Article by Jackie Richards 19.09.16

You’re a busy small business owner, running around trying to be everything to everyone to ensure your business thrives, but what about the staff you’ve left floundering back at the office? Do you think they will be motivated if they never get to see their boss, for help, reassurance and most importantly, a bit of praise now and then for all of the hours they’re putting in for you?!

 I have worked in all sectors during my 20+ years in HR and have seen many disengaged employees for usually similar reasons, the main ones being as follows:-

  • They have been in the same job doing the same thing for many years and lack motivation;
  • They are in the wrong role but too afraid to admit this and look elsewhere.
  • They have poor managers who do not care about what they are doing, so do not make the work interesting, or show an interest in their employees;
  • In some workplaces, people are being bullied by insecure managers but they don’t have the courage to speak up about it;
  • Lack of communication within organisations – the people at the top don’t communicate what they are doing and where the company is heading, so the staff don’t feel involved in the bigger picture.

And all of these factors result in reduced productivity and hence revenue – I’ve seen a lot of companies who are ‘surviving’ but could do so much better if they focused on the most important asset they have – their people. 
Some of the above might not apply to you, but I’m sure you can relate to one or two there? And putting it right does not have to cost the Earth. Here are some suggestions on how to motivate your people, so that they look forward to coming into work and want to do their very best for you and your company:-

1. Communication – In any business it’s important to ensure two way communication. Employees need to feel that their voice and concerns are heard and if needed, action is taken. You should tell them your plans for the business and listen to their opinions, as the more involved they feel, the more committed they will be to the company.

If possible, have monthly team meetings to give your employees updates on the company’s progress and ask for ideas for new products or services, or improvements that can be made to existing ones – this will encourage innovation and creativity within your team. You should view your team as a family working together to achieve a common goal and let them know that too.
2. Trust your staff – give them some autonomy and/or responsibility for their work. If they are doing a good job, this will be an inexpensive reward – recognition for their efforts and some people are motivated by status. Find out what motivates each employee, as it will be different in each case and then work with that to get the best out of them.

3. Training and support – don’t assume that once you’ve recruited someone they will ‘hit the ground running’ – find out exactly what they are capable and then fill in the gaps with some training and support. This doesn’t have to be by you, it could be by one of your employees with as much or more experience than you in the area required and support them by asking them how they are getting on and if they need any further help.

4. Recognition – give praise where praise is due and if it’s something exceptional, thank them publicly for their efforts and give them a small reward – it does not have to be anything excessive, but a token of your appreciation will go a long way! We are all human and need praise from time to time, so encourage a culture of employees congratulating co-workers for their achievements, so working relationships remain healthy.

George Dickson at Office Vibe has recently posted The 12 Things You Need For Successful Employee Recognition which provides even more tips on doing this for free, the link is below:-


5. Offer incentives to high performers – they don’t have to be expensive rewards, just a bottle of wine for your top performer of the month or a gift voucher, anything to show appreciation will incentivize them to keep performing at that level, or indeed higher, to beat the competition.

6. Constructive feedback – if someone has done something wrong, take them into a private office and discuss it with them. Try to start the meeting with a positive – “You’ve been producing some good work recently, but …..” Don’t chastise them, ask them why they did made the error and what they think they can do to put it right. Work together to find a solution and they will feel more motivated to ensure they don’t make that mistake again.

7. Employee wellbeing – in a start-up everyone has to ‘muck in’ and do what’s required to win business, but at what cost? Is an employee really going to be productive and sound motivated on the phone to your potential customers when they are exhausted and feeling unappreciated? Make sure you ask employees regularly how they are feeling to ascertain whether the long hours are affecting them, make sure they have breaks and take time off wherever possible in your quieter periods. As in my October blog: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/workplace-stress-things-ever-going-get-any-better-richards-mcipd?trk=mp-author-card workplace stress can lead to a number of ongoing mental health problems which will result in reduced productivity and absenteeism costs in the long run if you do not nip it in the bud!

8. Employee benefits – if as an employer you can’t afford to pay high salaries or reward high performers by increasing their salary, there are some very inexpensive benefits schemes out there now for small businesses. Paybooster UK offer flexible health and wellbeing packages to employers costing as little as £52 per year per employee. For more information visit http://www.PayBosterUK.org

9. Have fun! – we are in work a long part of our day, so the workplace should not be all doom and gloom – introduce humour at times (appropriately, of course!) to liven things up, encourage brief chats about home to help staff relax and get to know each other better, or go out and buy staff cakes or icecream on a hot summer’s day – all these little things make a difference to making people happy and happy = productive.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog


Jackie Richards MCIPD

Owner/HR Consultant

JR-HR Solutions

T: 07807 166456

E: jackie@jr-hrsolutions.com

W: http://www.jr-hrsolutions.com

Thanks to Author and Thought Leader Vlatka Hlupic for the inspiration to write this blog

Thanks to DesignTec for the image



Workplace stress – are things ever going to get any better?!!

Article by Jackie Richards 01.08.16

Not that old chestnut again, I hear you cry! But this problem is not going away, in fact it seems to be getting worse! 

According to research from Russam GMS, 80% of senior executives say the workplace is a more stressful place than five years ago, with three quarters blaming mobile technology for creating a more stressful environment.  

60% of those respondents stated that their employers expect them to answer emails outside of work hours and a fifth of respondents said that “switching off from work at home” is their biggest challenge in terms of looking after their health.

Other contributors of stress included more demanding financial targets, the pressure to be on call 24/7 and email which ‘makes things relentless.’

 At the same time, more than 80% of senior executives said their company has no procedures in place for recognising stress in the workplace.

 Fewer than 15% of organisations reported they openly discuss stress in the workplace and/or offer stress counselling or mentoring programmes.

Failing to look after the health and wellbeing of employees has been shown to contribute to stress. The Health and Safety Executive report that 11.3 million working days were lost to stress, depression and anxiety in 2013/14, an average of 23 days per case and the Centre for Economics and Business Research has suggested the cost of work related stress to the economy is £6.5 bn!

70% of the respondents said that a company would be a more attractive employer if they offered more health benefits, and almost a quarter said they would prefer more health and well-being benefits to a pay rise.

However, many of Britain’s workplaces are failing to offer even basic health benefits with a quarter of companies offering no benefits at all. Almost two thirds (65%) don’t encourage employees to take regular breaks from their desks.

According to the research, the top health benefits people would like are measures to encourage cycling, running or walking to work, mindfulness sessions, fitness classes at work, meditation and yoga sessions, plus more health advice available on the intranet. Of those that do, the top four benefits are private health insurance, cycle to work schemes, encouraging lunch breaks and subsidised gym membership.

Ian Joseph adds: “Putting benefits in place to help employees be healthier and less stressed is crucial. These don’t have to be complicated or expensive. Initiatives such as having fruit in meetings, encouraging people to take regular breaks from their desk and allowing them time to visit the gym can contribute to people’s good health and support their well-being.

“If organisations are going to be fit for the future, leaders need to recognise the issue of stress and do something about it. Setting expectations about the use of mobiles and unplugging from emails during holidays is something senior executives should be doing as matter of course and leading by example.”

People Management published an article in July this year entitled ‘Mental Health: it’s crunch time’, in which Tony Irwin, MD of Priority Wellbeing Centre claimed that “A French worker works four days a week to produce the same amount as a British worker produces in five, despite – or because of – France’s much shorter working hours”.  

I have always viewed a culture of long working hours as being counter-productive. Business owners should be improving efficiencies and utilising their staff in different ways (for example, job share, flexible working, homeworking) to help maintain their health and wellbeing and hence increase productivity within their organisations. 

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. 
Jackie Richards MCIPD

Owner/HR Consultant

JR-HR Solutions

T: 07807 166456

E: jackie@jr-hrsolutions.com

W: http://www.jr-hrsolutions.com


“O Romeo Romeo…” – a review of Kenneth Branagh’s Romeo and Juliet

Artcile by Rachael Richardson-Bullock 27.07.16

If you’ve read my streaming theatre article, you’ll know I love Shakespeare! So when my best friend bought tickets for us to watch Kenneth Branagh’s Romeo and Juliet streamed live from The Garrick in the Spa Centre, I could not say no! We were the youngest people in the cinema, but we didn’t care; plus the screen was packed, which made us happy.

Branagh is Shakespearean acting royalty, joining the Royal Shakespeare Company at aged just 23. On stage and screen he has played a number of roles including Hamlet, Henry V and Romeo. This time though, he is directing. Teaming up once again with Lilly James, Richard Madden and Derek Jacobi who Branagh also directed in 2015’s live action Cinderella.

Now, I have a confession to make. I didn’t like Cinderella, despite my huge excitement for it. Visually it was stunning, but unfortunately I didn’t feel a lot of chemistry between James and Madden. Their romance seemed a bit forced, a bit too quiet, a bit unbelievable…yes I’m aware it’s a fairy tale! So I was a bit apprehensive. Perhaps without the restrictions of a children’s story and the U BBFC rating they could blossom together as actors, and that they did!

Before I move onto them, let me first talk about the play itself. I have seen many adaptations so was intrigued to see how Branagh would put his stamp on it. Initially when the cinema attendant told us the play would be screened in black and white, I was disappointed. However, this quickly subsided as it became obvious what Branagh was offering us. This wasn’t Shakespeare, this was an Italian drama, punctuated with much beautifully spoken Italian by actors in 1950s attire and staged as if it was a film noir or silent film. These elements seem random, but when they were thrown together under Branagh’s direction the play truly shined; it was enticing, it was modern and stunning to look at, which is not always a given for Shakespeare.

Though Branagh had announced before the play started that Madden had an ankle injury and would try his best, there was no sign whatsoever of his discomfort or fragility. He was unbelievably relaxed and genuine; I have never seen a Romeo like him. The language rolled off his tongue as if it was all he had ever spoken, his comedic timing was faultless and his passion was heart breaking. I would go so far to say he’s the best Romeo I’ve seen…yes even ahead of Leonardo DiCaprio!

I was concerned about James at first, I’ll be honest. At the party where she meets Romeo, she came across as a little whiny. She is of course meant to be playing a 14 year old, but I’ve never liked the dumb teenager interpretation, for me it spoils the story. However, when she stepped onto the balcony, she was entirely different. She spoke maturely, even with some comedy thrown in, and the chemistry between herself and Madden was electric. As the play went on, became darker and more challenging for Juliet, James excelled. I was immensely impressed.

I sobbed at the end. Madden’s lonely death wasn’t overacted, it was emotional and raw. James’ too, a little rushed perhaps, but still well timed and executed. Branagh did not glamorise their deaths, bringing the tragedy to its rightful conclusion.

Branagh’s real achievement here, for me at least, was that he made this play real to me in a way I have never experienced before. It was new again and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since.

Romeo and Juliet runs until the end of August at The Garrick in London. For information please click here. I’m tempted to go to London myself and see them in the flesh and in colour!

Rachael Richardson-Bullock is a novelist and blogger living in Leamington Spa.

Blog and Copy Writers. Who needs ’em?

Article by Sandra Ashford 22.06.16

I don’t need anyone to write my blogs/social media/web copy. Why would I when I can do it myself. But can you?  

Do you see your business from your customers point of view or are you just seeing it from your point of view? Is it too technical so that no one will understand it? Well quite frankly yes, some of you are! 

Now don’t get me wrong, there are some people who really can do their own and make an excellent job of it, but then again there are those who just can’t.

So what makes a good blog? It needs to be engaging and even conversationally styled, enough words to keep you hooked but not too many to put you to sleep. Blogs are not bedtime reading, or at least they shouldn’t be.

Think about who you are writing the blog for, what does it need to achieve, where are you going to showcase it?  

Another question you have to ask yourself, and you need to be objective here, not easy I know, but are all your blogs sounding too similar? Quite often a new perspective and fresh eye can do wonders for your brand or business.

So next time someone asks you if they could write you a blog or give you some ideas for your social media keep an open mind and give it a go. Who knows what it could do for your business.

You know what they say, a change is as good as a rest!  

So if you fancy a change then take a look at footprintsocialmedia.co.uk.  

Sandra Ashford

Footprint Social Media




Discover your hidden strengths – and make them work for you!

Article by Marie Haycocks 06.06.16

  • Do you sometimes feel totally in the flow and firing on all cylinders…and then other times feel totally the opposite and aren’t sure why?
  • Do you find yourself internally beating yourself up when you are faced with a challenging task?
  • Do you regularly look at other people admiring their capabilities but not recognising your own?

If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, you are not alone. But the good news is that it doesn’t have to always be this way! By knowing and applying your strengths your life and work will feel very different.

“Everyone is a genius but if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree it will live its life behaving like it is stupid”

Understanding my own strengths has had a hugely positive impact on my professional and personal life, and the clients I work with.

What is a strength?

A strength is ‘a behavioral quality’ that is inherent within you. When you apply these strengths you feel strong, in the flow and productive. If you focus on what you aren’t naturally good at, it will make you feel weak, not great about yourself and result in you being far from productive! By appreciating your strengths, rather than your weaknesses, and then leveraging them you will be more confident, impactful and productive.

The Benefits

The benefits of knowing and applying your strengths, are:

1. You feel good about yourself

Focusing on what you are good at will make you feel good about yourself, more confident and strong.

2. You delegate more

Once you know your strengths, the urge to do everything yourself fades and it feels okay to ask others for help.

3. You are kinder to yourself

When you find a task challenging you can think, instead of beating yourself up, about how you can use your strengths to help you, accepting that it might take longer, or ask or help.

4. You are a better team player

People love being asked for help. When you start recognising others’ strengths and asking them to help, this improves team relationships and productivity.

5. You are more efficient

You will be able to delegate and outsource tasks that don’t play to your strengths, making you more productive when you focus on doing the tasks that do.

6. You will be happier

By building your job and career around your strengths you will be positively reinforcing them every day, therefore growing your confidence and positive endorphins.
How to find your strengths

It can be difficult to appreciate your own strengths, as this is not something we are used to doing. For example, at school, for many of us, the focus was often on what we should do better, and at work conversations are often steered towards our developmental areas. So it’s no wonder we find it hard to talk about our own strengths!
Here are some tips to help you find your strengths:

1. Ask yourself:

  •  What are my key achievements?
  • What qualities was I demonstrating at the time?
  • When I am at my best I am…
  • My friends and family will say that I am good at …
  • One quality I like about myself is…
  • The qualities I am demonstrating when I feel strong and in the flow are…

2. Ask your friends, family and trusted colleagues what they see as your core strengths

3. Use ‘Strengths Cards’. I am a big fan of these ‘At My Best’ cards and I use them in my 1:1 and group coaching sessions with my clients.

4. Read a book such as ‘Now, Discover Your Strengths’ by Marcus Buckingham’ . This was the book I read when I first heard about the concept of strengths and it includes an online questionnaire to identify your top 5 key strengths.

Applying your strengths

Once you know your strengths, write them down and put them somewhere where you can regularly refer to them. Some of my clients have them as a screen saver, on the inside page of their notebook or even next to their mirror at home! Then:

  • Make it a habit to regularly remind yourself of what your strengths are.
  • When you are faced with a problem, or opportunity, ask yourself ‘how could I use my strengths to help me now?’
  • Think about how you could build a life and career where you can fully utilise those strengths.

I have experienced and witnessed first hand how knowing and applying your strengths can increase your levels of happiness, confidence and success. So why not start now?
Enjoy the journey and please get in touch with me to help you along the way.

Marie Haycocks

How to Use Mindfulness to Help with Negative Emotions

Article by Mita Mistry 30.05.16

Life can be a rollercoaster of emotions, it’s not anyone’s fault it’s just the way life is. There are often moments that are overwhelming and difficult to endure which can feel scary. Sometimes, negative emotions surface out of the blue for no obvious reason leaving us feeling angry, anxious, stressed out, sad or even embarrassed.

When a negative emotion rears its head, its very normal to avoid facing it by distracting ourselves with activities like food or drink or something stronger.

Sadly life is such that we all face hardship but the intensity of emotional pain for each one of us can vary from small setbacks like feeling excluded, to intense grief of a significant loss.

The problem is, the more we try to avoid emotional pain the more likely we are to experience it because we are unable to develop the skills needed to cope. By not accepting suffering we give negative emotions permission to control us because no matter how hard we try to escape them, emotions have a way of reappearing possibly in the form of panic attacks, depression or by engaging in unhealthy behaviours like substance abuse, eating disorders, pathological gambling, internet addiction, excessive worry or over-exercising to name a few.

Mindfulness can be your greatest teacher to help you face suffering and accept it as part of the human experience. It gives you the opportunity to step back and understand that emotions are temporary. The more you face up to uncomfortable feelings, the less intense the emotional experience. In the long run you learn to cope with experiencing pain while it also massively enhances happier moments, a paradox we must all understand.

RAIN – 4 Steps to Manage Negative Emotions

Here is a very well known mindfulness practice called RAIN (an acronym for the four steps of the process), it can be used in any situation or place. It directs your attention in a clear, systematic way that cuts through confusion and stress.

R – Recognise

You can do this by simply asking yourself: “What is happening inside me right now?” Keep an open kind mind and listen to what you are feeling. Name the emotion if you can.

A – Accept.  

Allow the thoughts, emotions, feelings or sensations that may feel unpleasant to just be. This emotion is present in the here and now at this very moment. Just “Let it be”. 

I – Investigate.

Pause and simply ask yourself

“Where am I feeling this emotion in my body?”

“What thoughts am I thinking? “

“What experience led to this feeling?”

“What does this feeling want from me?”

N – Non-identification. 

This means maintaining a sense of who you are by simply observing the emotions. Emotions are temporary feelings that will pass, watching them come and go like thoughts can help you regain control. Imagine you are like a mountain, in the midst of a storm it remains still. Similarly during a difficult time, know that the feelings will pass and there is always a part of you that remains still and untouched by it. Have the attitude “sadness is weighing me down at the moment but it will soon melt away”. “Anger is rising up in me like a furnace but at some point it will start to settle and cool down.” Non -identification is a powerful step that disentangles you from the negative emotions replacing it with inner peace and awareness.

R.A.I.N. and related practices of spacious awareness are fundamental to mental health, and always worth doing in their own right. Sometimes you may find that one step is enough to help you manage the negative emotions but you may need to go through all four steps of the process which is recommended during challenging times.


w: http://www.mitamistry.co.uk

t: @MitaMistry


The 7.1 Key Steps to Building Your Authority OnlineStep 3 – Identify Your Ideal Market

Article by Sam Thiara 11.05.16

How many times have you thought … “I know I could have helped them” only to find that someone else is working with ‘your perfect client’.

Lost opportunity?

It goes without saying that opportunity is all around us and whether your future clients are nearby or on the other side of the world we often dream about the bountiful paradise of clients lining up to do business with us.

The sad fact is it’s not true for everyone.

One of the most underutilised activities in the customer acquisition process is research but you have to quit thinking only about the ‘sexy’ part of bringing on a new client. The often unseen aspects for sustainable success are research, research and more research!

Spending your time evaluating prospects using tools such as a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis is a great place to start.  
This is where you begin to build a customer DNA, the path to sustainable growth in your career or business.

At this stage, and if you have followed my previous blogs; you will have crafted your vision, mission and unique value that lie at the heart of your business and where your passion is centered.

You intimately know your unique value, that gift you possess that can change people’s lives, build greater success for you, your business and bring rewards of greater prosperity, be it spiritual, personal or financial.

So many tools exist to help the process in identifying your perfect client or ‘avatar’ as we often call in the world of digital marketing. The honest truth is most professionals still do not use the tools effectively.

Spending time undertaking desktop research into who, where and why someone would want to work with you, and only you, is a skill in itself and the one activity that will deliver the sort of business results that only a few can imagine.

We are in a time that has never before bought us an incredible opportunity to use free to low cost customer research and acquisition tools and all too often remain overlooked.

Master the art of using social media, chamber data, forums, online communities, market reports etc. to review profiles of those who you believe could benefit from your products and services. When in a face to face environment get to know people, learn about their business and avoid thinking about the sale.

After all we are in a world where social selling is the new way of doing business and out goes the antiquated methods of the hard sell.

Make it personal; find out about their goals, aspirations, what has and has not worked for them, what they read or watch, their preferred hobbies, what success means for them and equally what failure means to them. The deeper you go the more you can help.

This is an excellent time to decide whether you are in fact the right person with the right product or service to help a prospective client. If not then ask yourself a hard question – “if I work with this person will my product or service deliver results for them “. If not then move on otherwise you could be entering ‘lose-lose’ territory and that’s never good for your long term success.

Look out for my next blog

Sam Thiara,

International Sales Manager, Internet Marketer & Trainer

My Journey..

Article by Helen Chidgey 09.05.16

Back in 2012 I received the news that no one wants to hear, that tore my world apart, when I was diagnosed with a Brain Tumour.  Luckily for me treatable, albeit with major surgery but leaving me with little choice but to step away from my previous role as a Training Officer at Coventry City Council..

My recovery was slow but thankfully straight forward in the scheme of things I was incredibly lucky!  No chemo or radiotherapy to endure but many long months of agonising pain and an overwhelming sense of doubt in myself and my body.  How could I return to a ‘normal’ and fulfilling life but when the time came working for myself made so much sense, I could work when I wanted to, where I wanted to and, best of all fit around the needs of family life!

After dabbling for a short time with a major established company selling makeup and gifts door to door; finding Tropic was a breath of fresh air!  At last something I could be passionate about, products that I could rely on to contain no nasty chemicals that have the potential to cause so much damage to our bodies, just pure natural ingredients to boost my health and vitality.  When I look in the mirror I know they are making a difference to how I look and certainly in how I feel. Sharing this feeling with others is a joy!  I feel empowered to make a difference in others’ lives which is something that has always been of great importance for me in whatever role I’ve been in. I’m now also in a position to be able to help others share this amazing feeling too as I build a team of like-minded people all sharing the same passion.

This new chapter hasn’t been without plenty of challenges but then that is what makes it a positive experience!  I love learning new ways to achieve my goals. This fresh, exciting, journey has allowed me to make so many good friends along the way and I think I’ve found my true path in life!

The future is looking good – I love what I do and with Susan Ma’s innovative products I have absolute faith in a bright future that I wouldn’t swap for anything!

Helen Chidgey


 FB: Tropic Skincare Stratford with Helen

Twitter: @tropicstratford