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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What do you stand for?

It is September. The end of the school holidays. Some lovely sunny days after lots of gloom but everyone thinking about getting back to school, back to work and back to what we hope is more normality. Whilst our lives are returning to a recognisable rhythm the world is in a sad state. The tragedy of Afghanistan is writ large recalling the sad days of the fall of Saigon with so many lives endangered. Then there is climate change and Hurricane Ida wreaking havoc on the east coast of the USA.
Last month I said thank goodness for the Olympics and this month there are the superlative elite athletes of the Paralympics to delight us. Again we have been amazed by breathtaking performances. The wonderful thing is how quickly we forget the disability criteria and focus on the courage, the commitment and the astonishing results. Yet again we hear the winners’ thanks to their support teams: the family, friends and experts who help them bring it all together on the day.
So a huge thank you to those who have been so brave, trained so hard, are giving us so much pleasure, relieving the pandemic woes and inspiring us.

This month, because of these successful teams and also because of work I have been thinking about how we find, recruit and then integrate new people into our organisations.
Finding the right people is incredibly hard at the moment. Our whole labour market has changed, maybe due to Brexit, whether it be the lack of HGV drivers, warehouse operatives or fruit and flower pickers. We hover in the supermarkets wondering what to buy because what we want is not available. Hopefully, we value the range of products we normally enjoy and the flawless supply chain which usually brings things to us. Amazon’s answer is to introduce a £1000 sign on fee for the next month. Let’s see if it works.
Some of the problem is down to Covid. My favourite restaurant has always had a predominantly antipodean workforce and all these wonderful young people are locked into Australia and New Zealand. I love these hospitable people and miss them; at the moment the whole ambiance of my restaurant is different.
Then working from home has changed us all. We like the freedom of working when we choose, to deliver the outcomes we are paid for. We love the free time we have because we do not have to commute to work. We like spending time doing more of the things we love. But will it continue? Will organisations allow this level of flexibility?

Then we have the furlough scheme. Being paid not to work has certainly had an effect. When the scheme comes to an end will the jobs still be there? Or will there suddenly be lots of people job hunting?

All of these factors have changed how we want to work and for whom. At the moment it seems to me people are waiting to see how things pan out rather than move jobs as they might have done. It means recruitment is difficult.

Let’s look at it the other way round. If it feels like a buyers’ market then let’s think how to attract the buyers or ideal candidates.

Does your organisation have a strong sense of what its purpose is? Saying you are an accountant, a marketeer or an HR firm is not sufficient. You need the strapline to get straight into someone’s head. I like Home Instead’s For us its personal. It says how they feel about what they do. The more people who do what you do the more you need to differentiate yourself. Take time to get this right; the more it touches someone’s emotions the better.

Then there is the whole question of values – what you believe and how you operate; your culture. Some organisations do not seem to think it matters. The invitation is come here and be a secretary or a driver or a designer. In other words do what you have been trained to do and worry about nothing further. However, most of us do care about the nature of the place where we work. We want it to be some mixture of:

  • A place where I am proud of what we do
  • A place where both I and my work are respected
  • A place where we enjoy our work and working together
  • A place that is professional and up to date with how its specialism is moving
  • A place that delivers on its promises and on time
  • A place that develops its people both through CPD, management and personal skills
  • A place that supports its people when they face work or personal challenges
  • A place with a good package as well as salary that respects who I am and what I contribute
  • A place where I can rely on my colleagues to deliver good work on time and be there for me when the going gets tough
  • A place that has defendable policies and processes.
  • A place that has comfortable working surroundings and the appropriate kit I need to work well

This is all about values. Are you clear about what these are? I bet if I sat you down for an hour and asked questions you would come up with a dozen words that describe your operation and what they mean. This is all about the way in which you work and how this differentiates you from the competition.

I would suggest that in the current environment this is what you should be selling to potential candidates. The environment that your values generate is what will give you the edge.
So the process you use for recruitment becomes crucial – it needs to illustrate not just what you do but who you are and how you do it; what you stand for. I am an Archers fan – I was brought up with this everyday story of country folk and their highs and lows. If you are too you will have heard how the Aldridges have set about recruiting their new Farm Manager – the first time this role has gone to someone outside the family so not an easy task. It is a big job, it offers a wide canvas on which to work and opportunities for innovation. However, it means working for a family of seven who are partners and all have different agendas (I know this through years of listening). I was pretty horrified by how they set about the recruitment. There was no talk of a job description. They went through CVs and a large panel saw just two candidates by Zoom.  The panel excluded two of the family who weren’t available (it was too big anyway but all the interested parties should be involved in some way in the process); the most recent job holder is also a partner so was involved as an interviewer; they papered over the cracks rather than making clear where the partners agreed on a strategy and where not; they had not decided how to reach or communicate their decision to the successful candidate. Then after the job was offered there was a visit – completely unstructured. I could go on and on…in my opinion, this was no way in which to find a key executive, tell them about Home Farm or convince them it would be a great place to work. Good luck Stella, brand new Farm Manager – you have lots to learn about the Aldridge family culture.

Let me give you a real life example. A few years ago I was approached for a director’s role. I went down the selection route and at the third stage was invited in for lunch with the directors I had not met – it was meant to be a two way process. They would see me in a different more relaxed setting and vice versa. I expected lunch in a meeting room. I received a cordon bleu meal in the directors’ dining room. I turned down the offer. Personally I do not like that sort of us and them culture and I did not like the way in which those serving us lunch were treated. However, it gave me a great insight into their values and that lunch saved me from joining the wrong organisation.
So do not be down hearted. There are people out there who will like your operation provided they can touch it and feel it. Just remember that you have to get across not just what we do but how we do it and how it feels to work here.
None of this is rocket science but it is important. I would be fascinated to know what you think and about how your values work for you both in terms of your colleagues and your clients. Please let me know.
If as you read this it resonates with you; if you like my ideas and values; if you want to develop your business or yourself; then please give me a call. I love speaking with people, off the meter, to help them explore possibilities and whether/how to take them forward. Maybe you need to think more about dance partners or just want an objective view of how things are! So pick up the phone now.

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