What Is Action Learning?

Action Learning Sets are one of those concepts that we think we know about, but when we really think about it we are often a bit vague – this in turn suggests that the benefits are also poorly understood. It was with this in mind that I recently ran an Action Learning Set for a mixed group as a demonstration of the value in creating new and deeper thinking among the set members.


The room had its fair share of sceptics, added to which we were in a false situation, in that we effectively had an audience, which does little to engender the safe, trusted space needed for truly creative thinking; but not to be defeated we pressed ahead.

The set was made up of eight volunteers – in my opinion the maximum number for an effective set – facilitated by myself and observed by a further dozen or so people. We sat in a circle with all members able to make eye contact with one another. After agreeing which member of the group would ‘present’ their issue, we listened carefully as the Presenter laid out the facts of their situation as they saw it and the various factors affecting or preventing him from moving forward. Members of the set listened intently and in silence, after around 5 minutes the scene was set and I, the Facilitator, invited any clarification questions, this completed, we went into open questions.


A critical aspect of Action Learning is that it is not advice giving – all questions are open and are in no way ‘leading’. Participants come with a sense of curiosity and an understanding that the right solution is the one the Presenter works out for themselves. As a new group, it was no surprise that they found it difficult to resist giving the benefit of their extensive experience and several times we had to pause and reframe questions to be truly open. Well-timed and short questions usually have the greatest impact, as was the case with this group – we watched the presenter’s facial expressions in response to “and what else?” – the question drew him up short and then he went first into deep thought before a real light bulb moment.


Of-course, Action Learning is not just about thinking things through, the clue is in the name – it’s about taking action. From our short session of thoughtful, open questioning our presenter went away with a number of very practical actions on which he will report back to the group. His reaction – “totally immersive, a powerful way to become unstuck”.


This is a learning experience not just for the Presenter, but also for the whole group. And the naysayers? Everyone declared themselves on-board, with the exception of two, who declared themselves scientists only interested in facts!

For the 90% plus the BENEFITS OF ACTION LEARNING include: –

  • Actionable outcomesHow to grow business
  • Long lasting problem solving competency
  • Enhanced creativity & curiosity
  • New questioning & listening skills
  • Increased resilience/ability to deal with stress
  • Improved leadership
  • Team building
  • Heightened emotional intelligence



If you would like to experience the benefits for yourself, we will, (subject to demand), be running two FREE ACTION LEARNING SETS in Manchester during July and September 2017. If you would like to be involved please drop us a line at enquiries@yibp.co.uk for a chance to be included – first come, first served – good luck.


The full PROCESS, (not all of which is covered above), is made up of a number of steps:

  1. Arriving Round
  2. Bidding
  3. Presenting
  4. Questions
  5. Action
  6. Reflection
  7. Process Review


About the Author: Fran McArthur is an  ILM accredited action learning facilitator, business coach, trainer and no-executive director with more than 30 years of business experience. She typically works with executives, who lead organisations of up to £10m/100 employees and who wish to effect positive change. She collaborates with them to achieve their goals using her practical, common-sense approach

Implementing Brilliant Strategic Plans


So you have spent your summer devising the most brilliant new business strategy, carefully taking into consideration the changes in your sector, the impact of Brexit, the plummeting value of sterling, skills gaps, disruptive new technologies, plus those which could create competitor advantage. You have locked yourself away for painstaking hours and huge dedication to hone and polish you brilliant strategic plan. So why is successful implementation so incredibly difficult, (according to the Gallup Business Journal, only 2.5% of change programmes are fully implemented)?

Superb plans are only the first small step in creating successful and sustainable change, and going it alone without buy-in can be like pushing water uphill – your people will either move heaven and earth to make it happen or will undermine it at every turn. How can you make sure it is the former?

My first observation is that you have locked yourself away instead of involving your team in the planning stage. How much more committed are you to a plan that you helped to formulate, rather than one, (however brilliant), that has been imposed upon you. Human nature is such that we are far more likely to iron out the flaws along the way to make the plan a success rather than highlight the shortcomings if we have personally been involved in its formulation. There is an adage that suggests a mediocre plan, actually executed is better than a perfect plan in limbo, so get your people on board early, ‘perfect’ plans frequently get no further than the planning stage. Consult widely, provide the relevant data and then listen to feedback – be prepared to amend your plans to reflect input – gaining buy-in is more important than a strategically brilliant plan.

Communicate, communicate, communicate: Now let’s think about dissemination: Remember how many blind alleys you went up before you came to your ‘perfect’ strategy? Try not to present the final plan, but take them on the journey, so that they can grasp the logic– remember how long it took you to create the plan, don’t expect everyone else to grasp it a the first airing. Let them question it – this means more heads on the same problem while you are also gaining buy-in and getting people to work out for themselves what their own/their teams imperatives are to deliver the overall objective. It’s also hugely important that everyone knows not only what you are trying to achieve, but also their part is achieving success.

As part of the process, get each team, (cascading through the organisation), to consider their own two or three lead measures, (activities predictive of the lag measures), ensuring that they are SMART. Each team should create their own targets, decide on the relevant lead measures, then log them on their own scoreboard, so that they can quickly and easily see exactly how they are performing at any time. Get them to meet weekly for a brief review of progress, clearing away obstacles for one another and amending activities, (lead measures),as necessary in light of the results being achieved.

Come together more widely on a regular basis to share results more widely, learn from one another and celebrate successes.

A quick checklist for any change project:

  • Involve your people from the start – more perspectives on the issue and gaining early buy-in.
  • Communicate your vision widely, taking them on the journey rather than describing the destination.
  • Invite them to decide how they can best contribute to the overall objective.
  • Measure lead measures & regularly review to calibrate activities as required.
  • Keep communicating
  • Success through iteration: learn from failures and celebrate successes on the way.

Be bold, but focused!


If you would like some practical assistance in implementing change in your organisation give us a call (see top right for number) or drop us a line – we would be delighted to meet for a free of charge, no obligation discussion of your situation and explore how we can help or if appropriate refer you to someone who can



Fran McArthur 1

About the AuthorFran McArthur is a business coach, trainer and no-executive director with more than 30 years of business experience. She typically works with executives, who lead organisations of up to £10m/100 employees and who wish to effect positive change. She collaborates with them to achieve their goals using her practical, common-sense approach

Taking The Pain Out of Recruitment


This week I have been working with a client on a recruitment project. I’m delighted for both of us that he didn’t make the sort of knee jerk reaction so often seen when a member of staff leaves, i.e. call a recruitment consultant and ask them to send a pile of CVs in the likeness of the recently departed individual. Instead he decided to think carefully about what is one of the most important decisions any business owner can take – who should be on the team.


Sadly, the business world seems to expect us all to just know innately how to go about recruitment, despite the fact that incredibly few business people have received any training in this field at all. The result is that most SMEs (and many corporates), make poor hiring decisions, which severely hamper their ability to grow and cause endless grief in managing the resulting employee.


Back to my client – we started by

  • looking at the business’ needs, not just today, but in 2 -3 years’ time – where were the gaps?
  • From this we designed a job description and started thinking about not only the skills required, but also the behaviours needed, (skills can be taught, behaviours are notoriously difficult to change).
  • Considered where we might find the right sort of people
  • Worked up a compelling advertisement and application form
  • Compiled an objective assessment tool
  • Wrote our interview questions and practiced an interview technique completely new to him.


He is now ready to deal with responses as they arrive and I have left him to get on with ‘business as usual’ for ten days, after which we have our next session, which includes; –

  • More interview practice
  • Legal bear traps
  • Referencing
  • Negotiation
  • Offer letter & induction.


The end result is that for considerably less than the cost of a pile of CVs he has a blueprint for identifying the talent required all the way through to appointment. A replicable process which the business can use for all their future recruitment, supported by a manual with examples and check lists. Added to which we have managed to fit in quite a lot of laughter too.


If recruiting the right team is also thwarting you then why not give us a call or CONTACT US?


Fran McArthur 1

About the Author: Fran McArthur is a business coach, trainer and no-executive director with more than 30 years of business experience. She typically works with executives, who lead organisations of up to £10m/100 employees and who wish to effect positive change. She collaborates with them to achieve their goals using her practical, common-sense approach


Recruit In Haste, Repent At Leisure

The mere thought of recruiting new staff makes many hearts sink and it’s all too easy in the heat of the moment, (e.g. you find yourself with a vacancy as the result of a resignation or promotion), to launch headlong into the search for a replacement without thinking through the real needs of the business – not just today, but with an eye to future, as the company grows and develops.

Before you go ahead and hire a replacement in the exact likeness of the most recent incumbent take time to carry out a Gap Analysis for your business. This involves first assessing where you are now, then where you want to be in say 3-5 years’ time and finally, an honest assessment about the changes you need to make in order to get you there. One of the headings in your analysis should be People – is your current structure and team aligned to your strategy and future state? Or should you be using this opportunity to consider moving people within the existing team to match their skills to the current/future reality and recruiting the right candidate(s) to fill the gaps? Do you currently have job descriptions that set out the role purpose, responsibilities and reporting structure, etc. and what about Person Profiles to outline the skills and behaviours necessary to fulfil the role successfully? These documents are valuable (i) in making us think about what we genuinely need, and (ii) communicating that clearly to the jobholder. NB These are not set in stone, but should be up-dated as circumstances change.

Having established the nature of the beast you are now looking for, you can start the hunt!


If you would like to learn more about how you could improve your ability to recruit the right candidates for the right roles in your business give us a call for a no pressure analysis of your current system and a discussion about who to move forward. Alternatively, why not join our Recruitment Workshop, which will give you all the procedures, tools and skills you need?



The AuthorFran McArthur is a no-nonsense Business Coach and Trainer with Your Ideal Business Partner. She works with leaders of small and medium sized enterprises, who are interested in taking their organisations to the next level. If you would like to discuss your aspirations and how she might help you achieve them, (that’s a coffee and no sales pressure), give her a call on 07789 520205.



Financial Freedom

How To Achieve Financial FREEDOM

The FREEDOM to do as you wish

Would you like to have the choice to be able to do what you want to do with your life because you don’t have to worry about money?

Wouldn’t life be great?

Business coach Liverpool

If I had Financial Freedom I would…

What would you do with your time?

Let’s work out what financial FREEDOM is for you.

The first question is. How much money do you need to earn now to survive?

Let’s say it’s £50,000.

If you multiply this by 25 the number becomes £1,250,000. If you invested this sum and inflation was 3% and you achieved an interest on your money of 7.5% you could draw down £50,000 per year forever without spending the capital. In fact the capital would grow. This is conservative as I am only showing you the principle. You can work out reality yourself.

Is this achievable?

Yes you should get a yield of 10% from rental income from property.  There are many investment opportunities. You just need to plan carefully. How do I know? I have done it.

Now think a little bigger. How does an income of £100,000 per year sound?

Multiply this by 25 and the number becomes £2,5000,000.

This number will make life very nice.

So, how do you achieve financial FREEDOM?

If you are reading this you are probable in business or thinking about being in business. The answer is very easy. You build your business to sell it for £2.5m or £5m or £7.5m or £10m. The number depends on how many partners you have in your business.

If you have a solid business you should be able to grow and sell within five years.

How do you add real value to your business?

There are three critical success factors:

1) High quality customers with growing sales

A business with high quality customers that are loyal, give you repeat business and do your marketing for you by word of mouth are a great asset to your business.

2) Sustainable and growing profits

A business that constantly delivers sustainable profits year on year and gives a good return on investment has value.

3) A business that runs without you

A business that runs without you being there, has a quality management team and processes & systems that delivers your customer promise constantly and predictably, has value.

Setting your goal

To build a business with value, that has a decisive, competitive edge and the capability to grow year on year in a big enough market, without taking any real risks.

Conditions of success

To achieve the three critical success factors you need to have necessary conditions in place, for example:

  • Effective sales
  • Effective marketing
  • A competitive edge
  • Excess production capacity
  • Top quality
  • Top customer service
  • Superior people
  • A great leader
  • Processes and systems
  • Effective operations
  • Good waste control and lean working
  • Optimised inventory

Your Next Step

What you do next can either change your life or continue it on the same path. The choice is yours.

Your options are:

The red pill – Build a business for growth and sell for financial freedom

The blue pill – Continue to do what you have always done

If you select the red pill, I would recommend you hold a strategy day with your team and begin to map out your plan. If you would like some support with this. It is exactly what I do best. I can share my knowledge with you, your team and get the process kick started.

It’s now your choice.

Bob Evans
Your Ideal Business Partner

Strategic Planning

Strategic Planning

A Simple Strategic Plan To Grow Your Profits

One of the greatest issues directors and business owners have to deal with is busyness. How many times do you hear the phrase “I am too busy”. The issue is always the same, you are too close to your own business to see the woods for the trees. From my experience this happens from small businesses to the corporate world.

Why? Because you are human.

How easy is it to look at someone else’s business and give constructive criticism.

It’s very easy isn’t it?


Because we are not emotionally attached to the business and we see things logically. Just like any relationship. It’s easy to see how your friends are messing up their relationships, but it’s difficult to see how you are messing up yours, even when you know something is wrong.

What can be done?

From my experience having worked with lots of companies the first step is to pull back and have a strategy day. A day where you can spend time with your team and make some effective plans, including business objectives and a plan of execution.

The first thing to do is decide what the end goal is. For example if it is to double profits without adding costs, the process could look something like this:

Plan – What three things do you need to do to achieve the objective?

Strategy – How are you going to achieve the three things?

Execute – Create projects with your team, agree deadlines, responsibilities and budgets.

After your strategy day, you will feel confident, have direction, clarity and your team will be energised to deliver it

Great leaders know what they want and they build teams to deliver it. People like to follow a leader who knows what he/she wants. They also like to know what they are supposed to do to help achieve the leaders vision and objectives.

The next step if you have not already achieved it is to get organized for growth.

The key to this is roles and responsibilities. A great test to see if you are organised is to write down a list of your team. Now against each one write down their job title and the three key things that they are responsible to deliver. (Key performance indicators)

Once you have done this, have a chat with each person and ask them what their job title is, this should be the same as yours otherwise you are in real trouble. Now ask them what their three key performance indicators are.

Are they the same? I hope so otherwise you are not on the same page.

In the UK we have funding at the moment called Growth Accelerator. This support will help you with the costs to bring in a facilitator to organise your strategy day and support you through the whole process.

If you are outside the UK, investigate what support your Government has for you.

Alternatively in the words of Nike ‘Just Do It’

The return on your investment in terms of time and money will be x 100.

I have carried out this exercise many times and every time it is a great success.

Everyone gets something from it. The leader gets a motivated team and objectives are delivered. The team becomes motivated and understands what they have to do to deliver their leaders objectives. A win-win all round.

Learn how to write a strategic business plan on a single sheet.

Bob Evans
Your Ideal Business Partner

Cost control

Decrease costs

The first four steps in this series of articles have focused on increasing gross revenue.  And while that is clearly an important goal, it is only part of the equation.  Too many businesses focus on growing their revenue, without paying attention to their price or cost strategy.  At the end of the day, it is net profit, not gross revenue, that matters to a business owner.  It’s not about how much money comes in to your business every year… what is important is how much money you keep in your business each year.

So how can you be sure that you are keeping your costs under control?  While the specifics depend on the nature of your business, there are steps that any business can take to keep their costs low or their price higher.

Perhaps the most effective way to manage your costs is to develops systems for every element of your business. I’m not talking just about marketing here—I mean everything.  You are paying your shipping clerk for his time—so make sure that he is spending it effectively. Don’t leave it up to him to determine how he spends his time… instead, take the time to develop an effective procedure for his position.  Document it, and hold your employee accountable to the system.  This approach works for every position in your organisation, from your secretary to your bookkeeper to your sales team.  If you leave it up to your employees to determine how they spend their time, you are ceding control of your costs to them and, perhaps worse, getting haphazard results.  You don’t have to micro-manage, but you do need to clearly define your expectations and the procedure each employee is expected to follow.

While four of the five steps for business growth in this series focused on increased revenue, do not neglect the importance of cost control to decrease costs.  Increased revenue is important, but if your costs increase by the same amount, you’re not making any more money at the end of the day.  If you would like help creating and implementing systems to keep your costs manageable, We would be glad to help.

Author: Bob Evans – Your Ideal Business Partner Google+


Business Lessons with the learning zone

Generating Repeat Purchases

Many business owners devote substantial amounts of time and money to the process of locating new customers.  They’ll explore every possibility and run down every trail that shows the least bit of promise.  And don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a bad thing, as long as it is done strategically and systematically.

But the tragedy is that, while devoting so many resources to turning up new leads, many of these business owners fail to tap in to a lucrative potential source of new business that is right in front of their noses!  I’m speaking, of course, of their current customers and clients.  

Think about it—your current customers do business with you because they appreciate the value that you provide.  You’ve already gotten them over the proverbial hump—they see the value in your products or services, they trust you, and they are willing to pull out their wallets and pay you.  So why on earth wouldn’t you try everything in your power to bring them back time and time again?

Increasing the amount of repeat business that your company generates will have an immediate impact on your bottom line—but how do you go about accomplishing this goal?  It’s about your mindset.  Stop separating the functions of sales and fulfillment.  

Understand that every time you provide a service or a product, you are marketing to your current customer.  You are urging him or her to return!  What this process looks like varies from industry to industry—it could mean an increased emphasis on product packaging or it could mean better customer service.  Whatever the case may be, the key is to identify tactics which will make your current customers more likely to become repeat buyers.  From there, you create a system to ensure that your process is consistently implemented.

It’s great to generate more fresh leads—but don’t ignore your current customers!  Now that you have gained their trust and brought them through your front door, you’re in prime position to get them hooked.  Think through the experience you create for each of your customers, and work to refine the process into a system that works consistently.

Generating repeat purchases that your business generates will directly impact your bottom line—so don’t delay!  If you’re unsure where to begin, please contact me.

Author: Bob Evans – Your Ideal Business Partner Google+