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So what do you do when your manager is an idiot?

If I had a pint for every nurse I met who felt their boss was an incompetent idiot, I would spend nearly all my waking hours staggering around in a drunken haze. I would go even further and say that most of the nurse entrepreneurs I meet would not be looking to leave their current organisation if they had a creative, supportive and empowering manager.

So what do you do when your manager is an idiot?

Well a couple of suggestions and approaches might help make your job and your life more bearable. If you find yourself thinking about your manager a lot when you are away from work and talking about them a lot with friends and family, then this is a sign that they are having a very unhealthy impact on your life and you need to do something about this. Either that or you have a crush on them and that is an entirely different blog :) Firstly a word of caution. Acting like you know they are an idiot (no matter how tempting) will only make things worse. If you antagonise, embarrass or annoy your manager they can easily transform from being an idiot to a bully and the bane of your life. (read more ...)

How to give up your day job

I get asked this a lot at the moment and I think its probably a sad indictment of the state of morale with many nurses. Often people have a great idea for a service or a new social enterprise but don’t know when the right time is to leave. From my experience over the last 5 years, I think there are 3 distinct phases you need to move through and (for the record) I completely botched this myself and survived the first year by the skin of my teeth.

Stage 1 – The planning stage (still with your current employer)

The 1st stage needs to be complete before you do anything about leaving. First you need to work out your business idea and by that I mean the idea or service AND a way that this can be run at a surplus. Often people have a great idea but haven’t worked out how much it will cost to run, where the income will come from and the “napkin costings”. Once you have a business idea then you need to develop contacts with commissioners and potential purchasers and look to raise the start-up income. You may even be able to start delivering the work at this stage even though you are still holding down a full-time day job. (read more ...)

Creating a hundred ideas

As I have blogged about previously, in a knowldege economy your value is dependent on the quality of your thinking and the quality of your decisions. One component of that is coming up with lots of different ideas and that seems to be something many people really struggle with. So here is my 7-step guide to creating a hundred ideas for any given problem.

1) Get the right environment

By far the worst place you can generate good ideas is sat round a table, during work hours, in your work clothes and with no music. Yet this is where people spend hours every week in meetings. The 3 places that most people are most creative are the 3 Bs:

  • In Bed
  • In the Bath
  • In the Bar

These are the most creative environments you can be in and these are excellent environments for generating new ideas. Bed and bath tend to be best for free-idea-association and letting your mind wander and play with ideas. Bars are best for bouncing ideas around with other people, preferably with good music and good alcohol involved. It is no coincidence that most business ideas are generated over lunch or evening drinks. (read more ...)

Presenting for finance

I am not going to write about generic presentation skills here but presentations that are specifically designed to get someone to give you money. That could be a contract, a sale, a loan, venture capital, a grant, etc. The one thing all of these types of presentation have in common is that at the end, ou want someone to give you money. Applause is nice, laughter can be good, even warm appreciating smiles can make you feel successful but unless you walk out of the room with a big wodge of cash, your presentation failed. The purpose of these presentations is to get money and whether you get money at the end is the only outcome in town.

I don’t know when I first got really interested in the science and art of presenting but it has been something I have been passionate about for at least a decade. I suppose that is how I fell into teaching other people presentation skills and so I have seen hundreds of people present at conferences, workshops and when they are bidding for contracts. There seems to be some sort of implicit assumption that presentations for contracts or funding are essentially the same as presenting at conferences, workshops, seminars, etc and I think this is completely wrong.

So before I give you a few pointers, let me talk about the 5 worst mistakes that people make when they are presenting for funding. I have seen all these mistakes in action as a commissioner, member of judging panels and as outside observer and they always make my heart sink. (read more ...)

Reflections on Voice 08

For those of you that have never been, Voice is the annual UK social enterprise conference.

This year (Voice 08) was in Liverpool and is one of my two must-attend conferences of the year (the other being RCN Congress). For me it does 3 things:

1) It connects me with many of my social entrepreneur contacts, some of whom I only see once a year. Most of us are running around trying to grow and develop our own social enterprises, so it is nice just to have some time to reconnect, swap some gossip and drink fairtrade coffee (which Voice is always swimming in). (read more ...)

How the EPOCH business model will increase your turnover or your money back

What I am about to describe is the EPOCH model which is freely available for you to use under our creative commons licence. It is free so if I doesn’t work you won’t get any cash but I will give you your time back, maybe by coming round and doing some gardening or cleaning your car or sorting out your web page :)

First of all, the EPOCH model is a 5-stage process to help your thinking and discussion and understand your current earnings potential as well as possible new income streams. You can work through this on your own, you can work through this with your board, you can involve staff, users and stakeholders and you can even ask someone like me to come along and facilitate it.

The EPOCH model asks 5 questions and each question feeds into the subsequent question. The 5 questions are:

E – What are you EXCELLENT at?
P – What PEOPLE could benefit from you doing the things you are excellent at?
O – What are the OUTCOMES on the people who are you are doing your excellent thing to?
C – Who would COMMISSION you for these outcomes?
H – HOW MUCH would these commissioners pay for these outcomes?

So let’s go through these one step at a time. (read more ...)

The myth of audited accounts (or how to save money on your accountancy fees)

I was having a discussion yesterday with a group of nurse entrepreneurs and we were all comparing notes and strategies – particularly during the start-up stage. One of the really interesting discussions was about whether or not you have to have audited accounts or not. Now for the uninitiated, you may not even realise that there are two different kinds of accounts – audited and unaudited. Put simply, audited accounts are prepared by an accountant and are then audited, which is process whereby they check a random number of transactions have been processed accurately. So for example, they may check that your £200 travel expenses on the 31st December was really a business trip or a taxi back from some disreputable nightclub in the heart of the city. Unaudited accounts are also prepared by an accountant but they take your word for it that the transactions are all correct. (read more ...)

Why is free business support so awful?

One of the things that first got me interested in supporting other social entrepreneurs is how bad our experience of free business support was. I'd better not say Businesslink or they might get uppity - oh bugger I just have done it! I mean in fairness, they are not all bad and there are some fabulous business advisers out there. But it's like kebabs - there are fantastic kebabs and kebab shops out there but most of the ones I have had at 4am on a Saturday night in Manchester were terrible (even allowing for the copious quantities of Irish cider in my belly). Free business advisors are like that - for every one that is fantastic (in all they kebaby and extra chilli sauce glory) there are dozens that are really really awful. (read more ...)

Are we all knowledge workers now?

I can remember first coming across the term "knowledge worker" about 10 years ago at a conference and assumed it was the latest management buzzphrase imported from a consultancy or Ivy League professor. It turned out to have first been coined by the management guru Peter Drucker nearly fifty years ago and he used the term to describe "anyone who works for a living at the tasks of developing or using knowledge"

So what has this to do with networks?

Well putting aside the rather jargony label, I think there is some real depth to the concept. If we think of knowledge workers as people who add value to an organisation primarily by the quality of their thinking and the quality of their decisions, then this term probably applies to most of the people reading this. But if most of our value to the organisation is the quality of our decision-making, then how we do we know whether we are making high quality decisions or poor decisions and how do we learn to make better decisions? (read more ...)

One of my heroes died recently

January 11th 2008 was a really sad day for me as one of my inspirational heroes died that evening.

Many people may never have heard of Sir John Harvey-Jones but he was the man responsible for me becoming an NHS manager. He was the Chairman of ICI and did a TV series called Troubleshooter where he went into companies and organisations and helped turn them around.In 1990 I watched an epsiode of Troubleshooter on the NHS and decided there and then I wanted to be an NHS manager. (read more ...)

Where have all the nurse heroes gone?

Recently I was running a workshop and asked the nurses present to identify their nursing heroes. The usual suspects came very quickly (i.e. Florence Nightingale, Mary Seacole, Edith Cavell, Margaret Sanger) but they couldn’t identify any from the last decade let alone 50 years. That started me thinking about why this was the case. These are nursing heroes but they have almost acquired a semi-mythical status and are seen as somehow “nothing like us”.Why couldn’t these nurses think of any modern nurse heroes? Is it that there haven’t been any great nurses in recent times? That seems unlikely. Figures like Trevor Clay, John Goodlad, Christine Hancock, etc have had a major impact on nursing but their names do not seem to trip off the tongue of today’s generation of nurses. (read more ...)

So why does everybody want to be a social entrepreneur?

It may seem very strange for me to be cynical about the drivers to be a social enterprise. I have been running a successful social enterprise for over 3 years, am an active member of the Social Enterprise Coalition, am heavily involved in the NHS Network’s Social Enterprise Network and evangalise at pretty much any opportunity on why social enterprises are (potentially) fantastic. So why am I getting a bit cynical?

There has been a huge sea change in the NHS over the last 12 months. A year ago, the mention of social enterprises would result in a puzzled expression from most NHS managers. Six months ago it seemed to be the buzzword of the moment following the publication of the white paper and everyone wanted to know what a social enterprise is. Now it seems that more and more PCTs are very very keen to create social enterprises (even though they may have some strange ideas about what one is). So why is this and why are many of these probably doomed to failure? (read more ...)

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