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Thursday 26 November

Is this the most unusual business start up of 2015?

I’m often reminding people to concentrate on their strengths when it comes to business, and to think outside the box, so I liked this recent quirky story of Nina Keneally  from New York who turned being a mum (or mom I should say as she’s from NYC) into a business.  At 63, Nina might have thought it was too late, or been tempted to just take it easy.  Instead in  textbook entrepreneurial style she considers her skills & experience, sees a customer need and matches the two up.  She’s also helping others and clearly enjoying her new role.  Perhaps it will lead to more appreciation of what ‘real’ mums do too!

I’ve seen comments suggesting she’s taking advantage and should do it for free, for ‘love’ . But this is an issue faced by anyone working in a caring profession.  Sure it’s good to have free befriending services etc but actually some people don’t want to be seen as ‘needy’, some people will use her service because they can pay. It preserves self respect and prevents people abusing her time and goodwill.

So seriously, if you’re bored with your day job and hanker after starting a business, don’t worry about what you can’t do, and don’t wait for someone else to make the opportunity. See what you’ve got already.

What is it you’re really good at? What do you love doing? What are you doing already that people say they appreciate? What would you do anyway, even if you weren’t paid for it?  Whatever it is, the chances are that someone somewhere needs it, wants it, and will pay for it.

Good luck to Nina for matching kindness with imagination and business good sense.  Whether it’s a quirky one-off or the start of a whole new career option for older people only time will tell!

Monday 16 November

How to stop thinking and start doing: Strategies to beat the block.

ø;Have you got a project driving you crazy because you can’t finish it??  You want to do it, you know it’s a good thing, you spend hours thinking about it! But when it comes to actually doing it…

Writer’s block, project block, acute procrastinitis…whatever you call it it’s a serious drain on productivity and self-worth. If only we could harness the energy we expend in NOT doing into the project itself!

You can probably guess I speak as a fellow sufferer. And sadly I don’t have a magic formula that will instantly turn you from a bored procrastinator into an enthusiastic productivity machine. If I did I’d be a lot richer -and have achieved a whole lot more!  But over time I’ve discovered some strategies that work for me so I thought I’d share them with you….before I get another coffee!

Is it still actually what you want? Sometimes we’ve expended so much on a project our pride insists we have to finish it. But maybe things have changed, maybe you’ve changed. What are the consequences of completing/ not completing? Are there advantages to NOT doing it? Either let it go or finish it – but make it a positive decision.

Be accountable. If I had to choose just one strategy this would be it!  Human beings are socially motivated. If you tell someone else what you’re doing and when- you’ll be ten times more likely to do it! So get yourself a coach, or at the very least an accountability friend, who will help you work out achievable goals and who’s going to ask for progress reports

Set yourself a restart date. NOT tomorrow! You need to get out of the cycle of trying to do it and not succeeding. Choose a special date that means something to you, preferably at least 2 weeks away. Write it on your calendar, use the time to plan and get excited about it afresh.

Do a stock/reality check. What have you got? How far along actually are you? What have you done? What is left still to do? Make a list, tick off what you’ve already done. Go back to build momentum. Tackle some of the project you’ve partly done or have rough notes for- what you’re looking for is a quick win to build motivation and tick off more on your list. Commit to one small step. What could you do to move you one step forward? Don’t worry about the big picture, or completing the whole project. Just think about starting.

Try ‘going out’ to work. Or at the very least find yourself a new workstation which you use exclusively for your project. It’s not just about avoiding distraction but breaking that psychological barrier, getting away from reminders of where you haven’t achieved.  Diarise project sessions. The simple fact of putting it in your diary will help you feel more accountable and limiting the time can actually make you more productive.

Don’t do it alone. Find a study buddy who’s doing a similar project, someone who you can discuss ideas with, share practical tips and boost each other’s enthusiasm.

And last but definitely not least …

Don’t be a slave to perfectionism – Striving for excellence is good but sometimes it’s also our biggest block. We keep endlessly rewriting or trying to make something perfect because we’re worried we’ll be judged and the result is we never actually do it. Producing something even if imperfectly is almost always better than nothing! How good does it actually have to be to work? Does it have to be perfect? Sometimes ‘good enough’ actually is enough!

Maybe you can add to the list – let me know in the comments! I have a sudoku to finish….

Friday 9 October

How many careers will you have?

I was interested to find this article on the BBC about people still actively working till they were 100  so soon after writing about older entrepreneurs! It’s great to see some large employers like B&Q actually seeing the value of older workers and more and more people refusing to conform to a stereotypical ‘old age’.  I certainly  don’t want people to feel they have to work later but would like a world where what you do isn’t defined by your birth date!

I love working with people considering their 2nd (or actually more likely their 3rd or 4th!) career whether that’s finding work they enjoy or finally following their dream and becoming entrepreneurs.  It’s all about considering your strengths and being adaptable, thinking what you can do rather than what you can’t.  You might not have the raw energy and physical strength you had when younger but you’ve gained skills, experience and empathy, which in today’s world may actually be more relevant. After all a machine can help you lift, it can’t listen to a customer or share a lifetime’s worth of ‘how to’.

I have a family history I suppose and some great role models for later working! My grandmother finally gave up dressmaking at 80, my dad worked in the print trade well into his 70’s, my mother went back to work at 52 and only reluctantly retired at 72 when her firm moved north.  (It was the thought of leaving London that was the clincher I think!) At 95 and living with us she enjoyed being our office ‘junior’, answering the door to visitors, taking in the post, making tea and tidying up.

A standard retirement age seems more and more out of place in today’s society and the current rising ‘silver’ generation hardly seems likely to want to settle down quietly on the sidelines with slippers tea and Bingo! So go for it – whatever your age!

Thursday 24 September

10 Reasons why 60+ is a Great Time to Start a Business


Independent Coffee House Owner

  1. You have a living toolbox full of valuable skills and experience – someone somewhere wants them.
  2. You’ve survived bossy bosses, boring jobs, filing, frustrating meetings, the colleague from hell, career hiccups, financial crises, sleepless nights …. running your own business will be a doddle.
  3. You can use your Oyster 60+ card or bus pass to get to client meetings and networking free!
  4. You have a lifetime’s worth of contacts, some in positions of influence. Now’s the time to call in those favours!
  5. You can shamelessly exploit your children’s ICT skills to set up your website and social media accounts, or to design your business cards and adverts. If they complain, remind them that you taught them to use the toilet.
  6. You get concessionary rates on events at the City Business Library and others!
  7. The internet means you can do business from anywhere, even with your feet up.
  8. Save on medical bills! Running a business will definitely keep you active, one of the few proven ways to help stave off age related decline.
  9. It’s a whole lot more fun than Bingo.
  10. Because if you’ve got an idea that won’t go away, you need to do something about it. No matter how old you are.

Whether you’re 60+, or just feel like it sometimes, if you’d like help turning your idea into a business get in touch. Our Business Brainstormer workshop is the ideal place to try out your ideas and think through all the options with a professional coach. If you decide to go for it, Business Companion will see you through the whole start up process. Get in touch – we love to talk start ups!  (And yes, we’re over 60!)

Thursday 18 June

Is it the end for business cards?

I’m puzzled by what seems a recent trend towards NOT having business cards, on the basis that ‘we all put contact details on our phones these days’! Well, yes but trying to navigate my phone, listen and type standing up in a noisy crowded room (usually one handed because I’m balancing a drink in the other!) is not my idea of fun!

Yes cards can be used badly. Yes you can end up with a pile in your drawer that you never look at. But used well they give you a chance to share not just your contact details but something of the style and ethos of your business.  A simple attractive design, a memorable phrase or picture – I’m much more likely to remember you from a card than if I just have your phone or email.

In Japan there is a complex ritual for exchanging business cards. A fascinating explanation can be found here: but the main point is about mutual respect.  Having a card says to me you’ve taken trouble, you’re prepared, you understand that time and opportunities are valuable and there are other people in the room, you’re not imposing or making me do all the work.

So a brief shout out to Sharleen, Francesca, Marian, Aletia, Lee, IslaDez and Karen who DID have cards at Link4Growth recently.  Thanks guys much appreciated! Great people, great businesses – look them up.


business cards collage


Monday 13 April

5 steps to grow your confidence

1 Spend time with positive people:  Feelings are catching! Find friends who will encourage you rather then break you down.  Join a network group or online community that is connected to what you want to do: other people on the same journey can be very encouraging and comforting!

2 Count your blessings – and successes. Every day make a list of at least 5 things to be thankful for and at least one thing you’ve succeeded at (even if it was just managing to remember the list!).

3 Fake it till you make it : our bodies really do affect how we feel. Standing straight, making eye contact, keeping an open posture and -above all- smiling! will help you feel positive and appear confident even if you’re nervous inside.  Smiling even works when you’re on the phone- really!

4 Practice speaking aloud to a group:  think ‘Slower, Lower, Louder, Look up ’ (the louder in moderation!)  If you’re nervous you’ll tend to speak too quickly and your voice is likely to go up in pitch. Speaking slower gives you a little more time to think, looking up reminds you about your posture and the importance of keeping eye contact with your listeners.  Take a few seconds to pause and collect the group with your eyes before you start. Don’t be afraid to wait till people are listening.

5 Remember everything is experience: Some stuff is bound to go wrong. Try not to let is become too important. Find at least one thing you can learn from the experience. Look for a chance to try again – and move on.

Thursday 5 March

A Fieldfare on the cover: a book loved to bits. Literally.

I’m giving an old friend an outing for World Book Day. This falling apart copy of The Observer’s Book of Birds was given me by my brother and was one of his more successful presents (he has a history of eccentric gift giving which I won’t go into here).

bk b 1

It had a Fieldfare on the cover once. At the time – growing up in Balham before it became fashionable –  this was a wildly exotic bird. In fact most of them in the book were. We had sparrows in plenty, blackbirds, pigeons,  that was about it. But it didn’t stop me looking and hoping, thumbing through the pages till I had more or less memorised the whole book. As I grew up and lived in different places the book came with me.  I started to actually see some of the birds and mark them in so it became a record not just of birds but of my life.  (Almost incidentally it charts massive changes. Goldfinches, once an ecstatically noted rarity, were in ‘dozens’ by 81, the ‘sparrers’ meanwhile, are almost gone from London.)


This book is useless. It’s dirty, it’s out of date, it’s falling to bits. So why don’t I throw it away? Why does leafing through it give me a lump in my throat? What is it about books, real physical books, that can make us love them, more as if they were friends than objects?!  I really enjoy my Kindle and the convenience of bird books and apps on my phone, but I can’t imagine getting nostalgic about them! And I wonder what other objects have that same ability to absorb memories and feelings and reflect them back to us in a touch. Well used tools maybe, or musical instruments?

Happy World Book Day old friend.

Monday 2 March

Before I Die… Candy Chang’s wall and other thoughts

In 2011 Artist Candy Chang turned an abandoned house in New Orleans into a giant chalkboard and invited passers-by to complete the sentence ‘Before I die I want to …..’ The answers covered the full range from comic to aspirational but even the comic ones, like ‘I want to be tried as a pirate’, reveal something of the writers’ genuine dreams and yearnings.


I had the privilege this week of attending a wonderful memorial service for an old friend. It was a genuine celebration of a life well lived. I was struck by how many people said ‘David would have loved it’ and I don’t think they meant just the selection of old hymns! He would have loved what people said and remembered – even though the memories weren’t all rosy! Our friend was not in the least famous but he influenced a huge number of people. He lived his life with firm purpose and put his energy into things that were genuinely important to him.

In the middle ages it was customary to include a ‘memento mori’ in a portrait painting – a skull or other symbol that was meant to remind the person of their mortality. They did it as a remedy against pride. Maybe we need something similar, like Candy Chang’s wall, to remedy our modern sins of apathy and ‘putting it off’.

So how would you complete that sentence? Whatever comes up, that’s your heart saying something to you. Goals and dreams – don’t ignore them, don’t put them off, don’t leave them till the time is ‘right’ – it may never be right. Our time here is limited and precious, we won’t get it again. Let’s really use it to the full.

You can hear more about Before I Die by Candy Chang in her TED talk here Before I Die

Friday 20 February

Personal Change is a marathon not a sprint – pace yourself!

bikeThe new bike has arrived!

This gorgeous addition to the family is the start of Phil’s serious prep for the Prudential 100 cycle ride in August. Of course just getting the bike won’t do it, there’s a lot of mileage building and training ahead if he’s going to enjoy the day as well as finish!

But it got me thinking about personal change and how people sometimes get discouraged and give up before they even start, when the only problem is they’re trying to make too big a jump! It would be like Phil getting straight on and trying to do 100 miles tomorrow – I think he’d be really discouraged!

So when you’re thinking about personal change or setting yourself a goal dream big by all means. But then – get into training! Make yourself a route map and plan the stages and timescale, break the journey down into smaller steps that are manageable.  Every small success will take you onwards and encourage you. Work out what is the smallest first step you can successfully take towards your goal and do that.  And then the next.  And the next …

Tuesday 6 January

L4G networking with a heart

If you haven’t come across Link4Growth yet you surely will sometime this year! It’s a different kind of networking movement, bringing together not just business people but people with all kinds of local interest and talents, all with a heart to rebuild local community. It’s growing crazily fast with more and more events and groups starting every month.  I’ve very much enjoyed the local NE London events plus some great online training! Check out what’s happening and give it a try!