Ian's blog

  • My Startup of One. 18 lessons from 18 years working for myself.

    In the picture on the left, I’m standing on Greek Street, Soho. I’m at the start of my new independent life, having left the security of an organisation after seven years. I think I look a bit worried. On the photo on the right, taken last year, I’m standing on the same stretch of Greek Street. I’m pleased to say I look much happier, after having worked 18 years for myself.

    If I’m honest, it’s been no mean feat. But here I am at the end of 2017, about to launch into another new year of fresh challenges. And it’s great to be able to look back on those 18 years and feel proud that I’m still here.

    It’s strange now to think that in 2000 we didn’t have WiFi, we didn’t have coworking spaces and there was no such thing as the Gig Economy. It wasn’t so common to work as a freelancer. Today many people choose to work for themselves. As we’re nearly putting another year to bed, I’m looking back over what’s been good, what’s been hard and what I’ve needed to keep me going on my journey. Here I share some of the things I’ve learnt along the way:

    1. It’s an adventure. You know what to expect with an adventure, right? It’s fun, but it’s also scary. Full of ups and downs. That’s been my story. Working for yourself might sound like the ‘easy’ option. All that flexibility and freedom. But it’s been harder than any experience I ever had working for an organisation. You have to expect the troughs as well as the highs, just keep the faith, keep learning and hang out with good people who can give you some advice (see “2").
    2. Two heads are better than one. Okay so you need to be self-sufficient, you need to be able to win the business, do the business and admin the business. But sometimes — or more likely often — two heads are better than one. You need a collaborator, a supporter, a sounding board. My secret weapon these last few years? My wife. She’s become my business partner. A sounding board. An editor. A critical eye. I keep being me, and I don’t always accept the advice, but it’s good to stress test my ideas and plans with someone who really understands me.
    3. It’s okay pursuing multiple paths, but get focused. I’ve always been driven by curiosity, by seeing where the water flows and acting on opportunities. That means I’ve embraced lots of different types of projects and taken a lot of different paths. In the early days I started a little content agency, Ignission. Then there was a creative agency OHM London. I wrote books and for newspapers, I took on marketing projects and advised creative businesses. The plurality and experimentation has been part of the adventure. I knew I could do all those things, so I did them. I spent a good chunk of my time experimenting, and in doing so I’ve been able to understand what I like doing and where I can bring the best value. Now, I can really focus on helping businesses, organisations and individuals on their journeys (and bring all I’ve learned into the process).
    4. Collaborate, but choose your partner-mates carefully. In all these years I’ve only had one relationship with a collaborator that went badly wrong. A guy approached me about us writing a book together. I got us the book deal, went to the U.S. for a week, started writing the book. And then he vanished. I never saw or heard from him again. That was painful. But looking back, I would have never have guessed. He seemed ‘legit’. I’m sure he was. Now I can be more pragmatic about it. Perhaps he was just bad at communicating. At the time, I was mad and upset — a week of my life away from my family that I’ll never get back. It gave me a valuable lesson: pick your projects and those you work with very carefully.
    5. Be part of a community. Working for yourself can be hard and it can be lonely. So you need a space or a group that you can hang out with. It doesn’t have to be a full time residency at a coworking space, it might be a monthly Meetup group or a hot-desking arrangement somewhere. It feels good to be part of something.
    6. Tools matter. You need to be organised. You need spreadsheets for expenses and revenues. You need templates for invoicing. You need apps like TeuxDeux and Google Drive to stay on top of everything. But mindset and discipline beat sexy software. I just rely on some Excel spreadsheets to manage everything, I don’t have any bookkeeping software. And that works just fine. It’s boring, but make sure you stay on top of admin and invoicing.
    7. The worst thing? Debt chasing. If you’re a startup-of-one it can be hard if you’re the one winning the business, schmoozing the client but also chasing late payment of invoices. That isn’t fun. The energy expended on getting invoices paid on time is my biggest stress point.
    8. Don’t work from home (at least, don’t only work from home). If you care about your mental health, if you want to be productive — please, get out of your house! Coffee shops, co-working spaces, hotel lobbies — whatever floats your boat. I do my best work all over the place. Sometimes I need a train ride somewhere, or some time out in a different city altogether. It gives you space and time to physically and metaphorically get away, and get some perspective on what you’ve got going on (and it helps planning for the future).
    9. Set out your metrics for success. A friend of mine who recently went freelance as an independent consultant laid out his business model to me. How he would have failed (his words) if his day rate went below a certain level, how he would have failed if he didn’t bill a certain number of days a month. That’s not my philosophy. Working like this is a way of life, not a business model. Sure, of course, revenues matter. But I choose another metric of success: whether I am happy, fired-up and making an impact (that’s why I still track my Good Times, it’s the best measure of success for me).
    10. Get a reputation for one thing. This has been hard for me. Ask ten different people I’ve worked with over the last ten years, and you’ll get ten different answers of what they think I do. It’s a symptom of having pursued those multiple paths I talked about earlier. Now I’m consolidating all my years of experience and am carving out a more single-minded and purposeful path as a storyteller, coach and consultant. But throughout, I’ve had a reputation for being ‘a safe pair of hands’ — reliable and helpful — two traits that go a long way when working for yourself.
    11. Look after yourself. Woah, looking back one thing I haven’t been good at is looking after myself. I’ve worked too hard, I haven’t given myself enough down time. My health suffered. I learned the hard way. Now my priorities are different. It’s so important to prioritise what you need over everything else, because if you’re not functioning properly you’re no good to anyone else, and certainly won’t be able to do your best work.
    12. Find a guide. Sometimes you need someone who’s ahead of you on the journey to show you the way. That’s why I wrote my first book ‘Leap!’ — to help others on their self-employed journey. Today, I help people on their career journeys as a coach and mentor. I’ve checked in with coaches and mentors from time to time. The key is to finding someone who’s right for you. Take time to find someone who can be that guide, someone you feel you can build a good relationship with and trust.
    13. Stretch yourself. I’m proud to say I have never stood still, I have constantly pushed myself out of that comfort zone. Trying new things, seeking to up my game, constantly learning. Don’t stand still. Often the only way to prove you can do something (that you might not have done before) is to do it. It’s hard to throw yourself off the cliff sometimes, but you have to have faith that you’ll fly.
    14. Don’t follow the £. That sounds silly advice, doesn’t it? Surely that’s precisely what you should do to earn a living working for yourself? Follow opportunities — yes. But, if you choose an assignment or project or client because you’re seduced by the money, that’s where it can all go wrong. There’s been a correlation between high-billing projects and projects that killed me creatively, where I hated them so much, I desperately wanted them to end. It’s not always worth it.
    15. Be brave. No sick leave, no-one to hold the fort when you’re feeling ill or not rocking it one day. The uncertainty of where the next project is coming from. It’s hard. You have to dig deep, put on your armour or grow a thicker skin and get out there. Cultivate resilience — it’s partly about keeping going when things get tough, partly about having a level of self-belief that you can do it and partly having supportive partners or people around who have faith in you and can give you words of wisdom to keep you strong.
    16. Stick to who you are. My self-employed life improved hugely — and my health and happiness and confidence along with it — when I stopped trying to be something or someone else, and stuck — like a magnet — to who I really am. That’s powerful. Knowing what you stand for, what makes you tick and using that as a compass to navigate your paths and choices. Along the way, you might make choices that you look back and regret, but through trial and error you will find your way to where you should be. Give yourself some credit — trust yourself.
    17. Give yourself a pat on the back (cos no-one else will…!). That thank you email from the boss. When your CEO sends you a bunch of flowers. The sticky note on your desk with a ‘well done’. You won’t get any of that! So take the time to celebrate your achievements, pat yourself on the back. Hey, even allow yourself to re-tweet a few successes from time to time ;)
    18. Set yourself free. Yes, there’s ‘free’ in freelance, and that doesn’t mean working for love not money. Enjoy the freedom of the path you’ve chosen. When you have the flexibility, take your work to the park. Go and sit in an art gallery. Go for a lunchtime swim. Celebrate the freedom of working for yourself…
  • Helping people on their business and career journeys.

    I like helping people on their business and career journeys. For those that can’t make it to London for my Fuel Safaris, I offer coaching and mentoring via Skype and Facetime (packages start at £125/ $150 an hour).

    Recently I’ve been working with Nana, an early stage entrepreneur behind an edtech business in California. I’ve been helping her improve her storytelling skills and also acting as a sounding board as she develops her business idea. I recently met up with Nana in Dublin, and she shared some feedback about working with me.



  • How walking meetings can be a raising agent for relationships and getting things done.

    It was 10am and I was one hour into a mini-workshop with an organisation. A brand new client.

    Sitting in an office in another country with two guys I’d never met until 60 minutes previously.

    This was day one on our working relationship. But this wasn’t the get-to-know-each-other meeting, it was the session to come up with ideas for a big project. The clock was ticking and we had five hours to co-create the ideas before I left for the airport and my flight home.

    It was going well. But by 10am I thought we could benefit from a change in scenery. “Can we go somewhere to get coffee?” I asked.

    “Yes, let’s head out for coffee,” came the reply and a few moments later we were leaving the building and heading outside.

    And that’s when everything changed. As soon as we walked down the road, I could sense we were feeling lighter, looser, liberated. We forgot the demands that lay ahead of us, and relaxed for a few moments. The small talk that happens when you’re walking alongside someone started. We were getting to know each other and shared a few laughs.

    What’s more, once we had been served our coffees and were sitting outside, the ideas started to flow. As we sat and sipped our drinks, we came up with some concepts that felt fit enough for further discussion. The walk and fresh air had reinvigorated us. But to test whether our ideas were good enough, we needed to get moving again.

    When we got walking again, the movement in our body triggered movement in our brain.

    We never did go back to the office. We spent the rest of our time together walking around, grabbing lunch in the office canteen, sitting outside.

    And by the time 2pm came about, we had our ideas nailed.

    As I made my return journey by car to the airport, I realised how productive we’d been in a short space of time. People who’d never met before managed to come up with the goods in such a short space of time.

    Switching what would have been an office session, constrained by four walls, into an (unplanned) walking meeting had been transformative.

    The walking meeting had acted like a raising agent, a fast-track to getting to know each other better, a fast-track to ideas. It was like we’d achieved multiple meetings in a single shot.

    But really it wasn’t a surprise to me. Walking meetings have become my trademark, that’s why I designed my Fuel Safaris out on the street. Just as my workshop had to come up with answers in five hours, my Fuel Safaris provide clarity and answers within three hours. Walking helps achieve so much during a relatively small amount of time.

    I always find constraints can be helpful. Via the walk, my clients and I got to know each other in a way we could have never done inside the office. The walk fuelled us. Our surroundings affect how we think and feel. Office environments can constrain our thinking, getting outside liberates us.

    Go on, get outside, take your ideas for a walk! You might be surprised what you come up with.

    I’m a creative consultant, storyteller and coach who gets organisations, teams and individuals fired-up about their work. If you want to move faster towards your career or business goals, come on a Fuel Safari with me. Get in touch by email hello@iansanders.com

  • How a nomadic work life keeps me fresh and gives me fuel.

    Earlier this week I started my working day here. In White Mulberries, a coffee shop I’d never been to before, overlooking London’s St. Katharine Docks.

    The coffee was good, the atmosphere friendly, and it gave me the fuel for what was a busy day ahead, walking to a meeting south of Tower Bridge, taking the tube to Paddington, and later walking across the city from Hyde Park to Soho.

    It’s a pattern I often follow, moving around the city. My work life is nomadic. I spend the day visiting clients or working out of coffee shops, green spaces or my members’ club.

    This way of working suits me. It aligns with my role of an ‘outsider’ which is where I bring value to the people, teams and organisations I work with.

    Being nomadic means I don’t get stuck in a bubble. And as I’m always floating around I get to experience new spaces. This helps my ideas flow. Never in one place for too long, I don’t get that stale feeling that might be experienced by those who work in the same office every day. I never find myself yawning, bored of my surroundings.

    Yesterday I worked out of seven different spaces: four meetings, two coffee shops and one hotel lobby (not including the work I did in tube and train carriages). It’s the change of place that keeps me fresh.

    This year I’ve probably worked out of fifty different coffee shops in cities around the UK (and it’s only September). Add to that the hotels, offices and spaces where I’ve done work, or delivered workshops, and I reckon that takes the number of different spaces to around 75.

    75 different spaces in under 9 months! Often going to brand new places like White Mulberries. It’s the opposite of Groundhog Day. Those new places prompt new thoughts and ideas.

    You might be reading this and think this way of working is only an option for the self-employed consultant. Not so. Yesterday I had a catch-up with a guy who works for a global tech company. He has the option of working from company buildings in two different locations, plus working from home. When he’s in the building he’s nomadic like me, moving around with his backpack rather than have a fixed desk. He might work on the roof terrace, by the canteen, in a quiet area for a call, or in a communal space.

    A nomadic work life keeps me fresh and makes me productive. As soon as I feel my energy levels plummet, I move somewhere else. Working this way, I don’t go to the office, I am my office.

    So what you can do to be more nomadic in your work life? If you’re a freelancer who spends most of your week working at home, get out! If you work in an organisation, try and move around. See how a change in environment fuels your work.

  • Telling the other side of the story

    I was interested to read that Detroit is hiring a chief storyteller. As the city emerges from a long period of decline, Aaron Foley has been appointed to produce stories and first-person accounts about life in the city. The stories will feature on social media and a new city website. Foley says local residents deserve better and more diverse stories about the reality of living in the city than the usual tales of doom and gloom.

    I live a couple of miles from a city that, like Detroit, has a reputation problem. A classic English seaside town, Southend-on-Sea’s amusement park, beaches and fish and chip shops attract day trippers from east London. As is typical in such towns, away from the seafront, empty shops and vacated office blocks show signs of dilapidation and neglect.

    But that’s just one side of the story. Looking beyond the seafront and empty office blocks there is another side to be found. In the town’s back streets and alleyways, there’s a thriving creative community of independent cafes, record shops, music venues. Of entrepreneurs who’ve chosen to launch their start-ups here.

    Last year local creative agency Grow Co approached me and asked me to tell some stories for a book project for Southend Council called ‘Salt’.  I felt it was important to shine the light on the non-obvious stories away from the seafront ice-cream parlours and amusement arcades. I chose to tell five stories that demonstrate the creative and entrepreneurial flair of people locally:

    1. Lin Gunn and Steve Holford, the owners of Utopia, an independent coffee shop that’s a welcome alternative to the homogeneity of the high street.
    2. Dave and Fi Dulake, two musicians who run The Railway Hotel, a well-loved Bohemian pub with a vegan menu that’s home to a vibrant music scene.
    3. Alan O’Rourke and Neil Adams, the entrepreneurs behind Ruark Audio, a family-owned electronics company that makes digital radios and music systems.
    4. Sarah Parmenter, a digital designer and entrepreneur who speaks at conferences around the world.
    5. Michael Woodford, the former CEO of the Olympus Corporation who is best known for exposing one of the world’s biggest financial scandals. Today he is founder of The Safer Roads Foundation.

    My storytelling work has taken me around Europe and across the Atlantic to the U.S. But here on my doorstep I found that there are still surprises to be had about a town I thought I new well. The project reminded me the importance of going beyond the obvious stereotypes, to dig deep to find the interesting stories. We think we know somewhere, but just like Detroit, there’s so much more going on when you scratch the surface.

    ‘Salt’ is available from the Beecroft Art Gallery, Southend-on-Sea.

  • Back to work: 4 steps to give your work life a shot in the arm

    Although I’d been working during August, it had been sprinkled with a couple of weeks off, estuary swims and early evening barbeques. So yesterday when the kids went back to school, I definitely had that ‘back to work’ feeling about it. And I admit - like my children - I found it hard to get back into the zone. So I sat in my local coffee shop, ordered a long black, reflected on what I’d learned in the last few months and cranked out this list.

    From my experiences running team workshops to leading individual mentoring sessions here are some of the actions that have helped reinvigorate people’s work lives:

    1. Get out of the office. This is my number one plea to you. If you do nothing else, do this. I’ve worked with a number of organisations where employees don’t tend to leave the building during the working day. I know we’re all busy, but please take a breather and step out the front door. When I run workshops with teams I always have an exercise where attendees go outside for an hour, and I see the difference that makes. It’s an eye opener. Everyone comes back refreshed and full of ideas.
    2. Make sure you bring ‘You’ to your work. In my coaching and mentoring work I’ve witnessed the positive change when people have the confidence to be themselves at work. They’re happier, more fulfilled and more productive. We often feel we have to conform at work, and hide who we really are. But those who allow their personality to guide what they do -  and also how they do it - are more satisfied at work. Recently I met a lawyer with a creative streak who creates a storyboard, a visualisation of each transaction or deal she works on. It helps her and the client understand where they are in the process at any given time. What a great idea. The client finds it valuable and she’s more fulfilled, being able to bring her artistic side to work.
    3. Pick the best space for the task. Isn’t it crazy to think that a desk and a chair are meant to give us the best environment to do our work? I was recently working with a business leader who spends her working day moving around the building, finding the best space for whatever she’s working on. She’s rarely at her desk. Sometimes of course, getting our head down is exactly what we need. But for most, a mix of spaces makes you most productive: a sofa, a park bench, the roof terrace, the canteen or a cafe around the corner. Move around. Recognise that different parts of your work will need different environments.
    4. Count the things that count. If you’ve fallen out of love with your job, rethink how you measure success. Job titles and salary might be the right currency for some people, but there are many other ways of creating a successful life: freedom, responsibility, flexible working, the opportunity to make a dent in the universe. Take some time to work out what really matters to you.

    I hope you have a productive few months ahead! And if you need any help putting this into action, give me a shout hello@iansanders.com


  • Your business story is your lifebelt

    I think some of us may be missing a trick.

    We see ‘storytelling’ in business as just marketing, a way of making our product or company more gettable, a device we use outside the company, to communicate outwards.

    But of course its potential is far more wide-reaching than that; a business story can become the touchstone for your whole organisation.

    I know an organisation that grew rapidly from having a single entrepreneurial founder with a handful of staff and a single product, to a multiple management team with tens of people and a portfolio of products and services. When it was small, everyone had a clear idea of what the business stood for: telling the story was simply a case of retelling what they’d heard at their job interview and company meetings. Everyone understood the business: staff knew why they were passionate about working there, clients saw the story as a point of difference. The story worked.

    But then something changed. Staff numbers grew, new managers were hired, new departments started up. But the management team forgot to change the story. Executives would go out and pitch the business but tell the ‘old’ story. It didn’t fit. It was the wrong story.The organisation lost its magic touch because the story was neglected.

    So shaping and telling your business story is more than just a way of communicating your products or services. It’s a touchstone to get your team motivated and aligned with wherever you’re headed.

    As a storyteller I help brands and businesses tell their story. It can take some time to extract, capture and craft a gettable story. But once you nail it, a story can reinvigorate an organisation with focus and clarity, engaging staff and clients alike.

    Your business story is more than just a script you can recite when you meet a new contact or are pitching to a client. Your story can act as your organisation’s lifebelt — when conditions gets rough, you might need to grab hold of it to stay afloat…

    Hire me to tell your business or brand story. Whether it's for marketing communications or a touchstone for employee engagement - get in touch hello@iansanders.com

  • Getting teams out of their bubble: my workshops at the BBC.

    On a Wednesday afternoon in central London, six journalists and producers are returning to a room deep in the heart of the BBC's New Broadcasting House. They're on their way back from a Story Safari, one element of my day-long course on storytelling. A Story Safari involves going outside and exploring the immediate vicinity, sparking curiosity and getting the senses working.

    My course is designed for BBC TV news journalists looking for a fresh approach to their work. This year it's toured around the UK to Belfast, Birmingham, Cardiff, Manchester and Glasgow.

    The journalists return to the room full of excitement about what they've discovered from their 'safaris'. Jim works in the BBC London newsroom. Although he's familiar with the streets, walking them every day, he says he made new discoveries just by looking up and spotting architecture he'd not been aware of before. Scott is a reporter at BBC Spotlight in Plymouth - he walked around Berwick Street market in Soho talking to traders about how the market has changed over the years. Oleksandra is from BBC Ukraine in Kiev. Her stroll down Oxford Street opened her eyes to the cultural differences between her home city and London.

    I’m an independent storyteller, coach and consultant - my course looks at the art of storytelling in a different and fresh way. I’m not inside the BBC and I don’t work in a newsroom: my value is as the outsider. Although my course revolves around storytelling, the value for attendees is simpler than that. It's getting people out of their bubbles. It reinvigorates them.

    If you work in a newsroom, it's rare you'll get the chance for much fresh air, let alone a walk around the block to explore local streets. A Story Safari is liberating, giving journalists and producers permission to do just that.

    "The course was very useful. It was just a really valuable opportunity to step back, breathe and think about how we make films and tell stories," says Scott.

    Other elements of the day-long course include: the importance of ‘living the story’; examples of news stories from outside the BBC; a creative exercise in making mundane stories more interesting; and an exercise in improv storytelling.

    Let's face it, in most jobs it's rare to press the pause button, to take a day out and reflect on what we do and how we do it, and also, why we do it; to look at our industry or craft from a different angle. That's what I've designed my course for - getting journalists fired up about storytelling.

    James Harrod is the TV training manager at BBC Academy, he explains why it was important to hire someone with a very different mindset and approach.

    "The BBC is renowned for its outstanding reporting and compelling storytelling across its factual output.  But in order to maintain its world-class reputation, it needs people like Ian to inspire reporters and producers.  Ian brings a fresh approach to storytelling.  He gets delegates to boil down the essentials of what makes a good story and then suggests creative and realistic ways of telling it.  He asks trainees to step back from the daily churn of news cycles and reflect on how to tell stories differently.  After attending one of Ian's sessions, our colleagues go back to their department feeling refreshed, energised and full of new ideas.  I highly recommend him".

    I run workshops in creativity and storytelling for organisations. Get your team out of their organisational bubble and looking at things differently! Take a look at iansanders.com/workshops Email hello@iansanders.com 

  • The importance of being curious at work

    After my presentation at Inspire Live earlier this year - Why Curiosity Is My Compass - I sat down with the Marketing Academy for a short interview. They asked me about the importance of being curious at work and what advice I'd give my younger self. Here's the clip.

  • Breathe fresh air into your work life & get energised

    A one-day workshop in the beautiful setting of Chalkwell Hall, overlooking the Thames estuary

    On Friday 23rd June creative consultant, author and coach Ian Sanders presents a one-day workshop to get you fired up about your work life and energised about the future.

    Get out of the city and spend a day blowing the cobwebs away, getting ready for a new and improved work life, business or career.

    In a full, targeted day that will give you a load of takeaways to use straight away, you’ll be shown how to:

    • rethink ‘work’ and to change your attitude to what you and why you do it
    • treat your career as an adventure
    • put the real you at the heart of your job
    • embrace the inner rebel and have the confidence to do things your way
    • redefine success
    • use your story as a compass
    • rely on your curiosity rather than a long-term plan
    • find your fuel (and what to do when the fuel runs low)
    • use digital tools to  get noticed
    • generate ideas to be more creative and productive

    Who’s it for? Anyone who needs a boost of inspiration and energy in their work life. You might be an employee in an organisation, an entrepreneur or a freelancer.

    When? Friday 23rd June 10:00am - 4.30 pm
    Where? Chalkwell Park, SS0 8NB (fifty minutes by train from London’s Fenchurch Street)
    How much? £150 including VAT, including a light lunch (fee payable in full before the workshop).

    How to apply? There are only ten places available. If you’re ready to fill up your fuel tank and get energised about what you do and why you do it, apply for a place by emailing hello@iansanders.com. In your email, tell Ian three things: i) what’s your current role; ii) what do you want to get out of the workshop; iii) describe your relationship with ‘work’ in one sentence. PLEASE APPLY BY JUNE 1ST.

    About Ian: Ian is a creative consultant, coach and storyteller who has spoken at events including the Do Lectures, South by South West and the Marketing Academy’s Inspire Live. The author of four books on work and business, he has guest lectured at the University of East London and Ravensbourne College. Ian has written about work and entrepreneurship for The Financial Times. He's currently teaching storytelling at the BBC.

    “Thanks Ian.  You helped me rediscover the inner rebel and life is good.”

    Tom Watson, MP


    “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.” Tom Hoy, Stripe Partners


    “Ian was great to work with.. keeping my focus on what I am passionate about and the opportunities out there. I have come away from this feeling excited about the year ahead.”

    Sarah Prietzsch, freelance TV producer


    “If you're looking for an authentic, human experience, you can't go far wrong by spending some time with Ian Sanders.” Claire Van der Zant, Rooster Punk

  • Tips for living a more curious life

    Hello from the window seat of the 16:35 Manchester to Euston train. I love a train ride, it's always a great opportunity to press the pause button, get some work done, catch up on some podcasts but also to daydream out of the window.

    Wherever in the world you are reading this I hope you find time to take a break for five minutes, grab a coffee and check out some suggestions for being more curious at work.

    I think curiosity is so important. It’s easy to get stuck with our head-down in our industry or organisational bubble. Shifting our mindset to explore other worlds and open our eyes to new possibilities can help us do our jobs better. I recently gave a talk about curiosity at Inspire Live at Google's London HQ. One member of the audience told me it had been a "shot in the arm" reminding him and his team to stay curious at work (if your team or organisation needs a shot in the arm, get in touch - contact details at the bottom of this email!).

    So here are some practical steps to get you in a more curious mindset:

    1. Go outside. I know many people work in organisational cultures where they rarely leave the building, not even for lunch. So please, try and get outside at lunchtime, if only for a walk around the block. I bet you’ll find some clarity in the fresh air and who knows what opportunities you might bump into?
    2. Get your shoes dirty. My friends at Stripe Partners run an innovation consultancy rooted in anthropology. I love Stripe’s belief that in order to understand the world around us we need to get our shoes dirty and go and experience things first hand. So embrace your inner anthropologist: spend time walking in your employees’ or customers’ shoes, “get stuck in” to find the answers.
    3. Talk to strangers. Today I’ve been working at Media City UK in Manchester. Walking outside at lunchtime I got talking to a cleaning supervisor called Sonny. As we walked along we chatted about his job - he told me how much he loves it. I found that a conversation with a random stranger really fired up my afternoon. It also turned my perception of the job on its head.
    4. Take inspiration from unusual places. If you’re struggling with ideas or you need a fresh source of inspiration, I find that listening to a new podcast or watching a stimulating documentary can help kick start my creativity. This week I watched one of Benjamin Zand's BBC Pop Up documentaries and listened to the Happy Melly podcast (this episode - Discovering What Makes Us Tick - features an interview with me). And if you're looking for the perfect soundtrack for a train journey, let me recommend this wonderful concert from Tinariwen, a band from the Sahara Desert.
    5. Explore the unfamiliar. When you're traveling on business and arrive in a city you don’t know, rather than take the easy option and head to Starbucks, try going somewhere unfamiliar. On my recent travels, I’ve sought out side street cafes and independent record shops. For me these are the best places to stand back and look at things from a fresh perspective. The vibe is different, the atmosphere feels more creative and you get to meet interesting people who are more likely to take time and chat to you.

    Let me know how you get on!

  • “What does it mean to be a human brand?” A storytelling project for Rooster Punk.

    What is a “human brand”? Is the term just marketing fluff or can being human be an authentic behaviour for brands who want to do things differently and gain a competitive advantage by standing for something other than profit?

    I’ve been working with the folk at Rooster Punk, exploring what it means to be a human brand in the financial services industry. I interviewed the leaders of brands including Metro Bank, Aviva, Co-op Bank, Virgin Money, Profile Pensions, Just and Squirrel to uncover the practical ideas they are taking to humanise their businesses.

    You can read the series of ten stories in “Money Talks” a PDF download from Rooster Punk (grab it here).

    We launched the report at a breakfast event earlier this month - in a Covent Garden pub - where I hosted a panel discussion with Rooster Punk CEO Paul Cash, and representatives from Metro Bank, Profile Pensions, Just and Squirrel (read about that event in this article from The Drum).

    So what are the hallmarks of being a human brand? This is what we discovered:

    1. You must have the right people. Hire for attitude, select people who believe in your mission

    2. Your digital channels should be about improving the customer experience, not denying access to people

    3. If your products and services feel very abstract, use storytelling to humanise your offering and build a connection with your audience

    4. Walk in your customer shoes, understand their needs from their point of view

    5. The brand promise shouldn’t just be a hollow marketing exercise, but you’ve got to live and breathe it. And if you don’t, be prepared to be called out!

    Lifting the lid on the financial services industry was an eye opener. Conducting in depth research by talking to those at the heart of the organisation was an essential way to uncover the truth - and to see if they truly stood behind their claims. Telling the stories was one part. Getting some of these leaders together to debate on stage gave the project another layer, to test their claims about being human in front of their peers and a live audience. Let's face it, some research can be dull. Kudos to Rooster Punk for going with a refreshingly different story-led approach!

    If you’d like to hire me to tell some stories in your organisation or industry, get in touch:  hello@iansanders.com  

    Claire Van der Zant, Business Development Director at Rooster Punk said, “Having worked closely with Ian before, it was a natural choice to work together on a piece of storytelling research in the UK financial industry. It was just a seed of an idea when we first engaged with Ian, and with his help we developed this piece into something that took on a real life and energy of its own. Ian’s energy and enthusiasm for story was the real foundation of success for the research.


  • "Why Curiosity is my Compass"

    Earlier this year Sarah Ellis asked me to talk at the Marketing Academy's 'Inspire Live' event at Google's shiny new Kings Cross HQ.  The theme for the day was '10 Superpowers every leader needs.' Sarah asked me to talk about one of my favourite subjects - curiosity; how people can use curiosity as a superpower to unlock opportunities in their business and work lives (here are my slides)

    One member of the audience told me it had been a "shot in the arm" reminding him and his team to stay curious at work. If your team or organisation needs a shot in the arm and you'd like me to run a workshop or give a presentation on curiosity, get in touch:  hello@iansanders.com

    (thanks for the pic Matt Desmier!)

  • My Walk & Talks: what's in it for you?

    In the eighteen months since I started my coaching programme, taking business leaders, executives, creatives and freelancers on walk and talks around London, I've worked with a wonderful mix of people.

    Simon and I spent a couple of hours walking along the Thames estuary on a sunny Monday morning. Helen and I made our way along the canal by Little Venice one lunchtime. Alastair and I met at Tate Modern and headed to Covent Garden along the south bank of the Thames. Alina and I took a route through the side streets of Soho and Fitzrovia (take a look at my testimonials).

    I use the term 'coach' loosely, because I’m not your traditional kind of coach, rather I draw on my diverse experiences to offer a different perspective. Think of me as your go-to outsider, someone you can confide in, offload to and who’ll give you a fresh perspective.

    People come on my walk and talk sessions looking for different things. They want help transitioning to a new role. They’re looking to make major change in their life and they can’t see which path to take. Or perhaps they just need a fresh pair of eyes on a project or business challenge.

    Whatever’s on your mind, here are the benefits of coming on a walk and talk:

    1. The chance for reflection. The importance of pausing for breath. Taking time to recognise what is unique about you, what’s driving you, what makes you tick. To get things off your chest. To uncover talents that may have lain hidden. To shine the light on your story.

    2. Clarity on where to go next. Look at things from the outside, seek a clear direction on where to go next. I’ll help you navigate the way ahead, shining the light on the path that’s right for you.

    3. Fuel for your journey. I’ll get you fired up, reigniting the passion and injecting a sense of excitement about the opportunities ahead.

    You'll get tangible action plans too to help you make the change you need. If this sounds like the kind of help you need, email me hello@iansanders.com  to find out more. And if you can’t make it to London, I offer coaching via Skype.


  • More than marketing fluff. Why your business story is a touchstone for the whole organisation.

    A good story well told stays with us. It fires our imagination, gets us emotionally engaged, it makes an impact.

    Stories have the same value in business.

    But if I walk into some offices or boardrooms and talk about ‘storytelling’, I might get some odd looks. There’s a fair bit of cynicism around it.

    The Financial Times’ management columnist Andrew Hill is one commentator who has expressed his concern over storytelling. He wrote,

    “...there is a risk that corporate storytellers start to believe their own stories. To make a business narrative stick, leaders have to repeat it, reinforcing the story for themselves. What starts as a way for chief executives to guide and motivate staff, investors, customers and boards, becomes a plot from which they cannot extricate themselves”.

    I agree it’s a problem if a business’s story gets divorced from reality. If a business leader’s story is bullshit, then it should be treated with the disdain it deserves.

    But when told honestly, a business story becomes so much more than a marketing tool, it’s a cultural touchstone that gets all parts of the organisation aligned.

    So how to steer clear of creating works of fiction? Business storytelling is not about the Disneyfication of a business’s purpose and it’s not about mythmaking. It’s about holding up a mirror. When I work with organisations I often spot a disconnect between what a business says it is, and what it really is. Crafting an authentic story can help bridge that gap. It can help the organisation find its essence: who it is, what it stands for, where it’s come from and where it’s headed.

    Organisations are always changing and growing, but often they don’t update their stories. They tell an outdated story that’s not relevant anymore. Standing back, getting an outside perspective to help capture and craft the real story is a great way to bridge that disconnect. In my experience it’s hard to manufacture a story when you apply an external journalistic rigour to tell it like it is. A business’s story has to be sustainable, it has to be believable. If the story isn’t credible or authentic, then someone will blow the whistle sooner rather than later.

    By telling its true story a business can emphasise its ‘why’, its purpose. A story gives a business the tools to compete in a crowded or abundant market. Brands such as TOMS Shoes, Sugru and Hiut Denim  have achieved commercial success not only because their products are good, but also because they tell a good story: one which aligns with their values and mission. It applies in the same way in B2B, where customers choose companies such as Mailchimp or Basecamp  because they demonstrate their personality via the stories they tell. The stories those businesses tell about themselves - and their customers - helps them stand out. These stories make the customer the hero, shining the light on how their products help small businesses and entrepreneurs grow.

    Getting an honest evaluation from objective outsiders will help craft a story full of fact, not fiction, and will help the business leaders be sensible and honest enough to reframe when they need to.  So let's not dismiss storytelling as just another business fad. A business story told well is a powerful touchstone.

    What’s your business story? If you need help, hire me to tell your business or brand story. Make 2017 the year to tell your story! Get in touch hello@iansanders.com

    Watch my video: Make the customer the hero. How to use storytelling in B2B.

  • Helping the world of work and business be more human.

    Looking back at 2016 and reviewing where I made most impact, I realise now more than ever that the world of work needs to be more human. In 2017 I’m focusing my energies in three ways:

    1. To let people build more authentic work livesContinuing working with business leaders, entrepreneurs, execs, freelancers and creatives, I’ll help ensure they are following paths built upon their unique values and strengths. I do this via my unique approach to coaching, on walk and talks around central London (and by Skype or FaceTime for those who can’t make it to the city). I ensure people leave my sessions reinvigorated about what they do and why they do it (in 2016 I worked with business leaders like Helen, check out my Coaching page).
    2. To give businesses the fuel to grow by nailing the essence of who they really are. Many organisations grow so fast they lose sight of their essence: what they stand for, their story, their purpose, their real point of difference. I work with clients to lift the lid on their organisation, talking to customers, hearing from staff and asking questions that haven’t been posed before. This in depth process gives the organisation the fuel to grow — to attract the right customers, to get employees engaged and to attract new hires (in 2016 I worked with growing businesses like Stripe Partners, check out my Consulting page).
    3. To shine the light on the stories behind a brand or business. Too many businesses feel faceless, hiding away their humanity. They don’t talk about why the business started, how they touch the lives of their customers, or the mission they’re on. They’re missing a trick. I’m obsessive about bringing a business to life by lifting the lid and shining a light on stories - building an emotional connection with the target audience (in 2016 I brought stories to life for clients including the accountancy firm Buzzacott, check out my Storytelling page).

    Want your organisation, business or career to be more human in 2017? Let’s talk! Email hello@iansanders.com.


  • 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 more human. Let's create organisations, environments and cultures where people can show up  and do their best work. Where they can build work lives on who they really are, rather than faking it. 


  • 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!).