Counting the heavy cost of company demise

Scanning media coverage on  demise of Carillion, we have, rightly seen scrutiny of the execs that caused this shamble and the political fallout. There has been some focus on the impact on ordinary working people but for the media this is a bigger story.  I am writing this with not much distance between the announcement, so maybe anger is still the prominent emotion. But I feel it is right to vent this for my own reasons but really for the many people affected, who are less fortunate than me.

Like the previous corporate disasters (I am thinking of the banking crisis) the damage, financial, emotional and personal is long lasting and we are yet to really see the havoc that will be caused to employees, the supply chain and pensioners. The SMEs that politicians like to claim as the heartbeat of the nation have been sold down the river, as they always are at the first sign of trouble, with consequences yet unknown but far reaching. For all involved the impact is emotional, financial and personal.

Emotional why? Thousands of people employed have been committed to their customers and colleagues (this was the one amazing characteristic of Carillion), in spite of  heavily controlling and contradictory behaviour at the top. A schizophrenic approach to leadership, preaching empowerment but denying responsibility, whilst not being open about the real challenges the business is facing, grinds away inside.

The financial bit is fairly obvious. There are thousands of people this week who through no fault of their own, will be little more uncertain, despite government assurances and again face the prospect of more change through TUPE not of their choosing. Once again a big company will give them a shiny brochure (uniform, if they are lucky) and spin a line about values whilst trying chip away at working conditions and benefits. More importantly, the long list of suppliers who will never see the money they were owed. The consequences of this are long reaching. Again, the contradiction of the companies’ stated values and the way suppliers were treated, is probably not unusual but something that Corporate Responsibility and governance codes need to cover in future. Carillion was very prominent in promoting CSR credentials but let down suppliers on a systemic basis. No one was was accountable…

Much of this will come under scrutiny over the coming weeks and months. What changes happen are yet unknown but it once again shines a light on governance, behaviour and structure of corporate organisations.

On a personal level there is sadness for a team that achieved huge amounts in a relatively short period of time, were recognised externally for various programmes. I first hand saw many people grow in skill, capability and in confidence, both as Recruiters and as people. The efforts made professionally and as volunteers in their communities is something to be proud of. At times it was hard work, frustrating but overwhelmingly positive. I would like to thank everyone in my team for their patience and dedication. I am sure there are many managers across the business who feel the same about their teams and some of the great client work and real innovation driven at the front line.

I think it is right to express disappointment,anger and frustration at those who perhaps because of the wrong incentives, perhaps because egos were over inflated or maybe even fear has left many thousands of people more insecure and disrupted their jobs, careers and retirement. Actions that were irresponsible implemented by executives but on the watch of the ‘great and the good’ (non execs) who we all thought are their to safeguard stakeholders. I guess humility and shame are no longer fashionable in corporate life as we have seen in the collapse of BHS, the banks and now Carillion.

Maybe its fair to say that these executives never saw those working in the company, nor the supply chain as important stakeholders. Perhaps there are lessons here about how we want to run corporate life in the 21st Century?

I save it for the history writers to describe the actions of those who were responsible, and maybe leave it for them to reflect on the damage they have done….




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Rubber hits the road in Copenhagen

It was almost exactly a year ago today, that whilst on a work conference call, my finger nervously lingered over the entry button of KMD Ironman Copenhagen. With many online entries it takes many attempts to log on and get success first time. However, whilst conversing about some HR matter or other, to my surprise, my entry was complete, accepted and credit card debited. Gulp…..
What middle age crisis was I trying to fix? Don’t most men my age by a sports car or take up golf? With the deed done, the fear excitement, sheer bloody stupidity dawned on me….How was I ever going to complete a 3.8km swim 180km bike ride, and a 42.2 k run all within 15 hrs 45 mins ?
Fast forward 365 days, endless training sessions. cold winter mornings on the roads, early morning swims where I could barely lift my eyelids and back to back Brick sessions 4 hours on the bike followed by runs, looking like John Wayne. And the indoor Turbo sessions… Oh the boredom. How can any sane individual spend 3 hours indoors on a stationary bike? Clearly,driven by an immense goal, obsession and madness takeover.
Here I am with 6 other buddies from Leighton Buzzard who had fallen for the lure of the greatest endurance race.
As Glen and I set off from our apartment on the Copenhagen metro at 530am, the irony not 

lost on us as we bumped into revellers coming back from the clubs and pubs, munching on kebabs and mac as, here we were braced for the Unknown. We had, of course, completed the training, but never could we replicate the 3 disciplines back to back. Swimming with 3200 others was immense, and I hadn’t run more than 15km in training due to an injury.
Crossing the bridge to the start as the sun rose of over the sea, the 10 minute walk to the ‘ village’ was surreal. Music was playing somewhere in the distance, the tannoy announcements lost on the wind, but as we approached, daylight appearing, here we were……the ultimate race. We were very quiet. The nerves were now upon me. Flashing through my head were just the words of my coach – ‘ If you remember 10 % of what I have told you, you will be an ironman’…..maybe but my head was still trying to re,ember 5 % and not collapse with nerves.
7:05 am came and the elites were off…. Another 20 minutes and the masses were in the water.

My time came – a shake of the hand and we are off…. The scandanavian water surprisingly warm, and I’m in…. The first 100 metres desperately trying to hold back – it’s a long day after all. Keep focussed and disciplined was my mantra -I was actually enjoying this. The training was remembered , long slow strokes, keep out of trouble.Even the chaos of the turns were ok. Before I knew the swim finish approached, and a helping hand out of the water, seeing Debbie, Joe and Izzi was a boost and T1….Wow, we really were in the race and all good.
Out of T1 a bit of a blur,I just had to remember keep eating – keep the calories up and only 179km left…. The bike saw us navigate a few km of the flat city of Copenhagen before heading out along the coast…. A tailwind kindly pushing us at an easy speed. So far so good; keep the mantra of keep eating and drinking. 40km in feeling a good and we hit the ‘hills’. Copenhagen maybe flat but the outskirts have a few interesting twists and turns and climbs and the wind turned against us and the weather. The Danish weather is more unpredictable than the British. We suffered a drenching from a storm front,luckily this one only lasted a few minutes. But drenched and wind against – this is now a tougher prospect than the first 90 mins.
Then the turn for lap 2…. I m lapped by the elites who are heading in for T2 as I am heading for lap 2…Motivational?You can say there was a small dip in mood. But ‘keep eating’ keeps the mood up…Knowing that the coastal tail wind was about to bring some relief, lifted the spirits. In keeping with the unpredictability of the weather another heavy lashing of rain was about to give an unwelcome drenching…. But we are on the countdown…
50km to – I had passed my longest ride in training, but I was feeling good. I really did have this – everything was going to plan.The roads in Denmark, unlike our pothole ridden bone shakers, really make biking enjoyable and quick. This really was fun 40km and 30k to go pass by in a flash – one more nasty climb until the home stretch, 10k and we are turning back into the City and the support. Soon enough, we are in the city centre and the noise was incredible. T2 and underground Car Park.I am here, in good time – in all honesty I hadn’t taken any notice of the watch. So no real idea of the pace but I am feeling ok.
A quick drink of the favoured Banana milk – helmet and shoes off – trainers on and we are away – just a marathon to go!
As I’m out of T2 there they were Izzi, Debbie and Joe,right there what a boost. A quick photo and I am away. 4 and a bit laps of Copenhagen. The support is amazing tight streets lined with restaurants and bars tight against the course. In the dark times this is a real boost
I am feeling good but the doubts were there, would the knee hold out – could I sustain a steady pace pain free. Lap 1 ok – I a counting this as 5 separate park runs with a 2k cool down. Lap 1 complete,only 5 parkruns to go. Lap 2 the knee starts to play up but come on we can just walk through the the pain and get well needed nutrition. Respond to the support – and 20k done – 4 parkruns to go….
Lap 3 I see the support crew – clearly they have been for some food and a rest – it’s tough being a supporter….A quick chat and I tell them I have only 3.5 parkruns to go…They think I am stark raving mad but nod and smile as only supporters can. But only 17km to go. We have this nailed. I run past the finish for the 3rd time as the familiar cry is heard – ” You are an Ironman’! 
Only about 12km to go and I see the crew again – Izzi cries ‘Dad the next time we see you, you will be an Ironman…..ok we have this now – I pickup the final wristband, and the home straight 10k left.We wind our way through the narrow streets for the final time and the Danish weather gives us a little boost – a torrential downpour that lasted a good 20 mins. Proper cross country weather, I feel at home as feet are aquaplaning inside my shoes…
The last 6k – of course the quads are super tight now. But there is nothing that will prevent the finish. With 2k to go you can hear the announcer and see the lights – this is it – those months and months of training and here we are _ I turn into the finish and here the infamous words ‘You are an Ironman’ – I see the crew and wow! I did it – it is real. Emotions tumble through me relief, joy and pride and exhaustion. But there was the medal around my neck. Done…. 14hrs 17
Out of the finisher area and everyone is there amazing – all of the people of who have been supportive, understanding and probably thinking I was an idiot but stayed quiet, it’s done. A massive hug – and then the need for a Big Mac…..The hunger was immense.
Was it worth it ? You bet – the best race experience ever. Training loved it ! And I learnt so much. A special thank you to Mark Kleanthous (Ironmate) who tailored the training programmes and always ensuredI kept the faith even in those dark winter days when I doubted in my abilities. We stuck to the plan – and never deviated -never worked about others. There’s a lesson there.
Would I do it again ? You bet…..


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The Countdown begins…

The recent silence on the blogging front is probably due to one thing – training…Well the combination of work, training and complete lack of time generally. So with 8 weeks to go would I recommend this whole process again? What are the benefits of bascially dedicating one part of your life to a fairly solitary existence? After all all of the disciplines are individual. Yes you can train with others but…well lets just say there is more banter in a goldfish bowl…

On reflection, this has been double edged, solitary, a bit selfish yes, but it does show what you can achieve if you focus and are disciplined. There have been sacrifices, the odd trip to the pub and the weekend lie in are luxuries that I dream of.  Indeed, when I am out on  parole after August, maybe these small luxuries will be returned, or maybe I will become addicted to training, lose all of my marbles, relationships and end up an Ironman bore…(some might say this happened), although fortunately the relationship is still going strong.

What have I learnt? Well,  on a serious note, its pretty amazing what you can do when have focus, a clear goal and a bit of determination. I am probably as fit or fitter than when I was professional tennis coach, 20 odd years ago. It has been an exhilarating, exhausting but ultimately satisfying experience. Sleep is now my friend. No night awake worrying about work, kids money – too exhausted. Sleep overcomes all, as soon as your head hits that pillow.

On a lighter note, the ironman is a financial drain like no other. The marketing machine is slick, like a drug dealer selling heroin. The more you have the more you crave. Equipment, merchandise, anything. I am sure that if branded hair bands were marketed as something that makes female athletes go faster, they would sell like hotcakes, at exorbitant margins. Us athletes are willing prey…. In fact I think becoming a heroin addict might be cheaper 😉 This is a joke for any one worried about my mental state.

As the autumn beckons, I dream of the weekend lie in. No more 6am bike rides (well there might be some) but maybe not 6am. The question is what will take the place of this relentless schedule of training. Well, I do hope that I will continue some focus towards training, as I do feel better than ever. However, this is a fairly solitary and selfish discipline. Some attention will go back to those who have supported this endeavour.

A little more social interaction will be welcome. Whilst cycling with others or running is ok. The banter isn’t exactly mustard. There is only so much interest I can take in your resting heart rate or what your cadence is (yawn). I even bore myself sometimes.

In all would I recommend this to someone else. Of course, but given that I am not an elite or professional athlete, don’t take it too seriously or it could absorb your life… And by the way your friends and family aren’t necessarily as interested in split times, VO2 max or in fact anything else to do with your training. Treat these people well….

While you are here. I am doing to raise money for this fantastic charity.. Thanks for reading.

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Feeling weirdly relaxed – (Still scared though)

We have made it through the long winter, the sun has shone, early weekends have meant long bike rides in solitude and loving the tranquility and beauty of our great countryside….Life affirming and exciting, if a little chilly. Apparently, not as chilly as the lake.

In previous missives I have shared my fears about the bike, having only recently graduated from a Raleigh Grifter with various decorations on the wheels that really don’t help triathletes in anyway and the general fears about such an event. However, bizarrely, maybe after reassuring words from my coach and perhaps gaining a greater perspective a feeling of calm has descended. Perhaps ancient buddhism is right. Learn to accept the challenges, focus on the now and probably more realistically, learn to breathe properly. This is clearly a clear way of prevention of panic attacks and hyperventilating.

There is a serious point in here – the training and concentration do induce a sense of well being and calm. Of course, there are worries and fears, but I am not sure this is specific to attempting an Ironman. I could easily trot out cliches about ‘controlling what you can control’ and other such meaningless mantras, but in essence having a focus and enjoying what you do is far better than worrying about what you cant do or what might not be right.

This is not an attempt to stop striving for improvement, far from it, but it is an attempt to stop trying to achieve perfection. As specialists in Continuous Improvement will tell you, the clue is in the title…. The journey will not be linear. Some weeks, some days will feel better or worse than others because that’s life. However, it is important to acknowledge, and even celebrate getting out for that run swim or ride, or even a walk. The tough ones are probably the most valuable for so many reasons. In addition, listen to your coach, not every session has to be hard. There is a method and purpose to easy sessions. Maybe this is something to dwell upon in life. Beating ourselves up for the smallest error or taking it easy, is no way to live. Enjoy the fact we have down time. This is perhaps when we get better at things.

Spectating at the London Marathon this weekend was just the tonic – watching different folk with all sorts of different goals, and reasons for running puts everything in perspective and does remind me that the human spirit is fundamentally, strong, good hearted and resilient. That is something to aim for…And helps keep the training in perspective.

I am sure the fears and the panic, will rear their heads again. I will be open to that and enjoy the process. After all being scared can be helpful some of the time…Right?

If you can please give to this amazing charity

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Spring does make a difference….

The dark days of winter are behind us, no longer indoor drudgery of indoor bike sessions and rising early in the dark for that early morning swim.

With 5 months to go until Copenhagen, there is light. My mood has changed with the ability to get outside. Long bike rides….. Now I say this, so far I’ve managed a few and of course this has been great with some pitfalls.

The obligatory tumble because I forgot to unclip in time, middle of the road with two other cyclists. Of course, they were gracious enough not to laugh but cartoon time was clearly with us. Everything in slow motion, my legs moving to get free in mid air, well they weren’t because they were stuck to the bike. Luckily only ego and pride bruised, a standard lesson for all cyclists.

Then the glories of early morning bike rides. Early spring sunshine illuminating the countryside, just the noise of the wheels whirring and  tyres collecting the miles. However, no one told me, it’s bloody cold on the bike. Within, 40 mins hands and toes solid blocks of ice, with still 30 miles left. Eskimos would be better suited to this training.

However, there is still the exhilaration of being on the open road until you discover the real state of Britains roads. I think I know what it was like to ride a Penny Farthing. Bones shaken and rattled, like I have in a good blender. The pot holes are deeper than craters and your body anticipates tbe judders with Pavlovian ryhthm.

The fresh air and exhilaration does counterbalance this and being in the sunshine and fresh air stiffens the sinews. Those early swims are getting easier and it seems the indoor training of the winter does pay off. I could go into the detail of Heart Rates and my speeds but that seems pointless, nerdy and overblown. After all, I’m not going to win tbe Ironman, I’m there to enjoy and for once in my years of running and competing, stay in the moment and savour this endeavour. After all, I could beat myself up about a minute or two here but what will that achieve. I’m healthy and have some great people around me… and tbe cause I’m raising money for does make a difference to families with greater challenges than I’m facing…..

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It’s not all toil and drudgery

The 6 month countdown begins to Copehagen. The days are getting a bit warmer and lighter and real training begins. All so far so normal. My previous blogs have explored my fears, worries and overall anxiety about the size of the challenge ahead…So a change of tack this week. Nearly all of this is one of the most positive experiences for many reasons (selfishly) and very funny.

Thankfully, I have supportive partner, why? Because if I was single there would’ve no hope of ever attracting a partner. The sheer monotony of my conversation, obsession with Heart Rates, distances my bike, my body etc….Donald Trump’s narcissism is amateur by comparison. Our need to sleep at least 8 hours a day does tend to quash romantic life….I was sharing a pizza recently with a fellow IronMan wannabe, whilst we were discussing the minutiae of transitions, interval training and average speeds on the bike, his girlfriend had finished Tolstoy’s War and Peace, in the original language. She is no linguist but the ennui drover her to fluency.

Joking aside, even if I could not compete in August for any reason,there are so many lessons to reflect on.Firstly, this is a good lesson in changing mindset.If you had asked me6 months if I couldfind5 or 6 hours a week to train (I am not including weekends here),I would have looked at you like you had arrived from Mars and told me that we have a reality TV star for President and that the most popular politician in England is female and Scottish;). In reality,  the shift isn’t radica a little focus, some forward planning and sticking to a plan – hardly rocket science but who said I was?

I am now fitter and healthier  than I have been for many a year.That includes running several marathons in the last 10 years. Cross training is really much better for you and I do just respect my body that little bit more – despite chocolate biscuits. I sleep well and generally eat the right things because I feel like it. Not some new age faddish diets, or ridiculous supplements or even inhalers, but freshly prepared home cooked food with plenty of fruit and veg.

I sleep better – no longer is a glass of wine the natural anaesthetic. I am properly tired, not exhausted just tired.

Would I evangelise about the experience and become all west coast evangelical about the experience? Of course not I am English first of all and this would be impolite. Secondly, I think we’ve had enough of Americans telling us how we need to live our lives. Not keen on that thanks. But all I will say is that change does not have to be radical.Small changes can make a real difference to fitness, health or anything. Overall, it is personal – therefore not something to be imposed on others

No wonder us English never make great evangelicals – far too self deprecating! Thanks for reading….

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The Dark Days of Dread…..

No one actually told me that Ironman would inhabit my dreams. Normally a sound sleeper, with not much to worry about, I spent the last week worrying (needlessly having spoken to the coach and mentor)….This is supposed to be enjoyable and I guess I forgot my perspective. 

 So below I’ll share the concerns and, of course, the reasons to counter and embrace and enjoy this amazing journey.

My god – I will never finish, everyone else is training loads

Well of course everyone is an individual – if you have taken the right advice, training 12 hour a week with 6 months to go you are setting yourself up for injury or illness, where is the progression?

The bike – I am riding so slowly and I worry I’ll be like a toddler on a trike…

Don’t be an idiot…. Secondly,it is winter, you go slower, the roads are hideous…

These and many other insecurities bubbled up,but of course, if I use the rational part of my brain the below is true;

1) I have probably never been fitter

2) Why would I want peak performance 6 months before an event, Mo Farah does base training in winter. TO build endurance and stay injury free.I might not be Mo but I want both of those things….

3) I can only control what I do and nobody else….Thank god. If my daughter is reading this, I am assured by my coach that a) I won’t die and b) I will finish in a respectable time. Of course by then she will be 18 and will be allowed to buy me a celebratory beer….Although I probably won’t finish it…..

So thanks Coach…My learning focus on this process.Whatever happens – I will end up fitter,healthier and will have learnt lots on the way… goes to a relatively easy week 


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