Category Archives: Leadership

Entrepreneurs Exchange, Leeds Beckett University

Ella Woodward and Sir Charles Dunstone Entrepreneur’s Exchange

Ella Woodward and Sir Charles Dunstone Entrepreneurs Exchange

Earlier this month Ella Woodward and Sir Charles Dunstone spoke at the Leeds event for Entrepreneurs Exchange. The event sponsored by UKTI’s Exporting is Great and HSBC bank saw many events across UK cities held concurrently.

Ella Woodward is the heir of one of the daughters of the Sainsbury’s family. Her father is the former MP and cabinet member Shaun Woodward. Ella attended St Andrews University in Scotland but following graduation fell seriously ill gaining significant weight. Bed bound Ella started to develop gluten free healthy eating recipes and publishing to a blog. Ella now has 25,000 followers on Twitter and 6 members of staff. Deliciously Ella not only publishes the online healthy eating food blog but also some best selling books. Not bad for a 23 year old entrepreneur. Her advice is to be yourself, be enthusiastic and creative.

Following on from Ella was Sir Charles Dunstone. The billionaire mobile telecoms tycoon is not just the founder of the Car Phone Warehouse but also TalkTalk the telephony, TV and broadband provider. Sir Charles stated to be an entrepreneur you have to be a little thick. He went on to state he had just employed an executive who was Oxford educated completing a degree in Politics, Economics and Philosophy. This particular chap is so intelligent he often analyses data and makes one decision only to reverse the decision by analysing another set of data.

Sir Charles explained how his approach was to have a clear vision of where you are heading and stick to the course. You will get obstacles and barriers in the way but all you need to do is to find ways to go over them or round them. That’s why it pays to be a little thick as a entrepreneur otherwise you would never get started. Not bad from a person who is one of the world’s top 1000 richest people and a member of the Chipping Norton set.

Finally, Sir Charles talked about the importance of looking at your product and service from the customer’s point of view. Talk to your customers and listen to what they have to say so you can incrementally improve your business. Always look to simplify your business because as you grow things become more complicated. Without your customers you don’t have a business!


Start with Curiosity

It was back in 2010 when Professor Jeff Gold explained to me the importance of values. During a similar time I had watched a Harvard Business Review Ideacast on the importance of having a company purpose. Once I understood these theories, setting the company values and our cause was straightforward. Our purpose was to create jobs and I measure my success by this. Our company values are to be flexible, fun, contribute, go the extra mile and to keep learning. Furthermore we want superstars who are curious, proactive and helpful.

We have 8 core values at Webanywhere but one of the values if mastered can make living the other values much easier. You can often tell how curious a person is by the number and quality of the questions they ask. The best paid consultants in the world are paid the big dollars for the quality of the questions they ask. A curious person having a taxi ride will be so curious they will know where the taxi driver was born, his interests, his family, his challenges, his upbringing and probably his life history.

I was taught from a young age that it was rude to ask too many questions. Certainly asking 20 questions would be too much! However, my thinking has changed as I have matured. I learnt from UK Entrepreneur James Caan that anything you want to know is in somebody else’s head. Therefore all you need to do is ask the right questions.

In an interview situation a curious candidate will have done their homework on the company in question and will have many questions to ask. A curious co-worker will always ask questions  to further understand the truth. When troubleshooters enter businesses to turn them around they often use the “5 Whys” technique to get to the root cause. Remember, in business the key is to find the business problem, so seeking the opinions of workers is important, especially those closest to the coal face.

All in all, curious people have more active minds, they are open to a world of opportunities and have ideas. Curiosity limits waste, drives sales, helps innovation and creativity. Of course, curiosity by itself is no use, and adds no value. You need to combine your curiosity with the energy of proactivity and helpfulness, which makes every member of staff and every customer feel like they are walking on the red carpet.

If you are reading this blog and have watched our video, you too have a curious mind! To be curious implies you are eager to learn and to change.

Chicago’s 5th Biggest Snow Fall

Sean in Chicago following one of the worst snowfall in years

Sean in Chicago following one of the worst snowfall in years

Having just returned from Chicago I can draw comparisons with Webanywhere’s journey in America to my very own personal journey which started early last Sunday morning.

I left the house in darkness early on Sunday morning, the first day of a new month. Thankfully the snow was melting in the UK as I made my way across the Pennines. At Manchester Airport I met up with a colleague and we journeyed together across the Atlantic. Our flight was indirect so a short layover would be needed before our onward journey to Chicago. I thought this would be good as we could stretch our legs and perhaps grab something to eat.

Little did we know what was about to hit us! Winter Storm Linus arrived on the Sunday creating misery for hundreds of thousands of passengers and the cancellation of thousands of flights. Apparently naming snowstorms is a new thing in the US, and Linus was unforgiving.

With our flight cancelled we booked ourselves in the Doubletree by Hilton near the airport. The only bonus was the ability to watch the Super Bowl, and I must say the Americans certainly know how to put on a show. The game ended in controversy with Boston’s New England Patriots narrowly beating the Seattle Seahawks due to some mishandling of the ball. Our journey onwards to Chicago was about to get more controversial as we started to worry about the handling of our luggage.

Having had our original flights rescheduled we decided to switch airline from American to JetBlue. The high passenger demand meant we needed to fly via Boston to Chicago, adding to further delays, and now the cancellation of some business meetings too. Remaining upbeat, we boarded the plane and took off from a rainy and drizzly Philadelphia.

Just as we entered Boston airspace the pilot came on the tanoy, saying “I’m sorry to announce ladies and gentleman but I’m instructed snow storm Linus is making it unsafe to land. We have been asked to turn around and head to JFK.”

Legacy Christian Academy

Legacy Christian Academy

We landed in New York thinking perhaps a short delay would prevail and we could set off again to Boston. This wasn’t to be the case. We then switched to another JetBlue aircraft with our bags still on the other plane. Again waiting on the tarmac, the snow continued to fall and once again the plane was cancelled.

A night in the Big Apple was inevitable so we rang around 10 hotels until luckily managing to find 2 rooms at the Best Western near the airport. The plastic plates for breakfast were not the best but on the upside we managed to get a direct flight to Chicago the following evening. Luckily we were reunited with our bags at JFK and arrived in Chicago under 19 inches of snow – the fifth largest recording of snowfall in it’s history. The greatest irony of all was that my brother had set off to San Francisco 2 days earlier had now beaten us to Chicago!

“Failing big” in America is embraced, whilst in the UK this is not widely accepted. Indeed, Webanywhere started it’s USA journey back in 2010, experiencing a similar stop-start scenario. Our USA expansion certainly hasn’t been a crash landing but nor has it been an easy passageway. As they say in business, it’s not the destination but the journey that matters.

Stop Start Journey to Chicago

Stop-Start Journey to Chicago

Equally, in online learning it’s easy to measure the outcomes of learning via the grade book, but what is more interesting is the journey and the learner journey. Measuring the progress and learning pathways of students online with big data is exciting. Mapping this big data to their final destinations will create a new industry for the acquisition of talent, and that’s a journey I find fascinating. Webanywhere might build great systems and radar for these student learner journeys, but organisations will always need great pilots – and that’s you, the educators.

Webanywhere is now taking off and is hitting new altitudes, spreading its wings across many States and corporations in America. We will continue to learn from our onward journeys as we meet new people and prepare for obstacles along the way.

Find out more about Webanywhere’s US division at

Smart Creatives – How Google Works

Sean and Michal of Webanywhere

Sean and Michal of Webanywhere

Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg have recently published a book called “How Google Works”. In it, the former CEO of Google and now Chairman Eric and his product guru Jonathan describe what has made Google successful.

One of their ideas is to organise the business around the people with the biggest impact. The 2 pizza rule from Jeff Bezos is recommended when getting started with projects. A small team that can be fed by 2 pizzas can be highly effective. The 7 rule explains how each manager in a business should have at least 7 direct line reports, as this keeps the organisation flat and avoids micromanagement. Eric and Jonathan actually recommend that organisational reorganisation should be done in a day and the remaining issues left to the smart creatives in the business to sort out.

So what is and who are these smart creatives? Firstly, they are learning animals with lots of curiosity. Of course being smart creatives they are obviously smart people. They want to make the world a better place and are always thinking of a better way of doing things. Smart creatives have a growth mindset and can live with ambiguity.

If smart creatives are what’s needed how do you get them? Google take the whole hiring process very seriously – so much so that every candidate’s data sheet was vetted by Larry Page until recently. Hiring is not just the job of management – it’s the job of everyone in the business. Google only hires great candidates. Great candidates are smart, ethical people who will challenge the organisation. These smart creatives want to make the product much better and get stuff done. They are passionate and believe in collaboration over competition.

Google believes in relationships, not hierarchies, and a culture of ‘Yes’. We all need to hire smart creatives who have an upward career trajectory. We must expand the field of potential candidates and not just recruit for now, but for the future. If we are to become smart creatives ourselves we must become learning animals.



2Inspire Leadership Programme and Dale Carnegie

Sean at Bradford School of Management talking to MBA students

Sean at Bradford School of Management talking to MBA students

Rob Northfield runs a successful leadership programme called 2Inspire and each week for the last 6 weeks I have been attending the Cedar Court Hotel in Harrogate alongside 11 other people;  Julie, Sarah, Chris, Dan, Lee, Sarah, Sharon, Brett, Adam, Natalie and Colin. You might ask the question why have I listed all the names above? Well it’s because I have learnt a person’s name is the most important word in the world, at least to them. This would explain why politicians such as Nick Clegg use people’s names all the time to make the other person feel important and hence become more likeable to the voting public. The trick to remembering people’s names is to think of their name as an object or symbol. If you forget a person’s name just say “I’m sorry I didn’t quite catch your name?” and then repeat this back to the person.

Rob Northfield grew up in the East End of London with Jewish roots his family was very poor and his career as a professional footballer for Leyton Orient was cut short due to injury. Rob then went on to be the youngest Managing Director of Beecham’s before running Dale Carnegie training in the UK.

Attending the course has been great and our reading list included “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie. Dale Carnegie talks about a set of principles to create stronger relationships with people. We must make the other person feel important by using their name and showing a real interest in what they have to say by listening intently. Dale goes on to explain how criticism of other gets you nowhere and it’s much better to ask quality questions rather than argue for sake of argument. We must talk about another person’s interests, it’s about them not you and as human beings we tend to talk and focus on ourselves far too often. Smiling and eye contact when listening also helps!

Rob talks about leadership being made up of skill, knowledge and attitude and that you need to have all of these to properly lead. The most important of these is your attitude. Of course your attitude is a state of mind and Rob and his co-presenter David Ross have taught us about the importance of giving to other people to energies others and indeed yourself. Sometimes giving to others is reciprocated and this in turn takes your daily energy to another level.

Plan to flip the trip on a slow coach always on time listening to songs of praise. The former sentence helps me remember my new personal values to help me improve how I interact with people and lead them at Webanywhere. I need to learn to listen more to people and their point of view. Sometimes when I get negative thoughts I need to flip these and take the other person’s perspective. Slowing down in my daily life instead of rushing from one meeting to the next and one task to the next will make me more reflective. Coaching other people to become leaders themselves is something I must work hard on. I need to be on time for internal meetings! For some reason I attend client meetings on time but this doesn’t happen in our business. And finally, song of praise reminds me to praise staff not just when they accomplish their goals but on the successful small steps they take towards their objectives.

In business technical skill and knowledge only gets you so far. What takes you to the next level and beyond is leadership and leadership needs you to have a great positive mental attitude. It’s about attitude not aptitude!