One Day to Save your Business

July 21, 2016

For any of you that have seen the movie ‘Flash Gordon’, you will know there are two stand out quotes. The first comes from the national treasure that is Brian Blessed with that booming voice declaring :-

“Gordon’s alive!!” Read more

Top 10 Business Leaders’ Insights for 2016

June 1, 2016

We might not know exactly what the future will look like, but we can equip ourselves to be ready.  At our recent Business Leaders’ Academy, our members shared their insights into the challenges and opportunities for 2016 – including Brexit, technology and being agile.

Then we shared the Top 10 Insights from our partners at Mindshop, who surveyed 128 business leaders around the world to gather feedback on emerging business trends, training needs, opportunities & challenges.

Business Leader Insights Infographic

The full report from Mindshop, along with a short video from Mindshop’s James Mason, can be found here: Top 10 Business Leader Insights.

As partners with Mindshop, Aspirin Business Solutions can support you and your business with prioritising these Insights to meet your business goals, and developing and implementing solutions.



How do I… engage my team in our vision & mission?

May 10, 2016

by Paul Kinvig, Business Growth Coach & Facilitator at Aspirin Business Solutions

Rowing Team

One of the more annoying things about visiting supermarkets, (apart from the apparently random “unexpected item in bagging area” announcements from the self-service checkouts”) is the time honoured challenge of pushing a shopping trolley with a wonky wheel!

We’ve all been there, pushing the trolley in the direction we want it to go, only to have it veer sideways into the red peppers or the legs of an innocent shopper. Using one of these trolleys takes additional time and effort as well as building up a significant amount of frustration and all because one wheel is out of alignment!

This issue of alignment is the spine of our ‘Seven Factors to FASTER Growth’ programme, the first step of which is ‘business vision & values.’ We’ve discussed what makes a strong vision in a previous blog – I have a dreambut too often MD’s, CEO’s & senior teams construct vision & value statements that they’re inspired by then hit the “wonky wheel” syndrome.

Why? Simply put their vision is out of alignment with what really motivates & drives the people for whom it was intended to inspire, align & energise – the staff!  They then don’t understand why their teams are not equally or even remotely enthusiastic about it – and push the trolley harder just to try get it to move rather pausing to ‘align the wheels.’

In our experience here are three common causes of misalignment:

  • Words vs Experience – The employees experience of working in that organisation is different from that which the vision states it to be! Nobody should expect perfection, however, if the real life impact of the way the organisation operates bears no resemblance to the stated vision & values then the likelihood is that not only will staff not buy into it but actively kick against it. They will see no authenticity and authenticity is one of the key drivers in employee engagement. If you lead an organisation then it’s sometimes a painful but necessary question to ask “How does the experience of my employees working in my company/team match up to what I believe it to be/want it to be?”
  • Company Motivators vs Personal Motivators – “What motivates us may not motivate them” – we know that to be true and yet in the heat of everyday business we often go for what we think is the easiest route….the one we’d pick for ourselves!! For example the vision might focus on growth, innovation & agility (because that’s what really lights our fire) yet the team are truly motivated by customer service and security. There would be a very real chance that the team would be resistant as they fear the vision would somehow put this at risk. Sometimes we have to let our teams know ‘what we won’t do’ as much as what we will do – otherwise they pull back to manage the perceived risk. The RNLI in Poole, address this issue clearly & concisely on their website. Do you REALLY know what motivates your people or do you just assume it’s the same things that motivate you?
  • Not Hardwired………There are times when the culture AND structure of organisations are not aligned with the vision/mission etc. For example the mission statement may talk about innovation and yet there is no route or structure for new ideas to be put forward or no way in which those ideas are encouraged and supported. Alternatively, the organisation may profess a commitment to customer service and yet have no clear and agreed way of understanding customer issues or handling things effectively when they go wrong. Again, a question worth asking is “Do we have the structure & culture in place to reflect and deliver the vision and mission?”


George Labovitz in his book “The Power of Alignment” puts it brilliantly when he says

“Vertical alignment implies more than employee compliance with strategy that is set at the top. It’s a two-way street… employees in the middle of the organization and on the front lines almost always experience greater intimacy with customers and competitors than do senior managers, and their insights can enrich strategy-but only if they are actively solicited.” 

Are you brave enough to “solicit insight” from your front line, understand what truly motivates them and build a culture that reflects your vision in the company?


Here, at Aspirin Business Solutions, we help leaders create visions that inspire them, written in a way that motivates their team.  We help them to identify clearly, and as a team, what they want to change and what they won’t.  And we help them articulate the values that truly drive the business, because they drive the business leaders.  Then we help them ensure every aspect of their business plan links, from the vision, through the values, strategy, 12 month mission & mantra, through the business objectives and team missions to the individuals, who clearly understand how their work contributes to the vision and to the organisation and team as a whole.  In a nutshell, through our Seven Factors to Faster Growth:


seven steps


We’d love to help you explore how the Seven Steps could add more value to your organisation, and avoid the ‘wonky wheel’ syndrome.  Please get in touch to arrange a conversation.


T: 01202 801187

or sign up to our newsletter:

As we grow, what won’t we change?

May 10, 2016

by Susannah Brade-Waring, MD & Business Growth Coach & Facilitator at Aspirin Business Solutions

What We Won't Do


For our clients with a strong heritage, we’ve found defining ‘ What won’t change ‘ very powerful in helping people to create change and growth.  For example, our lovely clients at Douch Family Funeral wanted to create greater consistency across their 8 branches, without losing the heritage and individuality of each branch.  Other clients have been reassured by clearly agreeing that ‘what won’t change’ is a core focus on a certain client group, or the level of service to be provided.

We’ve noticed this is particularly powerful with the Searcher (need to make a difference) and Defender (security) motivators.

Clearly stating ‘what won’t change’ is not a Canute-like attempt to hold back the tide, but a way of allowing people to fully support the organisation’s growth mission.  The alternative, which most leaders have experienced, is inexplicable resistance, not giving our all and questioning decisions.  After all, the individuals themselves often aren’t consciously aware of their own concerns and resistant behaviour.

We often share with clients the excellent example provided by the RNLI.  In the “Purpose, Vision & Values” section on their website, there’s a section called “Things We Will Not Change”. It’s a really interesting and perhaps surprising read, and begs the question:

“What are the things in our organisations we would not change?”


Here, at Aspirin Business Solutions, we help Senior Leadership Teams develop strategic plans and 12 month missions.  We also help them define ‘What won’t change’.  We’ve found externally facilitated group creation of the strategy to be very powerful in strengthening team bonds of trust and understanding, and in enabling the team to pull together powerfully.  It’s another way of creating alignment, at the highest level.

In the words of Steve Jobs “Deciding what not to do, is as important as deciding what to do.”

To explore how we could help your organisation create a Strategy and a 12 Month Mission & Mantra that your leaders and team want to deliver, get in touch to arrange a conversation.


T: 01202 801187

or sign up to our newsletter:


Strategy … a waste of time or a chocolate hobnob?

February 16, 2016

Paul Kinvig & Susannah Brade-Waring, Business Growth Coaches and Facilitators at Aspirin Business Solutions



Passion is a funny thing – it has started wars, fired scientific discoveries, underpinned world changing inventions, brought down the great people from lofty positions, driven athletes to unheard of performance, set people aflame in their commitment to a cause …

It’s also the quality that is often attributed to business owners & entrepreneurs – the quality that means 9-5 is a Dolly Parton film not their hours of work! The quality that means that if they’ve had a bad day they don’t just walk away and let someone else deal with it.

When that passion is focused it’s not only the strength to get through challenging times but also the power to achieve & exceed business goals………………..

But what provides that focus? Well it’s that often maligned & misunderstood concept of “strategy”.

Now “strategy” tends to divide people down the middle – on one side are those who believe it’s an unnecessary waste of time and as the quote says:

“Strategy is something that gets in the way of doing business.”

On the other are those for whom strategy meetings are like chocolate hobnobs – incredibly moreish! However, they spend so much time strategising that as Winston Churchill eloquently put it:

“However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.”

But in reality what is it?  It’s a word that peppers business conversations – you will often see “high powered” meetings take place where the CEO or MD goes “We need a strategy for this….” and the assembled team nod sagely in agreement….then look to each other to see if anyone really understands what it means!!

We overcomplicate strategy considerably – in the Oxford English Dictionary it is defined simply as:

“A plan of action designed to achieve a long-term or overall aim.”

Thus we can really break it down into three simple but powerful constituents that are best looked at in “reverse” or “backwards”:

  • Overall Aim – the most successful strategies are driven by a specific reason.  The most common reason is an increase in turnover – but in truth that rarely motivates anyone.  Growth by capitalising on a new product or service offering is much more tangible and exciting.  Opening up a new market sector – either geographic or a different industry, can be equally exciting.  Other goals may include acquisition of new technology, other businesses or reducing overreliance on a market.  Whatever the reason, the strategy needs to be something everyone can believe in and get behind.
  • Long Term – strategy is not about reacting to the market; it’s about becoming masters of your own destiny.  It’s about taking stock, deciding where to position your organisation and developing a long term plan.  That provides the context for key investments, such as technology, premises and employees.  Critically, it allows you to fully commit to the next 12 months, knowing that whatever you put into place now will still be relevant for the long term goals.  A strong strategy often involves significant performance or direction changes, which don’t happen overnight.  Therefore, strong, clear and consistent leadership is required to keep everyone on board, pulling in the same direction and on track with both the long terms strategy and current tactical activities.
  • Plan of Action – There is an ancient Japanese proverb that says “Vision without action is a daydream” and this is where many strategies fail.  Frankly, the act of balancing long-term goals and short-term needs is challenging.  There is an art in breaking down the strategy into measurable business objectives which will be delivered through focussed and motivated teams and individuals.  A key element is balancing both the business needs and the people needs, in creating the right amount of structure for quality and consistency, whilst retaining creativity and passion.  In short, lofty aspirations and eloquent phraseology need the tangible, practical structure of a plan that people can and want to deliver.

So what is strategy for you?  A waste of time or a chocolate hobnob?

Well, here at Aspirin we help our clients find a strategy that is neither a waste of time nor indulgent but rather focused, stretching and built around the business needs.  We help them to understand their overall aim, create a robust long term strategy and a plan of action.

Critically, we do all of that whilst strengthening and aligning the team so they will pull together to deliver.  After all, the real test of a strategy is when it delivers the desired results.  Worth us having a conversation?

Co-creating excellent results for Waitrose

February 5, 2016

We’re delighted to enter our 6th year of working with the John Lewis Partnership.

During 2016, we will continue to support the Waitrose Maintenance Department (the team that ensures all Waitrose buildings, including your local store, are safe, legal and open) in developing its business growth strategy and the team who’ll deliver it.Paul Kinvig - Business Growth Facilitator & Coach

This week we’ve supported the team in engaging both internal and external stakeholders, building trust, understanding and credibility.  Stakeholder buy-in is critical to the successful delivery of any strategy.

MOMs workshop 2

F.A.S.T.E.R Teams – Be ‘Real’

December 11, 2015

Paul Kinvig, Coach and Facilitator at Aspirin Business Solutions

FASTER Real image

In the Ridley Scott’s classic sci-fi film “Bladerunner” we are introduced to the idea of replicants – almost perfect recreations of human beings. Interestingly, you can only tell the real from the replicant by asking certain questions…it’s only under “challenging” conditions that they give themselves away. The same is true in the rise of “replica” items…..everything from Rolex watches, Gucci bags to iPhone chargers…..they look like the real thing and yet either don’t last or breakdown under usage, sometimes with dangerous consequences.

“Real” teams, however, have the strength of authenticity about them. They don’t pretend to be who or what they need to be, they ARE who and what they need to be for the situation at hand. They do this because they aware of their own and each others’ REAL motivators, REAL skills & REAL strengths & weaknesses and are comfortable with how that plays out in the workplace.

So what are the key hallmarks of real teams?

Honesty – One of the challenges of leading a real team is that the level of honesty can sometimes be intimidating. Members aren’t just honest about situations/ mistakes/ customer complaints but are honest with each other and their manager about performance. It’s not done in a vindictive or point scoring way but in a way that is bold, constructive, relevant and respectful to the person and situation.

Play – Real teams understand the value of “work & play” – at it’s most obvious level it is the appearance  of humour and the relaxed but focused way the team interacts with each other. However, the other part of “play”, as Pat Kane eruditely expresses, is this – “The play ethic is about having the confidence to be spontaneous, creative and empathetic across every area of your life – in relationships, in the community, in your cultural life, as well as paid employment.” It’s not idle, wasteful or frivolous but allows the individual personalities of the team to shine and be appreciated – and out of that can come some real ideas for improvement.

Trust – Real teams build trust by members being authentic and really understanding who they are! The phrase “walk it like they talk it” is truly indicative of their behaviour and thus there isn’t any gap between what they say & how they behave.  Teams with high trust levels often have a high degree of emotional intelligence which means that:

  1. They can “spot” when things aren’t right with other team members or situations much more quickly than most other groups.
  1. They can “sense” when a change in approach to people or customers is needed much more quickly than most other groups

It also means that can decide, act and adjust much more quickly because they function like a single organism.

When teams become “real” it’s like the final turn of lens on a camera that brings the sharp clarity needed to take a great picture….which of course brings us back full circle to our F in F.A.S.T.E.R, that of focus. And here’s the key…..great leaders & managers know having F.A.S.T.E.R teams is a continuous circle of development – Focus, Agile, Strong, Tenacious, Empowered & Real – and it’s the REAL nature of teams that separates them from the “replicants”….especially under pressure or challenging circumstances

Here at Aspirin Business Solutions we help our clients create & develop “real” teams by helping them understand their real motivators, personality, behaviours and mindset, e.g. through Motivational Map profiles. We then coach them to be authentic to who they are and each other and not to see their motivators or personality traits as right or wrong but as strengths which can be combined & focused to achieve the business strategy. Worth us having a conversation?


F.A.S.T.E.R Teams – Focus

October 26, 2015

by Paul Kinvig, Coach and Facilitator at Aspirin Business Solutions


I have a number of friends who are photographers and I love to watch them in action. What they do is a real art – coaxing the right result out of the subject with all the inherent distractions of light, background, movement etc.

One of the things that identifies a great photographer is, of course, this issue of focus. Getting it right is more than just hitting the autofocus button (as any taker of a selfie via a smartphone will admit!) It’s knowing the required result of the picture as well as keeping it in register!

One of the characteristics of a successful team is just that – focus! They have a clear vision of what is to be achieved and how to do it. In fact, these teams don’t just wait for targets & tasks to be given to them but either offer input into the goals as part of the process or even set them themselves….and here’s the interesting thing, motivated focused teams will often set themselves goals that are more stretching & achieved more regularly!

So how can we, as leaders, develop this sense of focus within our teams to help drive effectiveness & performance?

  • Strategy –  Ensure the team has a clear vision of its purpose and plan in the long term as well as for the short & medium term operational needs
  • Roles – Ensure team members know with absolute clarity the function of their role. Time and habit will blur their understanding…….
  • Objectives & Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) –  Ensure the team knows what it has to achieve and what the success standards are. Get it right and they will start to self monitor & correct to ensure success.
  • 90 Day plans – Ensure the team have a specific plan to achieve the stated objectives and meet every 30 days to review KPI’s.

It’s our role as leaders & managers to align these 4 areas and to know & take action when they go “out of focus.”

The author Linda Poindexter once observed “Life is like a camera, focus on what’s important and you’ll capture it perfectly!”  Here at Aspirin Business Solutions we believe it’s important to help our clients develop focused teams as part of our F.A.S.T.E.R Teams programme so as to concentrate on what’s important for their businesses to achieve. Worth us having a conversation?

Look out next week for F.A.S.T.E.R Teams – AGILE……

Celebrating our clients’ success – Janine Pattison Studios

October 22, 2015

We are delighted to share with you our client’s wonderful news.  We have been working with JPS for 5 years, most recently on our FASTER Growth Programme which involved co-creation of their 3 year business strategy and implementation plans.

JPS Homegrown Talent