Check this lighthearted piece out : 10 lead guitarist cliches.  I can definitely say that I have never fallen into any of these traps as a lead guitarist.  There is quite literally no spandex in my wardrobe!  I can also say that I’m not Jimmy Page or any of the other rather famous guitarists and that may offer an explanation for certain stylistic deficiencies …. 🙂

No spandex in my wardrobe ...

No spandex in my wardrobe …

That said, what can we learn about business and music from these cliches, by their ‘creative reversal’?

On “Image”

Pop music may be mostly about the triumph of style over substance.  I was interviewed by Management Today recently, who asked me what we could learn from the pop band ‘One Direction’ and my answer pointed out just how important image is to a modern pop group – in fact the music is almost secondary.  However, this idea is generally not transferable to business, unless we are talking about industries that sell style as their product, such as fashion, hairdressing etc.  Get the substance of your offering right.  Once you have a unique product or service that delivers outstanding benefits, then you can focus on style.

On “Drugs”

When we deal with “drugs” in a business context, I’m not advocating that you take speed to run your business faster. Nor any need to smoke Opium to help rewrite your Mission statement in rhyming couplets, however worthy this might be, compared with the usual fare! 🙂  In my experience, people on drugs think they’re really interesting, but to the outside world, they’re just people on drugs.   So, we’re talking adrenaline and endorphins rather than smack, crack and pop here.  In the business world, “drugs” = rewards and recognition and, on the negative side, punishments and exclusion.  We know that recognition strategies are far more effective than rewards, if rewards are at an adequate level etc.  So make sure you pick the right “drugs” to encourage the performances you want …  For INXS, their use of drugs was prophetic …

On “Performance” Have you ever been to a really great gig? The best performers in the world come on stage as if it’s already the encore and take it on up from there. Whether it’s out and out rock acts like AC / DC, Deep Purple, Guns ’n’ Roses, Janis Joplin, The Darkness or The Red Hot Chilli Peppers, all round performers such as Madonna, Prince and Kylie or something more sublime, such as Kate Bush, BB King, Peter Gabriel, Nina Simone, Sinatra, Streisand or Motörhead. The point is that top acts know how to hit peak performance, time after time, starting with the end in mind and so on … There’s also no rehearsal on stage. If something goes wrong, you gotta roll with it, unlike business, where you can call another meeting or delay the project deadlines. This means

  • A great deal of practice beforehand
  • The ability to improvise and profit from accidents along the way
  • Or a bit of both

These are all relevant parallel lessons for businesses that seek to be excellent.  The idea of practice is well understood by musicians and great leaders.  For some other parallels, check out this article from Entrepreneur Country.  Click the link to go the full magazine article.

Entrepreneur Country - From Little Richard to Richard Branson

Entrepreneur Country – From Little Richard to Richard Branson

We’re off to Dublin shortly to expound some other parallel lessons from music for business people.  If you are thinking of booking an extraordinary event in 2014, do get in touch via Extraordinary Events.  To explore parallels between business and music in greater depth, check out our books “Sex, Leadership and Rock’n’Roll” and “The Music of Business”.

Some of our books

Some of our books – Click to buy for that unusual Christmas gift


About the Blogger:  Peter Cook leads The Academy of Rock – Keynote events with a difference and Human Dynamics – Business and organisation development, training and coaching.  Contact via or +44 (0) 7725 927585.  Check out our online Business and Music programme for FREE via The Music of Business Online.

Heavy Metal Business – Four Symbols

Heavy metal explained by schoolkids

Four Symbols – Heavy metal explained by school kids

Heavy Metal.  You either love it or hate it.  Nonetheless it has an awesome power from the sheer volume and deathly riffs that lurk within the genre.  Perhaps one of the most doom laden riffs of all time comes from Black Sabbath via the title song of their album Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, particularly the riff towards the end of the song (3 minutes 17 seconds on), which competes with Uranium, weighing in at 238 units on the ‘heavy metal’ scale in the Periodic Table.

Heavy metal sounds different to pop music and a quick musical note explains why.  Heavy Metal tends to employ modal scales, in particular the Aeolian and Phrygian modes rather than the upbeat scales favoured in pop songs (Doh-Ray-Me-Far-So-La-Te-Doh, with third part harmonies such as those used in songs by The Beatles, Abba etc.).  Although heavy metal has its critics, it has been argued that heavy metal has the most in common with classical music, especially Bach, Wagner and Vivaldi through the influence of Ritchie Blackmore, Randy Rhoads, Yngwie Malmsteen etc.

As if to illustrate the point, take a listen to Love Sculpture, featuring Dave Edmunds, doing Khachaturian’s ‘Sabre Dance’ in 1968, containing many of the modal scales I mentioned above:

Music theory aside, what can we learn about business from Heavy Metal bands?

From Deep Purple, we get the insight that innovation in business requires discipline as much as it does creativity.

From Led Zeppelin and Peter Grant, we get the insight that, if the industry norms are killing your business opportunity, change the industry norms.

From Black Sabbath, we get the insight that limitations can assist creativity.

From Spinal Tap, we learn that plans are nothing if execution is poor.

Much more on this in The Music of Business, which launches on 31 1 13.  We finish with some more Heavy Metal:


About the Blogger:  Peter Cook leads The Academy of Rock – Keynote events with a difference and Human Dynamics – Business and organisation development, training and coaching.  Contact via

The numbers go up to 11 – Jim Marshall R.I.P 1924 – 2012

Peter displays his six Marshall stacks and his burnt Fender Strat – a total of 18 Watts of untamed power …

Last week saw the passing of Jim Marshall, the father of rock and metal amplification.   Without the Marshall amp, Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin and a host of other musicians would not have got the classic sound that became a trademark of their music.  Marshall’s great contribution to the world of music was twofold:

The Marshall stack produced a warm fuzzy sound, beloved by rock musicians, unlike its peers such as Fender, which were considered more suitable for jazz.

Marshall stacks were quite simply loud, giving Jim Marshall the nickname “The Father of Loud”.  The spoof metal band ‘Spinal Tap’ coined the phrase “The numbers go up to 11”  and more recently “20” based on the amplifier’s reputation:

No doubt Bernie Tormé will be cranking his Marshall stack up at our “Leadership meets Rock showcase” event in June.

Take That – Teams vs. Individual Talent

HR Lessons from Take That

Introducing Chris Glennie, publisher and marketer, who stumbled over Take That (unwillingly ! 🙂 ) at a concert at Wembley Stadium and found himself contemplating the business issues associated with what the HR profession call ‘teamwork and talent management’ – I’ll let Chris take up the story, but not before we have seen the group in action:

Is the whole greater than the sum of the parts, or does individual talent trump the creativity and productivity of a team?  That is the question.  It is also the nub of a debate that recently raged on the Harvard Business Review blog.

In the blue corner is William Taylor, cofounder of Fast Company magazine, taking issue with a comment of Mark Zuckerberg’s that ‘Someone who is exceptional in their role is not just a little better than someone who is pretty good … they are a hundred times better.’

In the red corner is Jeff Stibel, chairman and CEO of Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corp., putting the opposite case.  His argument rests on the assertion that ‘great individuals are not only more valuable than legions of mediocrity, they are often more valuable than groups that include great individuals.’

Chris tells me that he is instinctively in the blue corner, through prejudice, education and experience.  But his life was changed when he went to see Take That at Wembley Stadium. As the evening progressed, he was struck by how this particular event perfectly encapsulated both sides of the HBR argument:

“Take That’s performance opened with the four members of the original five who re- formed a few years back: Gary, Jason, Howard and Mark.  They’re good, really good.  They don’t exactly dance anymore, not like they used to, but they move together well, interact, play off each other.  And I thought: Well, that’s about as good as it gets, isn’t it?”

“But then, the four disappeared and the manic, charismatic and frankly already too-sweaty figure of Robbie Williams appeared on stage.  The crowd went wild.  It’s what they all came for, and Williams did not disappoint. Let him entertain us – yes, we did and I couldn’t help thinking that it had a level of energy, excitement, engagement that made it much better than what came before.  It was worth the money on its own.  I was left thinking that what was inevitably coming – all five back on stage – would be a disappointment.”

“But it wasn’t. Not by any stretch of the imagination. Sure, at times Robbie Williams threatened to break ranks, and when he did the cohesion nearly broke down, but by and large he worked as one of the team, and the whole event just soared beyond my expectations as an agnostic Take That consumer.”

I too as the editor of this blog would probably not go willingly to see Take That due to misplaced predjudices about boy bands but I can appreciate their talent and Chris’s story.  It reminds me of a quote from Deep Purple’s Ritchie Blackmore, who said that when you play with good people, it raises your own performance.  This concurs with Chris’ experience, Check back to the post on Deep Purple to see great people making each other greater.  The same is true of Led Zeppelin and Prince, who is renowned as a great musical mentor who improves other people’s performances when they work with him.  I’m in the camp that says if you want to get better, work with great people AND have the humility and suss to play in the team rather than as a soloist when required.

So, what are the ‘Takeways’ from Take That?

Take That on teamwork

Individual star talents are as valuable as a cohesive team.  When it works, the result can far exceed the separate component parts working alone.

Take That on professionalism

A true professional knows how to play in a team and be an individual solo performer.   True professionals are emotionally literate.  They know when to push forward and when to hold back and so on.

Take That on talent management

The job of a manager is to harness precocious talents so that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. There’s no doubt that a star talent can be a challenge to integrate into a team, and others have to work hard on teamwork with such people around.  The manager’s job is to bring these elements into harmony.

For more like this read the book “The Music of Business”, acclaimed by Harvey Goldsmith:

About the guest on this blog:  After a 20 year career in educational publishing working for blue chip companies and SMEs, Chris Glennie now thinks and writes about the leadership lessons he has learnt along the way. He can be contacted on twitter via @chrisglennie, or via his blog.

“Livin’ Lovin’ Maid” – Maria McCarthy – Author, Rocker, Led Zeppelin fan

Introducing the Livin’ Lovin’ Maid Maria McCarthy, massive Led Zeppelin fan and author of strange fruits – a new book of poems which offer surprising glimpses into our 21st-century lives – the ‘strange fruits’ of our civilisation or lack of it.  Shot through with meditations on the past and her heritage as ‘an Irish girl and English woman’.  The book can be found on Amazon with proceeds going to Macmillan Cancer.

Strange Fruits - Maria Mc Carthy

Maria has been a long term advocate of music where I live in Kent and it turns out that she appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Home Truths, programme, the home of the legend that is John Peel.  Maria told the story of her infatuation with Led Zeppelin when growing up and I’ve decided to post the story here, following the exceptional reaction to the previous post on Led Zeppelin.  Let’s get the Led out before we get started on Maria’s story:

So here’s Maria’s story of her infatuation with Led Zeppelin and the personal consequences of that infatuation.  I must say I made a similar mistake with T.REX albums, giving them away to a girlfriend in a moment of madness brought on by love but we’ll save that for later…

Robert was my first rock sex God. I had him plastered on my teenage bedroom wall in various stage poses; copious hair flying and shirt ripped open in mid-performance. I later wondered if perm lotion and Carmen rollers had a part to play in those curls, and if the bulge in his Levis was artificially enhanced, like the guy in Spinal Tap with the salami down his trousers. But when I was seventeen, a picture of Plant set in motion the female equivalent of my mojo rising.

In our first year of courting, my husband-to-be and I went to the legendary Knebworth concert where we experienced the glory of Plant and Page in the flesh. And when we moved in together we each had a full set of twelve inch Zepps that snuggled side by side in our newly combined collections. Robert Plant even attended the birth of our second child; he was singing Big Log, of all things, through the headphones of my cassette Walkman as I gave the final push (Editor’s note – no picture provided).

When we outgrew our two-bedroom flat, we sold some of the records to raise a deposit on a house. It made sense, I know. I was nearly thirty, and it was time to put away childish things. There were new priorities.  Two Frampton Comes Alive became one, the by then unfashionable Phil Collins was discarded, and the Zeppelins reduced to one set. We kept my husband’s copies because his signature on the sleeves was a no-no for record dealers.

We moved from London to Kent with our two girls, three cats and one record collection. 800 vinyl albums and countless seven inch singles, requiring special treatment during the move. The boxes were not to be stacked and were marked “Handle With Care.”   But after eight years, I’d had enough of the collections, filling the house from loft to cellar. I had married a hoarder; an obsessive collector of not just records, but also stamps and model trains, videos and music magazines. The house that I had once found spacious became cramped. Where was my space? If I tried clearing things out, to find a haven for my treasured possessions and indeed for myself, he’d go through the boxes destined for the charity shop, and take his stuff back out. I decided it was time for division.

The girls stayed with me along with the cats and some of the records.  My mother was appalled when he took the recliner chair for his new house. There was genuine anguish in her voice when she said, “How could he split the three piece suite?” For me it was the loss of half my Led Zeppelin collection.  When it came to dividing the Zepps I was bequeathed Led Zeppelin Three, Four, and Presence.

I gradually removed the excess shelving from the house. I wanted a slimline life, uncluttered. My love of record collecting was also a thing of the past. For years I was unable to look at second hand records. That was his place; kneeling on the floor at boot fairs, riffling through other people’s former treasures.

Then I met a new man. Whilst wandering around the small Surrey town where he lives, I was enticed by a sign leading down an alleyway to “Vinyl Hideaway”. Before I knew it, I was asking for Zeppelin, like a child starved of sweets, and boxes were laid before me by the two vinyl anoraks who owned the store. We were soon exchanging Zepp stories. They were in awe of my Knebworth experience, shocked at the loss of half my Zeppelins, and I in turn was stunned by their knowledge and extensive collection of first pressings, imports and bootlegs.

I left £23 lighter, clutching Houses of the Holy and Physical Graffiti – double album gatefold, a picture of a tenement building with cut out windows on the cover, filled with the letters spelling out the title on the insert. I would have bought more, but they didn’t take credit cards.  I walked down the High Street with my LP-shaped carrier bag. Chuffed, in the way that I used to be as a teenager when I carried my Harlequin Records bag before me, so everyone would know I had new records.

With my collection partially restored, my resentment over the great record collection split of 1996 is fading. My forty-sixth birthday brought me Led Zeppelin Two from my lover, and today’s acquisition leaves only Led Zeppelin One, The Song Remains the Same and Coda. Of course, after that there are Robert Plant’s solo albums.

Maria McCarthy’s book strange fruits can be found on Amazon, with proceeds going to Macmillan Cancer.  You can find more about her at Cultured Llama and Medway Maria.  Since Maria mentioned the great Spinal Tap, we’ll end with this piece on them, which satirises Jimmy Page’s guitar bowing technique and the use of multiple guitars.  Watch out for a post on Spinal Tap and Project Management in a few weeks time.  Oh yes and do check out our new FREE book PUNK ROCK PEOPLE MANAGEMENT OUT  – Led Zeppelin even get a mention in it.  For more Heavy Metal Business articles – check SPINAL TAP on project management, DEEP PURPLE on improvisation, LED ZEPPELIN on strategy


Deep Purple in Rock: Improvisation and discipline in Business

Deep Purple In Rock

The hard rock band Deep Purple are responsible for millions of young boys camping out in music shops trying to play the riff to ‘Smoke on the Water‘.  At the age of 14 I used to sit at the top of the stairs at home in the darkness trying to figure out the riff with my Hofner Futurama guitar and 10 Watt Zenta amp, until my mum would shout me to come down to get my fish finger sandwiches.  Aside from these problems, Deep Purple offer us a great example of improvisation and discipline in action in the context of a rock outfit.  The Mark II incarnation of the band is generally considered to be perhaps the definitive lineup, but also the most volatile.  Much of the conflict within Deep Purple arose from Ritchie Blackmore, their phenomenal virtuoso guitarist and moody maverick.  Check out Deep Purple Mark II’s work when jamming here:

In this extract from ‘Mandrake Root’ we see the art of improvisation within a disciplined structure as Blackmore sends musical instructions (using his arms as a baton ! ) to the keyboard player Jon Lord, to repeat and develop certain lines (This is particularly obvious around 48 seconds onwards).  He also sends orders to the rhythm section of Ian Paice and Roger Glover with respect to starts and stops within the music (around 1 minute 50 seconds).  Blackmore’s signs are perhaps more aggressive than those used by Prince to change direction at short notice within the band 🙂  What then are the parallel lessons for business from Deep Purple?   Here’s three to get the discussion started – Please add your own views by commenting on the blog.

1. Innovation in business requires discipline as much as it does creativity:  Creativity to come up with novel strategies; Discipline to execute them, so that ideas turn into profitable innovations.  Companies such as Google, 3M and Innocent may seem to be all about creativity at first glance, but a deeper inspection reveals discipline and structure, even if that structure does not emanate from ‘management’ in all cases.  Giving people 20% of their time to work on speculative projects is the business equivalent of a free form jam within Space Truckin’, Lazy, Mistreated and many other pieces of Deep Purple’s repertoire.

2. It requires extremely strong leadership and a compelling shared vision to hold diverse people together.  To encourage a company that continuously learns / adapts and improvises into the future requires leadership that is precise on the destination, yet loose on the journey.  We’ve seen this point before in my blog posts on Led Zeppelin and Prince.

3. Conflict will occur where there is diversity / divergence.  It must be handled properly if progress is to be made.  Ultimately Blackmore’s maverick behaviour proved too much for the band, especially the singer Ian Gillan, and despite several reunions, the band proved impossible to hold together.  There have been many arguments to suggest that what Deep Purple Mark II needed was a manager who could hold the various personalities together and perhaps some time off from touring.

What else do you consider we can learn from Deep Purple about business, innovation, conflict and so on?  Share your thoughts by making a comment to this blog.

Editor’s postscript:  My thoughts go out to Jon Lord who is currently fighting cancer. Although I am a guitar player, it was Jon Lord’s innovative organ playing that led to my fanaticism with Deep Purple. Since I wrote this article, he lost that battle – so sad.

To finish, here’s another piece by Deep Purple’s Mark II line up, the famous California Jam performance where Ritchie Blackmore destroys several guitars and sets fire to his amplifiers.  I can’t immediately think of a transferable corporate lesson from this sequence but it sure is fun.  Takes me back to my teenage years with the Zenta amp on all the way up and me smashing the guitar into the speaker trying to coax some feedback out of the amp!

For more Heavy Metal Business articles – check SPINAL TAP on project management and LED ZEPPELIN on strategy.  Check out our conferences and events – where we extract business lessons from the Deep Purple classic ‘Smoke on the Water’ amongst many other things.  Come along to one of our ‘Monsters of Rock Business’ events, featuring Bernie Torme, who played guitar for Ian Gillan.   Take a look at one of these as featured on Bloomberg TV.

Our books including “The Music of Business” are available at AMAZON.


About the Blogger:  Peter Cook leads The Academy of Rock – Keynote events with a difference and Human Dynamics – Business and organisation development, training and coaching.  Contact via

Whole Lotta Love : Business lessons from Peter Grant and Led Zeppelin

Introducing Steve Mostyn as an honorary Rock’n’Roll Business Blogger here.  Steve and I met at the London Business School a while back, where we talked about the idea of an article and seminar series on Led Zeppelin and the business lessons that can be derived from Peter Grant’s superb management of the band, building on my earlier article on Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Madonna and Branding.   Steve is an associate Fellow at Said Business School, University of Oxford.  Before we get started, let’s see Led Zeppelin in full flow:

Chris Welch’s obituary of Peter Grant in The Independent Newspaper stated his achievements well.

It was Grant who arranged their deal with Atlantic Records in 1968, then hailed as one of the biggest in industry history. He never interfered with their music, but was a “hands-on” manager who travelled the world with his charges to ensure their financial and physical well-being. Grant was essentially the fifth member of Led Zeppelin. While stories of his exploits have become legendary, and he was as much feared as admired, Grant was a warm and good-humoured man who know well the impression he could make on the nervous and unwary … he was  determined that Led Zeppelin would get their fair share of the profits. As a result, Led Zeppelin became extremely wealthy from the sales of millions of albums and concert tickets during their 12-year reign from 1968 to 1980”

Behind the myth of both Led Zeppelin and Peter Grant is evidence of management thinking and action that gives the 21st century manager some new insights.

In 1966 the Jimmy Page joined The Yardbirds.  With his childhood friend Jeff Beck, The Yardbirds would tour sold out venues across America. The Yardbirds played to packed houses and gained critical success but financial failure that left the band wondering how to even meet food bills. Poor management was to blame.  Beck left the group leaving Page to assume control of the frustrated outfit. The band’s management duties were passed on to Grant and by 1968 the pre cursor to Led Zeppelin, The New Yardbirds were formed.  Grant’s management transformed the band.  So what did Grant do that we can learn from?

1.      Grow and support talent

The first role of a manager of creative people is to grow and develop talent, nurturing and most importantly getting out of the way of the creative process. Grant’s obsessive support for the band was outstanding, from ensuring the member’s financial well being to ensuring that they were always ready to wow their audience on a demanding 45 shows as part of a 50 day tour. He also created a close team of publicity, security, sound engineers, roadies and financial managers that were the core support team to the band’s success. Grant deliberately refocused attention on the needs of the artists, often at the expense of the record companies, tour promoters and other agents.  Perhaps Prince is another extreme example of someone who did not wish to be controlled by the music industry.

2.      Reinvent Business Processes – Challenge the accepted process

Grant’s paradoxical PR and publicity strategy created a genuine grass roots mass underground following. His refusal for TV appearances of the band and refusal to release singles were keys to Led Zeppelin’s word of mouth rise and ongoing media mystique. Coupled with this were his radical re-negotiating of promoters fees from 90% to 10% of door revenue.  Grant quoted by Welch.

“The days of the promoter giving a few quid to the group against the money take on the door are gone. Managers, agents, and promoters ran the business when the funny thing is it’s the groups who bring the people in. I thought the musicians would be the people who get the wages…that are the way the big names are made these days. Not by the press, but by the people seeing them and making up their own minds”

Grant’s approach to marketing would not be out of place in the 21st century where crowdsourcing and customer experience and engagement are the watchwords of business.

Today it is recognised that profits come from well managed live performances as opposed to music sales.  Grant laid the foundation stones that Beyonce to U2 have benefited from. Promoters’ assumptions about margin had well and truly been challenged. The creation of Swan Song record label in the 1970’s was a further act of controlling market access, co-director of Swan Song, guitarist Jimmy Page commented:

“We’d been thinking about it for a while and we knew if we formed a label there wouldn’t be the kind of fuss and bother we’d been going through over album covers and things like that. Having gone through, ourselves, what appeared to be an interference, or at least an aggravation, on the artistic side by record companies, we wanted to form a label where the artists would be able to fulfil themselves without all of that hassle”

3.      Inspire a shared vision. Create collaborators

Grant’s insistence that Led Zeppelin could (and would) be the world’s greatest Rock’n’Roll act was the push and belief that allowed Page, Plant, Bonham and Jones to do their best. The leverage behind the Atlantic Records deal in 1968 was evidence of that. Atlantic Records granted them a $200,000 advance before Atlantic president Ahmet Ertegun had even seen the band.

4.      Let Leaders Lead

The paradox of management is the confusion of leadership and management. Both are key to organisation success. In a Rock’n’Roll band leaders are almost never the manager. Grant allowed distributed leadership to develop within the band, from founder Jimmy Page, ‘front man’ Robert Plant, with the world’s leading drummer John Bonham to intellectual philosopher and bass leader John Paul Jones.  Here’s a rare interview with Grant:

5.      Create and enforce Governance

Governance is the often overlooked duller part of the manager’s toolkit.  Once Grant had established the rules of copyright, he was renowned for his frequent personal enforcement of challenging fake merchandisers and bootleggers. Welch comments

“People were terrified of him. He rode roughshod over anyone who tried to get in his way and he wasn’t scared of anyone, police, promoters or officials. In America he insisted on putting on his own shows, with the local promoter acting simply as an organiser”

In the 1970’s Led Zeppelin was the most profitable band in rock history. Grant’s attention to detail was also noted from his assessment of the quality of PA equipment to lighting sequences to the attention to the fine detail of his accountant’s profit and loss accounts and tax status advice.

Leadership thinker and author Gary Hamel argues that management needs reinventing:

“Management is undoubtedly one of humankind’s most important inventions. For more than a hundred years, advances in management—the structures, processes, and techniques used to compound human effort—have helped to power economic progress. Problem is, most of the fundamental breakthroughs in management occurred decades ago. Management, like the combustion engine, is a mature technology that must now be reinvented for a new age”

Some of the clues to its reinvention may be found in Peter Grant.

And finally, let’s get the Led out again, this time performing Kashmir:

Our new book ‘The Music of Business” has a piece on Led Zeppelin, plus much much more – acclaimed by Harvey Goldsmith.  Sample it here – available worldwide on Amazon and as a Kindle download.  Our other books are rather good as well …


Cool friend – Phil Hawthorn – The Business Cook

It may not be Rock’n’Roll to be a cook, or is it?  Well, I must say how much I admire the leadership coach and trainer Phil Hawthorn, who synthesises his ideas about business with cooking, actually preparing food while he speaks at corporate conferences and events.  He is also the author of Can Men Cook, a saucy look at gender stereotypes and cooking which rocks!  I interviewed Phil about his views on cooking, music and life.

So, what is your unique difference Phil?

I have built a fun little business linking cooking to order, leadership and teamwork.  A lot of the time I will work helping teams and their leaders to work more effectively together.  This is where the theory and practice of organisational life come together.  I’m especially good at just getting people to talk – which is a god start for fixing problems.  At the other extreme, I have run cookery demonstrations at The Ideal Home show and other places, and appeared on ITV’s competition “Britain’s Best Dish”.  I mix the two in presentations on management teams and cooking!  Here’s a clip from Britain’s Best Dish:

If music be the food of love.  What’s the link?

Shakespeare. Next question?  Seriously, both food and music feed the soul. They are ultimately involved in being creative, making something new, making the thought processes a bit different, a bit of relaxation and making people happy.  This isn’t a bad set of aims for organisations too, I feel.  Much recent research has shown that the happier an organisation is, the more successful it is.  Simple but true.  Perhaps Lord Sugar should read more of this stuff! (I loved your blog on The Apprentice, btw).

Have you got an example of a company you worked with using this approach?

A team from The Environment Agency, would you believe?  The team worked on day one learning about Rhododendron clearance, and then met up to cook a communal dinner.  They had to create the menu, do the shopping and work to a budget.  I was tasked with making a gallon (literally) of custard.  What a lot of stirring!  Food of love?  Yes, calm, content and smiling.  What better way to team build?

Another event was at a Business School for their MBA Alumni a while back.  Their leader said of it:   “If you think you have seen everything then think again. The principles of management are presented in a very entertaining, professional and unique way”.

What about music?  What music do you love?

I’m of an age where I grew up in Glam Rock – T.Rex, Bolan, David Bowie, Squeeze.  I love female singers (Kate Bush, Madonna, and Lady Gaga).  Really enjoyed Florence and the Machine, but still hark back to rock – Led Zeppelin and anything with a blues feel really.  Bach and Mozart haven’t passed me by either…

This, of course gives me the perfect excuse to play some T.REX

And The Beatles.  I am from Liverpool so have an affection.  I love the creative juice that flowed from Lennon and McCartney being friends and enemies.  Love, hate, Yin, Yang.  And that created some of the most beautiful harmonies and dichotomies in the world of music.  And I love some classical masterpieces that have created love and hate.  Elgar’s cello concerto, for example.  No-one dared do it after ‘brave’ (yes, she was) Jacqueline Dupree defined it in the repertoire.  Until Natalie Klien became BBC Young Musician of The Year (XXX?) when no-one dared to perform it.  How sad!  Natalie won by a unanimous heartfelt and emotional mile.  But she didn’t record it until 2009.  We saw her performing it in the Albert Hall in 2010.  And it was better than both the Dupree renditions.

Where can we find out more?

We have a new website called The Two Cooks, delivering exceptional corporate events and keynote speeches that blend business, music and cooking.  Check my personal website out at Can Men Cook.

Another one bites the dust – The sad loss of Amy Winehouse

Just got back from work today to find out that Amy Winehouse has died.  Lest we forget too soon what a great talent Ms Winehouse was:

One of the big downsides of Rock’n’Roll is the plain fact that some people cope better than others with fame and all its demands on them.  Sadly, Amy Winehouse will go down in history alongside a long line of those who could only cope with the use of recreational drugs. Janis Joplin, Tommy Bolin, John Bonham, Elvis Presley, Keith Moon, Jimi Hendrix, Phil Lynott, Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrison, Sid Vicious etc. Will we ever learn that the drugs don’t work?  I’m afraid I don’t think so. Unfortunately this lesson applies just as much to business as it does Rock’n’Roll.  It underlines the importance of finding better coping strategies for pressure and fame than sex, drugs and rock’n’roll.

So, spare a moment to recall the great talent that sprung from this addictive personality:

Amy Winehouse RIP 23 July 2011 aged just 27 – this seems to be a very dangerous age for rock stars Brian Jones, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison and Kurt Cobain all left this mortal coil at 27

We will brand you – Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Madonna, Unilever and Prince on branding

What can we learn from the crazy world of Rock’n’Roll about branding? One way to think about a brand is a kind of ‘shorthand’ designed to stop consumers from thinking about anything else other than your brand / product. Get branding right and you have customers for life. Get it wrong and you may never take off in business.

Take a look at this ‘basement video’ I made with my colleague Phil Hawthorn to understand the power of brands. We look at Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Nike, Madonna, Pepsi and Prince in this short video.

Unilever is a particularly interesting example of a brand which has managed to preserve the diversity of its many different operating companies, which, in their own words:

“We meet everyday needs for nutrition, hygiene and personal care with brands that help people feel good, look good and get more out of life”

This is exemplified down to the last detail in the logo for Unilever, which sells products from Dove, to Lipton Tea, to Ben and Jerry’s ice cream and the logo carries meanings which include freshness, love, beauty, science, farming, freedom and so on – a pretty tall order for any corporation to live up to, but a mighty ambition nonetheless.

The ultimate test of a brand is the extent to which it enables your company to have longevity as Unilever have demonstrated over 120 years. To see what I mean through the power of music, take a look at the 45 year old brand that is Pink Floyd:

And finally, purely for fun, the word branding began simply as a way to tell one person’s cattle from another by means of a hot iron stamp. In a moment of musical madness, my Country and Western Glam Rock band (The Cowpokers) took this lesson literally, in a satirical pastiche of the classic Queen song ‘We Will Brand You’. The audience is initially deluded into thinking that the drum track will be exactly as the original, but later on find out that it is not and the audience develop a form of ‘arrhythmic distress’ ….

We are speaking / performing about brands and customer service at the Customer Service Training Awards on Friday 08 July at Heathrow. Check out our starter menu of corporate event offerings for your next conference at R U EXPERIENCED