I’ve been a business mentor for many years.

Shaun invited me to add some of my thoughts to the Thompson Balch website and I am delighted to do so and meet you all.  So who is this woman with the funny name and what is her take on the world? I trade as Elizabeth Toogood Insightful Business Mentor but what does that mean?

I am a businesswoman of mature years – well old really! I have been working for over 50 years having started at 12 with my mother in her wine shop. My career proper began in road transport and has spanned retail, motor retailing and consulting in both big limited companies, privately owned businesses and my own businesses. If you want to know more then get in touch and I will tell you some of the stories of crises, chutzpah, strikes and serendipitous events. I am now a business mentor helping people develop their enterprises effectively to deliver whatever outcomes they aim for.

My shorthand is this “ Helping you and your business grow. Together we find your focus and craft the plan to build your success. Together we’ll create your legend, we’ll make it a reality”.

Of course, this is different depending on the circumstances but let’s unpick this.

01234 273644 / 07968 822275

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July – a month full of endings

It is July. Always a strange month as it is full of endings: the days have stopped getting longer and although there is still lots of summer to come it feels like a turning point. More importantly, the academic year is coming to an end. We have small children leaving their first school to go to “big school” in September; older pupils thrilled to have completed their exams and about to leave school either to enter the world of work or off to college or university; and then all the students leaving those very universities. It is a time of great change full of anticipation and hopefully excitement but with underlying anxiety about those exam results being good enough, about the fear of the chosen course being right, the joy and terror of leaving home and the underlying concern about becoming responsible for yourself. Put that in the context of parents who might be severely stressed about the rising cost of living and the UK could be a troubled place this summer. Thank goodness for Henley, Wimbledon, and the Commonwealth Games to look forward to.

So apart from the sport what am I thinking about?

I am having problems with hybrid working. Those of you who know me will find that very odd. I have worked from home for the last twenty years. However, now it is different for me. I wonder if it is for you?

During the pandemic, my business turned completely to Zoom. I had used it only marginally until then and saw most of my clients face to face. It worked well. Then we all adapted to Zoom and that worked well. Now I am having to find the balance again. When to go and see someone? When to meet by Zoom?

This is made worse by people offering me their electronic calendars to make appointments. Calendly is particularly popular. It is very easy to use but it dictates the length of the meeting and then makes the Teams or Zoom appointment. And I hate the way it takes control.

I first had an electronic diary in 2000 when dinosaurs roamed the earth. It was on display for the rest of the organisation to see and all slots were an hour – back-to-back. My PA and found all sorts of ways to misrepresent things. As an HR specialist, I did not want people to put their names in because often the issue was sensitive or confidential. Sometimes because the work was hard, I needed recovery time. I certainly needed preparation time and time to take the actions as a result of seeing someone. Only I knew how much time that might be.

In the last twenty years, electronic calendars have become much more sophisticated and can cater for all these things. However, I will no longer use one. I need to think about the individual people I see. How long do they need? Might they overrun? Might I need processing time? And what is the running order – must not have too many high-maintenance or draining people grouped together. I also do lots of different things in my life and try to group those activities together. So, I reverted to a paper diary and old-fashioned as it may be my Filofax rules my world. (I see plenty of them about, so I am not the only one.)

What has this got to do with hybrid working? Here I am in my workroom at home, and I have a paper diary both of which give me control. Not so. 

Some of my meetings are still on Zoom and that can be a great use of time especially if there are lots of us and I would have needed to travel a distance to get to a venue. My clients are almost all working on Zoom, and they love it because they do not have to travel. I love it because it takes three minutes to get from the kitchen to my workspace.

Some of my meetings are always in the real world and I can plan for those – and I need to, especially having to review who will be attending. Zoom with its names underneath faces has made me lazy. And have you noticed how different people look when they are standing up and you can see all of them?

It is other meetings that are causing me concern. First of all, there are the ones where some clever soul says why don’t we meet alternately: real-world and Zoom. Great idea but extra time and planning is required to allow for travel time to make sure I am in the right place at the right time. Then there is always someone who cannot actually get there (and am I being too suspicious when I think did they plan properly or is it convenient Covid – do you know this variant?) Of course, they have an important contribution to make so they have to Zoom in. It never works properly does it? They cannot hear; we cannot hear; we spend inordinate time trying to move the microphone to improve things. I lose the will to live.

Then there are the people in my network with whom I need and want to keep up. Do I see them face to face or do I suggest Zoom? If I suggest or agree to face to face do I remember to plan in the travel time both there and back? Does an hour’s meeting become half a day? When we plan it, seeing this lovely person may be exactly the right thing to do but will it be the same when there is less than a week to go and life is busy, business is manic, or the temperature is forecast to be 32 degrees and I do not want to be in business dress?

What do you do in these circumstances?

Mostly I try to meet my commitments but a couple of times recently I have had to postpone. I am honest it is always about infinite work and finite time, and I tell them that. However, it makes me feel wretched. All my working life a cancelled meeting has been a gift of time now it also makes me feel guilty and I fear the other party might feel of less importance than they should.

Are you having similar issues in this new world? How are you tackling them? And how do you feel?

None of this changes my role as a mentor. If you would like to speak about your business issues and about how to enjoy and develop your business life, then perhaps we should talk. If as you read this, it resonates with you or someone you might know; if you like my ideas and values especially my honesty; if you want to develop your business or yourself; then please give me a call (no electronic calendars to navigate I promise). I love speaking with people, off the meter, to help them explore possibilities and whether/how to take them forward. I hope you will be one of them.

GDPR and Privacy Policy

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The EU GDPR is designed to help all of us have more control over our personal data, and how is it used.

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Data subjects, being all visitors and users of any website who are members of the European Union, and therefore who submit personal data. Thompson Balch  is the data processor and data controller of this site. You can find out more about this law here.

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Effective from 25th May, 2018

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