Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Get a Shingles vaccine

A great couple of weeks (speaking to a conference in Dubai, teaching at the American University there and a birthday celebration at my favourite restaurant in the world – The Waterside Inn in Bray) came to a painful end as I was diagnosed with a major onslaught of Shingles. 

Constant pain, heightened by shots/stabs of extreme pain – like being jabbed with shards of glass, preceded a painful rash breakout across my lower back, and then a second breakout round my thigh/groin. Ugly. One in four people suffer from Shingles, it’s a nerve virus caused by the remnants of the chickenpox virus we had as kids suddenly re-activating itself. The rash lasts 2-4 weeks, the pain can last much longer. There’s a vaccine now which can prevent a serious Shingles outbreak. I’m having one. Too late for this attack but should help prevent a follow up. I recommend you check this out…at your age it’s a real threat. 


Friday, October 21, 2016

Export to the World

The Institute of Directors annual conference is the premier business event in the UK, held last month at the Royal Albert Hall. This was the third event I’ve spoken at, and with the Brexit vote behind us – and the consequences in front of us – I was keenly interested to feel the mood of the hall. It was very encouraging to witness widespread determination and optimism – many speakers echoing the Churchillian line that “an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

While the politicians and bureaucrats have meetings, review data, scrutinize reports, design exit plans, have more meetings, call in consultants and have more meetings, business has a sole response: get on with it and make things happen. And this means only one thing: export. As I said to the conference, the UK’s principal economic imperative is to “become the world’s premier exporter of ideas, experiences, services and products.”

The UK is the world’s 22nd largest country by population and its fifth biggest economy (demonstrating our relative wealth), though its tenth biggest exporter – beaten (within the EU) by Germany, the Netherlands, France and Italy. So we have work to do. Britain is an island nation, and island nations have trading in their DNA. There are positive signs. Exports comprise about 28% of our economy, or £500b. For the past four years British exports to non-EU countries have exceeded exports to the EU; we are successfully focusing on ‘rest of world’ in addition to the Eurozone.

We need to be seized by this opportunity, this two year window of time following the triggering of Article 50 which signals our exit from the EU. And while there has been a lot of focus on ‘innovation’ – the incremental process of improvement, tinkering, perfecting, bringing to market – I am more focused on creating – the origination of world-changing ideas, and the commercialization of these ideas. We Brits have a compelling record for creativity and invention – from Newton’s laws of gravity and Shakespeare’s storytelling, to television (Baird), computing (Turing) and the web (Berners-Lee).

These are examples of ideas that we have essentially given to the world (and you can throw in the remarkable idea of Westminster parliamentary democracy to our contributions to making the world a better place). However we have been less successful at monetizing these ideas. Google, Facebook, Uber and Airbnb are American ideas which have been segued into trillion dollar value drivers. It’s important to have lots of ideas in order to stumble across a really big one, so we need to get really smart about having big idea creation.

My Food Success

My Food Bag team Cecilia Robinson, James Robinson, Kevin Roberts, Nadia Lim, Theresa Gattung and Carlos Bagrie.
Happy and healthy Kiwi families have been at the core of My Food Bag’s purpose since its founding in 2013. The home food delivery service that was dreamed up by Cecilia and James Robinson, Nadia Lim and Theresa Gattung has become a household name in New Zealand, serving 50,000 active customers and delivering a more than million meals a month. It’s been estimated that My Food Bag is now New Zealand’s third largest food retailer. About 18 months ago I was invited to become chair of the company, mentoring this largely women-owned and led company to its next phase of growth and beyond.

Today My Food Bag announced that it has secured investment from New Zealand private equity firm Waterman Capital to support the company’s further growth and ambition to IPO within the next three years. We were actually flooded by customers wanting to invest directly in the company, and the IPO will give them an opportunity to become shareholders.

This is a tremendous New Zealand success story based on the premise of “simple, healthy, delicious.” My Food Bag was established to resolve the dilemma, “what are we having for dinner tonight?” In an environment where people are increasingly time-poor and health conscious, My Food Bag sees further opportunities to grow while making a positive change in the lives of New Zealanders. In June we launched Bargain Box focuses on affordability and caters for larger families of up to six people.

Waterman’s investment sees full ownership of My Food Bag remain 100% in Kiwi hands. For the team, it’s business as usual – Nadia continues as the brand’s ambassador and food expert. Cecilia and James Robinson continue in their roles as co-CEO’s to lead the company through this next phase of growth. Theresa remains on the board and I continue as chair. We’re joined by Waterman’s Chris Marshall, Lance Jenkins and Phil Maud.

Business should be purposeful, and it should also be fun. For me, My Food Bag has been both. Cheers to everyone in our 120-person team, our new investors, and our customers in every part of New Zealand.

Friday, October 14, 2016

The Bard of Hibbing, Minnesota

The Nobel Prize committee surprised the world on October 13, selecting an American author for the first time since Toni Morrison was chosen for the honor in 1993. Contrary to the even money from Ladbrokes—who had Philip Roth, Don DeLillo, Thomas Pynchon, or Cormac McCarthy in the heavy contention—the world’s top prize for literature went to none other than Mr. Bob Dylan, the bard of Hibbing, Minnesota.

Sweden got it right: Dylan belongs on our literary Rushmore. Highway 61, Blonde on Blonde, Blood on the Tracks, Time Out of Mind, are each rivers as rich, deep, troubling, and timeless as Hemingway, T.S. Eliot, Faulkner, and Morrison.

“His example has taught writers of all sorts — not merely poets and novelists—about strategies of both pinpoint clarity and anyone’s-guess free association, of telegraphic brevity and ambiguous, kaleidoscopic moods,” wrote Jon Pareles in an appreciation in The New York Times. “Mr. Dylan’s good stuff, in all its abundance, is the equal — and envy — of countless writers who work strictly on the page. As much as any literary figure to emerge in the 20th century, he has written words that resonate everywhere: quoted by revolutionaries and presidents, hurled by protesters, studied by scholars and taken to heart in countless private moments. . .  The Nobel doesn’t have to certify Mr. Dylan; half a century of literature has already done that.”

It’s long been remarked upon that there’s a Dylan lyric for every occasion. Well, the man Bono once called “our own Willy Shakespeare in a polka-dot shirt” will be taking home Nobel Prize. Ring them bells.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Old Timers

2 of my favorite storytellers have new albums out. Leonard Cohen's "You want it darker" is teasing out on Apple music. Title track is available now…

And John Prine's "For Better or Worse" is the definitive album for aging relationships. Leonard and John have plenty of miles on them (like me) and are still living life, loving life.


Image Attribute/Source: cdn.com / johnprine.com

Thursday, October 6, 2016

I know this to be true

A new book out in New Zealand which must find its way into your life. I know this to be true features New Zealanders who are living interesting lives, talking about the things they know to be true, the things they believe in, the things they have been taught, and the things they have learned. “Truth beauty wisdom and other stuff that matters.”

Created by publisher Geoff Blackwell, television producer Ric Salizzo and musician Mike Chunn, this book and television project is in support of the Play It Strange Trust, dedicated to cultivating the song-writing talent of young New Zealanders.

Among the 60 contributors are Dave Dobbyn, Dick Frizzell, Trelise Cooper, Rhys Darby, John Campbell, Judy Bailey, Gin Wigmore, Brendon McCullum, John Kirwan, Neil Finn, Danielle Cormack, Tiki Taane, Steve Hansen, Al Brown, Valerie Adams, Oscar Kightley, Sophie Pascoe, Beauden Barrett, Lucy Lawless, Colin Meads, Zoë Bell, Alan Gibbs, Jools & Lynda Topp, Pita Sharples, Peter Gordon, Silvia Cartwright, Sean Fitzpatrick, Rena Owen and Mahé Drysdale. And moi.