Inspiring Entrepreneurs event – Going for Gold – report

28 May 2012

Stephen_FearMany thanks to my colleagues Michael Pattinson and Gail Mitchell for reporting on this successful event.

Last Wednesday evening the British Library hosted the latest in the series of Inspiring Entrepreneurs events called Going for Gold which featured an audience with the Business & IP Centre’s new entrepreneur in residence Stephen Fear.

Stephen has 50 years of business experience and is involved in our new Innovating for Growth Programme which nurtures existing businesses and helps them grow over a 12 month period. He was joined on stage by two of the participants in the programme, Mandy Haberman, inventor of the Anywayup Cup and Cate Trotter, Head of Trends at Insider Trends.

Following a brief introduction from Frances Brindle, Head of Marketing at the British Library, chair Matthew Rock started proceedings by asking Stephen about the origins of his entrepreneurial spirit. He talked candidly about his early childhood spoke about his first business venture as a teenager which involved sourcing the formula for an oven cleaning solution from the US and enlisting the help of friends on the estate where he grew up to make up the product. He famously used a telephone box as his office and managed to charm the telephone operator to pose as his secretary.

After much deliberation about which job title to award himself on his business cards, he finally decided that trainee salesman was more appropriate than president or chairman considering he was so young, he set out to make his first sale. After being ejected by the receptionist at Hovis he managed to convince one of the managers who was outside having a cigarette to see a demonstration of the product. He was duly impressed and placed an order. How did he convince him? He told him that he would lose his job if he didn’t get to demonstrate it to someone.

There were several lessons to the story. Always believe in your product and make sure it works; use whatever ‘guerrilla’ tactics you can to market the product; and make sure you approach the decision makers, don’t waste your time trying to sell to the receptionist.

Stephen proved to be a very engaging speaker, down-to-earth and keen to share his entrepreneurial know-how with the audience.

Mandy_HabermanMandy Haberman joined Stephen on stage and spoke about the initial success of her Anywayup cup. She has some new products in the pipeline which she is going to manufacture herself with the help of funding including a baby feeder which emulates breast feeding. After talking about how difficult it was to secure funding Stephen told the audience that businesses will always face such challenges but it’s how you react to those challenges that matters. Matthew Rock asked him if he had any tips for businesses looking for funding. He recommended the British Bankers Association’s Business Finance for You website as a good starting point.

Cate TrotterCate Trotter from Insider Trends was up next. Cate runs a trend spotting service which includes trend tours and talks for clients ranging from large corporations like Marks & Spencer to SMEs. She is currently expanding from being a sole trader. Stephen made the point that this can be a dangerous time as you need to entrust parts of the business to other people who may not share your passion and commitment.

Stephen urged the audience to spend carefully when you are building up a business and to avoid what he called unnecessary fixed overheads such as an expensive office space or a company car. If you put a set of BMW keys on the table people assume you have a BMW, so just get a set of keys!

Mandy pointed out that you can mock up packaging to save money. Stephen came up with a very useful tip called “tacking on.” Some packaging companies may be prepared to package your products cheaply at the end of a run for another client, especially if they think you might be putting more business their way in the future.

Matthew Rock thanked the guests for their insight and then asked the audience if they had any questions. Somebody asked if having a limited company was preferable to operating as a sole trader. Stephen felt that aside from the issue of liability, the legal status of the business was not that important because it was the individuals involved that were important.

Someone else asked for advice about trading overseas. Pick an English speaking country or at least a country where you are familiar with the language and culture, said Stephen. Mandy suggested using international distributors who know the market and have the infrastructure in place already.

Nick Nair at the back of the auditorium told Stephen that if he didn’t use this opportunity to give him a bottle of his product, Flavour Dash, his boss, (ie his wife) would give him the sack. To applause from the audience, he ran down the steps and presented Stephen with a free sample, employing the very same guerilla marketing tactics that Stephen had recommended earlier in the evening.

Early Doors Disco at Drink, Shop and Dance

7 May 2012

DrinkShopandDance_logoI’ve already blogged about Drink Shop & Do – a new kind of consumer experience back in October 2010, and am glad to report they are going from strength to strength.

They have now taken over a former sex shop in the basement and created Drink Shop & Dance.

In something of a bizarre coincidence, it turns out that the husband of a former close colleague of mine from my previous job has a regular slot at DS&D. Andy and Luke have created Early Doors Disco as an alternative to the late night party scene in London. I think they describe what they do better than I could.

Because we know you want to dance…but you also have to work the next day

EarlyDoorsDisco_logoEarly Doors Disco was spawned in the winter months of 2011. We were confused as to why there was no mid-week, early starting indie disco going on for those who wanted to have a few drinks, get their dance on and still be able to get the last train home. So, we got together a few friends, some of our favourite tunes and decided to get our clubnight on, with the help of the lovely folks at Drink, Shop & Dance in Kings Cross.

In terms of music, the hard and fast rule is that everything played after 7.30pm needs to be dance-able, so that you can drop in at any time and dance…for as long or as briefly as you like. Other than that we operate a fairly open music preference, which is really determined by the DJ on the night. Mixing up a bit of indie, pop, electro, soul, funk, rock, 90s hip hop and punk, with a slew of other genres thrown in depending on the feel of the night.

We’re not a fan of rules, but we’ve jotted down a few ‘guides’ for the EDD way of thinking:

  • We want people to dance and have fun. Bad attitudes not welcome!
  • We don’t play self-indulgent tunes… well, not many of them we hope
  • We aren’t a glorified wedding party, or school disco…

I went along last Wednesday and the place was buzzing, even before the official start-time. The point of the story however, is that with just two performances under their belt the story went viral in the mainstream press, including Time Out, Who’s Jack, Londonist, Google London and  The Observer, as well as on a couple of BBC news programs.

This all goes to show that if your new product or service hits the Zeitgeist, then you don’t have to spend money on advertising or promotion, the media will come to you.

Andy and Luke hard at rest - image from Laura Tosney

Andy and Luke hard at rest – image from Laura Tosney

Digital Strategies for Heritage – DISH 2011 Rotterdam

23 December 2011

Dish_logoThe Digital Strategies for Heritage 2011 conference (DISH 2011) was a new name to me until quite recently.

This could be explained by the fact that my job is all about helping aspiring entrepreneurs with their information needs, rather than digitising parts of the enormous British Library collection.

However, one of the four strands of DISH 2011, held from 7 December in Rotterdam, was Business for Heritage, and I was asked to speak at session on Organisations that Redesigned their Business  Models.

I certainly believe the Business & IP Centre is an excellent example of how a library can deliver a different kind of service, to support its community and economy. As well as giving a talk about the development of the Centre and the services we deliver, I was also asked to offer myself up as a trained business advisor.

Quite a few conference attendees applied for these one to one advice sessions, and I selected four I felt I could help the most. It was fascinating to hear first hand about some of the projects my clients were undertaking, and the challenges they were facing. In most cases it involved persuading staff with somewhat traditional and cautious attitudes to adopt new technologies and new ways of working. These were issues we had faced in developing the Business & IP Centre.

Overall I found the conference to be extremely well organised with fascinating speakers and interesting and engaged attendees. I would thoroughly recommend attending any future DISH conferences.

Here are my notes from the two days of the event:

I got off to an excellent start when I found myself sitting next to the conference chair Chris Batt and his charming wife Adie, who also happens to be his business partner, on the flight out to Schiphol airport. So I was able to get the inside track even before arriving in Rotterdam.

Chris has been a key figure in the information world for many years including  Chief Executive of the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA). However, this was the first time I had had the opportunity to speak to him.

Chris_BattWednesday 7th December – Introduction from Chris Batt, Conference Chair

DISH has now seven years experience, and aims to be a toolbox with practical solutions, rather than just keep on saying it is a ‘good thing’.

The four themes for the conference are:

  • ­    Business for heritage
  • ­    Crowdsourcing and co-creation
  • ­    Institutional change
  • ­    Building a New Public Space

Image by DEN (Digitaal Erfgoed Nederland)

We are living in a time of uncertainty, complexity and change, but more than ever a need for us to think strategically.

In the private sector it is a case of ‘a thousand flowers blooming’, but each one is aiming for market domination. And how can you tell which will be the success story?

We are moving from Evolution to Revolution (look at the recent changes in the music industry), also in some cases Extinction.

There are big differences between the public and private sectors, but both are serving the same customers.

In the public sector how does the weeding of the ‘thousand flowers’ take place, when there isn’t the private sector market control elements.

Do we undertake cost benefit analysis for our digitisation projects?

When looking at the UK government departmental strategies and cooperation, it is a case of ‘the whole being less than the sum of the parts’.

Chris asked the audience what ‘being ahead of the wave’ meant to them.
Is it the Institution, the Project, the Sector, or Public knowledge institutions?

To make progress we need to move from being technicians to strategists, and from an institutional focus to a consumer focus.

Katherine_WatsonLiving the Digital Shift – Katherine Watson – Director, European Cultural Foundation

  • We need to start with the person not with the technical tool.
  • We should look into the future, and ask ourselves how will the current six year old in school be wanting to use your services when they are ready?
  • Looking to the past is not helpful.
  • The economic crisis means that our funding landscape is crumbling around us.
  • In the future it will not be ‘back to business as normal’.
  • Rapid change means that it is not possible to predict the future with risk free certainty.

Amber_CaseCyborg anthropology and the future of interfaces – Amber Case

Although something of a surprising presence at a conference on digital strategies, Amber’s talk was absolutely fascinating, and I am still pondering on the implications of what she said. You can catch some of the same points in her TED Women talk.

The traditional tools that humans use have changed very little over thousands of years. Whereas computers have changed beyond recognition in less than 50 years.

The idea of Cyborg Anthropology first came about in 1941, when a group of scientists and technologists first met to review impact of computer technology on people. In 1992 it became a formal academic subject.

Becoming a cyborg
When you first go online, you have to start making decisions about how you will present your virtual self, and how closely related this will be to your ‘real’ self. You are likely to adjust this version of you based on feedback from your contacts.

The future

  • We will see more Calm Technology, which appears when you need it, and disappears when you don’t.
  • Technologists try to digitise old technology and nearly always fail. For example trying to ‘grab’ a virtual page and turn it, instead of pressing a button.
  • We need to have technologies which give us superhuman powers, eg Flipboard
  • There will be an increasing merging of tech with real life. E.g. body implants.
  • Real-time gaming eg MapAttack
  • Home automation that actually works.
  • The interface will begin to disappear, so that actions are reduced, queries are eliminated. E.g. Kinect for Xbox®
  • The best technology is invisible… like a book.

Q. How do you cope with the way technology negatively impacts available time and the ability to concentrate?
A. Amber recommended moderation in all things includes technology. She recently took 3 weeks away from her email and social media to read a book a day. The government in Singapore has proposed its citizens should turn off technology an hour before bed-time to give their brains time to settle down so their sleep is effective.

Charles_LeadbetterCulture and Social Media – Charles Leadbetter

The answer lies in ‘creative muddling through’, using skill-full incompleteness.

Charles used an excellent analogy of the development of the wine industry over the last 50 years to illustrate different models of customer service that relate to the Cultural Heritage sector.

French wine is elitist, their bottles (with just a front label) give almost no clue to an amateur wine drinker as to the nature of the wine they will find inside. You need to know their language, geography, horticulture and coding systems.
The message is, ‘keep away, unless you know what you are dealing with’.

In contrast Australian wines are consumer friendly. They have colourful modern labels on the front and lots of helpful information on the back, explaining the grapes that make up the contents, and what the wine will smell and taste like. They a have a handy screw top, so you don’t even need to drink the whole bottle in one go.
The message is, ‘I go very well with your Chicken Korma’.

Because of these changes New World wines are now the largest selling in the world.

Then there is the rapidly expanding area of home made wine. People are planting their own garden vineyards and buying the wine making kit from the web. Needless to say the quality of wine produced ranges from the undrinkable to excellent.
The message here is, ‘anyone can have a go’.

Next Charles looked at four distribution models and the challenges they present for the cultural sector.

1. How we communicate


2. Where ideas come from.


Compare this to what he called the evil genius of Simon Cowel managed to operate in three out of four sectors.

Contributors X Factor

He was particularly impressed by how Apple have been so successful, by creating a ‘guild’ of followers (customers) who believe their Apple products are helping them to live better, more modern lives.

3. How has society changed?


In the future to grow big with small investment will require seeing yourself as a movement, or networks with values and ideologies, not institutions, with opening hours, collections and catalogues. Social media and the web gives an opportunity to do this.

He gave the example of Barcelona football club as the kind of organisation which exemplifies this approach.

The English, who invented football, developed a game in which defenders never went beyond the half-way line. They repelled attacks with physicality and generally ‘booted’ the ball up the pitch to their attackers who had the skill to put the ball in to their opponents net.

The ball only ever went straight up and down the pitch. The occasional creative player would attempt to move the ball across the pitch instead.

However, Barcelona developed ‘total football’, where everyone is a key player with skill. The ball always moves across the pitch, never along it, the team aim is to never lose possession, and everyone has to contribute.

This has made them into the most successful football team in the world.

For Charles cultural institutions must learn that the way to win is, not to be brilliant and individualistic, but to remain part of the network, to pass, to constantly move, look for space and find interesting angles, to always remain linked. If you are not open to people passing the ‘ball’ to you, no one will be interested in playing with you.

In other words, play culture, like Barcelona play football.

Thursday 8 December

Michael_EdsonCome let us go boldly into the Future – Michael Edson

Michael gave the closing keynote talk, which was more a call to arms than an academic treatise.

He spent some time talking about future predictions from the last 50 years. He pointed out that even those ideas we think of as new, such as The Long Tail, Joy’s Law, Cognitive Surplus, Network Effects, Moores’s Law & Mobile, and Every user a Hero are no longer really new.

He built towards his message that the ‘future is now’. So we should stop worrying about what may or may not be coming down the wire, and start engaging with our present future.

He summed up with three key questions we should all be asking ourselves:
1.    What world am I living in?
2.    What impact do I want to have?
3.    What should I do today?

He also strongly recommended The Myths of Innovation by Scott Berkun.

I have been attending keynote talks at library and information conferences for over 20 years now, and in all that time I have only seen two genuinely evangelical speakers from an information background.

The first was Eugenie Prime at SLA Conference in Seattle in 1997, when she called on all librarians to quit whining about image and begin walking the walk. And to earn respect by forgetting about our negative image and doing our jobs better than anyone else could.

Michael Edson qualifies as the second. The audience left his session inspired to tackle this particular professional challenge. No more whinging about all the problems we face, but to focus on the solutions.

You can watch his talk on Vimeo.

Pole-pole to the roof of Africa

21 July 2011

Kilimnanjaro 2011 - Uhuru PeakHaving tried all kinds of different training methods in preparation for my Kilimanjaro Climb, (Will falling forward get me to the top of Kilimanjaro?), the one technique I had not thought about, turned out to be the most important.

To get to the top of the highest free-standing mountain in the world you need to go really slowly, or ‘pole-pole’, to use the Swahili term.

Making forward progress at 19,341 feet or 5,895 metres above sea level, where the oxygen levels are fifty percent less than normal, requires minimum physical effort.

Our very conscientious mountain guide was always keeping an eye on our speed, our ability to cope with the conditions, and for onset of the feared acute mountain sickness or AMS.

Walking the fifty mile climb, at times as slowly as one mile an hour, gave plenty of thinking time. And my thoughts turned to the Aesop’s Fable of the Hare and the Tortoise. In the case of climbing Kilimanjaro, it is not that the tortoise arrives first, it more about arriving at all. According to one company, the success rate for those on the quick three days up climb is less than fifty percent.

In fact our five days of training to plod slowly up the mountain were so successful that one of our our party made it to the summit on automatic pilot, despite suffering from altitude hallucinations. She had to be shown a photo to prove she had actually been there, in body, if not in mind.

Knowing that generous supporters had already donated to my JustGiving page gave me the extra motivation to keep going when I felt like giving up. The page is going be up for a few more weeks if you want to make a contribution.

My reward for getting to the top was a nine day safari in northern Tanzania where I saw some wonderful sights.





More photos on and videos on

I’ve joined the fun Flubitron club

26 May 2011

flubitlogotaglinewhitebackgroundI was delighted to meet Bertie Stephens (Chief Flubitron) from group buying website Flubit during Tuesdays excellent Marketing Masterclass from Grow.

Their pitch is; For any product you want to buy online, tell Flubit, and we’ll work our little socks off to get you some wonderful bespoke discounts… for free!

And they already have 17,000 fans on facebook so are off to a great ‘pre-start’.

It was great to hear from Bertie how useful they have found the Business & IP Centre in developing their business and protecting their brand. I look forward to them joining the growing ranks of our Success Stories.

Having become disillusioned by Groupon, after too many 75% offers for the Ultimate Facial Using Microdermabrasion, I was happy to sign up to Flubit.

And this was the fun email I received in response:

The Flubitask Force to Manlius

To Balcombe’s newest and most wonderful Flubitron,

Honourable Manlius Buggerflub

Welcome to our world.

Now you are officially a Flubitron (an exclusive club we must add), you are one step closer to being part of a new revolution in internet buying. Soon, whenever you want something, you’ll be able to get it cheaper, just by using Flubit – how cool is that?! If you haven’t already, why not follow us on Facebook or Twitter to keep up with what’s new?

Over the next few months we’ll be finishing off some bits and bobs, polishing the knobs and preparing to launch this Summer. Hurrah!

So what happens now?

In 2 – 3 weeks you’ll receive your official Flubitron membership card (Flubicard – don’t worry you’ll get used to the terms). With this card you’ll have access to a whole range of offline and online benefits. We’ll let you know more about this with our introductory letter, or you can have a read here:

OK, so now we’re going to go and tell our Flubitask Force to start making your membership card, and we’ll be in touch in a week or so to let you know how they’re getting on!

Speak soon Honourable Manlius,


Bertie & Dan
Chief & Head of Internal Imagination

Logos with customer appeal – Apples and Marmite

2 March 2011

A recent post on the Graphic Design Blog showed the results of their readers top five logos of all time.

I guess I really wasn’t that surprised to see the Apple logo sitting at number one.

Apple Logo

Although I am old enough to remember the original Apple Corps logo used by the Beatles pop group. Apple and the Beatles: The End of a Long and Winding Road?


This talk of logos got me thinking about the power of brands and trademarks in protecting products and services.

The harsh truth about business, is that if you are successful you will have competition, even if you have an invention protected by a patent.

An example would be the Dyson vacuum cleaner, whose Dual Cyclone technology is protected by patents, and yet the courts have allowed a somewhat similar looking cleaner from rival firm VAX to compete – Dyson loses design case.

dyson cleanerVax cleaner

My favourite brand of all time would have to be Marmite yeast extract spread.

(Marmite jar - 250g size Photo by User:Malcolm Farmer, 28 June 2003 Category:Spreads)

This is not because the logo or image are particularly strong, but because since the creation of its secret recipe in 1902, it has managed to maintain a virtual monopoly, with the only rivals being Australian Vegemite and Swiss Cenovis. With sales of 60 million jars a year at over £5 each, one would assume this a market to attract heavy competition.

However, the Marmite brand is so strong that no-one seems to be trying, or certainly succeeding in competing.

As with many products not everyone is a fan, and Marmite have very cleverly used the strong reactions to the flavour of the spread in their recent marketing campaigns.

Marmite - Love it or hate it

Teenagers teaching Silver Surfers the web way

25 February 2011 again my local paper has its finger on the pulse of social and business change. Although, once again their headline writer hasn’t exactly hit the jackpot – ‘Youngsters take Infernal Trouble out of IT for mature students.’

According to the Middy ‘For many people IT stands only for Infernal Trouble and The Web is somewhere unsuspecting technophobes get trapped.’

I would be more inclined to say that for many older people, Windows are something they prefer to open in order to let in fresh air, and the Web is something they get tangled up in all to easily.

The article is actually about a group of teenagers at Oakmeeds Community College in Burgess Hill, who run a weekly class for that growing population over Silver Surfers (The growing grey market in the UK). Interestingly the club is funded by the local Business Enterprise, so it will be interesting to see how many of these mature students are aspiring Grey Entrepreneurs.

I love the way this story goes against the usual media stereotyping of teenagers as rude and lazy, by showing them in such a positive light, using their skills and knowledge by empowering older generations to take advantage of this revolutionary technology.

It’s not all one way traffic either. According to 15 year old Lloyd Passingham, ‘I really enjoy helping at the club. It feels really good to know that something I’ve learnt, I’m passing on to someone else’.

The Power of Social Media – an Inspiring Entrepreneurs evening

10 February 2011

Web in Feb logoAs part of the Inspiring Entrepreneurs series and in conjunction with Social Media Week, the British Library hosted The Power of Social Media last night, to show how small businesses can enhance social media to engage with their customers and reach new markets.

I am grateful to my colleague Michael Pattinson for writing this report on the evening:

The event was sold out and also streamed live at Southampton University and New York Public Library.  As befitting an event about social media, there was also a live blog at as well as a live Twitter feed.

The guest speakers included Fraser Docherty, founder of Superjam, Ian Hogarth, CEO and co-founder of, Rory Cellan-Jones, the BBC technology correspondent and Justine Roberts, co-founder of Mumsnet.

The event was hosted by Matthew Rock of Real Business magazine.  He began by telling the audience how useful social media has been for his own business, Caspian Publishing.

FraserFirst up was Fraser Docherty of Superjam.  Fraser proved to be a very engaging and funny speaker.  He told us how he started making jam, based on his grandmother’s recipes when he was fourteen, selling it door to door and at farmers markets before securing a deal with Waitrose.  Social media and blogging provided him with a cheap and easy way to publicise his brand and communicate with his customers.

According to Fraser, one of his proudest achievements has been setting up a charity which runs tea parties for the elderly.  So far, there have been tea parties so far but he believes social media can help him create thousands of similar events around the country.

IanThe next speaker was Ian Hogarth who set up the website, which allows members of the public to match their music interests to the site and then receive alerts when their favourite bands are playing.  The site uses a “robot” which scours the Internet for concert and gig information.

Ian made the point that everything on the web is media and everything good on the web is social.  He said: “Good ideas spread faster than ever before – that’s an amazing thing for entrepreneurs, how the barriers of entry are changing.”

Ian talked of the importance of motivating and exciting your audience by emphasising the value of your product or service.  He also talked about how the internet had blurred the lines between product and marketing and how his product manager is effectively his marketing manager thanks to social media.

Ian had recently returned from a trip to LA and recommended that any start-ups using social media needed to spend some time in Silicon Valley because their ideas about social media were so advanced.

RoryNext up was the BBC’s technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones.  Rory has witnessed first hand how social media, especially Twitter, has revolutionised news reporting.  He used an example of the earthquake in Qinghai province in China last year which was reported on Twitter before it appeared on any other news media.

Rory had some amusing anecdotes of the pitfalls of using social media – his advice:  don’t say anything on Twitter you wouldn’t say in normal conversation!  However, he brushed aside criticisms that social media is killing the art of conversation and social interaction saying that these same criticisms were made about the telephone and email.

Justine RobertsThe last speaker was Justine Roberts from Mumsnet, the massively popular website for mums (and the occasional dad) with a phenomenal 1.2 million visitors each month.

She emphasised how social media was so effective in providing a discussion forum which can be so much more effective in selling a product than traditional advertising.  She also talked of the potential dangers of going viral with silly publicity stunts which have a habit of backfiring but her main message was listen and engage, don’t stifle debate.  She also said that you should relinquish control and let yourself go!

A Q&A session followed and some interesting issues were raised by members of the audience such as online privacy and how do you protect your intellectual property.  The speakers all agreed that you can’t expect privacy as social media is a public space.  As far as Intellectual Property is concerned, you can’t stop people from copying your ideas, you just have to provide the best forum and the most recognisable brand.  As Justine Roberts said: “this is the internet, you can’t put up walls. We don’t stop our users recommending competitor websites.”

Other issues raised by questions included how social media can be used to help B2B companies and where social media is going in the future.  Rory Cellan-Jones felt that despite the dominance of Facebook, there was still room for vertical specialist social networks and that social media was blurring the lines between B2C and B2B.

You can read the live blog replay at

The event was also filmed and highlights will be appearing on the BIPCTV YouTube channel shortly.

Comedy at The British Library – What’s So Funny Live

21 January 2011

It’s Friday and so time to lighten up a bit.

Actually it was on Monday evening that I was lucky enough to attend What’s So Funny Live, an evening of comedy as part of our Evolving English exhibition.

Five comics took over our rather serious Conference Centre with the challenge of making their audience laugh.

Each of them succeeded in their own way, with Ida Barr being particularly – or perhaps peculiarly, unique.

Doc Brown the rapper and performance poet-turned comedian (who prefers not to be known as the baby brother of author Zadie Smith), was the host for the evening, and contributed some excellent laid back humour. In particular his story about listening to his ‘brothers’ outraged tales of police harassment as they go about their illegal activities.

Susan Murray focussed on regional accents with some self deprecating jokes about the unimpressive nature of her West Midlands accent.

Old timer Arthur Smith followed with sketches about how everyone will eventually become a BBC Radio 4 listener – however hard they try to resist (certainly true for me). He also persuaded the audience to sing along to “I am the Mayor of Balham / oh yes I fucking am / I am the Mayor of Balham / I fucking fucking am”. Taking much delight in polluting the otherwise pristine air of  the British Library with foul language. However, he finished on a joke that was so clean it would be suitable for children and involved balloons and letting people down.

Next came Ida Barr, the creation of Chris Green. She is an ‘artificial-hip-hopping’ former Music Hall star, doddering around the stage but peppering her talk with the street language of ‘innit’ and ‘aks’. Odd, but also hilarious.

Finally came Richard Herring, famous (or perhaps infamous) for his 2009 show Hitler Moustache, in which he attempted to reclaim the toothbrush moustache for comedy… by growing one on his upper lip. He was enormously relaxed and confident with the audience, and has a great deal of excellent material to call on. He successfully unnerved us as well as making us laugh at ourselves and him. He has a great sketch about the potato of the sky…


Appeal for empty niche brand water bottles

21 July 2010

As part of my presentation, during our Practical Market Research workshop, I have a slide showing three very different types of bottled water.

The images nearly always trigger an insightful discussion about branding and niches within markets, and how entrepreneurs need to think very carefully and strategically about their product and service. Are they going to target the top of the market populated with ‘high net worth individuals’, the growing green consumers, or perhaps the ethical demographic?

As you can see from my screen shot, I cover all of the above sectors with my examples.

The first is called bling h20 and costs $40 for the limited edition Paris Pink bottle. They justify its price tag by putting Swarovski crystals on the bottle and making Paris Hilton its patron saint.

The second brand is Tasmanian Rain and claims: This uniquely pure rainwater is captured on the pristine island of Tasmania, Australia where the air is scientifically proven to be the purest in the world. The air currents travel over Antarctica and 10,000 miles of open ocean eventually reaching the western most part of Tasmania, “the edge of the world”. Here, TASMANIAN RAIN is collected before ever touching the ground, therefore never absorbing impurities, and resulting in a water that is ten times more pure than other premium and artesian waters.

Finally, Belu is an ethical brand and claim to produce the UK’s most eco-friendly bottled water.
It is 100% carbon neutral with the UK’s first plastic bottle made from corn not oil. We deliver one month of clean water per bottle we sell and donate all our profits to clean water projects.

All of this is a rather long winded way of getting  to my appeal for empty bottles of these (or any other niche filling bottled water brands) as example for me to hand round in my workshop.

If you happen to be passing by The British Library and could drop them off at the front desk for me, I would be very grateful.

Website Design: Ten Areas Where You Can Learn From User Behaviour

10 May 2010

website_design_user_behaviour.jpgI am currently working with my SLA Europe colleagues to build a shiny new website for our association so these tips are timely.

Many of the clients we see in the Business & IP Centre are not planning to build their own websites, but all too often they come in with horror relating to their experiences with web designers.

In many cases they have paid a self-proclaimed ‘professional’ web designer a great deal of money to produce a site they are not happy with. As with all aspects of bringing in professionals to deliver a service your business needs, whether it is accounting, contracts or web design, the more knowledge you have the stronger position you are.

So this short guide from Alistair Gray is a good start to get you thinking about what you site should (or shouldn’t) look like.

Website Design: Ten Areas Where You Can Learn From User Behaviour

10 Unexpected Online User Behaviours To Look Out For
by Alistair Gray

1. People Have Banner Blindness

2. People Develop Tunnel Vision

3. People Skip Your Homepage

4. People Need Answers

5. People Follow The “F” Pattern

6. People See But Don’t Watch

7. People Hate Scrolling

8. People Don’t Read

9. People Are Lazy

10. People Want Directions

Green and ethical month in the Business & IP Centre

6 May 2010

May is Green and ethical month in the Business & IP Centre.

We have been inspired by our very successful Web in Feb month of activities to produce a Green in May month (except that it doesn’t rhyme).

As we know from our customers coming in to the Centre, Green and ethical business is growing fast.

Surveys show that 79 per cent of consumers would rather buy from companies that limit their environmental impact.

Throughout May we’re holding special events that explore green and ethical business: the opportunities, the practicalities and the reasons to get involved. Hear from eco-experts and meet entrepreneurs who are making a difference with their businesses.

We have also updated our guide to useful information sources for starting a green or ethical business.

Week one

Get more local
Get More Local
Tuesday 6, 18.00 – 20.00, free

Week two

Green money – beginner’s guide to business finance
Johnny Martin
Monday 10, 16.45 – 19.45, £9 – a special price for social enterprises

The cutting edge of green
Insider Trends
Tuesday 11, 18.00 – 20.00, £10 when booking with discount code “BritishLibrary”

Make the trade
London Community Resource Network
Wednesday 12, 10.00 – 13.00, free

Legal milestones for green business
Keystone Law
Thursday 13, 18.00 – 21.00, £25 – with a 50% discount for British Library contacts, quote “BL2010”

Week three

Raising money for green and ethical businesses
MessageLab and the Funding Game
Monday 17, 13.00 – 17.00, £25 +VAT

Managing an ethical business
Red Ochre
Thursday 20, 14.00 – 17.00, £25 Inc VAT

Social entrepreneurs without limits
Unltd World
Thursday 20, 18.00 – 20.00, free

Week four

Developing organic and ethical skincare products
She’s Ingenious!
Tuesday 25, 11.00 – 13.00, £25

Starting a social enterprise
Red Ochre
Thursday 27, 10.00 – 16.00, £50 inc VAT

Our ‘Green and ethical month’ events
Week oneGet more local
Get More Local
Tuesday 6, 18.00 – 20.00, free
Week two

Green money – beginner’s guide to business finance
Johnny Martin
Monday 10, 16.45 – 19.45, £9 – a special price for social enterprises

The cutting edge of green
Insider Trends
Tuesday 11, 18.00 – 20.00, £10 when booking with discount code “BritishLibrary”

Make the trade
London Community Resource Network
Wednesday 12, 10.00 – 13.00, free

Legal milestones for green business
Keystone Law
Thursday 13, 18.00 – 21.00, £25 – with a 50% discount for British Library contacts, quote “BL2010”
Week three

Raising money for green and ethical businesses
MessageLab and the Funding Game
Monday 17, 13.00 – 17.00, £25 +VAT

Managing an ethical business
Red Ochre
Thursday 20, 14.00 – 17.00, £25 Inc VAT

Social entrepreneurs without limits
Unltd World
Thursday 20, 18.00 – 20.00, free
Week four

Developing organic and ethical skincare products
She’s Ingenious!
Tuesday 25, 11.00 – 13.00, £25

Starting a social enterprise
Red Ochre
Thursday 27, 10.00 – 16.00, £50 inc VAT

Ten top tips for presenting from Jacqui Harper MBE

9 April 2010

I was going through some old notes today and came across these top ten tips for presenting. Although many are familiar suggestions, numbers four and eight are less so, and worthy of attention.

They come from a Top Tips for Presenting workshop delivered by Jacqui Harper MBE, M.D. of Crystal Business Training, way back in November 2006, but are just as relevant now.

1. Start by identifying the purpose of the presentation for your audience.
The key thing to ask yourself is ‘what’s in it for the audience?’ Once you know the answer to this you’re on your way to creating a great presentation.

2. Use key messages and a simple structure to convey your points.
The best presenters communicate clearly and concisely with key messages that are easy to follow.

3. Make your material relevant and interesting for your audience.
Keeping an audience’s attention is quite straightforward if your material is adapted to their specific needs and interests. Audiences like to know you’ve done a bit of homework for them.

4. Rehearse your presentation at least twice.
It’s even better if you can tape your rehearsals with a camcorder. This speeds up familiarity with your material and dramatically improves your fluency.

5. Make sure your presentation has a strong impact at the beginning.
Your audiences are most attentive at the beginning of a presentation – if you engage them at the start you’re most likely to keep them.

6. Show the audience you care about your material and them.
Showing passion for your subject and a genuine interest in your audience always goes down well.

7. Use light touches of humour when you can to build rapport.
It doesn’t need to be a stand up routine. Occasional humorous comments instantly build rapport.

8. Only use PowerPoint when you absolutely have to!
PowerPoint will generally send audiences to sleep unless it’s really well used. It’s far better to ditch the slides and speak directly to the audience.

9. Dress in an outfit that makes you feel good and is appropriate.
A smart, well-groomed appearance will boost your confidence and impress your audience.

10. Get training!
All good speakers have had training. The cheapest way to train yourself is to buy a self-help guide like ‘Voices of Experience: The Expert’s to Making Great Presentations’. The quickest way to learn is to do a public speaking course with specialist companies like Crystal Business Training.

I also remember her advice to practice vocal exercises before every presentation.

What’s not to like about LIKE?

17 December 2009

LIKEIn a year that has seen cuts in commercial library and and information services resulting from the UK recession, and the sad demise of the City Information Group in the summer (CiG – RIP), it is good to have something new and positive to talk about.

LIKE (London Information and Knowledge Exchange) is a networking group for Library, Information, Knowledge and Communication professionals, who meet on a monthly basis to share stories, learn and exchange knowledge in an informal and relaxed setting.

According to one of their fans: “The best thing about LIKE meetings is that they attract interesting and friendly people. It’s rather like a very good dinner party.”

They are already up to their tenth meeting, to be held on 28 January in The Perseverance in Lamb’s Conduit Street, featuring Liz Scott-Wilson Head of Information Management at Tube Lines talking about Information behaviour & culture change.

At their previous get together in December they looked forward to the coming year, and recorded some LIKE members’ New Year Resolutions.

Business and IP Centre launches New Business Podcast featuring… me

13 November 2009

I have to say I was somewhat nervous about being interviewed for Business Bytes. This our new monthly podcast narrated by business journalist Jamie Oliver, and designed to give inspiration and practical advice with the challenges in setting up and growing your own business.

Actually, I just do the inroduction and the really interesting content comes from designer Sebastian Conran of Conran & Partners, business expert Jane Khedair from Business Plan Services, and Dee Wright  founder of The Hair Force.

Each month, Jamie will be interviewing entrepreneurs, business experts and some of the Library’s success stories, who are just at the start of their entrepreneurial journeys. But we have hit he ground running with a mention on the Telegraph newspaper website.

Episode one: From idea to business
19 October 09
In our first pilot episode, Jamie introduces himself and the Business & IP Centre, and interviews a range of experts and entrepreneurs about the importance of ideas, how to take them to the next stage, and why you should protect them.

Starting a business is like playing at Pooh Sticks

12 October 2009

Bryan Mills

During a recent training event I was fortunate to hear Bryan Mills speak. Bryan has had a long and successful career creating and managing IT related businesses (although without an IT background himself). His particular claim to fame is building CMG from a two person business, operating from the founder’s homes in 1965, into a multinational FTSE1oo business.

During his fascinating talk recounting lessons learnt from a lifetime as an entrepreneur he used the analogy of playing Pooh Sticks for business start-up.

As both a fan of the game from early childhood, and having grown up very near to the home of Winnie-the-Pooh the inventor of the game in Hartfield, West Sussex, Bryan caught my attention.

When you are planning to start a business you look down into the swirling river below (the market place for you product or service), you try as hard as you can to see where the current is flowing strongest and is least turbulent (assessing the market opportunity with published and field market research). You drop your stick in as carefully and accurately as you can (detailed business plan preparation). And once it is in, you follow it with Eagle eyes, watching every bob and weave (you track every activity minutely in your newly founded business).

However once the stick goes under the bridge it moves both out of your control and out of sight, and there is nothing you can do to influence its route down the river, across into a bank of reeds, or dropping down to the bottom of the river bed. This is very much the situation once your business is up and running. All kinds of unpredictable events can knock you off course, or sink the business altogether.

Perserverance and the achievement of goals

13 September 2009

I don’t usually get too philosophical on this blog because I know most people are looking for practical solutions to problems.

However, on my recent holiday up in the beautiful Langdale Valley in the Lake District, and then on to the Highlands of Scotland, I managed to achieve something I first attempted 25 years ago.

Although climbing Ben Nevis does not compare to the serious mountains of Europe and the Americas, it does feel good to have finally conquered the highest mountain in Britain. Especially as my two previous attempts had to be abandoned due to bad weather, leading to dangerous conditions on top.

It made me think about how much perseverance entrepreneurs need in order to succeed in business. They will need to overcome a great many obstacles and challenges on the way if they are to succeed in the long term.

To quote Roy Castle from his Record Breakers days,  “what you need is dedication”.


12 July 2009

Irony is a tricky topic as Alanis Morriset discovered a few years ago.

And perhaps ‘tragic’ is a more appropriate term for hearing the news halfway through Wednesday night’s SLA Europe Summer Soiree to celebrate 100 years of the Association, that the City Information Group was no more.

As a member of the group for nearly 20 years, I was saddened to hear of its demise. As Tim Buckley Owen points out in detail, they had a distinguished past. I certainly found their educational sessions to be of great interest and relevance to my career development. And of course their summer and winter parties were legendary.

Melanie Goody (one of the founding committee members) also recalls its glory days when it boasted over 1,000 members, on the TFPL blog.

On her View from the Hill blog Sue Hill says it is ‘A time to weep for the departed and to celebrate the survivors.’

It will be interesting to see if the existing GiG membership decide to join one of the remaining information bodies and associations.

Start-ups who think big

1 July 2009

On my way home the other evening I noticed an unusual poster advertising the Daily Telegraph newspaper. The poster consisted of three of the photos below, and was a salient reminder of the humble beginnings of what are now household names.

Some of the entrepreneurs I meet have no greater ambition than becoming their own boss and making enough money to be comfortable. However, some have global ambitions right from the beginning. Last week I saw a client who has patented an invention which if successful could be in every home in the world which uses electricity.

It pays to think big. Branson?s first store: Richard Branson?s first foray into business was a mail order record company.

It pays to think big. Before it became a computing power house, IBM used to manufacture and sell machinery ranging from commercial scales and industrial time recorders to meat and cheese slicers.

BM 1930: Before it became a computing power house, IBM used to manufacture and sell machinery ranging from commercial scales and industrial time recorders to meat and cheese slicers.

It pays to think big. Lamborghini started out as a tractor-building company in the Italian village of Sant'Agata Bolognese.

Lamborghini 1955: Lamborghini started out as a tractor-building company in the Italian village of Sant'Agata Bolognese.

It pays to think big. When Nokia was first formed they produced a number of products including bicycle tires, aluminium and Wellington boots.

It pays to think big. William Harley and Arthur Davidson built their first motorcycle in a friend?s wooden shed, in Milwaukee.

It pays to think big. Ingvar Kamprad, aged 17, set up Ikea in a shed in Smaland, Southern Sweden.

IKEA started here. Ingvar Kamprad, aged 17, set up Ikea in a shed in Smaland, Southern Sweden. From here he distributed Christmas cards, packets of seeds and pens.

It pays to think big. Larry Page and Sergey Brin set up Google as a research project while they were Ph.D students at Stanford University. In 1998 they moved into Susan Wojcicki's garage at 232 Santa Margarita, Menlo Park.

Google started here. Larry Page and Sergey Brin set up Google as a research project while they were Ph.D students at Stanford University. In 1998 they moved into Susan Wojcicki's garage at 232 Santa Margarita, Menlo Park.

It pays to think big, The Daily Telegraph, Britain’s Broadsheet
It pays to think big is the Telegraph’s major new advertising campaign to promote Britain’s best-selling quality daily paper. It pays to think big, proudly celebrates the fact that the Daily Telegraph is the only quality daily paper in the broadsheet format – giving readers more coverage of news, sports and business.

The kindness of strangers… and acquaintances

7 June 2009

Although not in the same league as Lucy Kellaway’s recent trauma, and resulting life affirming experience (How a thief gave me 10 reasons to be grateful), my newly acquired torn calf muscle has led to unexpected kindness from strangers.

Not exactly how I sustained my injury - but a nice footy photo

As I have limped around a sometimes hostile (or frequently indifferent) London I have come across instance after instance of help and thoughtfulness. My first experience was a ticket inspector at the entrance to my train station. Instead of his usual approach of not even bothering to make eye contact, this time as I struggled to retrieve the ticket from my pocket, he rushed forward to open the automatic gate for me. Later on, as I crept at snail’s pass a red London bus waiting to begin its journey, I asked if they were going my way. The driver’s initial response was a rather shirty, ‘this isn’t a bus stop you know’, but after seeing my painfully slow limping progress (painful and slow), she relented and invited me on board.

Friends and acquaintances at work have also expressed great concern as they see me leaning heavily on my walking stick. And even when they discover the injury was sustained during a veterans football match, and their initial laughter has died down, they still ask what they can do to help.

All in all a very positive feeling which has gone some way to ameliorating the stinging pain of the injury itself.