Dec 032016

Do you manage your own business? Did you always plan to do so? Whichever way you landed up where you are today, did you have a short, medium and long-term plan when you started out?

Most people (in my experience) start out with a goal. That goal may be personal, or might be specific to their business. Over the years since FWL started out, I have met dozens of people (generally when networking) who came to a point in their employed life when they told their employer to ‘stick their job up their arse’ (or a more polite version, sometimes). That wasn’t me but there came a point when my desire to find people and make a difference (in a different way to the day job at the time) became greater than my desire to leave the house at 6:30am every day, spend seven hours in the company of amazing young people, two to three hours (generally) per week listening to drivel in meetings (often reinventing the wheel) and a ludicrous amount of time planning and marking in a way I might not even agree with etc. etc. The time I spent with the young people I worked with was thoroughly enjoyable and the holidays made up for the long hours I (thought I) worked.

Having told my Headteacher that I would rather be self-employed than employed, I find myself here, three years later, managing an extremely successful business with an office, staff and amazing work colleagues. Over my years of employment, I learnt a lot from some ‘interesting’ managers and the ethical values upon which FWL is founded, take heed of both the positives and negatives I (and others) have experienced along the way. And now, FWL is here…. nearing 2017….

2016 has been a year of massive change. New office, new team members and new vision. We have invested. Each step of change is a challenge. We question, is our next decision the right one? What are the pitfalls if it isn’t? What could be the benefits if it is? Success breeds jealousy (unfortunately) and other people in whatever field you work in (sadly) often feel the need to criticise the progress you make. Why do they feel the need to do so? More often than not, because your success makes them feel inadequate, in my opinion.

Change is a good thing. It takes time. If change doesn’t quite go to plan, learn from it and make another change to the plan. The plan may not be written. It may not even be concrete, in any form. Stick with Plan A because, as the UK’s Number 1 motivation speaker says, if you have a Plan B, you don’t believe in Plan A enough (or words to that effect).

You can’t change the past but you can change the future. Let go of negativity and be positive …. always.

Nov 282016

…. Stars …. Many residents of the UK will be watching the current series of I’m a Celebrity…. Get Me Out of Here! Some of the celebrities are well-known and some are (frankly) Z-list. Carol Vordeman MBE, Wayne Bridge and Larry Lamb are, in my humble opinion, ‘celebrities’ but there are also many other entertaining characters – be they actors, athletes, comedians or whatever – and the series is, by far, the most congenial I have watched (and I am a fan). This weekend, we have been graced with challenges where participants haven’t moaned, squealed or even complained at their ‘tasks’. Given the whole premise of the series (and past experience), this is far from ‘normal‘ (whatever that may look like). In general, the series features massive arguments, task participants screaming like a banshee, generally losing their cool, looking like *****s and such like.

Our day job requires more than a modicum of ‘staying cool’ and that’s what keeps us ahead of the pack. Other companies have, in recent times, ventured into the dark arts. Whilst we may not agree with either side of the dark arts court argument, others (ourselves included) have benefitted from the negative publicity and the time others have spent defending their corner/s. It’s surprising the levels the ‘stars’ will stoop to….

This, and recent other matters, have made me think …. what makes someone ‘a star’? And in whose eyes? Yesterday, I ‘performed’ my first Facebook Live…. I am, by no means, a star. Not in a million years….  I took the opportunity to present my stourney (story/journey) to my 4Networking colleagues (and anyone else who cared to listen) and it was very well received. It would appear that I am a speaker ‘of note’ (who knew) and hence, I will be setting up a new ‘Speaker Seeker’ website, so that those looking for me, can locate me effectively. I have lots of 2017 bookings, already set in tablets of stone in the UK and overseas…. Watch out for The Kirsty Gray! A force to be reckoned with ….

Nov 242016

This week has been ridiculous, on so many levels. We have signed more cases than ever before. We have smashed down more brick walls than anyone would ever think possible. From what our clients/beneficiaries/customers say, the reason is because ….  we are unique. However, we are not going to give away our ‘trade secrets‘ so that our competitors (some of whom read our blogs) can steal our USP.

We have built our brand on ethics. We are honest. We tell people what we know. We don’t withhold information and if that means we lose cases, so be it. We would rather retain our values than tell porkie pies. “Your aunt’s estate has been referred to the Government Legal Department by Lloyds Bank” …. it has! It’s information which is in the public domain so why would we hide it?

Confidentiality is crucial in our business. We would never pass on any confidential information but how could we ethically write to someone and say, “You are entitled to claim a portion of someone’s estate” without actually identifying who? Apparently, our competitors do!!!!

Any road…. today, our MD has been given leave from FWL HQ in Calne. She hasn’t been available to speak to anyone or reply to emails. Why, you may ask? Because she has been to Brad Camp! We need her to be the best she can be to market FWL ‘The Brand’ and so we sent her on the ‘Be A Better Speaker‘ day…. and she’s come back buzzing. Holy hellfire…. she won’t shut up! Brad Camp has given her (too/so much) positive feedback that she’s now rocking and rolling to deliver her next presentation – #4NTVLive on Saturday, From School Classroom to Prime-Time BBC1 – 8:30am and not for the faint hearted.

FWL are a unique business. Apparently, other companies “do what we do“. Really? We are not so sure. Perhaps you’d like to get in touch with us to find out if that’s really true…. Compare our services to that of our competitors. We can assure you…. you won’t be disappointed.

Nov 202016

Work is busy. Life is busy. And I am the world’s worst at the two letter response instead of three to a closed question. No. It’s not a word I regularly use. Sometimes No is the right answer. In fact, I really should use it more than I do. A few weeks ago, I was asked a question and at the time, the answer was No. However, I soon realised that I needed to turn that No into a Yes.

Since September, FWL has been even more high pressure for me than usual. New office. BT issues with the phone and broadband. Team challenges. More client work. Signing more cases than ever. I could go on…. “Are you going to The Business Show at Olympia?” No. We have deadlines hitting us left, right and centre. Cases need to be finalised and/or progressed. Battles need to be fought. Research needs to be completed.

You know what? No. That was the wrong answer. So, I turned No into Yes. 4Networking friends told me that The Business Show was one not to miss. I moved heaven and earth to be there. I changed team rotas to cover me not being in the office. I worked the weekend before to make sure the crucial tasks were completed. I caught the train to London carrying the most awkward display board for delivery to Hounslow before I was able to arrive at Olympia, late. Why did I do this? Because No was the wrong answer.

I snuck in, hoping to go unnoticed, late to the evening’s event. Pah! That failed. I was greeted by a few people and hoped to keep a low profile, sitting in the place a dear friend had saved me. And then, so many people noticed my arrival, I spent the next nigh-on-an-hour circulating the table, reacquainting myself with those I had previously met and being introduced to others who were (at that point) unknown. During this circulation of the table, I was introduced to someone who was a Will Writer (great connection for me) and also, on a personal level, may well need our services. Who knows where that conversation will lead….

Late night wander back to my (interesting) hotel and what could be referred to as a lie in – well, half 7 awakening by doors crashing, conversations etc…. ah well! Up and at ’em and off to The Business Show itself. I can honestly say that I rarely moved from the 4Networking stand. Was I booked onto the team to help out? No. Will people join as a result of some of the conversations I had? I would imagine so. Many people have done Facebook Live Videos since the show and this blog will echo some sentiments they have voiced. Being an MD of a company can often be very lonely. It’s a tough gig. But since joining 4Networking, I have a massive family of supportive friends. Some, I have only met once or twice. Others, on more occasions. However, I know that they are some of the best business people and best mates that anyone could wish for.

For me, I know I have found home. Some ‘idiot’, almost 11 years ago, decided to set up a new business network. £25,000 in debt and everyone said it wouldn’t work. Holy crap, Brad Burton …. you are a bloody genius. You created something 11 years ago, you could not have even dreamed could be this good…. We find people at FWL. That’s not a ‘normal job’. We don’t fit in other networks who have ‘categories’ – we are ‘Other’. I don’t fit in other networks because I don’t do the whole corporate thing. Suit, dress…. erm, no. [That no, ain’t ever gonna be a yes!]

It’s about more than categories. It’s about more than what you wear. It’s about being you.

For all those times when No is the right answer, I am very glad I turned this No into a Yes.

Nov 172016

Regular readers will know of our very recent challenges in the new FWL Offices …. planning permission for change of use (retail to office), telephone and broadband connections and such like. It’s as though some higher being recognises that we thrive on challenge as, no sooner have we solved problems, fresh challenges present themselves.

Electricity. We don’t have gas. Just electricity. When we took over the tenancy in the office, an energy broker called and, rather than us having to individually call each and every potential supplier, they compared the rates and provided us with the best one. Great, we thought…. The previous supplier, however, would not release the supply to someone else without proof that we were new tenants. Simple. A copy of the tenancy agreement was sent off and we sat back with glee on our faces. Opus Energy was our new supplier. Electricity supplier sorted.

At the end of October, we were contacted by the broker to let us know that actually, because of the long delay in changing our supplier, our new supplier would not honour the rates we agreed in September (on a recorded call). So, back to square one. We go through the whole rigmarole again – which includes “my colleague calling you back and recording our agreement” – and we agree to change our supplier to British Gas. Electricity supplier sorted.

Today, the energy broker calls to say that the ‘credit check’ has failed and British Gas would not be our suppliers. Erm, pardon what? Number One: No-one asked about doing a credit check which will clearly fail on the office address as there is no credit history. Number Two: We have a letter dated 4 November stating that they (British Gas) are setting up the direct debit for our energy. So, apparently Opus will honour the original prices and the caller had no idea why we have had to make any changes since our Opus agreement. Wonderful. Problem sorted. We are back with Opus. “I will have my colleague call you back shortly to record the agreement”. I beg your pardon?!? We have done that already in September!!! “Oh but because it’s such a long time ago, we need to do it again”. You are having a laugh!!

After expressing my discontent and explaining that I didn’t have time for ‘Sonny Jim’ to call me back today – or indeed Thursday or Friday, as I will be out of the office – we finally settle on a call on Monday. “When would be the best time?” How the hell do I know!?!?!? Oh, hold on, crystal ball needs polishing….

Onward to the next challenge….

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