June 2019


Here’s a good idea.

Whenever you are about to say anything.

Anything at all.

To anyone at all.

Just before you do.

Ask yourself a simple question.

Ask yourself how you think what you’re about to say will make them feel.


Then, if you like, you can go a bit further…

List (in your mind) three of the things that you anticipate they’ll feel.

And see how you feel about yourself.

See how you feel about the fact that you are about to – consciously – make another human being feel this way.


This is about focus.

Focus away from what you say.

To how what you say makes people feel.

It’s helped me.

(And whoever I talk to, as well).

Which is a good thing.

Happy days!

There are two videos in this story.

So it is probably best read here:

OK so these three things are probably true about you.

  1. You worry too much what people think about you.
  2. This stops you from doing what you really want to do and being who you really want to be.
  3. If you were told you were going to die tomorrow, 1 and 2 would no longer be true.


Here’s the news.

You’re going to die.

(Not tomorrow hopefully).

But you are going to die in 10, 20, 30, 40 or 50 years.

(I base this on what I know of the readership here).

So you can bin 1. and 2. right now if you like.

And do what you want.

And be who you want.

Just like these people, below.

Shooting Stars. 

It seems that people either really love Shooting Stars.

The ‘quiz’ with Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer.

Or they really hate it.

Not least because Jim Moir and Bob Mortimer and Matt Lucas are just mucking about.

Within quite a tight framework actually.

But they are doing what makes them laugh.

Not us.

So, of course, they are going to have fans and haters.

But surely that’s so much better than being insipid?

Or invisible.

Or boring.

Or samey.


The best moment from all of the Shooting Stars series, I think, was George Dawes’ ‘Peanuts’ song.

It’s not comedy gold.

(Or maybe it is?)

It’s just weird.

I watched it first time around and just stared.

I watch it now and shake my head.

And smile.

And laugh.

Feeling like I am a voyeur at some strange get-together of creative, madcap, tiddly friends.

But I want to be their friend too.

Because I think I’d like it in their world.


The ‘Peanuts’ video is below.

It’s 60 seconds long.

And beneath that is a slightly longer video.

It’s an American audience reacting to Shooting Stars.


Some days.

No matter how good or bad things are going.

I only look on the shite side.

Some days.

I imagine only the worst thing that can happen.

And if someone asked me if the glass was half full or half empty.

I’d just tell them how shit the glass was.


Some days.

Clouds descend.

I become Mr. Shiteside.

That said, because I drink less alcohol these days.

And because I drink much less caffeine.

And because I exercise regularly.

I’m much better.

Yet still.

Some days.

I can find the cloud for every silver lining.


My best advice to me.

In an attempt to understand Mr. Shiteside.

Was get to know him better.

To try to understand how he ‘ticks’.

To try to understand what triggered his appearance.

And – most importantly – to try to understand what he is actually for. 

To try to understand what value the ‘Mr. Shiteside’ version of me adds.

To anything.

Mr. Shiteside.

So I have analysed Mr. Shiteside.

The version of me that imagines only the worst things that can happen.

To find out what he is worth, if you like.

And so far.

The answer is…

Absolutely nothing.


And as for your Mr. (or Mrs.) Shiteside.

They’re also worth nothing.

(Apart from if you change the lyrics to the Killers song to Mr. Shiteside.

In your head.

Then that’s quite funny).

But in any other capacity – useless.

Here is The Killer’s killer tune, live (with the story behind where the tune actually came from).

Sing and smile, here:

Recessions come slowly.

Or quickly.

It depends on your perspective.

It depends where you are standing.


If you’re happily running a smart, functional, profitable little business in early 2008, you probably don’t see a recession coming.

If you’re some twat working in the city – smirking, snorting and stockpiling personal cash whilst you fuck around with everybody else’s – you probably do.

Either way.

In 2008.

Recession came.


The 2008 recession manifested in my world as a pause button.

Clients didn’t say ‘yes’ any more.

And they didn’t say ‘no’.

They started – one by one – to say, ‘not yet’.

They waited.

Uncertainly does that to most people.

It paralyses them.


One Wednesday morning.

In the summer of 2008.

I’d had enough.

So I stood up.

I snapped into action.

I removed my head from my arse.

I created a cash flow projection based on what was happening right now.

And I retrieved, from one filing cabinet or another, my business plan.

I blew the dust from the cover and peered inside.

It was a document called (metaphorically), ‘What we have always done’.

And it now lay neatly alongside a cash flow forecast called (metaphorically) ‘What we’re going to get’.

It felt like I was a living example of that phrase.

You know the one.

If you do what you’ve always done.

You’ll get what you’ve always got.

Except it was worse than that.

It was an updated version of that phrase.

Because the recession had killed the, ‘…what you’ve always got’ bit.

So my version of that phrase read:

If you do what you’ve always done.

You’re fucked.


I went home early on that Wednesday.

At about 2pm.

I stayed up all night.

I reinvented the entire business.

And I called a meeting with my two Co-Directors the following morning.



The Deal.

I was a 90% shareholder.

They had 5% each.

I asked them to prepare for a really significant chat.

And a new deal.

I asked them to hear me out.

And to not interrupt until the end.

This is what I told them.

I have changed the business fundamentally.

I have re-cashflowed based on performance somewhere between where we actually are now, and a much better version of us.

A smarter version.

A harder working version.

Where the leaders get paid less.

For a while.

It’s a version where me, the MD, works 7 days each week for 6 months.

For no pay.

And you, if you choose to stay, get paid £10,000 less – each – for a full year.

And I need you to work 5 to 6 very long days – each week.

For that year.

It is a version with 8 less employees.

From tomorrow.

Because I am starting the process of making 8 people redundant.


Here’s the list.

It is also a version of our business that, before any of the Directors gets paid, accrues £5,000 per month in reserves.

From next month.

Every month.

So that in times of trouble in the future – we are strong.

We will have reserves.

It is a version that will make us stronger and more robust than ever before.

And stronger and more robust – I think – than anyone like us.

It is also a version where you can see, in the cash flow, if things go to plan (and only if things go to plan) – you get the £10,000 salary drop back.

As a lump sum.

In two years.

And then, as you can see – significant, incremental pay rises thereafter.

Again based on the achievement of the goals I have set.

I am going to do this.

With or without you.

But – for the avoidance of doubt – I want you both at my side.

I can do this faster and better with you.

Let me know, by the end of today please, what you want to do.

I was unwavering.

I believed in the new plan.

Not just because it was a smart, powerful and well considered plan.

Not just because we were going to be much better than we were before (we were pretty shit as a business… £0 reserves for example.

And prioritising stupidly with spend).

But because I was leading from the front.

I believe in me.

I really was going to do this with or without them.

And when I said to them I would understand if they left.

I meant it.

I was ready for it.

Not operationally.

But mentally.


This business was called onebestway.

Mark and Paul stayed.

And we recovered.

We traded on for over 6 years.

Through to 2014.

When I decided to close the businesses and move on.

And I am pleased that Paul and Mark are, as I understand it, doing OK elsewhere today.

They are both excellent people.

And I owe them both a lot.

They trusted me.

And the deal I put on the table was – eventually – delivered.

In fact they got their salary shortfall back in under a year from memory.

I was proud of that.

And of myself.

And of them.


The takeaway for you?

The world is changing.

It continues to change.

And so must you.


So much so that I don’t think that this phrase is accurate any more:

If you do what you’ve always done.

You’ll get what you’ve always got.

I actually think that, as unpalatable as it sounds.

My version – is:

If you do what you’ve always done.

You’re fucked.

When 2008 came, business changed.

Life changed.

Recessions do that.

They change things.


All of a sudden, my creative business’s black leather and chrome settees, in-house gym, underground cinema, football table and a pool table – looked a bit silly.

Because I had all of those things.

But no differentiated brand.

(Differentiated brands can do OK in a recession. Because they add value way, way above cost alone).

And I had no business plan as a working document.

No coherent marketing strategy.

And no cash reserves.


The world had hit ‘pause’.

But I couldn’t pause.

Because I had a £57,000 rent commitment.

And a £750,000 salary commitment.

But at least I had an underground cinema and pool table  (etc.) right?



I had been sleepwalking.

For about 7 years.

And sleepwalking is only OK in a consistent environment.

In the real world, as opposed to calmness of deep sleep, there is no consistency.

Recessions come and go.

Key team members come and go.

Clients come and go.

So sleepwalking is dangerous.

Wake up. 

In 2008 I was forced to wake up.

With a jolt.

To a brave new world.

I had to morph from ‘good manager’ to ‘really good leader’.


I’ll tell you what I did (literally overnight) in a story called SNAP at



And as for you.

If you are running a business right now.

That depends – fundamentally – on the status quo for its very survival.

That’s irresponsible.

Wake up. 

So wake up.

Smell your lovely coffee machine.

Then check your business bank balance.

And if there is not enough cash in your business bank account to cover 6 month’s overhead.

(Assuming you know what 6 months overhead is).

And you have no high-level, current and considered brand, marketing and business plan.

Then one day soon, you – and the people who rely on you – could be in for a very rude awakening.

When you watch these two versions of this song.

It looks like a man that has turned into his own father.

James Taylor.

When James Taylor sings Fire and Rain live – I melt a little bit.

The first version is in 1970.

I was 2.

The second version is in 2007.

I was 39.

And I melt a little bit more.

And am reminded of the importance of music.

When I see user comments on YouTube:

Missing my son, since 12-22-2017 I always thought I would see him again.

The Song. 

I just think the song sounds like a beautiful, soothing story.

And it is noted by many people that, in his early years James looked so sad as he sang.

In the later video, there is a half smile.

I hope that means he’s happier.

Go here:



This really did happen.

A couple of years ago I placed an online order from ASDA.

I ordered sprouts.

Other things as well of course.

But on the webpage that contained sprouts I added the number ‘1’ to sprouts.

And on I shopped.


The following day, the order came.

There were eight carrier bags I think.

All stacked in those big plastic trays on your front door step for you to unload and carry in.

And in the bottom of one of the carrier bags I, eventually, discovered my sprout.

And it was just one sprout.

In a semi-transparent plastic bag.

With a sticker so big that it wrapped right around the bag and the sprout.

Before sticking to itself around the other side.

The Sprout.

I was alone in the house when the delivery arrived.

So, once I had discovered my sprout, I stood still in the kitchen.


The sprout sat in the palm of my left hand.

Me, prodding it with the index finger of my right hand.

So that I could roll it around to see what was written on the sticker more clearly.

I pulled my glasses down from the top of my head.

Sat them on the bridge of my nose.

And zoomed in to the sticker on my sprout.


Sprout Man.

From their corner of ASDA’s business, ASDA’s sprout man (or ASDA’s sprout lady) didn’t have the authority to override what had happened.

He or she will have known that I wanted one pack of sprouts.

As opposed to one solitary sprout.

But, I imagine, there as nothing they could do.

Because in another corner of the business.

The bit where someone had created something on a website on the Internet for people like me to click.

Something had gone wrong.

Which led me to ponder two things.

Firstly, I wondered how many businesses out there were built in ways that excluded common sense and disseminated authority and permissions to get business done accurately and well.

And second, I wondered how many other men and women were stood silently in their kitchens.

Staring at one carefully packaged sprout.

The sprout sitting motionless in the palm of their hand.

One sprout.

One bag.

One label.

For (about) 8p.

And I smiled.

I want to be the ‘me-ist’ me possible.

And you?

I suggest that you work hard to be the ‘you-est’ you.


Because if you concentrate on being the ‘you-est’ you that you can.

Or in other words, the best version of you that you can.

Life is much nicer.

And better.

And happier.

And more relaxed.

Because if you choose most other ‘ist/est’ words you have to do something that is always corrosive.

You have to compare.


Here are examples of what not to set as your goals.

Because, if you do, you have to compare yourself to others.

And that’s never good.

  • Richest.
  • Slimmest.
  • Happiest.
  • Biggest (house, car…)
  • Prettiest.

And because many of these things are subjective and/or really tricky to measure.

Because everyone’s reference point and taste is different.

What’s the point anyway?

Then layer on top of this something that is particularly prevalent on social media (but in many other social situations too).

The fact that people lie.

And it really does show how daft comparing actually is.


So, in summary, here’s why comparing is stupid:

  1. Everyones perspective and taste is different.
  2. All things are actually measured differently (because of 1.).
  3. People lie.

So there you go.

If you do continue to compare, you’re the stupidest person I know.

(‘See what I did there?)

Rick thank you for supporting me as I build my relationship with the University. If there’s anything I can do to help you with anything you are doing – just shout. See you soon. M.”

Helen thank you for the invitation for Friday. And for taking the time to chat with me today. It was great to learn more about you. Bye for now. M x”

Carlo thank you for sending me the ‘Shore Thing’ link. That’s interesting. Sometimes, I’ve helped brands to run disruptive campaigns that ‘reposition the competition’. But that’s normally by making a unique claim that raises (implied) questions about what the competition does or does not do. What you’ve highlighted here is pretty amazing! I’d not thought of that. Thank you.”

Debbie thank you for looking after the boys this week. It helped us to get a lot done.”

Katie thank you for popping to see me. It was nice to get closer to your idea. I hope my pointedness about brand was not a complete waste of your time. I suppose I just wanted to point out that, in my opinion, your unique proposition will weaken as more and more people appear in your category with similar sentiments. Good luck with whatever next. M.”

Dean thanks for chatting earlier this week. Your point about the market as a whole not being fatigued by, or indeed tuned in to, what the finer points of ‘doing good business’ actually are – is valid. And it’s a useful and timely reminder for me. See you in a couple of weeks. I do want to help you if I can. I think you deserve to do well, and to be paid well, for who you are. M.”


  1. Open your diary.
  2. Choose one, half hour block each week and add a recurring meeting – with yourself. At the same time each week. Fridays are good.
  3. Call it ‘GRATITUDE’.
  4. Inside each meeting, simply send a stream of texts to people who have helped you, or who you helped. That week. Aim to send 12. Thank them for helping. Or thank them for listening. Either works. Texts are best for this. So they can read them twice. If they want.

Thank you.