Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Research Files: Unemployment – a burden to all

Without doubt unemployment is a burden to all as well as a frustration. With unemployment figures showing no real sign of dropping, the prospect of higher taxes being levied to pay subsistence costs to those not working is not a happy one - but morally we shouldn't let people starve or go homeless. It doesn't take a genius to work out that it is always in our interests to have as many people working as possible. The more people work, the more money circulates as businesses have more customers. 

Let’s be honest - who of us hasn’t at some point in their lives faced the prospect of unemployment? If at no other time in our lives, as school leavers we do. At that point we just don’t know if we will make the grade or not. This is all the more likely when there is a national or global economic crisis or recession. In the last two years alone I have had go through the process of seeing through redundancies of fabulous staff in my role as a manager and been made redundant myself. Additionally, I have heard news of former colleagues from years ago of all ranks being made redundant too.

No one, I hope, likes redundancies – they are not pleasant processes to have to go through whether you are a manager implementing that painful decision, or a member of staff being made redundant. It should be (and usually is) a business decision not a personal slight which is of some comfort, especially when outside influences and not mismanagement has led to it.

There are in the UK employment laws and guidelines to follow - affected staff must be allowed time to seek alternative work and go for interviews and you cannot then hire new staff to take their place to do the same job. Nor are you allowed to use volunteers to do work that would normally be covered by a paid position, but we all know it happens. The ethics behind that I believe to be right but the realities of the working world mean that it can be of enormous help to both parties for volunteering to cover the essentials.  In rosier times, the hope is that those volunteers, having gained work experience, will be offered a paid position as a result of their efforts - although not everyone wants to be paid.

There is no point talking about unemployment though without understanding some realities the unemployed are facing - many of whom maybe friends, relatives and former colleagues of yours by now.

The realities of being unemployed
For those of you who have never been through the benefit system here is a brief outline of what others may be going through or have been through in order to secure work.

Firstly the amount you receive is determined by National Insurance contributions for the two types of Jobseekers Allowance. There used to be a crossover for top-ups if you had a medical condition or disability via Incapacity Benefits. More commonly now you are either on one or the other.  Housing (Council Tax) can be covered subject to meeting criteria and you don’t have to pay it back. It’s part of what we pay our taxes for – to help people through hard times so that they CAN get back on their feet and make contributions again when they secure work.  So far, so good but...

If you are a homeowner, unless you took out insurance against unemployment only the interest of your mortgage will be paid (up to a certain level and subject to meeting criteria) and even then it is only for a maximum of two years. Generally speaking home buyers have made additional contributions because they took out a mortgage, but not apparently to receive the same level of support if they hit hard times or indeed for as long.

However... all benefit claimants also get assistance with free prescriptions for most medical conditions, (not all) and further assistance is sometimes available for medical and other emergencies, even funeral costs (subject to criteria).

What you don’t get is additional money for utilities, food or clothing except in dire emergency. Basic benefits per week I believe on average to be £65.00 - that is the maximum you can be paid (it does go up by a couple of pounds after you've been deemed to be long-term unemployed (i.e. without work for six months or more). There are variations to this amount dependent on marital status, dependents and circumstances - hence the benefit fraudsters we hear about who capitalise on that. 

You can sometimes get assistance from the utility companies if they run such schemes and have money in the kitty to assist in emergencies (again dependent on criteria). There are too emergency benefits (e.g. Crisis Loans and Social Fund). These are usually in the form of repayable loans and payment usually starts (as far as I can fathom) immediately and are deducted at source thereby reducing the fortnightly sum of £130 further.

You DO NOT get additional money for internet connection, phone bills, envelopes and paper and postage when applying for work although there are things that help with that. The cost of running a car is also not covered.

To their credit the Job Centre does pay for travel expenses for interviews even retrospectively now so long as it’s provable and so long as the interview is over 15 miles from your home. It will also help with travel expenses all the way up to you receiving your first payment from a new employer. I happen to think the business world should do their bit to help the economy by paying new staff after their first week’s work. Cash flow may prevent it in all cases but none of us want to be paying more tax to facilitate those travel expenses do we? Without the government's intervention though, a lot of people simply cannot afford to even get to an interview.

A brief recap of the ethos behind welfare support
Initially the benefits system started to help UK citizens through times of extreme crisis to prevent starvation and homelessness and that is all. Its origins started in 19th Century with Victorian philanthropists not in the 20th Century as many suppose (you could argue it was earlier than that).

In the  20th  Century the welfare system formed and has since undergone many changes and had many restructures to government departments to run it - in my lifetime, from the DHSS (Department of Health and Social Services) to the DWP (Department of Work and Pensions). This latest incarnation says it all... the deal is that if you need assistance you MUST be trying your best to seek employment no matter what your circumstances are, regardless even of disabilities. There has never been any significant increase in benefits to cover the costs of job seeking or to help facilitate it except via Employment Adviser Services.

Welfare to Work Services
Welfare to Work and Employment Advice Services are in main contracted by the DWP. Most help by providing clunky old PCs, intermittent internet connections, a couple of phones (in usually an open plan office), envelopes, paper and postage. They provide sterling advice services and guidance for the unemployed to help them to get the most of job searches, assist with CVs, cover letters, applications and interviews. All people need to do is ask at their local job centre to access it. Each advice service is paid £14,000 per benefit claimant.

Most if not all work on a target basis set by the DWP so have little time for morale and motivation boosting prior to job search activities (hence additional services supplied by many charities, social enterprises and some private companies). Some of these target based organisations have failed during this recession because they didn't meet those targets. It begs the question - is some help is better than none particularly when demand for such services is, if anything, increasing according to recent reports? Is it perhaps a tad unfair to hold these service providers responsible for the effects of a recession? Then again, the government needs to ensure every penny it spends is spent wisely and effectively. 

The poverty trap
On the thankfully few occasions I have been on benefits I can honestly say that the vast majority of job seekers are honest people who want to be employed and not professional fraudsters who have no intention of securing legitimate work ever. It is therefore grossly unfair to criminalise and stigmatise the unemployed as a whole as aside from being extremely unhelpful – how does that solve the problem?

The most difficult issue by far is whether or not people will be better off for working. Often part-time work results in benefits being deducted penny for penny after the first £5-£20 is earned (dependent on circumstances). In most cases this meagre amount would not cover the travel expenses to get to work. The government has introduced the Back to Work Calculation and Tax Credits to assist, but frankly it isn’t enough. Rumour has it that new initiatives will be brought in next year - what they will be I haven’t a clue but I'm not hopeful.

The domino effect
In the last couple of years this economic crisis has seen many high ranking managers, company directors and even CEOs be made redundant; there are cases where they have become job seekers voluntarily resigning to ensure their organisations survive the recession and to save lower paid staff their jobs. Some have gone on to secure new positions at a lower level and at substantially reduced salaries. The knock on effect of that is that lower ranking managers end up taking the jobs normally taken by supervisors etc until in the end it hits the unskilled labour level or those looking for their very first job opportunity.

Compounding that are the recruiters and HR departments who are asking for more and more qualifications, skills and experience to help them shortlist (aside from anything else). This domino effect isn't unique to a recession but it certain escalates during one.

Another good initiative from the government did come in the form of apprenticeships and some funds for training but the latest indications are that they are likely to be cut now. Other ideas to resolve unemployment include more job-share opportunities, more jobs at lower salaries and quite simply short-listing according to what skills are required instead of on qualifications or even experience. I personally like the job-share idea best and more people being employed on a contract basis. In these uncertain times, businesses would do well not to over commit by offering contracts for over a year - nothing to stop them being reviewed and renewed though. With more short-term contracts the prospect of everyone getting some financially viable employment increases in my opinion.

An appeal to the business community
My real reason for writing this article is to inform the business community to prompt it to think about what it can do to ease the burden of vast numbers of unemployed people, as it helps no one, (nor the economy), to have people unemployed.

Heaven knows how complex it is for the DWP to overhaul the current system, but it certainly needs it. What hasn’t helped is successive governments scrapping what their predecessors have put in place that was working. Would that they displayed a more businesslike approach and collaborated to find the right solutions to sort this once and for all. A joint effort from all political parties on this issue might just achieve that, I think. Unlikely to happen though, I fear.

If you are experiencing any difficulty at all related to unemployment the Job Centres have information of local support agencies which are there to help you. Failing that there are the CABs (Citizen’s Advice Bureaus) - they are a charity and therefore reliant on donations etc for funding. Those working could help with either donations or by volunteering as advisers (if you have time to spare) as the CAB strives to provide information on the professional services out there for anything people may need a hand with.

The CAB does not help with looking for work. Instead google 'Welfare to Work', 'Employment Advice' and 'Careers Advice' services if ever you are stuck or indeed if you want to change your job. Any one of them should be able to list all local recruitment agencies as well as general and industry specific on-line sites where you can upload your CV and get job-alerts by email. If they don't... find another that does. That search also lists specific sources of help if you suffer from any form of disability although the Job Centres themselves will happily connect you to the local services they know of.

Hope it helps.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Operations: Marketing for all - databases

I am tempted to start regular monthly posts on the theme of Marketing for All, but I am no expert in the field and there are plenty of organisations out there who are. Social media professionals are just one side to that. However, what I do intend to do is share the basic ground rules over the coming months just as I did with my Connecting You article. As and when I do, they will appear with the heading Marketing for All.

All these things are covered by a whole raft of business adviser services far more comprehensively than I could achieve as I haven't full knowledge. As business people we need to choose from the vast array of options out there on the basis of which suit us best. They need to suit our ethics and policies, our style and nature of work and perhaps most importantly our way of communicating. We simple can not learn or gain from people who we struggle to understand. Much depends on the vocabulary used in each case. As people, we are drawn to others who communicate as we do, on the same level - more so if they share the same sense of humour and way of thinking. It's a fact - why lie about it? It doesn't preclude trading with others too, does it?

So, to business...

The value of marketing
The reason marketing has turned into such a vast industry in it's own right is simple... we can not hope to sell our products and services if we don't tell people about them. From there it starts to become obvious that to cut back on networking, advertising and promotional activities is extremely unwise in times of economic crisis and yet it often becomes one of the first things to suffer. That's illogical and a false economy in my opinion.

Crucial to effective marketing are our databases not just of pre-existing clients and customers but of  all our suppliers and contacts as they may have contacts that could easily turn into new customers of ours. Remember my tweets, "Money only works when it is moving" and "One never knows who a person knows or may come to know". ...?
Databases are in effect our foundation stones from which we can build. If we don't look after them then the whole structure starts to be at risk of collapse. What happens in a recession though?

Recession dangers
When job losses occur the database foundation stones are at high risk of getting seriously damaged, so the knock on effect is that the whole structure of the organisation is also at high risk. When was the last time you checked out if every single contact on your database is still in the same position they were in a year or two years ago?

Administrative departments as well as marketing departments are generally the ones to look after the database of all contacts, but not exclusively. It follows then that when they are affected by job losses/redundancies then the pressure on those who are left to manage the database increases - more so when the drive is to increase and build upon that database of contacts (potential clients).

There are two essential ways to avert all this though.

1. Keep your database up to date as much as possible at all times by ensuring everyone lends a hand to ensure accurate records are kept.
2. Regular reviews of the database and, if applicable, overhauls.

What happens if you haven't done this though and then there are job losses. Sadly the database, (that foundation stone to your business) is all too often one of the last things to be considered when in the midst of major restructures due to a downsizing of staff. That leads to whoever is left with a major job on their hands to sort it out. Administrative structures should be, in my view one of the first things to consider when restructures of any kind are on the cards, be it for economising on staff or indeed for gearing up for new projects and thereby increasing staff including using contractor services.

Yep, that's one of the services I offer to help fix that on a short-term contract basis far more than data entry but I do that too on occasion for clients I have a particular passion for. Just as with anyone in business, my communication style and way of working might not be yours. That's fine, because I keep stating, I believe there is room for all and I feel, it would be dull indeed if we were all the same and worked in the same way anyway. We are human beings first and last, and as such we base our policies, structures and style of working according to our collected experiences in the work environment. It's how we arrive at them isn't it?

Logical decisions work best
There is no such thing as one style of logic being superior to another, there is just logic. Decisions on structure and methods of working are based on historical facts (one hopes) and not on random ideas from all and sundry. I, at my level do not expect to ever be privy to those facts unless they are things that those who contract me deem it is necessary for me to know to do my work more efficiently. I can ask for more information to help in that, but I think I would be unwise to demand it!

Facts are crucial. When we have facts (however limited they may be even for business leaders), the best we can do is not to then make assumptions from them, but to work with them at all times and go in search of more facts to help us develop further and indeed inform our decisions. Learning is a never ending activity, or should be in my opinion. Those at the top of an organisation should have the most facts about the sector they are trading in and are constantly adapting and honing initiatives as things change in the wider world. That is why they are leading! Assuming that no one has moved on from their positions over the last two years I feel is dangerous. Check - get the facts straight.

Assumptions are not good to make but sometimes we have to. I am by no means immune to making them myself, but it is prudent to to note them as being assumptions pending further facts as and when they become available. More facts might not ever materialise so the best we can do is follow our best instincts and be prepared with contingency plans to do a u-turn if need be. Hopefully u-turns will be exceptions and more commonly business professionals adapt and adjust.

I am aware that many have all this firmly under their belt, but some don't (particularly start-ups) and even highly experienced business professionals sometimes need a prompt to review things... I know I do!

But I digress... back to databases...

Five essentials to include on your database
What should be on the database? In a word - everything. However, that's impossible as there isn't the time or the manpower unless you happen to be a particularly large organisation with all the staffing and resources and gizmos etc there are going. The essentials then...

1. Full contact details
2. Trading history (if any)
3. All expressions of interest in products and services offered
4. Communication records (in case of any complaints/disputes or new ideas). Commonly this is done through cross referencing with separate archives via short notes of dates/times
5. Interests of all contacts (sadly often missed by start-ups but vital to record as they are leads to how you can develop not only new contacts but your own products and services)

So there you have it, my basic beginners guide to databases which I hope will help readers develop   and grow their enterprises from all the lovely new contacts they are gathering from making the most of their social networking activities. At some point I hope to do a follow-up on the social networking... the next stage. When I simply don't know at this point. However, if you need that now... why not contact the professionals in that field? There are plenty to choose from, find the one you feel most comfortable with, that suits your style and company ethos.

I am currently looking for more contacts for that social networking article so if that is your profession, I will be happy to mention the first ten organisations that get in touch, almost regardless of ethical differences. I am and wish to remain as impartial as possible but I own I am human and those who talk the same language as me will naturally end up being referred to slightly more often. That's the way of business isn't it? It doesn't mean that others are not better than those I mention or prefer, does it?

Final cautionary word
Never wise to assume a thing about others really... it nearly always leads to wasted time and energy better spent dealing with facts and in positive, proactive activities.

Happy hunting for what YOU need.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Article: Kings, Queens, Jacks & Aces

The dynamics of any group of people is reliant on mutual consent and co-operation for any degree of success; business is no exception.  I have often thought of those at the very top as being like parents with their weight of responsibility and depth of knowledge being essential in order to see clearly and keep the organisation safe from danger in order to lead effectively. Another way of viewing them is as Kings or Queens of their realm even if at times they seek guidance from a board of trustees or other business leaders, consultants or advisers.

While they may be the obvious stars of any enterprise their success of failure is in part down to how well they lead their staff, most of whom will be (to continue the analogy) Jacks or Aces. Some of course will be monarchs in the making.

So which are you and which do you need? If you are running a business you will automatically be a King or Queen. You have to be in order to run it. Someone has to be at the top of the tree to make those decisions and have the initial idea to start the business. As with all monarchies though, they come as a mixed bag of nice and nasty and with pros and cons. Some are peaceable, interested in and supportive of their people, while others are nothing short of tyrannical dictators; others still lie somewhere in between or are largely indifferent or not aware of the potential to capitalise on from supporting their workers.

When it comes to business, I always advocate it is best to be as inclusive as possible with ideas and planning as that way you encourage ensemble working and that encourages interest, commitment and higher levels of productivity.  Hierarchy is essential to structure as it only takes one person not adopting a helpful attitude to ruin morale and a happy working environment for the many and you need a certain degree of authority to manage such situations as well as deciding on the course and direction of the business. I believe the ideal is for hierarchy to be ever present but to never have reason to be felt. It is essential that there are set procedures to follow for miscreants as without it one can soon find unsavoury behaviour spreading like a plague. ‘So and so got away with it, so I’ll do the same.’ However, it is wise to find out the cause of the behaviour as if you having made the investment of training that member of staff it would be a pity to rashly dismiss them if the situation is redeemable.

If the Kings and Queens are the CEOs, directors and partners of any enterprise though, what and who are the Jacks and Aces?  The Aces are the experts, those people with particular skills in a particular field. They are specialists. As a wise person once told me, be wary of those who claim to be experts in more than three fields, most likely they are not. This is because to be that good at any discipline requires a lot of knowledge and skill accumulated over a long period of time that is dedicated to acquiring them. (Another adjective for some Aces might be obsessives! Be careful they stay healthy but not driving them too hard). In short, it is unlikely that any expert has the time to be dedicated to more than three disciplines. Nor are they likely to be particularly versatile or adaptable outside their own field. They may struggle to understand the key elements to do so. It is never wise to try and fit square pegs in round holes, it all too soon becomes a frustrated waste of effort for all concerned.

Just as in many a card game, Aces can be high or low. They might have more knowledge than directors do and act as consultants , board members or advisers. Alternatively they may be in the form of staff who offer skills to help run the enterprise, e.g. cleaning, marketing or accountancy. Horses for courses. Directors of businesses may be Aces themselves or not. Of those who are not, well I tend to think of them as Jacks too.

In my mind there are two types of Jacks; Jacks of all trades and Knaves.  In a small enterprise it is probably best to staff it with as many Jacks of all trades as possible and only hire in Aces (experts) as and when required until such time when the enterprise has developed sufficiently to justify employing Aces on a regular or permanent basis. The marvel of Jacks is that they are versatile, adaptable and will willingly turn their hand to just about anything. Obviously no one can turn their hand to everything, but Jacks are the sort of people who are able to lend a hand to help avert many a crisis. Their particular forte is for seeing the overall, and not necessarily looking at the detail. That said, many develop and attain quite high levels of proficiency and knowledge in all manner of areas as they travel through life. Jacks are masters of transferable skills.

Knaves are quite simply rogues. They are false Jacks. Watch out for them. They are the sort who look for short-cuts, the sort that often have the gift of the gab, talk the talk but can’t walk the walk. And yes, they can be underhanded, cheats and fraudsters.  How do you spot a Knave? Try quizzing them to scrutinise their knowledge. An honest person should have no trouble confessing to their limitations, a Knave seldom does. I won’t lie, some are difficult to spot but the good news is that genuine Jacks are not as their actions, behaviours, attitudes and ethics speak for themselves if they are permitted to do so.

Getting the mix right
The deployment and use of these personality types is what determines the success or failure of a business. You might think that a humble cleaner or factory worker is none of these, but you'd be wrong they can be versatile given the opportunity or be expects in their field. Remember too that not everyone wants to climb the career ladder, some (like myself) just enjoy acquiring skills to become ever more versatile while others prefer a solid wage packet but a simple life. I often think the latter are the wisest of all of us when it comes to a work/life balance.

I find it curious that there seems to be an assumption and attitude that if a person shows great ability then they are automatically a threat to those above them. Just because they are adept it does not necessarily follow that they want to run the company and if they are that talented and ambitious the likelihood is that would prefer to run their own anyway. 

As a former manager myself who has engaged and trained staff I am personally thrilled by how many of them have gone on to achieve great things; it is the teacher in me which has always valued potential for the good of the whole. Aside from cleaners becoming duty managers there have been novice and casual technicians that have now gone on to becoming extremely talented lighting designers and experts (Aces) in that field. Some of them wipe the floor with my achievements when I was training them now. My attitude has always been that if a person is that talented, then catch hold of their coat-tails and learn all you can from them as they won't be around for long. That way there's a better chance of them reciprocating because you have empowered and supported them on their developmental journey. 

No one knows everything
No one has the monopoly on solutions and staff can often teach managers new tricks to resolve problems. Just as managers can misunderstand the interest of their staff, so the staff can end up misunderstanding those above them. 
They key is to get the mix right and for all to understand that everyone is vital to the operation as a whole. For example, thank goodness for cleaners, otherwise we'd be knee deep in rubbish and not be able to function at all.

However, while I advocate regular communication and plenty of dialogue, there has to be a cut of point otherwise it can all too easily end up as all chat and not much done. Lovely to have the time to philosophise, but the reality is there as to be an allocated time, place, tools, systems and vehicles for such things. Managers should not share all with staff, only what will help them do their jobs more easily, more efficiently and more effectively. Likewise staff should not waste a manager's time on too much trivia or with things that they could resolve quite easily for themselves so long as they get clearance to do so. (Communication is pencilled in for another subject to touch on in my blogs at some point in the future).

Monarchs maybe the figureheads and may or may not be the visible face of the enterprise, but there are a myriad of co-stars and even one or two superstars under their command. Thank goodness we are all slightly different in our interests and personal goals or where would we be? We can hardly function if everyone was only ever interested in plumbing... how would we get fed if no-one at all enjoyed farming? What accommodation would we live in? Who would make clothes etc etc

Final thought
It can be extremely tough and sometimes very lonely at the top even though there are all manner of business groups especially for directors and CEOs. Why do they do it? Quite simply because they have the talent to do so and wish to use it. I happen to admire many who reach those heights for, (among many other things) their outward calm, reliability, consistent dedication, wisdom, patience, consideration, compassion and... not least the stunning way with which they can cut to the chase assertively with a logical statement concisely and respectfully presented. Now that is a mix of skills few master. 

As I stated in my last blog and is indicated by my website, I enjoy and prefer staying somewhere in the middle where I can put my skills of facilitation and communication to their best use. I think I also have a chance of a work/life balance despite my tendency toward being a workaholic, but I'm working on that.  

I leave you with some wise words from a former line manager of mine from a few years ago. Her words certainly prompted this article. These words came at a time when I was frustrated with staff for not appreciating or knowing all that I had on my plate - why would they? It is not wise to share all or indeed always helpful as it could result in staff getting too worried about you or the future of the be business quite unnecessarily! 

"The higher you rise in management, the lonelier it can get. You progressively have to make more and more decisions on your own. You have fewer and fewer people to ask or guide you and you will be increasingly criticised for everything you do. You have to take it all on the chin and somehow remain caring and patient. Good or bad, win or lose you have to be able to handle whatever your actions result in." 

I will only add I was not expecting that in response but I am eternally grateful that I heard it and perhaps the same can be true of front-line staff at times if unsupported. 


Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Founders Thoughts: The proof of the pudding

Written during the Diamond Jubilee celebrations of Queen Elizabeth II and before the 2012 Olympics in the middle of a global economic crisis - I thought it worth mentioning, if only to act as a reminder to myself of the extraordinary times I am privileged enough to be a part of. Extraordinary because of the resilience of people during difficult times, not least in their determination to find joy and to win through and, I'm no different...

After a month of intensive tweeting and networking I am quietly pleased with the results as well as optimistic for the future. If you are new to social media, you might like to read my March post 'Connecting you' here on my blogsite and reading my tweets on the subject.

Already something seems to be working in my favour. Followers on twitter have increased, even if they haven't on here - I am aware that some people don't want to be seen to follow anything, others see following as a form of endorsement, I happen to feel it isn't - the police have to watch and follow suspected criminals don't they? Each to their own though, to suit their personal style and preferences.

Analytics show that over 200+ people have been reading this blogsite and been hooking up to the WildeHeads website too and I feel that's not bad for a novice in just over a month for one person who has deliberately not spent a penny on marketing so far (aside from internet connection and a few pence on electricity). It proves these things can work. Much now depends on how to maintain interest as well as finding new things to say to generate more. That could be tricky but not impossible for even a lone-trader - there are always possibilities and solutions so even if I don't have them to hand, at least I know how to look for them.

In addition, I have been working on sources of PAYE work including full-time positions to maximise options as with more options comes more choice. Happily I have one job offer in the bag already and it is flexible enough to fit in with whatever I may wish to marry it too. Just finalising CRB and paperwork. New possibilities for WildeHeads too, although I am not anxious to steam ahead with it - far better I think to take my time and build WildeHeads steadily, selecting as I go which projects I want to do, which I'll put on hold, which are most viable and which are just not feasible for me at the current time. Rushing things can, and often does, lead to inferior services or complete disasters.

While former line managers of mine may be frustrated that I am not interested in climbing the career ladder, I find I have no problem with positioning myself at the level that suits my personality and interests best. It's not written in stone though, as who knows what a polymath such as myself may be inspired by next. Suffice to say I doubt very much that reaching the level of a CEO is something that will ever grab me because I prefer working somewhere between the front line and upper management and always have.

Aside from community and the Arts I have a keen passion and interest in empowerment, communication and psychology - hence my counselling and teaching qualifications and my intention to develop those skills for sheer pleasure - I've found them to be invaluable in any business environment (another plan I have been actively progressing this month). Empowerment for me means not forcing people where they don't want to go, while encouraging people to reach their full potential for and by themselves. We all have personal lives and the work/life balance is, I think, vital to get right in order to be at our best in both environments.

Quick note about some of my tweets about politicians... no one will be more delighted than I to extol their virtues when I spot them, but I doubt I will ever name names. I happen to have a healthy respect for anyone wishing to enter politics because it must be extremely difficult to even attempt to try to please all the people all the time - I actually think it is impossible.

However, for as long as they continue to bicker about who's to blame for mistakes, dig up dirt about each others private lives that have no relevance to their ability to do their jobs, or fight over who has the best solutions like squabbling children, I'm afraid I will remain largely disinterested and disinclined to even listen. That to me is not only a bad way to market their policies, ideas and solutions but should be beneath them to even consider entering into even when passions run high.

There is one exception - corrupt MPs should always be 'outed'. I will possibly come back to politics in another article at a later date, but for now my current stance is that any time they collectively wish to grow up is fine by me. We do need to note what they are doing so we can make use of the positives or help fix their mistakes. There have been some good things happening, just not enough of them to warrant it hitting my headlines aside from the superb display of oneness over the Queen's Jubilee. I wish we could see that all the time.

What's next?
The likelihood is that my tweeting and networking will be less frequent the busier I get, but as I've already outlined I can always ask for a volunteer to help out if I feel I need or want that help. Options... there are always options.

Coming up soon will be articles on communication and possibly time management - although there's a glut of information available on the net on that already - and who knows what else; I don't. I will not risk providing a schedule for when such things will be posted, simply because I wish to remain flexible enough to respond to whatever is happening at any given point. As a basic rule of thumb I hope to post a new article once a week every Wednesday on here on something that I hope will be helpful in some way, but I won't promise - I might just decide to go for early retirement instead and pootle at pottery! Another option.

Having survived in business during the last recession I know that keeping the money moving is vital and that teamwork and networking can help to reduce not only the longevity of a recession but the severity of it. As I have tweeted, what is a recession if not a war on poverty and economic collapse? It presents us all with the opportunity to excel in how clever we can be with regard to minimising risks and displaying the best side of us - our humanity. We can all do our bit to help progress that.

To clarify, yes I have a few useful connections and a very diverse work history, but no, I have never been at the top of the business chain although I have certainly been assisting those that are, sometimes even directly. I have always admired their skills and talents, but I think will always prefer to remain a behind the scenes type - hence the range of services WildeHeads offers. All I really know for now is that I am enjoying the journey and the process of just exploring - that is actually an understatement... I adore it! I hope you do too.