September – the beginning of the school year (& fresh starts!)

September – the beginning of the school year (& fresh starts!)

September – the beginning of the school year and so often a time for fresh starts, fresh initiatives, and fresh projects. I often think that starting something new at this time of year can feel more optimistic than in January: let’s face it, starting something when it’s cold and dark outside can often feel more like a chore!

But what I also find is that when people start something new in September, they’re not really thinking beyond the next quarter. They put a few new things in place, get themselves to Christmas, and then on the 1st of January suddenly find themselves needing to think about the calendar year ahead. That lack of forethought can really hamstring a business and is one of the key factors that can inhibit growth. Every few months there’s a ‘fresh start’, before the last one has had a chance to gain any traction, as leaders cast about looking for another way to jump start growth.

I also often see clients in a vicious circle of hustling to win new business, getting a project out of the door and then either experiencing a dip when they need to find new work to pitch for, or jumping straight into the next task in front of them. They perform re-actively, instead of proactively: unable to work on their business, because they’re too busy working in it. The company exists and stays afloat, but it can’t move forward, as there’s no tangible plan in place. Of course this is going to stultify growth – it’s impossible to think about what you want the future to look like when you’re trying your hardest to keep the present under control.

This lack of forward motion, combined with numerous ‘fresh starts’, can have another unintended side effect, which can be equally damaging: a lack motivation within your team.

New initiatives, trying to build on the momentum of the last project using new processes, or simply trying to create some momentum, may fall at the first or second hurdle, either from the absence of a proper plan behind it, but also because your team simply aren’t motivated to work on their fifth or sixth new ‘master plan’. Think about it – if you don’t have any clearly defined goals other than ‘grow’, and no real idea of how to achieve them beyond something you’ve only researched in passing, your team is bound to look at any new ideas with skepticism. You need them to buy into and become accountable for the future, which they’re not going to do if coming to the office feels like Groundhog Day.

So how can you build and maintain growth if you’re going back to the drawing board every quarter.

It can feel overwhelming, I know, but by planning a proper growth path, and delivering work in a more coordinated way, you can improve your business prospects organically and sustainably.

At Amplified it’s my passion to help you create a plan to change and grow your business, quickly and sustainably. I’ll work with you every step of the way to show you how growth can be achieved and maintained, from a vision planning process all the way through to regular accountability check-ins.

If you want to see more about what I believe could help you scale your business, please watch this short case study I recorded –



I often hear Business Leaders express frustration that their team doesn’t have the same drive as they used to in the good ol’ days! Trying to keep some of the magic from the original company culture for scale-up business is tough and as you add more people it’s undoubtedly going to change as new people means new shared values.

Getting recruitment right is so important. Whenever a new person is added to the team, you are basically saying to the company, this is what the new ‘good’ looks like and this is where the business is going (whether you intended to or not)! I’ll talk in detail how to make existing teams feel valued shortly.

Business leaders solve this through different ways, one of the most famous being Jeff Bozos of Amazon talking about it always being ‘Day 1’, to keep the team hungry for innovation, as once it’s day 2 they will be beaten. This is often delivered in a letter each year or quarter to the team to paint a picture of the future and why the company is aspiring to achieve great things. Hopefully they also take the time to celebrate success and have Champaign moments.

The reality in your organisation is likely to be new people = new behaviours and not only are you fighting an ever-changing landscape externally but now you have the same internally and it feels like the originals spark is eroded. When companies lose their way, they have been able to get back on track by returning to the founder’s original vision and values. The best-known case of this is with Steve Jobs and Apple in the 90s when Apple bought NeXT and Job became an advisor to his former company, the rest is history.

There are practical things that you can do, such as always being involved in the hiring process, even if it’s just a zoom call towards the end of the process so you check that new team members are the right people for where you’re going but also where you’ve come from.

It’s also important not to skimp and this is something that I found hard in the early days because you don’t have the money. Sometimes you will interview and feel that they may move on, as they are too good but it’s much better to hire a good person for a year than someone that doesn’t perform for two! Good people can have 100x the impact to the success of your organisation whereas the wrong hire can reverse the successes you’ve had to date (& sabotage company culture).

Hiring the wrong person can also take up so much of your time. We’ve all made these mistakes and you know the challenge of removing people is quite disruptive (even if your country allows you to do this more easily). I’ve also never been in a situation where I’ve extended a probation and that employee ever really work out. Your intuition is almost always right but it needs to be backed up with performance data which again, takes time to gather & build a position.

So some practical exercises that you can do with your existing team, so they feel included. One that’s really important is to define what good culture looks like. You have to be really explicit with your team not implicit so defining this together is the best way to get buy-in as follows: –
• As a team, with lots of post-its (or on a collaborative platform like Miro if virtually)
• Draw the rugby goal posts (which have more space above the line) and ask the team to write on their post-its what above the line or below the line behaviour looks like.
• They then get the team to talk through their post-its as they put them up either above or below depending on the behaviour
• Get this typed up and printed off / placed on the intranet, so others can refer to this.

The beauty of this is it becomes self-regulating and you give the team permission to challenge below the line behaviour and praise above the line. Great culture is what the team do when you are not there (which is most of the time during these covid times).

Hiring high-performing senior members of the team essential, irrelevant of whether you have a hierarchical or self-organising team, as can be seen in Figure 1 and 2 below. The underperformance (red) will permeate through your team (affected pink team members).

When to hire and ‘grasping the nettle’ (training I’ve shared in when removing underperformers are entire subjects of their own. I often hear ‘hire when it hurts’, or ‘hire slow, fire fast’. In both cases, I’d suggest you need to know your business cycles, how long does a sale take to be delivered, does it need additional resource and how long would it take to train someone up. Alex Reilley from Loungers talks about how he and his Co-Founders would ‘shed skin’ until they had enough to make a new person, then hire (effectively finding enough tasks to turn into a whole role they could package up and delegate to a new team member).

So hopefully this is giving you some initial ideas of how to try to retain your company culture during rapid growth.

If you want to see more about what I believe could help you sustainably scale your business, please watch this short case study I recorded – 



Day one is over at Abundance360 2017. It reminded me of why I was fully hooked on the exponential journey, with loads of exciting new breakthroughs in tech, even in the last year.

We had an audience with Tony Robbins (life guru) & Steve Jurvetson (big dog Investor) on ‘what won’t change in the next 25 years’ Steve made a great point when he said ‘if we are gods, we better start acting like them’.Fair point although I think it’s more we like playing god. Peter D explained that there are 5 million truck and taxi driver jobs in the US that will be gone in the next 5 years. We currently don’t have the infrastructure for retraining and reallocating these people. It’s going to get messy. Making ‘America great again’ just got a whole lot harder. What struck me is how I connect so much with what Tony Robbins was saying about human behaviour struggling with the speed of technical change. We are unlikely to cope very well unless we also develop new ways of thinking. He explored our six key human needs and said the struggle up Maslow’s is very real and will continue to be so. His Six Human Needs model being our desire for: –1. Certainty vs 2. Uncertainty3. Significance vs 4. Belonging5. Growth and 6. Contribution(note 5 & 6 have an ‘and’ not ‘vs’ between them. Both can exist in harmony together. I’ll explore this more in a future post. So, here with some of the key takeaways from day 1: –- The rate of solar development is happening faster than expected. Coal is dead, long live PV (China have just cancelled the building of 104 coal plants)- Elon Musk says that ‘100 giga factories is enough to supply the whole world with batteries’. 1 down, 99 to go- Salk institute have actually been successful in reversing the signs of ageing – extended the lifespan of mice by 30% (does that mean we get a second mid-life crisis?).- Ehang single person drones. US company Lung Biotechnology have ordered 1000 drones for synthetic human organ delivery (not that synthetic organs exist yet. The drones are distracting their employees from making any breakthroughs).- [email protected] – it’s the Spotify for people who like to listen to tunes to get in their flow when working – all music is produced for it’s ability not to be remembered. Tay Tay’s entire collection is going on there.- In 2016 the four new elements were named. It’s really screwed that periodic table song.- Augmented Reality is going to completely change education, human interaction and how we watch Netflix. Finally, I went for my first ride in a Tesla. It was a Model X, and yes, we went in autopilot mode. It was ridiculously awesome. It just steers itself. This vehicle was at level 2 capacity (out of 5), which means there should always be a hand on the wheel. By the end of 2017, any Teslas manufactured since Dec 2016 will be able to go to level 5, which won’t need a steering wheel. It’s likely that legislation won’t go beyond level 4 in the near future, which means you can take your hands off the steering wheel. Elon was having a bit of fun naming his vehicles, having released the Model S & X, the next ‘Model 3’ was going to be the ‘Model E’, but Ford wouldn’t allow it. I’ll let you work out where Elon was going with that one.More to come on day 2. I’m off to try out multiplayer augmented reality ‘Call of Duty’. My sick bag is ready. James Potten Useful links published on Medium.