Discipline makes Daring possible.



There is much about being in charge of a company that every owner loves:

  • being part of a team,
  • working towards a common purpose
  • camaraderie
  • feeling that you’re not on your own
  • seeing ideas come up from others – better than any you could have dreamed up
  • seeing people grow and develop as a result of working with you – not just at work
  • Seeing your vision come to life.
  • The feeling of ‘I made this’.

There is also much about being in charge of a company that every owner seems to hate:

  • telling people what to do
  • making sure that they are doing it
  • worrying about whether they will do it properly
  • checking that they have done it properly
  • doing it again yourself when they haven’t
  • telling them they didn’t do it properly
  • telling them (again) how you want it done
  • dealing with disappointed clients
  • performance reviews
  • finding and hiring the right people
  • seeing them go
  • being the last to leave
  • being the last to have a holiday
  • being the last to be paid
  • not getting to do any of the ‘real’ work

What if you could have the bits you love, without the bits you hate?

You can, if you think about where the bits you hate come from.

If you were building an office block, or putting on a play, or making a film, you would have something that told people exactly what it is you’re trying to create.  You’d have plans, a script and stage directions, a storyboard.   If you were writing a symphony you’d have a score.

These things don’t just describe the outcome, they document how it is arrived at.

It’s not the bricklaying or the carpentry you’re worried about, you know your team know how to do that. What you’re worried about as an owner is the look and feel of the thing, the experience the audience – your client – will have of the finished article.

When you started your business you lovingly and painstakingly handcrafted the client experience yourself, in collaboration with the people who ‘got’ what you can do for them.

You expanded your business first by freeing up more of your own time – by handing over specific jobs that require specialist skills – bricklaying, joinery, accountancy, hr, phone answering. These are generic jobs, with their own rules that specialists learn.   But there comes a point where you have to hand over parts of the customer experience itself, whether that’s sales or delivery.

This is where the problems start.

The solution is startlingly simple.

Create a description of the customer experience and how to deliver it, that ensures everyone starts from the same level of understanding as you.

That way everyone gets what they love.

In common

In common

When everyone feels divided, when it seems that group is set against against group, right against right, and politicians openly sow discord, I find it helps to remember that we have a lot of things in common.

The biggest of which is our place in the ecology of the planet we share.  A place we are jeopardising by our own short-sighted actions.

Its not too late to reverse that jeopardy.   If we recognise that despite all our differences, we have this vulnerability in common, we’ll find we also have the power to reverse it.

In common, shared, to be used together.

Discipline makes Daring possible.

5 principles for composing your Customer Experience Score

5 principles for composing your Customer Experience Score

Principle 1: Remember why you’re doing it.

Everything you do in your business is done in service of making and keeping Promises to the people you serve.

This is the bigger picture:

You need to remember that when you compose your Score, and you need to ensure that your people will remember it every time they play it.

Principle 2: Not how it is now, but how you really want it to be.

As soon as you’ve written it down, your Score becomes your new ‘As-is’.  Until you improve it again.  You’ll never get to ‘To-be’.

Principle 3: The person playing this will be a human being like you.

You’re not composing for a robot, or a computer.  You’re composing for a human, who can fill in any gaps from their experience, knowledge and skill.   They need prompts, not instructions.  They’ll probably suggest improvements.

Principle 4: Have a golden rule for dealing with the unexpected, and a recovery process for when things go wrong

You can’t predict every eventuality.   Things change.   So it pays to have a ‘golden rule’ that allows anyone to deal with them in line with your Promise.

Similarly, mistakes are bound to happen.  The way you deal with them is part of your Promise.  And there is a way to make errors work for you and actually strengthen your Promise: Be human.

Principle 5: Admin is a side-effect of doing the job

You want to spend as much time as possible on the thing that pays – making and keeping Promises to the people you serve.   Everything else is  a side-effect.  But you have to design your business to work that way.

The first piece of admin to treat like this, is getting paid.   Make it part of the process – even if it’s the final note of your Score.  That way you can make sure it happens, on time, every time.  Especially if you also make it part of the customer experience.

Discipline makes Daring possible.

And if you dare, I can bring the discipline.

Purchasing power

Purchasing power

Eggs may not seem like a big deal, but when it comes to dealing with climate change, every little helps, especially when done by a lot of people.

Here are 4 egg producers doing something towards reducing the impact factory egg farming has on our planet.

And here are a few questions you can start to ask about all the small things you buy:

  • Where is it made?
  • Where is most of it actually made (before the label’s added)?
  • Who by?
  • How is it made?
  • Where do the inputs come from?  How are they produced?
  • Where do the outputs go?  How are they made harmless?
  • What alternatives are there?

It’s not too late to take meaningful action to save our future on the planet.

Before you can act, you need to be informed.   The market won’t do this.  Especially when it isn’t working properly and a few mega-companies control huge swathes of production.

We have to inform ourselves.  Then tell our friends.

I learned about these egg producers through ‘The Daily Difference‘ from The Carbon Almanac.  Why not sign up yourself?

Contrary to what we’re told, it’s not too late, provided we all take action.



It was almost a throwaway remark from Paul Smith.

What AI is interesting for at the moment is to generate starting points for your own creativity.


The pieces in my kaleidoscope shifted slightly.

We see the world through the lenses of what we know, what we believe and what we feel.   We can’t help that.

So it is lovely to have someone nudge the kaleidoscope occasionally, and give us a change of view.  Especially when that view is of something you are slightly fearful of.

That thing you’re worried about for your business?   Have a conversation with an enthusiast, and see what happens to your kaleidoscope.

It can’t hurt.  It might help.  It will definitely change your view.

Regenerating business

Regenerating business

What is it that people want?

  • Agency – to make their own ‘me-shaped’ dent in the universe.
  • Mastery – to learn and master (even teach) new skills.
  • Autonomy – to be free to choose how they make their dent.
  • Purpose – to do this for something bigger than themselves, that has meaning beyond the sale.
  • Community – to do all this with ‘people like us’.
  • Status – to know (and for others to know) where we stand in our communities.

We want to be citizens.  Collaborating with purpose on something bigger than ourselves.

What if, instead of building our businesses to sell stuff – that might create a fleeting sensation of one or more of these things, we built them as a means to enable people to genuinely achieve these things?

We could repair and enrich our world instead of impoverishing it.

It’s not too late for Disicpline to make Daring possible.

Subjects, Consumers, Citizens

Subjects, Consumers, Citizens

If humans are naturally empathetic, flexible and co-operative, how come it feels like we’ve lost that?

Because we fall for stories.   Stories where our empathy and flexibility can be used against us.

I’m into the last of my 4 new books: ‘Citizens‘ by Jon Alexander and Ariane Conrad, and I’m so glad I’m reading it after Sarah Hrdy’s one.

According to Jon and Ariane, we’ve trapped ourselves in certain stories – stories that we didn’t create, but which had enough advantages for us in them to be accepted.

The first is the Subject story – one man at the top of our tribe has the right to tell everyone else what to do.  The rest of us are subject to his will, whether we like it or not.   The deal is meant to be that in return, the man at the top will take care of us, make sure we are fed and housed and can live our little lives.   The downside of this story is that there’s not much room for movement.   Your place is fixed and you know it.   The upside is that you can sneak in quite a private life on the side.  For an interesting exploration on how this story might have come about, I recommend ‘On Kings‘ by David Graeber and Marshall Sahlins.

The second is the Consumer story – we are not a subject, we are a free person!  Free, that is, to choose between whatever options are given.  The deal here is that we can be whoever we want to be, as long as it involves buying stuff.   The more, the better.   We aren’t encouraged to think about how that stuff is made, by whom, or what effect it might be having on other people and the planet.  We aren’t encouraged to think at all.  Our job is simply to consume.   The Consumer story likes community, likes tribes.  Tribes encourage people to compete with each other in buying stuff.   The upside of this story is that as a Consumer we can fully express our indivduality in a myriad of ways.  The downside of this story is that we feel disconnected, lonely, unfulfilled somehow, and there’s only so much stuff you can fit into one lifetime.

The third story is the Citizen story.  In this story we are empathetic, co-operative, flexible.  We recognise that we are part of something more than a community or a tribe, that we are individuals who are also part of a society.  A society we make, and could just as easily make differently.  In this story we make and re-make society from the bottom up, collaboratively, deliberately, consciously.   The downside of this story is that it takes a lot of effort, it means taking responsibility not just for ourselves, but for others, and it means participating with others in a messy process.   The upside is that this is our natural story, and the more we practice it, the better we get at it.

How do these stories play out in your business?

Are your clients or customers simply Consumers?  Or are they Citizens, helping to shape the little society that is your business?

Are your people Subjects?  Knowing their place.  Living their ‘real life’ outside the workplace, doing just enough to keep you happy?  Or are they Citizens, helping to shape the little society that is your business?

And you?  Are you a King, worrying about who’s after the top spot?  Or are you a Citizen, building a little society that will both outlast you and remember you as its founder?

Citizenship makes Daring possible.



Back in 1978, me and my family were entranced by this BBC series in which James Burke explained how rather than being a simple forward march of progress towards some future pinnacle, history was actually a web of connected accidents.   People built new ideas and inventions on the ideas and inventions of others, who had created these things for completely different reasons.  Connections made that were never ‘meant’ to be made leading to new connections, and new inventions.   Often with what seemed like spookily appropriate timing.

Fast forward 50 years, and I’m enticed into a little online group called ‘Connect the Carbon Dots’ by a mention of this TV series.

In our group, we’re taking the facts, issues and solutions in the soon to be released Carbon Almanac, and connecting them to each other, in a visual, interactive web.  So that someone interested in ‘how to store carbon in soil’ for example can see why that’s a good thing for global warming AND how it also impacts food security, erosion, and pollution.

Looking back, that documentary may have been the start of my life’s work!

Everything’s connected.  Everyone is connected.  Everything’s a process.

You never know what’s going to happen next, but there’ll be an interesting thread to follow.

And life is actually more joyful when you look at it that way.


PS it’s not too late to join in!

Going with the grain

Going with the grain

We’re often told that left in a ‘state of nature’, humans would end up fighting a ‘war of all against all’, leaving life ‘nasty, brutish and short’.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen any evidence of that, not even in the dodgiest part of Manchester in the high-unemployment, welfare-cut-ridden 1980s.

This story is used (has been used for millenia) to justify hierarchy.   ‘Someone needs to be in charge, because otherwise everying will go to pot.‘  And with hierarchy comes inequality. ‘I’m at the top, so I deserve more‘.

As I’m working through Sarah Blaffer Hrdy’s ‘Mothers and Others‘, it’s becoming clear that flexibility, empathy, mutual care and co-operation aren’t just useful human traits, they are literally the traits that made us human.  These behaviours evolved before our bigger brains, before language.   They made our bigger brains possible.  Without these behaviours, we would still be great apes, or extinct.

So a flexible, co-operative mindset based on empathy and care for others, including those currently ‘unproductive’ comes naturally to us.  Anything else goes against the grain.

Suppressing our nature isn’t just bad for people’s mental health, it’s bad for business, and right now it’s sending us down the road to extinction.

We’ll need to mobilise all our natual proclivities for teamwork, ingenuity and mutual aid to prevent this.

And we’re out of practice.

That’s where small businesses come in.

Where better to get practicing empathy, co-operation and mutual support than a business that already feels more like a family than a corporation?

Who better to kick off this transition in the UK than the 1.2 million ‘bosses’ of family-sized businesses?

When better to start than now, when it’s not too late?

And why not, when you can grow your business with the grain instead of against it?  Giving your business an evolutionary advantage, enabling scale without adding overhead or stress or losing what makes it unique?

Discipline really does make Daring possible.

A category of 1

A category of 1

Here’s a good question from Alan Wick:

What do you want your business to be known for?

It’s a hard one to answer, because there’s a second unspoken part to it:

That nobody else is known for?

To put you in a category of 1.