Rachel Eden profile April 2017As well as the annual tradition of setting new year’s resolutions, I’ve also noticed that  it feels over the last few years that an alternative tradition not setting new year’s resolutions has developed.

The Holy Brook team is a bit split on this with some people seeing it as a useful way to set intentions for the year, and others as a way to set yourself up to fail.  One thing we all agree on is that setting habits and goals rather than vague ideas is a good thing.

As an accountancy professional, who now works in a more creative way if I was setting a standard new year’s resolution I might say to myself “Be more creative”.  However I know this would be something that I would look back on in a couple of weeks and realise I had done nothing to achieve.

So here are some some other options I am considering:

  1.  Create habits that will indirectly lead to your goal.
    The amazingly creative Mark Mason has just shared a set of 10 habits you can integrate into your working life that will foster creativity.
    For example Mark has been asked to bring ice cream to our Holy Brook team catch up on 5th January.

  2. Set SMART targets:  Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant* and Time-bound.
    This was actually the approach that Lyndsay Henderson advocated we tried last February as a Holy Brook team, and it worked (it is also worth a re-read).  Setting a SMART target for creativity might seem counter intuitive but actually structure can be really important for allowing true creativity.
    For example I have set a target to create a blog post to be published each Friday of January that adds value to our network
  3. Set a word of the year This lovely idea is one I spotted on Antonia Taylor PR’s instagram feed.  The idea is to set a single word that you want to use to sum up your year.  Then everything you decide on and activity you chose should be able to be linked back to that.
    For example I am playing around with words to use currently I think ‘create’ is the word I will pick, although that might not be creative enough – so I’m going to throw it out to the Holy Brook team for ideas

  4. Have anti-resolutions.  Rather than deciding what you will do, decide what you won’t do, such as cancelling a gym membership that you never use.
    For example I am not going to allow other work invade my Friday morning creativity sessions and I am going say “no” to projects that are not part of my creative mission for the year
  5. Visualise your future state.  This can sound a bit mystical, but I know a few people who are great believers in visualisation.  The idea is to picture yourself and the world in the state that you want it to be, but make it very specific.  As an accountant, another way I might put it is to have a well defined goal.
    For example I could picture myself finalising the draft of a book on using financial management techniques to foster better communication.

Of course there’s nothing to stop you setting some good old fashioned new year’s resolutions, but if you find in a couple of weeks they aren’t quite working for you, it might be time to revisit and try one of these alternatives.  I’d love to hear what your doing via our twitter account.

We’ll be sharing more tips on goal setting and creativity via our newsletter in the coming months so do subscribe if you’d like free access to these and all the resources we shared in 2017

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?

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

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.

We’re really proud to say that Lyndsay Henderson and Rachel Eden are semi-finalists in the Venus Awards Thames Valley.

Rachel is in the Entreprenuer of the year category, which is judged while Lyndsay is in the Business Mother of the year category, which will be a public vote.   She’s recorded a video about this here:

Holybrook Associates_4421b_resizeThis week is Dying Matters week and I have been talking to people from Holy Brook colleagues to Anne Diamond on her BBC Berkshire Radio station about the importance of thinking about death and the end of life.

A number of people have commented how morbid this might be or depressing.  Obviously to an extent it is but in my experience actually the people who work in end of life – from funeral directors, to hospice workers to people who are looking at how to improve policy seem to have something in common.

It is a sense of life and the importance of ensuring that their life is lived to the full.  This ranges from a council worker who climbed Kilimanjaro in her 50s to Baroness Greengross who has devoted her life to looking at aging and end of life to a young care worker I met who supports patients with dementia.

They all believe in a life well lived and that death and end of life may be the end of our story (at least on this earth) but that it is an important part of our story.

I believe that the approach to end of life in this country can be better.  With an aging population, public sector austerity alongside huge potential for using digital technology and information to change our approach to death both as a community and for professionals involved changes are coming anyway – we can do more to help more people have a good death.  We have one chance to get it right.

If you are interested in this area please get in touch – I am always happy to discuss how we can improve this– what is the harm in reaching out?  After all as the twitter tag says: #YODO (#Youonlydieonce)


Holybrook Associates_4421b_resize

What can Ed Balls and Will from The Deep Gift shop in Hull can teach us about authentic organisations?

A few days ago I rang the Deep Aquarium in Hull with a request that seemed far-fetched.

My children had each been given a snow globe by their Grandparents after a recent visit there.  They each had a sticker with their name on and in the snow globe a Gentoo Penguin that the Deep is raising funds to conserve.

Unfortunately, one of the globes broke a few days ago, and all parents will know the distress of a favourite toy being broken or lost.  So, nothing ventured nothing gained I at least thought I should try.

I was put through to Will in the gift shop and thus started a chain of events that perfectly demonstrate how to market yourself in an open world – despite being entirely low-tech.

Authenticity Rule One: Be yourself

I briefly explained the situation and part way through the call I felt something unusual.  He appeared to be thinking carefully about my request and considering how he could help the little girl who he had never met.

He was concerned about the packaging and whether the globe might break if he sent it out.  He offered to call me back.  I explained the concept of ‘the school run’.  He agreed to call back at 3.30.

Authenticity Rule Two: Be good

At 3.30pm I had a call back from Will. Exactly when he said he would.
He told me he’d do his best to ensure that the globe got to me safe but he wasn’t sure.  He refused to charge me for postage and packaging.  “It’s a goodwill gesture”.

Two days later a large package arrived.

I was nervous so opened it before letting my children know.  I should have taken a photo of the packaging, never have I seen something so well wrapped.

Rule three:  Have fun

Inside was this:

2016-04-27 14.36.45.jpg

We were already bowled over by how good the Deep (or rather Will) was.   But “Best fishes” and a picture of a fish?  Now we *loved* the Deep

But what if being yourself and being good are incompatible?

Well yes, if you are a racist or like to send abusive tweets to people there’s not much hope.  But for the vast majority of humanity they aren’t.

Take Ed Balls Day, on the face of it this is an example of why people are scared of using twitter.


We’ve all done something similar – I defy anyone who has been on twitter for long to not have had to delete a tweet or two (in my case usually because of a typo).

But, and this is the beauty and simplicity of Ed Balls Day (google it),  he didn’t delete the tweet.

Which means Ed Balls day is an object lesson in rules 1 and 3: be yourself and have fun. 

Is it an object lesson in rule 2?  Not if what you want in your politicians is a robotic perfection.  But do we want Yvette Cooper (whom Ed Balls is married to) to go home from asking the Prime Minister a question about child refugees and stare soulfully into the distance or do we want to know what she made Ed Balls do to celebrate his special day?

If you are going to do it do it right.

The fact that any of this needs saying I think tells us a lot of how organisational culture in general and management of social media in particular can change and become more natural.

If it was your niece or nephew you’d probably write ‘best fishes’ too.  If you sent an email to your sister with just your name typed in you’d never hear the end of it.

So why would we expect our organisations to behave as if they have no sense of fun?  Or that our public figures can never press enter when they meant delete?

I hope that more organisations will be like the Deep and trust their employees to think for themselves and more public figures will treat social media as a way of building relationships, even if that means being vulnerable.

Because we’ll get more effective organisations and more interesting, human public figures if we do.

Authenticity matters.



Online and offline do of course mix and create great marketing copy.  But that’s not why authentic organisations do it.

A nice by product for the Deep was they got a thankful tweet and a loyal customer (and this blog post for that matter…).

But do I for one moment think that is what Will was thinking when he wrote a note to my daughter?

Here’s what I think he would like to know:

Last night, on Ed Balls Day, as I put my daughter to bed she asked to hold her globe.  “I love my snow globe so much” were her last words before sleep.

And Will, she thought ‘best fishes’ was the funniest thing she’d ever read.