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#2: The Adjustment Process Part Two: Replacing the Infrastructure

The second big change I remember was all of a sudden the infrastructure I had taken for granted was not there anymore. The two things that hurt me most were firstly research and secondly legal.

Because of the nature of my former job I was heavily dependent on research; Deutsche Bank had more research than you could ever imagine, and so if I wanted information on a country, a company, an industry, or a peer group, somebody somewhere would have it and I would just go and get it. All of sudden now I had two choices: either do it myself or pay someone else to do it, and that hurts! The other, as I said, was legal. Again because of the job I used to review rafts of legal documentation; now all of a sudden I had to trust my paralegal skills or pay a lawyer to do it for me, and that hurts even more because lawyers are not cheap!

So you have to figure out how you plug all those gaps in your infrastructure that you have been so dependent on in your career so far. Nowhere is this more painful for somebody like me than in the world of IT. There is a well-known oxymoron – the IT help desk – which is up there with “military intelligence”, “customer service”, and “business ethics”. All of a sudden if you have a situation where your printer won’t listen to your computer, or it decides that today is the day it prints in Egyptian for fun, or it won’t print in a straight line, or your computer just hangs there and does nothing, who are you going to phone? If reliable IT is going to be important to you in your new role, then you may want to consider some form of maintenance agreement with a local service provider. It can get quite fraught if you need to print something off to take to a client or a prospect and you can’t do it!

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#1: The Adjustment Process Part One: Working from home

The first thing I would like to share with you is the adjustment process, which I remember I went through back in 2001. It is quite a huge change, moving from working from a big institution to working for yourself, even if it is to be yourself plus others. One key part of the adjustment is linked to whether you engineered your own departure or it was engineered for you. Depending on what is happening to you at this moment in time some of these adjustments might strike a chord with you.

I am not going to dwell on these as they are now fading memories for me; they have been eclipsed by other more exciting events. The first one is the whole issue of working from home, which is where most people start – they don’t usually go out and rent an office, studio or workshop. I was used to working from home because of the nature of the job in my later years at Deutsche Bank; I was out of the country three weeks out of four and was conditioned to working from home before and after trips, particularly as
I am not very good at getting off the redeye flight and performing effectively. I am pretty much a wimp and I can’t cope with sleep deprivation; by lunchtime it’s like I have been hit by a truck!

But I am much better going home, getting a couple of hours sleep, getting back in the right time zone, doing a bit of work and then on day two getting back into the swing of it rather than going into the office and being a superhero; it just does not work for me.

As Clint Eastwood would say before he shot people: “a man has got to know his limitations” and I knew what mine were!

So I was used to working from home and I was quite disciplined; I did not lapse into watching daytime TV unless it was golf (my Achilles heel), and then I could get the siren call of the TV. But there is a huge difference between doing it for the odd day here and there and it becoming a way of life.

As I said, not many people go out on day one and decide that they need an office, a studio a workshop, or whatever it may be; they start from home and figure out “what is what” so there is quite a significant transition from being in a buzzy office environment where you have noise, chatter, gossip and everything else going on, to being in a more tranquil setting at home.
When I started my wife was (and still is) a school teacher and my kids were at secondary school, and they all went out together in the morning at 7:30; the earliest back was around 5:30 in the evening. During that time the only interruption, (we live at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac) was the postman who used to pitch up at around 11 o’clock. I felt like an old man on neighbourhood watch, as, if he had not appeared by 11:30 I would peer through the curtains thinking “has he fallen off his bike?” and wondering whether he was alright. I needed to get out more!

It dawns on you, particularly if you are a gregarious animal and you like social interaction, that the only person who can do something about it is you; you can’t sit at home fretting about it.

At the same time you notice that the phone does not ring as much, you don’t get as many text messages or emails and the only post you get is either bills or junk!

So we need to find some ways for you to fill your time constructively and at the same time get you out of the house – research and networking will be big parts of this.

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Creating a Portfolio Career

A portfolio career is not a new concept. Charles Handy introduced the idea back in the 1980’s, when he could see that the corporate world was moving from great monolithic and paternalistic organisations (cradle to grave) to the leaner and meaner businesses of the 1990s and beyond. I remember that when I joined Midland Bank in 1976 everyone (family, friends, and fellow employees) assumed I would be there until I retired. As one-company loyalty (in either direction) became less of a norm, the possibility began to arise for people to undertake their own career planning, and in particular to contemplate several careers at the same time, with the possibility of different rewards for each. A new working model was born.

Can a portfolio career offer a better quality of life – yes it can. It could throw in to the pot something intensive (and well paid) driven by existing experience, something less well paid but very rewarding, and possibly something voluntary or “pro bono”. All of these components could create a different work-life balance, which could potentially feed in to family and leisure time.

So, in my case, what does this portfolio look like? It really has 4 main components:
• Education – Cass Business School (City University). I am involved in lecturing, business development and mentoring across the range from undergraduate, through postgraduate and on to executive education. My work involves programming structuring, running facilitated sessions, and lecturing on entrepreneurship, strategic planning/implementation, and bank management/strategy.

• HR Consultancy – Savile Group plc. I am retained as an associate to mentor people who have left full-time employment and as part of their outplacement package are looking for advice and support on how to set up their own business. The range of ideas has been fascinating!

• Business Mentoring – David Mellor Mentoring Limited. I am the director, working on business improvement with boards, partnerships and individual board members/partners.

• NED work. I hold non-executive director positions with Azure Partners Limited (business strategy consultancy) and Lysis Financial Limited (IT Strategy Consultancy).

How is it possible to move from being a senior investment banker to running a portfolio like this? The one dominant factor is careful networking. I still believe this is a misunderstood activity by the business community at large (CADIA members excepted!) , and I never cease to be amazed how many people perceive it to be a forum for asking for jobs, selling, or looking prematurely for leads to job vacancies or sales opportunities. If the focus is on building relationships and seeking information, it can produce over time extraordinary results. CADIA understands this approach, and what’s more puts it into practice, and so it is no coincidence that as the portfolio has evolved it has become the only network to which I remain committed. But, no one said that building a portfolio career was easy! Like most things in life it complies with the good old rule of “10% inspiration, 90% perspiration”, and it has taken over 6 years for me to mould the portfolio mix with which I am really comfortable. One of the challenges is that the
journey you go on takes you through a range of emotions. If you picture a typical bell curve, you can imagine 3 phases:

• Phase 1, when satisfaction is relatively low as the portfolio takes a frustratingly long period to take shape.
• Phase 2, when satisfaction begins to grow rapidly as all the constituent parts fall in to place (perhaps even ones you hadn’t thought about but which fit in quite nicely).
• Phase 3, when satisfaction begins to wane as the different parts begin to compete for your time. This is where having a good mentor plays an important part, and I am really fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with Fiona Shafer of Omega Blue, who has done a great job with me on time management, and helped me make some difficult choices when necessary.

Once you have the balance (and dare I say it again, the support of a quality mentor), it is much easier to change balance, focus, pace and portfolio composition than it is in a conventional career.

What has a portfolio career given me? So many things, but most importantly variety, interest, challenge, recognition, freedom from politics, appropriate financial reward, personal development, a sense of fulfilment, greater autonomy and flexibility. Perhaps most important of all it has enabled me to work with people I like and for people I like.

I have tried to make this account a balanced and controlled appraisal of what a portfolio career means to me, and could mean to you. It is not easy; it has challenges like any other role, but if you get it right the rewards are enormous….oh, by the way, you can have some fun as well.

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