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A nice surprise: A short email interview with UK productivity expert Nicholas Bate

One of the great things about my series of interviews with top productivity consultants [1] (along with lots of new ideas) is discovering thinkers I've not previously heard of. I'm pleased to share a short email interview with Nicholas Bate (site, blog), who came to my attention when I received a surprise box of books and playing cards [2] from London, including Being the Best: The A-Z of Personal Success, JfDI! Just Do It: The Definitive Guide to Realising Your Dreams, and Get a Life: Setting your 'Life Compass' for Success.

For a taste of his thinking, check out his free ebooks (I found the first, Boost Your Productivity, stimulating):Two things about Nicholas: First, his knowledge seems both deep and wide, something I admire. Second, his blog is in the category of brief, frequent, and high-value, something I also admire. (I'm regularly tempted to switch to that approach to free up time for other projects. Not yet, though.) His post How to Think Like Albert Einstein is one of the funniest and shortest ones I've come across in a while, with You were there: invention of the light bulb, 125 years ago.. running a close second. :-)

Here's another characteristic post, this one on productivity: 6 Ways to be More on Top of Things:
  1. Have a definitive list of what 'things' are: the master list.
  2. Review that list once per day. (Re-) prioritise.
  3. Prioritise by pay-off. Not who's shouting, what's easy nor what's urgent.
  4. Say no to low value tasks otherwise you say no to high value stuff (such as your Life).
  5. Take time out every day to think. It's the unique distinction of humans.
  6. Regularly scan the diary for what is coming up.

I'm continuing to line up interviews, including some big names you'll definitely know. Now on to Nicholas's interview.

How did you get your start?

I just started. I had no guaranteed clients, but I did know this was something I really wanted to do. If you have a strong passion within you to do something, I encourage you to do it. It may not be easy, but it will work out eventually. Passion leads to ability. Ability leads to competence. And people want and will pay for competence.

What were the biggest factors in your success?

Becoming special. Identify a few things you are really, really good at and then become awesome at those. Don’t try and do everything. Don’t be too concerned about your competitors and be careful about responding to the customer; lead the customer!

How did you build your clientele?

I really believe there is only one way: word of mouth. You can accelerate that of course in many ways, but essentially you must have a product which people tell others about with sufficient enthusiasm that they wish to buy it.

How do you to ensure (as much as possible) that clients "get it," i.e., that it sticks?

Two main approaches: on seminars and in my books I do a lot of "pattern-breaking." Secondly I help maintain momentum through my blog.

What's your market focus/niche?

Business/commercial. Work/life balance. Productivity.

How do you summarize your method, and how did you develop it?

A concept called "personal compass." The metaphor being of course to decide your direction, etc. Most productivity methods I believe are too tactical; without a big enough why, people cannot keep their motivation. I encourage people to discover and set their compass; that then keeps them motivated.

How do you stay on top of the field (reading, tools, assistants, outsourcing)?

I read books and increasingly blogs. I used to go on workshops, and have attended those of the many thought leaders I respect.

How did your books come about? What's your muse?

The desire to capture my teachings and ideas so that students who wished could study them in more detail.

What were your biggest influences in developing your method?

Practicing managers who were effective: I noticed what they actual did, a process known as modeling excellence [3].

Who were your mentors?

None really. I simply read anything and attended anything of those I admired/respected.

What products and services do you sell?

Workshops and keynotes.

How do you apply the 80/20 principle to your practice?

I attempt to do a very few things astonishingly well.

How did you decide pricing? Is it fixed, or more like Value-Based Fees?

Value-based. This is important as you cannot double the time you have but you can double the value you offer.

What role did networking play, and how do you stay on top?

A small part for me.

What strategic partnerships did you form?

None so far.

How do you delight and surprise your clients?

I work at a higher standard than they ever expect!

Who are your competitors/peers?

Everybody yet nobody!

Update: For Pascal - here's a little blurb from Nicholas:

After a career in sales and marketing in the IT industry, culminating in leading sector marketing for Research Machines, Oxford, UK Nicholas launched Strategic Edge. His clients include Avanade, Barclays, BBC, BG Group, Lilly, Marks & Spencer, Microsoft, MSN amongst others.

Nicholas carried out research in the field of Molecular Biophysics at Magdalen College, Oxford University and is an NLP Master Practitioner, MBTI (levels 1 and 2) accredited and a qualified (PGCE) teacher. As well as instigating the Strategic Edge research programme, he has spent time studying with many of the recognised practitioners in the fields of business and personal development.


Reader Comments (6)

Another great interview. Keep up the good work! :-)

I did not know of Nicholas Bate but I have already subscribed to his blog and will look out for his books.

I would be very interested, if this was possible, in finding more about his background and what it did before becoming involved in this line of work.

December 4, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterPascal Venier

I'm pleased you liked it, Pascal. I've passed along a request to Nicholas.

December 4, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew Cornell

Hmm, strange I havent heard about Nicholas too, and he already has 5+ books written, its a pity no reviews. Tried to read ebboks, but it seems they are rephrased 20/80 rule and S. COveys effective people books..

December 5, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMarius

Thank you for so kindly providing an answer to my question.

December 9, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterPascal Venier

As always, a great interview. His comment on the need to create a "compass" instead of just focusing on the tactics of efficiency is thought-provoking. I haven't had clients willing to go down that road -- or perhaps, I just haven't been aggressive enough in guiding them down that road. How about you?

December 10, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDan Markovitz

That's a good question, Dan. So far, most of my interviewees suggest some kind of 'top-down' approach to self-management. However, that's at odds with my personal experience, and motivates my 'bottom-up' coaching. I'm quite open to an opinion adjustment on this!

Anyone else want to chime in?

December 10, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew Cornell

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