I lived outside the reaches of the London Underground and was wholly dependent on British Rail to get to my work in Marble Arch, I was relishing the prospect of some leisure time at home. Not to be – Conoco, bless their hearts, hired all their affected employees cars to get to work. You can imagine the roads into London. I got picked up by my good mate Andy Smith, who lived even further away in Tunbridge Wells, at 5 in the morning and we got to work between 9 and 10. We left the office at 2 pm with similar results. What did we do in those hours? We talked rubbish, stared aimlessly out of the window at other stationary vehicles and listened to the nonsensical Radio 1. If I knew then what I know now I could have seriously educated myself. Conoco also could have put some serious cassette- (no CDs in those days) based training programme together. In Robert Pagliarini’s book The Other 8 Hours he talks about the fact that we work for eight hours and sleep for eight hours – but what do we do with the rest? Use it to help yourself grow. Don’t waste it – there is not a lot of it around and the bad news it goes quicker the older you get.


Culture in the Wild East – Papua New Guinea

In 1986 I decided I had outgrown London and even the UK. Time for pastures new, so I was off to Papua New Guinea. “Where is that?” I hear you ask – well don’t worry I had no clue either. After a few days in the civilised Sydney I was on my way to Port Moresby and BANG – culture shock of note. I found out later that several of the new recruits of Steamships Trading Company (subsidiary of the Swire Group) literally landed and turned tail to get back on the next plane out. It was relatively peaceful times – the curfews had been lifted and things were on an even keel. I had about 15 staff who came from a variety of backgrounds and tribes. There are 832 different languages spoken in PNG – yes languages, not dialects. Pulling all these guys together and creating our own team culture of empowerment and self-development was a challenge but I believe I had some success. Remember, I was only 25 at the time. The two years I was there ended up being fantastic. I made great friends, I was successful in my job and had some incredible travel experiences. 

Today I am a huge believer in the power of culture in a business. In short, it can be the difference between a mediocre company and an exceptional company. If you don’t mould and nurture your company culture, the chances are your staff will do it for you and this is often not pretty. Get your vision and mission statements and your points of culture sorted out and get your team’s buy-in. Struggling with it? Give me a shout.

The Power of Self Belief

I was on my indoor bike trainer the other day and was being motivated  by U2’s classic Beautiful Day  and it reminded we of a rock festival I went to in Gateshead in the North East of England in 1981. There must have only been a couple of thousand people there. Put it this way getting a spot near the front was not a problem. U2 were the 10th act in the line-up and only a few fans paid much attention the rest sauntered off for a beer and a hot dog. Now, U2 are one of the best selling bands in history.  How did that happen? It was not an easy journey, they were controversial at times and were constantly reinventing themselves. The analogy with a small business is strong. You must have a dream and to realise your dream you must have goals. To hit your goals you must have a plan and you must constantly review it. I meet so many business owners that are limited by the Law of the Lid, their own thinking. Did U2 believe they could become one of the biggest selling bands of all time. Of course otherwise they would not be. At my free seminars on building a bigger business I introduce business owners to the idea of stretching their thinking and creating a commercial, profitable enterprise that works without them.


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