Thursday, July 28, 2016

Beauty and the Business

I love the English Lake District (I have a sanctuary in Grasmere) and it’s National Parks Week in Britain. An interesting piece in the Guardian, looks at the intersection between beauty and business in the national parks. One of the case studies is giftware company Herdy which is one of my Lovemarks, a beloved brand that reaches out into the world.

I’ve been working with Herdy founders Spencer and Diane Hannah for two years now. Herdy is helping the Lake District - England's largest national park and a place of breathless beauty - with its bid to become the UK’s first national park to be awarded World Heritage status from UNESCO. Herdy is an official partner. The campaign is using the Herdy brand in leaflets and across social media. Look out Grand Canyon, Great Wall and Barrier Reef; here come the Herdwick Sheep!!

The marriage between business and beauty, which isn’t always an easy one, is unbeatable when you get it right. Being based in a national park, as The Guardian piece notes, brings entrepreneurs challenges such as broadband, recruitment and logistics. And on the park side of things, a balance has to be struck between commerce and conservation. Herdy, inspired by the Lake District’s lovable Herdwick sheep, has found the sweet spot. Its products are sold across the country and to Europe, Japan and the US. The company returns 2-10% of its profits to projects that support upland fell farmers and the rural community. Herdy is about how the brand interacts with its neighbours. Other examples in the article of turning the national parks to commercial advantage include solar powered cheese and a region that is not just in a beer’s branding but in the product itself.

Roll on beautiful business.

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Sunday, July 24, 2016

Blackpool Museum Project

“Oh I do like to be beside the seaside.”

When I was a young boy, Blackpool was our summer Mecca, Disneyland and Nice all rolled into one (although we’d never been to any of the foreign three!!). The first ever seaside resort for the working class. Home of the Blackpool Tower, the Illuminations, Stanley Matthews and Stan Mortensen, the Circus, the Golden Mile, Blackpool Rock and the Winter Gardens.

I was there a couple of weeks ago speaking to the Blackpool and Fylde College graduates and will be back on September 16 – as patron for the annual BIBA Awards at Blackpool Tower.

The City Council are in the middle of a great project – a £26million museum for Blackpool which will be like no other. It’ll be fun, interactive and based on the tastes of ordinary people, not the elite. It will tell Blackpool’s story in eight themes.
  • Oh I do like to be beside the seaside The great British seaside holiday: the story of how Blackpool became symbolic of the British seaside holiday both at home and abroad.
  • How Bizarre Fun, thrills and escapism: Blackpool capitalised on our desire for fun and escapism by creating experiences that ranged from the breath-taking to the bizarre.
  • Reach for the Sky The Blackpool Tower story: The story of how Blackpool created one of Britain's most iconic landmarks; a tale of high drama and deception, but ultimately success.
  • Roll-Up! Roll-Up! Britain’s greatest circus town: Britain is the birth place of the modern circus and Blackpool is Britain's greatest circus town.
  • Ta-Da! The great British talent show: featuring comedy, magic, music and dance performance, Blackpool became the northern home of variety; a very British format that grew from music hall and has in recent years moved from the stage and onto our television screens.
  • Everybody Dance Now The home of dance: the chance for a dance has always been one of Blackpool’s biggest attractions. Discover how Blackpool became the global capital of ballroom dance and why dance, in all its forms, is such an important part of our lives.
  • Let us Entertain You The magnificent Winter Gardens: Blackpool created the best Winter Gardens complex in Britain and attracted national and international stars and incredible events. Even today the events and programmes reflect the diversity of great British popular culture.
  • It’s better with the lights on The Blackpool Illuminations: in order to extend the season, Blackpool created the Illuminations. It used electric street lighting to create one of the world’s greatest light attractions.


Image attribute/source: Blackpool Museum /

Monday, July 18, 2016

FB Live with Sree

One of the joys of launching a new book – in my case 64 Shots: Leadership in a Crazy World – is meeting a bunch of interesting new people. I wrote about Michael Wolff on Friday. Today it’s Sree Sreenivasan, tech evangelist/skeptic, former professor of journalism and Columbia and former chief digital officer of The Met. Today Sree is a one-man television channel, utilizing the wonders of Facebook Live for a series of long form conversations and walks, in my case it was walking around the decks and rooms of my Tribeca apartment. It’s a 40 minute conversation about 64 Shots, leadership, the crazy world, art, design, where we’re from (Sree has New Zealand high school qualifications via the Marist Brothers high school in Fiji, one of the stops on his global life tour). Take the tour!

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The two most asked questions today – in New Zealand – “What’s for dinner tonight?” (And the answer is My Food Bag!)

In the USA – according to Michael Wolff, and inadvertently confirmed by Saatchi & Saatchi NY CEO Brent Smart, who asked me at dinner last night, "What are you watching now?”

The Golden Age of Television.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Lunching with your Heroes

I was told when I was younger – “Don’t ever meet your heroes, you’ll be disappointed and disillusioned”.  Terrible advice.  I’ve met Rowan Williams, Peter Blake (the artist), Earle Kirton, Colin Bell, Mike Summerbee, Hunter Davies, Tom Peters, Norman Schwarzkopf, Colin Powell – all heroes of mine … and loved ‘em all.  
Thursday was special.  Lunch at Michael’s in New York.  Michael’s is a classic American restaurant, run by Michael McCarty who paces the floor checking in on all his guests.  An ambling, shambling force of nature.  Michael hosts all the Media Power Players in the City.  The bigshots all have their own tables, backs to the wall, facing outwards, accepting fealty from their followers, and checking out who’s with whom, as the pieces move on the NYC Media chessboard.  
And I was with a hero of mine; a wonderful writer with Vanity Fair, British GQ, and author of the best book ever written on Rupert Murdoch – Michael Wolff.  Brilliant, prolific, provocative, punchy, new father of one year old daughter, 62 years young, and for me – ‘The Authority’ on all things interesting on media, politics, culture, … and so magnificently opinionated.
He put a bid together to buy New York magazine and nearly pulled it off.  He went to Adweek in 2010 as Editor with a brief to save it; he lasted a year!!  (The man who fired him was on the table next to us.  A handshake was exchanged – just! – as lunch ended.)
I rarely venture uptown into this world.  But a Summer lunch with the heroic Mr Wolff at a Rosé splashed Michael’s takes some beating.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

What CEO’s Should Be Focusing On in 2017

At last week’s AT Kearney Global Business Policy Council retreat in Warsaw we reviewed the results of an April 2016 CEO survey on their top five concerns for 2017 and beyond. This survey stimulated me to outline my answers to this question What CEO’s should be focusing on in 2017?

I believe CEO’s should be focusing on these 5 things:
  1. Adopting internal disruption as a way of life.
    There is nothing more inevitable in our VUCA world than disruption is just around the corner. The Fast Eat The Big; and technology trumps traditional. If you are not actively engaged in disrupting your own culture and your own business, then someone is targeting to disrupt you; you just don’t know it yet.
  2. New skills.
    The old days of command and control, silos, and internal competition are dead. In our new crazy world we must all adapt or perish. Integration, collaboration, connectivity and creativity are the skills we need to survive and flourish. No easy task. A mind-shift change followed by intensive ongoing coaching, training and role modeling is required.
  3. Embrace and relish a more with less culture.
    Eliminate and reduce waste. Adopt zealously and positively Jeff Bezos’ mantra, “There are 2 kinds of companies. Those that want to charge more. Those that work to charge less. We will be the second kind.” We all should be.
  4. Beware of the Rising Tide of Nationalism and Populism.
    Think Global Act Local has never been truer.
  5. Creating a culture based on creating more leaders; not followers.
    A culture which is inspiration based, against a Purpose which is at the Heart of the Enterprise and which is embraced by all.
(All these are based of course on Roberto Goizueta’s performance mantra of… Meet. Beat. Repeat.)


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