Reflections of a Mad Man in Furlough

This morning I decided to trot my dog Molly into the City as my diary is clear.

I had heard on the grapevine that a small Italian Coffee Shop (aptly called Solo Grano) was open for business and was dying for a pukka Cappuccino and as the sun was already blazing at 8.30am wanted to imagine myself in Athens as I should have been had it not been for lockdown.

The City was quiet except for a lonesome street-dweller and a clutch of construction workers pressing on with the development of City Centre flats and student accommodation. The City was clean and bright, its ancient mix of medieval (think Robin Hood) and Victorian splendour standing proud in the morning sunshine.

I’d clocked the little independent Italian coffee shop opening about a year ago, but had never visited. Perhaps habitually I was attuned to grabbing a Costa from the large soul-less café on the corner or worse going for the dispensed version at Sainsbury’s Local. This morning was different – they were closed. Social distancing observed, I bought my coffee for £2.25 (same price as Costa) served by the smiling (and rather good looking) young Roman at Solo Grano – a small wrapped biscuit (nod to our wonderful client the Food Standards Agency) placed beside it and vowed to reward his endeavours by becoming a loyal and returning customer. 

Wondering about in Market Square almost alone other than the local mad MOD (now 75) driving his 3 wheeler version of a Vespa through the fountains fully adorned with badges, St. Georges flags and multiple other paraphernalia, I looked about.

The once heaving big corporate retail brands – Debenhams, New Look, Burton/Dorothy Perkins, Primark, Costa, Starbucks, Café Nero – were closed and empty, their large windows plastered with tacky discount posters, their displays a season old, the goods uninviting.

I wondered (and hoped) that beyond COVID and subject to some real common sense on behalf of the Council in terms of business rates, and taking advantage of all these emerging new flats, now might be the big moment for a resurgence of the Independent and family owned business able to flex and be versatile in times of crisis bringing back truly differentiated service with personality and individualism to the citizens of our City.   I’m in.

SoLo coronavirus update

Image by Miguel Á. Padriñán from Pixabay 

We hope you are safe and keeping well. Life is a roller coaster for all of us right now, as we wonder how the next few weeks and months will develop.

At SoLo, we’re operating our usual remote model to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe, whilst also staying focused on delivering for our clients.

We’ve been working ‘remotely’ since we founded (nearly 9 years ago now!) and we’re geared up to deliver our work from our desks. We can run planned face-to-face work digitally and are happy to give guidance if you have any questions on how this can work.

Remote working can be a little lonely at times. If you are ever looking for a bit of company you’re always welcome to pop into our virtual office (we’ll send a link!) for a cuppa and a chat. 

 

SoLo’s Guide to effective remote working

SoLo’s virtual office in action 

Are you working from home for the first time? At Social & Local, we’re seasoned remote workers (nearly 9 years now and counting!) Here are five things we have found make home-working work best.

  1. Create a dedicated workspace: Find somewhere to work that’s free from the interruptions of home life. There’s nothing more distracting than an unmade bed in the corner of your eye or a washing machine bleeping for attention. Even if you don’t have the luxury of a home study, a pop-up desk in a corner of a room can work better than the kitchen table or sofa because it demarks a space that’s solely about work. This helps you to focus on work during worktime and then escape it when you’re done.
  2. Connect (digitally) with colleagues: Make time to connect with colleagues – at SoLo we have a virtual Skype “office” – a daily Skype meeting which we log into for the day to connect with colleagues, foster teamwork and keep loneliness at bay. Regular, scheduled catch-ups over the phone or in the Virtual Office provide opportunities to exchange information informally and regularly, keeping work efficient and focused and ensuring the team is working seamlessly together.
  3. Take regular desk breaks: Create some structure and routine for your day. 8 hours alone at your desk can be a daunting prospect. Research shows that we’re better working in short, intense bursts. That’s why you’ll often find Steph on an 11 o’clock dog walk and Jess making her lunch to the backdrop of the World At 1. Give yourself a structure which includes short regular breaks and schedule a brisk walk if you can. You’ll probably sit more than usual and may need to make time to move. Remote meetings are usually shorter too – another bonus of home-working!
  4. Dress for the day: Though some might relish the chance to stay in PJs all day, we find it helps to get your head into ‘work mode’ by dressing appropriately… Not necessarily in a power suit, but somewhere in between. Being dressed ‘for work’ can help create the distinction between work and home, when there isn’t a commute to do that for you.
  5. Meal plan: Fill your fridge with goodies so that you can make yourself a nutritious lunch. Without the joys of Pret or Itsu on the office doorstep, a few tasty ingredients can quickly be fashioned into a healthy lunch to refuel for the afternoon ahead. Smashed avocado and poached eggs on toast is a team favourite, as well as a selection of weird and wonderful salads.

Remote working can be a little lonely at times. If you are ever looking for a bit of company you’re always welcome to pop into our virtual office (we’ll send a link!) for a cuppa and a chat. 

 

5 things you should know about Adrian Hosford, Non-Executive Director

  1. People and pets: My wife Hilary, 3 grown children Dan, Zara & Anna and 5 grandchildren Alma, Heidi, Rose, Max & Robin.
  2. Favourite (communications) campaign: Strange to say, one of mine – but I was just the Client – the genius was the late David Abbott who created BT’s “It’s good to talk”. Brilliant because it captured the essence of the brand, a fundamental insight, a big profound idea built on a universal truth and a compelling call to action. Solid evidence proved it worked beyond our wildest expectations, helping to change the culture and behaviour of a nation and the bottom line.
  3. Quote to live by: It’s not what happens to you that matters but how you respond – we always have options
  4. Something we don’t know about you: I once lived on the Thames for a damp year
  5. Why the Social Life Matters: People work best when they achieve a balance in their life that works with their priorities and preferences. Judge on their output not the input.

https://www.linkedin.com/in/adrian-hosford-b04b2212/

#SocialLife #socialbusiness #social&local 

Steph honoured in Timewise Power 50 Awards in hat trick of awards success for SoLo

 

 

 

Steph has been named in the 2020 Power 50 awards: a roll call of 50 powerful executives in the UK – who all happen to work part-time or flexibly.

The award completes a hat trick of awards success for Social & Local, with Stephanie recently named as one of 50 Female Frontier honourees by industry-leading brand, Campaign magazine; and  Social & Local being shortlisted in two categories in the 6th Annual Better Society Awards.

The 2020 Timewise Power 50 Awards have been compiled by Timewise, a flexible working consultancy, following a nationwide search. Co-founders Karen Mattison MBE and Emma Stewart MBE publish a fresh list annually, in order to prove ‘what’s possible’ when you work part time or flexibly.

Steph says:

“What an honour to be recongised for this award, thank you Timewise.

“I set up Social & Local following redundancy from an advertising firm in 2011. At 55 and female I knew there was no future for me in the advertising world. I started to build a vision for the first social advertising business. Witnessing the poor treatment of people in the industry – from terribly-paid, over worked managers to discriminated-against pregnant women, I wanted to do things differently.

“Social & Local was designed to put people at its heart. The idea didn’t float with everybody at the time, but this award just goes to show that the world is finally changing – in favour or more flexible, humane working practices. I hope what I have shown in my own small way is that doing the right thing by your people goes hand in hand with business success.”

Flexible hiring and working practices are integral to SoLo. The entire team works flexibly and remotely to suit their lifestyles. A ‘virtual’ Skype office and good communication between colleagues about when and where they are working ensures that deadlines are hit, and client needs met.

For Steph, this means starting early (6am) with a morning break to walk her dog and visit her husband in his Nursing Home. Others work around the school run and into the evening, maximising time with their children. The result is fulfilled, creative, diligent, professional staff and happy, retained clients.

Timewise co-founder and judge Karen Mattison MBE, who led the initiative from the start says:

Success doesn’t come in one shape or size. With 9 in 10 people wanting or needing flexibility in their next job – it is vital we find and showcase modern day role models to aspire to. Stephanie is blazing a trail – all whilst working part-time or flexibly. Achieving serious success, in less days. Not only proving that it can be done – but how. The Timewise Power 50 exists to award innovation like this. Every person who tells their story openly, helps to make change happen.”

 

Social & Local CIC shortlisted in 6th Annual Better Society Awards

We’re happy to share the news that we’ve been shortlisted in the 6th Annual Better Society Awards. The news comes just weeks after Steph was named as one of 50 Female Frontier honourees by industry-leading brand, Campaign magazine.

The Better Society Awards celebrate the efforts that commercial organisations make to create a better society, and are organised by the Better Society Network.

Social & Local scooped nominations in two categories: Consultancy of the Year and Impact Company of the Year. We were particularly excited to be recognised alongside huge businesses like RBS, Aviva and Deloitte.

The judges applauded Social & Local’s commitment to social impact, our entirely remote-working model, and the fact that we are one of the only Community Interest Companies (CIC) in the business. We were recognised as an inspiring example of what can be done when business puts humanity at its heart and for proving that a people-centred business model is not only the right thing to do but goes hand in hand with business success.

Social & Local Managing Partner Natalie Richards says:

“We founded Social & Local as a CIC because we felt there was a better way to do business. Our industry – the creative industry – has a poor track record in looking after its people and flexing to their needs. We are proof that anyone can earn a living doing what you’re good at and do good too. We might be a micro business but our mission is big!” 

 The winning companies will be announced on 14 May.

5 things you should know about Kathy Kielty, Creative Director

  1. People and pets: John (Husband); kids (Hannah, Joey & Peter); pets – cats (Alfie and Flossie)
  2. Favourite (communications) campaign: The Southbank is one of my favourite places in London and I love their recent rebrand. It can be difficult to brand a venue – especially one so iconic. I think they’ve got it spot on!
  3. Quote to live by: Ooh la la!
  4. Something we don’t know about you: When I was a poor student at UCLA, I tried out for Jeopardy (a gameshow that gives away lots of prize money). I won the trial game, but they chose the other opponent because he made lots of daft jokes. There’s something of a life lesson there…
  5. Why the Social Life Matters: To me the “Social Life” means I can fit my working life into my ‘life’ life – making the most of both. Spending time with my family, spending time in France, and getting out for fitness classes, tennis and choir are all important to me. Flexible working means I can work during the times and in the places that fit my schedule. The better life balance means I’m more creative and productive – and happier!

https://www.linkedin.com/in/kathy-kielty-7331448/

#SocialLife #socialbusiness #social&local 

5 things you should know about Stephanie Drakes, Managing Partner

  1. People and pets: Husband: Paul Drakes (ex Ogilvy), Sons: Jon Drakes (Fuse, Manning Gotlieb), Harry Drakes (Viseum, Regis), Will Drakes (Cisco), Ollie Drakes (ANZ Melbourne); Grandchildren: Archie Drakes 13, Abigail Drakes 10, Sophie Drakes 8, Lucas Drakes 5, James Paul Drakes 5 months.
  2. Favourite (communications) campaign: Indian Government: “No Plastic is Fantastic”
  3. Quote to live by: “Could I just suggest…”
  4. Something we don’t know about you: I had my wedding reception before my wedding.
  5. Why the Social Life matters:  I have always been a morning person. I often wake up with a clear vision about how to solve a client challenge. “Social Life” means that I can hit my desk at 6am to put pen to paper with a clear head unfettered with the interference of a tortuous commute or digital disturbance. I then log in to our video portal to welcome the team to a new day and after a giggle about the state of the nation put our heads down to the tasks ahead. Fridays we try and have a beer o’clock – often discussing the week’s challenges or opportunities arising. At lunch time I take time out to walk my dog, hug a tree or two (yes, it is scientifically proven to be good for you) and visit my husband in his Nursing Home. I look on this as a “field visit”. 20 years of flogging fast moving consumer goods taught me that you can sit at your desk as long as you like, but the data will not give you the full picture and you need to get out there and see and talk to the consumer. So with multiple clients in NHS and Social Care sector, these visits give me unique insight into the good, the bad and the ugly of the system which in turn helps me to inform clients from a people-centred perspective. At 4.00pm you will often find me with a cup of Earl Grey scanning a broad spectrum of newspapers (yes, I still like print) and social networks – my team know to expect various scans of articles that are apposite to what they are doing and thinking about at this point answering the question “What are the people saying about this?” It’s warm, it’s productive and it works for everyone. 

https://www.linkedin.com/in/stephanie-drakes-5201761b

#SocialLife #socialbusiness #social&local 

5 things you should know about Natalie Richards, Managing Partner

  1. People and pets: David (husband), Alfie the Chihuahua and Keiko the Siamese
  2. Favourite campaign: I love just about anything Virgin do. Because they have never wavered. They know their values; they know their tone of voice. I love a strong brand strategy! For partnerships, you can’t fault Pride month. The rainbow is sheer brilliance. Stonewall’s matter-of-fact approach is refreshing. Let’s tell it as it is.
  3. Quote to live by: JFDI!
  4. Something we don’t know about you: Social & Local isn’t my first business. I’ve always been crazy about animals but, naturally, my mum didn’t want to fund a zoo at home. Taking the ‘it’s too expensive’ limitation on pet numbers literally, I started breeding fancy mice to raise the required cash. At age 9, I had arrangements with two local pet shops and got 30p a mouse. I’d also go around the Saturday market at the end of the day and ask for unsold veg. My little venture was called ‘Bumblebee Enterprise’ and provided for five mice, two guinea pigs, a hamster and a cat! Also… I’m a twin! 
  5. Why the Social Life mattersThe Social Life means everyone can work to their strengths. I don’t just mean skills and experience, but also time of day and location. For me that means the peace and quiet of my home office (often accompanied by the sound of my dog gently snoring on the sofa behind me). It means getting up and going straight to work, bypassing the stress of a train commute. It means getting to my Pilates class on time, without worrying about delays home. Healthy body, healthy mind! I also take real joy in knowing that we can all be ourselves. You can’t help ‘bring yourself’ to work when work is your home, with kids, partners, dogs, cats, delivery men and whoever else prone to popping up. There’s no hiding who you are – in a good way. We bring it all to work, and our work benefits from the richness of our lives. But I don’t work in my PJs. I have standards!

https://www.linkedin.com/in/natalierichards/

#SocialLife #socialbusiness #social&local 

Steph’s Travels in India

#Throwback Thursday! With summer a distant memory, but Christmas not quite in reach, we’re cheering ourselves up with some of Steph’s ponderings from her ‘luxury’ travels in India… 

It’s 7am “All aboard the Golden Temple Mail for Gangapur City!”

We were due to leave at 7.20 it is already 7.30 and nothing is moving yet. Hope it’s not too long as have had but a banana and small box of apple juice for breakfast and Sumit, my guide has advised me not to accept any of the on-board hospitality – especially not the beer – so what’s in the beer I wonder? Mine is luxury class – there is an obvious mis-translation of luxury between the English and Indian version. God help those in third class. I am in a traditional cabin but it’s absolutely filthy, very spartan and smells of wee. I have a bunk bed and a pillow. Be careful what you ask for – I asked for an authentic experience and that appears to be what I got. (NB Harry reassured a young friend of the family Nick who was slightly anxious about my travelling alone that I am not slumming it in India – well Hazza you are wrong – I am slumming it and am proud to be doing so. Never let it be said that I’m not part of the proletariat).

As I’m writing, several young men have been in to my luxury cabin to undertake the daily cleaning – as ever in India, a little employment is better than none and as one brushes, a second washes and then a third comes around with a form on which I am expected to rank the cleanliness of cabin and toilets on a scale from poor to excellent. I am not sure I want to try the toilets – I rank everything excellent even though everything is actually dire – but I want them to keep their job. And we’re off. Ahh I have piped music to amuse. Breakfast madam – no thank you; chai chai madam – no thank you; barley water madam – no thank you; special tea madam – no thank you. 5 hours on we arrive at Gangapur City. The Ticket Inspector – an Elvis impressionist is keen to have me escorted off the train.

I am met by my driver for the next 9 days, Sanjay. Sanjay tells me that whilst I have been on the luxury train he has driven the luxury car from Delhi which has taken him 10 hours.

#sociallife #worklifebalance #socialbusiness #auidenceinsight