The Missing Ingredient Of A Modern Day CEO

It is fair to say that the world of business has changed!

No longer is it acceptable for a business to strive purely for profit or simply to provide a healthy dividend for shareholders – I think the past credit crunch / recession /aftermath has highlighted that!

In the modern-day world of business, it is both imperative and advantageous to strive for both commercial and social benefit, but CEO’s and Senior Executives don’t have to worry about turning the boardroom into a KUM-BY-YA session, fully loaded with 3 string guitars, marshmallows and the team from Marketing dancing around with flowers in their hair!

The world of Corporate Social Responsibility, Social Impact, Social Investment or whichever term you wish to use has shifted to now being the BUSINESS of business. By working together, an enhanced level of social innovation and impact can be created i.e. the ‘little guy’ can provide the local knowledge, support, agility and access to the right social contacts and community networks; the ‘big guys’ can provide the knowledge and capacity-building resources, that the little guy needs to deliver – it’s a WIN/WIN!!

Isn’t it all great?

The stone cold reality is, that many CEO’s find it difficult to embrace this change in business culture easily.

The missing ingredient…themselves!

Used to being driven by profit margins, reducing costs, provided healthy shareholder dividends, keeping loyal staff etc, many CEOs must now adjust to achieving all the above and more PLUS, ensuring that they increasing their social impact, engaging with diverse stakeholders from strategic levels right down to the shop floor, face instant ridicule via social media when things go bad, which in turn, has an impact on their brand value and much, much more!

So how does the modern CEO cope with this?

The fact of this matter is that CEO’s need to take a step back and review themselves – leadership is as much about following, as well as leading from the front, but often using gut instinct, raw passion and a strong sense of purpose. The modern-day CEO must feel as comfortable in the local church hall or community workshop, as he / she is in the boardroom or conference venue, in order to truly understand what it means to be a Corporate Social Leader!

So how is this possible? Here are my top 5 Ways that a CEO can become more socially focused:

1) Renew the company vision – every great plan, needs constant revision. But every great vision, needs renewal in order to stay adaptable to changes that occur. This is not about creating a new vision, but about making sure the old one is still relevant.

2) Make fear a companion, not an enemy: fear has a way of reaffirming the challenges and hurdles that lie ahead. But fear is simply a state of mind; an expectation of the negative before it happens. The key is to have a strategy in place to deal with the negative, and this can only be achieved if fear is both embraced and welcomed, alongside a mindset of openness and curiosity.

3) Walk the talk: What you say you are, is something that you must both believe and can demonstrate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. End of.

4) Embrace the nappy of change: like fear, change is something that must be embraced otherwise, one runs the risk of missing out on powerful learning and opportunities. But like a nappy, change can also be a little stinky and nasty – but you still have to change that nappy, to protect the person who is wearing it, don’t you???

5) Commit, don’t admit: If you are serious about making a difference, then commit to making a difference. Better still, BE the difference. Admitting mistakes later down the line is too risky for both the business and your sense of leadership – committing to dealing with future mistakes because you are committed to the end result, is much more honourable!

For most CEO’s there needs to be a starting point, to make a change. We offer a free Social Value Metric Report that enables CEO’s to understand the position of their business, based on their investment into socially focused activities, but also help to bring more innovation to this area.

But more importantly, the key starting point is a genuine passion to do more for others!



Why Giving Up Is Not An Option

There is a special ingredient inside you, that allows you embrace the abnormality that your own journey to success creates.

It is something that only appears, when your back is against the wall and you know that you either have to push on or give up.

That ingredient is resilience.

Resilience enables you to learn the lessons that you don’t wish to be taught. Resilience fuels the motivation and inspiration you need to face challenges, deal with the lows and reality of life/business and be humble when the highs come along.

Resilience forces you to learn more about yourself, your character, your relationships with others and to truly identify what is really important to you.

At age 24, I was in my full-time dream job – I was Birmingham’s leading Mentoring Trainer for corporates who wanted to engage staff in social activity and we also had a baby on the way. Life was great!!

One night I woke up in cold sweats, finding it difficult to sleep. Something was not right and I did not know why.

I went downstairs, found a pen and ending up creating a simple business plan on one side of A4 paper.

Within a two week period, I had left my job, negotiated reduced rent a one-man office, designed my own two page website, made my own business cards using a laminator and card, and was hunting for my first client.

Many said I was crazy, many said it would not work. People said “you are the wrong race, you come from the wrong class, you speak funny, you never went to university so what do you know etc etc” I got it all!

I doubted myself countless amount of times, ended up taking on ‘proper jobs’ on more than one occasion to supplement those Sahara desert months of no income and was a nightmare to live with.

But something inside was always burning away. A feeling of hunger but not for food, a desire to help others but not in a way I could articulate to others. You know that feeling?

I took some time out to really reflect on how I was, who I was becoming and who I really wanted to be. I realised that for me, business was not about the media hype perspective, but more about creating vehicles that help to add value to the personal, social, economic and commercial lives of others.

I learned 2 things about myself during that time, that I would like I share:

1) Your purpose is never about you: we all have something special to contribute to the lives of others and the world. You may already know what your purpose is, but if not, have a think about what truly makes you happy; what gives you that funny happy butterfly feeling whenever you think about it, a bit like when you saw that girl or boy of your dreams and you got all giddy 🙂

I know some days it may be hard to, but you must believe in yourself to realise the power that you have within you, whether it is through a job, a business, family or whatever route you can – no one has the right to stop you from maximising your potential to fulfil your purpose.

That includes you from stopping yourself..

2) Be humble enough to never think you have all the answers, but confident to ask the right questions: life is like poker – you get dealt the cards that you don’t expect, but you must play with those cards whether it is a good hand or not.

Real learning comes through resilience refusing to give up, reminding yourself daily on your big picture, thanking those who try to hold you back for the motivation and staying true to yourself!

Ask the right questions of yourself and of others, but ALWAYS from an authentic, real and genuine perspective – enjoy the ride, but don’t get sucked into the hype!

Like you, there is still a long way ahead before I fulfil my purpose and that’s ok! Life is for living and learning – it’s better to remain its keenest student!

Please feel free to share / comment on what you have learnt or are still learning from not giving up 🙂

4 Reasons Why The 50p Man Can Make Us All Feel Rich

It has been no surprise to see that the Channel 4 series Benefits Street, has been the topic of public conversation this week.

From many people slating the media for the portrayal of the residents of James Turner St, to those defending the plight of real people going through real situations and all in between, the debate has been crazy!

You can choose your own side and forge your own opinion, but the good to come out of all that was the inspiration of Stephen Smith AKA Smoggy.

His courage to try and better himself, his willingness to accept where he has gone wrong and use those lessons to be positive and his compassion for creating a positive social impact in his community, was simply sensational and it’s great to see that he has received a number of job offers to help him move forward – it’s nice to see the good guy winning for once!

His story shows that we all have the ability to help others, even when we are in the same circumstances, whether you succeed or not. The courage to dare, to dream but more importantly, to take action for the greater good, is something we can all learn from.

Unfortunately, there are others like this man who are a little extreme and take things to a whole new level!

But what can Smoggy’s journey teach us about Social Leadership?

Well, I believe that Smoggy highlighted a number of things about the importance of Social Leadership that are relevant for both business and the community – here are 3 of them:

1) Be true to who you are:

Authenticity is the one thing that allows us to connect with others – people are attracted to or repelled by people, based on how you make them feel, good or bad. In business, people also BUY from people first – remember that, next time you think it’s all about your goods and services….

2) Give without expecting to receive:

It’s human nature to want something, to receive from others – love, money, time etc are all resources that we expect for example.

But to give with no expectation of receiving is liberating!

It makes you feel good to know you are genuinely helping others. Karma is a female dog (think about it!) but she can be really kind too if you just give – it does not have be money either, sometimes the right words at the right time, is all someone needs…

3) Do the right thing, even if the world around you does not:

4) Never forget where you come from, but know where you are going:

That speaks for itself 🙂

Let’s be real.

Every community has good and bad points. I know from personal experience, and many others can relate, that inner city living is hard, tough and a matter of survival. You can find yourself surrounded by a ‘crabs in a bucket’ mentality and it takes a lot to be you in a world, where everyone expects you to be the same as everyone else.

But Smoggy represented what I know many young people and adults, especially in Birmingham, are doing -believing in the right thing to do, even sacrificing what they are doing and in some cases, their own lives to help someone else who had nothing to give them in return.

We all make choices in life and no one has the right to judge your fellow man (or woman). Birmingham is not perfect, but this city loves it’s people and really cares for others who show the city and it’s people the respect it deserves!

We all have leadership abilities that can help others to achieve. Our communities are trying to survive in a time of hardship, deprivation and poverty – our young people are suffering out there, yet many decision-makers simply don’t have the answers.

Ordinary citizens with a heart, like Smoggy, are the real community heroes – I’m not saying they are perfect themselves, but no one in life is.

We all have a responsibility to maximise our potential and do whatever we can to use our influences and motivate others, to maximise their own.

There will always be the few who may make choices that may tarnish the reputation of others, but feeling rich is about the happiness you feel and the reward that does come in some shape or form when you least expect it, by doing what you can to help others!

3 Ways To Make Corporate Social Responsibility Personal

As we enter a new year, it is easy to set off with the best intentions to achieve your Corporate Social Responsibility objectives and create business value.

But what is often missed, is a clear understanding of the personal foundation needed to achieve those objectives, the stability needed to overcome challenges and the cultural belief that the company will create holistic impact, in the lives of those affected by your efforts.

This ethos is relevant to businesses working towards CSR objectives, but also to you as an individual – the notion of CSR is often seen as just a business imperative, but the principle of creating holistic impact, is something that is relevant to both commerce and personal achievement.

So how is this possible?

Overall, one must have an inclusive and open mindset. There is beauty in embracing differences, whether that is people, perceptions or any other factor. It is never a straight line and good intentions do not always give you the results you desire, so you must be open to change.

But here are 3 Ways To Make CSR Personal:

1) Lead from your values: knowing who you are and what you stand for, is fundamental to achieving your objectives. Customers, staff and humans in general want to be associated with businesses and people who share similar values, so make sure yours are aligned to ensure success.

2) Create both social and economic value: Social outcomes must be aligned with rewards and incentives, and form part of the overall business strategy agreed from the top down. Personal growth must result in emotional fulfilment achieved through effort, whether you are dealing with staff or yourself.

3) Develop the right strategic alliances: You can’t do it alone. Everyone needs support – corporates can benefit from the agility of smaller businesses; you have the skills and resources to fill in the gaps that others have and vice versa, to achieve greater results for all – having the right alliances can save time, money and resources!

At Cultiv8 Solutions, we help others to create CSR activities that have a personal impact.

If you need any support on achieving your personal and corporate CSR goals, come and say hi!

Why Corporates Need More Intrapreneurs

We know that the economic crash of a few years ago, affected many businesses across the globe.

Lives were thrown upside down, careers were crushed, and the world was forced to give itself a major spring clean. Cobwebs of the past, were ritually brushed away to make way for a new dawn, though the spiders of capitalism have found new gaps in the ceilings of commerce and continue to weave new webs of financial opulence.

However as a consequence, intrapreneurship is becoming the new cool in business. It is the new corporate action hero, here to save the bottom line.

Integrating the principles of entrepreneurship into UK boardrooms is a badge of honour, no longer earned in the battlefields of breakfast networking sessions, swanky soirees and the loneliness of the home office, but in the innovation teams and creative minds of motivated soldiers, marching to the beat of the salary drum.

It is also essential and about time too!

The way that business is done has changed dramatically. Customers now have more than enough tools to dictate what they like, how they like it, when they like it, what they are prepared to pay for it and why they are not buying it from you.

To succeed, corporates now have to be more innovative to not only keep up with their own competitors in their key market sector but, to do so across diverse markets in order to be sustainable. It is no longer a them and us society – every corporate business must be able to influence the citizenship of others, not just satisfy shareholders.

In our business, we have seen an increase in demand of how we can help companies be more innovative with their CSR and Diversity strategies, but it is fundamentally clear that morality is not enough. Their customers are savvy enough to know that this is a business imperative, and the use of entrepreneurship in a corporate context creates a more tailored and bespoke solution for them.

More and more companies, are seeking to learn from icons of entrepreneurship – british stalwarts such as Richard Branson, who was once questioned about the price of milk and did not have a clue, yet is the head of, arguably, the greatest British company and brand EVER! Mavericks like the late Steve Jobs, who had a reputation for being mercenary in his vision and on those who did not see it, yet taught us that there is nothing greater in life that the power of self-belief to change the world!


Not every corporate is ready to be more intrapreneurial. The idea that being more dynamic and innovative as an organisation, will lead to an instant increase in productivity and, ultimately, a more healthier bottom line is imbalanced.

The stark reality, is that most companies need to review their own governance as a business, need to ensure the CEO is entrepreneurial by nature and that the organisation has the processes in place to harness the output of entrepreneurial staff. Like real entrepreneurs who are often skint, and live the type of abnormal life that many would not dare, an organisation wishing to be more intrapreneurial, must be willing become more of a risk taker, visionary, a more egotistical yet humble entity.

We all have the mental capacity to THINK like an entrepreneur. In the Hot500Club, young entrepreneurs are constantly told that whether you are working for yourself, or working for others or both, you have the ability to be innovative, to think outside the box, to search and find the solution to the problem, to help other companies to develop intrapreneurs in order to create more social impact.

But how can organisations grow, in their youthful phase of intrapreneurship? Here are 5 tips:

– Separate your company WHAT vs WHY: Your WHY is the purpose, the real goal, the overall impact or value you wish to create. Your WHAT are the tools, resources and efforts that you need to achieve your why.

– Executive teams must live and breathe the vision: You should be able to describe in detail, what your collective vision is – you must be able to almost taste it, smell it, know who will be there when you achieve it etc. It must be so clear, that it is as if you have already achieved it.

– Embrace your fear: Fear is a state of mind, because you are fearful of negative consequences or results. Put in place a strategy that you would execute if that consequence took place – you will soon realise that there is nothing to be fearful of!

– Make the necessary sacrifices: Forget what the organisation thinks it should do, to become more innovative. It must DO what It MUST in order to succeed. Learning from those choices is the key.

– Be willing to learn the lessons you don’t want to be taught: A business that wants to be more intrapreneurial, must be willing to learn harsh truths about itself, and seek to learn and integrate the results.

We all have to be entrepreneurial just to survive in life..

But isn’t that what business is about?

6 Entrepreneur Lessons To Help You Kickstart Your 2013!

Authentic Entrepreneurship is about being connected to WHO you are and WHY that lies behind your purpose.

2012 has been a year, when i have wrestled with this notion and have come out the other side, ready to embrace the challenges that life throws at me. I can honestly say that i have never been so clearer about what i do and why i do it, but that in itself, creates its own challenges…

I genuinely believe, that we are all destined to make a mark in this world, in your environment, in your community, on your street or wherever you have some influence. But it is having the courage to take the actions that are needed, which sets those who achieve and those who dream, apart! As entrepreneurs, it is easy to have a ‘me against the world’ mentality, but with the dust settles, we all need support and we all need to learn from what life teaches us even if we do not want to be taught those lessons!

This year, I have actively sought these lessons and have made a concerted effort to understand what they mean to me, in my life..and what i have learnt, has helped me to create change in the lives of others. But as i move into 2013, it is clear that i still have a long entrepreneurial journey ahead, which i am fine with!

As we enter into 2013, let me share with you the six major lessons, that I have been taught in 2012 – I hope they help you, in some way:

1) The only constant in life is change – What is now, with not always be, so any plans, strategies must have a degree of flexibility in them to adapt to the changes that will occur, otherwise you simply remain stagnant and are in fact, going backwards in the fullness of time.

2) Embrace your enemies – forget that saying ‘keep your enemies close but your enemies closer’ – it breeds contempt, hate and bitterness. Learn to embrace your enemies for you have a chance to educate them, or teach them the lesson that stops them being an enemy. However, this lesson goes hand in hand with the next one on my list..

3) Don’t allow your kindness, to be your weakness – even as you embrace your enemies, always operate from the position of your values and standards. That way, you have your own benchmark to gauge your progress, impact and level of relationships with others.

4) Plan, to reflect – setting goals is important, meeting them is key. But aim to be in a position to reflect on what you have achieved in 12  months, 2 years, 5 years, 10 years time etc – from a mindset perspective, it helps you to focus past your goal, but having achieved it automatically!

5) Be clear and honest about your why – people will say they did not understand you, if your message has not been communicated clearly. Eliminate the possibility of not understanding, by being very clear and honest on the WHY of your message. Your WHY is the driver for all that you do, so live and operate by it!

6) Worry less, Do more – Action is the key to success! If you are someone who worries too much about what may happen, then remember to implement my tip number 1 (see above), because by the time you take action, it’s all changed anyway…but at least, you are prepared for it!

Thank you being part of my 2012 and hope to connect with you more in 2013!

Till the next time, J

Nurture our Youth, Dont force feed them!

One of the greatest myths in the world, is that young people need handouts in order to maximise their potential.

Yesterday, I had a heated argument..with someone who said:

..”a young person who has been disadvantaged in some way, would not be able to survive in the commercial world without changing who they are as a person, because their personal values are so different.”

I disagreed, 100% with him. My argument was simple:

“Someone who FEELS they have been disadvantaged in some way, potentially has more talent than someone who has FELT advantageous, because their environment has conditioned their values to their life experience, which in turn forces them to hone their skills more efficiently to survive. The difference lies is the individuals mindset, in relation to their OWN reaction of their experiences.”

Ive been working with young people since i was 15 – in the inner city area where i grew up, i used to help my friends with their homework at the local youth centre (when we still had youth centres, that were the real hub of the community!).

Over the years, i’ve designed mentoring training for youth organisations, been a youth mentor for Connexions for 4 years, been a facilitator for the Windsor Fellowship, trained people to be mentors to work with the so called ‘hardest to reach’, set up youth projects and currently run two businesses focused on developing both diverse and entrepreneurial leaders!

I’ve spent the last 17 years being at the coal face of working with young people (no textbook nonsense) and have experienced the real life, good and bad, personal side of youth development…and i am sick and tired of hearing the contradiction that young people are a stain on society, until you need them to help you out!

In my humble opinion, the only thing that any young person needs, is the fair opportunity to show you why they are good enough, without prejudice or judgement, on who or what they are!

Lets get one thing clear…The world has changed and is changing faster every day and the winners are those have a seat on the speedy train!

Modern day young people, have grown up in a society and world, that plays by other rules, rules that are NOT founded in archaic ways of thinking. The creativity and innovation that young people bring to the table is the missing link of business adaptation in the current climate.

Furthermore, the diversity of our young people has exposed them to levels of understanding that bring a new cultural, social, economical, personal and professional perception that businesses, can only benefit from.

What annoys me is young people are not truly valued, until there is a hole in the business. People love to talk and talk and talk about the SAME age-old issues, without actually taking action, or at least COMMITTING TO DOING SOMETHING about them!!

They only spring into action when the brown stuff, is about hit the proverbial profit fan!


Young people need to be brought into the boardroom and be given the chance to offer their unique insight into the world of commerce – allow them to ask the questions that others don’t want to ask, encourage young people to solve your issues using their entrepreneurial spirit, tap into the wisdom of the modern generation – you can then match your more advanced knowledge with their insight, to lead the way forward!

The adults of tomorrow are learning how to lead change, today and the more ’savvy’ businesses know that and more importantly, are TAKING ACTION WITH THAT KNOWLEDGE!

Stop being sympathetic – young people don’t want that!

Stop wrapping them in cotton wool – they don’t need that!

Give them a real, practical chance to shine in the workplace, community and in society – they deserve that!

Till the next time,