Business Review: May 2016

I thought working as a CEO was hard. And it was! The role was stressful, grueling and relentless. I felt a huge weight of responsibility to bring in enough money to meet the payroll for our 50 employees, repair our sometimes leaky buildings and keep delivering essential services to the 13,000 people who, every year, relied on the expertise of my team to help them out. All on a shoestring budget, while ensuring that the business continued to innovate and move forward. Monthly Business Review

The lessons I learnt during my 8 years as a CEO stood me in good stead during May which was one of my most stressful periods in business.

Stress is, in my view, in large part a matter of perception and perspective. Knowing this did not stop me I stressing about what to do about a client who has not paid me in full for a large consultancy project, thus treating my service as a free bank loan. (Answer: email, call, text daily and now pursue the matter legally). I stressed about how best to help business owners whose companies were in dire straits, and whether they could be turned around. (Answer: not everyone can be helped, business owners in turnaround have got to be willing to make some pretty radical changes). And I stressed about whether some of the business decisions I’d made this year were the right ones. (Answer: we don't always get it right. What's important is to evaluate, act promptly on the insights and move on).

I’d like to say that I hopped on my yoga mat and meditated my way through this quagmire of stress.

Instead I switched off for a weekend and watched my way through a Netflix mini-series. My brain needed a rest, and I was not in the mood for Deepak Chopra!

During this, I reminded myself to:

  • Keep a cool head;
  • Stay focused on my goals;
  • Remember my non negotiables;
  • Reframe my challenges;
  • Take swift and decisive action.

And that ‘this too shall pass.’ Wise words from a friend. :)

[callout]Are you struggling to differentiate your business from the competition and stand out in a noisy marketplace? Book a one hour business consultation with me and leverage my experience as a former CEO to identify practical, actionable solutions that will enable you to punch above your weight. [/callout]

Throughout May, I reflected on what it takes to build a great brand. Which brands I love and why. Anthropologie, Marks & Spencer, John Lewis, Red magazine, Netflix, Amazon (despite the demise of book shops) the Firmdale group of hotels and Wimbledon. Which brands I have negative brand associations with, making me feel depressed and zapping my energy. Argos, BHS, gossip magazines like Heat and reality TV shows like ‘Big Brother’ and ‘I’m A Celebrity – Get Me Out Of Here.’ I wondered why luxury brands don’t get a mention on my list. Because I’m not in the slightest bit interested in labels unless they’re underpinned by excellence and craftsmanship. Which is why, with the exception of a pair of Coccinelle shoes and matching handbag, you won’t find any status symbols on my wish list.

I wrote about different aspects of building a great brand because writing is what helps me to clarify my thinking.

I reminded myself that:

  • Great brands lead – they don’t follow.
  • Great brands dare to be different - which is the mantra of one of my clients.
  • Great brands are first to establish themselves in the marketplace, associate themselves with a key attribute and/ or specialise.
  • Great brand builders think – more often than not outside the box.
  • Great brands move fast with stable infrastructure, to coin a mantra from Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg.

So now I’ve got that straight, I’m excited to move forward in June, helping my clients to:

  • Reorganise the way they use their resources to outsource their finance and bookkeeping functions, get a better quality service for less money and use the savings to invest in funding their marketing strategy.
  • Work out how they can differentiate themselves from the competition, stand out in a noisy world and punch above their weight.
  • Overcome mind-set issues that have been holding them back.
  • Grow fast with stable infrastructure and great culture.

[callout]Are you struggling to differentiate your business from the competition and stand out in a noisy marketplace? Book a one hour business consultation with me and leverage my experience as a former CEO to identify practical, actionable solutions that will enable you to punch above your weight. [/callout]

Books That Helped Me This Month

  • ‘Good To Great’ by Jim Collins: A book I routinely return to because it outlines a roadmap to business excellence.
  • ‘Finish Big’ by Bo Burlingham: Sound ideas for business leaders who want to leave a legacy.
  • ‘What Great Brands Do: The 7 Brand Building Principles That Separate The Best From The Rest’ by Denise Lee Yohn: The principles and strategies that transformed ordinary brands into industry leaders.

Join The Conversation

Questions: How was your May? What key lessons did you learn? Were there any aspects of this article that particularly resonated with you? I'd love to hear your thoughts so please do share yours in the comments box below.

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About Denyse

I help business owners to differentiate their business from the competition, punch above their weight for their size and resources and stand out in a noisy marketplace so that they can grow and scale with confidence.

Prior to becoming a business consultant and coach, I spent 8 years in the trenches as a CEO, preceded by 20 years experience in senior management and leadership roles. This experience is backed up by training at Cranfield School of Management, the UK’s leading business school. With experience of leading and developing staff teams of up to 150 people across 7 sites, there’s very little I haven’t had to deal with or experienced during my career in business.

You can find out more about working with me HERE. Or alternatively email me on to arrange an informal chat over coffee. There’s no hard sell. Just solid advice and a straightforward, honest assessment of whether 1:1 business coaching or business consultancy would be a good fit for your business, the results you can expect and how to get started.