Team building in the Peak District.

IPU Group Limited

Lots of layers ready for a winter ascent of Kinder Scout — the weather low down was amazing.

Quick summary:

To help bond a newly formed team following a significant business restructure, we designed and delivered a two-day Peak District retreat for our clients. Our base a fantastic bunkhouse in the Peak District, in the beautiful Hope Valley.

We delivered a challenging winter ascent of Kinder Scout, personal and team communications workshops, motivational talk and business and sales strategy facilitation.

We catered it with top-notch grub, lashings of fine wine and craft beer. Everyone got up and down the mountain, but only just; as it should be to create a sense of shared endeavour. The men’s dorm room enjoyed an impromptu 2 AM karaoke courtesy of a director who will remain nameless; with the team finally being sung to sleep with a rousing rendition of — I can’t help falling in love with you.

The two-days delivered on the brief and’ war stories’ of the winter ascent of Kinder Scout abound.

Kind words from our client:

IPU Group recently (September 2019) went through a major restructure and I was asked to take over the role of Sales and Technical Director. Archi was the first person I reached out to.

Archi has been a fantastic sounding board during this time and, in addition to the ongoing support, Crawford Strategic Solutions recently organised a two-day retreat where IPU Group took most of our senior team (15 people). Archi facilitated some amazing sessions in the stunning Peak District with both himself and guest speakers leading the way.

Team 1 — led by David Caddick set off for Kinder Scout — bunkhouse in the background.

IPU Group:

If you are operating large engines or pumps, and need to do it efficiently and safely, for both the operators and the environment IPU are your first choice. IPU design manufacture and distribute high quality parts and systems for critical diesel and gas engine applications and sell them world-wide.


Over several years IPU has followed a strategy to invest in their design, engineering and manufacturing, leading to both business acquisitions and the sale of IPU divisions.

In 2019 Engine Heating and Engine Controls divisions were sold. A business restructure followed, and the new Managing Director and Sales and Engineering Director wanted to spend some time away from the office with their colleagues.


Enjoyable time away from the day-to-day operations of the business. The opportunity for colleagues to deepen relationships. For long-standing and new employees to get to know each other outside of work. A focus on teamwork and communication. An opportunity to discusss business and sales strategy.

Most importantly, something grown-up and respectful, no imaginary rivers to ford with planks and ropes. Good value. The divestment of divisions initially reduces IPU’s footprint as their emerging homegrown products and services take time to grow. As a smaller, nimbler business the team have a adopted a mantra of “less can be more” — the retreat should reflect this mindset.


Discussing options for a strategy retreat with David Caddick, Sales and Engineering Director, I got quite excited about the idea of booking out a remote property in the Peak or Lake Districts. Catering it with fantastic food and lashings of high-quality beer and wine, and working out the ‘work-stuff’ from there.

As a consequence of my enthusiasm, David challenged me to deliver it!

After some further engagement with the IPU team, we agreed on the content as:

  1. Challenging but an inclusive winter walk
  2. Personal communication workshop
  3. Team communication workshop
  4. Motivational speaker
  5. Business and sales strategy facilitation

An extensive web search uncovered a genuinely perfect location, just outside Edale:

Dalehead Bunkhouse — Upper Booth near Edale, Hope Valley.
Dalehead Bunkhouse — Upper Booth near Edale, Hope Valley.
Large training room — about half the room is in shot.
All important log burner for those fireside chats.
Three dorm rooms with great quality beds and matresses — shared facilities further engendering the sense of team and shared endeavour.

A winter ascent of Kinder Scout — Upper Booth to Kinder Low and Back:

Here’s some of pictures taken of the team on the walk.

Getting ready outside the bunkhouse — Stu Westfield front left.
Team 1 — descending from Kinder Rocks
Part of Team 2 — A slippery descent of Jacobs Ladder
Impromptu dance lesson from Darren Hunt — Team enjoying a well earned break at Kinder Rocks


The two-days were delivered in partnership with:

  1. Stu Westfield and Darren Hunt — Mountain Leaders
  2. Ronnie Staton — Motivational speaker
  3. Simon Eastwood — Organisational Development Expert (part of the Crawford team, but, more than worthy of a mention in dispatches!)
  4. Scoff Online — Amazing home baked food and cakes — just perfect.

To learn more about them visit their websites by clicking on their names above.

Stu and Darren kept everyone safe on the winter walk and Ronnie helped us all tap into his mindset, the mindset of a champion.

Simon Eastwood — Personal shield
Ronnie Staton — Mindset of a Champion

What went well?

The weather for the walk was amazing for December, beautiful sunshine showing off the Hope Valley in all its glory at lower levels and then closed in nearer to Kinder Low giving everyone a taste of winter mountain conditions.

Many of the team were out on a UK mountain and in the Peak District for the first, but, they tell me not the last time.

Almost the toughest organisational challenge was finding outside caterers that would deliver the standard of food we envisaged, we finally selected a small local independent company and boy did they deliver. They were amazing.

Well earned feast.

The goals of the event delivered as per the brief, a great value for money, really simple yet enhoyable two-days helping a new team make and strengthen relationships.

What we would improve next time:

Day one was too packed, by the time Ronnie was providing an amazing insight to the mindset of champions, many of the group were more than ready to rest and enjoy the fine wine and craft beer.

The walk perhaps fell just outside of the planned ‘challenging yet inclusive’ aim. I believe this group will have formed the very best memories and will have the strongest sense of achievement possible, however, I suspect we were just a tiny bit ambitious on their behalf.

Interested in your own strategy retreat or team building offsite?

We will design and deliver your bespoke experience. Tell us what you want to achieve and we will tailor an impactful and unforgettable yet low-cost event.

We are certain we designed and delivered this highly-successful event at or close to half the price of more traditional options. The luxury was in the truly beautiful location. — Archi Stewart.

We know from our clients feedback we met their aim of proving:

“Less can be more”.

Crawford Strategic


The Lightning-Fast Path to Building Massively Valuable Companies.

Written by Reid Hoffman & Chris Yeh.

Published by Harper Collins.

The blurb.

From the authors of New York Times bestsellers, The Alliance and The Start-up of You, comes a smart and accessible must-have guide for budding entrepreneurs everywhere.

Silicon Valley is renowned for its striking number of businesses which have grown from garage start-ups into global giants; Apple, Cisco, Google, HP and Intel to name a few. But what is the secret to their outstanding success? Hoffman and Yeh explain that it’s simple: they’ve learnt how to blitzscale.

Featuring case studies from numerous prominent tech businesses such as AirBnB and WeChat, this book offers a specific set of practices for catalysing and managing dizzying growth in bourgeoning start-ups. Prioritising speed over efficiency in an environment of uncertainty, Blitzscaling illustrates how businesses can accelerate to the stage in a company’s life cycle where the most value is generated. Using the framework provided by Hoffman and Yeh, readers will learn how to design business models which simultaneously support growth at a furious pace and capture the market, as well as how to navigate the necessary shifts in strategy needed at each level of scale.

What’s it about?

It takes on the second half of the entrepreneur’s journey, what is often termed the scale-up phase.

The bit of the Silicon Valley stories that comes after discovering an incredible opportunity, dropping out of college, forming a small team, working form the garage, raising money from wise investors and before the final part of changing the world.

The book looks at how you take a great, funded idea, that has found product/market fit and scale it. The authors offers two traditional scaling choices:

  1. Efficient scaling — you prioritise efficiency
  2. Fast scaling — you prioritise speed

Noting that both rely on information that in the fast-paced internet world you are unlikely to have:

  1. Predictable costs
  2. Known competitors
  3. Stable markets

Blitzscaling is proffered as the answer to scaling in an uncertain world and defined as:

Blitzscaling is prioritising speed over efficiency in the face of uncertainty.

The approach described in the book challenges the conventions of careful planning, cautious investment and solving problems in favour of rapid guesstimates, inefficient investment and letting small fires burn.

Perhaps the most striking description from the book is a play on the saying:

“Starting a company is like jumping off a cliff and assembling a plane on the way down.”

Developing the saying to:

“Blitzscaling is like assembling that plane faster, then strapping on and igniting a set of jet engines, while still building the wings.”

Did I enjoy reading it?

It’s a a great listen if you enjoy Silicon Valley stories, I love learning about how these famous companies were founded and the ‘war stories’ of their growth. For us mere mortals I found it very reassuring to learn how much these startups got wrong and how nearly all of them survived two or three near death experiences before dominating their space.

Many reviewers praise the practical information held in the book about scaling a company, I’m not so certain of this, unless you are a tech entrepreneur. That’s not to say all of the content lacks resonance, in particular the authors views on hiring talent and managing the culture as a firm grows beyond a ‘family’ of ten to a tribe, through city to nation is very informative, practical and useful.

What were my main takeaways?

Whilst he primary focus of the book is speed, there is also an underlying message of sustainability, so to grow fast, in the face of uncertainty in a sustainable way.

Far from the first book to highlight the key ingredients for successful growth, but, worthy of repeating:

  1. Network effects
  2. Market size
  3. Distribution
  4. High gross margins

The major inhibitors of growth are product/market fit, have you achieved this? And when you have operational scalability can you land that plane you built and strapped a rocket to?

Has it helped Crawford deliver for clients?

Not in proportion to the enjoyment gained from listening to it. The main takeaways are a useful rule to run over existing client products and businesses and new ones too, I’m scratching my head a litte though to think of many/any specific ways we are using the content with our existing stable of clients.

Is it on the must read shelf at Crawford HQ?

Nope, it hasn’t made the grade.

Archi’s Jottings

Week Ending 29/9/19

Working with ORJ Law on meeting cycles

What we worked on

Less time than usual spent with clients, several were away, provided a welcome opportunity to catch-up with my task list.

The main focus areas for the week were:

Meeting cycles

The ryhmn and perspectives of meetings that work together to ensure an organisation runs well and that meetings aren’t ‘the worst’ part of peoples working week. Two of our clients sought help to establish their meeting cycles a leading professional services firm and a sub-contract engineering business. In spite of their very different businesses the finished products were very similar a cycle of meetings that covered four main aspects:

  1. Sharing schedules, problem solving and observing that agreed tactics are present in everyday activities.
  2. Tactical meetings, that use KPI’s as context for performance and help ensure that the activities of team align to agreed strategy.
  3. Progress meetings, that use results as context and provide opportunity to discuss and agree on actions to address what is most affecting the long-term performance of the business and delivery of strategy.
  4. Strategy meetings, that are guided by the organisations Goals, Vision, Purpose and Values to focus on innovation and idea creation to select the three to five strategic projects the company will deliver over the next 90 days in pursuit of its goals.

Challenging preconceived perceptions of meetings, making them timely, interesting and using them to speed up not slow down business has been fun. I’m not sure we met all of those aims in every meeting, however, I know my clients and their teams are reporting quicker progress and greater engagement as a result.

We use Magic Minutes to manage all of our meetings and encourage our clients to do the same, check it out:

Home – Magic Minutes

It’s been developed by our friends, and amazing SME business consultants — Wellmeadow, check them out:

Our Story | Wellmeadow Consulting

David, Richard, Andrea and Evgeny are brilliant, we really appreciate their friendship and our ongoing collaboration.

Selection Process Outsourcing

Fed-up with traditional recruitment agents and their sharp practices? Find it hard to see value in their fees now that recruitment adverts are a few hundred pounds, at most, not several thousand? Struggle to understand how they add value now that it’s rare, almost unheard of, that they meet candidates in person?

Our clients are and increasingly ask us to help. It’s not our main job, and we can only take on a handful of roles a year; we know though how important people are to making great businesses so we help where we can by offering a fully outsourced selection process. We look after the specification, advert, interview and assessment process, offer negotiation, onboarding and then are on hand, with development once the new hire is settled in.

Last weeks role was for a Sales Manager/Sales led General Manager. our client secured a highly skilled and experienced candidate for that role and it’s looking likely they will also hire one of the applicants for a Territory role.

A great example of where we are helping clients both create and execute strategy.

At Play

Favourite recent run:

Afternoon Run – Archi Stewart’s 5.8 mi run

Short and sharp, after a year derailed by some form of persistent fatigue it was amazing to log a quicker outing, a real spring in my stride for perhaps the first time this year.


A mini-adventure on ‘home-turf’ an overnight wild camp followed by a godforsaken wind blown, rain soaked half Edale Skyline (yup we bailed after Mam Tor) — the weather was horrendous.

Riverside spot, a short walk from the Pubs in Edale — excellent.

The Rise of the Ultra Runners

A Journey to the edge of human performance.

Written by Adharanand Finn.

Published by Guardian Faber Publishing; Main edition (16 May 2019)

The Blurb.

An electrifying and inspiring account of one of the toughest sports in the world.

Adharanand Finn is the author of Running with the Kenyans (2012), The Way of the Runner (2015) and The Rise of the Ultra Runners (2019). The first of these was the Sunday Times Sports Book of the Year, won Best New Writer at the British Sports Book Awards and was shortlisted for the William Hill Sports Book Award. He is a journalist at the Guardian and also writes regularly for the Financial Times, the Independent, Runner’s World, Men’s Health and many others.

What its about?

Adharanand charts his journey from speed focused, club running, competitive, PB focused runner into the world of ultra-running; distances greater than a marathon, with seemingly no upper end; the most popular distances are 50 to 100 miles, however, many races are over several hundred miles. What adds sizzle to the narrative is Adharanand self-confessed previously held disdain for ultra-running, seeing it as a place ‘real’ runners move to as they get older, fatter and slower.

Ultra-marathon running is moving at some pace, if not into the mainstream, then certainly away from its almost secretive, counter-culture, roots. Adharanand, uses the perspective of his own adventures and his emotions through his journey into ultra-running to his participation in one of the sports ‘blue-ribbon’ events, The Ultra Tour du Month Blanc (UTMB), to form the spine of the story.

UTMB — is the ‘main event’ in a week long celebration of mountain and ultra running, held in France each year. The UTMB in fact passes through France, Italy and Spain, on it’s 105 mile journey around Mont Blanc. Attracting several thousand runners and having established itself as the race the elite come to win, it’s a compelling lustre for most ultra-runners. One of the more entertaining aspects, at least for those of us this side of the Atlantic, is the annual Europe versus USA elment that has developed within the elite runners of both genders; pleasingly Eurpope continues to dominate in spite of string challenge from American runners.

Through his first hand experience and perspective, readers enjoy an introduction the sport and its full cast of characters. Most compellingly readers get to enjoy the emotional roller coaster of an accomplished runner exporing the limits of their performance, endurnace and personal resilience.

Is it a good book?

Unquestionably it provides a stimulating introduction to ultra-running and ultra-runners. The author uses two simple devices to add drama and tension and through these creates something of a story to underpin the exporation of the sport. The two devices used are his previous disdain for ultra-running and his journey as he builds from new ultra-runner to attempting the UTMB.

I personally found the retelling of his race highs and lows, in particular his UTMB race rather over done; I am though a somewhat stoic runner.

I suspect the book will appeal more to those who know the races and runners that appear in the book than readers who are new to ultra-running.

It’s certainly well written, entertaining and paints a reasonable picture of the sport, it is perhaps a little to hyperbolic for me.

Is it on the must read shelf at Crawford HQ?

Nope. It’s good but not awesome so doesn’t make the grade.

Archi’s Jottings

Week ending 27/10/19

What we worked on

This week presented a commonly observed quandary:

Should a new hire enjoy a ‘honeymoon’ period before we measure them or set objectives?

OKR’S — Objectives and Key Results

Our client a sheetmetal business hired a new Operations Leader, there was a small gap between the previous leaver and the new starter and the suite of KPI’s were not maintained. The suite of KPI’s had perhaps suffered from bloat. It was agreed to review what is measured, why and how it will be used. Where there was a difference of opinion was when to do this, from the outset or after a three month ‘settling in period’?

What is your view, would you measure a new hire and set them measurable objectives pretty much from day one or after a ‘settling in’ period?

Our client and I agreed after discussion to do this pretty much from day one, for these reasons:

  1. It would help create alignment around what is important
  2. It will allow for the expected success of the new hire to be documented from day one
  3. It will be an important tool in changing the behaviours of his team and provide an opportunity to celebrate their successes

We did though agree to give the new hire a reasonably broad choice of what he wanted to measure and to keep to just three objectives initially:

  1. Quality — To reduce the number of incidents and costs associated with poor quality parts.
  2. Efficiency — To increase the turnover per man hour of the factory.
  3. Churn — reduce customer churn or inversely to increase the number of repeat customers.

These objectives each have a simple plan that has been shared with and that will be executed by the whole team, this includes some secondary measures by which progress will be monitored.

The shop floor team are fully on-board with the fundamental principles of pride in quality work, done efficiently in order to deliver for customers and therefore win more repeat work.

Some exmaples of past work creating KPI boards:

What I’m reading

Actually it’s what I listened to this week. Two podcasts crept past The Archers as my go to journey filling listens:

BBC Sounds – The Missing Cryptoqueen

A fascinating true tale of what appears to be the biggest fraud most of us have never heard of.

The Knowledge Project with Shane Parrish

Two blockbuster interviews with:

Jim Collins and Daniel Kahneman

At play and adventure

I’ve suffered from some form of fatigue syndrome this year and as a consequence my running has been very much curtailed. I’ve logged about 25% of the miles I would usually have and am easily 25% slower. As a result I have entered very few races.

One race I had forgotten about is the excellent Snowdonia Marathon. I entered with friends ten months or so ago and promptly forgot all about it.The call from my good friend Stuart to agree logistics for the race weekend was, I am afraid to say, a little unwelcome; knowing I was too unfit to run was a bit of a blow; I do love the event and the vibe as runners take over this small Welsh town for the weekend and resolved to go as cheerleader #1 and perhaps get a nice long walk in.

My friends were not buying my planned avoidance tactic of a solo walk in the hills and chief cheerleader status, at all, and quietly but with great determination ensured I was with them on the start line. I came home with the very excellent Welsh slate coaster all finishers receive and some lovely memories of this race; it’s my third and slowest finish by more than an hour.

I did swear to bury the time and never reveal it, however, it was the best run of the year so far, and as such deserves it’s place here. I did really quite enjoy not looking at the watch or running to beat my Snowdonia PB, as a one off. Back next year to ‘put things right’ and go sub-4hours on this hilly course.

Marathon Eyri – Survival – Archi Stewart’s 26.4 mi run

Hardmoors 110




ASCENT: C6000M (C19,500FT).


May 2017, this weekend I completed one of the UK’s most challenging endurance events, the 112-mile footrace between Filey and Helmsley, called simply and inaccurately the Hardmoors 110. Conceived by my friend, Jon Steele, the beautiful Cleveland way is used to create a now infamous footrace, that takes in both the stunning coastline and moorlands of North Yorkshire.

Roseberry Topping and out and back, up and down treat at approximately mile sixty

Ten years old, this year, the event is known for its’ difficulty, comradery, and the race organisers ambivalence to reporting accurate distances.

There is something of a fondly dispensed sadism woven into the event, not least the requirement to ascend and descend Roseberry Topping, at mile sixty-three, for no discernible reason other than it’s there and makes the route longer and harder. Jon’s acerbic wit, adds to the charm of the event; a favourite sign declares that “if you quit now, you could be in the pub in just a few minutes.”

What started as a very low key, almost counter-culture event, has followed the explosion in long distance running and grown from just sixteen participants in its inaugural year to closer to two hundred in the 2017 edition.

The race start, at Filey Brigg only 112 miles and thirty hours to go!

I won’t win this race or any other for that matter if I did, which I won’t, there’d be no prize money, perhaps a small plaque and a big box of running gels; why enter ultra-marathons then? The training helps keep me healthy; I enjoy the physical and mental challenge, I find it intoxicating to toe the start line of a race where I can’t know until I try if I can finish it. I have made many awesome friendships and seen some of the most beautiful scenery in the world running, at home and abroad.

Scarth Wood Moor and the start of a runners high fuelled charge through the field

While I didn’t win the race or even an age category, I am extremely pleased with the result. My time of 30 hours and 26 minutes, placed me around thirtieth in a field approaching two hundred. I experienced that oft spoken of, but trust me rare beyond belief, runners high. A storming run through the hilliest section of the race between miles eighty and ninety could only be endorphin fuelled.

There is necessarily a huge retinue of volunteers, support crew, friends, supporters and families involved. The Hardmoors race series is famed for the spirit and generosity of the ‘Hardmoors Family’. I was supported by Tim Bateson and Phil Turton, both of whom I had crewed in previous editions of the race; my turn this year saw us complete a three HM110 racing and crewing trilogy together. I am/we are rather proud to report a perfect record, each of us completing this race at our first attempt. A successful weekend, with a great result and a neat conclusion to Tim, Phil and I’s Hardmoors 110 trilogy.

Tim Bateson, an amazing companion and supporter paced me over the last thirty or so miles
2013 Tim’s finish with me pacing and Phil behind the camera
2014 Phil’s finish with Tim pacing and me behind the camera

My race calendar is clear now through to September when I run my local hundred mile race the Robin Hood 100; the focus between now and then is getting leaner and faster so that I can set a hundred mile PB.

Early in the race

Archi’s Jottings

Week ending 20/10/19

The Net Promoter Formula

What we worked on

Moving from large corporations to regional and independent businesses as an executive, taught me many things, one lesson learned the hard way is that a smaller company does not make change or improvement easier, just different. One of the obvious differences is that you very often have to do more with less, there are not usually to many ‘cheque-book’ answers to challenges.

Working with SME businesses as an advisor reinforces this knoweldge. A project completed this week makes for a great example. When I implemented NPS for multi-billion pound revenue organisation I worked with a Business Analyst who took down the Business Needs Analysis and managed a project to select suitable vendors and then passed on the chosen vendor to a project management team to implement; I signed off the budget of close to a hundred thousand pounds and sat back and waited for the results.

Working with SME clients this type of innovation is likely to fall on one or two capable leaders, who scarcest resource is time and is unlikely to enjoy a budget in the thousands let aline hundreds of thousands.

It is just this type of challenge Crawford enjoy, born from strategy and needing to be implemented at least in the experimentation phase; is this a good metric for us? On a tight budget.

Customer Experience — Net Promoter Score (NPS)

You will I am sure have been on the receiving end of a Net Promoter Score (NPS), more likely on a business-to-consumer environment than business-to-business, often as a text or email survey.

NPS research suggests a strong correlation between customer experience and the growth or erosion of profits, therefore businesses are increasingly adopting the methodology.

A long-standing client, who have suffered some service issues and are rebuilding their offer decided as part of a wider reaching Customer Experience strategic project to adopt NPS. Beyond the indicative nature of NPS and the Closed Loop benefits, our client wanted a metric that the whole company could join around and link their own behviour and contribution to, a great number to chase upwards in essence, providing opportunity to celebrate improvements.

The link below provides a comprehensive introduction to NPS:

NPS – Net Promoter Score: The Complete Guide

Having helped our client identify Customer Experience as a strategic project through our chairing of their board meeting and strategy facilititation it fell to us to create a system, without outsourcing it or buying an expensive off the shelf solution.

Using a a tiny bit of internal IT resource we identified a methodology that combined:

  1. A simple SQL query
  2. Use of their Email Marketing platform — Mailchimp
  3. Adoption of a survey tool — Typeform
  4. Google Data Studio

In order to create an end-to-end system that picks customers for survey, sends them a personalised link, delivers a personalised survey and captures the results in a scorecard and also creates a list for their Team Leaders to call and offer their help to rectify any Detractor scores.

It’s not totally automated, however, for a few pounds a month (the only additional cost to this business is the Typeform subscrition), it is great value and pretty slick, both for the company and Customers.

I’ve pasted a link to the NPS question below, our system personalises this to the Client and Company.

What I’m reading

I have Kindle to thank for this, it came up as a suggested read and caught my interest sufficiently to make it on to the reading list:

The Anarchy

The book blurb

‘Dalrymple is a superb historian with a visceral understanding of India … A book of beauty’ — Gerard DeGroot, The Times

In August 1765 the East India Company defeated the young Mughal emperor and forced him to establish in his richest provinces a new administration run by English merchants who collected taxes through means of a ruthless private army — what we would now call an act of involuntary privatisation.

The East India Company’s founding charter authorised it to ‘wage war’ and it had always used violence to gain its ends. But the creation of this new government marked the moment that the East India Company ceased to be a conventional international trading corporation dealing in silks and spices and became something much more unusual: an aggressive colonial power in the guise of a multinational business. In less than four decades it had trained up a security force of around 200,000 men — twice the size of the British army — and had subdued an entire subcontinent, conquering first Bengal and finally, in 1803, the Mughal capital of Delhi itself. The Company’s reach stretched until almost all of India south of the Himalayas was effectively ruled from a boardroom in London.

The Anarchy tells the remarkable story of how one of the world’s most magnificent empires disintegrated and came to be replaced by a dangerously unregulated private company, based thousands of miles overseas in one small office, five windows wide, and answerable only to its distant shareholders. In his most ambitious and riveting book to date, William Dalrymple tells the story of the East India Company as it has never been told before, unfolding a timely cautionary tale of the first global corporate power.

At play

My favourite recent run:

Afternoon Run – Archi Stewart’s 4.9 mi run

Not too many to choose from and nothing remotely interesting about this selection other than the effort level was very light for what was a consistent pace.

Archi’s Jottings

Week Ending 13/10/19

What we worked on

This week was biased towards shaping Crawford’s future, more news on that in next weeks jottings. With clients we had a reflective week, catching up with some of the larger projects from the previous year.

Strategic Facilitation — Innovation is our future

I met James Till, at Allett Mowers, to review the strategic plan we helped create last year. Allett are a hidden British Manufacturing gem, selling both in the UK and across the world; most notably they sold more that one hundred and eighty machines to the Russia World Cup stadiums; all those world class sports surfaces and stripes you saw were created with an Allett Mower.

Whilst all of the battery electric talk is centred on Tesla, Rivian and Polestar Allett are leading the charge in electrifying sports stadiums, higher education, and prestige and important lawns. Allett’s pioneering battery electric range has been rapturously received by professional groundsmen, and is just the spearhead of what will grow to be a full range of battery electric professional tools, all with interchangeable battery packs.

It was fantastic to receive an update from James, not least to learn of Allett’s Queens Award for Enterprise. Most if not all of the strategic projects, discussed have been completed or are on track, and all are yielding benefits in line with projections. There have of course been a few bumps in the road, the culture development that formed the foundations of the strategic review facilitated by Crawford, has proven resilient and is helping cope with challenges whilst accelerating innovation.

Setting strategic priorities — James and Austin of Allett Mowers.

What I’m Reading

Range — How generalists triumph in a specialized world

Range: How Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World

If ever a book was chosen based on a built in bias, this is it. The counter argument to the 10,000 hours of deliberate practice, that’s become ‘accepted wisdom’.

The blurb that led me, a generalist, to pick the book off the shelves:

In this landmark book, David Epstein shows you that the way to succeed is by sampling widely, gaining a breadth of experiences, taking detours, experimenting relentlessly, juggling many interests — in other words, by developing range.

At play & this weeks adventure:

Favourite recent run. I should think more carefully before naming runs. This was a night run with good friend and Marathon des Sables tent mate, Steve ‘Commander’ Brown:

Playing in the dark with Brown. – Archi Stewart’s 8.4 mi run

A great catch-up with Steve, a trudge around the Kinder Plateau in the dark, with a failing head torch, a big spill on some rocks leading to a very hurty knee and elbow, a sprint down to the pub covered in muck and blood to make last orders and crisp packet dinner — awesome.

Return to Namibia

Desert Ultra 2018 — Beyond The Ultimate

Beyond the Ultimate (BTU) organise a series of races covering some of the harshest environments on Earth. They follow the now established multi-day, ultra distance, self-sufficient race format pioneered by Patrick Bauer’s Marathon des Sables. In BTU’s series they cover Ice (Artic), Jungle (Amazon) and Desert (Namib). I have completed both the Jungle (2015) and Desert (2017). I have yet to test myself in extreme cold, this is planned for 2020 at The Spine or The Yukon Artic Ultra .

The Desert Ultra, is billed as 250KM, through the ancient Namib desert, over five stages, ranging in length from 22km to 89km, however, from participating last year I know that many if not all stages have been measured short and it is likely that the total distance will be 260KM. Temperatures will range from the late 30’s to mid 50’s. The organisers provide water and a shared two-person tent, everything else you need, you bring and carry with you. My pack is below.

4.9KG of food and compulsory kit. Approximately 2500 calories per day.

I managed, happily, to keep the weight to a minimum, using a simple mantra ‘is it food or compulsory?’, nothing else got in, with one exception, a pure luxury item, a noodle bowl (I struggled a bit last year, with eating out of zip lock bags, having a bowl that doubles as a cup, brings a little decorum to my meals, and should make camp just a a tiny bit easier).

Why go back?

I felt last year, that whilst I finished a creditable tenth, I could do much better.

Some of my favourite pictures from last year:

An extraordinarily rare picture of me leading the indomitable Austin Jarrett.
The magic of race photographer Mikkel Beisner, I love this picture.
A family of Elephants stopped by our camp, likely attracted by the water tank.

So the mission was clear, improve on tenth, I had 5th in mind. If the field were smaller, which it was, improve on previous year’s time to bring it in line with last year’s fifth place.

I was ‘flying solo’ without the company of Austin Jarrett who was with me in Morocco at the Marathon des Sables in 2014, The Jungle Ultra Peru in 2015 and The Desert Ultra 2017, which sad as it was, did mean I’d probably just moved one place up in the field, selfless as ever AJ!

2018 Desert Ultra

Happily whilst AJ, was not with me there would be some super awesome friends from past races, and of course the BTU and Exile Medics teams who I know well. Joining me on the start line as veterans of past races were Emma Zadronzy and Karl Heinz Reigel (damn a place lost!).

Looking shiny and clean in the hotel pre-race

In a smaller field than 2017, the goal became an improvement in time. I needed to knock off just over three hours of accumulated time, this equates to a pace improvement of just over a minute a mile, which is significant, to finish in line with last years fifth place.

I quite enjoyed my status as veteran of the race, and happily answered questions, and shared experience from the previous year. If you have detected hubris, or that a moment of pride and fall is looming then you are observant and intuitive.

Faffing with kit before the start


First stage, at pretty much the first point I was running alone, I managed to miss perhaps the best signed hairpin turn possible, heading straight on. In my defence, those runners that were on the right hand side of the track as they approach the signing did, as I did, interpret the markers as signalling straight on. There’s little solace in this though as all but me realised their error within a hundred feet.

Fight with a thorn bush

Having travelled on for several kilometres and upped my pace I was surprised not to be catching the runners in front, which led to the realisation I hadn’t seen any markings for a while, which in turn led me to realise nor had I seen any runners footprints.

I decided to use the interactive tracker, issued as a safety device by the BTU team, and text base to check if I was offcourse rather than back track needlessly; I was on a wide track with no turns typically course markers are less frequent when this is the case.

The trackers whilst hugely robust, and an ideal tool for the event, do have basic LCD screens, that were not up to the harsh desert sun. To read the screen and send the message to base, I needed some shade, in the desert, the only option was to kneel under a thorn bush. What felt like several thousand, old Nokia style, key presses to fashion a message later, proud runner me jumps up in self-congratulatory, I conquered the technology style, forgetting how carefully I had knelt under the thorn bush and managed to attach a branch, via some viscious spikes to my eyelid, penetrating just enough to put a small scratch on my eyeball but cause no real damage.

The Race

Race Director Kris King in a little pre-race ‘stirring’ had told me that I would be closely matched to fellow series veteran Wolfgang, a little slower perhaps but similar. I don’t doubt for a second he said the same to Wolfgang only in reverse….

In multi-day events you tend to ‘drop-in’ to about the same spot in the field each day, this can lead to some fun racing, irrespective of where you are in the field.

This year Adam, Kristina and Joffy ran away with the podium slots from the outset. I saw a little of the amazing Kevin ‘Mighty’ Mayo, whilst I didn’t let him get too far in front I couldn’t catch him either. Leaving as predicted by Kris King, Wolfgang and I to fight it out. This was absolutely the highlight of my week.

Wolfgang tended to start a little quicker than me. It would take me a few CP’s to get him in sight and from there we would both be looking for any advantage we could find, be that a better line, better sand, a quicker CP stop, or a bravado filled charge up a steep incline designed to ‘psyche’ each other out.

Wolfgang, an amazing companion and fierce competitor throughout the week

We passed and were passed by each other multiple times a day. To her great credit, multi-stage ultra running debutante Michelle Hincks, pressured Wolfgang and I from day three onwards, gaining confidence as the week progressed.

Day 1–50KM

I placed seventh, losing a couple of hours to missing a turn and getting patched up, having lost my fight with thorn bush, a very poor start.

Working my way back through the field

Day 2–50KM

Working hard to compensate for the previous day, I managed to finish in fifth, I had so much time to make up from day one though I felt I had already blown my Top 5 aspiration.

Day 3–42KM

Being a veteran of the race really paid off on day three. Having completed back-to-back 50KM stages, acclimatising as you go, its tempting and natural to be pleased with the shorter day three stage distance, however, day three starts in a dried river bed, which has the finest, silty sand imaginable, making running almost impossible. There are a full fifteen kilometres of this silty torture to endure, and they are are incredibly frustrating. Last year I cracked and did my best teenage, knuckle dragging, this sand is stupid impression walking every single step of the first fifteen kilometres.

Somehow forewarned was forearmed, I had committed in my mind to running every step this year, little short, high cadence steps, and that is what I did. I came out of the river bed in fourth and was only passed later by Kevin as I needed to stop, a few times, and empty sand from my shoes and tend to a few sand induced blisters.

Taking a self-congratulatory rest having well and truly beaten last years time for this stage

Day 4–22KM

At last a shorter day. I don’t recall much about Day Four other than fearing my lack of speed would catch me out on the shorter stage. It didn’t I managed to hold fifth place again.

Truly beautiful

Day 5–93KM

Stage five has an early start, very early 04:30. It’s well worth it though to get some distance in before the sun fully rises.

Getting as far as possible in the cool of the early morning

Temperatures this year were even higher than last, with the midday section of three days exceeding 50 degrees.

My challenge this year was to finish in daylight, last year I was about ninety minutes outside of this.

I adore the long stage of this race. Each stage through the week has its own personality, a mix of open plain, canyon, river bed, boulder fields and more, somehow the long stage stitches all of this together. Every ten kilometres or so the scenery changes, often quite dramatically.

The prize for being scorched over a whole day comes towards the end, when you enter utterly stunning canyons, and are greeted by a cacophony of animal noise, bouncing off the canyon walls. The Mars like terrain is simply stunning.

The final section seems to go on for ever, winding ever deeper into the canyon, turn after turn you expect to see camp to no avail. At the end of a tough week the last ten kilometres of two hundred and sixty will take all of your physical and mental strength.

You finish at a Ranger outpost, a Rhino conservation centre, it is truly epic in scale and brutal beauty.

Finish camp
Huge dry river beds

The Result

A partial success, faster by hours not minutes, fifth place overall in spite of the lost time on day one. Comparing year on year, my time would have been good for seventh in the previous year in a deeper field. So not quite where I was aiming but a really pleasurable race where I ran most of most stages, no mean feat in temperatures that peaked at 55 degrees.

I suspect this is not my last Beyond the Ultimate Desert Ultra. Another stone lighter with a better training build-up and I might be tempted to go back for, what would have to be a podium shot. 2017–10th, 2018 — 5th, 20?? — Podium?

Trillion Dollar Coach

The Leadership Handbook of Silicon Valley’s Bill Campbell

Written by Eric Schmidt, Jonathon Rosenberg and Alan Eagle

Published by John Murray Publishers — 2019

The blurb.

The leadership handbook of Silicon Valley’s Bill Campbell.

Bill Campbell helped to build some of Silicon Valley’s greatest companies — including Google, Apple and Intuit — and to create over a trillion dollars in market value.

What’s it about?

Based on interviews with more than eighty people who knew and loved Bill Campbell, Trillion Dollar Coach explains the Coach’s principles and illustrates them with stories from the great companies and people with whom he worked and played. The result is a blueprint for forward-thinking business leaders and managers that will help them create higher performing and faster moving teams and companies.

Did I enjoy reading it?

For sure, it’s engaging, tells the story of Bill’s life and mixes in stories about pioneering Silicon Valley companies and leaders. As leadership books go, it’s an easy and pleasing read.

Is it a good book?

My feelings, and I note, many reviewers feelings, are mixed here. I very much enjoyed reading the book but it’s not quite one thing or the other. You could read it as a eulogy to Bill, certainly the authors demonstrate amazing affection for Bill. It covers much of Bill’s life story, it could therefore be a biography and of course it’s about coaching and leadership. It doesn’t quite nail any of these, not surprisingly. Against it’s description: The Leadership Handbook of Silicon Valley’s Bill Campbell it does come up short. There is lots of narrative about who Bill helped and the situations he helped steer leaders through but it’s light on the detail of how Bill helped and the way the book codifies his principles feels weak.

What were my main takeaways?

Not much I or indeed you dont already know, however, a great reminder of the power of simple, free or inexpensive approaches.

  1. Be human at work — Bill built amazing trust, through love, kindness and care, and recognising executives, even giants including like Jobs, Brin and Page as humans. He famously hugged everyone. That trust made my second takeaway possible. “To care about people, you have to care about people; ask about their lives outside of work, understand their families, and when things get rough, show up.”
  2. Give direct, even blunt feedback — Through the perspective of care for the person you are working with. I know that we all know this, and I love Kim Scott’s book Radical Candor, where she provides a framework for achieving it, however I still rarely observe true candor in the companies and teams I work with. Where I do see it, all too often the feedback is blunt and direct, however, the obvious care for the individual is lacking.
  3. Focus on the team — “Because the World faces many challenges and they can only be solved by teams … …” I’ve always held a view that teams can be changed and improved more easily than individuals. What sets Bill’s approach apart from the traditional Executive Coach is that whilst the most senior executive may have engaged him, he worked with all of the team. Moreover he didn’t wait for an arranged session or for those executives to come to him. He gained the trust of the team, and used that trust to problem solve, power broke, challenge, congratulate, chide, direct, and coach. Bill got invloved where he thought he could make a difference, and did. Hand in hand with focus on the team, is the notion that no individual is bigger than the team, a characteristic of if not all most amazing teams.
  4. Stay relentlessly positive — Again we all know this, but, can we say that we practice it? It’s so easy to let the challenges and difficulty we face day to day, chip away at our demeanour.
  5. Bill’s framework for 1:1s and reviews — I am very often asked to help leaders set 1:1 agenda’s, not surprisingly, as I so frequently advise leaders to spend more time in structured, but not formal, discussions with their people. Bill’s framework, will help you keep things structured, yet conversational and tick off the topic areas that will help you and your people the most.

Has it helped Crawford deliver for clients?

Yes, I am using some of the specifics, for example Bill’s 1:1s framework, and seeing clients get great results through it. I have definitley broadened my outlook to make sure I am working with the Senior Leadership Team as a whole, not just the Owner, CEO or MD in isolation. More than anything I have realised that as extra external horsepower to help businesses and teams improve, my clients really want to engage with someone who can paradoxically have a relentlessly positive outlook, and deliver blunt and direct feedback.

Is it on the must read shelf at Crawford HQ?

Hell yeah! It’s so core to how we approach our work with clients. We love the book and try our best to live up to Bill’s relentlessly positive outlook combined with blunt and direct feedback — then roll our sleeves up to help.