If you want to move mountains tomorrow you must move rocks today

This is an African proverb I came across recently and thinks it’s an excellent metaphor for the challenges a manager faces.

The mountains

So yes as a manager or leader your job is to make sure that your team/department company is heading in the right direction, and most importantly that your team know what direction you are heading. Your team want to know why they are moving these rocks – what’s the point!

Deciding the direction is the easier part of the process, once you’re clear on the direction making sure every you do is imbued with that goal is the only way you’ll get there.

I use a few techniques to help me:

  1. Set your system password to be your goals, if they are SMART then they’ll include numbers, this reinforces the goal several times a day. eg “Wewillgrowby20%”
  2. Record the overall goal along with the steps towards it at the back of your notebook, that way you can refer back to them whenever you are in a meeting to keep yourself on point.

The rocks

This for me is the real work of management, making sure the rocks are moving in the right places, the best people are doing the moving – that’s hard really hard.

Frederick Herzberg is one of the fathers of management theory, he is most famous for his work on “hygiene factors” these state that things like work environment, conditions &  controversially pay are hygiene factors, if they are bad they can be demotivating but if they are great they aren’t motivating. This plays to the commonly held belief that pay is a short term motivator to which I totally subscribe, anyone who I know who has asked for a pay rise has left with 12 months – being given one totally different.

For him the primary motivators are job enrichment, that is giving people challenging interesting work to do, think about the scientists behind the Rosetta missions – they aren’t motivated by their salaries, they are motivated by doing some incredibly challenging stuff with freedom to chose how they do it.

Now getting people excited about landing a robot millions of miles away is quite easy but how about growing sales in a software business by 20% – yeah bit tougher…. but the principal remains the same – people need to feel that the work they do matters, that they are in control.

It’s really easy to make the interesting decisions yourself leaving the day to day to your team but thats giving them rocks to move with no view or influence on the mountain – that seems unfair to me!

Don’t delegate tasks, delegate goals, the mistake people make in this situation is that they think that because you’ve delegated a goal that you can’t check progress, this comes back to the way you delegate. Pulling this together an simplified exchange moves from:

“Move those rocks”


“we need to move this mountain, by this route”


“We need to move this mountain, not sure how I’ll leave that to you, we need to get there this year so you can get back for your wedding, can you put together a plan we can regularly catchup on”

So next time you’re delegating or addressing a new goal, check

1. Am I being consistently clear on the goal

2. If delegating am delegating goals or rocks

3. Am I making it matter to me and those around me?


The final thing I learnt whilst growing Pure360

The final thing I learnt while growing Pure360


So as I’ve recently started at Cision as UK MD I figured I should probably finish off this series of posts because already I’ve got enough to do a set on “what I’m learning at Cision”.

To finish one for the sales management team, there are 3 tips I want to share for running a successful sales team and they are forecasting, forecasting and forecasting,

Accurate sales forecasting should be the cornerstone of any sales operation, the trouble is that an average of sales team forecasts a number, that number they may hit they may not hit but it’s just one number.

Good sales teams forecast deals, so a list of deals they think are going to come in

But great sales teams forecast deals, dates and a big number. If your sales people can’t accurately forecast a date when the deal is coming in then they aren’t in control of the deal. The ability to control a deal the pinnacle of a pyramid of knowledge a sales person should know in order to consistently deliver revenue.

A non exhaustive list would be:

Understand the finance or procurement involvement

This has increased significantly since the global economic meltdown in 2008, even deals of £5000 often have to be reviewed by a FD or procurement team, a salesperson should know these processes and help guide the deal through them – be proactive get the finance guy or girl on the phone  – when are they in the office over the next week or so ? How long does it usually take to process a purchase order? If you speak to them prior to their internal team they will be prepared for your paperwork and so be able to process it even quicker.


Understanding the decision making process

Are you talking to a decision maker, an influencer, an interested 3rd party? What is their gravitas in the organisation, can they get stuff done, what is their level of approved signoff? Again how long does this process usually take. A good way of finding this out is to picking a product that is similar in size and importance and ask them about this. Using email marketing as an example, asking how they bought the platform the last time it can be a bit obvious what you’re doing. However if you ask about who was involved when they appointed their SEO agency – at similar cost and importance to email marketing you’re more likely to get the answers you need.


An obvious one but as I’ve blogged about before CID is a great way of working out whether nd when a deal will come in – the compelling event is the key one here. What event is going to force  decision, a large marketing campaign or a renewal date of the incumbent product are great timelines to work to – as they generally can’t change. “When the website is finished”, “when we have development resource is available” are terrible ones, these dates ALWAYS move. If you get one of these answers dig into the impact on the team if they don’t get whatever you are selling sooner.

Competitive landscape

Who else is involved, are they known for discounting, do we regularly win against them, how do the offerings compare. Everyone has competitors, and if your contact hasn’t got another quote for comparison alone the person who signs the order form will so don’t be afraid to ask about who else they are looking. Don’t dwell though!


So those are just a few things that a sales person should know, but those aren’t even the best thing about sales forecasting.

Bad sales managers get angrier as the month or quarter progresses because they aren’t in control of their sales forecast, they get stressed and take it out on their sales team, the stressed out sales team then call up their prospects desperately trying to close deals erasing the value they may have built up during the sales process because they get pushy.

Good sales managers don’t get angry but increase pressure at the appropriate points in order to indirectly but proportionately push the prospect to sign up.

Great sales managers invest the time before the sales period starts in understanding each and every deal in their pipeline, when it will close (a specific date) then applies individual deal pressure to the appropriate sales person. Tips for doing this, challenge dates, don’t allow people to forecast deals to close on a Friday and definitely at the end of the month, it just indicates that they don’t know when it will come in!

One final and crucial benefit!

Managing upwards: The sales number will always be the most closely tracked number – if it isn’t then leave because there is no future in a business that doesn’t put delivery of revenue at the top of the list!

Forecasting on a deal by deal day by day basis allows you to communicate accurately and openly upwards, as you repeatedly deliver your forecast number you will improve in credibility giving you every opportunity to progress your career. A final thought on the final benefit accurate means accurate not over and not under, putting in a low number and delivering more isn’t much better than putting in a huge number and under delivering.

Manage with questions – 9/10 of what I learnt growing SaaS business

This post is so incredibly important for businesses that want to scale rapidly, in these businesses often there are only a few people with lots of experience at the company, these guru’s will get hounded for answers, this creates bottlenecks which stifle growth let alone the fact that create a culture of dependence. So manage with questions!

If you’ve been promoted into a managerial role it’s probably because you were pretty good at your existing role – so you knew a lot of stuff, now the thing that most new managers do is spend a lot of their time answering questions to their new team. This feels great, you know everything, you can help people, people give you praise for being so bloody knowledgable – but you are screwing up.

The best managers don’t give answers they ask questions, the obvious ones


What do you think?

How would you solve this if I wasn’t here?

What have you done in a similar situation previously?

Who else can help? (pointing them to experts within the business helps create informal communication channels which is good for them and the overall communication of the business)

The Why is something everyone – myself included need to do more of, the insanely good and popular ted talk “how great leaders inspire action” gets to the heart of this matter way better than I can so please take 10 and watch it.

If you don’t know why you really are going to struggle to help anyone, one of my favourite questions at Pure360 was “what are they trying to achieve” if you know what the clients end goal is you can nearly always work a solution.

Don’t forget by managing with questions you’ll build stronger teams, stronger teams produce new leaders which gives you an opportunity to move to the next level of your career, which feeds back into the rest of your team win win !




Can you be yourself at work? – 8 of what of I learnt growing Pure360


This is something I really really struggled with – how you can you be at work – after literally years of pondering this *I* came to the conclusion that as a business leader the answer is not very much. The trouble with being you is that you change, depending on how the weekend was, how much sleep your kids let you have, how well the month is going and last thing people want is change in their leaders. People look to you to provide them with security, they need to feel that everything is going to be ok, that the workplace is a consistent stable place that they can come do and enjoy doing the best work they can. If you bring all of you to that the shockwaves you can send if you are having a bad day can have very negative impacts.

When I reached this conclusion it really helped me draw a line between work and home life, which is important if you want to be able to switch off and spend quality time with your friends and family.

I’m not saying be a robot, your personality will always shine through but leave your personal life, your fears, your ups and downs at the door.

The point is that some of us can be ourselves at work, depending on your underlying personality and your role, but you have to be conscious of it, make the decision then stick to it – consistency is the watchword here.

Focus Neo FOCUS! – What SaaS businesses get wrong

Taking a break from my 10 things I learnt growing Pure360 to talk about a much underrated attribute in software businesses – FOCUS.

How many times have you spoken to a company and they’ve told you “we work with SMEs through to FTSE100s” or “we work with clients from East Anglia to Outer Mongolia” , they are trying to sound impressive, big, able to handle your complex requirement. But these statements lack credibility.

Helps growth

When you are trying to grow a business in the early stages or indeed trying to take a business to the next level you need to focus on a segment that you can dominate I mean utterly and completely own. German companies follow this rule very well they call it the 80% rule, export 80% of your production in a market where you have 80% market share ( the strength of their exports is one of the reasons they bounced out of recession so quickly)

So focus on one segment this can be a geography, a company size, a type of user whatever or whoever you can be the best at serving I always liked campaign monitors approach to focusing on designers only check their blog from 2009 talking about their approach to banner adverts- banner 2 is an excellent example of this.

Boosts Social reach

All earned social media marketing relies on having a core audience who is willing to share your messaging, by narrowing down your focus you can get this core a lot quicker.

Anyone can do it

What if you are too big or the segment is too small? Easy split you teams to deal with the different segments, having SME, mid market and enterprise sales & account management teams makes a lot of sense for most businesses. This way instead of asking your sales & account management teams to service everyone ask them to get really good at looking after a specific segment.

Now when your sales people get asked who they deal with they can say ” well we have thousands of customers but I focus on (your industry) as will the account manager I had you over to”, this way the prospect feels (correctly) you will understand the challenges of their industry well.

So focus Neo focus.

The 7th thing I learnt – simple one: know your numbers!

7. know your numbers

As a manager you will have KPI’s of some kind, know them, know them back to front, front to back, going forward by target and your forecast by 6 months and back.

If you don’t know them now set aside an hour a day memorising them until you do, nothing is more impressive than being able to demonstrate a strong grasp of the numbers that drive your department conversely nothing is less impressive than a manager who doesn’t know their numbers.

If you can’t memorise them have them in the back of your notebook so you can refer to them at a moments notice. You have to know what you are working towards if you don’t how will you know if you get there! But the main point is that if you don’t know the numbers how can you manage your team, a lot of managers get into the trap of preparing numbers 5 minutes before a meeting, in this case you aren’t managing you are reporting – which means you can be replaced by a whiteboard.

Always ensure you get your numbers 1 increment of time more frequently than you report them, so if you report weekly review your numbers daily, monthly? then get your figures weekly – otherwise you have no time to react if they aren’t going in the right direction. Even if they don’t move in the right direction you can at least highlight that you’ve identified an issue and put a plan in place to address it.

If you manage managers you need to know all their numbers as well, apart from anything elseit’s a fantastic way of keeping them on their toes.

Not everyone is naturally comfortable with maths and therefore numbers but this is a skill you have to develop if you want to progress to senior management – if you have to invest in some tuition it really is that important!

6/10 in my series on what I learnt growing @pure360

6. Write everything down

“I’m not writing it down to remember it later, I’m writing it down to remember it now.”

Thankfully companies like moleskine & fieldnotes have made it ok to carry around a notebook so there really is no excuse not to have one with you at all times.

If you come into a meeting and you aren’t taking notes I’m not going to take you seriously, and nor should anyone else,  unless you are Derren Brown, a savant or some sort of deity you need to write stuff down.

Do it religiously for a couple of weeks and I can guarantee that you’ll refer back to your notes during that period, even if you aren’t managing anyone you are instantly viewed as reliable by those around you – which has to be a good thing!

This becomes even more important when managing people, so often people will amend their memory to suit them – most of the time unintentionally, but if you wrote it down at the time you’ve got the evidence and therefore the self conviction to make sure you stick to the original plan.

One of the big challenges managers face is actually getting their reports to do the things they have asked them to do in the timescales agreed – DWYSYWDWYSYWDI (Do What You Said You Would Do When You Said You Would Do It).

The best bit of advice I ever heard  on this topic was from  Gerry Robinson, his technique was simple – just have a notebook with a section dedicated to each of your reports, each time you agree something write it down, then begin the next meeting you have with them reviewing the last thing in your book – simple but amazingly effective.

If you can make sure your reports always do what you’ve agreed you’ll be amazed at how much you can achieve, because every time you have to go back over old ground you are wasting time and energy that could be spent on growing the company.

So writing  stuff down – good for you, good for your reports and good for the organisation you work for!