Business lessons from a toddler!

Last Thursday I had the absolute pleasure of being part of Bromford’s final Future Fifty event with guest speaker, CEO and founder of Ella’s Kitchen; Paul Lindley.

The day was the finale in a series of events that we hosted and it marked the anniversary of Bromford’s first ever Board Meeting in November 1963. In reflection of this we brought together old friends, colleagues and board members to hear from Paul, our CEO Mick Kent, see the launch of our YouCan Foundation and listen to some inspirational stories from a couple of Bromford’s customers.

Paul seized his opportunity to reflect on the significant milestones of the past 50 years and talked us through what he felt had changed, and hadn’t, during this time. You can watch the live-stream of the event again through our YouTube channel. But one of the highlights for me came in the second part of Paul’s presentation where he talked about the future of entrepreneurship and leadership. This was it for me, this is the thing that hooked my smile and I think caught everyone’s imagination around the room.

Is it the childlike behaviour or the Superman baby-grow that does it?

Is it the childlike behaviour or the Superman baby-grow that does it?

So here are Paul’s 6 business lessons from a toddler (with a few descriptions from me):

Never give up
How many times have you said to your children, or heard others say to theirs, to stop doing something – yet the little ones continue in their quest to do as they originally intended. Nothing will get in their way! For me, the determination of these little humans is unparalleled.

Be creative
Just this weekend I took delivery of a few Christmas presents that I’d purchased from an online book store. When my daughter copped her eyes on the said box her immediate reaction was; “Daddy a robot”. No, she hadn’t gone mad. She’d seen the cardboard surround as much more than just a box, she wanted me to turn it into a robot suit that she could wear. Don’t you just love that creative spirit?!

“Be childlike not childish in your work; have fun and be creative” ~ @Paul_Lindley

Get noticed
Kids are the life and soul of pretty much every family gathering. They stand out in every supermarket, are the main reason we make so much of Christmas and you’re likely to hear them before you’ve even seen them! Kids quite simply like to get noticed – no different from all aspiring colleagues and businesses I guess.

Be honest
Sometimes we don’t like to hear the truth, but if we’re not prepared to listen how can we possibly learn and move forward? Similarly we need to be honest with others, if they ask for feedback, are looking for advice or want your opinion – tell them what you really think. Toddlers have to be some of the most honest people you’ll ever know – they’ll tell you how it really is.

Show your feelings
Much like the honesty point above, it’s not often we will say to others how we really feel – but we should. We should open up more to other people, let them know if we’re feeling low and when we’re not ‘in the room’. A child is much the same, they will tell you when they’re hungry, when they are hurt and when they’re feeling poorly and could do with a hug – now, how good is a hug!

Use different strategies
Why do we continue to do the same things in the same ways time and time again? We tend to know what our objectives are and yet, despite our commitment to get the best result possible, continue to go about it in the same way we always have. Now, how often do we see children climb over things, go under things and around things that we say they shouldn’t? Is it really so wrong or should we just allow them to take on a new challenge just as we would want for ourselves and our customers?

“Some advice to new business: always, always be a toddler” ~ @Paul_Lindley

Being a parent to a 3 year old I totally get these points from Paul. So let’s cut through the waffle and the jargon and align our approach to business through the eyes of a toddler.

I’ve come up with a few extra of my own which I’ve turned into a Haiku Deck. What do you think? Are there any that you can think of that you’d like to add? Go on be honest, be creative, show your feelings and get yourself noticed!

Just to remind you that the recording of the live-stream from the event is available on our YouTube channel where you can see all of Paul’s presentation. You can also see the launch of our YouCan Foundation, hear from two of our customers whose lives have been touched by the work that we’ve done, and see an ‘interview in hashtags’ with our flamboyant leader; Mick Kent. You can also follow the tweets from the day in the two Storify’s we’ve put together here and here.

 

If you’re interested in reading more from Paul Lindley, his new book “Little Wins: The Huge Power of Thinking Like a Toddler” is available to order now from Amazon.

Tech out the future of Housing!

Future house

Technology is constantly evolving, and at a phenomenal pace. SMS messaging recently celebrated its 20 year anniversary yet it is no longer the primary form of communication through a mobile handset – not now social media has nestled its way into our everyday lives. The television set has been commercially available for almost 90 years but despite our appetite for soaps, films and live sport we are watching less on a traditional set and opting for other devices such as desktop PC’s, mobiles and tablets.

This story on the BBC tells how “Local Authorities had been required by law to provide council housing since 1919” and whilst there is still very much a demand for Social Housing – is the traditional service we once knew evolving into a service that offers more than just ‘Bricks & Mortar’? Here are some of my thoughts:

 

Social Media

Whether you prefer to tweet, like, post, pin, video or get linked in; chances are you are on Social Media and if you are it’s highly likely that people who reside in social housing are too – it’s just what people do these days. Social Media is happening, regardless of your viewpoint, but if you choose not to take part it will still continue to happen – without you! If customers are choosing to express their feelings about your business, positive or otherwise, isn’t it best to have a presence yourself and engage in that conversation? You might just learn a few things along the way too – for me personally, I find a wealth of information through my Twitter and LinkedIn accounts.

 

Self-service

Having the option to self-serve isn’t a new thing. Supermarkets and petrol stations have offered this facility for years and now with touch screens and smartphones in the hands of almost everyone, this drive will naturally gather more momentum over time. But will this catch on in Housing? At Bromford we firmly believe in helping our customers be as self-reliant as they can be which is why we launched our new Deal last year. But when will Housing reach the point that customers can do more for themselves digitally? Customers being able to pay their rent through a mobile device, accessing their statements, obtaining financial advice and support, booking a fuel service and diagnosing their own repairs, I’m sure these are all possible but will we ever truly go mobile with them?

 

Mobile Technology

Mobile technology continues to redefine how people and businesses are interacting with one another. According to this survey, at least 72% of mobile device owners use their devices for browsing or making purchases online. These people are online whilst they are waiting for appointments, watching TV and working yet what surprises me is that some organizations are choosing not to give mobile access to their services. However, there are some companies who are well and truly embracing what mobile technology can offer, like this fantastic project; Shared Walk (which you can read about in this post from Shirley Ayres). And mobile technology is not just for the benefit of the customer. There’s an opportunity here to introduce mobile learning and training for your employees, enhanced system integration so that users can access their desktop whilst they’re visiting customers’ homes, and at some point in the future we could see Google Glass in the workplace – now that would be something!

 

Reward Schemes

Reward schemes could be a great way to increase loyalty and incentivize engagement. Here at Bromford we trialed the government’s Tenant Cashback initiative last year, Sainsbury’s and BP have been connected with Nectar for years, Boots introduced Treat Street recently and Amazon now has Amazon Local. I think we’ve all heard of Groupon and Living Social and have a fair idea of how that works, this is what Groupon’s ‘about’ page says:

Groupon

How good would Social Housing be to offer that kind of experience to its customers in their communities?! Could this be that product that truly enriches the landlord/customer relationship?

 

3D Printing

Printing has, for a long time now, been a taboo in our offices. Many of us even carried taglines such as: “Please don’t print this e-mail unless you really need to” in our email signatures. But 3D Printing would no doubt be a welcomed addition to our work. Although we are still some way off from making this phenomenon both a timely and cost-effective tool, imagine a world of Social Housing where we are able to instantly print those boiler parts we need rather than having to wait for that 7 day turnaround from suppliers? Imagine if we could design and then print that new home your customer is longing for! What if we could print that new body part for that accident prone….OK, you get where I’m going with this!

 

Like I say, these are just a few of my observations and I’m sure many of you have some of your own. Social housing is so much more than just homes that people live in. At Bromford we’re about supporting people, inspiring, and creating opportunities. We’re about changing peoples’ lives for the better!

So where do you see the future of Housing? Where do you see technology playing a part in your workplace? Are there any technological advancement’s that you think would enhance the customer experience? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Let’s share facts about the Bedroom Tax

Bedroom Tax 1

In less than 3 weeks time there will be some big changes across the UK that will shake-up 1000’s upon 1000’s of people. Sadly I’m not talking about the long-awaited Glastonbury Festival line-up, nor am I talking about One Direction’s 23,000 capacity sell out gig at the O2 Arena in London. It’s of a serious matter that will see the launch of the Bedroom Tax, the first wave of changes brought about by the coalition government’s Welfare Reform.

Tickets for that One Direction gig I mention are selling for around £125 each on eBay. For somebody whose weekly rent is £100, that ticket price is equivalent to an average shortfall of under-occupying by 2 or more bedrooms, in a 5-week calendar month!

I’m no expert on these changes but I was asked recently to deliver a session on Welfare Reform as part of my Leadership journey. It was decided that we would use the time to open this up as part of a wider-discussion, to realise the impact these changes would have on our business, on our teams and most important of all; on our customers.

We could have spent forever discussing all the reasons why these changes are wrong, how sorry we feel for one another and asking the how’s and why’s. But we didn’t. Instead we had a small moment for reflection and spent a large sum of time digesting these changes, checking in with one another’s understanding and looking at the bigger picture implications of all this and what we need to do as a business, as leaders and as individuals to get us through this.

Goal posts

There is so much to absorb in all that is Welfare Reform, the goalposts are forever moving. Only yesterday Inside Housing reported of yet more amends to the Bedroom Tax which has led to planned protests being axed today. But my best guess is that yet more changes will come about as more pressure mounts on Iain Duncan Smith. This piece in the Telegraph included an online poll where over 83% of people felt that the changes were not fair.

So here at Bromford we’re doing our upmost to keep abreast of the changes; we’re forever updating our website; sharing our stories through Social Media channels such as Facebook, Twitter and Yammer; and we’re continually checking in with our customers to gauge their understanding of the changes and the impacts these will have upon their lives.

And I’d like to urge you and your organisation to do the same. The changes are going to happen regardless, we can’t do a lot about that, but we must ensure that our customers and colleagues are kept well informed and supported throughout this. I heard somebody say the other day that they felt there had been more publicity about the Digital TV Switchover than there has for Welfare Reform – and I agree. But could we, as a society, be doing more to change that? With the world going more and more digital and with social media becoming further acceptable in the workplace – do we have good reason not to share in our knowledge? The power of communication is in our hands.