My brother, Richard

Aside

Richard could easily have been a character in a novel. It was said of the American humorist S.J.Perelman that before they made him, they broke the mould. But Richard never had a mould: his was an elusive character.

He knew exactly what he liked; he moved on from one thing to another in his life – with intermittent Walter Mitty like dreams; and he was quite undaunted by INexperience. He was always cheerful, and never worried or too busy.

He had the ability to get on well with anybody if he chose to, yet he was in a way quite private. And there were many to whom he was magnetic: he was engaging, amusing, irreverent and often a little mischievous – or worse! But never malicious.

His two greatest obsessions were: gossip –personified by the Daily Mail; and the Cash Register – especially when it went Ker-Ching!

*

When they first met, Ariel practically drowned him. Flustered perhaps, she failed to secure the ballast of her dinghy; and when it tipped them both out, Ariel swam courageously to the shore and managed to get someone to rescue the floundering Richard. He was evidently worth rescuing.

They were engaged for two years – apart in different countries – during which time, he wrote her some 300 letters (which she treasures); and they married in 1960. They lived very happily together for nearly 60 years with their very different lives; and their three children – as different from one another as were Richard and Ariel – here to tell you their own tales.

Richard preferred different names to those by which his children were christened – he felt that they should have names more likely to suit them as the film stars they were destined to be, like Bo-bo, Sam and Poppy were.

*

Richard at first followed our Father who was a mathematical scholar and a Chess Blue at Oxford and an eminent chartered accountant. Richard too qualified, but Accountancy was not for him.

His first job was a rather unlikely one – in a Canadian Bank; and when after two years they returned from this, the pair of them set off together, aiming to work their passage round the world.

They both wrote for local publications, particularly in Hong Kong; and broadcast together on Hong Kong radio a children’s story they had also written together. Certainly until quite recently you could see Ariels’s pictures on the walls of Macdonald’s in Hong Kong.

In many ways, he and Ariel could not have been more different: he – interested in business and in making money: she – in the amorphous world of the arts. Ariel says he painted some nice watercolours, but I am not convinced that he would have known what she meant.

Their world trip with its freedom, its adventure and its flashes of entrepreneurialism, united them as it typified them.

With Nick Mills, he then started to build a chain of what are known as Mags and Fags shops – in the Gloucestershire area, where they both lived.

The Chairman of a company with whom they were then having discussions, somewhat irreverently christened them Bill and Ben the Flowerpot Men; but nobody quite knows why!

When they later sold that group of shops, Richard and Ariel moved to Jersey, and Richard retained the two or three that were in Jersey; and King Street News in St Helier flourished. Ariel has fond memories of tidying and hoovering the shops with the children on a Sunday evening.

He bought a big Bentley – which he once described as ‘an aggressive social gesture’; but when he scraped it yet again on the walls of the small lanes in Jersey, he sold it, explaining to those who would listen, that it didn’t fit on the roads here.

He invested in property; and some say that he then became the property king of Barnes in West London.

Never short of a new venture, he became a Director of ‘Film and General’ which produced the film ‘True Blue” – subsequently chosen for the Royal Command Peformance – which caused them to meet the Queen.

When the new local radio licences were being allotted, he got into radio, and with Richard Johnson started and ran Channel 103 and Bath Radio. And with his friend Michael Henriques, he became a Director of Coln Valley Smokery.

He went on to found PoundMagic here in St Helier, and then its sister in Guernsey. He always took a deep interest in the tactics of supermarket shopping. And in 2010 at the age of 75, he won the Jersey Entrepreneur of the Year Award.

*

But there were very much other sides to him. While he was at Oxford, Richard’s spicy wit suffused the gossip column of Isis, Oxford’s undergraduate magazine. The London social life of his good friend from Winchester, the poly-amorous Jinx Grafftey-Smith, with whom he shared digs, readily provided the necessary first–hand material.

He diced with death a second time when Jinx turned his car over in France with the pair of them inside – Jinx suffered with injuries to his shoulder, but Richard was unhurt.

When they returned to the UK from their world trip, he and Ariel continued in the genre to which they had contributed in Hong Kong and Sri Lanka, and wrote serious stuff for the then leading magazine “Time and Tide”.

He wrote the infamous book “Who slept with whom”. Though based only on published material, it never found a publisher, probably because Michael Winner threatened to sue the pants off him. Revised to include only the dead – who could not sue him – Ariel and I thought that the same fate had befallen this version. However, Ariel has just found it on offer from Robson Books, apparently published in 2004, and placed an order. Richard would have said: make sure you collect the royalties.

He wrote and circulated anonymously a complete spoof edition of Winchester’s old boys newsletter. It provided him with unmissable opportunities to take off all sorts of people like those who had given him and his friends constant amusement – in that somewhat traditional establishment.

So true to character were Richard’s take-offs that it was difficult to tell if his edition was the real thing or not. The clue was in the first line: the Headmaster’s usually rather subtle opening piece traditionally started with the words “The Headmaster writes…”. Richard’s edition started with the words “The Headmaster writes and writes…!

His play about Charles II who was crowned King of England here in Jersey, has been through several drafts; and he was keen to put on at Elizabeth Castle, but that has yet to reach the public.

Among his periodic flights of imagination, he once contemplated standing for the States of Jersey. He thought it needed root-and-branch changes. It would not be unlike him to have sent his ideas on to Donald Trump – he was a copious letter writer.

He wrote frequently to the Press; he wrote to our sister at her school telling her how to write a good essay; he wrote to daughter Sam when she graduated in Theology offering her the job of Archbishop of Canterbury.

He and Ariel were in effect a complete publishing house – working together on different aspects of each other’s writings, of which Ariel’s were perhaps the more reliable.

He was an avid reader of Private Eye, and you might have thought that he would write for Private Eye, but I don’t think he ever did. He was certainly a bit of a maverick: he was never a revolutionary, but he liked to play the world as he found it. He was full of ideas for impractical jokes.

In some ways he was like the old-fashioned amateur: he was a man of considerable talents that he was willing to apply to anything that amused him. He had what one person described as ‘a mad sense of adventure’. Work was never part of his vocabulary – not because he shunned it, but if it was interesting or fun, it would be pursued for its own sake.

*                                                                                Seldom less than competitive, he played and followed a lot of sport. Not only cricket, golf and tennis, but also Boules and Snooker, and of course Racquets.

With David Lowe, he won the annual Public Schools Racquets Championship in 1956, and I regularly pass their names and their photograph in the corridors of Queens Club in London.

He was a good golfer. Golf was in the family – our mother played off a handicap of one, and her brother off scratch. He spent a lot of time on the golf course while he was at Oxford, and nearly got a Blue.

After university, he played cricket with The Frederic E. Pickersgill Memorial Cricket Club, a team invented by Michael Sissons, the literary agent, and recruited largely from the London literary scene, for whom a good story-line from someone in the pavilion was worth as much as half-a-dozen runs.

He was a keen tennis player. Again it was in the family – a cousin had played at Wimbledon; and he was a keen promoter of Poppy’s talents on the court.

When we were young it was of course de rigeur to wear whites even at the local the tennis club, but not for Richard – who appeared regularly in dark blue shorts.

(It was rare to catch him in anything but a rugger shirt and shorts, but he did own a dark suit with highly conspicuous yellow pin stripes, and looked in it just like a member of the Mafia.)

He was pretty sure that on the tennis court he could beat Boris Becker – if only he could get his serve a little better! His serve disgusted him more than anything I ever remember!

Emergencies were never really Richard’s thing. I remember once arriving at his house in France and the TV would not get the French Tennis Open Championships. Heaven and Earth were moved until we could see some decent serving. He always had good fixers.

You knew – and he knew – that you could never beat him at Snooker on his own table in France. Unconfirmed rumours (as many of his articles might have begun) suggested that he once flew into Jersey a coach who might help him to chase his dream of a break of a hundred up.

*                                                                                            He loved life at his successive houses in the South of France, which Ariel made so beautiful – just as she did Les Aix here in Jersey. He would ease himself gently onto a lilo, paddle it out into the middle of the pool in the sun, where he would devour the Daily Mail. It was one of his greatest pleasures.

Those who knew him well loved his company – his sprightly wit – and he loved theirs. His family recall him jumping into the air across the lawn with his favourite sweets – Maltesers – in his hand, because ‘he couldn’t stay down’ as they were ‘lighter than air’.

Ariel and he were very close during the final few weeks and days of his life: she caring intimately for him despite lately her own crutches; and he deeply appreciative of all she was doing for him.

*                                                                                                    He lived a wonderful life – in all sorts of ways. We shall miss him terribly. But we have lots of golden memories of him to treasure – one of life’s more fascinating characters.

John

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Corporates struggling with innovation?

Aside

Are corporates struggling with their approaches to innovation? Working with startups is something that corporates are having to learn for themselves, but help is at hand.

Innovation is widely recognised as a top priority by corporate leaders, but delivering it is often delegated to individuals whose brief is unclear, who lack support (indeed often face opposition), whose colleagues have little understanding about their initiatives, and who often feel quite isolated.

A wider range of corporates has been showing interest in startups – in working with them as much as investing in them. Startupbootcamp, with its widespread experience of helping startups and scaleups in particular sectors (including Fintech in London) brought together corporate innovation leaders from several countries in a recent ‘Rainmaking Summit’. It provided them with a series of discussion panels and inventive exercises to help them to tackle typical pain points, like communication and support.

Sources of help and experience for corporates looking to work with startups seem to be scarce; and this conference indicated that there is a real opportunity for programmes like those of Startupbootcamp to help them to learn from each other’s experience.

John Whatmore, February, 2017

Five approaches in which identifying big issues is the carrot that leads the innovation process Focusing on major issues rather than relying on people with good ideas is likely to be a good source for the 6% of businesses with hi-growth potential (- and Unicorns) March 2016 (http://wp.me/p3beJt-dU)

 Reversing a topsy-turvy approach to a better world Focusing on major issues rather than relying on people with good ideas is likely to be a good source for the 6% of businesses with hi-growth potential (- and Unicorns) Oct 2015 (http://wp.me/p3beJt-bx)

Accelerators attacking bigger issues? If Accelerators can support hi-growth SMEs as well as startups, can they also be adapted to focus on tough problems and emerging opportunities in all sorts of fields? Oct 2014 (http://wp.me/p3beJt-9e)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Leadership of Creative Groups

Aside

The leadership of creative groups is more relevant than ever in to-day’s competitive global business world: innovation and disruption have given a new impetus to creativity; but the skills of leading creative groups have changed little.

The Leadership of Creative Groups has seemed increasingly vital as year by year the creative industries have burgeoned, product-oriented industries have become more creative and the service industries more important. The Dysons, the Nick Serotas, the Reid Hoffmans are the leaders of to-day: what makes them great leaders?

Creative people are often seen as difficult to manage – as experimental and intuitive, open to experience and extravert, but also sensitive and temperamental. Yet some people have a knack for getting the best out of them: they are more concerned with developing individuals and their talents, and creating or sustaining culture and climate than achieving particular objectives. ‘Creativity can be led, it can be channeled and fostered, but it resents being managed’ Martin Sorrell once opined.

Leading creative teams is different: it consists in taking the lead when you have the most appropriate contribution, (‘leadership hops from shoulder to shoulder’,) whether that contribution is technical, process, the making of contacts, the finding of resources, supporting someone else or whatever. It is authority and responsibility without domination or control.

Research (see footnote) has shown first and foremost that leaders of creative groups tend to be Visionaries, (or Ideas Generators or Ideas Prompters). Experts in their field, they see opportunities for doing things differently that others did not see, that are tough, will unlock other issues and have big pay-offs.

These leaders play a variety of roles: they are very often Team Builders and Coaches, and Entrepreneurs. In the big organisations which were the main participants in these studies, they were also Spokespersons and Shielders – as they often are to their shareholders in young businesses.

They are described as having empathy and understanding:

  • in selecting their team,
  • in using the constraints as the very challenges that would help members of the team in the development of their own talents,
  • in providing the freedoms they appreciate, and as an encouragement to experiment,
  • in using milestones and other opportunities for setting up tensions that might lead to creative breakthroughs,
  • in making themselves available as constant ‘supporters’, and
  • in ‘shielding’ them when necessary.

‘Warm and approachable, passionate and enthusiastic’, they are described as providers of all kinds of support, as very ‘process’ aware – as projects evolve and change, and as creaters of climate and culture.

These leaders tend to see everything as a learning opportunity – they have a ‘rage for learning’ – as a close parallel with creativity. They learn by doing and then reflecting on it (‘the way we learn cookery, burglary or sex’) – the very approach adopted by the latest growth programmes for SMEs, like the new Judge Institute programme and the UCL/RBS programme – which provide regular periodic meetups for CEOs for some 12 months at a time (See http://wp.me/p3beJt-hW.)

Is the time ripe for more programmes like the Clore Leadership programme in the arts, with its emphasis on experience?

John Whatmore, January 2017.

“Releasing Creativity: how leaders develop creative potential in their teams”, John Whatmore (www. Amazon.co.uk.) is based on a study for the then Department of Trade and Industry of 40 leaders of project groups – including in science, r&d, design, marketing and the arts. Out of it there emerged a self-assessment instrument (not unlike Belbin’s team roles test) designed to help leaders to identify their own typical leadership roles.

 

 

 

 

 

A serial creater of support programmes for SMEs

Aside

A serial creater of support programmes for SMEs – just starting on her third programme – this one larger than ever.

Next week: The Leadership of Creative Groups – what makes it so unique.

Always interested in working with early stage SMEs, and making a difference, she took a role as Head of Business Incubation and Enterprise at De Montfort University. The incubator (one of several in the Midlands – each driven by the availability of funding and by their particular faculties and courses) was home to around nineteen SMEs and supported over 100 students per year to start up a business. For this work and support for disabled entrepreneurs and the wider enterprise community, she received a Queen’s Award for Enterprise Promotion in 2008.

Following a move to St John’s Innovation Centre in Cambridge, she managed a significant grant from the East of England Development Agency to generate a support programme for SMEs in its region.

She put in place a cohort of some twenty mentors backed up with over 70 workshops and events a year. Her mentors were recruited for their functional background (production/marketing/finance etc), their industry sector, and for their personality (thinking style and interaction style). A ‘Growth Adviser’ would meet participants to sort out their real needs and priorities in order to appoint an appropriate mentor or coach. That adviser would keep in regular contact – by phone or regular periodic meetings – to identify whether the business’s progress indicated that they needed help on a different issue (and so a different mentor – as was often the case).

Since May 2016, she has been ‘Business Ready Programme Manager’ working for all of Coventry and Warwickshire, and with funding from the EU, University of Warwick Science Park and Warwickshire County Council – specifically with a remit to support technology-based and knowledge intensive SMEs. She is based at the Venture Centre of the Science Park on Warwick University’s campus.

She started to recruit mentors in Aug/Sept 2016 (she was overwhelmed with responses – some of very high quality, despite the fact that they are being paid only a modest rate per session), inducted them in Oct/Nov and now has just over 20 in place – with a broad enough spectrum of backgrounds.

They were selected based on ‘having been there, done that’ in starting and growing their own business; for having had experience in coaching and mentoring or consulting; and as having worked with SMEs. Typically their expertise is in access to finance, in their specific skills and knowledge, and in new markets. In addition, her plans are to offer about four ‘workshops’ per month (at which people with something special under their belt come and talk about it.)

She is currently working with 40 SMEs, and expects to add another 60 over the ensuing 18 months (there is no difficulty in selling what she has to offer because there is no charge for the programme).

Asked what are her main difficulties, she immediately retorts: lack of ongoing funding for this kind of activity. She adds that managing the expectations of both mentors and mentees – their responsibilities and commitments is a constant concern (respect the time commitment of your mentors/mentees; don’t fail to turn up; don’t phone your mentor at 3am!)

The measures required of her are about ‘impact’. Client feed-back and other sources provide information about such issues as jobs created and growth in turnover and profits etc. But what you are required to do, she says, is a bit specific; it turns out that what you want to do is often a bit different!

‘We have to complete our programme by December 2018, and we are now giving thought to what we can deliver after that: which of these businesses will we seek to continue to support; will we do that with regular meetings; and how would we fix dates to suit. It is expensive: how will we find funding for this continuing work?’

Janette Pallas is not alone in her objectives. The Midlands Business Support Network meets quarterly where between 15 and 40 people working in growth hubs and other business support organisations meet up, each time in different locations, to chew over their work (run on a shoestring and good will by a small steering group).

Her work is an illustration of what can be achieved, but there are not many people like her; and programmes for scale-ups ultimately depend on their finding funding. How can these issues be addressed?

John Whatmore, February 2017

Some more about support:

  • SMEs need someone to play the Chairman role. April 2016. http://wp.me/p3beJt-eC Lead mentors have the ability to ask the right questions and to turn up with someone who has just the expertise you are about to need.
  • Support – the latest twists. October 2015. http://wp.me/p3beJt-gJ  Six developments all designed to enhance interactions among and between the entrepreneurs in Accelerator programmes, their mentor community, VCs and relevant corporates.
  • What is valued most in Accelerators. February 2015. http://wp.me/p3beJt-a7 What they get out of ‘Office Hours’, group lunches, others on the programme, their first meeting with mentors, mentor slots and other events.
  • Mentoring: great benefits but considerable problems. Dec 2014. http://wp.me/p3beJt-9E The benefits and the problems are well recognised. Several different routes are evolving, and four distinct approaches to the managing of mentors have different benefits and different problems.
  • Mentor managers can work miracles for startups. December 2014. http://wp.me/p3beJt-9E Above all else, early-stage ventures need their hands holding in their new adventures, but they have no idea about whose hands to hold. Mentor Managers can help them by finding experienced and expert mentors.
  • Curating support for inventers, innovators and creatives. July 2013. http://wp.me/p3beJt-5K Leaders of Incubators, Accelerators and Science Parks provide opportunities for their participants to learn from others – other innovators, creatives and mentors, as well as to reflect on their learnings. What makes for a good cocktail of support?