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A New Future for British Manufacturing

In recent times there have been some very simple and powerful messages coined by the UK Government. The response to the coronavirus pandemic and supporting the NHS is a prime example.

When we move out of the present constraints on working, there will be real challenges to energise UK manufacturing and return to prosperity. Exports for UK production are vital as too international trade but there is a huge opportunity to balance the UK economy if we consume more of our own production.

The medical tasks will continue for some time, and the economic tasks must follow too. Buying British will create jobs and is necessary for a new future.

Time To Read

I have a very poor record when it comes to reading books. Don’t know why this should be, as I did learn to read when I was a child, but for some reason my rather limited attention span seemed to get in the way. So as I have consumed relatively few books in my life, the ones I have read must be quite special, or so you would assume?

Anyway, at the moment, with a little time on my hands, I have taken a look at what has been special to me. A book a month and so twelve of the best.

Some of the books, particularly the ones with a business theme, may not be considered as the most recent philosophies , but they were original at the time and are just as relevant today.

If you manage to get to the end of this review then you may well qualify for an award. In any case I hope it may spark something in your mind to think about the books you have loved.

A History of the World by Andrew Marr

Now, lets start at the beginning. Once upon a time there was a funny little man, his name was Andrew Marr and his favourite pastime was pretending to be Rambo when interviewing politicians, talking over them and generally being a bit of a plonker.

But no, perhaps it is a bit unfair of me to say that – and actually, this book, which was part of a BBC series, is really outstanding. Everyone should know where we came from and how we got to where we are now.

It is a book about the great change-makers of history and their times: people such as Cleopatra, Genghis Khan, Galileo, and Mao.

But it is also a book about us – for ‘the better we understand how rulers lose touch with reality, or why revolutions produce dictators more often than they produce happiness, or why some parts of the world are richer than others, the easier its is to understand our own times’. I think Andrew could add at least a couple of new chapters about the last few years!

48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene

Oh yes, its all about power. Who would not like to have the power to dominate others. This little book, takes you through the various stages of world domination. The reviews suggest, “teaches you how to cheat, dissemble, feign, fight and advance your cause in the modern world”. Wow. And also “at last a book to help you scheme your way into the upper echelons of power”.

Well, what could be better, and the path to follow is clear.

Law 1:

Never outshine the master

Law 2

Never put too much trust in friends: learn how to use enemies.

Law 3

Conceal your intentions.

Law 4

Always say less than necessary.

Well I have to say I would add in one more law. Invite Dominic Cummings to help you along the way.

Ben Hogan’s Five Lessons

Now, if you think that golf is a good walk spoiled, then perhaps this book is not for you. But I love it, and from the age of six I have been trying to master the game and still remain hopeful on that score! It is one of the most challenging sports there is, but one of the most rewarding. A sport of inclusion and equality. Because of the handicap system golfers of different abilities, men, women and even those who are not too sure, can all compete on an even basis.

This book is the only one you would ever need “The golf coaching bible” and “The best instructional book on golf you will find”. And it only involves five things. So what could be simpler. You should get onto Golfbidder.co.uk or one of those other second hand golf websites, and get yourself a set of bats. I can guarantee that you wont regret it.

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

I suppose if you had to choose a great pioneer and influencing force Steve Jobs is as good as any. Our lives have been transformed by technology in general and by Apple as innovators in particular. This book was a good read and chronicles the roller-coaster life and searingly intense personality of a creative entrepreneur whose passion for perfection and ferocious drive revolutionised six industries: personal computers, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing and digital publishing.

Some of his views are enlightening. “Picasso had a saying – ‘good artists copy, great artists steal’ – and we have always been shameless about stealing great ideas”. Pretty ruthless I guess. And when questioned if he did market research? “well no, because customers don’t know what they want until we show them”.

Mussolini. His Part in My Downfall by Spike Milligan

This could have been any one of the seven book set written by Spike about his adventures during the war, which also includes; Adolf Hitler, My Part in His Downfall and, Where Have All the Bullets Gone. His memoirs are an utterly original and outrageously subversive first hand account of the Second World War, as well as a hilarious and fascinating portrait of his early life. The term genius is often awarded liberally to somewhat less than deserving candidates but Spike is the real deal.

The books are all quite short and more laughs per square inch than is actually good for you.

There are so many Spike anecdotes its difficult to select any, better you find out for yourself. But I did come across one by him and although not in the book, it is quite topical – “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all the people some of the time, which is just long enough to be President of the United States”.

One day in the Life Of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

Now for a contrast in content and writing style. Non the less it is very readable and a classic from 1961. It is a brutal, shattering glimpse of the fate of millions of Russians under Stalin which not only shook Russia but shocked the world when it first appeared. Luckily for me it is also a short book at 143 pages.

In 1945 he was arrested and charged with making derogatory remarks about Stalin and for the next eight years he was detained in labour camps along side common criminals. The writing is profoundly personal. He was released in 1953 on the death of Stalin.

Enduring hardship is tough – “He’d had many strokes of luck that day: they hadn’t put him in cells; they hadn’t sent the team to the settlement; he’d pinched a bowl of kasha at dinner; he’d smuggled that bit of a hacksaw-blade through; he’d earned something from Tsezar and bought that tobacco. And he hadn’t fallen ill. He’d got over it. A day without a dark cloud. Almost a happy day. Phew, sounds a bit like life at the moment.

Who Moved My Cheese by Dr Spencer Johnson

There is a theme developing here! and another short book taking less than an hour to read.

I noticed it mentioned on LinkedIn recently and it reminded me of its importance. I read it in 1999 just after it came out and was struck at how it was applicable to almost anyone; in business, families and even to children. Critics said it was so simple even a child could understand it. It is very much about how you interpret the story and apply it to your situation.

I bought copies for all my team at the time as we were going to enter a period of change.

It’s “A rare book that can be read and understood quickly”. ” A road map to use as we deal with our circumstances around change”. “A fundamentally sound and memorable way of managing change”.

I particularly liked the introductory Quote, “The best laid plans o’ mice and men often go astray”. Robert Burns 1759 – 1796.

The Christian Bible

Now this is not a short book and it’s a collection of writings from many sources. In different faiths, there are different holy books all central to those faiths and Christianity with its bible has 2.2 billion followers. The Quran, where there are 1.6 billion Muslim followers. The Vedas for the 1 billion Hindu’s, The Tripitaka for the 376 million followers of Buddhism and so on.

My bible is rather worn, not so much from my reading, but it belonged to my great grandparents Archibald and Margaret Watson and is dated 1846. There is something comforting to hold an item that was used by generations of your family.

As a child I attended Sunday school, or rather, was heavily encouraged to do so, and the bible provided the set of rules and lessons that would form the foundations for the person I was going to become.

On the inside cover there is an inscription in pencil made by my Great Grandfather: Psalm 37-5. “Commit thy way unto the Lord, trust also in him and he shall bring it to pass”.

Jimi Hendrix, Electric Gypsy by Harry Shapiro and Caesar Glebbeek.

Oh and yes, the front cover photograph is by Linda McCartney.

Its the word genius again. Well, I cant think of a musician who has been so influential, innovative and uniquely gifted. If he appeared on the scene today, as he was back in the 1960’S, he would be totally contemporary in fashion and music. Anyway that’s my view and I know many will have other candidates. It is quite staggering to think that in September this year it will be 50 years since he died.

If you like rock history this is an excellent book, very well researched and written – “A major book…..the benchmark by which all future rock biographies should be judged”.

Although most people will think that it was my creative genius that came up with the tag line for Watson King as “Knowledge Speaks but Wisdom Listens”, actually it was words from Jimi. I followed Steve Jobs advice and stole it.

For One More Day by Mitch Albom

This book I read in 2003 at a time when there was lots of things going on. It was a time of significant change and as good fantasy novels often do, they take you out of the present and lets your imagination place you inside the story.

I heard it being reviewed on the radio and thought it interesting enough to get a copy, and it became one book that I read all the way through without a break.

“If you had the chance, just one chance, to go back and fix what you did, would you be big enough to stand it?”.

This book was a best seller and had some mixed reviews, being a work of fiction and one could say fantasy, that is perhaps not surprising.

In a conclusion to the story Mitch says,”I also believe that parents, if they love you, will hold you up safely, above their swirling waters, and sometimes that means you’ll never know what they endured, and you may treat them unkindly, in a way otherwise you wouldn’t”.

Mr China by Tim Clissold

A Wall Street banker, an Englishman and an ex-Red Guard……..and $418,000,000 disappearing, day by day.

More to come on China in the near future I think!

I read this in 2004 before I went to China on a business trip. I thought it would provide a little flavour to the excursion and perhaps provide a background to what I might find. It is actually a great story and a true one at that.

Of course times have changed and this story goes back to the early 90’s when China opened up for business, or more correctly, “lets see the colour of your money”. It is the incredible story of a Wall Street banker who went to China with four hundred million dollars to invest and learned the hard way that China does not play by western rules.

An interesting comment by Chairman Mao at the time sums things up.

“Everything under heaven is in utter chaos, the situation is excellent”

You cant escape the Clan even in Shanghai

Ogilvey on Advertising by David Ogilvy

On first view this may seem like a boring old book. But no, just hang on a minute. Do you realise just how programmed we have become about the products and the brands we like. The fact that we shop at Waitrose rather than Asda or drive an Audi rather than a Ford is not a coincidence, its because we have been got at by those naughty advertising boys and girls.

I was intending to be a copywriter but changed tack as at the time I needed to attended Oxford or Cambridge to be selected to join a London agency’s graduate intake. But I did study advertising in great detail and what I found tells me that today a large part of advertising is really exceptionally poor. Yes, I know that the advertising elite are paid lots of dosh to fritter away clients money, but I know better!

If you don’t believe me then try this little test for yourself. If during the TV Ad break you don’t stop and watch the advertising, which is probably because it does not draw you attention, then that is the first problem. Next problem is you don’t remember the product name or indeed what it is for. Then, really what is the point of the advertisement? For example do you more mature readers remember, “Beans Meanz Heinz”, “a Mars a day helps you work rest and play”, Heineken Reaches the parts ………., well, can you finish this off? Of course you can. All of these great Ads linked the brand name,the product and what it does for you.

Ah yes, well lets talk about the book and not the rant. The first book I read by David Ogilvy was Confession of An Advertising Man, published in 1963, and can you really believe that the principles laid out at that time are still the same today! Ogilvy on Advertising was published in 1983, after I had finished my studies, but it is a classic and wraps up all the theory.

And Finally

Love and kisses etc. Keep safe and drink plenty of good wine.

At the End of the Tunnel

When the economy and businesses return to a life with a reduced threat from the pandemic, there will be many things that will happen. It is likely that the dam holding back activity will open its gates. Whether that is a steady flow or a flood is open to speculation, but for industry to respond it has to be prepared.

No this is a Shanghai food store when I last visited China.

There will no doubt be a serious inquest on the outbreak and how it came to be. We know about the source of course, but inquests are a distraction from the essential task of protecting business and all that this means to employees, stakeholders and future economic prosperity. Not to mention the repayment of a huge financial debt.

My view on sourcing of components and products from low cost sources is rather mixed. I have in the past used the far east to procure well priced components with highly economic tooling cost and that has been successful. The global economy is just that, global and mutually beneficial. But looking forward I see a new opportunity for UK sourcing of products and components. I would also include our near neighbours across Europe in the post B***** environment (a word I must not utter) where we must continue to trade and cooperate.

The British “stiff upper lip” requires the view that things could have been worse.

My focus is not though about sourcing and the political fallout from the inquests to come, but how important it is that businesses prepare themselves for the future immediately. The difficulties in maintaining a business when your markets shrink or even start to disappear are considerable and many may not have experienced this before. After all, August 2008 must seem like a stroll in the park compared to today. But one thing is vitally different and that is the longevity is nothing like the financial crisis of before.

I consider it vital that businesses should have in place a post virus strategy that prepares them to rebuild their markets and their market share. One small example I have noticed is that some businesses have welcomed Government interventions to support the cost of staff being furloughed. Take the money and happy days to follow perhaps? Staff of course cannot do any work at all, which is OK for some functions, but in business development and the maintenance of marketing strategy it certainly is not OK.

If your competitors have their foot off the gas, now is the time is to go and eat their lunch before they eat yours. And while you are at it have their breakfast and dinner as well.

Hello have you heard to story about “a wolf in sheeps clothing”. Well………………

The customer relationship through the Sales and Marketing process is just one example. A business needs to look at all aspects of “being fit” and I would recommend setting up a group of senior managers and relevant staff to plan things out. Everything should be in the mix, supply chains, purchasing, marketing, HR, customer services, finance, manufacturing etc. Also give it plenty of creativity as being different from your much thinner competitors is important.

Those who know me will be quite aware of my affinity with quality poetry and prose. I have on occasions quoted the bard Robert Burns, and so here is a toast to UK business and manufacturing. “Here’s tae us. Wha’s like us? Damn few”.*

*Translation. “Here’s to us. Who is like us? Damn few”

What Really Happened to Boris – revisited.

I can hardly believe that it is nearly three years since I published the piece below on LinkedIn, but thought you may like to reflect on it again.

Now, I am not casting doubt on anyone’s credibility and although Mr Gove did stab Mr Johnson in the back during the last leadership contest, I am sure he is a reasonable chap. And taking illegal substances when you are young and in a different career, is no eternal sin, it could possibly even make you seem a little more attractive. But perhaps taking cocaine a number of times when you are a thirty-year-old journalist, and then writing about it in a way that could be labelled hypocritical…….well……let me see, is this someone we can trust?

The Piece below was published 1 July 2016 during the Conservative Party leadership debacle.

What really happened to Boris is rather interesting. Those who pull the strings in the Tory party, and unfortunately, I can’t name them, decided that they had lost their nerve and it really could not have him at the helm of the country. The Monday morning article in the Telegraph showed that he was exhibiting some flaky tendencies and had to be stopped. So, phone calls were made.

Tory Chap. Hello Michael. Look we think Boris is going to make a cods of it and we need to stop him in his tracks. So, we think you should jump ship and stand yourself and that will split Boris’s support and you will be the leading contender.

Gove. But he may well beat me.

Tory Chap. No no we will call Boris and tell him what is happening, and he will withdraw at the last minute leaving you clear.

Gove. But I said years ago I didn’t have what it takes to be PM, and wont everyone think I am a back stabber.

Tory Chap. No, of course not, and no one will remember what you said a few years ago. They have even forgotten what you did at the Department of Education. So, the plan is you to put yourself forward on the grounds that Boris is not the man to unite the party and country. And perhaps before you announce you are running,  get your wife to leak a random eMail to sow a few doubts. Good luck.

So the plot thickened and the split was announced and then more calls.

Tory Chap. Hello Boris. Look we think there is a problem here and it is unlikely that you will get the backing of the party and it could all end up rather bad for you. So we would like you to stand down to let Michael go forward. Don’t worry though, you will get a great job in the new government and anyway the next four years will be a nightmare for the new PM and its likely in 2020 they will be gone. Then guess who we can call on to unite the party and country.

Boris. Err……..Nigel.

Tory Chap. No silly…..it’s you. You would have four years more experience, the country would be in turmoil and they would demand a hero to emerge. What do you think?

Boris. Your off your ******* head Nigel. I’ve prepared myself for this…… and I’ve ordered all those new suits from M&S.

Tory Chap. Boris, don’t call me Nigel, someone may be listening, and no one knows who I am.

Boris. Of course they know. And about Tony, Ken, Nick, George, Norman and all the rest.

Tory Chap. Well Tony is not involved any more as he has the Chilcot Report coming out soon. Anyway, will you do it. It’s for the Queen and country you know.

Boris. OK, as long as I can tease all those stupid press trolls at the conference and announce I am not standing, right at the last moment.

And so, it came to pass and very soon the phone lines were buzzing again.

Tory Chap. Ah Michael. All is going kind of to plan, …….. but, the feedback is……well……it’s just that many in the party and in the country still love Boris and think you are…….err…..they think you are a back stabbing, slimy little cretin. We of course think they just don’t understand .

Gove. What!….you said it would be plain sailing.

Tory Chap. Well that’s politics. Now, there is something else come up. We think that it doesn’t really need a pro Brexit candidate for PM. In fact, the others think that it needs someone untainted by proceedings and someone who looks good in Coco Chanel. So, we are going to………..

……………….Then I woke up. It had all been a dream. Well that will teach me to eat a cheese sandwich so late. How could such a strange tale be true.

Brexit. Uncertainty is damaging industry

There is no doubt that the uncertainty surrounding leaving the European Union is damaging industry. The one example of the furnishing industry where I have considerable experience is no doubt echoed in many other sectors that are vital to the UK economy. My letter published in the Telegraph on Saturday 23 February reflects this view.

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While politicians continue to pose and pout for the media, good businesses are feeling the full affects of delays by their customers in making purchasing decisions. Sure it will be alright eventually but time is money and when cash runs low damage is not far behind.

Deal or no deal is not a game show and politicians should remember that. Of course a deal is highly preferable but as its taken all this time since 2016 to get frankly not that far, just how long could a delayed exit take? They need to get on with it.

 

The Example of Important Life’s

I read the obituaries in the Telegraph on a regular basis. It was Bill Conte, a building contractor, who in 1962 said “when I get up in the morning I read the obituaries. If I don’t see my name, I go to the office”.

I am not so well known to ever appear in the newspapers, but there are many, mainly not household names, who do. It allows us to share their experiences, amazing life’s and the contributions they have made to the world. Fergus Anckorn is one of those. If you ever feel down or unmotivated, I can recommend a daily energy boost in the columns of whatever newspaper comes your way.

Colin Watson

 

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FERGUS ANCKORN, who has died aged 99, began his career as a conjurer called “Wizardus” aged 18 when he was the youngest member of the Magic Circle; by the time of his death he was its oldest and longest-serving member.

In later life Anckorn revealed how magic tricks had saved his life during three-and-a-half years of captivity as a prisoner of war of the Japanese, during which he became known as “the conjurer on the River Kwai”. He survived several brushes with death including one of the most heinous crimes of the 20th century – the massacre of patients and medical staff by Japanese soldiers at the Alexandra Military Hospital, Singapore.

fergus_anckorn_1HERO

One of four children of a journalist, and one of boy-girl twins, Fergus Gordon Anckorn was born on December 10 1918 at Dunton Green, near Sevenoaks. At the age of four he was given a magic set by his mother and as a young boy would perform tricks at parties. In 1936, after education at the Judd School, Tonbridge, he became the youngest member of the Magic Circle.

Encouraged by his father, he took a course in journalism, but never pursued it as a career. Instead he worked as a clerk at the Marley Tile Co in Sevenoaks until the outbreak of war in 1939.

He enlisted as a gunner in the 118th Field Regiment Royal Artillery, where he met the artist Ronald Searle. Soon afterwards he became ill with a serious skin condition and spent time in Joyce Green hospital, Dartford, where he met his wife to be, Lucille Hose, a nurse. While still stationed in Britain, he and Searle organised concert parties before they were both shipped out to the Far East, arriving in Singapore in early February 1942.

Anckorn had his first narrow escape two days after his arrival when, on duty at the docks, he and his colleagues were dive-bombed by the Japanese. With no time to reach shelter, he plunged into the sea, re-emerging to find that five of his companions had been blown to pieces.

A few days later, shortly before the fall of Singapore, he was ordered to drive a lorry carrying a live shell which had become jammed. He ran straight into an air raid and the shell exploded. He was eventually found lying in a storm drain, so badly wounded that his dog-tags had already been removed and handed in.

Barely alive, suffering from burns and shrapnel wounds, and with his right hand dangling from his arm by a piece of skin, Anckorn was taken to Alexandra Military Hospital where a surgeon decided not to amputate after discovering that he was a conjurer.

Anckorn was unaware that a Japanese salient had been driven deep into the British defence line and the hospital had become isolated in the middle of no-man’s land. On the morning of February 14 Japanese troops entered the building in force and unleashed an indiscriminate orgy of killing, shooting or bayoneting patients and staff.

Semi-conscious and covered in blood, Anckorn was in a ward on the ground floor when he heard a commotion and saw the flash of blades as Japanese soldiers in full battle-gear moved from bed to bed, bayoneting the occupants. Convinced he was about to die, he muttered to himself, “poor Mum” and pulled a pillow over his head, not wanting to witness “the moment of penetration”.

Instead, he was astonished when, instead of the searing pain he was expecting, he heard the cries of the man in the next bed; the Japanese, apparently thinking that he must be dead, had passed him by: “When I came up for air, I discovered I was one of four men who were still alive. The other 72 in my ward had been murdered. The ground floor was a scene of total carnage while, upstairs, the killing continued.”

By the time the Japanese left, about 200, mostly British, victims had been murdered.

The survivors were taken to Changi Jail, where Anckorn somehow managed to survive with his crippled leg and smashed right arm (saved by introducing maggots to devour the gangrene) for several weeks before he was sent north with thousands of others to work on the Burma Railway.

There, though still weak from his injuries and lack of food, he was put to work on the Wampo viaduct. He had another miraculous escape when, ordered to carry scalding creosote up the viaduct, he had an attack of vertigo and found himself unable to move, whereupon a Japanese guard emptied the creosote over him, causing his skin to blister and swell.

After saying goodbye to his friends, he was taken to the hospital at Chungkai camp in Thailand: “Three weeks later they were all dead. If I hadn’t been burnt I would have been dead as well.”

His wounds began to heal and as he gained strength he began to do some simple magic tricks to entertain his fellow prisoners. Word reached the camp commandant, Osato Yoshio, who, despite his reputation as a sadist, turned out to be a devotee of magic.

Osato summoned Anckorn to his office, handed him a coin and was amused to see it disappear – then reappear in an opened tin of fish he had sitting on his table. Since the Japanese would never touch any food “contaminated” by the prisoners, Osato then gave Anckorn the half-empty tin.

Realising that if he continued to do magic with food he could supplement his meagre rations and those of his friends, he asked for more food to use as props.

If you got caught stealing a potato you could have your head cut off,” he recalled. “But the guards did like magic and I’d often manage to get food from them by making it ‘disappear’.”

On one occasion he almost overreached himself when he performed a vanishing egg trick for a visiting general. Camp commandant Osato had written him a note so that he could obtain an egg from the Japanese soldiers’ kitchen. The note did not specify a single egg, so Anckorn asked for 50, all but one of which he gave to his friends.

The performance went well, but the next day he was summoned by Osato to explain what had happened to the other 49 eggs. After a brief moment of panic, he improvised, “Your show was so important, I was rehearsing all day.”

FERGUS_ANCKORN2_1

“He nodded and let me go,” Anckorn recalled. “I think to this day he probably knew that I was lying but it was enough to save his face … I couldn’t perform that trick again for 40 years. My knees would knock even thinking about it.”

Anckorn continued to perform magic tricks as he was transferred to other camps. One day in 1945, however, he thought his luck had run out when Japanese guards took him out into the jungle with four fellow soldiers, stood them up against trees and trained a machine gun on them: “We waited for the bullets for 10 minutes … then for some reason [they] thought better of it.” When the prisoners got back to the camp they found the war had been over for three days.

Despite being away from England for years, Anckorn was detained in Rangoon for three months as he “looked too horrible” and needed fattening up, though by the time he arrived in Liverpool on the SS Orbita Rangoon, he still only weighed six stone.

To begin with he found freedom almost too hard to bear. He became something of a recluse and suffered nightmares for many years until he revisited Singapore in 2005 and finally banished his demons.

Shortly after the war he had married his sweetheart Lucille, with whom he had a son and daughter. In 1951 the nerves in his injured hands were reconstructed by surgery and he went on to make a complete recovery.

As well as performing as a magician, Anckorn, an old-fashioned gentleman who rarely left his house without a tie, worked as a teacher at West Kent College.

In 2016, during the 10th series of Britain’s Got Talent, he was featured, aged 97, during the final act of the magician Richard Jones, a serving soldier in the Household Cavalry, who went on win the series.

“I am probably the luckiest man alive. I’ve been blown up, I’ve been shot. I’ve survived a massacre and I also got away with that egg trick,” Anckorn said. “Every day is a wonder to me.”

Anckorn’s wife, Lucille, predeceased him. His children survive him.

Fergus Anckorn, born December 10 1918, died March 22 2018

You can find the original Article below

https://lnkd.in/gfdAkwh

Social Media of Top 100 European Workplace manufacturers reviewed

At Watson King we surveyed the websites of the *Top 100 European manufacturers of Workplace furnishing products. The results showed that 13% use no form of Social Media at all and 25% use less than three types. There are also some surprising results on which the most popular channels are.

There is evidence to suggest that some companies are unsure about the most effective way to use social media channels and which ones may be the most appropriate to select. Also, there appears to be fundamental issues on how to integrate social media and communication channels to get the best results.

Social Media Types
13% of Top European Manufacturers use no social media

The way in which companies set up to communicate with their clients, tends to follow very traditional methods and separate the three key elements in Social Media and Communication (Smac).

The three are

  • requesting “Please Follow us” so we can tell you important things
  • please “Share our information” so important information goes to your network
  • here is how we can “Make Contact” so we can talk and help you

Having these functions in separate places on a web site is inefficient and with a little creativity could be much more effective.

So, does all this really matter? Well some companies without Social Media content are very successful, but the exception to the rule only really works if you are seasoned marketeers.

If you were thinking “what is the most popular Social Media tool”, you are quite likely to say it’s Twitter, but you would be wrong, just like me……. its Facebook with 72% of companies using it. That was a surprise, as many consider it more relevant for personal use and sharing what you had for breakfast.

The next in line then must surely be Twitter, but again wrong, at 59% it is LinkedIn, once more something of a turn up for the books. So of course, the favourite tool of many a twit, must be in third place and the proud recipient of the bronze medal, but no, yet another surprise as it goes to You Tube, with 56% of the companies surveyed using it.

So, let’s see who could possibly be in fourth place. Taking a wild guess, it may be, ………perhaps Amazon. Well would you believe it, wrong again, at long last, its Twitter, with 47%.

SM

Looking at the others, it is neck and neck with Pintrest on 44% and Instagram scoring 43%. Then a sizeable gap to Company Blogs which reached a reserved 17%, and the one-time great white hope Google+ with 14%, which shows that it appears to have missed the boat. The final score goes to Xing at 11%, and if you are in Germany it will be familiar, otherwise you may not have heard about it. There is then a smattering of other channels such as Tumblr, Reddit, Flikr, Myspace, Vimeo and Foursquare but these are used by only one or two companies.

So, what do you think about that?  We conclude that are there too many options and does everyone really have enough time for them. Frankly though, it doesn’t really matter as the recipients will tune into whatever they think is right for them and you should probably cater for that.

When reviewing all these web sites, it is not obvious if there has been in-depth consideration of which Smac tools are best to use, and in some cases, there may be little analysis at all, but a decision taken to do them all and hope for the best.  And some companies, it appears, are oblivious to social media and just ignore it. Whatever the reason there is a case for looking at this more carefully.

Are They all the Same and Do They Work? Of course, when you come to select, it is important to remember that these tools do not all do the same thing. You Tube is a place to store video output and Twitter tells you where to go, sometimes quite literally. Pintrest is a photo library and Instagram similar with added commentary. LinkedIn is a great business and person search engine and distributes news and information professionally.

So, when the analysis is done and dusted, the final selection should really form part of a strategy that is driven by Marketing objectives, and communication targets. I would say that the process needs to be thought about, not left to chance and it would benefit from some good professional advice.

It is also true that the more social media you use the more you must keep up to date, but again with the right strategy and tools like Hootsuite, you can plan a week or a month ahead and distribute information and communication automatically.

Our recommendation in the selection of social media should cover most bases, perhaps not Google+ but include a company Blog. The figures in our study do seem low, but as an option it can be a good addition and will link with your other social media content.

Company or Personal. Having a Company specific social media platform is important for many reasons, but it is important to  consider the “unintended” consequences when this strategy becomes blurred.

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Protect your business contacts

Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn in particular, are also popular with individuals.During someone’s career they can build a very large following and this is usually courtesy of their company.  When they leave they may well take with them, your social media property. Do we hear some voices, mainly those in charge, saying naughty, naughty, and other saying no please don’t mention that. Ooops too late.

Is My Web Site Important? With the popularity of social media and online portals, some may believe that the web site has taken on a less important role. Well, in our opinion it is quite the opposite. The website is and should always be the core of any company’s commercial activity. It is where you want clientele to go and stay for as long as possible. Where they can extract information, find out about you and how you can help them, becoming a good and familiar friend. More time with you and less with competitors.

The website is the businesses library and knowledge centre. If you like, it is the brain and so needs to be exercised regularly. And, as our attention spans are short it must dispense information efficiently which means being intuitive and simple to understand.

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The website is a company’s intelligence centre

Having reviewed so many web sites there are obviously quite a few sights. The good, the bad and the downright ugly, and oh yes there is also the plain. But generally, we have concluded that most are above average, with some very good and about 15% in the category of “please stay behind and see me after class”. There are areas for most to improve.

Quality not Quantity Social media tools are the messengers issuing invitations to come to the party (on the website) and we all want to go to the best parties. These messages have to say “I have something interesting to show you, to tell you. Come and have a look”. But this is not always the case, in fact in our experience a large amount of the posts on social media are a waste, totally boring, saying the same as many others and the fact that very often few people actually like or share a post is a failure. Receiving an endless stream of news about the latest product update, a new work practice blueprint found buried in a Cologne bar, lots of people drinking at our party last night, and others like this, are in our view counterproductive. When you become trusted to provide really good information you have more chance of being noticed, even if this is on a less frequent cycle. Quality not quantity.

The Big Issue. One criticism we have with many websites, is the almost universal lack of coordination of Social Media and Communication (Smac).

Trill PS
Tweeting not just for the birds

Links to social media and ways for visitors to make contact or make an enquiry are seldom in the same place and certainly don’t seem to have the same priority or quality as other more visual areas. Link Buttons are not always obvious and generally positioned at the bottom section of the web site. The “Contact Us” section is generally poorly designed, bland and if there is an extensive form to fill in it can put off visitors.

Our recommendation for a more effective web site, is to have in one place a Smac area where visitors can see what is available, what benefits they will get from being involved. Include attractive invitations to subscribe to your social media channels and how they can contact you and vice versa.  This area should be the clearly visible and visually appealing, and no matter where you are on the site it should only be one click away. The objective should always be to gain the maximum interaction which leads to the generation of business.

* The Top 100 Office Furniture Manufacturers Report, which lists the top 100 companies, is produced on a quarterly basis by the FEMB (European Office Furniture Manufacturers Federation). It is available to the members of the FEMB. www.femb.org

Standing Desks do more harm than good.

An article in the Telegraph on Saturday 24 February suggested that “Standing desks do more harm than good” and that they “increase lower body pain and slow down people’s cognitive functions at work”. Experts also warned that the “feverish” trend towards adopting the adjustable desks has little evidence to support their use.

The study, was published by the journal Ergonomics where researchers at Curtin University in Australia observed 20 people working at standing desks for two hours! Also, Professor Alan Taylor, a physiotherapy expert at Nottingham University said: “The bottom line is that this expansion has been driven more by commercial reasons than scientific evidence”

Oh, I do love academia when they don’t understand the context, so I just had to write to the Telegraph.

Dear Sirs

The article in Saturdays Telegraph reporting on research that suggested Standing Desks do more harm than good is interesting, but the source and interpretation of the information lacks one key element, and that is common sense. If you are going to stand at work at a desk for long periods of time it is of course going to be tiring, and it may well cause discomfort in various body parts. This will certainly make concentration more difficult. Moving around is more important than the process of only standing on the spot for long periods of time. And who precisely is suggesting that office workers should do this.

These height adjustable products are not designed to replace sitting but give the user the opportunity to adopt a way of working that suits them best. The very fact that they can be adjusted will accommodate different sizes and heights of people including those who use wheelchairs. Often called “sit stand desks” (the function is in the name) they provide the facility to sit, and when required to stand, such as meetings for small groups. It is a well-known fact that meetings held when standing are concluded more quickly.5e08e1923d1c830cca0544222fafc889

The efficiency of the workforce relies on a workplace that provides an environment that is flexible to support working on different tasks and in different ways, whether that is on one’s own, or interacting with others. This means having furniture that allows a choice on how to work, and employers adopting enlightened practices that are in tune with their business, and their employees. The common-sense solution to physical well-being, is to adopt and encourage a routine that includes cycles of movement.

I was once asked the question on the Radio 4 PM show hosted by Eddie Mair, “would the trend of standing in the office be the end for the office chair”. They put this to the test by standing throughout the whole show. My answer then was, you can sit, you can stand, you should certainly move around, and you really must use common sense. As for the cost of office furniture (something also raised in the Telegraph), especially the chair and an adjustable work surface? Well, employers should invest in the best possible products that provide efficiency and comfort. Workers will be more effective and after all they probably spend more time at work than they do in bed – and would anyone, given the choice, want to sleep in an uncomfortable bed?

I am quite sure that the Workplace industries are encouraging their clients to use these excellent products in the most effective ways, and when necessary further advising the Experts in academia.

Colin Watson

Secretary General: The European Office Furniture Federationfemb_Logo_GB_2_RGB_150dpi

BBC Interview 

 

I’D Rather Sit

The suggestion that we should all stand for at least two hours or even up to four hours a day in the office has been suggested by an article in the Guardian (say no more). p04k7jkc

In the Radio 4 PM show hosted by Eddie Mair, they put this to the test by standing throughout the whole show. The question it raised was, would this trend really be the end of the road for the office chair. And was it a bright new future for “sit stand” desks

Well, they asked my opinion and we had a wee chat about it.

The Naked Designer

“All Business and Life are about Selling”. Well that’s what Mark Price (Lord Price) the previous Managing Director of Waitrose and former Minister with the Department for International Trade said in a recent book, Workplace Fables: 147 True Life Stories. I like Mark Price and his writings but certainly don’t agree with his view about selling.9ec8afdb0e3df837587417d1de27faaf

To me business and life are about Design. Just close your eyes and imagine life without it. If your imagination could handle this, then when you opened your eyes, you would be standing in a field stark naked, because nothing apart from nature would exist. If you had bad eyesight things would be blurred and any illnesses could not be medicated. You may even have trouble eating unless you found some palatable vegetation or a creature willing to be caught, unless of course it did not eat you first.

The point is, everything is first designed, then engineered, prepared for production and then comes the marketing bit, which includes selling. All the engineering, manufacturing and marking elements are also driven by design. Without creativity you don’t even get to the starting gate.

I believe that every company should place design and creativity on their board agenda and ensure it has a champion. Companies who innovate in all aspects of their business are more likely to compete at a more consistent level. The creative champion, who I believe should have a strong influence on Marketing and Design, should also understand the commercial aspects of creativity and what customers need.

Touch Gold 001
Design is the Midas touch.

The word “need” is hugely relevant, as what a customer wants to buy, they do not always know. Take the popular anecdote about why you buy a power drill, is it for the drill? No, you are buying holes. In which case any device that makes accurate holes in the most effective way, is what they want.

So, understanding customer needs before, during and after the design process is why design and marketing are so closely related – “Anticipating, identifying and satisfying customer needs profitably” was the foundation of my business education.

The design champion on the Board should also establish, protect and promote the ethics of original design. For some reason the legal protection of “design rights” in products has struggled to reach the same standard as Patent and Copyright © legislation, even after years of campaigning, and the process of protecting original design is particularly challenging for smaller companies.

Designers may at times conjure from their imagination things they have seen in the past through education and experience, but the real source of many breaches are intentional, and in my experience, have been driven by a demand to make original designs at a lower cost. Any business accepting a request to plagiarise an original design, even when subterfuge is employed, cannot plead innocence, as what they must do as a routine, is confirm design ownership. DiageoAukett 007

Registering designs is highly advisable as the intentional infringement of a registered design is now a crime enshrined in 2014 IP Act. Section 53 of the CPDA (Copyright, Designs and Patents Act). Registration can be done at the IPO (Intellectual Property Office) now relatively easily with online registration, although you need finance to enforce!  There is also a very useful service available from ACID (Anti Copying in Design) who can store designs on their IP Database and have additional services to support the protection and the marketing of designs. Worth exploring, I think.

There is really no need for designers to experience the chill of being naked. By raising the importance of design to Board level and taking a proactive stance with the process of designing new products, these valuable assets can achieve the reward they deserve.

In a future article I will look at how to develop profitable new products with a tried and test process, which is applicable to companies of any size.

Useful Contacts

www.acid.uk.com

www.gov.uk/government/organisations/intellectual-property-office