Tag Archives: Business development


Ok, so before we begin, two things: firstly, I read a lot. Since my time at business school -1996, when I HAD to read copious amounts of business books, the habit has continued and I’ve read about a gazillion.Take risks

Secondly, for the past 10 years I’ve been playing French Tarot (nothing to do with the telling of fortunes – it’s a strategic French card game).

Ok – so ‘what’s this got to do with risk’? I hear you ask – well, read on…

Many business books focus on strategies, tactics, methodologies, implementation, best practice – and ultimately people. The people who have thought bigger than big picture, the leaders, the game changers, the restless never satisfied-ers, the entrepreneurial – the innovators.

A common thread with most success stories – be they in business or otherwise, is the ability not just to go with the flow – but when push comes to shove to truly tune in and take a leap of faith. To push boundaries. To step out of the comfort zone. To move into the unknown, often hugely uncomfortable, vulnerable – risky territory.

So, ask yourself the question – ‘Am I a risk taker?’

In all honesty, the majority of us for the majority of the time are not risk takers. And let’s face it, living life on the edge all of the time would potentially become pretty exhausting. Plus, we’re not conditioned this way. If you think about your social conditioning – from your parents and society instilling rules and regulations to keep you safe whilst growing up, to an education system that teaches us to largely conform – our opportunity to practise risk taking is pretty limited.

And of course, if everything is going ok, you’re comfortable, relatively happy – then why rock the boat? You may have some great ideas, dreams, and what if’s – but taking that leap into the untested, unchartered waters just isn’t worth rocking that boat for – right?

So this poses another question, ‘what is it that drives some people to take risks seemingly all the time and others to shy away’?

Whilst I can’t give a definitive answer to this – what I’ve gleaned from the gazillion books I’ve read is that those that do take risks, seem to take risks a lot. They practise taking risks. And the more they practise taking risks, the better they get at it.

Fundamentally what they hook into is the fact that if they do take the risk and it doesn’t work out – they’ll try something else. So whilst they very much see it as a risk – they’re not overly concerned about getting stuck in the unchartered waters and being eaten by the sharks – as they’ll figure something else out. It’s beyond simply thinking positively – and more about concerted courage and faith in oneself.

This got me thinking. Is risk like a muscle? Perhaps it’s a case of the more we flex it – the stronger it gets? 

I decided to test my thinking small scale. I play French tarot in a group of 5. Over the past 10 years we’ve played a lot of games (usually 6 games in a sitting) and we play every 5 weeks. I’ve won a number of times – but it’s been a pretty even number of wins across the players – and I’ve held the winning cup once (about 4 years ago).

However, last year my game changed. I started taking risks. Nothing too nuts or stupid so as to ruin the game – but instead of sitting back and playing it safe – I pushed it. I’d push a bid up. I’d make bigger contracts. I’d play a big game with less than a great hand. And what happened? I started to win every round. The chips rolled in. The game found a new level of excitement – the founder of our group (inherited knowledge from her French grandmother) – even stated ‘my grandmother would have a heart attack sitting in a round with you’. ;)

Now, whilst this is a card game and it isn’t about massively disrupting my life and stepping into the unknown. It has been interesting in assisting me in practicing taking risks.

We’re not taught to take risks – there are no lessons (as far as I can see on my children’s curriculum) in calculated risk taking.

So far – my view is that YES – risk is like a muscle and the more you flex it – the more comfortable and better you get at taking risks. In my card game – I’m now no longer taking risks – I’m just playing the game.

So what’s your view?

Practice makes perfect…?

Would love to hear from you.

NB: I endeavoured to find some scholarly evidence / support of my hypothesis – and there does look to be a supporting study ‘Risk taking : a study in cognition and personality by Nathan Kogan and Michael Wallach’ – but it was done in 1964! So if anyone knows of anything more current – pls do share.

Practice / practise – googled it and with the UK/US spellings – still confused!

As always – any questions tweet me @michellecarvill or email michelle@carvillcreative.co.uk 

Michelle Carvill, best selling business author, speaker, founder and Director at Carvill – the social media agency focused on creating authentic engagement. For information about how the team at Carvill can help you – simply get in touch or visit our website.

The Story of the stolen bike that wasn’t actually stolen

Important Lessons for All Businesses about Systems, Processes and Communication

bike stolen

Let me take you back to summertime – it is the 21st July, a beautiful sunny morning. I’m heading to my local train station – on my bike, to catch the 7.29am to Paddington.

I’m running on time, but as usual, there’s a huge ticket queue – and so I’m rushing. I lock my bike – head for the queue, make the 7.29am, all is good (crammed as usual, but at least I made the train).

That evening, I head back to my station – go to collect my bike – and it’s gone. The lock is still in place – and still locked and attached to the bike rack – but, no bike.

I head into the station, speak to at least three First Great Western station attendants – advise them that my bike has been stolen, ask what the protocol is – and am advised ‘sorry to hear that’ and to call the police.

With heavy heart, I walk up the hill, get home, complain to family about my loss – and then start proceedings to report said stolen bike.

When speaking to the British Transport Police to inform them of the theft, I’m advised that the stealing of bikes at my train station is apparently taken ‘very seriously’ – as it’s a bit of a hot bed.  I’m advised that my case has been reported and someone will be in touch.

A couple of weeks later I get a call from a very nice PC – she advises that my case is now being progressed – and wants me to provide her with a formal statement.  I spend at least 40 minutes on the phone advising her of the situation, my description (so they can discount me from the CCTV review) – the timings, the bike’s description etc.  And, by the way, my bike had been marked and registered with the police bike registration scheme.

I advise I have the lock – she advises, that I shouldn’t touch it too much as it may be used for finger printing.  Lock is transferred to clean plastic bag!

The next step is for her to come to the train station, review the CCTV and then see if they can nail the criminals.

At this point, I ask what the chances of my recovering the bike are – and she advises, very low – probably zero. But hopefully, they can make an arrest.

So – this leaves me without a bike – and with no likelihood of my bike being returned, I now have the chore of getting a new bike – considerable cost and considerable time.

Approximately 6 weeks after the initial theft – I’ve got a new bike in place, and the PC is coming to review the CCTV footage.

Unfortunately, bad news – the CCTV wasn’t working – and so no footage was captured. There was a malfunction with the system, etc, etc.

Some 8 weeks later, it transpires that the CCTV system was not the only system malfunctioning.

In mid November, I receive a call from another PC from British Transport Police at Paddington

Joyous news – they’ve recovered my bike.

‘Is it smashed up’, ‘where is it now’, ‘how did it turn up?’ I had so many questions.  However, it transpires – that it had potentially been at the train station where I believed it had been stolen from – all the time.

I know – you’re thinking, what’s this madness she’s talking about.

Well, apparently, if a bike is ‘unsecured’ at said station, due to it being a ‘hotbed’ for bike thefts, the station wardens, and any plain clothes police officers that periodically patrol the area, will take any unsecured bikes (bikes which are not locked up properly) and put them safely in the ‘lost property’ storage in the station.

Who knew?

Well, apparently… – nobody. Not the nice PC initially investigating the crime, and clearly not any of the three station wardens that I spoke to, when I advised that my bike had been stolen, ‘but how odd that the lock was still wrapped around the bike rack!’

Today is December 21st – so it’s exactly 5 months to the day, that my bike was supposedly stolen. I was called early this morning by another PC from British Transport Police to see if they could recover the bike to me.  As it happens, I was around – and the bike and I were reunited.  Speaking to yet another again, very nice PC – he advised that there are at least 30 other bikes in the ‘lost property’ storage! (What was that about the station being a hotbed for bike thefts!!!).

Whilst speaking with the PC who was organizing this last piece of the case – I queried the following:

a)    Why are there no notices around advising bikers that if their bike isn’t secure – it may be taken into lost property.  ‘Good idea’ he advised – we should do that.

b)    Why when I advised my bike had been stolen – wasn’t there a protocol to first check the lost property before advising me to raise a formal case with the police.

c)     Why, when I raised a case with the police – didn’t the nice PC investigating the crime first contact lost property to see whether or not it was simply a case of the bike potentially not being secured and therefore, not stolen but in fact, just stored!

In the 5 months – with just one simple bike, that really isn’t that valuable (in monetary terms), just look at the waste of resource that’s happened. Numerous phone calls, the filing of reports, letters sent to me advising me of progress with the case, police officers having to physically hand back the property.

Not to mention the expense and time of me having to unnecessarily get a new bike (and believe me it was not a fun experience – just a whole pain in the backside).

And now – I have stuff that’s surplus to requirements – I have two bikes!

Charlie Chaplin could have turned this into a slapstick sketch – it’s such a farce. However, it’s also indicative of what happens when processes are created – and not fully thought through or communicated.

Without thinking things through, end to end and a lack of effective training and practice – and communication breakdown – businesses, people, departments, governments – they all waste resource. Waste of time, waste of money, waste of people – people who should potentially be working on more important things that make a difference to either the world or the bottom line.

This farce is true – and whilst we may sit here reading in disbelief – sadly this isn’t that extraordinary. There are thousands if not millions of truly stupid and pointless, processes and disconnected dots happening all the time in industries and businesses of all shapes and sizes.

My advice to all is to:

  • Check your processes thoroughly, ensuring all dots are joining up.
  • When you identify a disconnect – where the dots aren’t joining up, don’t let that disconnect extend – but instead grab it, investigate it and do whatever you need to do to pull it together.  Make someone accountable (that may be you), accountable to ensure that you do not let such stupidity and waste of resource happen again.
  • Communicate, communicate and then communicate some more –ensure everyone ‘gets’ the processes you create – and that they are clear on what’s happening – and finally – you can’t just say it once and it will be – it takes practice – so…
  • Test things out periodically to check your communication and training is fully ingrained.

That’s all from me – rant over, insights shared.

Ever optimistic, owner of two bikes, Maidenhead

Twitter’s New Look – Get Your Profile Ready for the Switch on May 28th

Are we the only ones thinking it – or do you also think that every other social media platform seems to be morphing into Facebook?

In recent years Facebook has been mocked for copying key aspects of Twitter such as hashtags and @ tagging, but now the tables have turned. Twitters biggest ever redesign rolls out this month and, if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, it pays Facebook a great compliment.

Facebook’s News Feed is always improving – they are constantly updating their algorithm to surface more “high quality” content, whilst also trying to create the idea that your stories are as easy to read as a newspaper, their aim is to make it easier for us to find and engage with the stories that matter to us. However now, like Facebook, it has come to our attention that other social media platforms seem to be following the same idea – especially now with Twitter’s redesign.

Let’s Take a Closer Look at the Twitter Changes and What They Mean for You:

Twitter has recently changed how its profile pages look and operate, the new profile page is meant to create the image of ‘what’s new about the new you?’ At the moment you don’t have to change your profile page to the new layout, but by May 28th whether you like it or not, everyone will have Twitter’s new profile design. So let’s take a look at the changes we’re about to be faced with:

  • Header Image and Profile Photo

Twitter now places far greater emphasis on your profile and header images – the header image appears full width along the top of the screen, with your main profile picture on the left hand side.  Your profile picture now has larger dimensions of 400pixels by 400pixels and you are prompted to pick a larger background header. Twitter scales the header image automatically but it should be at least 1500 pixels wide and 500 pixels in height – that is if you want to avoid blur on larger screens.

  • Best Tweets

This is a pretty cool new feature where the tweets that have received the most engagement will appear slightly larger and photos are given more prominence therefore making your content easier to find. The redesigned Twitter will also highlight tweets which have received greater engagement – this is measured in replies, retweets and favourites. Their aim is to make your most popular content easy to spot (just like they do with your stories on the Facebook Newsfeed).

  • Pinned Tweets

Make it easier for your followers to find out what you’re all about and Pin one of your tweets to the top of your page/profile (just as can you would on your Facebook Page).  This new option allows brands to take control and create a first impression of their Twitter content so that this is the first thing people will see when clicking on your profile.

Tip: Try to pick a tweet that has high engagement – with a lot of Retweets. Twitter has realised that you may not want your best tweets to be so quickly hidden in chat – so here’s your chance to showcase your best tweets!

  • Filtered Views

When visiting someone else’s profile, you can choose how to view their tweets, the options are: tweets only, tweets plus replies, or tweets with photos or videos. Twitter is determined to make users’ profiles easier for those visiting your profile to gain a deeper and more focussed insight into the content you’re sharing – and to allow them to filter out the irrelevant content that they’re not interested in seeing e.g.  by separating tweets from replies – however, a ‘tweets and replies’ categories does exist for those who still want to see everything mixed together.

Take a look at this image we found of Zac Efron’s Twitter and Facebook personal profile:






Can you spot many differences between the Facebook and Twitter profiles?

Not only does Twitter seem to be following Facebook’s footsteps, but LinkedIn also seems to have had some slight changes too …

More on that in our next post.

It seems that every social media platform is setting out with the aim of everything looking bigger, and everything being made easier for users to share and view stories.

That’s just our opinion however – what do you think about the new Twitter design? Can you spot many differences between Twitter and Facebook profiles?

If you use them, tell us why – share your thoughts and the comments with us – by leaving your comments below or Tweeting us at @carvillcreative.

This blog post was brought to you by Michelle Carvill, founder of Carvill Creative, the online visibility experts and author of The Business of Being Social – A Practical Guide to Harnessing the Power of Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn for all Businesses.

If you need any help with your social media activity, blogging or creating content or any other digital marketing services, then do get in touch with us.

Where are you heading in 2014 – What’s your Vision?

The creation of your business may have been down to many factors – timing, a brilliant innovative idea, discovering a gap in the market, an invention – however, whatever it was, to bring your business to life and ensure its longevity, then knowing where your business is heading and having a vision, which you can ‘share’ with employees, investors and customers – is an all important, yet often overlooked, part of the business planning process.

The Visioning Process is really the critical starting point – if you have a clearly set out a vision for where your business is heading, you have something that you can live by – and any other stakeholders, can easilyvisioning process michelle carvill at carvill creativing online visibility and social media experts understand. After all, if you have everyone associated with your business singing from the same hymn sheet – all clearly focused on the direction of the business – then you are ahead of the game in getting there.

Visioning isn’t simply about creating an inspirational ‘tag line’ such as ‘Be the best’ – it’s about the processes which are implemented and the values that underpin what ‘being the best’ means.

I recently read a case study about the vision at Motorola – their vision is very simply ‘wireless’ – simple, yet hugely ambitious.   3M focuses on ‘solving unsolved problems’.  These statements are simple enough to be shared by all team – and they are clear in saying what the companies should not be doing. Try showing up at Motorola with a wire and see what happens!

Visioning is an important strategic process – which whilst may take a bit of time to implement, it is certainly worth doing –  ensuring that you are 100% clear on where you are heading.

There’s a great saying; “People who set out without a target hit it with remarkable accuracy!” – so let’s take a look at a step by step framework for the Visioning Process

Step 1:Where are you now?

1.Do you have a vision?
2.Could you write a brief statement of your own vision?
3.Do you or your team have a mission of purpose statement? (Do they know what the business is focused on?)
4.Do you have a unique competence? (And unique is the word here).
5.What strengths, weaknesses, and areas of special skill do you or your team bring to the business?
6.What is the scope of your business? (Current products, services, markets and customers).
7.From number 6 above, can you identify what will be expanded or dropped in the future?
8.What distinguishes your business or products/services you provide.

Going through the ‘Where are you now’ questions helps you to consider a framework for your Vision.

Step 2: Preparing for Change

You’re now into the design phase of your Vision. You’ve probed and asked questions of yourself and your business – and now you need to create a vision which is clear and focused.

1.What is the direction of your future?

2.What future range of responsibilities, skills and new or expanded services will you consider?

3.How will the current and future ranges of skills or products differ?

4.What key capabilities and resources will you need to succeed?

5.How will your vision impact your businesses growth?

6.If you could create the future, what future would you create for yourself?

7.How many categories of future development can you identify that will impact your vision?

8.Can you make a list of expectations for each of those categories of future development?

9.Can you prioritise that list of expectations for each of those categories that would have the greatest impact onyour vision?

Step 3: Pulling together your Vision

With all the ‘background’ analysis undertaken – you are now in the position of putting your vision together. This is the combination of your intuition, personal vision, experience, judgement, information, values and culture.

Of course, your vision has to be shared with those associated with your business. Therefore, the vision must be distinctive and establish standards that employees and partners find necessary to follow. Doing this is no easy task – but the steps below provide a useful model for ensuring you have considered all areas:

Review all the information and materials you have compiled. This information is valuable and insightful – however, don’t ignore ideas you may be avoiding – consider all possibilities.

  1. Consider all your driving forces:
  • Products or services offered
  • Users/customers
  • Markets served
  • Low cost production, capability, capacity
  • Marketing/sales methods
  • Technology
  • Method of distribution
  • Return/profit
  • Size/growth
  • Natural resources
  • Prioritise the key elements within your vision. In your view are your strengths, driving force and culture and values consistent? Is consistency important – or is change a higher priority?
  • Having prioritised, and satisfied yourself that this is the vision you really want. By this stage, you should be able to put it into a really short, easily understandable statement that focuses and reflects:
    • An exciting future
    • The creation of value for you and your team
    • Standards of excellence and reflect high ideals, standards and uniqueness to everyone that you and your team interact with
    • Clear criteria for decision making and evaluation
    • Enthusiasm and commitment
  • Step 4: Cementing your thinking

    You’ve gone through the information gathering and analysis process – and created your vision for a new direction. And so at this point – it’s a time for reflection:

    •  Is this the best vision?
    • What are the chances for its success?
    • If it fails, what can I salvage?
    • Should we even try?

    Whilst these questions may seem hard-going – it’s important to ask yourself these questions in order to remove any doubt that your vision inspires commitment and enthusiasm. Do YOU really believe in it? Is it right for everyone who will interact with it, will it lead to business success and improved performance?

    Doubt and uncertainty are inevitable when considering a new direction – so resolve this doubt by asking the following:

    •  Does everyone clearly understand the vision?
    • How does the current situation compare with the new vision?
    • How will the vision affect the business and team?
    • What changes, if any, will be required to make the transition to the new vision?
    • Will your new vision require new or additional resources, technology, skills?
    • Have you set a timeframe – it is realistic?

    And of course, if you are not wholly confident of your Vision – test it – get a small group of people you trust to be honest to act as a sounding board.

    Step 5: Implementing your Vision

    Of course, your Vision Statement is nothing more than words until it is put into action.Whilst the words are important – it’s implementation that changes your business direction. So many times, time is given to an important strategic process – be it, business planning, strategic planning, marketing planning etc – and yet the all important implementation – the getting on and doing it, just doesn’t happen. It starts – but then fizzles out… loses energy.

    There is a strong and relevant  ‘mantra’ – lead by example.  And indeed – for any change of Vision and business direction to happen, you have got to ‘live’ it. And I suppose this is where passion comes into play – because if you are truly passionate about something – then you are more likely to pursue it than let it ‘fizzle out’.

    In what I believe is an important ‘Futuristic’ business book – Funky Business (written some 11 years ago I must add, but still highly relevant) – they cite examples of organisational vision being driven top down – such as: the multi-billionaire founder of Ikea still travels economy and stays in ‘value’ hotels, rather than the1st class and 5 star –  some may expect.  Is it okay for senior management to travel first class when those not part of that tranche are tasked with saving money on paperclips?  Over to you… But at Ikea – the founder is living the vision.

    To put the new Vision into action you need to:

    •  Demonstrate a personal commitment to the vision.You are the direction setter, the change agent and even coach.You are the visionary leader – and therefore, you must consistently apply the vision to all your actions and decisions.
    • Commit to communicating the significance of the vision to everyone.Your team need to know that your vision is working – and know that your commitment is true. It’s important to regularly communicate and demonstrate how the vision is impacting the business.
    • You are the primary communicator of the vision. Beware! It is doomed if your actions and words fail to reinforce it.

    Step 6: Keeping your vision alive!

    There are no set rules as to when to re-evaluate a vision – but 6 monthly reviews are probably sensible. Of course, by definition, all visions are always ‘just beyond reach’ – and therefore, you need to be assessing that this is the case – refining and revising in line with ongoing environmental changes. Remember, your vision needs to be keeping ahead of the rapidly changing times and technology – so reaffirmation and support for the vision are crucial.

    Clearly, a vision statement is far more than a ‘paragraph’ – it’s the starting point for quality management and continual improvement. It captures an ideal, unique and attractive image of your future and answers the question,

    “What do I want to create”.

    For more information about the Visioning Process – Building a Shared Vision, by C Patrick Lewis is a great resource.Many of the stages of the visioning process included within this article are gleaned from his book, which provides a practical framework for effective vision creation.

    For more marketing advice, news, ideas and tips why not subscribe to our blog or follow me on Twitter.

    Michelle Carvill is founder and Director at Carvill Creative – an online visibility agency covering all aspects of digital online marketing, social media and website design.

    How healthy is your business? Do a SWOT to find out…

    Okay, times ahead are looking rough – but you’re not going to be shortsighted and pull activity – instead you’re going to consider how you can leverage upon your activity and get your house in order – so that you have a sharp pencil to work with. 

    You’ve taken a step back and you’ve decided that there are numerous things you can do to improve your business.  And, given that ‘implementation is key’ – you now you want to pull together a program to develop and improve your business.  But where do you start?  How do you select which areas to focus on initially – to ensure that resources, time, financials and effort are allocated appropriately?

    SWOT analysis provides you with a starting point.  A simple framework for analysing your business designed to help you identify the ‘health’ of your business – looking at Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats – hence SWOT.

    Like many activities – outcome is dependent upon input.  Therefore, it’s essential to look at all aspects of your business; industry dynamics, market growth, product development, culture, customer relationship management etc, etc.   The more analysis you undertake, the deeper your understanding. 

    How SWOT Analysis Works   

    Generally, the SWOT analysis framework looks at all areas of your business from 2 perspectives;

    1. Internal Issues: Areas within the business, which the business owner has the ability to influence.
    2. External Issues: The environment within which the business operates.  Areas of limited control such as, business climate, legislative issues etc.

    So let’s look at the practicalities of undertaking a SWOT…

    Continue reading How healthy is your business? Do a SWOT to find out…