Friday, February 27, 2009

Friend of Simplicity - Scott Peters

Today my Friend of Simplicity is Scott Peters who uses pen name Bach Anon as the author of “Dropping Almonds” – one of the best business books I’ve read in the last few years. Scott and I bumped into each other through Tom Peters Blog and we have become good virtual friends. He has important things to say about how employees should be treated in business and the whole area of integrity of leaders and managers. We share very similar thoughts about these topics. I hope you enjoy reading Scott’s opinions – he is an author who pulls no punches – tells things as they really are in the cut throat world of business. I hope we see much more writing from Scott.

Trevor - Tell us where you are from and about your career to date.

Scott - Dallas, Texas. Graduated from Texas Tech University in 1992 and immediately began a career in home improvement sales and distribution. Served many roles in operations and sales before my first shot at General Manager for a lumberyard in 1998. Bounced around, a little, in the lumber industry before I received an opportunity as a Regional Vice President for a multi-hundred million dollar company in 2005. Served as a VP for 2 ½ years before I became completely disgusted with the position and office politics. Ended up walking away from that company at the beginning of 2008, with nothing lined up, and moved back into lumber sales for a competitor. I own Gigs-N-Rigs, Got Green Cups?, and work as a quasi consultant for Dropping Almonds. Dropping Almonds is very much in its infancy…

Trevor - Your book Dropping Almonds is brilliant. I really enjoyed reading it. What prompted you to write it and what is the key message in it for any one interested in business?

Scott - Thank you for your comments and thanks for the review. I very much value what you’ve said about the book. As an executive, I saw so many things that were incomprehensible and disappointing that I HAD to write a book. When I received the position and became an executive, I thought I’d gain knowledge of how the company operated and discover hidden secrets of upper level leadership and direction. In reality, I was surprised at how confused and watered-down much of the leadership was in the company. There seemed to be more focus on posturing and political bantering within the executive management team than what clients and employees required in the field. My key message has two parts: 1.) Always be honest with your direct reports, peers, and supervisors & 2.) Keep business and processes SIMPLE for clients and employees.

Trevor - Who have been role models to you during your career and what were their best qualities?

Scott - My role models, oddly enough, haven’t been great thinkers or gurus in a field. As I mentioned in the book, my stepchildren have been great role models for me to become a better father and Christian. I’ve worked with some wonderful General Managers that I’ve learned a tremendous amount from in my tenure as a GM and VP. There is an employee named Daryl that I worked with over the past several years. He’s been through two bouts of cancer and he’s got to be in his mid-sixties or later. He worked in a door shop as a laborer and could outperform anybody that was working beside him. Prior to his door shop position, he excelled at anything the company assigned to him. In the past 5 years, he’s been my biggest inspiration and role model. He didn’t make a bunch of money, and he didn’t understand strategy (I didn’t either), but the guy knew how to service clients and work hard to meet the demands of a marketplace. I would recommend that people adopt the qualities of a Carpenter turned leader about 2000 years ago to understand how to motivate and manage people, especially those that follow you.

Trevor - What are you reading at the moment?

Scott - Last night I was reading up on Herbert Hoover. My youngest was assigned a Presidential project and we were surfing the net reading about Hoover’s accomplishment and time during the Great Depression of the States; “A chicken in every pot and car in every garage.” There were high hopes for Hoover when he was elected and then the Depression set in. I’ve also been going back and forth between “Too Fat to Fish” by Artie Lange and "Simplicity is the Key" by this well known Englishman.

Trevor - You and I both comment regularly on Tom Peters Blog – what is your view of Tom’s impact on business over the last 25 years?

Scott - Great question because I enjoy the blog thoroughly. Tom’s been iconic over the past 25 years and his network of people is impressive. Tom has a target audience of executives to middle management in my opinion; I’m not sure if front line employees understand the cross-functional dynamically hillbilly-whilly-nilly lingo of Mr. Peters and some of the items he proposes, but much of what he says makes sense and interprets well to daily business activities. Sometimes I get a little worn out with his lists of 250 “whatevers” and 110 “gottahave” ideas that get promoted. Give me a few points that I can remember and implement, that’s all I really need. That’s why I loved Nebraska football (American) in the 80’s and 90’s, they ran the ball over and over and kept the offensive scheme simple. No bells and whistles, just simple offensive schemes that made them a great team.

Trevor - Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future of business in the US and why?

Scott - Both. I’m not impressed with the US government’s involvement in bailouts and mortgage recovery programs. The more the US government becomes involved in decisions of big business, the more debt our nation assumes to finance bad leadership, corruption, and greed. With that said, I believe more Americans are looking for opportunities to start their own businesses to escape the large umbrellas of “Corporate America”. Small businesses and independents may have some great opportunities to react and respond to needs of consumers in the marketplace over the next 25. As Americans though, we can’t just rollover because of our current financial crisis, we must work a little smarter, create new ideas for world markets, and return many of our cities to manufacturing hubs.

Trevor - Any plans to visit the UK?

Scott - Possibly. I’m graduating another son from high school in 2010. We were considering a trip to Africa for the World Cup, but we’ve pondered the opportunity of England as well. I think we’ll probably end up in England and catch some of the Cup at some of your local pubs with you and Annie in tow. By then, you will have climbed Mount Everest after a successful marathon run. Best of luck with the fundraising, your training, and reward of helping out others through Running for Carers.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Eagles - Simply the Best!

Inspired by my good friend from the US and a genuine “good old Rock and Roller” John O’Leary, I decided to post a 7 minute video of my rock idols The Eagles on Simplicity Blog.

Hotel California has been described as one of the classic rock songs of all time.

Even if you are not an Eagles fan I hope you can find 7 minutes in your busy schedule to appreciate the genuine talent on display from these four oldies now 60 years old or approaching 60!

Don Henley – fabulous voice; drummer extraordinary; politically irreverent

Glen Frey – the brains behind The Eagles; founder of the band; best voice of the lot

Joe Walsh – absolute eccentric (some would say a nutter); best guitarist in rock history according to many

Timothy Schmidt – amazing voice; shame about the hair Tim

Annie and I will be seeing The Eagles at the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham in July which will be the third time we have seen them in 4 years. Having waited almost 30 years to see them I am now making up for lost time. (Annie is very tolerant)

This video was filmed at a live conference in 2008

Not bad for a bunch of pensioners say I.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Doctors Receptionists - Customer Service Professionals!

After taking soundings from 'customers' of Simplicity Blog I will intersperse Friends of Simplicity Interviews with my own reflections.

In the last 5 weeks I’ve delivered 12 training workshops on various topics including confidentiality and customer service. The participants are front line employees in healthcare - mainly receptionists in doctors surgeries.

In the 4 years since I left the NHS I’ve met many hundreds of front line healthcare employees in the training environment. I really enjoy working with them and often leave training sessions feeling inspired and very proud that we have so many motivated people doing a challenging job for which there is often little thanks.

During my 35 year career in healthcare I met thousands of front line healthcare employees and always felt the same.

Many of the participants of the recent training workshops are receptionists working in doctor’s surgeries. There are many myths about these key professionals who are a crucial part of the healthcare team. The image sometimes created of the receptionist is that of a ‘dragon’ who is only interested in making the life of the patient as difficult as possible. This is a complete myth; it is sad and a very unfair stereotype.

All of the receptionists I’ve met in the last 4 years are conscientious professionals who desperately want to do a great job for the patient.

They have a very difficult job acting as the ‘middle person’ between the doctor and the patient. They are quite often pulled two ways and they invariably find themselves the bearers of bad news such as ‘I’m sorry I can’t give you an appointment today.’

Today I want to promote the receptionists in Primary Care as key customer service professionals who are often misunderstood and unfairly judged.

Take a bow - there are thousands of you around the country doing an absolutely brilliant job.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

I can't make a decision!

I have about 10 'Friend of Simplicity' interviews lined up with some interesting good friends.

I need your advice. Do I just run the interviews one after the other over the next few weeks or do I mix the content of my Blog with intermittent interviews and some 'Trevor' reflections?
Whenever I've not been sure in my career I consult the expert - the customer - so please let me know what you think!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Friend of Simplicity - Seth Godin

Today I am delighted to have Seth Godin as my "Friend of Simplicity."

Seth is regarded as one of the worlds leading business gurus and has been described as the world leading blogger. I managed to catch him when he visited England earlier this week to deliver a talk in London.

Seth is the author of ten books. His books have been best sellers around the world and changed the way people think about marketing, change and work. 'Permission Marketing' was an Top100 bestseller for a year, a Fortune 'Best Business Book' and it spent 4 months on the Business Week bestseller list.

'Unleashing the Ideavirus' is the most popular ebook ever written. More than one million people downloaded the digital version of this book about how ideas spread.

Seth is a renowned speaker as well.

He was recently chosen as one of 21 Speakers for the Next Century by Successful Meetings and is consistently rated among the very best speakers by his audiences.

He holds an MBA from Stanford and was called 'The Ultimate Entrepreneur for the Information Age' by Business Week.

I hope you enjoy reading Seth’s views.

Trevor - Thanks for agreeing to this interview Seth - one of the many things that impresses me about you is that you find time to respond to 'ordinary folks' like me in your busy schedule. Would you agree with me that responsiveness is one of the most important elements of successful leadership in business?

Seth - The thing is, there are 1000 important elements of successful leadership. Responsiveness is up there, of course, but it's possible to be a powerful leader and not be responsive on a moment's notice. The goal is to find a few elements where you can excel, where you can make a difference for people. Great a few, lousy at none is a good motto.

Trevor - You are one of the worlds leading 'modern' management/business gurus' - do you have your own heroes or role models in this field?

Seth - I'm not a guru, I just play one on TV. I have tons of role models, some fictional, some real. One real leader I admire and try to emulate is Jacqueline Novogratz at the Acumen Fund. She's doing important work, and doing it with flair and generosity. My dad, CEO of a hospital crib company in the US is another. For fifty years he's been showing me how it's done.

Trevor - What are you reading at the moment and what book has influenced you most?

Seth - I'm reading an advance copy of Douglas Rushkoff's new book, "You, Inc." It's terrific. I have been influenced by countless books, and want to give a shoutout to Tom Peters and his Pursuit of Wow and the Seminar book as well.

Trevor - Have you visited the UK and if not do you have plans to cross the pond?

Seth - I'm here right now! As I write this. But just for a few days. What a great country. The juxtaposition of the traditional (ancient) with a desire to change is just extraordinary.

Trevor - My great passion in business is the search for simplicity - what do you think about simplicity in the modern business world and what is your own greatest passion?

Seth - I find that simplicity has an enemy: fear. Fear demands places to hide, and simplicity can't offer that. I would say my passion is helping people discover their fear and then ignore it.

Trevor - Finally Seth can you crystal ball gaze for a moment and give us your vision of the key skills that will be needed to succeed in business in the next 20 years - particularly for the small business or single handed consultant?

Seth - I think choosing the right scale is vitally important. How big is your organization? Your network? How do you balance complexity, leverage and overhead? Don't give up. Bright days ahead.

Trevor - Thank you Seth - I appreciate your time - hope you enjoy your time in England

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Friend of Simplicity - Nick McCormick

Last year I published a series of “Friend of Simplicity" interviews with people I’ve met through Blogging. It proved to be a popular addition to the regular Blogging and so I’ve decided to resurrect the series.

I’m delighted to kick off the new series with an interview featuring business author Nick McCormick from the US.

Last year I read Nick's superb book “Lead Well and Prosper.”
I was very impressed with its messages of simplicity, common sense and Nick’s plea for us all to get the basics right.

I hope you enjoy the interview and give Nick some feedback.

Trevor – Hi Nick, where are you based in the US?

Nick - I live just west of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and work out of an office in Wilmington, Delaware

Trevor - Tell us about your career and what took you down the path of writing books?

Nick - I've been in the Information Technology field my entire career which spans about 19 years. I began as a programmer and have progressed through various management positions since.
I never set out to write a book. After a few years in management, though, I did realize I had something to say and sought out a vehicle for doing so. I started by just jotting down some thoughts periodically. That led to the writing of a couple of articles. Eventually I had enough information to assemble into a short book.

The process actually took years. I enjoyed it very much. It was a great learning experience that consistently pushed me beyond my comfort zone. I've since taken up blogging and most recently, podcasting. All these new experiences give me the opportunity to express myself, and hopefully benefit others along the way.

Trevor - I loved your book “Lead Well and Prosper” – it’s full of good common sense, practical suggestions and of course, simplicity. How do you think your message received in the business world?

Nick - The book has been well received by managers of all levels. A lengthy list of endorsements is evidence of that. There is something to be said for sticking to the fundamentals and for keeping things simple, right Trevor?

That's what my book does. It sticks to the basics. Just like anything else, if you don't practice and master the fundamentals, you don't have much of a shot at success. Some think they can leap frog the basics and go right into things like visioning (My book is not for them!). Just one problem with that though, if you don't execute the fundamentals well, no one will follow your vision.

Trevor - If you could give young potential leaders three tips on leadership what would they be?

Nick - Focus on the fundamentals. It's the same with any discipline, whether you participate in sports, play an instrument, or manage a group of people. Work on the basics. Don't make it more complicated than it is. Lot's of managers get enamoured with their titles and perks and develop an exaggerated sense of self-importance. Management is not about you. It's about them. It's a management fundamental that we often forget.

Another tip would be to persist. It may be fairly simple and straight forward, but being a good manager is not easy. It's much easier to just go with the flow. It takes courage to do the right thing and to keep doing it. You will make mistakes. Recognize when you do, apologise and then work to avoid the same mistake in the future. Keep at it.

Finally, keep learning. Learn about your company, your industry, your customers, and your competition. Learn about management and leadership. Then turn your learning into action to help your organization improve.

Trevor - Where do you look for inspiration in your leadership research? For instance are there any well known authors that inspire you?

Nick - The author that has probably influence me the most is Stephen Covey. When I first read "The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People" it really made an impression on me. It validated some of what I had already been doing, and it also let me know what was possible.
There is so much good stuff out there. I try to read at least one book each month. I find that I can glean value from almost any book.

Trevor - Do you have any role model leaders that you can point us to in the business world or indeed non business and why do they inspire you?

Nick - I don't have any single leader that I point to. I'm actually hesitant to do that because it's so hard to know what the "famous leaders" are really like. The way they are portrayed in the media does not always reflect reality. The media likes to build people up into mystical figures and then relishes in their inevitable fall from grace.

In general, I'm impressed any time leaders go against the tide. I'm not talking about the ones that talk a good game. I'm talking about the ones that actually do it. The business world is filled with fakers and lemmings, but every once in a while there is an example in the news or in my work life that demonstrates good leadership in action. That is refreshing, and it keeps me going.

Trevor - Have you visited the UK and if not, do you have any plans to come over the pond?

Nick - No, I have not, and I have no plans to do so in the immediate future, although I'd really like to at some point. When I do, I'll have to stop by to see you and the many other wonderful people from the UK that I've met via the Internet in the last couple of years.

Trevor - Tell us about your latest business project.

Nick - I have started working on my second book. I've completed a first draft. It's somewhat similar to the first in that it aims to teach. It also contains a fair dose of humour. I don't have an immediate publication date yet. I hope to get it out some time in 2009.

Trevor - Is there anything else you would like Simplicity readers to hear about?

Nick - I'd like to encourage them to check out my blog It's unique in that it is written from the perspective of the two characters from my book, "Lead Well and Prosper." The blog also houses my "Management Tips Podcast." In each podcast a special guest provides a tip for the management practitioner. They are in bite sized chunks, with none being over 10 minutes long - perfect for the manager on the go.

There's also a lot of stuff out on my website to include book reviews, a quiz you can take to see if you are a good manager, free offers, and other items to purchase.

Trevor - Thanks Nick. It's great to hear from you again and I wish you good luck in all that you do.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

73 days and counting .....

Scott – one of my many friends from the US, and a regular Simplicity Blog supporter, suggested I do a countdown to the London Marathon once a week.

So here goes …..

The London Marathon will take place on Sunday 26th April 2009 so we have 73 days to go. Neither Annie nor I have run a marathon before. In fact, before we started training for this event the furthest either of us had run was 6 miles.

We are in week 14 of our 24 week training programme. We have run 10 miles as our longest run and we've now done that for three successive Saturdays.

Since we started training I’ve lost 26 pounds and I aim to lose another 10 pounds before the big day.

We have been overwhelmed by the support we’ve had -
from people all over the world - for our wonderful charity "Carers UK."

We've already had pledges of over £500 toward our target of £3000.

See this link

Annie has a Blog dedicated to our London Marathon efforts called Running for Carers where you can keep up to date with our training.

Please tell your friends and all suggestions/ideas for fundraising will, needless to say, be gratefully received!

Sunday, February 08, 2009


I want to reflect on the word “perspective.”

We look at Zimbabwe and we hear about inflation running at 231million per cent the last time it was measured in July 2008. The country is clearly falling apart and the poverty is alarming. It is becoming a human catastrophe that is going unchecked it seems to me.

Today (Sunday) in our Church at The Coventry Methodist Central Hall our friends from the local Zimbabwe fellowship provided beautiful backing singing to the traditional Holy Communion part of the service. They sang the hymns in their traditional Zimbabwe language and I was overwhelmed with a mixture of emotions.

As I watched these folks, so happy and so obviously deeply in love with God I couldn’t help feeling humble. I wondered what was going through their minds as they, no doubt, thought about their families struggling back home in Zimbabwe.

I couldn’t help thinking about the word “perspective.”

We are rightly worried about the recession and the financial crisis that engulfs the leading world economies. But I can't help thinking; are we really suffering hardship when compared with the innocent and helpless people living in Zimbabwe?

The sheer joy and happiness of the Zimbabwe fellowship in Coventry has to be seen to be appreciated. I am proud to know them and I am proud that our Church in Coventry opens its doors and welcomes our friends from Zimbabwe into our Church with open arms. We can learn much from them.

Annie and I intend to join one of their traditional Zimbabwe services soon to experience their worship
first hand.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

For crying out loud ... trust people!

I am getting more into iLearning Global and I recently watched a fascinating 10 minute talk from this exceptional learning site about all things leadership and management.

The speaker was Stephen M R Covey, son of the legendary Stephen Covey who wrote the mega best seller “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” – one of my favourite books.

Mr Covey Junior spoke on the subject of trust and how trust adds to the bottom line profit in business.

He highlighted a great story to illustrate his point. He talked about a donut store that was extremely busy and highly successful. The long queues however meant customers occasionally left the queue because of the wait. One of the biggest reasons for the wait was the issuing of change. The owner decided he would leave change on the counter for customers to pay for their donuts and sort out their own change.

By allowing this trust he discovered that profits went up because people did not have to wait so long. And of course there were the less tangible ‘repayments of trust’ by customers who probably told even more of their friends about the trusting donut store.

A fabulous story that underlines to me how trust is not simply one of those ‘soft woolly minded thinking’ issues in business – it makes real hard sense on the bottom line.

I am not at all surprised. In fact what always surprises me is that we are surprised that we can trust folks. I’m surprised this sort of story is news. Why is it news? Why is trusting people the exception rather than the rule? Why in fact does trusting people make news at all?

People can be trusted for crying out loud – I would say ESPECIALLY customers and front line workers.

The US Secretary of War during World War II, Henry Lewis Stimson (1867–1930) said:

“The only way to make a man trustworthy is to trust him”

I love that!!!

Don’t you think there is something quite sad when 'trusting people' is seen as somehow newsworthy and innovative in business .... or is it just me getting old?

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Simplicity Blog in top 100!!

I received a lovely surprise this morning in my inbox when I heard that Simplicity Blog has been included in "Top 100 Leadership Blogs" compiled by in the US

Click here to see the list

I feel honoured to be considered in the same company as two of my heroes Tom Peters and Seth Godin.

Simplicity strikes again – maybe it is catching on.

Thanks to the organisers who selected my Blog – I am a very proud man today. And most of all, of course, thanks to all readers of Simplicity Blog who must spread the word far and wide about my Blog - I am always grateful to you.

How amazing that our wonderful world is such a small place nowadays?

This is the full link