Discipline makes Daring possible.

4 rules for conservation

4 rules for conservation

This weekend’s lesson from “Braiding Sweetgrass” was a lovely one for me.

4 rules for conservation:

  • “Only take what you need.”
  • “Never from the first you see (it might be the last one).”
  • “Never take more than half.”
  • “Only take what is given.”

That last one is the kicker.   Sometimes the universe knows what you really need better than you, and tells you so.  If you have to wrest what you think you need from the earth, break branches to pull it from the tree, if it feels like dragging blood out of a stone, whoever you’re asking isn’t ready to give themselves yet.

The only thing to do in that case, is to think about what you need, not what you want.   Better still, think about what that being you’re asking to give really needs.

Then come back and try again.


Discipline makes Daring possible

Rigidity is the wrong tool for dealing with uncertainty

Rigidity is the wrong tool for dealing with uncertainty

When  your business is faced with uncertainty, rigidity is the wrong tool to use.   That’s why big corporations fail in the face of change.

The challenge for a purpose-driven, legacy-focused, customer-centred small business is to be open to unknown futures without losing its identity.   To keep their edges fluid and their core firm.

Fortunately, that’s relatively easy to do, because human beings are very good at dealing with uncertainty – especially the uncertainty that comes from dealing with other human beings.

All you need to do is to build the firm core:

First you define a high-level, comprehensive Promise of Value that is specific and distinctive, yet open-ended:

  • Define the people you serve in terms of psychographics, not demographics.
  • Define how you serve them in terms of their deeper needs, not passing wants.
  • Define how you achieve that in terms of values and behaviours, not external measures.

Package that Promise of Value into concrete products and services:

  • Identify the demographic(s) most likely to contain enough people of the right psychographic.
  • Understand what matters to them right now.
  • Identify what dis-ables the motivated.
  • Design a package that addresses what these people need right now.

Use that Promise of Value to drive the design of a Customer Experience Score for sharing and delivering on your Promise that:

  • Embodies your distinctive values and behaviours.
  • Can be played by any competent musician.
  • Enables each musician to bring their own experience and personality to their performance.
  • Allows them to create a new interpretation of your Promise when they encounter the new and unexpected.

Make sure you gather feedback:

  • From the Score as it is being played.
  • From the people you seek to serve and the people who work with you.
  • From your regulator if you have one, and your industry.
  • From the impact you makes on the people and planet around you.

Enable every player in your team to discover the combination of roles that ensures their best performances:

  • Make sure everyone can play the whole Score.
  • Give them regular R&D time, in the company of fellow players, to tweak or re-design the Score, in response to feedback, learning each other’s strengths as they go.

Once you have this in place, you can safely trust your people (and the people to come) to dance with uncertainty.  You can make every one of them a Boss, and leave the future of your business safe in their hands.

Discipline makes Daring possible

Ask me how.

If the shoe doesn’t fit

If the shoe doesn’t fit

Cinderella’s sisters would do anything to get their feet into the glass slipper.  They cut off their toes, and when that didn’t work, they tried trimming off a bit of their heels.   All they did was create a bloody mess.  The slipper wasn’t designed for them.

In business, it’s sometimes desirable to present your ideas in a format people are more comfortable with.   That’s always something worth exploring.  If you want to change minds, it’s helpful to start with the familiar as a way to introduce something new.

Be careful though.

If you find yourself mangling the idea to make it fit, this shoe is not for you.

Find (or make) a new one.

Magic dust

Magic dust

On Saturday we tried out the Elizabeth Line to Paddington.  Just to see what it is like.


A bus from the end of our road, 30 minutes to Paddington.

On the way home we kept thinking of new places that would now be easy to reach, and some old places that would be even easier to reach.

This new line has opened new possibilities to many.

Can your business do that?


PS the clouds in the picture are actually piles of dust on the roof of the exit.  Looking beautiful from this angle against the blue sky.   Once you were out, you could see it was just dust.  Magical though.

How much value you create

How much value you create

One of my favourite stories from business school was this one:

A sheet steel manufacturer was looking to sell their steel at a premium.

They looked carefully at who their customers were, and the process they went through to get their job done.

Their main customers were white goods manufacturers.  Now, steel doesn’t come out of the mill white, so these customers needed a paint shop where they sprayed the shaped steel casings of their products white.   There’s a reason they’re called ‘white goods’.  Offering other colours would mean adding another paint shop or creating an expensive change-over process for your single paint shop.

The steel manufacturer worked out that by adding a small cost to their own production process, they could save their customers a large cost and enable them to offer their goods at a premium.   It’s easier to paint sheet steel when it’s flat, at the end of your production process.   So that’s what the steel manufacturer did.

“Buy steel from us and you can have any colour you like.  And de-commoditise your products to boot”.

You don’t have to ask your clients intrusive questions about their finances to measure – or at least estimate – the value you create for them.  You just have to understand something about how their business works.

Some things to think about:

  • If you save them money, how much?  What does that add up to over time?
  • If you save them time, how much?   What was that time costing them before you?    What does it cost them now?
  • If you save them effort, how much?  What was that costing them before you?  What does it cost them now?
  • If you enable them to get more from the same level of resources, how much?  How much does that add up to over time?
  • Does any of this enable them to sell more, or to sell at a higher price?  How much more?  How much higher?  That’s part of the value you add too.

Measuring how much value you create for clients isn’t easy.   It is possible.

If you put your mind to understanding your clients first.

A thought…

A thought…

What is it exactly that the people you serve are trying to achieve?   What’s the job they are trying to get done?  (Hint: it’s not ‘buy your product or service’).

How do they go about getting that job done?  What’s the process they follow to achieve it?  What difficulties do they encounter in that process?   How can you remove those difficulties for them?  How can you make the process simpler/easier/cheaper/safer/more effective?

What if you organised your business around these things, instead of around your own job to be done? (Hint: that’s probably ‘sell my products/services’)

Just a thought.


Heretical thoughts on packaging your Promise – Price

Heretical thoughts on packaging your Promise – Price

Price is about ensuring both participants profit from their time together, finding the the right balance between what you need and what represents value to the people you serve.

Questions to ask:

  • How much does it cost you to deliver?  – Work this out on a per package basis, and remember to attribute a share of everything your accountant would normally dump in ‘overhead’.   That way you can be sure of making a profit each time you Keep your Promise.   Keeping your Promise enough times per year to make the living you want is a different problem.


  • How much do you want to earn? – Here’s a quick calculation:
    • Work out how much a year you want to earn before tax.
    • Divide it by 100 (=((365-(weekends, time off and bank holidays))/2) – because you need to spend half your working time running the business).
    • That’s your target ‘daily earnings’
    • Set yourself 2 levels – the least you want to earn, and your ideal.


  • How are the alternatives priced?  – Price is part of the story people tell themselves when they choose, and is often used as an indication of  quality.  You don’t need to be cheaper than the alternatives.  You don’t need to be more expensive either, unless your costs are higher or you want to earn more.


  • Being in a category of one puts you in complete control of your price.
  • Pricing is part of the story.
  • Payment is part of the format.
  • As long as you’re charging more than it costs you to Keep your Promise you have the potential to be profitable.   Keeping your Promise enough times per year to make the living you want is a different problem.
  • Price can be a flow control mechanism too.   If you’re inundated with clients, putting your price up will slow demand.   Lowering it may increase flow – but only if enough people already know what great value you offer.
  • If you’re not enrolling enough clients, you’re more likely to be underexplaining the value than overpricing it.
  • A low price can help to enrol early adopters, but make sure they know it’s a special deal for them.  And make sure they will rave about it afterwards.
  • If you get it wrong the first time, you can always put your price up for the next new client.
  • You only really need enough.  And enough is up to you.

Yet more thoughts on Packaging your Promise – Timing

Yet more thoughts on Packaging your Promise – Timing

The function of your Package is to enable the transformation the client desires.

Its format is about delivering that transformation effectively, in a way that suits their motivation and ability.

Timing is about how long that should take.  Balancing the urgency of the need against the practicalities of learning, absorbing and doing that will actually sustain the transformation beyond the journey.

Questions to ask:

  • How long does it take to complete the whole thing – to get from where they are now, to where they want to be, with you?
  • How much time does the Client need to devote to this?
  • If there are natural breaks, should there be gaps between for consolidation or implementation?
  • What’s the right pace? Where’s the balance between having time to do it and maintaining momentum?
  • When does it end?
  • Is maintenance required once the desired transformation has been achieved?

Of course, thinking about these things inevitably sparks more ideas about the format, and possibly ideas for further Packages.

And of course the underlying questions are still:

  • How can you make it as easy as possible for them to do, so they don’t give up along the way?
  • How do you make it as easy as possible for you to deliver, so that you can scale?

More thoughts on packaging your Promise – Format

More thoughts on packaging your Promise – Format

The function of your Package is to enable the transformation the client desires.

Its format is about delivering that transformation effectively, in a way that suits their motivation and ability.

Some questions to ask:

  • Could it be a product?
  • Could it be a service?
  • Could it be ‘self-service’, ‘on-demand’ or ‘do-it-yourself’?
  • Could it be live? In-person? Virtual? In a cohort or community?
  • Could it be a combination of any or all of these?
  • Could clients support each other?  How?

The underlying questions for all of these are:

How can you make it as easy as possible for them to do, so they don’t give up along the way?

How do you make it as easy as possible for you to deliver, so that you can scale?