The best phone for business?

Our mobile telephone contract at work is coming up for renewal later in the year. I know because I’m being offered all manner of enviable never to be seen again deals by countless companies. I know who they are when they call as the call always starts with ‘how is your day today’. As if they care really?


Since the initial iPhone was introduced that is what the business has had, across the board. We are on iphone5′s at the moment; rumours of an iPhone6 abound. The anticipated release date is September – so our contract timing might be good.

I like my iPhone as it is fairly bullet proof. It also syncs nicely with all of my mac gear. It is easy. But the battery life is nothing short of appalling – I think perhaps 6 or 7 hours at best.

And it has really lost its excitement factor. It is fairly boring.

At the weekend I had a look around the competition – and the Samsung Galaxy is clearly way out in the lead. Apple must be terrified of them. The screen is better, the camera so too. OK, it doesn’t run IOS but you are not tied to the Apple Store where Apple have a stranglehold on what you download and buy.

I have decided to try the Samsung as an experiment over the next few months. I’ll let you know how I get on…

How difficult is it to business in 2013?

I was trying desperately to avoid being negative on my blog. You’ll notice I have been quieter than usual – I am really busy at work at the moment. This probably bodes well for the property market – yes there is a bit of life in it…


And this particular post isn’t about trying to run a business in Nottingham at the moment. In case you don’t live here – it is an utter nightmare. My advice – stay away. It pains me to say this – but getting around this fair city is nothing short of a living nightmare! I can add probably 30 minutes to my day to get to and from my office – due to the Tram works. Telling me the long term gain will be worth it is likely to induce a fit of rage.

No, this post is about pensions. This Government – and previous ones have so messed up the systems that business is now having to pick up the pension mess. At my board meeting this week we were told that we need to start a process of registering staff on the new ‘NEST‘ scheme. The cost to set up – £15,000 and 1% of our ‘salary bill’ this year – next year it’s 2% then 3% the following year. In the first three years this will amount to c. £70,000.

Ignoring the ridiculous amount of red tape – think about the money – over a three year period this could be two jobs?

We pay a high rate of tax, National Insurance, VAT and all manner of other hidden taxes. The Government collect it all – make a mess of it and then expect (require) us to sort it out.

Still – you need to read about our MP’s pension arrangements to see just how this works – there’s a great article here.


Life’s essentials – wifi

I had lunch last week with Team Nottingham and our guest was Lilian Greenwood – MP for Nottingham South. Lilian is in the shadow Transport team and has specific responsibility for rail. That is clearly a really interesting gig – especially with HS2.


But we did have a discussion around more pressing things about rail. Notably the service from Nottingham to London on East Midlands Trains. I use the service a lot. In fact this blog post is (slowly) being written in Carriage G!

Many of the group in Team Nottingham have the opportunity to use the East Coast Main Line – and rave about it. It is quicker, cheaper and has brilliant wifi.

I wouldn’t suggest for one moment that EMT is cheap – unless you book in advance. And booking in advance takes away all flexibility. So if I miss my train that’s it – the ticket is worthless. It’s ok for EMT to be 5 minutes late but it’s not for me.

But my real issue is the wifi – which in first class if free. But free shouldn’t mean useless? The service is woeful. It is slow and frequently drops. Sometimes it’s better to tether to my iPhone. Except that the phone signal is equally poor. EMT have a quiet carriage where phones are banned, in my experience most of the carriages are quiet – because phones don’t work…

I know that technology moves quickly and it’s easy to get left behind. But wifi is now such a critical part of business that this is a top priority! It’s not just about trains, it’s actually about our cities. We need to make sure that people can connect and work almost anywhere. I wouldn’t dream of booking a hotel now unless it had free wifi.

One of life’s essentials?

The new office rules

I’m not sure if we employ any Druids in my office – I don’t think we do. But then again, it’s not one of our set interview questions. In future it might need to be.

lunchtime at the office

lunchtime at the office

We are going to need to ensure that we cover off a whole raft of ‘interest groups’ in future – so that we can fully respect everyone’s views.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission have laid down an edict to employers about respecting peoples deeply held beliefs. We must bow (or kneel perhaps) to make sure we don’t offend anyone.

Vegans may not now have to clean out a fridge that has stored meat. Druids are to get time off to head off to the Summer solstice at Stonehenge. Ecologists can’t be forced onto planes to go to business meetings for fear of destroying the plant through CO2 emissions.

This guidance has come about after a six year battle by British Airways check-in clerk Nadia Eweida who won the right to wear a cross at work in January. Instead of just saying that the cross was ok, the Commission have decide to add a pile more red tape to running a business. As if we don’t have enough already.

Still, I have a plan.

I have a deeply held belief that the Equality and Human Rights Commission resemble the devil incarnate. And therefore I will exercise my right to ignore them on all days except on Christmas day…

That should sort it.

Trams at the speed of a snail

It was a few days ago that I blogged about the Nottingham Tram. I acknowlegded that there was going to be a short term mess – the trade-off was long term gain. The blog post has come back and bitten me sur le cul.


Works started near my office to prepare the route for the tram before Christmas – they have taken out the central reservation of the estate service road and are merrily digging up the island. We are reduced to one lane, so speeds need to be kept to granny pace. And then some traffic lights arrived (for health and safety reasons) – they last about 6 yards. Most people are just ignoring them (not me, obviously).

Yesterday we were told that the contractors want to slightly alter our access route into the office. This will prevent to road from being one-way for 7 months. Instead it will be closed for just four months. Thus (and the mathematicians will have worked this out already) saving us three months of pain.

All very reasonable?

Well not really. The length of road concerned is about 1/4 mile. 7 months to lay four bits of steel? Even four months is difficult to grasp.

I couldn’t help reflect on my previous visits to China. In seven months they would have built the entire line, constructed the rolling stock from scratch, trained all of the staff and carried their first million passengers. And then had a month off to celebrate?

What is going on? Are we employing the kindergarten kids?

No such thing as a free lunch?

Although it’s an American study – I am guessing that the UK is no different. From a new poll of just over 1,000 New Yorkers it was found that:

* less than 20% of employees take a lunch break
* 39% eat lunch at their desk
* 28% report taking no lunch break at all
* More than 80% state that a “proper lunchtime” is a thing of the past

I’m not surprised. Our lives are so busy that the eating thing is just something we need to do to help us through the afternoon. It punctuates the working day – and has become almost a distraction.

It is compounded by the fact that we are now ‘always on’. Our phones distract us with their constant ‘ping’ as emails, texts or reminders pop up. Some people now have two phones – a personal one and a work one! we have iPads or Galaxies – and carry laptops around with us. We hanker after wi-fi points.

You do wonder if this is all healthy? Missing lunch is bad; sitting eating it in front of that big flat screen thing is worse?

Perhaps we should make the effort to get up – walk around and go and sit somewhere else to eat lunch? I was going to start today – but note that I have a meeting. Hmmm…

Business Attire

I saw last week that Mark Zuckerberg made the headlines for wearing a hoodie to a major business presentation. Of course my ‘geek hero’ Steve Jobs wore his black turtleneck tops, jeans and trainers (sneakers that should be?) for most of his latter keynote talks.

When I joined a professional office in the early 1980′s a suit and tie were de rigeur. Then we seemed to go through a series of ‘dress down days’. And then back to the suit and tie.

Now we seem to again be in a state of flux. I probably wear a tie less than I wear one. But I always wear a suit. Jeans would not be acceptable in the office. I will generally put on a tie where I know the client will do. Some clients don’t wear ties and so I probably wouldn’t. If I were presenting though – I would wear a tie.

A wise old friend (and client) of mine once asked me why this was. Why did I need to wear a tie? His view was that it was about ego. That it made me feel important. It gave me an edge. It put a marker down that I was in control – and occupied a higher place.

I can see his point to an extent, but I’m not sure I totally agree. I think it shows respect. I think it also gives an impression that I have made some sort of effort. That I was bothered.

He would always say to me that my advice (to him) is no different if I am wearing a suit and tie or jeans and tee-shirt though – and this is right. It isn’t different.

Fair point?

Business Growth off the scale

We are currently sat in the doldrums. There’s little cheer in our business world – it’s a pretty challenging place. My view is that there’s not much going to change in the short term – even though we try to stay positive. I hear of lots of people breaking-even. Profit is a rare word!

The profit is this big....

But then you see the Initial Public Offering (“IPO”) put out by Facebook. Started less than 10 years ago by the ultimate geek, Mark Zuckerberg, its turnover in 2011 was $3.7bn – returning a profit of $1bn. Thats a healthy 27% margin but look again at the numbers – a turnover of $3,700,000,000 (88% up on 2010) and their profit grew by 65% in the same period. It is the 6th most visited website in the USA and 4.1bn photos are uploaded annually!

It is difficult to comprehend the size of this business that was started in a University dorm room 8 years ago this month. Facebook has passed the 500million users mark – presumably on its way to the whole 7bn population of the world?

I do know people who communicate via Facebook rather than by text or by email. Certainly the young folks think email a bit pedestrian! Instant messaging to lots of people is the way forward (apparently!)

But this financial news comes hot on the heels of the story that Facebook is now quoted in 33% of UK Divorces! So it might not all be good!

But, you have to admire the simple idea of connecting people together via the internet – and then making a shedload of money from it. Mr Zuckerberg looks like he will have more money shortly than he could ever spend if he raises the anticipated $5bn from the sale…

A fascinating book – about Steve Jobs

In my second Christmas list I was trying to be helpful in setting out what people boys might like for Christmas – with a sort of Apple flavour. I didn’t get any of these things – mainly because, as it has been observed, I already own them…

I have already bought the Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson – although it is on my Kindle. I am still to start it – at over 650 pages, I am waiting for the right moment! But I did get another book for Christmas – “Inside Steve’s brain“. It isn’t quite the undertaking of the autobiography.

I have just finished it and it is a fascinating insight into the genius that was Steve Jobs. It focuses on the way in which he operated – mostly from interviews with people who were around him. Although some of the book feels a bit ‘padded’ in parts (I suspect there was no real access to the man by the author, Leander Kahney) there are some really interesting nuggets about how Apple worked.

In summary, it worked because of the drive of Steve Jobs. It worked because he had single-mindedness and an absolute belief in what he was doing. His attention to detail was legendary. His was a world of product differentiation. He was fascinated by materials and the way in which they could be used.

He had another skill – he surrounded himself with exceptionally talented people (like Jonathan Ive) (Sir Jonathan that should be!). The best of the best. I think this is a great business lesson. As he was employing the most talented people he could track down this raised the bar – the rest of the team had to aim a little higher. The opposite of this (and I saw this with one person I worked with in my days in a plc) is that you employ someone to make you look better – this just drags the quality down – not up.

The book is partly business coaching, part biography. It works better on the level of business lessons.

The autobiography is next … I don’t expect the review too soon though!

The Bin madness?

The leaves haven’t quite fallen from my trees yet and the grass still grows. The garden will need it’s winter tidy in the next couple of weeks – usually just before Bonfire Night! Then we can lock the garden down ready for the dark nights and grey days – for it all to start again next Spring.

A couple of years ago I was bemoaning the fact that we had three bins – and I know I’m lucky as some people have many more (unsure of the collective noun for bins – a Laden perhaps?). But we have grown used to the bi-weekly collections – even if I do have to check the colours of bins out on the road before I commit to traipsing mine out in the dark of night.

A couple of weeks ago I was astounded to find the Government suggesting they would re-introduce weekly collections at a cost of £250m. This is madness. Just after we have got in the habit of separating the stuff and living with longer collection gaps.

But more mad is that the City Council have decided I don’t need my garden waste collecting between 28 October and sometime unspecified day next April! The good news is that I can drive the waste to the recycling centre in Lenton. That’s certainly “green”!

I can only assume that this is part of the massive cost cutting exercise going on. The cuts are fine but, in this instance, rather misplaced. It’s a backward step. And one I don’t “get”. Am wondering if I should put the leaves in the green bin, after all they were the same colour at one time?

PS If this gives you the impression I am a gardener, I’m not.