Thursday, 13 October 2016

Brighton and Barclays mean business for high growth entrepreneurs

Chimera's MD Jill Woolf recently interviewed Barclays' Corporate Relationship Director, Paul Williams, on the bank's sponsorship of a session at Brighton Summit. The Summit is organised by Brighton & Hove Chamber of Commerce and is a popular business conference, now in its fourth year, attracting around 300 delegates comprising start-ups, SMEs and bigger corporates, business owners and managers, not-for-profits and entrepreneurs, working in and around the city.

Jill is Lead Ambassador for the Chamber and a member of its Board.

High growth business entrepreneurship and its challenges are the subject of the Barclays-sponsored session and the speaker is Marc Koska, the inventor of the K1 auto-disabling syringe and founder of the SafePoint Trust, a charity which campaigns for safer syringe use.

Jill: We’re delighted Barclays is on board for this year’s Brighton Summit, Paul. I’m sure members and delegates would like to know more about your unit’s role within the bank, and the synergy between what you do and the session you’re sponsoring. As head of the high growth entrepreneur team, what are you looking for in an ideal high growth business?

Paul: In black and white, a high growth company should be consistently growing at 20% each year in terms of revenue and number of employees over the last three years, or has received external investment through post seed funding. That said, not all high growth businesses fit into the black and white definition so we also look at the companies’ USPs, growth potential, management team and strategic plans to move the business forward.

Jill: What does your new service offer, why did Barclays feel it was necessary now, and how will high growth businesses in the city benefit?

Paul: Barclays is continuing to build out its proposition, which supports high growth companies and entrepreneurs right across the UK. Through its ‘High Growth & Entrepreneurs’ offering, the bank is at the forefront in helping founders and entrepreneurs build and scale their businesses at speed.

Building and maintaining forward momentum in a high growth business requires continuous investment, so we’ve developed a suite of funding options to meet the changing needs of a high growth business. Barclays can support entrepreneurs from idea to IPO utilising our £200m fund for venture debt lending.

The specialist Brighton team has individuals from many parts of the business including a dedicated high growth and entrepreneur manager so we’re able to guide and support a company from start-up all the way through to flotation or sale.

Jill: What particular challenges do high growth entrepreneurs have that others don’t?

Paul: Good question! In our recent white paper ‘The Scale Up’ report, which Barclays commissioned with the support of Cambridge and Oxford University, a number of challenges were identified. The report is available free of charge to download from the Barclays High Growth & Entrepreneur website and well worth a read -  

In a snapshot, funding presents a huge challenge to scale up business, however it’s not all about money, and the skills gap and ability to scale at speed, production and personnel also present unique challenges for scale up businesses. 

Jill: How does the Eagle Lab fit in?

Paul: Barclays Eagle Lab provides the facility for UK start-up businesses to co-locate, collaborate and grow.

The Eagle Lab provides access to resources including expert mentoring, 3D printers and laser cutters - giving Brighton’s start-up community a crucial boost. For more information, visit or pop in to the Eagle Lab, which is located at Preston Circus.

Jill: Tell me about your background and journey to get to your current post. Do you have an entrepreneurial background?

Paul: I’ve been a business manager with Barclays in Brighton for 20 years and I’ve supported start-up businesses all the way to corporate companies. It’s great to see some of the entrepreneurs I helped to start up now turning over six figure sums. I’ve always lived and worked in the area and I feel I have developed a strong understanding of the unique Brighton market.

Jill: Thanks so much for talking with me, Paul, and I hope you enjoy this year’s Summit.

Paul: It’s been a pleasure. I’ll be there along with members of my unit so not only will be joining in with the day, we’re there to answer any questions from delegates and offer advice. I’m really looking forward to it, and of course our sponsored session on high growth business.

Brighton Summit takes place on 14th October 2016 ( 

 This blog post was originally published on the Brighton Summit website.

Friday, 26 August 2016

Work-Life Balance Olympian Style...

7 Work-Life Balance Secrets of Elite Champions... and You

Guest blog by Nick Le Clere, strategic change consultant and facilitator, executive leadership coach, trainer, innovator and speaker, running online webinars and learning events for conscious business leaders of the future

Hooray for our Team GB Olympians! What truly outstanding performances from so many, to win 67 medals in all. 27 Gold, 23 Silver and 17 Bronze - wow, truly amazing.

Wonderful timing for putting the heart and self-respect back into Great Britain, after Brexit as well.

How did that happen?

What did it take to create that level of success, both individually and as a team? What did it take, to peak at the precise time, for the maximum Olympic effect?

Well for sure, the athletes didn't just roll up to Rio and get lucky. They did not drive themselves to the edge of insanity, just before the Games and hope to pull off a coup. They did not pray for miracles. They knew they could do it, deep down inside themselves. They were ready.

Many of the athletes talk about planning for this event for many years beforehand. Some deliberately missed other competitions like the Commonwealth Games to be able to retain absolute focus on Olympic Gold in Rio 2016.

All the while, training relentlessly and building their mental commitment, emotional resilience and self-belief levels to astounding levels of positivity and self-assuredness.

Also receiving the help and support of coaches, mentors, physios, trainers, families, friends and of course Lottery Funding.

The support these athletes have received has been planned and organised since the Lottery Fund was first started in the 1990s. That’s the kind of long-term planning, organising and consistent investment in the environment and infrastructure that has been going on behind the scenes for years. Not to mention the ongoing benefits of the London Olympic infrastructure created previously.

What can you do for you, to nurture your high performance?

What can we take and apply from this amazing Olympic lesson in discipline, commitment and resolve, to be the best you can be, on your particular stage?

 1. Pick your battles and commitments

Beware of over-commitment. Be fully aware of what you say yes to. Don’t try to do everything and wear yourself out.

Make time for urgent and important activities and delegate as much stuff that you don't like doing as possible. Keep your edge sharp, not blunted on trivia.

2. Manage your down-time as well as up-time

Sporting legends look after themselves and know how to relax and switch off. Plan and organise your time with your own rest and recovery cycles in mind.

Burn out = no medals at all. Give yourself priority among the ever-increasing workload.

3. Build high quality support systems

None of the Olympic athletes could have achieved what they did without full-on help and support over an extended period.

Ask for help. It’s a sign of strength not weakness, if you want to win the big stuff.

Balance your work, rest and play time, and actively schedule these things in your calendar, if necessary. Look at your eating and drinking habits and make more healthy choices.

4. Get a coach and/or mentor

Get yourself a coach and/or mentor with whom you really connect and bounce new ideas around to raise your game.

Most athletes have more than one coach - areas covered include winning mindsets, self-belief, various capability sets, energetics, optimising emotional content, and work-life balance.

Coaches help you see what you can’t yet see or what’s staring you in the face while you look around everywhere for answers. They help you create new pathways for high performance and wellbeing.

5. Stay grounded and centred

It’s far too easy to lose your centre and sense of self under intense pressure. Sustained exposure to pressure and stress creates fatigue and leads to deteriorating performance.

With both stress overload and fatigue, simple things start to become difficult to achieve consistently and self-mastery goes out of the window.

Finding ways to relax and come back to your centre, say through visualisation, meditation or taking regular time in nature to soften your focus and create harmony within, is time well spent in the pursuit of high performance.

6. Stay positive and focused

While easier said than done, when under pressure, if you feel overwhelm approaching, the best thing you can do is stop and breathe and take a time out.

Stepping back helps to refocus your attention on the bigger picture and create an opportunity for positivity to be reclaimed.

This can be hard when in the thick of challenging situations, but at the first chance you can, create, pull back and evaluate as an observer and notice new ways of doing things entering your perceptions...

You can do this and still keep your eyes on the prize!

7. Manage expectations

Rome was not built in a day. Olympic medals are not won through short-term effort cycles.

Be honest with yourself, and others around you, about just what is possible. Get used to saying no, if things feel wrong.

By saying this, you may be able to create new ways of approaching things that you feel more able to say yes to. Practice discernment and be aware of how much pressure you put on yourself and its effect - positive or limiting.

Too much pressure over extended periods is madness and no medals come from that choice or habit whatsoever. Unless cultural insanity is the prize.

And finally…

Be kind to yourself, especially if no-one else is being kind to you.

If this is your normal working environment, and work-life balance is not possible in your team or business - then it’s time for a change.

If you don't put your work-life balance first, no one else will.

So it’s up to you - how badly do you want the end prize?

What is your Gold medal event, at your own lifetime Olympic Games?

Thursday, 21 July 2016

The Case of Noddy and the Mysterious Media Interview

Well, at least that got your attention!

Can you remember the worst interview you’ve ever seen on TV? I bet you can. Was it a politician, reality ‘star’, footballer or unsuspecting member of the public?

For me, it was the director of a certain holiday park company who was being grilled by a prime time TV reporter about some pretty torrid holiday experiences from customers at one of their venues. This was a perfect example of media training - or in this case, lack of media training.

The company representative continually denied everything, was incredibly defensive to the point of being downright aggressive in tone as well as body language, was utterly disinterested in the customers’ complaints, and frankly made viewers feel they’d never want to use that holiday firm in the future.

How different it could have been. The right spokesperson, preparation, tone, language and message delivery could have been the difference between:

(a) alienating the reporter as well as the viewer;
(b) getting the company perceived as caring, considerate and responsive; and
(c) winning and losing customers.

Have you worn the right outfit for the interview?

There are so many things to consider when agreeing to appear on TV or on the radio, or on-line, and that’s where we come in.

Our media trainers are experienced broadcasters, journalists and communications experts, not wannabes or copycats.

We will create a bespoke training course for your business and its issues, and deliver it at your own offices or venue of choice. It can last as long as you want it to ie half a day, a whole day or two. It depends how many people are to be trained and how much content we agree with you will benefit your executives. We also incorporate personal branding and image.

We work with a professional filming crew, so everyone will be filmed and critiqued (in only the most positive way), then we go about giving you expert tips and techniques to hone your skills and make you feel confident and controlled for future broadcasts. The experience takes away the mystique and fear, and having been through it once, you’ll feel much better about doing it for real when the need arises.

“This was one of the best courses I’ve ever been on, and I remember your tips to this very day,” said one of my delegates, a director from a housing group, “even down to the choice of tie I should wear!”

And Noddy? 

It’s the name for those little head shots you see in interviews consisting of nods or signs of listening by the interviewer. Usually it’s because there’s only one camera available, and noddies are recorded after the interview has taken place then edited in. It seems real to the viewer, as if the interview is being filmed from several different angles with a bigger film crew.

Get in touch now to talk about the creation of a bespoke package for your company executives. Simply click here or give us a call.

Your company reputation is worth it.

Monday, 20 June 2016

“Don't let's ask for the moon! We have the stars!” ― Olive Higgins Prouty, Now, Voyager

Last week, our training team had some fresh professional photos taken by our lovely friends at VERVATE in Brighton.

The original plan was to use the seafront as our stage and create some rather wacky shots but as the heavens opened, Plan B came into operation: we used the theatre and stage setting at 88 London Road, an independent CIC (community interest company) where the current performance is Peter Pan, a musical adventure. We're strategic PR partners with the 88 team, so we have very special access.

Having professional images means projecting a professional image and with our quirky company, only quirky images would do. Effective branding means always being consistent and cohesive, and that includes business photography. We're vibrant personalities, our offering is strategic and business-like, so having us stand dumbly in a straight line just wouldn't be appropriate.

So here are some of the images we created, thanks to the wonderful Susi Doherty and Simon Dack of VERVATE. "Do something funky" I said and that's just what we got. Where else would I get the chance to lift up the moon?!
We can't get you to the moon but we can help your business fly!

So here we have from left to right, back row: Pete Jenkins (Gamification+), Jill Woolf, Chris Cummings (OGC Solutions); front row: Eleanor Dobing, Susi Doherty (VERVATE), Sheryl Tipton and Samantha Wilding. Missing from the trainers' line-up is Barney Durrant (Bluebell Digital). 

This unique team of industry experts is collaborating to bring small business owners and their teams a range of PR, sales and marketing-related training workshops designed to create better performance, enhance skills and improve profits.

It's no good waiting in the wings, dreaming you'll get to Neverland, wishing you could fly and hoping the business spotlight will fall on you, centre stage. Enough with the Peter Pan theatre puns! You need to invest in your people so your business can experience return on investment.

We can't get our clients to the moon but our selection of perfectly crafted topics, from content marketing through gamification, social media, photography, getting your business story in the media, plus tons of other sessions, can certainly make you superstars in your own right.

All of our trainers have real experience in the topics about which they're coaching, and have worked with every type of organisation from start-ups, social enterprises, SMEs, multinational conglomerates and everything in between. Between us, we have around 200 years' experience. This unique mix isn't replicated anywhere else.

Go on, book an Early Bird ticket now and say 'Curtains up' for business growth.

Each and every one of them a training superstar!
 To book, go to Chimera Courses - practical skills for practical businesses.

Friday, 3 June 2016

We all sell – some better than others!

Guest blog by Chris Cummings, OGC Solutions

In every organisation, large or small, everyone is involved with the sales process. Whether it’s selling an idea internally, as a leader galvanising your workforce, or developing new business by selling to clients direct.

The word ‘sales’ can conjure up traditional images of bashing the phone or knocking on doors, pushing a product or service in an aggressive way. However, the process has developed significantly in recent years and buyers have become more savvy and knowledgeable. So as individuals looking to develop our businesses, we have to become more sophisticated.

It’s not rocket science to become an effective sales person but there are some simple pointers that can help you achieve your goals.

Learn how to target and aim high
Social media has given sales people a huge opportunity to research buyers and companies more effectively to enable a more tailored approach. Technology has given us the tools to communicate in different ways, identifying decision-makers more easily without having to rely on traditional cold-calling and door knocking.

A lot of people think they can sell, but it is an art; however, it can be taught and perfected. Having a toolbox of tricks you can use will undoubtedly make you a more effective and successful organisation both internally and externally. 

Traditional methods are getting tired and produce average results – choose to be successful and learn a new way to develop your business. 

Come along to my Chimera Courses on Achieving Sales Success and Improving Profitability to find out more. Book here.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Where's the magic?

Guest blog by Sheryl Tipton

PR and marketing are funny things. Every business needs them but few really know how to get the best from them.

It’s fine if you’re part of a large company with an in-house marketing team ready to jump onto Facebook every hour of the day, or produce reams of content to boost your ratings; but if it’s your small or medium sized business and it’s down to you to find and develop potential new customers, losing out on your PR and marketing could mean losing out to your competitors.

So, where to start? Should you do a little bit of Twitter? Could you write a few blogs? Or are you better spending that hard earned cash on a glossy brochure? All three (and more) are often points for discussion when I first meet clients, or even when just casually chatting at networking events. 

Tell someone you’re a PR expert and their eyes light up (especially if you’re carrying a magic hat and can conjure up rabbits too!) as they then hope you’ll able to fix their marketing over the time it takes for you to drink a cup of coffee. It’s not that easy unfortunately BUT a good, well thought out and timely strategy will go a long way to helping you achieve your goals.

Having a PR and marketing strategy means putting a system in place. There does need to be organisation, thought, time and creativity, but once you begin to understand that most of what you need revolves around your ideal target audience, not your product, then things become a lot simpler.

There are so many ways that you can promote yourself in the fast paced world in which we live, but again once you begin to mould your content around your target market, the places that in which you should promote yourself, be they online, in the media or elsewhere, begin to slowly become apparent, without too much difficulty, and this then guides your decisions.

PR and marketing experts are sadly not magicians. We can’t wave magic wands and make new customers appear for you in a flash (oh I wish we could, it would be so interesting on a cold June day) but what we do is work very hard to make sure that the communications you put in place in your organisation really deliver results for your business.

And now, even better, through our training courses we can now help you to independently know where to start, and how to write your own strategy.

Our half day course will help you to:

·         Understand the elements of a marketing plan
·         Identify your target audience/s
·         Use competitors to your advantage
·         Work out your business strengths, weaknesses and USPs
·         Understand the stages of the customer buying process
·         Choose the right solution to promote your product or service
·         Maximise attention across all channels
·         Use all resources, without breaking the bank!
·         Evaluate the return on your investment in effective PR and marketing 

So, if you’re struggling to know how to begin, or if you’ve spent some time on marketing with little result, do come along to our PR and Marketing session in Brighton on 17th June, and see how we can spread a little magic to help you stand out from the rest of the crowd.

Book an Early Bird rate now here: Chimera Courses

Friday, 15 April 2016

I’m ready for my close-up now, Mr DeMille

Your heart is racing. There are little beads of sweat on your brow. Your mouth is so dry you could scrape a match along your tongue and it’d light up (don’t try that at home, folks).

In two seconds, you’ll be appearing on live TV. You thought you could handle it. You thought it was a waste of money employing a professional to help you to prepare. Now you’re wishing you’d listened to your colleagues and not thought you knew it all.

Your head is now an empty place with tumbleweed blowing around and you’re grasping around for any words that you can string together to make rational sentences. What will they ask me? What can I answer? Who am I and why am I here?!

This is a familiar position for people who are asked to take part in interviews for the media, whether on TV, radio or for an online platform, who haven't prepared properly. Your performance in front of the cameras or on the radio can mean the difference between getting your messages across succinctly, on point and professionally, or rambling incoherently, losing the plot and damaging your reputation. Which would you prefer?

It’s a no-brainer - get professional training. 

Here are some of the benefits:
  •  You'll find out who's the best person to use
  • You'll learn how to prepare, visualise and rehearse
  • You'll get skills to get the job done effectively
  • You'll learn how to calmly deliver key messages
  • You’ll look the part and feel more confident
  • You’ll know what the journalist is looking for
  • You can raise your brand awareness
  • You'll understand what soundbites are and how to deliver them
  •  You'll keep your cool in a crisis
  •   If relevant, you'll grab the opportunity to turn a negative into a positive

Choosing the right location is important too

To find out more about our media training courses and bespoke in-house training for your company, check out Chimera Courses.

Our trainers are industry experts with many years of relevant media and training experience, not novices or copycats. We’ve handled press and crises in-house for small to large companies and not-for-profits, as well as been media interviewers, journalists and producers, so we know what we’re talking about. 

Altogether in our team, we have around 200 years of experience in PR, sales and marketing. That makes us very old or very knowledgeable, our clients judge which. 

Hint: none of us are collecting our pensions just yet…