Inspired Thinking with Adnams CEO Andy Wood

10 08 2010

Adnams have long been on my list of Inspiring Companies (see blogroll on the right).  I wrote a short article about them last year which you can read here : –

Avoiding Mediocrity – An exemplar of sustainability

Photo Copyright Jason Dye - http://www.jasondye.com

Adnams is the Southwold based brewing firm founded in 1872 when George and Ernest Adnams purchased the Sole Bay brewery with the help of their father. The business has grown steadily and won great acclaim for their beers, and recently many awards for their sustainable achievements.

Since 1990 the business has expanded to include wine and leisure retailing. Today the business is focused in three areas – Brewing and Brands, including its tenanted estate; Hotels and Managed Houses; and Wine and Shops including the Cellar & Kitchen chain of stores. In 2009 improved growth and profitability led to turnover of more than £50m and in their peak summer season employs more than 400 people

Last week I got the chance to interview Adnams CEO Andy Wood (right) about the business, its authentic values, and strategy for sustainable development.

You can listen to the interview here : Authentic Business Directory – Adnams plc

I would love to hear your comments about Authentic and Sustainable business – post a comment below.

If you would like to discuss how I can help you develop and implement your own sustainable and authentic business strategy then please get in touch.

James Rock – MD and Chief Business Designer





Saving our way to prosperity… Is this an Oxymoron?

4 08 2010

You can also get an audio version of this podcast here: Listen!

Have you noticed for the last few months that the phrase “Efficiency Savings” seems to crop up in whichever newspaper or magazine you read, or on any TV news show that you watch? Governments, Local Authorities, and Private Companies all seem focused on achieving savings, in some case up to 40% in certain areas. Unsurprisingly, reaction from customers and employees is a mixture of doubt and fear about what it means for them.

I guess this is understandable. The economic downturn has forced us all to reconsider what we do, and to make do with less… but sometimes the result isn’t quite what we expect.

In my wide experience as a consultant I have heard “Efficiency Savings” used many, many times, and the phrase is abused time and again. Greater efficiency means either achieving more output with the same resources, or the same output with less resources, and the latter is what is usually inferred when the phrase “Efficiency Savings” is used. But in most cases I have found that output also drops as well as input and this inevitably harms effectiveness. I call this phenomena “Saving our way to prosperity” and it constantly amazes me how many management teams believe it will work. But the reality is that this type of cost-cutting is unsustainable – short term cost saving without re-inventing the way things are done only stores up problems for the future. I’ll give you an example.

A client I worked with needed to make “efficiency savings” to satisfy shareholder demands for greater short-term profitability because they wanted to sell the business – and greater profit means higher shareholder value. So it made an assumption that if field service engineer calls were increased from 4 calls per day to 5 calls per day then this 25% improvement would allow them to make 20% reduction in headcount – simple logic – and after all it was only one extra service call per engineer per day…! So the board instructed the management team to make the savings and crack the whip harder to make sure that service engineers hit their new targets – they then sold the business for an increased price and were very happy. A great result for the exiting shareholders, but for the company the result was disaster – overworked engineers could’nt hit their new call targets without considerable overtime, and service parts stock had not been increased to reflect the additional calls so they found they could’nt fix equipment even when they got to customers sites, so re-calls needed to be added; service-call lead-time increased from 1-2 days to over 2 weeks; when challenged by customers about the delays service engineers blamed management for the issues; dissatisfied customers quickly raised complaints; customer service staff became inundated with complaints and repeat calls from customers and the firm lost key service contracts; and the predicted cost savings never materialised – overtime pay increased dramatically, cash collection took longer, whilst turnover dropped by 10% and staff turnover in the department increased to 200% per annum leading to big unexpected and unbudgeted additional recruitment and training costs. The new business owners soon found they had to re-invent the way things were done, and it took 18 months of hard work to turn around the situation and get employees and customers back on board again.

So when you look at making efficiency savings make sure that you plan for success by engaging employees and customers in co-creating the new processes that will deliver savings whilst simultaneously increasing customer satisfaction; be authentic in staying true to your core purpose; and be creative in using Design Thinking to re-invent how you do things.  The result CAN be lower costs combined with long-term sustainable growth and increased profitability – the true way to future prosperity….

I would love to hear your own examples of companies that got this either right or wrong. Leave a comment below.

If you would like to discuss how I can help you make your efficiency savings sustainable then please get in touch.

James Rock – MD and Chief Business Designer





The value of being Authentic…

14 07 2010

You can also get an audio version of this podcast here: Listen!

I had an interesting meeting with a CEO this week. Our discussion focused on his desire to develop his business Authentically but he was worried about the opinions of significant and vocal shareholders who are constantly pushing him for short-term profitability.  He felt that board meetings had recently become something of a battle zone, and despite a track record of success he felt both insecure and angry that these shareholders are taking such a short-term perspective. This isn’t a new phenomenon of course, its a well known fact in publicly quoted companies, and is often one of the key reasons for under-investment.

Our conversation reminded me of an interview I heard recently with the owner of a Japanese family business that had been trading for more than 100 years. He attributed the long term success of the business to a philosophy of “growing like an oak tree not like a water melon….” He knew that slow organic growth made for a strong business with “A Heart of Oak”. He had seen many businesses that had pushed for aggressive and acquisitive growth that had failed or been taken over and integrated into other companies. I thought it was a good lesson for sustainable business.

But the Oak Tree metaphor didn’t really help my client… he could see the long term benefits, but he needed help to convince his shareholders that adopting an authentic approach can deliver increased shareholder value in the short-term too.  So we sat down and brainstormed just some of the benefits, which include:-

Increased Sales

  • increasingly customers seek to do business with sustainable companies, and with those that fulfill a social need;
  • customers of authentic businesses tend to tell their family and friends and these word-of-mouth recommendations results in more business; and
  • happy customers keep returning – so customer retention is higher.

Reduced Operating Costs

  • a true sense of purpose helps everyone focus on core competence, and reducing distracting activities;
  • marketing spend is lower since word-of-mouth overtakes advertising and special offers as the principal source of acquiring new customers;
  • staff turnover is reduced – resulting in lower recruitment and training costs;
  • staff feel more rewarded – since money isn’t their key motivator – resulting in greater productivity; and
  • suppliers are more helpful since the respect you show earns their loyalty – they go that extra mile to deliver on time, help develop new products, and find joint ways to reduce total costs.

Improved Shareholder Value

  • sustainable growth and steady contracts leads to increased P/E ratios;
  • increased profitability is multiplied by the higher P/E ratios to deliver higher shareholder value; and
  • business success attracts more potential buyers – increasing competitiveness in the buy cycle.

The above benefits now need to be quantified, but the CEO feels reassured that he can justify investing in developing an Authentic business strategy, and adopting Authentic leadership across the organisation… Is this an opportunity for you too?

Why not get in touch for an exploratory chat about the benefits that your organisation could get from Authenticity…

James Rock

Chief Business Designer – CULTIVAR Consulting

Partner – AUTHENTICIS Consulting Network





Inspiring Companies

24 06 2010

You can also get an audio version of this podcast here: Listen!

As a consumer I constantly look out for businesses that are distinctive, that offer value for money, that deliver great products and great customer service.

As a Business Designer I constantly look out for great companies as sources of inspiration, across all types of sectors, and use these as best-in-class examples to learn from.

Often these two coincide – I find businesses that really make me happy for some reason and I share these with friends and family when they ask for word-of-mouth recommendations; but I also share them with my clients and use the things that make them unique to help create a vision of what clients could be doing for their own customers.

Increasingly I find myself drawn to Authentic Businesses i.e. those who focus on long-term sustainability and display a true sense of purpose, respect their stakeholder needs, act with integrity, are distinctive in their market, and are environmentally conscious.

I have started to develop a list of these inspiring and authentic companies, and you can take a look at the blog-roll on the right where you can link straight through to their websites. If you search the web about any of them you will probably find other interesting comments and articles and video’s about them too.

Finally, I am constantly on the look out for more Inspiring Companies to learn from and so invite you to leave a comment and share your own sources of happiness and inspiration if you think they deserve mentioning…

James Rock

MD & Chief Business Designer – CULTIVAR Consulting

Partner – Authenticis





Room for inspiration?

14 05 2010

In my last post I wrote about the importance of work space in providing a work environment that positively encourages employees to be creative, innovative, motivated and happy. I would like to apply this thinking to the future of UK government.

Whilst much of the policy debate in the recent UK election focused on change for the future, both the Conservative party and Liberal Democrat party tried to engage voters with their vision of “what might be” if they were elected. In contrast to this however, the Labour party seemed to focus on the past rather than trying to paint a vision of the future.  Their key message was often “see what we have achieved in the past – so trust us in future” and, as we now know, this failed to engage the electorate and Labour lost heavily.  Was this surprising? Not for me… If you look at this set of incredible photos taken by Guardian photographer Martin Argles you can begin to understand why the Labour leadership seem stuck in the past: –

Gordon Brown – The last hours in Number 10

Isn’t it easy to see why the team using this office aren’t looking forward? Do these offices inspire you? No? So why would they inspire anyone to think creatively about the future? And what about their other work environment – the House of Commons? Lets take a look inside: –

We can get a sense of history from these surroundings, rich in heritage as they are. But do they inspire creativity? And do they foster the collaborative working environment that all parties say is important to deliver policies that will turn around the country following the recent economic crisis? How about the adversarial layout seen here – the “opposition” benches that are designed to position parties facing each other, and which we so often see bristling with hostile MP’s, and with the “Front Benches” full of big hitters.

As I think about the challenges ahead I wonder if these work environments support or hinder new ideas, new collaboration, and a fresh start for UK politics?  If you look at other coalition governments they operate in the round, and in modern buildings – see below for some examples: –

Inside the Welsh Assembly

Inside the Scottish Assembly

Inside the German Parliament

So will our new UK Government remain stuck in the past? Or will they be able to overcome the inertia of their surroundings? Will the Welsh, Scottish and German parilaments be more progressive with their modern, efficient, comfortable and inspirational buildings? What do you think? – why not post a comment to let us know….

Contact me for more information about how we can help bring design thinking, creativity and innovation to your business…

James Rock – MD & Chief Business Designer – CULTIVAR Consulting





Design Thinking, Architecture and Interior Design

11 04 2010

Two years ago I wrote the following blog post: –

“Are your Employees like Battery Hens?”

The theme of this post was about the issue of workplace design and how it relates to happiness and motivation of your employees. I argued that I find only too often that workplace design is poor and uninspiring, leading to both poor motivation and poor levels of creativity and innovation in the workplace.

Later, in September 2008 I wrote the following blog post: –

“Business 2.0 – Delighting customers, shareholders and employees simultaneously”

The theme of this post was about embracing Business 2.0 to think again about how we organise our businesses, embrace technology to support home-working practices, and resulting in happier employees, greater productivity and innovation, and better profits and improved shareholder value.

Now I would like to link these two earlier posts to my recent thoughts on Design Thinking…

The office above is at leading design agency IDEO in San Francisco. Notice that it isn’t rows of cubicles, or bland desks, with poor lighting and ventilation.  This space is COOL.  Its designed as a social and collaborative space where groups or teams of various sizes can get together.  People can go away and work on things alone, but now when they get together they want something more than a 10×10 meeting room with a square table and four chairs. This type of environment not only supports creativity and innovation – it stimulates it!

Is your workspace like this? If not here is a link to a website where you can see 10 seriously cool designs for an office – perhaps this will inspire you :

“10 seeeeeriously cool workplaces”

So if you are seeerious about Design Thinking as a way of re-inventing your business, then why not engage a leading architect and interior designer to help? think of it differently – is it possibly something you thought was previously too expensive? but now maybe you should consider it as an investment?

Contact me for more information about how we can help bring design thinking, creativity and innovation to your business via our network of associates.

James Rock – MD & Chief Business Designer

CULTIVAR Consulting





The Art of Business Design 2.0

1 04 2010

I recently published a free eBook on the subject covering my philosophy of Authentic Design Thinking.

This covers Design Thinking and Authenticity, and how I believe that these are both crucial important elements in designing and/or redesigning business models that cope with the miriad of challenges of today, and position businesses to be the leading companies of tomorrow.

You can view and download your FREE copy of this book from Slideshare.net – just follow this link:-

The Art of Business Design 2.0

Don’t forget to share your comments about this subject below.

If you would like to discuss it in more detail and how it can apply to your business then contact me…

James Rock, Chief Business Designer – CULTIVAR Consulting