7 ways to be a smarter manager

Happiness is key

Management of Complexity

Management of Complexity (Photo credit: michael.heiss)

Managing staff is hard and, with the rise in flexible work patterns, some say it’s getting harder. Entrepreneurs and business thinkers offer their best advice Entrepreneurs aren’t always the best managers. Ask any what their best skills are and they’ll often refer to their technical know-how, sales ability or industry knowledge. Few will claim to be a great manager or really good at HR. And, as new technologies emerge and remote working and flexible practices become the norm, some business owners feel increasingly at sea. However, entrepreneurs should see such changes as opportunities to improve their productivity and working culture. For that to occur, a new way of thinking needs to be embraced. Here, innovative business owners and management thinkers offer their advice.

1. Reward results

Smart working focuses on results and productivity, as opposed to the hours clocked up. Managers need to stop looking at what time their employee is leaving the office and focus instead on what they are achieving. “Why should someone work hard if they are getting paid by the hour?” asks Peter Thomson, a fellow of Henley Business School. He says business owners need to focus on results and success rather than face time. “Paying for hours is dumb working as it encourages low productivity,” he adds.

2. Be flexible

One of the big benefits of flexible hours is that it means staff can avoid the busy, stressful commute. Thomson argues that this can benefit employers, too. “We’ve tended to look at home working and flexible working as an employee benefit, but what it should be about is having more productive employees. If it takes someone an hour to get to work and an hour back, that’s 10 hours a week of unproductive time, and they will be more stressed by the journey,” he says.

3. Create trust

Good employees don’t want someone breathing down their neck, watching their every move. Yet many bosses still practise this type of management. Instead, companies need to create a culture in which people instinctively understand how they should behave. Staff must understand what’s expected as well as understanding the norms and values of the business. Sinead Hasson, owner of recruitment consultancy Hasson Associates, says regular internal communication and a shared ethos is key. “As working structures become more fluid, taking steps to invest in a strong corporate culture will ensure that staff remain ‘within’ the company, satisfied with their role and fully engaged in their work,” she says. “Using popular tools such as Google+ hangouts can bring remote workers together and create an inclusive environment.”

4. Become a strategist

Business owners need to hire people they can trust to get on with their work. This is crucial as the business grows and close management becomes unfeasible. Ed Molyneux, of online accountancy provider FreeAgent, says his role has changed considerably since he co-founded the company, and he is now able to focus on big-picture issues. “We’ve grown the company from three to 50 staff in the past five years. It’s been very much a case of learning on the job and hiring the right team so that it’s not necessary to manage them closely,” he says. “I try to set a clear strategic direction and then be collaborative about the details. My role has evolved to progressively make more time for big-picture issues such as strategy and culture.”

5. Keep talking

Companies can evolve rapidly as innovative technologies come online and new markets emerge. This can be unsettling for staff, who will wonder how changes may affect them. Arnab Dutt, managing director of Texane, a manufacturing company that makes wheels for tube trains, says regular conversations are key to keeping the confidence of employees. “It’s all about keeping lines of communication open, and often that means relaxing a bit. Some of the best-run companies I’ve seen are run on a more informal and fluid structure than is conventional,” he says. “We’re currently investing in new machinery, so I’ve been making sure everyone knows what’s happening. Otherwise, the arrival of this new equipment could make them wonder if their job is about to be automated and they’re going to be replaced. I’m explaining how we’ll be working differently but better, and that they’re going to have all this fantastic new kit to work with.”

6. Offer lots of praise

Everyone likes to be told they are doing well, but too many managers focus on the things that have gone badly when trying to improve their employees’ work. Unfortunately, too many negative comments can de-motivate people, whereas praise has the opposite effect. The business thinker and writer Stephen R Covey, who wrote The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, writes that employers should treat staff “as they want them to treat their best customers”. He adds that praise should occur immediately after good work is done and should be given to the employee personally. It must be specific, sincere, proactive and, most of all, “thoroughly positive”.

7. Happiness is key

Creating a happy place to work is one of the key ingredients of being a great manager. It seems obvious, but if staff like where they work then they’ll want to come in and are more likely to stay. Dominic Monkhouse, managing director of online hosting company Peer 1 Hosting, takes this message to heart with an office that includes playful features such as slides, swings, a putting green and even a tree house. “Happiness is absolutely fundamental. I can’t envisage getting great customer service from people who don’t enjoy what they are doing,” he says. “If you’re happy, you take a sense of pride, rather than it just being a job. You’ve got to make sure that people never feel they are just a cog in the wheel or that their contribution isn’t valued, so people continue to be engaged and positive. A happy team will achieve the best results for the business.”

reposting a piece in theguardian.com

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Top 16 Cloud Computing Terms – you should know

Cloud Computing

Bare metal IaaS WTF? CDN what does it do? Cloudwash, will it clean my socks? I read this article by Paul Anderson and wanted to repost as it does a great job of covering the new vocabulary of cloud.

In the wake of big data, many of us have started to treat cloud like old news. Yet when it comes to the latest cloud lingo, we are not properly acquainted with them. So here we have got for you – a concise list of a few trending cloud computing phrases buzzing (at present) in the cloud community.

1. CDN (Cloud Content Distribution Delivery Network)

It is a worldwide collection of servers that speeds up delivery by copying content for end users. It is mainly used to send resources to millions of clients in milliseconds.

2. Cloud broker

It’s a fuzzy term given to those who act as an agent between a client and a cloud service provider. These professionals connect customers to suppliers and financial commodity traders, trading in cloud services.

3. Bare Metal IaaS

It refers to physical machine rental, which holds a few cloud attributes such as quick scale-out, self-service and pay-as-you-go pricing model.

4. Cloud encryption key

It is a huge random number (kept with the owner) which acts as a password in a cryptography system that protects objects in cloud storage.

5. Distributed computing

It’s a technical design and development area which tackles many problems such as – application-level client sessions, sharing hardware-level storage, coping with component failure and duplicating applications across a cluster.

6. Cloudwashing

It defines the deceptive attempt by a vendor to rebrand an old product/service by associating the buzzword “cloud” with it. It is similar to greenwashing for environmental marketing and whitewashing for all other marketing.

7. Cluster

It’s a huge group of machines working together to deliver customer service. Depending on the client demands, cloud clusters grow and shrink. During high demand, cloud service providers add more machines to provide APIs for scaling out the cluster.

8. Customer self-service

The customer has the liberty to create an account, add, manage and delete services, as well as cancel on-demand.

9. Database as a Service (DBaaS)

DBaaS customers experience the facility of controlling their data. They can scale on demand, and do not have to administer any database application.

10. Vertical cloud

It refers to the cloud services customized to a particular industry segment.

Note: Current cloud services are horizontal i.e. generalized resources that can be used by all organizations.

11. Elastic computing

It’s the ability of the system to adapt to workload changes by provisioning and deprovisioning resources. Example – doubling the size of a customer service in the day and halving it at night. It is radically different from the proposed computing paradigms, such as grid computing.

12. Scale out

It defines the process of adding more machines to a cluster. Most often machines may be added in data centers in closest proximity to where the demand is. Scaled out applications are able to run on a distributed computing platform.

13. SDN (Software Defined Networking)

It refers to the maintenance of network machines where Networks are added, changed and removed on-demand. More layers of complexity are required to make SDN work.

14. Cloud service migration

It refers to the process of moving a business application between different cloud providers. Cloud portability is essential for smooth cloud service migration.

Sometimes it also refers to the process of moving a business application from an organization’s computer room to cloud services.

15. Utility computing

It refers to the rental of computing power. The term was initially coined and used when mainframe computing power was rented out to customers (under the consumption-based pricing model).

16. VPC (Virtual Private Cloud)

It is the alternative to a private cloud. Here the cloud provider supplies a secure network to a customer to place public cloud resources.

by paulanderson Customerthink

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Southampton Echo visit Peer 1 Hosting in Southampton

Could this be Britain’s best boss?

Daily Echo: Dominic MonkhouseDominic Monkhouse

THERE is a giant helter slide, a tree house, a mini golf course, giant swings, a pool table, foosball and even a large yoga area. While it might sound like a leisure complex, this is an office in Southampton, perhaps unsurprisingly designed by its employees. In fact, when their boss was away they were asked whether they wanted windbreaks or a pub. That was a no-brainer for the young IT specialists who keep the bar stocked with spirits and beers.

Daily Echo:

Outside there’s a huge terrace with a barbecue overlooking Town Quay marina for staff to enjoy the sea views. And if the staff are feeling thirsty or peckish, there’s a top-of-the-range coffee machine and even a fully stocked freezer with ice cream. It’s no surprise that employees of Peer 1 Hosting are so happy, they even arrange to meet there at the weekends. But for managing director, Dominic Monkhouse, who regularly uses the pitch and putt while making conference calls, the happiness of his staff is a priority for a successful business.

Daily Echo:

He laughs: “It was a catastrophe earlier in the summer. Someone left the freezer door open overnight and all the ice cream melted. “I got a text from Becky saying ‘we’ve got a critical issue with the ice cream, can I have your credit card?’ “One of the rules is if it makes this a better place to work for everybody, not just you and it costs less than £100, then just do it and put it on expenses! There are no questions asked so people just do stuff.” Dominic said people can do whatever they like and use the facilities at any time. He believes the empowerment makes them more committed to work. “I’d rather be let down than to not trust. When people tell me they are going to do a good job, I believe them,” he says. He’s interrupted by a bark and two white terriers scurry around an employee’s desk near their large pet bed. But pets at work are welcome. Dominic brings his Labrador, Monty, to work who regularly roams the 17,000sq ft office.

Daily Echo:

While many people may wonder if any work gets done at the firm, Dominic believes empowering staff and creating a happy environment is the secret to success – and actually boosts productivity. “Happiness is absolutely fundamental. I can’t envisage getting great customer service from people who don’t enjoy doing what they are doing. If you are happy, you take a sense of pride rather than it just being a job.”

Daily Echo:

Dominic, billed as the happy entrepreneur, regularly speaks at business events to share how his philosophy has improved the results of a number of organisations.

“There are some companies more extreme than us. There’s W.L Gore for example, they don’t have job descriptions and everybody knows everybody else’s salary. The team decide how you allocate pay rises.

“At Netflix you don’t have to book holiday – it’s effectively unlimited holiday. Of course nobody takes unlimited holiday because once there are no constraints people are more careful.

“I find it really odd when I go around organisations and it’s like ‘sshhh’ I think ‘why’s it so quiet in here?’‘Why does no one seem to be enjoying themselves?’Some of these organisations are like ‘please Miss can I go to the toilet’, it’s strange.”

Among his pet hates are things not working in an office, directors’parking and separate offices for management. But his biggest hate is undoubtedly miserable people. “I can’t bear it,” he says. “Of course there are times when stuff bothers people more than it does on another day. You fall out with the wife, trip over the dog, something happens at work, you haven’t got as much money as you thought you were going to have, your mum’s not well, your dad’s been diagnosed with something nasty, you’ve fallen out with your best friend.”

However for Dominic he feels it is his duty to lift people’s spirits.

“Sometimes people get caught in it and you’ve just got to help them out. Having a game of golf, having a nice swing, going down the slide, having someone go past and say ‘do you fancy an ice cream?’, they are experiences that fill your bucket throughout the day and they do make a difference. But there are more simple ways to lift people’s spirits. You can say thank you, you can write them a note, you can have a conversation with them, you can send them out to dinner with their wife, but sometimes it is just a conversation. That goes a long way.

“You’ve got to make sure that people never feel they are just a cog in the wheel or their contribution isn’t valued so people continue to be engaged and positive.

“A happy team will achieve the best results for the business.”

Post of an article in the Southampton Echo

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Peer 1 Hosting – Is this the best office in Britain?

This office may be the most fun in Britain as it comes kitted out with a giant helter-skelter slide, a tree house and even a pub.

 

This office may be the most fun in Britain as it comes kitted out with a giant helter-skelter slide, a tree house and even a pub.

It also boasts a pool table, a putting green, a giant swing, a cinema, and there’s even a place where putting your feet up is an office rule.

Office designers Space & Solutions were tasked with turning a former pub in Southampton, Hants, into the home for IT company, Peer 1 Hosting.

Their design brief was to transform the 17,000 square ft office into “the best place in the UK to work”. Lead designer Sarah O’Callaghan said fun and play was at the heart of the vision. She said: “It is a very young and forward thinking company. The whole space has been designed with the help of the staff. There was a huge consultation process that has been amalgamated into what we see here. I think there are times when people use their initiative a hell of a lot more because of their environment. If you don’t feel comfortable sitting at a desk you can sit on a picnic bench. The reality is that you can do your work from anywhere.”

And when hopeful jobseekers turn up for an interview, they may have to throw themselves down the giant slide to show they buy into the culture.

Mrs O’Callaghan added: “People use it all the time. It is not just for staff, it is for clients too. It is also part of the interview process. If they don’t go down it, they are not buying into the culture of the business.”

The unique new office is fittingly situated on the end of a pier.

Dominic Monkhouse, managing director at Peer 1 Hosting, said anyone could use the facilities whenever they like. “We are trusting. Everyone is a peer rather than a parent and child relationship.”

But while mucking around on a slide may seem like skiving off, the company believes it actually boosts productivity.

He added: “People tend to go through highs and lows throughout the day, but if you do something different for a few minutes, your performance goes up.”

As well as laying on fun activities, the office has plenty of places for staff to have a quiet moment when work gets on top of them. This includes a coffee bar, a chill out space, log cabins and a local pub called The Sherlock Arms, named after company founder CEO, Gary Sherlock.

The office also comes with two flats to host overseas guests, an outdoor terrace and an inside garden, complete with a 15ft tree and picnic benches.

Humour is also a key factor in the office as it features a “C**k Up of the Month” board.

repost of coverage in the Daily Telegraph

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Dominic Monkhouse-Profile in Real Business

“We don’t want to be the biggest, we just want to be the best”

Peer 1 Hosting‘s Dominic Monkhouse on the pain of bad customer service and the importance of keeping a “screw them” fund.

Name:

Dominic Monkhouse

Role and company:

EMEA Managing Director and SVP Customer Experience at PEER 1 Hosting. Our European HQ is in Southampton, which is where I’m based. Essentially my job is to ensure that customers are our number one priority.

Company turnover (and most recent ebitda/most relevant profitability metric):

£23m annualised EMEA revenues

Employee numbers:

105 in the UK

Growth forecast for the next three years:

We’re looking to double our business over the next two to three years.

In under 50 words, what makes your business distinctive in its marketplace:

We’re more like a hospitality company than a technology company. Our approach, our people and the service we provide is akin to a top class hotel. What we sell is a commodity but we deliver it in a world-class way.

What’s the big vision for your business?

We don’t want to be the biggest, we just want to be the best. We want to be compared to the best service companies across all sectors, and be recognised globally as the best hosting company in the world.

Current level of international business, and future aspirations:

We serve 13,000 customers in 190 countries and our business will continue to expand internationally.

Biggest career setback and what you learned from it:

Getting fired for the first time was awful. I was fired from a restaurant when I was young and the experience taught me that you should always have enough money in your account so that you go to work as a volunteer, rather than relying on a salary. I call this the “screw them” fund. No one should ever have to put up with being treated badly just for a salary at the end of the month.

What makes you mad in business today?

Terrible customer service! I must rant at at least one person every day because of the bad service they’ve provided. Either it’s an individual or a business that has a system that clearly hasn’t been built for human beings. People who don’t want to interact with people shouldn’t be in the service game.

What will be the biggest change in your market in the next three years?

Hosting has only been around for ten years but I can see it becoming a bit faster, a bit cheaper and more consolidated. Right now there are about 35,000 hosting companies and judging by the way the market is developing, there will definitely be fewer in the future. PEER 1 Hosting is one of the major global players in the industry, despite this consolidation.

Can businesses in your sector/industry access the finance they need to grow? If not, what can be done to improve things?

Yes, they can. Our industry is awash with more money than it knows what to do with. Venture capitalists are piling into it.

How would others describe your leadership style?

My staff would say I’m empowering, inspirational, passionate and straight-talking.

Your biggest personal extravagance?

When I open my wardrobe in the morning I’m always amazed that I own more than three pairs of shoes. I don’t buy much but when I do I try to buy good quality products. From where I’ve come, this still seems like an extravagance to me.

You’ve got two minutes with the prime minister. Tell him how best to set the UK’s independent, entrepreneurial businesses free to prosper:

Stop taxing the hell out of small businesses! Let them generate an income and invest in growing their business. Large companies like Google and Starbucks are getting away with murder and small companies are being hit with big taxes – it’s not right.

Also, the benefits system should work for people and not against them so that if you want to work, your benefits don’t disappear. For example, Germany’s part time jobs system is thriving because people can work and receive benefits too. If we copied that model it would suddenly open up a large pool of part time workers which small businesses could tap into.

A repost of the article on Real Business

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Improve ecommerce website performance

Business Computing World August 2012 by Dominic Monkhouse

In the busy 21st century, a large proportion of people no longer have the time or the inclination to physically go to the shops to buy goods. Luckily, many can now do this instead via their phone, laptop or tablet. Made ever easier via applications for portable devices, it’s little wonder that online shopping is increasing so incredibly quickly. Suffice to say, a business website is not just vital – it’s mandatory. Not offering users the convenience to buy a product online is sheer madness. However, not all websites are created equal. Research into internet behaviour reveals how and why some sites are vastly more successful than others. Ultimately, it comes down to customer experience as determined by website speed. Getting that right means a business could be rewarded with a high number of visits, numerous conversions, a boost in brand awareness and a healthy bottom line. Getting it wrong could have severe ramifications in terms of exit rates and negative word of mouth publicity. With that in mind, below are a few considerations that should be taken into account when trying to improve customers’ experience of a website:

The most annoying factor

Among the myriad surveys that have been carried out to determine users’ opinions about the internet, the biggest irritant typically cited is slow websites. Pages that don’t load quickly and requests that receive poor responses due to slow-running websites are two reasons why users will exit a site without progressing through to the checkout. Website speed is an extremely important customer experience factor; just consider your own good and bad online shopping encounters to empathise.

Increasing impatience

Website owners might be amazed at the impatience exhibited by users, which research shows has increased substantially over the years. In 2000, users were happy to wait eight seconds for a page to load. By 2005 this had dropped to five seconds and by 2009, users would wait only three seconds before navigating away, according to research by Akamai. Even now, one in ten people will exit a site if they have to wait just one second for it to respond. It’s clear, therefore, that increasing a website’s speed will not only retain customers and improve their experience of the site. It will also offer serious benefits to the business regarding engagement and conversion.

The need for speed

Further research has shown that almost half of users will exit a site altogether if there are any IT issues, defecting usually to a competitor. Why let competitors gain that business? Improving the speed of a website and in turn regaining a customer base, could be as simple as switching servers. Better still, by using colocation services to host their server at a dedicated data centre, businesses may be able to access greater bandwidth – as well as reduced latency.

Quick navigation

Having speedy page loading times will also allow website users to navigate the website more easily. Even if the website isn’t perhaps laid out as best it could be, the frustrating aspect of this could be mitigated by at least allowing each page to load very quickly. For example, making their way to the checkout might not involve the easiest route, but if this is combined with slow loading times, the experience will be even worse. Remove at least one of these factors and you’re more likely to land a sale! Statistics show that two-thirds of users who endure a bad customer experience online, for whatever reason, will shop elsewhere next time. It’s said that each one of them, on average, will tell ten people about their ordeal. Shopping online, it must not be forgotten, is supposed to offer convenience. By providing a more responsive, clearly displayed website, a business can almost guarantee customer satisfaction and expect repeat visits for years to come.

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We ar Peer 1 Hosting notice some time ago that for many the “flexibility” of hosting in the cloud with AWS actually meant spending more. In our experience 80% of customers have static requirements. Read what GigaOM have to say.

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