Managing Business Money – The webinar questions

The Cherie Blair Foundation for Women
The Cherie Blair Foundation for Women

A while back I wrote a blog post about me experiences of recording and delivering a webinar on the subject of “Managing Business Money” for the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women.

This was what could best be described as an interesting experience, one involving trips to London, a live video screen the size of my lounge wall and a real-time link to the technical team in America.

Questions, questions

As part of the webinar participants could submit questions which i did my best to answer on the day.

However, there were a lot of questions and it was difficult to do them all justice in the time allowed, so I’ve written this blog post to answer a selection in more detail.

To simplify things I’ve groups the questions into categories and combined the most similar ones, so please forgive me if you can’t find the exact question that you asked.

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The Cherie Blair Foundation – A webinar experience

Getting started: A happy chance

I first found out about the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women following a chance conversation with a foundation mentor on a train.

CBFW

As a great believer in the power of mentoring, and using it to to develop high performing people and teams over a 40 year career, it seemed natural to explore what the foundation had to offer.

As I now know the Foundation focuses on mentoring as a way of empowering women across the world to take charge of their own futures.

To someone who is, politely speaking, in the later stages of a career this seemed like a great way of paying back some of the help I have received in my professional and personal life.

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Elevators Stories: prioritising the punchline

Taking your chance

How often have you bumped into a person that you really needs to impress only to have them called away halfway through your pitch? Talk about frustration. While you can’t always avoid this, this is a way of making the most of any time you do have in this situation.

The technique I’m going to talk about is called “an elevator story”. The name comes from the idea that one day you will get into an elevator with a person (The Target) that you want to interest in something that you are doing.

Typically you aim in this conversation is to show The Target that you have an idea that they should back. The idea might be that you are doing a great job and are worth a pay rise or promotion or that you have a great business idea that they could profitably back.

For this blog post I’m going to use the example that I want a senior director to fund my leadership and management (L&M) programme. The pitch is that I’m currently running a pilot L&M programme for this organisation and I want them to commit to a full programme.

The problem

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Writing a business plan

Let’s get one thing straight at the start: there is no mystery to writing a business plan. If you can describe how your business works to your friends and colleagues, you can write a business plan.

At its simplest a business plan is the story of how you expect you business to operate and make money over a period of time.

This is true whether it is a commercial operation selling goods and services or a social organisation bidding for funds to deliver training and development services.

Yes, you will need to include  financial data, technical details and information about the people who will be involved in the delivery of your proposal but ultimately you are telling a story and that story needs to be easy to read and engaging.

In this blog I will focus on how to write a commercial business plan and rules that will help you make it follow the “easy to read and engaging” principle. For me the first rule is the most important:

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Why saying “No” to your customers can be good for your business

When learning about customer service, most of us discuss and debate the famous quote by Mahatma Gandhi:

“A customer is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it.

He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favour by serving him. He is doing us a favour by giving us an opportunity to do so.”

If this is the case then why am I writing about improving your business by saying saying “No” to your customers?

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Doing well at work: Understanding money and business

Introduction

My name is Bob Windmill and I am the Managing Director of Windmill Insight Solutions Ltd.My passion is helping people and organisations become better at what they want to do. My blog is a way of sharing with you the sorts of projects I am involved in.

Bob WIndmill, MD, Windmill Insight Solutions
Bob Windmill, MD, Windmill Insight Solutions

I also write about how you can help yourself or your organisation become better at what you do.

Of course, what “better” means is an entirely different discussion, but I will write about that on another day.

In today’s topic I will talk about how a business works with money, the key money related terms needed in business and the pitfalls that await business owners and employees that don’t have a sensible grasp of basic business finance.

I picked this topic because money is the lifeblood of every business, even not-for-profits, and it is vital that both business owners and employees understand how it woks and how to avoid the pitfalls that await the financially naive.

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Doing well at work: Intro

bob-cropped.jpg

Introduction

My name is Bob Windmill and I am the Managing Director of Windmill Insight Solutions Ltd.My passion is helping people and organisations become better at what they want to do. My blog is a way of sharing with you the sorts of projects I am involved in.

I also write how you can help yourself or your organisation become better at what you do. Of course, what “better” means is an entirely different discussion, but I will write about that on another day.

Learning from failure

Much of what I will be talking about I learned from the best teacher in the business – Failure.

If you don’t believe that failure is good teacher just have a look at video clip from Michael Jordan, arguably the best basketball player that has ever lived.

He is quite clear that he became the player he is because he tried and failed, but then bounced back.

Any-one who is or has been job hunting will know this well.  Even at my best I would only get about every third job that I went for.

If I hadn’t decided to re-group and keep trying after the initial disappointments I would probably still be doing smelly laboratory tests for a living.

My point is this – the only time you really fail is when you give up.

Future topics

Below I’ve given a flavour of some of the topics I’ll be writing about:

  • Being a great worker. My thoughts on how you can learn to be the worker that you colleagues, bosses and client value and want to work with. There is no quick fix here but by learning what works and what doesn’t we can become the individual valued by colleagues and clients.
  • T Shaped Skills. How to become the well rounded individual who can step up to a challenge and do well at it. Will everything you try work out? No chance. But each failure gives you the opportunity to learn and do better next time
  • “Better” vs “Perfect”. A discussion on the benefits of improving a product or service incrementally rather than trying to make it  perfect first time. Will all you product and service ideas work? Again – No chance. But each failure will help improve your next idea.
  • Crash and Ignite. Normally the phrase is “crash and Burn” which indicates failure. I my case the crash was literally that; a life threatening crash racing a motorcycle on the Isle of Man. However this lead to a whole new career direction, which I think of as a setback igniting a new opportunity.
  • Work vs Play. I am constantly amazed by the number of people who do tremendous things in their leisure time but then don’t do the same at work. Learn how to recognised leisure skills that can help you at work.

I hope that you have enjoyed reading this post. If you have thoughts on what I have written so far please leave a comment. Also if you have an idea for a topic for this series let me know and  I’ll be delighted to find a space for it.

Thanks again

Bob windmill

Teaching in Finland – Part 5: Where next?

Background

In my first post on this topic I wrote about how a chance conversation with the host of a study visit led to a really nice teaching project with Kainuu Vocational College (KAO) in Finland.

The main topic of that post was the way that the project moved from idea to something more concrete.

This was followed by an overview of the more technical considerations like lining up the course structure with the requirements of a range of curricula.

Necessary? yes. Fun? no. Such is life.

By way of an antidote the third  post had was a not entirely serious day-by-day look at the ups and downs of the course and the final student presentations.

In general the ups far outweighed the downs, which was great, but at least one of the downs made me wonder if I’d made a big mistake taking on this project.

The fourth post was the stage that most projects leave out: the post project review.

happy-face-2

Let us remember that this applies as much to successful projects, where there are nice lessons to be learned, as well as less successful projects which we can learn the not so nice but oh-so important lessons about what didn’t work and why.

Fortunately in this case the post project review was a happy one.

The positives heavily outweighed the few negatives and there was an unexpected bonus: the Finnish National Board of Education were so impressed with the project that they have asked me to present the project at their Internationalisation Event of Finnish Vocational Education in Tallinn in November.

I think we call safely call that “a result”

So, can what we learned be applied in other situations?

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Teaching In Finland – Part 4: How I should have done it

Background

In my first post on this topic I wrote about how a chance conversation with the host of a study visit led to a really nice teaching project with Kainuu Vocational College (KAO) in Finland.

The main topic of that post was the way that the project moved from idea to something more concrete.

This was followed by a post on the more technical considerations like lining up the course structure with the requirements of a range of curricula. Necessary? yes. Fun? no. Such is life.

By way of an antidote the third  post had was a not entirely serious day-by-day look at the ups and downs of the course and the final student presentations.

In general the ups far outweighed the downs, which was great, but at least one of the downs made me wonder if I’d made a big mistake taking on this project……..

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Teaching in Finland – Part 3: How it went, Day-by-day

Background

In my first post on this topic I wrote about how a chance conversation with the host of a study visit led to a really nice teaching project with Kainuu Vocational College (KAO) in Finland. The main topic of that post was the way that the project moved from idea to something more concrete. This was followed by an overview of the more technical considerations like lining up the course structure with the requirements of a range of curricula.

This post gives a day-by-day account of how all the preparation and planning worked out in practice, warts and all.

I plan one more post, one on the Lessons Learned. In it I will try and answer the question “with what I now know having run this course, how would I run it now“.

Monday: Put up or shut up time

This was it. All the planning and preparation had come town to me and 12 students in the same room, them waiting for something to happen, me desperately trying to remember my opening lines.

Nervous Speaker
Nervous? Who, me?

After what seemed like an age, but was probably only a few seconds, we were away. My opening gambit of confessing my own nervousness seemed to go down well.

Happily it lead quite naturally to a chat about the mini CVs that they had sent me ahead of the course and what they hoped to get from the course.

This was followed up by a discussion of my own career – 11 jobs in 33 years – and why it developed that way.

Within a few minutes my first concerns were addressed – the students’ English was more than good enough and they were all volunteers and so were interested in the subject.

One huge sigh of relief later we launched into the meat of the morning, a couple of nice icebreaker exercises.

Moving on

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