Why we should never forget

Last week was a truly humbling experience as the whole nation paid tribute to the millions of men and women who lost their lives in the First World War.
What was so moving about the events that were held across the nation to mark the 100th anniversary of the start of the Great War was the way the entire nation took part in honouring out fallen heroes.
As well as the major events here in the capital and in our major cities individuals were also given a chance to make their own personal tributes.
It would be hard not to be moved by the moving and truly stunning artwork that has appeared at the Tower of London in recent weeks. The cascade of poppies on the walls of one of London’s most famous buildings is truly beautiful and appears to have captured the public’s attention.
But the simple and moving tributes that took place across the nation on the night of the anniversary were equally as moving. Millions of people turned out the lights and placed a solitary candle in their windows in honour of the fallen.
It was supposed to be the war to end all wars but sadly that turned out to be a forlorn hope and less than two decades after the end of the Great War the world was once again plunged into global conflict.
Both wars are fast becoming something we know about only from the history books rather than from personal experience.
The generation who fought in the trenches at the Somme and Ypres have departed and with each passing year there are fewer and fewer surviving veterans from the Second World War.
Our parents and their parents’ lives were directly affected by both conflicts and very few families escaped without losing a loved one.
We should count ourselves incredibly lucky in this country to have grown up in an era of relative peace and stability. There has been conflict in our lifetime but nothing on the same scale that took place in the first half of the 20th Century.
The First World War was particularly savage because a whole generation of young men sacrificed their lives to protect our way of life.
It would be all too easy to confine the terrible events of 1914 to 1918 to the history books but last week was a true demonstration that people will never forget the sacrifices made by an entire generation.
And just as importantly we should never become complacent and allow ourselves to forget the devastating effects of war or allow our guard to slip.
It really is true that those who turn their backs on the history books are doomed to repeat the terrible mistakes and failures of the past.
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It is important to give something back

Much to the annoyance of my family I have spent most of my spare time over the summer months preparing and training for the London 100 cycle event.
I have always tried to keep myself in reasonable shape but this is the first time have ever tried to cycle such a distance in a single session and it has been something of a challenge.
Although the sudden arrival of the bad weather has meant that the ride was cut short at the last minute it was still a major personal challenge.
And it would have been foolhardy to the point of stupidity not to put in some serious training over the last three months. My participation meant that most weekends over the summer I have had to put in several hours on two wheels away from my friends and family.
But the sacrifice was well worth it for several very good reasons. Of course, keeping fit is vital when you take into account the stressful and busy lives we all lead.
I have long believed that if you want to be fit for work and full of energy then you need to look after yourself and your body.
And the personal satisfaction I have gained from taking on such a daunting challenge has also been worth all the effort.
It is always good to set yourself personal challenges and targets, it is amazing what we can all achieve with a little bit of self-determination and belief.
Setting yourself personal challenges and goals is a great way to learn about yourself as an individual and exactly what you are capable of achieving if you have that all important positive mental attitude.
Just as importantly I took part in the event so I could raise money for charity.  I have always viewed myself as a fortunate individual thanks to the successes I have enjoyed during the course of my career.
Over the years I have been able to provide my family and loved ones with a comfortable and secure lifestyle.
Success can buy you material things in life and there is absolutely nothing wrong with taking time out to enjoy the fruits of your labours but it is also important to give something back to society.
It is true we live in a competitive world and generally speaking the harder your work and the more effort you put in then the greater the rewards.
We have created a consumer society where we are all conditioned to want to have enough money to enjoy the good things in life.
But if we all operated as individuals who are not prepared to give something back to society then the world would be a much poorer place for all of us.
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People should get their just rewards

If you are lucky enough to have a job that you love doing then you are probably going to be completely committed to your career and to your work.

But the reality is that the majority of people get out of bed in the morning and make the journey into the office each day because they need to pay the bills and keep a roof over their heads.

Owners of businesses and senior managers tend to be completely committed to the cause and it is in their own interest to make sure the company flourishes and prospers.

But it is easy for senior people to forget that employees will usually not have the same level of commitment to furthering the cause of the company.

Of course, when you take staff on you want them to be self-starters and highly motivated but it is important not to take your staff for granted.

The people who work for you will know what the going rate is in their sector and those who are good at what they do will expect to receive decent pay for their skills and experience.

Any company or business which has ambitions to be the very best at what it does has to be prepared to invest to do well and that includes in its people.

I have always believed that everyone that works for a company should bring value to the business. It does not always have to be measured in monetary terms – but every employee should be able to make a difference.

That means that you should always be able to measure your staff’s performance in one way or another. Of course, when it comes to a sales environment the people who are the best at what they do will always stand out from the crowd.

But if you can measure the performance of all your staff that also means that you can have a bonus system in place.

Bonuses and performance-related pay should not replace salaries because if you go down that route then it will be almost impossible to keep and retain the best people in the sector you happen to be operating in.

But there is no doubt that a bonus system can be a very handy tool for a manager to get the very best from employees.

As well as recognising and rewarding the efforts of staff a fair and open system can also be used to create a healthy sense of competition within a business.

The key is to ensure that everyone is treated in the same way and also stands a fair chance of landing a bonus on a regular basis.

But if you set impossible targets or make it extremely difficult to land a bonus then the system can actually impact general morale in the wrong way.

Bonuses can be an extremely effective management tool as long as they handled with care, are equitable and are properly thought through and executed.


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The competitive spirit is alive and well



THE Commonwealth Games may not have the glamour and reputation of other major sporting events but this year’s competition was a surprise hit with viewers and sports fans alike.

And perhaps the main reason for the unexpected popularity of the games, which in the past has played second fiddle to bigger and more prestigious competitions, was the spirit in which the event was held.

The athletes taking part and competing against one another appeared to have thoroughly enjoyed themselves and the whole tournament was surrounded by a sense of fun and enjoyment.

With the stakes so high in professional sport that sense of fun can often disappear altogether with the desire to win the main objective for those taking part.

And when it comes to the world of business it is essential to have ambition and drive if you are looking to be successful and there is no denying that it is also important to have a competitive streak.

The sales environment can be particularly competitive and you have to be tough and strong willed to survive and prosper.  And it does not matter what sector you are working in, if you want to get to the very top then you have to have that competitive streak.

But I have always believed that if you are going to be competitive then it is important to do it in the right spirit and in the correct manner.

In other words having the will to win is important but not if you want to win at all costs and with little regard to the people around you.

I believe it is perfectly possible to be competitive and ambitious without being ruthless and cut-throat.

There are plenty of cliches and misapprehensions when it comes to world of business which often paint a false picture of the way really successful people go about their business.

Of course, there are people who will stop at nothing to come out on top but the reality is that the really successful people are the ones who are tough negotiators and single minded but are also fair and straight-forward.

Sometimes it can be tough to tell people something that they do not want to hear but it is always the best policy to say exactly what you mean. You can be tough and stick to your guns but you also need to honest and fair when it comes to deals and negotiations.

The harsh reality is that in business not everyone is going to get what they want and as a leader or manager some people will be left feeling disappointed or let down as a result of the decisions you take.

It can be a tough balancing act to make sure you got your own way in negotiations or meetings but you can still be fair and honest in your dealings.The key is to treat everyone the way you would want to be treated and to be direct without being discourteous or aggressive.

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How to move on when the time is right

Taking up a new job is a big decision to take and a major life choice so if you are moving on you want to make sure that you are doing so for all the right reasons.
In my experience too many people make the really big decisions about their careers without thinking through the consequences fully.
After family and friends work is probably the most important thing in our lives so it makes perfect sense to take a rational and properly thought through approach before making any career moves.
It makes no sense to move to a new job unless you are going to be moving your career forward and you are moving on to bigger and better things.
Not everyone can get a promotion when one comes along or be the boss’s favourite and the grass is not always going to be greener at a new company or organisation.
I would suggest that if you are moving to a new post on a whim or out of a fit of pique then you will probably regret the decision further down the line.
But if you have decided to move on to pastures new then it is important to handle the situation in as professional manner as possible.
As well as dealing with the exit from your current role you also need to prepare for the new challenges ahead.
It is worth bearing in mind that you will have to work through your notice period and I would always encourage people to behave as professionally as you possibly can.
There is no point in burning any bridges so you should try and stay as committed as you possibly can until the very end but this needs to be balanced with preparing properly for your new role.
First impressions always count and you want to make sure that you hit the ground running when you start your new job.
The most important thing is to do as much research as you can about your new employers so you can know what to expect and what will be expected of you. You will want to try and find out about working practices and the ethos of your new company.
If possible talk to people who have first-hand experience of your new business or organisation so you can get a real feel of what it is you will be walking into.
Take a look at your work wardrobe and if necessary freshen it up, as well as creating a better impression it will also make you feel more confident as an individual.
Finally if you get the chance try and pop into the place where you will be working. I would suggest ringing ahead and making sure you are welcome, it could be a big mistake to turn up unannounced.
There is no harm in saying hello to your new colleagues and you will want to appear keen and eager to start in your new role as soon as possible.
Like anything in life if you want something to be a success and get the most from the experience then doing the necessary groundwork really can make all the difference. 
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Why it is so important to switch off from time to time

All of us deal with stress in different ways and have different coping mechanisms and techniques when it comes to tackling the pressures of modern life.
The reality is that human beings are incredibly complex creatures and we all react differently to the pressures of the modern workplace. For some lucky people stress is not even a major issue.
I have spoken before of the importance of getting the balance right between work and pleasure. Personally I enjoy my work immensely but the time I spend with my family and loved ones is equally as important.
Taking time out from the office can help to refresh the batteries and will also give you a better perspective on live.
Being totally focussed on work and nothing else in life can warp your worldview and ultimately have a negative effect not only the individual but also on the people around them.
It is simply not a healthy approach to focus solely on work and the best managers are the ones who encourage their team members to take a balanced approach to work and play.
But it is not just about taking time away from the workplace the quality of your leisure is just as important.
The advances in technology and the advent of social media mean we are constantly connected to the outside world. Pretty much all of us now carry a tablet or a smart phone with us at all times which means we are now in a state of constant communication.
You only have to pop into a bar or a café to see that people are constantly talking to one another via their handheld electronic devices.
In fact people below the age of 30 have grown up with the internet and are more likely to talk to one another through social media than more traditional forms of communication.
I have long felt that the new form of constant communication can be as much a curse as a blessing if it is used or handled in the wrong way.
We are all guilty of spending too much time on the internet or reading emails rather than actually talking to one another.
That is why that sometimes when you are away from the workplace and enjoying time with people who are the most important in life it is important to get away from it all.
If you really do want to spend some real quality time with loved ones then sometimes a complete break from technology can make all the difference.
If you really do want to switch off and relax then actually switching off you phone of tablet for a few hours really can make all the difference.
After all the world will not come to an end or the business come to a crashing halt if you are out of contact for a couple of hours.
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Tesco should be a lesson to us all

THIS week Tesco announced it is parting company with its chief executive Philip Clarke – who has spent four decades working for the supermarket.
The announcement came at the same time as Tesco bosses revealed that its sales figures for the last year are far worse than were originally predicted.
If you turned the clock back a decade no one could have predicted that the chain would find itself in such a difficult position. After all this was the company that dominated the retail sector for years and came up with concepts and ideas that its rivals were forced to follow.
Tesco were the first to make a success of the loyalty card and also helped change the way the nation bought its groceries with the introduction of internet shopping linked to home deliveries.
At the height of its success the company followed what can only be described as an aggressive expansion policy and famously £1 in every £7 spent by British consumers went straight into Tesco’s tills.
The company was smart enough to keep an eye on changing spending habits and led the way in stocking new products in supermarket aisles such as clothes, consumer goods and DVDs.
But the reality is in business that if you want to stay on top of the pile you have to be constantly developing and evolving to suit the needs and demands of your customers.
Tesco has failed to grasp fully the impact of the recession and the subsequent squeeze on consumer spending.
The economy maybe in recovery mode but the reality is that people are still struggling when it comes to personal finances. That means the old snobberies and preconceptions about budget supermarkets are fast disappearing.
The budget chains have also upped their game and as a result are now claiming a large part of the retail sector as their own.
Of course, it should not be forgotten in all of this that Tesco is still one of the biggest companies in the world. The firm might be going through some hard times but it still has plenty of time and opportunity to turn things around.
As I said the key to all of this is staying in touch with your customers and making sure that you continue to give them what they want.
Success can be a double edged sword when it comes to business. There is nothing wrong with being a market leader who leads the way and sets industry standards.
The key is not to become too pleased with yourself and to let complacency creep in and blind you to the fact that you are no longer delivering the kinds of goods and services that your customers want. 
 If you allow yourself to become complacent then you really could be asking for trouble.
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