R&R or time to regroup

Rachel Eden profile April 2017I often find the summer is a time in which I take time out.  This year has been no different.  Over the summer so far I have taken time to:

  • Reflect – I have had a lot of consider and review the from past few months, and it’s good to take time out to reflect on the acheivements and what has changed.
  • Renew – I have taken time to refresh myself and ensure that I have the energy to continue to do what I want to do.
  • Relationships – the summer is a time in which we often spend more time with people we care about, in my case I have particularly been focused on spending some time with my children.
  • Remember – I have taken some time to remember things from the past, including some good memories of a much loved family member, that last year were too raw to think about much.
  • Review – I have taken time to consider the things that are most important to me, and consider what it is that I want to focus on.
  • Re-commit – I have taken time to the values and the things I stand for and re-commit myself to living in a way that reflects that.

How have you been spending August – has it been business as usual or are you taking stock?

4 steps to increase your impact and free up time

Holybrook Associates_4421b_resizeCoordinating Director Rachel Eden explores how you can turn an accounting concept into a practical 4 step approach to increasing your impact.

I have been pondering a blog post for about 3 months on the accounting concept of ‘limiting factor’ or what I prefer to think of as your key resource.

This is the thing that makes your organisation tick – it’s what makes your organisation successful and people want to work with it.

However, what is meant by it being limiting is that that special resource’s availability is, well, limited:  if you could have more of it your organisation would grow and do more: whether your focus is on making more money or having a greater impact on the world.

In the case of Holy Brook Associates – given that it has taken me since April to actually create a post on the topic – as you might guess it is my time as the Coordinating Director.

In fact whether I talk to entrepreneurs, small business owners, charity trustees and managers this is a pattern that I see over and over again, so let’s see how limiting factor analysis can help with this.

Translating the accounting concept of limiting factor analysis into thinking about this in human terms there are three steps to which I would add a fourth:

  1.  Prioritise tasks – doing the thing that contributes most to your organisation. This works up to a point, but there comes a time when the urgent and the important clash, or you just need to do everything – for example ensuring your annual return is done on time vs serving a new and exciting client.
  2. Delegate – ensure that your time is spent on the things that only you can do or you can do best – whether that is passing on admin and accounts, brand design or IT management. This can help to increase your capacity and expand what you do until you reach a point where you are only working on the things that really require what only you can add.  There is a cost-benefit equation here:  think about what will add more benefit than it will cost if you pass it on to someone else.
  3. Replicating your resource: find another person who can add to your capacity.  Traditionally this would be seen as finding a ‘resource’ identical to the existing resource – for example buying a machine that is the same as a macheine that is being run at capacity at the moment.  Translating that into a world where the issue is your time, finding someone with similar skills and outlook can really help your organisation to have greater impact.I’ve often heard this described as unicorn hunting, and that is the big downside – that person you are looking for might well be very hard to find.

I therefore advocate a fourth step which it has led to a very exciting set of work for me both with clients and the Holy Brook team:

  1. Cooperate: Find people or even organisations with complementary skills and similar values to collaborate with – either by hiring them, formally joining a cooperative or through an associate or contract arrangement. The likelihood is that you’ll learn from each other, grow together and be able to support clients in a greater range of ways.  A win for everyone


Good luck and if you want to spend a few minutes a day thinking about this side of your business it is worth signing up to our FREE go4growth online challenge

Building stronger connections through improved use of language

IMGP8686While written communication is important, we also love the spoken word.  Here Sarah shares some tips about sharing your messages verbally.
Recently I watched a feature film in German for the first time in about 20 years. And I understood it! And I laughed at the jokes! As a German graduate from the University of York, I really shouldn’t be so surprised, but when I left university I moved away from using my foreign languages and never really went back. Instead I have made the most of the general communication aspects and linguistic science side of my studies.
So why watch that film and why blog about it? Well, my husband – who has continued to use his languages throughout his career – was lent the DVD by his German colleague. She had recommended the movie and it seemed rude not to at least give it a go. As it turned out, it was a funny, light-hearted movie about a road trip across America and we both really enjoyed it.
I decided to blog about the experience for several reasons. Firstly, I love the written word and it’s a powerful part of my career and life in general; this film experience reminded me that the spoken word is fun too. Written and spoken language, whilst having a lot in common, can be different in many ways. Obviously there are occasions when you can write informally and when you need to speak in a formal manner, but broadly speaking there are fewer ‘rules’ to follow when you are talking.
There are words and phrases that sound great when you say them aloud and can be aided by the facial expressions that accompany them, but which could be easily misinterpreted or give the wrong impression when written down. This is apparent in many walks of life – how often have you or a colleague found a business email you sent has been misinterpreted and you’ve been misunderstood or branded ‘difficult’ for questioning a new process?
Secondly, watching a movie in a language in which I’m rather rusty reminded me that you don’t actually need to understand every word to know what’s going on. In a film where I recognised the overarching narrative and could see the actions of the characters and their faces displaying their emotions, I could work out the gist and that was usually enough.
Thirdly, I believe that we all need to think more carefully about the words that we use, the impact that what we say can have on others and how this can affect whole communities. We have certainly all seen more than enough examples of the power and potential damage of language in recent months.
Often in workplace communications it can feel as if people are speaking different languages (even if you’re all speaking English, and that’s not always the case anyway). This causes frustration, misunderstanding and even, at times, fear. My experience with this DVD has shown me that it doesn’t have to be like that. Here are a few ideas for avoiding issues:
·         Shared language and narrative. You need some agreement on words and phrases in the context and story of your organisation. People need to know the basic concepts of your culture to be able to understand. Perhaps consider providing an organisational ‘dictionary’ to help people, particularly when they are new.
·         Mixture of written and spoken languages. A combination of visual and linguistic clues will help smooth over some of the trickier points. It will also provide more opportunities to ask for clarification and to check that they meant what you think they did.
·         A willingness for mutual understanding. This can be the hardest thing of all. I believe that as fellow human beings we can always find some way to understand each other. But everyone has to be willing to try. It helps if there is a shared, common goal to motivate that willingness.
We run training courses on social media, communication and public speaking.  Get in touch for more information rachel.eden@holybrook-associates.co.uk

Living life to the full

2017-06-12 16.49.53Our founder Rachel Eden reflects on an unusual week:

Last week on Thursday I was a parliamentary candidate in the General Election, and came second to the sitting MP.  On Friday I was also one of three finalists in the Venus Awards Thames Valley, for Entrepreneur of the Year, a title worthily taken by the extremely able and very nice Charlotte Cavanah founder of ‘Time for Tea’.

I don’t normally talk about my political life in work but I’ve been encouraged by a couple of Team Holy Brook to share my thoughts on how these two experiences felt.

In both cases I exceeded my own expectations (I increased my party’s vote by 82% and I made it to the final), but I didn’t win.

Would I have preferred to win?


Was it still worth it given the outcomes?


So, what did I learn?

Plenty, but both processes had some common lessons:

  • It felt really good to represent something I passionately believe in.
  • Going in for something without the pressure of expectations is a great way of beating impostor syndrome
  • Taking a calculated risk is a great way of learning and developing.
  • sometimes apparently playing it safe is actually a bigger risk: the benefits of the process both personally and for my organisations were huge.
  • It was good practice at keeping your eyes open, and realism.
  • Trying something is a great opportunity to meet some new amazing people
  • A competitive process is also an opportunity to cooperate and deepen my professional and personal relationships with people I already know.
  • Bringing your whole self to something can work – in my professional life I can be apologetic for my political conviction and vice versa: but they are both aspects of my determination to help make a better world.
  • It can feel like a one off but just as there are no happy endings in life there are also no full stops on your professional journey: we say it to our children but it is true “There’s always next time”…

The final lesson I would share don’t be embarrassed about who you are or down play your conviction.

It is exactly one year since the anniversary of Jo Cox’s assassination today (Friday 16th June).  In one hustings, we were asked who our hero was and I was rather embarrassed to say it was Jo Cox and some other MPs currently in parliament who had inspired me.

It felt almost as if I was being presumptuous, but actually once I’d said it I realised just how true it was.

Jo Cox was an inspiration and just went for things – she didn’t hold back.  There has been a lot said about what she meant to people but the thing that really sticks with me is something her husband Brendan shared:

Jo would have no regrets about her life, she lived every day of it to the full.”

We may not all have her talent and strength, but what an inspiring approach and a great way of ensuring you do everything you can to make a better world.

Looking up in the Highlands


Lyndsay Henderson took a long weekend recently and came back even more energised than usual.  Here are her thoughts:

Last weekend, I escaped for a few days away to my friends’ hotel in the Highlands of Scotland. The hotel is next to Rannoch station and with no wi-fi and limited phone signal, it’s the perfect location to spend quality time with friends, relax and reflect. The last time I was there was nearly four years ago, not long after Scott and Steph had taken over the place.

Whilst my focus over the weekend was not work, business, and blog topics, a few things were said by our hosts that really stuck out for me as important values that all businesses could do with thinking about.

  1. Be true to yourself and your customers

Or, don’t be afraid to say no if it doesn’t work for your business. The hotel is a place of retreat and relaxation for the guests. This means that Scott and Steph don’t open the bar to serve non-residents during the day as they want the lounge to be available for the guests who may want to relax with a book or enjoy a beer after a long walk. They know who their customers and what to do to deliver the best service to them, they aren’t distracted by incidental revenue opportunities which could impact the quality of the experience and service.

  1. Keep evolving

Just after we arrived Steph gave us a tour of their veg patch where they have started growing their own produce. She said that ‘they always had to be changing to give their guest something new’. This doesn’t mean a whole new service or fundamentally changing your core offering, but incremental changes that ultimately improve the experience overall for your customers.

  1. Be innovative with what you’ve got

Lesson number two from the veg patch – when you live in a remote location, you can’t easily get the council to pick up old baths you’ve replaced so you have to use them. Here they are used to grow herbs. Its quirky, looks great and is a talking point! The business lesson? Use what you’ve got and don’t discard skills or physical objects too quickly, innovate and think how you could use them in the future.

  1. Look up

These words of wisdom didn’t come from our hosts, rather from a friend when we were on a long walk – look up and enjoy the view, don’t just focus on the path ahead. As small business owners, we can spend so much time focusing on and delivering the next task it can be hard to look up from the path, enjoy where we are and what we’ve achieved. So, once you’ve finished reading this, take some time to think about what you are doing now and your successes for this week.

If you feel you need some help with your strategic direction and looking up get in touch for a chat and we’ll see if we can help: rachel.eden@holybrook-associates.co.uk

If you want to escape you can find out more about Moor of Rannoch Hotel here – tell them Lyndsay recommended you!


Our new charity of the year

We’re delighted to announce that following a number of very good applications we have chosen Against the Grain as our charity of the year.  They stood out to us for their enterprising spirit, their mission of working with young people and their commitment to sustainability.

against the grain

Sarah Sandle their Coordinator says

“Against the Grain is delighted to be announced as Holy Brook Associate’s charity of the year and is looking forward to working closely with Rachel and her team over the coming months.  We are particularly keen to continue developing our work within the local community and having the support from Holy Brook Associates will hopefully help facilitate further links within the local business community, which will be invaluable.”

We’ll share more details as we start to work together and you can find out more about them here.

Dying Matter week – Reading

HolyHolybrook Associates_4421b_resize Brook is proud to be supporting Dying to Talk, Reading.  Rachel Eden, explains why it is so important here:

Dying Matters Week aims to raise public awareness about the importance of talking more openly about dying, death and bereavement and of planning ahead.  As a society we know we’re really uncomfortable with talking about this issue so I decided to get involved and see who else woudl be interested in doing something focused around the national dying matters week locally.

Why did I do it?  Well I don’t like to to think about getting ill and dying anymore than anyone else, but not talking about it won’t make it go away.  Having a conversation can help you to live well and to make the most of life until the very end.   I have seen loved ones have good deaths, and not so good deaths, and I am determined that this is something we can improve.

Every death affects people differently. We’re often too polite to ask for help, or don’t offer it for fear of saying the wrong thing. But a family or a community dealing with loss needs help.

This year, the theme asks What Can You Do? This aims to get people more active in planning for dying and death and helping support those who may need it in times of grief and bereavement, be they friends, family or in your wider community.

I have been delighted by the range of people who have decided they want to help so we decided to not just make this a single event but to have a range of events – some of them fun: a BBQ, a charity quiz night others more thought provoking.

We’ve no any funding to do this, so I’m so grateful to everyone who has pitched in, and all we’re asking is that people come along and get involved.  Iyou think this is an important issue here are some ideas of what you can do:

  • Share the messages on social media – use #dyingmatters and #whatcanyoudo along with the #rdg hashtag or retweet/share our posts.
  • Come along to an event
  • Have a conversation with your family or friends about the issue.
  • Make a donation to a charity – we’re recommending the Sue Ryder, Duchess of Kent Hospice

Let me know what you think – I’m on rachel.eden@holybrook-associates.co.uk and if you want to know more about Holy Brook Associates and how we support the community in the Thames Valley please do subscribe to our monthly newsletter