Beyond Employee Engagement

Dark chalkboard with a Strategy diagram illustration.

As a Business Coach in Lancashire I talk to business owners on a regular basis who know the power of coaching, training and other people development activities. Mandatory training requirements aside, Business Owners and Leaders are keen to invest in themselves and their people to develop the ability to deliver the business performance they need to continue growth and success.

It is becoming more widely understood that many businesses invest in leadership development activities which are ineffective and do not deliver the outcomes which are really needed for the business to flourish and succeed.

A recent HR Magazine article gives some insight into the reasons why. The article highlights that, in many cases, leadership development initiatives are not aligned to business needs or strategy and that inappropriate and ineffective methods are being adopted.

The Impact of the recent Spending Review

Over recent years the financial burden on businesses, small and large, has increased. In many a Boardroom across the nation, discussions on how to “get more from less” continues to be a theme.

So, in light of the recent Spending Review from George Osborne and the cuts to the Business Support budget, how will this affect the mind-set of Business Owners in terms of how they invest in their people in 2016?

The Employee Engagement Question?

For several years the principle of raising and strengthening Engagement levels throughout the workforce has gathered pace. Happy people at work are productive, right? That seems like common or business sense.

It makes the Boardroom conversations more palatable. To think that raising Engagement amongst the workforce is going to create happy and productive teams.

Talking to business leaders it’s clear that we are increasingly aware that engagement is inextricably linked to Leadership behaviours. Training organisations have adapted their initiatives and focused their promised delivered outcomes based on the Employee Engagement theme.

After all, we are told that:

“70% of how our customers and potential customers perceive our business and brand is based on their experience with our people”.

If this is the case, what part does the customer play in how we plan for development initiatives?

So, what challenges does this present?

Given that we will continue to invest in our people with less business support from central government, the question of Return on Investment plays an even more significant part in decision making.

What does this actually mean for businesses for the future?

Are there other real challenges for senior leaders? To look beyond the Employee Engagement as a “buzz-phrase” or a one-stop leadership training solution or a series of surveys and understand how to:

  1. Link Learning to Strategy & establish what the real end goals are when starting any learning & development initiative
  2. Create a Sustainable Culture & embed Employee Engagement as a culture not a project & align with strategic business needs and goals.
  3. Complete the Link to the Customer & connect engagement with advocacy
  4. Measure Effectively & to develop really smart data which will support your sustainability strategy connecting People with Strategy and Brand.

How will you think differently about your people strategy for 2016? I would really like to hear your thoughts.

I’m Paul Aisthorpe, Business Strategy Coach & Trainer specialising in developing people strategies to deliver accelerated & stronger business performance.

Collaborating with the Competition



As a Business Coach in Lancashire, I work on growth strategies with Business Leaders and collaboration forms part of the conversation almost every time. Adopting an approach where, if one benefits then everyone will benefit, is key to collaborative partnerships in business.

Over the last few weeks I’ve posted several articles on collaboration as it’s such a fundamental part of success in business. We all start small and want growth. Collaboration is a great way to achieve it.

Collaborating with your Competition

Somebody once said you should never be critical of your competition, it’s your competition that make you better. Being respectful of those you compete with does not just should respect and integrity but it’s true, it can also serve to drive you forward.

I tend to take the view that there is enough business out there for everyone and if we understand thoroughly where our true value lies we’ll tend to all naturally find clients for whom we give the best fit.

However, those people that you immediately might regard as competitors may just be your best sources of work.

Same Sector, Different Skills

Just because someone is in the same line of work doesn’t automatically make them a threat. It could be that although you are in the same sector and give similar services you may specialise in totally different areas of that sector. Just think of the potential similarities in place. You may have similar goals in terms of growth. You may have similar approaches in lifestyle choices when looking to strike a work life balance. One of you may be a great business developer whilst the other might be a technical specialist. Together you might have an incredibly strong proposition. You don’t know this until you’ve had the conversation.

Larger Projects

You might have no ambition whatsoever to work formally in partnership with someone else but what if you wanted to pitch for a particularly large piece of work which required more manpower? It’s always useful to have people you can fall back on for support that might be interested in such projects. This type of collaborative working is becoming more common nowadays.

Have an Open Mind

I work alongside several coaches and speak to them regularly. We all have specialisms which can benefit one another and more importantly our clients. This open minded approach means we can bring the right person in on the right project. In a world where projects are becoming the norm more and more often this flexible approach can often meet the client’s demands effectively. It can work both ways as just because you lead on one project it could be your partner the next time.

What’s you approach to working alongside competitors? Do you think that it’s healthy to have a strong relationship with people who sometimes you can compete with?

If you want to know more about how to build a culture of collaboration within your business which can help your next stage of growth please get in touch.

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The Power of Collaboration and Referrals




When is a referral not a referral? When it’s a lead.

I’ve posted recently about the strength of collaborative relationships but perhaps the biggest plus of a collaborative relationship is the potential for new opportunities and business growth. If you ensure that you manage relationships correctly as a sole trader or small business, with those people you collaborate with, then the result can be a significant increase in your work.

When you start out its just you. You tell people and hope that advocates like friends and family will help to spread the word. Eventually you start collaborating with others. Once you have these relationships it’s almost like you’ve doubled your sales force.

What makes a good collaborative partner for sales?

In my opinion you can’t just refer anyone. For me it has been important to differentiate between what is a referral and what constitutes an introduction. A referral is more of a recommendation where you vouch for the quality of someone’s work, whereas an introduction almost comes with the caveat that you cannot vouch for the quality. Why? Ultimately you reputation can be impacted through association. The people you refer are an extension of your judgement.

The Three Steps to Collaborative Referrals

There is nothing better than having collaborators who you are happy to refer. What is important and quickly becomes evident is that the relationship works in two ways, you refer work back. Only then will this become a powerful thing. However there are three other steps to working with collaborative referral sources:

Step 1: Know your partner – does this person have the right skills and attributes to make them a credible referee. Ask yourself would you employ them as a sales person?

Step 2: Clarify a Good referral – do you understand who your collaborative partner is looking to work with? Do you come across such clients? Are you both going to capably recommend each other within your own networks to the right people?

Step 3: Ask about the referral – especially if it’s from someone that doesn’t normally collaborate with you it’s important you understand what the expectations are from the potential client. What has your referral source recommended? You don’t want to sail blind. You want to make sure that what has been suggested can be delivered.

Referrals lead to a six times higher chance of doing business. The more referrals we get the better. If you are serious about the services you deliver though you want to make sure it’s the right work. By establishing great relationships with your collaborative partners everyone will understand how to spread your message.

I’m Paul Aisthorpe, collaborator, business growth coach, leadership and employee engagement specialist. Please get in touch for more details.

Reaching the Market through Collaboration



Over the last few years we’ve really seen budgets tighten up. The layers of approval people need just to buy pens seems to be incredible. When you are starting out in business money is naturally tight. Speculate to accumulate they say but you can only speculate with what you’ve got. So when you are on your own trying to build a portfolio or a business where should you start with limited time and budget? How about your collaborators?

A couple of weeks ago I started talking about who your collaborators are. Collaborators can come from anywhere. They can be friends, acquaintances, family or just people you’ve met through business. There doesn’t necessarily need to be an emotional pre-established relationship.

As your career develops though you will meet like-minded people with whom you have much in common and perhaps your goals may well be aligned in many ways. Quite often as well you may be at similar stages in the growth of your businesses.

Marketing can be very expensive. Employing sales staff can be risky. However, with a good knowledge of your key collaborators you may not need to do either.

Why Collaborators?

They say that a referral is six times more likely to turn into business than a cold call.

Look at your phone book. How many people present an opportunity to do business? What if you had access to three or four more phone books like that? Your collaborators will give you access to those people.

Over time the sales process has changed. Consumers are savvy and know when they are being sold to. They are much more interested in having their needs matched in a way that can add value to their business. By getting to know your collaborators well, by helping them to understand your business and you theirs you will open up the opportunities for new business.

How often do you see something or hear a comment and think “I will tell so and so about that.” You may do it subconsciously but if you have a great relationship with your collaborators it could be that these opportunities are most likely top of the mind.

Collaborators don’t necessarily need to be the people in your local networking group, they can be people who you see from time to time or regularly do business with. The important thing is that there is mutual respect and the relationship works two ways.

My top tip is to do an audit of all the people you regularly come into contact with and the business that you have so far. Who are the contacts? Who has sent you business before? This should start to give you an idea of just who is referring you and which collaborative relationships may help you along in future.

As a Business Coach  in Lancashire and a small business owner, I understand that I need to work and collaborate with like minded people to be successful. If you want to find out more about how I help other businesses reach out and find their key collaborators, I would be happy to hear from you.

Who are your Key Collaborators?


Lets Collaborate


In the early days of any business, and indeed the latter days too, there are a great many relationships but one of the most important is with your collaborators. What are collaborators and why are they so important?

The Environment

The World is changing. Over the last few years UK PLC has wanted to create a Britain which stimulates business growth and makes it the easiest place in the world to start a business. And easy it has become with more than half a million new companies starting up each year. Portfolio careers are becoming the norm, and online communication is making it much easier for us to find clients even when are services are so niche.

But no man is an island and we need still the support of others to help our businesses grow and flourish.

One of the easiest ways to do this is through collaboration.

What is Collaboration?

Collaborating is working together on projects and businesses without the formal structure of a company in place. Some examples of a collaborative approach to work might be:

  • A web designer and a social media consultant working together to deliver a digital marketing strategy for the same client.
  • Two independent business coaches working together to deliver multiple staff workshops
  • Business owners who meet up regularly just to share the challenges and problems they face as business owners.

There are many more examples of collaboration.

This might seem little bit like teaching you to suck eggs but how well do you really understand the importance of these collaborative relationships?

How important is Collaboration for a Small Business?

These relationships are fundamental to the growth and development of your business. You will often find that these people are your best source of sales and referrals. They are the people that help you solve your problems and challenges. They act as confidants, trusted advisors, sounding boards and your sales force.

When you understand these relationships you can make the best of them.

Top Three Tips for Authentic Collaborative Relationships

Understand who your collaborators are – they may not always be the people who you immediately have business synergy with but it may be people you can work alongside effectively.

Assess their values – by understanding your potential collaborators values you’ll be able to manage the relationship for the longer term.

Know their motivation – Put yourself in your collaborators shoes. What are they looking for, how can you help their journey. The strength of your relationship will come as you help one another.

A collaborator relationship is one of your most important as you start out. Where the relationship could lead… who knows? What is important is that it is two way.

I’m Paul Aisthorpe, Business Coach and Mentor with Imaginative Coaching. 


Welcome to Imaginative Coaching services blog

Hello World,

My name is Paul Aisthorpe and I am a subject matter expert on managing and developing talented individuals within organisations and creating strong levels of employee engagement through effective leadership. Welcome to my blog where I will be posting information about the Imaginative coaching services and also topics that are part of my interest and expertise.

Some of my specialities include:
– Business Strategies
– Leadership & Management Development
– Driving Sales
– Coaching & Development of talented sales individuals
– Customer Service
– Negotiation