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  • Experiments at work: 7 ways to try something new in your work life

    When was the last time you tried something new in your business or work life? Experimentation has been a constant theme in my career — recently I’ve been ‘tinkering in my lab’ with some new ideas, developing my Fuel Coaching sessions and working with the BBC on a pilot storytelling workshop for TV journalists.

    Experiments are a great way to test your ideas in front of your audience and get feedback on what works and what doesn’t, and then adapt accordingly. Bringing new approaches to what I do and how I do it keeps my offering fresh and relevant.

    Fancy trying something new? Here are seven ways to inject experimentation into your work life:

    1. Walk in other people’s shoes. Sometimes we get stuck in a ‘bubble’ — our fixed way of doing things. So when was the last time you looked at your business, brand or product through a different lens? Whether you’re a marketing director for a brand or a freelance web designer, I recommend walking in other people’s shoes. Read about my experiences getting my shoes dirty.
    2. Re-frame your work life around YOU. It can feel a luxury to stop and focus on what fulfills us, but answering the big questions is vital to our personal and professional success. Questions such as: “how can I do the work I really want to be doing?”, “how can I re-frame my working life so it’s more Me?” or “how can I up my game to make more of an impact in the organisation?” The last few weeks I’ve been continuing with my walk and talk coaching sessions. I’ve worked with an executive who wants to pursue a new path, a consultant looking to take his career up a notch and a senior marketing executive transitioning to a new role. One common theme is the opportunity to re-frame a work life around You. Make some changes in your work life, take some inspiration from what I discovered on my walk n’talks.
    3. Fix things that suck at work. If you’re wanting to experiment in your organisation or workplace, a great place to start is by looking at those things around you that feel broken, and think about what you’d do to fix them. Whether your organisation has too many meetings or the office around you is uninspiring, what would you do to change it? Check out my post of what I think is broken in the world of work, and my prescription for change.
    4. Shine a light on your thinking. Many people miss a trick by hiding away their opinion and stories. But to stand out in your industry, organisation or job market, you need to share what you’re thinking. Find the digital medium that works for you — whether Twitter, LinkedIn, Medium — and let us know what’s under your bonnet. See what gets traction and how it changes perceptions. If you need help to get started on Medium, check out my ten tips.
    5. Test an idea on the side. If you want to try out an idea without taking a huge “should I actually quit my job?” risk, why not test it on the side? From Tina Roth Eisenberg’s temporary tattoo company Tattly to Matt Lane’s beer subscription club Beerbods, there is plenty of inspiration out there for brands and businesses that started out ‘on the side’. Whether it’s testing an online business idea or starting a meetup group in your community, if you’ve got an itch to scratch, do it!
    6. Celebrate your point of difference. If you’re stuck in a job where you struggle to stand out, or worse, feel like you have to put on a mask each time you walk into the office, how you could celebrate what makes you different? Being YOU gives you the authenticity and courage to stick to your guns. To be confident with that different point of view, to be happy zigging when everyone else zags. Sometimes easier said than done, see if my post helps: Having the courage to be different when everyone around you screams “fit in!”
    7. Read something different. One of the things I like about Twitter is that I’m able to discover interesting articles in publications that I don’t regularly read. From the New Scientist to The New Yorker, it’s great extending your world view. I love to the do same offline — browsing a magazine stand or bookstore to discover new journals. One of my favourite newsstands is Athenaeum Nieuwscentrum in Amsterdam — when I was there recently, I stumbled across a great magazine called ‘Nous’. If you don’t have a magazine store near by, consider a subscription to Stack (they send you a different independent magazine every month).

    So try something new tomorrow. Write a blog post. Turn a boring meeting into a reinvigorating walk and talk. Shake things up. Let me know how you get on!

    And if you need a hand, I’m here to help. Whether you need someone to give a talk or workshop to get your people fired up about doing things differently; or you need a fresh perspective to figure out and capture the essence of your business; or an outsider to guide you through your career or work life via one of my London walk and talks, get in touch hello@iansanders.com.

  • Six things that suck in the world of work and what we can do to fix them.

    The world of work is a dreadful environment,” said a thirty-something man to his companion. I was sitting in a coffee shop near London Bridge yesterday when I overheard two friends exchange workplace war stories. They were sharing experiences working for big tech companies and of trying to find new jobs.

    So it got me thinking, is it really that bad? I thought back to my own experiences working inside and outside organisations. And on the train home last night, I scribbled six things that I think are wrong in the world of work, and what I’d do to fix them.

    1. No time or space to think. In some organisational cultures it’s a badge of honour for your calendar to show back-to-back meetings every day. But the really important stuff doesn’t happen in meetings, it occurs in the spaces in between. It’s in my ‘in-between time’ that I do some of my best work, during walks along the river, on train journeys and in coffee shops. Wherever you work, it’s time to reassess how we use our 9 to 5. And put some punctuation marks in the day. Let’s not demonise lunch breaks — take time out. Turn meetings into walk n’talks, go for a lunchtime run, put some white space in your day to think and reflect.
    2. Stuck in a bubble. Some organisations behave like diners in a restaurant who spend the whole meal looking down at their plate, rather than around the restaurant. People get too comfortable in their own little worlds when they are surrounded by familiarity. It’s as if they have become organisational lifers, ignorant about the world outside their office door. The tech sector, the ad industry, professional service firms, any industry. Each world has its own language, culture and jargon. The trouble is, if you need a breath of fresh air, you aren’t going to find it within your own ecosystem. You need to get outside the bubble and work with outsiders, to get people from other worlds to shine the light for you, to challenge you, to rethink how things are done. To look at the business from another angle. That’s how organisations benefit when they hire someone like me.
    3. Shackled employees. Some organisations tend to suck the You out of You. They expect the individual to bend and fit into the organisation’s structure. That’s missing a trick. How about encouraging people to bring the ‘real them’ to their work? If you can inject your passions and personality into what you do and how you do it, you’ll be fired-up and the organisation will benefit. If you have to check-in your personality at the door, you’ll be miserable, living a work life where you feel like a fraud. I once worked with a radio producer who was asked to come up with ideas for a show. He told his boss he wanted to work by a lake that day. His boss laughed at him and told him to get back to the office. He left soon after and became an award-winning producer someplace else, where he could work unshackled.
    4. Putting people in boxesMost organisations give people closely-defined job titles and job specs, forcing them into hierarchical organisational structures where they inhabit one department or another. They work in silos, sticking to the labels they’ve been given. Let’s stop restricting people by pigeon-holing them; lots of us don’t fit into neat boxes, we weren’t made that way. Let people instead shape roles that reflect their multi-dimensional talents and desires. The best organisational experiences I had were when I carved out unique Ian-shaped roles that included three or four different disciplines. I was MD of one division, project manager at another division and editor of the company newsletter all at the same time. So what if I couldn’t easily describe what I did? I just did me.
    5. Awful office environments. Bloody hell, I’ve been in some awful offices. How do employers think people are going to be fired-up in a soul-less office of grey floors and grey walls? But you can’t just stick a motivational manifesto on the wall, install an espresso machine and ping pong table and expect everyone to become energised overnight. Rather let people work in the spaces that fuel them. Encourage them to get out of the office, to go for walk n’talks, to inhabit the spaces that inspire them. Earlier this year I spent some time working out of Second Home, a space designed by the Spanish architects José Selgas and Lucía CanoThere’s plenty of natural light, every internal partition wall is transparent and there are plants and trees everywhere. Areas are zoned for different tasks. It really fueled me, even on a cloudy February day. Places like that are the offices of the future.
    6. Bullshit. There’s so much bullshit at work. Long meetings. Jargon. Presentations. Networking. Egos. Forecasting. I am tired of it. People pretending they know more than they really do. Let’s be more human at work, let’s be honest about what we do and don’t know. I worked in a culture where we had to re-forecast our revenues every quarter. We spent days poring over spreadsheets making up numbers. It was business guessing not business planning. What a waste of time. Drop having meetings for the sake of it. Swap the boardroom for the coffee shop. Strike out the acronyms and jargon. Bring all of you to work. Let’s not fake it anymore. Let’s be honest about our real stories, about who we really are, warts and all.

    So that’s my take.

    Let’s make the world of work human. Show up — whoever we are, as we are — and do our best work. Take off the mask or the ill-fitting suit. Stop speaking a different language, selling-out on our values and what we stand for. Replace the false smile with a real one. Instead of seeing if we can fake it five days a week, 46 weeks a year, just be yourself. Do your best work, and do it your way.

    Whether it’s taking people on my walk n’ talks (check out my Lunch Break walk n’talks) or helping businesses grab hold of their story, purpose and raison d’etre (check out Fuel-up Your Business) I love helping people get back in touch with the real them.

  • Standing on the edges: the benefits of being an outsider.

    When I was six, my parents took me out of my junior school and sent me to another one further away from home. I never really fitted in at that new school, I remember standing on the edge of the playground watching everyone else. I soon found a new position for myself as the observer. In class, rather than pay attention to what was on the blackboard, I would sketch pictures of the teachers and my classmates.

    In my first full time job I felt like the outsider again. Not only was the world of television production new to me, but I was working with people who had very different backgrounds. I didn’t understand the cultural references they made in conversation, I’d never seen women walk around the office in stockinged feet before, and on my first day they laughed when I made their requested camomile tea with milk.

    I soon got the hang of it however and over the next ten years I carved out a successful career as an insider. I led teams, I knew how everything worked, what everyone did. When I hit a roadblock at the end of the millennium — with too much on my plate, I’d become ill - I quit my job as managing director to become an independent consultant.

    My roadblock forced to me to shift position. It forced me to stand on the edges again, away from the centre. Before, I used to be at the heart of things, the one standing on stage presenting to the company, the loudest one at meetings, a leader of teams. After, as an independent consultant, I wasn’t part of an organisation anymore, I didn’t belong anywhere, I had no office to go to.

    At first working for myself, by myself was hard. In 2000 there was no WiFi. People didn’t work out of coffee shops, we didn’t have co-working spaces, there was no social media.

    But over the years I learned to get comfortable with standing on the edges. I quickly discovered it’s a great position to get clarity and vision. It’s the perfect place for the storyteller to stand.

    When I started writing for the Financial Times, my editor said he hired me because I lived in a different world. He confessed he wasn’t sure exactly what I did, but he could see from following me on Twitter that I went to interesting places and met fascinating people. He thought those experiences would be interesting to FT readers. If I had been a journalist, he’d never have hired me.

    As I’ve built my consultancy business I have drawn on my strengths as the outsider. Today, that’s why people hire me. Whether it’s helping a business capture its propositiontelling stories for a brand or helping people with a work or career dilemma, I bring a fresh pair of eyes and experiences from other worlds. Clients like what they’ve labelled my “smart external perspective.” I see things differently.

    For the past ten years I’ve lived in Leigh-on-sea, a town on the Thames estuary, just under an hour from London. I like that distance from the capital, being on the edges. Living here aids my outsider point-of-view. I find the train journey helps my work: in the morning heading into town I plan the day ahead, on the journey home I reflect on the day’s meetings (and allow some daydreaming out of the window). As the train approaches my station I can see the big estuary skies and giant container ships that power up the Thames.

    Rachel Lichtenstein, author of a new book “Estuary: Out from London to the Sea” (and a fellow Leigh-on-Sea resident) has described the estuary as an ‘edgeland’, a place of transition — one of arrivals and departures — a gateway that connects the UK to the rest of the world. From John Constable to Wilko Johnson, this landscape has long been a source of inspiration for writers, artists and thinkers. It seems like the perfect place for an outsider to stand.

    If you need an outsider to: i) tell your business or brand story; ii) figure out and capture the essence of your business; iii) guide you through your career or work life, get in touch hello@iansanders.com

  • Have you sharpened your pencils? My back to work tips.

    Even though I left the classroom thirty years ago, there’s something of the ‘back to school’ spirit that remains at this time of year. Wasn’t the best bit about returning to school the visit to the stationery shop to stock up on shatterproof rulers and pencil cases?!

    So have you sharpened your metaphorical pencils lately? Are you feeling energised for the term ahead? Read on for some tips to make the best of the coming months.

    1. Choose the right space to work. The importance of where we work is so often under-estimated. We obsess about what software to use to do our work, but much less about where we do it. Here’s my 90 second riff on why we should think carefully about our working environment (watch video).
    2. Fuel-Up your business! Businesses and organisations can often lose sight of who they are, what they do and why they do it. My new ‘Fuel-up!’ package gets to the essence of your business in five weeks. Recently I worked with Stripe Partners, a global strategy and innovation studio. Stripe’s Tom Hoy told me, “Working with Ian has given us the confidence to continue to be different. We now feel more confident in taking our story out to the world.” Click here to download my PDF with all the details.
    3. Ignite your work life. Earlier this month I went to Amsterdam for three days to try out my pop-up office experiment. It was really productive: a change of scenery created space for new thinking. Check out my post: “8 tips to ignite your work life: my pop-up office experiment.”
    4. Deal with stress. Whether you work for yourself or for an organisation, stress always impacts our work and personal lives. Earlier this year I was editor at large on The Stress Report, a 134 page book from The Do Lectures (available here). Here’s one of my stories from the book. It's all about London executive Nick Creswell who likes to travel by boat to his office at Canary Wharf,“Why you need to stop taking the shortcut to work.
    5. Walk n’talk with me. I’m currently running my one hour lunch break walk n’talks where I help executives, entrepreneurs and freelancers crack one big question in their business or work life. Earlier this week I took Andrew for a walk to help him figure out his future. He emailed me yesterday to say, "I'm still on a high after yesterday's session. It's really fired me up on where I can take things next." If you want some lunchtime clarity email hello@iansanders.com and we can fix a time for sessions either in London or by the Thames estuary in Leigh-on-Sea.
    6. Benefit from clarity. It's that moment when the fog clears and inspiration strikes: that blinding flash of clarity when a breakthrough idea arrives. I call it my Clarity Klaxon. Here are six things I do in my life to get it to sound more often:"When inspiration strikes. My 'Clarity Klaxon.' "
    7. Set your ideas free. Lots of us have great ideas about our work and business, but we don’t share what we're thinking with the outside world. Show your co-workers and clients what lies behind your job title by publishing your thoughts online. The objective? To get you noticed, start conversations and shine a light on your story.  If you need help blogging, I’m launching a one-to-one programme to capture and communicate executives' thinking. Email hello@iansanders.com for details.

     

    And finally, if you literally need your pencils sharpened, let me recommend a great little pencil shop I discovered in New York's Lower East Side earlier this year: CW Pencils (they have an online store too!). 

  • Figure out the essence of your business in five weeks

    How’s your business doing?

    Do you know what your customers really think of you?

    Have you captured your business story?

    I meet a lot of businesses with similar challenges. They’re growing so fast they need to update their value proposition. They're not competing on their story. There’s a disconnect between what they say they do and what they really do. Everyone in the organisation is too close to the business to stand back and see the bigger picture.

    That’s where I come in. As an outsider with a wealth of knowledge I bring a fresh perspective to rapidly figure out the essence of a business: its purpose, its positioning, its story. Recently I worked with Stripe Partners, a global strategy and innovation studio.  Stripe’s Tom Hoy told me:

    Working with Ian has given us the confidence to continue to be different. It provided the validation from a smart, external perspective that we should stick to our guns and focus on what gets us excited rather than dilute our story. We now feel more confident in taking our story out to the world.

    ‘Fuel-up Your Business’ is a five week, four-stage programme. It’s a shot of insight gleaned from spending time with you and your team, hearing from your most valued clients about why they choose you. I distill those insights into a series of content you can use as a touchstone internally as well as externally on your website.

    It gets you back on track, gets you all singing from the same hymn sheet, and gets your customers falling in love with you again!

    If your business, organisation or brand needs a fresh perspective and the fuel to grow, click here to download my 2 page PDF from Dropbox (or email hello@iansanders.com and I’ll send it to your in-box).

  • Cracking One Big Question: my lunch-break walk n’talks

    I’ve been running my walk n’talk pathfinding ‘Fuel Safaris’ for twelve months. I’ve walked around the streets of London with executives, entrepreneurs and freelancers helping them navigate their ‘what next’ in their business/ career/ work life (check out some of their experiences here).

    Recently I’ve had approaches from people who wanted my help with a work problem, but we didn’t need a half day session to crack it.

    So I’m trying something new: lunch-break walk n’talks. In these one hour sessions I’ll help you fix a work problem or career headache you’re struggling with. You could be a freelancer needing help refocusing your offering, an executive looking for a steer on a career move, or an entrepreneur wanting their eyes opened to new possibilities.

    All that I ask is that we keep it focused and single-minded: you must have a clear question you are wrestling with. Ahead of our session I’ll send you a brief Q&A to answer, then we meet up and I’ll take you on a walk, looking at your question from a new angle. By the time the hour is up, I’ll have given you clarity on where you go next. This is what Nilofer Merchant says about working with me:

    “Those of us working on ‘doing the thing’ can lose sight of why we’re doing the thing, and what is it that matters of the 22 things you’re doing. Everyone needs help to periscope up to the horizon to help see the horizon again, so you can find the fuel to keep going in the right direction. Is it possible to do that alone? Maybe. But I’d rather not risk it. I’d rather get the kind of help that helps hit the goal and do more meaningful work as a result. Ian Sanders certainly can do all of that by insightful questions, and deep listening.” Nilofer Merchant, author & speaker

    For a limited time, I’m offering one-hour lunch-break walk n’talks in London and Leigh-on-Sea at £120 including VAT. Email hello@iansanders.com and we can fix a time.

    If this is the first time you’ve landed on my website, you can find my own story here. A creative consultant and storyteller, I’ve worked for myself for over sixteen years. I’m the author of a series of books on work and business: ‘Leap! Ditch Your Job, Start Your Own Business & Set Yourself Free’ (Capstone/ Wiley), ‘Juggle! Rethink Work, Reclaim Your Life’ (Capstone/ Wiley), ‘Zoom! The Faster Way To Make Your Business Idea Happen’ (Financial Times Prentice Hall) and ‘Mash-Up! How to Use Your Multiple Skills to Give You an Edge, Make Money and Be Happier’ (Kogan Page).

     

  • Notes from my holiday: three foodie brands serving the good stuff

    I’m just back from a week away in Suffolk. It was great to switch on my ‘out-of-office’ and head up the coast for a change in scenery, fresh air and (mostly) a WiFi free zone.

    One thing I love about Suffolk is its food scene. The county has an abundance of food suppliers, cafes, pubs and restaurants. There are small independent bakeries and vineyards alongside the more established brands such as Adnams, the business which powers the brewery, distillery, wine shops, pubs and hotels.

    My attention is inevitably drawn to the smaller brands: this is where the interesting stuff happens. I love hearing founders’ stories of how they turned their passions into a business.

    Here in Suffolk I found plenty of examples of small foodie brands who don’t simply serve the good stuff, but who are also driven by a strong purpose. And a purpose that feels genuine rather than merely a marketing slogan to stick up on a website.

    From my journey around Suffolk here are three brands that are worth watching:

     

    1. Pump Street Bakery. Famous for its hotel, long established oysterage and even longer-established castle, you won’t find much else here apart from a pub and general store. Now Orford is getting famous for something else. In a 15th century building on the village square lies Pump Street Bakery, started by father and daughter Chris and Joanna Brennan in 2010. When Chris retired from a job at IBM, he taught himself how to bake bread. Today he runs the bakery, whilst his daughter takes care of the shop and café. Not only do they serve up great bread, pastries and coffee - which you can enjoy around a large communal table - they have also built Pump Street upon some decent values. The bakery uses local flour and produce, they started a fund to support local community projects, they even give unsold bread to a family hostel in Ipswich. It’s the kind of place worth taking a detour to - the woman in front of me had come from Norwich just for the cakes. I told the kids we were going to Orford for the castle, but really it was for the coffee.
    2. Darsham Nurseries. On a stretch of the A12 between a petrol station and a railway level crossing is a left turn for Darsham Nurseries. In a ‘blink and you’d miss it’ spot, there’s not only a nursery for plants, but also a café and gift shop, selling everything from cacti to stationery. Whilst the menu has a middle eastern influence they still manage to grow most of the ingredients in their kitchen garden: lettuce, kale, chillies, greens and edible flowers. The project was started by Californian garden designer David Keleel in 2007 when he took over the then near-derelict premises. The café opened in 2014 and is currently run by head chef Lola DeMille. Recently it was honoured in the National Restaurant Awards, at number 80 in the 'Top 100 Restaurants in the UK'. Last week I spotted a beautiful summerhouse in the garden that’s available for private dining. It looks idyllic (picture above).
    3. Two Magpies Bakery. Four days last week we headed to Southwold beach where we soon established a routine. Whilst I set up basecamp on the sand with a picnic blanket and windbreak, my wife would head to the high street to pick up our fuel. Two Magpies Bakery wasn’t the closest coffee shop to the beach, but we knew from previous visits that their coffee was the best in town. It was started in 2012 by husband and wife Jim and Rebecca Bishop. Jim is a former bomb disposal expert who quit the British Army to learn to bake. Passionate about connecting people with great food, the Bishops have a busy cafe at the front of the premises with an artisan bakery at the back. Every day there was a long queue for the coffee, but it was worth the wait.


    It’s great to see indie brands and entrepreneurs thriving away from the big towns and cities, especially in a tougher market where consumers are watching their pennies. After all, these guys are competing on the quality of their produce rather than price. But it’s like my friend David Hieatt says: 'Quality' is a good business model...

  • Making Crazy Happen: The Stress Report

    It was a crisp Tuesday morning at the end of February. I was sitting around the table in David Hieatt’s farmhouse in west Wales. The fire was burning, candles were lit and coffee was poured.

    David announced his lofty vision to those of us around the table: for The Do Lectures to create a series of printed reports, each on a single-theme, in 134 pages. Reports can be boring, David’s idea was to make these ones engaging and accessible via stories, data visualisation, research and experiments. This first report would be on the subject of stress.

    David told us we had three months to get it done. So we started there and then, mapping out a plan with a pack of Artefact cards. After lunch we relocated to the chicken shed and mapped out ideas on the whiteboard.

    It wasn’t until the long train ride home that it hit me. A very small team, with only one full-timer. A 134 page publication in three months? I’ll be honest, it seemed over ambitious.

    Friends of mine who worked in publishing said it sounded crazy. “That’s impossible,” one told me.

    And it was crazy. But David is good at getting the right people together to ‘make crazy happen’. After all, he’s spent eight years building a not-for-profit global event/ community The Do Lectures alongside starting a made-in-Wales jeans brand, Hiut Denim.

    David is a visionary, but he also knows when he needs to be brutal. As publisher and editor, he was brutal about what we had space for, and what we didn’t. He appreciates the beauty of the edit. For example, there were some brilliant pieces I’d commissioned that were left on the cutting room floor, but it was David’s job to wield the knife (so yes, The Stress Report was stressful at times….).

    The Stress Report is out now (buy it here). Inside is the tale of the London commuter who takes the boat to work to cut down on stress. The story of the creator of Moshi Monsters who’s building a movement around calm. An essay by Tim Leberecht, artwork by Anthony Burrill, words of wisdom from Derek Sivers, experiments from our very own guinea pig Mark Shayler, tips, resources, insights and much more.

    I’m proud to be part of it. Credit to David, Kacie, Joby and Mark for making it happen.


    Here’s to the next crazy project.

  • ‘The Entrepreneurs Live’ at Monocle’s Midori House.

    Last night Monocle threw open the doors of Midori House for ‘The Entrepreneurs Live’: a live broadcast of Monocle 24’s weekly business show. In a change to the show’s usual format, Monocle’s Daniel Giacopelli and Andrew Tuck moderated a panel discussion.

    I always enjoy listening to ‘The Entrepreneurs’. In the early days of the show I was a regular contributor interviewing everyone from big names like Guy Kawasaki to business founders under the radar. Last night I took my seat in the audience, sipping chilled white wine and enjoying the breeze blowing in from the the terrace.

    On stage with Daniel and Andrew were four entrepreneurs: Julie Deane (CEO and founder, The Cambridge Satchel Company), David Abrahamovitch (CEO and co-founder, Grind & Co), Pip Jamieson (Founder, The Dots) and Geoff Mulgan (CEO, Nesta).

    What stood out for me? It was good to hear founders being honest about the importance of luck in their business journey. David told the story of how there was a Starbucks next door to Grind’s Old Street roundabout shop. One day the Starbucks closed for a month’s refurbishment. Grind doubled its customers. Even when Starbucks reopened, Grind retained those ex Starbucks customers. David admits he couldn’t have put that on a business plan.

    Another discussion was around values. As more and more business become purpose-led, it’s useful to have a set of values that employees can buy into. Pip explained their values at The Dots help with hiring. “We stick to our values like glue,” she said. Andrew Tuck told us that when he was hiring the Monocle team ten years ago they would take on candidates based on whether they could sit next to them on a long haul flight. That sounds a good test.

    Below are some quotes I scribbled down in my notepad.

     

    Geoff Mulgan

    “The first idea isn’t always the best idea.”

    “Make your idea really clear. Express the essence of what it’s all about.”

    “It’s not always about originality and creative genius. It’s having the hunger to pull together ideas from other people.”

    “Most business plans don’t survive their first contact with reality.”

     

    Julie Deane

    “An initial investment of £600 took me to a £13m turnover.”

    “I opened a factory, brought machines in from other countries and started apprenticeships. You see products that are ‘designed in Britain’, but made elsewhere - that’s really dishonest.”

    “There is no cookie-cutter approach to being an entrepreneur. Everyone is different. I disagree with two thirds of what this panel said. Forget the ‘entrepreneur’ tag, just start your own business.”

    “Sometimes you don’t want to go home with an app, you want to go home with an amazing bag.”

    “You can’t stop and look over your shoulder. You’ve just got to get on with it. People will always want bags.”


    You can listen to the show here.

  • A walk to wake you up, find your fuel and sort out your future

    Sometimes we get so engrossed in our jobs and work lives, we lose sight of what we stand for and where we are headed. Other times we end up in roles that are at odds with who we really are. We know there must be something better out there, but we don’t know what directions to take.

    That’s why I started my Fuel Safaris. To uncover your ‘fuel’: to figure out the essence of your professional offering, to know what really makes you tick. You’ll go away with clarity about where you’re headed, whether that’s reframing your existing role or identifying a new path.

    My Fuel Safari is a one-to-one, half-day walking-workshop around an urban jungle: London’s side streets and hidden alleyways. Colville Place is one such street. Just thirty seconds from the traffic fumes of Tottenham Court Road, this is a pretty pedestrianised street lined with Georgian town houses. At one end it opens up to reveal a tiny park, Crabtree Fields. On my latest Fuel Safari my client Alina and I sat here on a bench in the Friday afternoon sunshine, reflecting on the question I’d just posed.

    The safari takes us down my favourite streets*, places that I first discovered in London’s A-Z as a “runner”, when I worked for a TV company in the early nineties and ferried video tapes to edit houses in Fitzrovia and Soho. Now I’m using those same streets to take executives, entrepreneurs and freelancers on a journey, making sure they’re headed in the right direction.

    I love side streets as they allow the space - and peace - for my client and I to talk properly, with stops at benches in parks and gardens. I have a set of questions to pose, otherwise there is no agenda. Often I give my client the choice of where to head next. “Straight on or right?” I asked Alina. “Let’s go down Adam & Eve Court,” she replied spying an alleyway heading down towards Soho.

    There are stops for coffee and note taking. That Friday Alina and I even took a deviation towards Heal’s furniture store and Soho’s Gosh! Comics for some inspiration.

    On our walk, I try to pose questions that haven’t been asked before. I learned about Alina’s backstory, her ambitions, what gets her fired up. Sometimes a street sign will echo or amplify a part of our conversation. We were talking about Alina’s global outlook; how she’s lived and worked in different countries. By chance, the words inscribed on a glass door behind her said ‘Global Citizen’. Later that afternoon a stationery store proclaimed ‘Make your mark!’ on the window at the same time as we were talking about her desire to make a dent in the world.

    Sometimes the smallest things can reveal something we might not otherwise have found. The elastic band holding the cards with my questions snapped. “That’s because I don’t want to be restricted,” Alina replied without missing a beat. “I don’t want to be boxed in!”

    What’s the outcome? My Fuel Safari provides you with the insight and tools to reach your ‘what next?’ After our session I create a personal compass for you, a mind map that captures your story, your purpose, your needs and your strengths.

    Out here on safari, away from your desk and digital distractions, we look at your life from a different perspective, uncovering insights that might otherwise have remained hidden. Exploring paths you might not have walked down before.

    If you’re lost and have no idea where your career and life are going, and would like to discover your true purpose and what feeds your soul - a Fuel Safari is for you. Now I’ve been on a Fuel Safari with Ian, I much better understand who I am as a person, what’s driving me, and where I want to go next.  Alina Truhina

    Fuel Safaris are available in one hour and three hour formats. Prices start from £250 (plus VAT). More details: iansanders.com/coaching Email hello@iansanders.com

     

    *Where did we go?

    That Friday afternoon we started at Seven Dials in Covent Garden, then headed via Phoenix Garden (another hidden gem) and Soho Square towards Fitzrovia. Up through Rathbone Street and Charlotte Mews to Charlotte Street and then on to Fitzroy Square where we found a bench to talk. Then we walked south to Crabtree Fields and Colville Place for another sit-down, before heading west through the alleyway by the Charlotte Street Hotel to Newman Passage and onto Eastcastle Street. Down to Soho for a stroll through Berwick Street market, then west down Old Compton Street and back to where we started.

     

  • If we’re going to have longer work lives, let’s make room for experiments

    This weekend a band called Brigade is reuniting in London. They’re playing a gig at The Academy in Islington, ten years to the day their debut album was released. Their journey started back in 2003 at The Bull & Gate pub in north London. I was there. As a founding partner in Open Top Music, Brigade was our first project, an experiment in managing and developing new talent. Open Top Music was a great adventure, an opportunity to work with old friends and contacts in the music industry. Like the best adventures we didn’t have a map, instead we made it up as we went along. We aimed high and had fun; even attending the international music fair ‘Midem’ in Cannes in 2004. The venture didn’t last too long, but it was a fun experiment. We were trying something new.

    I believe taking risks and experimenting with our work life can benefit us in many ways. In last weekend’s FT Magazine, Simon Kuper (‘How to live to 100 and be happy’) painted a picture of a future where we’ll work into our mid seventies, with multiple ‘acts’ in our career instead of just pursuing a single-track. Perhaps experiments could take place in the ‘intervals’ between each act? On my recent Fuel Safaris I have been advising executives and entrepreneurs to inject some experimentation into their work lives, whether it’s scratching an entrepreneurial itch or adding a new string to their bow.

    The last sixteen years of my career - my third act- has been a real adventure and involved lots of experimentation. Here are some of the benefits I’ve noticed along the way:

     

    1. Make ideas happen. A couple of years ago, I co-founded and edited a crowdfunded, community generated, publication Trawler. It was a test. Could we produce a newspaper, could we raise enough money to make it happen? Although it was a not-for-profit side project, it was satisfying reaching the finish line, knowing that we made our idea happen. The important thing about an experiment is that you don’t leave it as an idea on the shelf, you do something.
    2. Get experience in other worlds. One experiment saw me launch a little business called Ignission, that (amongst other things) created websites for parliamentarians. This was in 2001 when not many members of parliament were online. I remember going to meet a peer in the Members’ Bar at the House of Lords to talk about his website. It was a step into a completely different world. An experiment can take you out of your bubble into other worlds.
    3. Learning by analogy. On the face of it, advising start up businesses on storytelling may feel a long way from the smoky bars and pubs where I helped launch a rock band in 2003. But both activities are ‘startups’, and I was able to take lessons from a band to a brand.
    4. Be entrepreneurial. In 2005 I had a meeting with a senior executive at Benetton who wanted an introduction to an ad agency to get an ad placed in the London Evening Standard. None of my contacts could move fast enough (he wanted an ad designed and placed that week), so I stepped in, creating an agency of my own - OHM London - and sorting everything out in 48 hours. What I thought was a one-off experiment turned into a relationship with the fashion brand that lasted eighteen months. An experiment can be a low-risk way of testing a business model, generating new revenues.
    5. Have fun. Let’s face it: many people’s work lives are not fun. Going off piste to test an idea, start a side project, or try something with friends should be fun. Looking back at my Open Top Music adventure, it wasn’t about the money (there wasn’t much of that), but it was certainly fun.


    In a world where we are living and working longer, where the notion of retirement will seem as old-fashioned as a life without smartphones, let’s have more adventures.

    In the old days, it seemed career success was about reaching a destination, getting that brass name plate on the door, having a grand job title. In the future of work, I think the emphasis should be on enjoying the journey, not reaching the destination.


    So let’s experiment along the way...

  • Getting everyone in the same room (or on the same farm)

    The photograph above was the scene earlier this month: a Stress Report team meeting, outside in the sunshine. The Stress Report is the first in a new series of print publications from The Do Lectures. It’s a complex, ambitious project with team members based all over the country.

    Project HQ is 300 miles east from my front door. It’s on David Hieatt’s farm on the Welsh coast. And David’s farm is one hour from the nearest train station. Unsurprisingly it’s not easy to get everyone together for one full-team meeting, let alone a weekly one.

    But sometimes you’ve got to jump on the train/ in the car and just get together. Slack, Skype, phone, email, whatever are all well and good but as I spent time in David’s chicken shed I was reminded how fast things happen when you’re together:

    1. Clarity. Everyone can see the same thing at the same time. There is no ambiguity. No misreading of emails. No dropped Skype call. No distractions.
    2. Single-minded purposeWe weren’t in Wales for anything else. We were there for one reason: to commit ourselves to one project. That’s powerful.
    3. Consensus. When everyone is together you can talk, disagree/agree, then get buy-in, agree direction, make decisions. There’s no paralysis arising from the need to check things with other people first. Everyone is present, everyone knows what their actions are.

    Getting everyone together in one room fast-tracks progress on a project like a hot knife through butter. So sometimes it’s worth the 600 mile return trip. Especially if the meeting is on a farm.

    Whether you’re a pioneering entrepreneur trying to attract and keep the best people, or an overworked employee just trying to find a better way to get all this crazy workload done, The Stress Report is a modern compass for a new, smarter, more productive way of working. It’s out in June, pre-order your copy here.

  • A journey to west Wales: kicking off Snap Photography Festival

    “Aren’t there any venues like this closer to London?” asked a fellow speaker at the Snap Photography Festival earlier this week.

    He had a point. Fforest Camp on the west of Wales is a five-hour-plus drive from the capital, the last hour by narrow and winding country roads. My iPhone told me the 300 mile journey from Leigh-on-Sea would take five hours, actually it took seven hours.

    But whilst it’s hard to get there, you’re rewarded with a unique experience in a stunning setting. Fforest is designed as a place to enjoy “the simplicity, pleasures and beauty of outdoor living in an outstanding natural environment.” It sits on a 200 acre site by the River Teifi, next to the Teifi marshes nature reserve. So I answered: yes, the UK does have other venues closer to London, but this one is quite special. Perhaps like a lot of things in life, you have to put in the effort, but it’s worth it once you reach the destination.

    The only non-photographer speaker, I’d been invited to give the festival’s two hour opening presentation and workshop on storytelling and finding your fuel. I’ve spoken to different audiences over the years and it was a thrill to be amongst 110 photographers. Since being given my first Kodak Instamatic camera as a child, photography has been a thread throughout my life. It feels like I spent most of the 1980s glued to my Pentax K1000, taking it to live gigs and documenting the world around me. I’m still passionate about photography. Yesterday morning I took half an hour off and walked around Fforest with my Canon digital camera.

    Sharing tents and outdoor cabins with strangers is not for everyone (disclosure: I was staying in an Airbnb in the local village) but something special happens when attendees mix together. Although I stayed off site, I joined in the communal dining, and I loved sitting down at the next available seat and chatting to new people. As I’d told the audience in my presentation, I thrive on curiosity, going to interesting places and meeting interesting people. Here at Snap It felt like the ‘United Nations of Photographers’. I shared meals with a Canadian, Croatian, Hungarian and Italian. I took a tea break with a guy from Poland and a woman from Chicago.

    It was great to discover that people had travelled from all over the world to come to Snap. Suddenly a seven hour drive to get here didn’t feel so bad; especially when the guy from Poland told me his journey had taken three days.


    [photo credit Lee Allen/ Snap]

  • Doing one thing well - New York’s pencil store

    I’m fascinated by owner-run small businesses, especially in retail. I love to see what people’s passions are, what shops are viable, what niche makes commercial sense.

    I like stationery so I’m always drawn - excuse the pun - to stores selling pens and paper. When I was in New York last week, I headed to CW Pencils on the city’s Lower East Side. As the name suggests, this is a pencil shop. It doesn’t sell a range of notepads or pens. It sells pencils. Pencils from as far afield as India, pencils from as near as Jersey City.

    Founder Caroline Weaver - an amateur pencil collector but lifelong pencil lover -  told me whilst she always had a passion for pencils she admitted she wasn’t sure how popular her store would be, would it turn out to just be her sitting in the shop alone?

    But a year after launching, the shop is busy and she even has a team working for her selling online. It’s a great success!

    As I sat drinking coffee down the road in Café Henrie, I took out my new pencil and scribbled down a question, “What is it about CW Pencils that makes it a success?”

    I concluded there are a number of ingredients that make Caroline’s business idea work. First, the business is a mix of online and offline. That’s an obvious point, but with limited opening hours and an off-the-grid location, it’s important to reach a wider audience. Second, the founder is passionate about what she sells. She told me she’d always loved pencils, and what better foundation for a business than that. Third, she’s confident that selling just one thing - pencils - will be enough. Business advisors may have suggested she stocks books or other stationery items to make her shop more commercially viable. But that would have diluted her proposition; instead - by sticking to one thing - Caroline has a niche idea that stands out. She’s doing one thing well.

    As Caroline says on her site,  “as simple as it may be, the pencil is something which despite advances in technology will never become obsolete.”  Here’s to the power of pencils! 

     

     

  • Turning it inside out: extracting the real story

    As a storyteller-for-hire, brands and organisations ask me to capture and craft their story, whether it’s an external marketing piece, or internally helping employees and new hires understand what the organisation is and where it’s headed.

    I sometimes think about this process as ‘turning it inside out’. It’s my job to look under the bonnet, to be curious, to ask questions and to turn the spotlight on those hidden corners that haven’t been exposed before.

    Sometimes in those hidden corners lie difficult parts of the story: perhaps the first iteration of the product fell flat on its face or the co-founders fell out. I have learned that capturing and sharing these imperfections is an essential part of the process. These imperfections are what gives a brand its purpose but also its personality.

    The same applies to individuals. Over the last few weeks I’ve guest lectured at universities, my advice to students is to put themselves at the heart of their career and business plans. “Don’t let anyone knock the You out of You,” I told them. Part of that is being honest about your real story. And just like those brand stories, it is the imperfections that might make their offering more distinctive and allow them to stand out from the crowd.

    Whether you’re a student, an executive, an entrepreneur, a startup or a big business, telling your real story is rarely easy. Sharing everything - including the ups and downs - means you can emotionally engage with your audience.

    I’ve just been through this process myself. Last year I was asked to speak at The Do Lectures. The brief was to tell a story I hadn’t previously told, to tell the truth and to be vulnerable. The talk went online this week (you can watch it below. If you'd rather listen to the audio podcast, here's the version on SoundCloud).

    It’s a very personal - and sometimes raw - story, but it’s a reflection of who I am and what makes me tick. Like the best stories, it’s a reflection of the truth: I turned myself inside out.

     

  • Get clarity, re-ignite your passion and shape your story!

    “I came to Ian frustrated and ready to pack it all in because no-one seemed to get my idea. Ian synthesised a clear message from the jumbled thoughts in my head that will instantly resonate with potential stakeholders. More importantly he did not fail to deliver on his lofty promise to reignite the passion in my own project.”

    Niels Bischoff, founder of Flowcus

     

    You’re an early stage entrepreneur. You’ve been living and breathing your startup idea for a while. But before you take your idea to market, you need a fresh perspective on it. Are you communicating your idea most effectively? Is your story fit for purpose? Do you still get fired up about it?

    My 'Fuel Up' package will get you back on track. It’s a rapid, affordable service to reinvigorate you and your business idea, giving you the tools and confidence to sell your idea. Whether your audience is investors, new recruits, partners or journalists, I’ll bring clarity to your business idea, reconnecting you with your purpose and re-crafting a fit-for-purpose story. And I’ll get you fired up about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.

    The package costs just £950 (plus VAT; discounts may be available for non-VAT registered entrepreneurs).  Here’s how it works:

    1. we have an initial meeting (in London or via Skype);
    2. you then complete a questionnaire via email;  
    3. I’ll create two deliverables for you based on the meeting and questionnaire: i) a crib sheet - a why, who, what, how one-pager that will both help you communicate your idea and also be a touchstone for you internally; ii) your simple and gettable startup story in less than 300 words.
    4. we’ll have a second meeting (in London or via Skype) where I present my work to you and you can ask questions.


    Why work with me? I bring my twenty five years’ experience to every project I touch: I have run businesses, advised startups & entrepreneurs, and written about startups for the Financial Times and British Airways Business life magazine. I’m good at bringing clarity to business ideas.

    Want to talk? Get in touch: hello@iansanders.com.

  • Why is storytelling an essential tool within organisations?

    I was recently interviewed about storytelling for Turnstone’s ‘Founder Focus’ series (Turnstone is part of the Steelcase Inc. family of brands). You can read the full interview here, in the meantime, here are some highlights:

    1. Why is storytelling important? How is it different than a mission statement? A mission statement can feel detached from reality – like something a management team devise behind closed doors in a boardroom one Friday and then reveal to the organisation on a Monday morning. Storytelling holds a mirror up across the entire organisation, it’s human, it’s real. Stories can bring an organisation to life.
    2. What are the elements of good corporate storytelling? Let’s be clear. This is not about creating works of fiction. It’s not about the Disneyfication of a business’s purpose—it’s about holding up that mirror. When I work with client businesses I often spot a disconnect between what a business says it is and what it really is. I’ve found that crafting an authentic story can help bridge that gap; and also cut through the crap.
    3. Can it be “too late” to craft the corporate story? It’s never too late. Last year I’ve worked with clients from an early-stage entrepreneur just shaping his idea, through to a 200-year old organisation. Often more established businesses recognise they need to update their story, or craft a new one, to make sure it is ‘fit for purpose’.
    4. Why is storytelling an essential tool within organisations? A client of mine headed up a strong team within an established organisation. But he told me he felt like he was standing on the bridge of a ship not sure where he was headed. I worked with him to extract and capture the story so he could tell the team where they were going.
    5. How does it help employee engagement? A corporate story is like a magnet that pulls people together in one direction. It’s also a lifebelt for times of uncertainty—like when you hit stormy waters. A story rallies people around a common purpose so they feel like they are part of something.
    6. How do you tell a story that is changing, i.e. an industry in transition or startup that is pivoting? You update the story. The origin story (why you started) doesn’t change, but your future story (where you’re headed) might. Organisations change, but often they don’t update their stories. They tell the old story that’s not relevant anymore. There’s a disconnect. Standing back to capture and craft the real story is a great way to bridge that disconnect.
    7. What are the ways to capture a company’s story? Make a commitment to storytelling. You need a storyteller, whether that’s an outsider or an in-house resource. Someone whose job is to be curious, to ask questions, to look under the sofa and behind the curtains and share what they see.
    8. As an advisor to businesses on how to tell their story, your focus is on people, not products. Why? Storytelling is about leveraging emotions. It’s human. I’m not interested in products and services, I’m interested in how your business changes the lives of its customers. The same applies to your audience.
    9. What are your 3 top tips for business leaders on storytelling? First, make sure that the story you are telling your organisation fires YOU up. Because if it doesn’t get your fist-pumped, how on earth do you expect it to inspire others? Second, make your story simple. Don’t reach for the dictionary just because you’re telling a story in a business context. Speak in the same way you’d speak to your friends or family. Third, keep it human. Your story should be about people, not products. If you want to change hearts and minds, make sure your audience can relate with the people in your story.

    Thanks to Kelly Hoey for asking me to be part of this interview series.

    If you want to hire me to help tell your story or you need advice around storytelling in organisations, email hello@iansanders.com and we can set up a call to discuss.

  • The ‘pick n’ mix’ work life: lessons from my portfolio career

    It’s sixteen years ago that I took the leap to work for myself. In the early days I set my stall out as a go-to project manager/consultant, working for my former employer and contacts I'd made in my previous role. The goal back then was twofold: work as many days a month as I could, and at the highest rate I could charge.

    After a couple of years I wanted more variety so I switched to a portfolio with a broader mix of projects and ventures. Alongside the revenue generating work I made space for side projects that I did for love rather than money. I loved the variety of working days that segued from running a marketing project for Benetton to managing a band with a bunch of friends. I’d carved out a ‘very Ian’ work life. It’s a model I’ve continued to this day (“What the hell does Ian Sanders actually do?” 10 Things I Did In 2015.)

    Herminia Ibarra wrote about this new way of working, ‘The Portfolio Career Mystery’ in the FT last month. “Pundits have hailed (portfolio-working) as the future of work, offering flexibility, novelty and autonomy,” she says. Herminia went on to outline the challenges of this new way of working such as dealing with isolation and how to label what you do.

    What have I learned about portfolio careers in the last sixteen years? I've covered some of this in my books: in adapting to a self-employed life (in my book ‘Leap! Ditch your job, start your own business and set yourself free’ ); and in advocating a multi-dimensional worklife (in my book ‘Mash-up! How to Use Your Multiple Skills to Give You an Edge, Make Money and Be Happier’).

    If you’re thinking of switching to a portfolio career, here are my ten tips:

     

    1. Be resilient. Carving out your own work life is rewarding but it’s also hard, especially when there’s no-one else to help shoulder the knocks. At times it will feel like a rollercoaster ride - with plenty of ups and downs - so hang on in there.
    2. Develop by-products. Offering the market just one skill may become limiting (and you might find it boring). Be multi-dimensional - ask yourself, what else can you offer? From offering training workshops to writing books, develop by-products.
    3. Nurture your network. In 2015, 80% of my work came from referrals and approaches from my network. ‘Biz dev’ often isn’t a sales job, it’s about managing and nurturing relationships.
    4. Leverage social networks. Getting proficient with social networks like LinkedIn and Twitter is essential. I’ve won projects, been offered book deals, got speaking engagements and met key contacts through Twitter.
    5. Don’t just measure success by how much you’re billing. My objective isn’t to earn as much money as I can, it’s to carve out a work life that suits me, to be able to choose how I spend my time and what I want to work on. I’ve found that autonomy, flexibility and having a sense of purpose is more valuable than how much money I’m earning. Look beyond the spreadsheet! 
    6. Ideas-led not skillset-led. When I’m talking to an organisation about working with them, I don’t pitch my skills at them, I present ideas that could make a difference to them/ their business. Don’t sell your skills, sell solutions to client problems.
    7. ‘Work’ is a mindset, not a place you go. In a portfolio career, ‘work’ is not a place you commute to. Discovering where you work best is about finding those places that provide the most creative energy, where you’re in your element. Check out my post ‘Out Of Office: five lessons from fifteen years without a proper office’ for some practical tips on how to choose the right space for the right task.
    8. Develop a unifier. When you have a portfolio career, a job title won’t cut it anymore. Instead, develop a unifier: a phrase that unites everything you do. It might help with the ‘what do you do?’ question.
    9. Get comfortable with uncertainty. This is not the place for the five-year-plan mindset. Instead embrace the ‘unplan’, stay open-minded about what comes next and don't try o guess the future. Be adaptable, go where the water flows.
    10. Frame it around ‘You’. Frame your portfolio career around you: around who you are, what you stand for and what makes you tick. You’re the boss in this new way of working, so make sure the working life you carve out reflects your talents and desires.

     

    Good luck!


    If you need a helping hand shaping your portfolio career, get some help from someone who’s been there ahead of you. Join me on my one-to-one Fuel Safari, where I work with executives, entrepreneurs and consultants to help them find the ‘fuel’ at the heart of their offering.

  • “What the hell does Ian Sanders actually do?” 10 Things I Did In 2015.

    A couple of mornings a week I like to work out of my local coffee shop, Barlow & Fields. They serve a decent long black, the music is good and there’s usually a like-minded bunch of people to chat to. Recently I shared a table with a woman who said she often saw me in there but wondered what the hell did I actually do?

    Well, the last twelve months has been a mix of storytelling and advising. If we want to succeed in this unpredictable world of work, I think we need to be adaptable, multi-dimensional and have a go-getting attitude. I’m glad that 2015 is proof of what I preach: a varied and eclectic bunch of projects. Here are some highlights:

    1. Creating digital content in the Alps.  In January I was at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, embedded with their digital media team. Here I produced real-time content for the WEF’s ‘Agenda’, creating highlight posts from panel discussions on gender equality to keynotes from Senator Kerry and President Hollande.
    2. Re-energising a two hundred year old organisation. I was hired to bring some clarity and ideas to a London law firm. They needed an outsider to help identify what made them unique, and to find the ‘fuel’ at the heart of the organisation. I provided them with the energy to move the business forward.
    3. Inspiring entrepreneurs about the ‘power of story’. I gave presentations from Harrogate To Paris on how businesses can leverage their story to get heard.
    4. Firing-up students about their futures. In February I was guest lecturer at the University of East London’s school of arts and digital industries. My brief? To tell my own story and fire up students about career opportunities in the creative industries.
    5. Telling stories to bring brands to life. Over the last twelve months I’ve used storytelling to bring visibility to businesses and brands. As ever, it’s been a wonderful mix of clients from Buzzacott, the London accountancy firm, to TeuxDeux, the to-do list app.
    6. Walking around London, helping people find their fuel. This year I launched my Fuel Safari, where I help executives, freelancers and entrepreneurs ‘find their fuel’; reconnecting them with their story, purpose and passion to guide them towards their ‘what next?’
    7. Telling my own story. In June I was on stage at the Do Lectures in Wales where I’d been asked to tell a true, previously untold story about ‘how I got to here’.
    8. Seeing my idea land on doormats. Alongside all the paid work, it’s been great to find space for two side projects this year. One of which was as co-founder and editor of Trawler - a crowdsourced, crowdfunded community publication -  it was great to finally see our launch edition land on doormats.
    9. Having conversations with curious entrepreneurs. This year I continued my collaboration with film maker Michal Dzierza on another side project: our interview series ‘Curiosity & Opportunity’. One really interesting conversation was with Jane Ní Dhulchaointigh, founder of Sugru.
    10. Helping an author shape her book. At the end of the year I was sat outside the fabulous Les Deux Magots cafe in Paris (pictured above) with Nilofer Merchant, exploring and shaping ideas for her next book on Onlyness (out in 2017).

     

    If you - or your business - need reinvigorating and re-energising in 2016, get in touch hello@iansanders.com and let's start a conversation. In the meantime, I wish you a happy New Year!

     

  • How to fire up your work life in 2016!

    Here are seven themes that have been present in my working life for some time now. Each of the ideas below has made a difference to HOW I work and improved my ‘quality of work life’ so I wanted to share them with you:

    1. Follow YOU. Put your story, purpose and passion at the heart of your business and work life. You can use who you are and what you stand for as a compass; if you get lost, follow You. Here’s why I think authenticity matters.
    2. Know what to do when your fuel runs low. We all have bad days. That’s inevitable. So know how to refuel when you’re running low. Check out this post I wrote for ideas and tips: ‘Five things to do when your fuel tank is low.’
    3. Find a ‘fourth space’ to think. We all need a place to think. Not the office, not the cafe, not home. Somewhere else. Where is your go-to place for the big thinking? Want to know more? ‘Put some white space in your life’.
    4. Be curious. Curiosity is underrated in business. Too many of us get locked into the usual way of doing things. We don’t go out of our bubble to try new things. So step out, be curious. It can give you a fresh perspective on old problems. Grab a coffee with someone you met on Twitter, take out a Stack magazine subscription (they send you a different title every month), walk a new way to the office. If you’re curious, I wrote a little Kindle book on this.
    5. Stand for something. Don’t be a fence-sitter. If you’ve got an opinion about something, express it. Whether it’s battling sexism in your industry or you have a desire to make the world a better place, write a blog post, share your thinking.
    6. Tell stories. You meet someone at a conference. Instead of asking ‘what do you do?’ share some stories. You want your business to stand out in a crowded market? Don't sell your business, tell some stories around how it changes customer lives. You want to bring about change in your organisation? Use the power of story to get your employees on side and to understand where you’re headed. I help businesses - and entrepreneurs - capture and shape their story. If you need help, email hello@iansanders.com .
    7. Get out of the bloody office! The best meetings I’ve had this year? Walking along the streets of cities like Paris, London and Bristol, and sitting in coffee shops. The best events? The Do Lectures in the middle of the Welsh countryside. Why do we think the office is fit for purpose for doing our best work? Get out of the office! That’s why I’ve launched my Fuel Safaris, one day walk-around-the-city workshops where I reconnect people with their story, passion and purpose.

    If you’re stuck at the crossroads and need more fuel for 2016, come on a Fuel Safari. If you book one now for January 2016, I’m offering this one day programme at £500 rather than £1,000. Get in touch by email hello@iansanders.com and I’ll send you back info and availability. 
     

    Here’s to good times in 2016…!