Month: February 2012

Grayson Perry – an unusual man with an unusual view of the world


Today I spent 4 or 5 hours in the British Museum.  It was wonderful.  There’s something there for everyone.  I have to admit to behaving today a bit like an accountant & a person who without fail always counts their lengths when swimming.  I grabbed the brochure entitled “A History of the World in 100 Objects”, picked out the 20 that interested me the most & then mapped out a route to view them.  I did my “objet” viewing on either side of the main reason for my trip – Grayson Perry’s exhibition “The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman”.  All I can say is it’s on until 26 Feb (extension by popular demand) & if you haven’t seen it yet, you need to get down there, pay your tenner and consume this visual feast.

I know there’s been a lot already written about this exhibition, and photos were not permitted, so I’m going to keep this short.  It’s a mix of artefacts from the British museum which the artist has selected & then sometimes juxtaposed next to his own work (10 or so of his famous ceramic pots including one featuring Mark E Smith of The Fall entitled “Grumpy Old God pot”, iron sculptures of people, a coffin containing his ponytail from 25 years ago, needlework and huge tapestries, a tower he built out of stones he found on the road outside his squat in 1983, outrageous costumes he’s created & then worn, and of course his famous motorcycle – there in my photo, complete with Alan Measles riding at the back in his box).

What I liked most of all was some of the stuff Grayson had written here & there.  These are my favourites:

·         Reality can be new as well as old, poetic as well as factual and funny as well as grim;

·         Next to a selection of exquisite tiny portable lacquered Japanese shrines from the 1700s he tells us that the modern day equivalent of a portable shrine is the photo album we all carry about on our smartphones – I love that

·         The suggestion that CCTV is the modern version of carvings over cathedral doors depicting the Last Judgement & the damned going to hell – hahaha

Beautiful, just beautiful.  Don’t miss out.  Post up your comments if you’ve been along & enjoyed it as much as I did.  I look forward to reading them.

Some thoughts from Rosaleen Blair – entrepreneur, Dubliner and superwoman

Rosaleen Blair

Great female role model Rosaleen Blair speaking at an IIBN London event

As I’m sure the whole world is by now aware, I’m coming to the end of my first week living back in London.  Everyone I’ve met this past week or asked for help has been extremely welcoming and I’ve been fortunate enough to have been invited to a few really useful networking events.  Best of all, however, from the perspective of a newly arrived Irish entrepreneur in London has been the Irish International Business Network or IIBN as it’s known.  The link is here for anyone that would like to know more or find out how to join

I’m lucky enough to have been introduced to the original Wild Irish Guy himself, Damon Oldcorn, and it seems that once you know Damon, you don’t really need to know anyone else.  I’ve always found this to be a good strategy.  Bryan Keating was the first business person I met in Northern Ireland, he’s the exact same and it’s never done me any harm.

Thursday night’s IIBN event started with drinks & chat and it was very easy to circulate and get talking to a few people as everyone’s very friendly and open.  Everyone has an Irish connection even though many, like me, don’t have an Irish accent.  Don’t let that fool you! – they all know their Leitrims from their Letterkennys and their Dungloes from their Dingles.  Our diaspora is a beautiful thing.  There were bankers, recruiters, reps from private equity houses, lawyers, entrepreneurs, investors and no doubt many more besides.  If you’re Irish, in business and in London you need to join IIBN.

As part of the evening, our speaker was the charming and self-effacing Rosaleen Blair.  Rosaleen is one of those women who have achieved a helluva lot but doesn’t go around shouting that from the rooftops.  She just gets on with things.  Most of all, I liked the way she described the values her company operates by and I liked her statement of the 3 things she demands from people in her team and recruits against.  I’ve used these a few times already in conversation with others I’ve met this week but having chatted with Rosaleen on the evening, I don’t think she’ll mind.  They are as follows:

·         Trust – the members of a team have to really trust one another; of course this takes a bit of time

·         Collaboration – people need to be able & willing to work on projects with each other and to work hard to make that collaboration work

·         Sharing – Rosaleen hates it when people hold back knowledge & refuse to share it with other members of the team

I also loved what she said about encouraging a culture of “intrapreneurship” within your own organisation as a way of motivating and retaining the people in your team.  If anyone’s unsure what that means, it’s about encouraging positive aspects of entrepreneurial behaviour but within a large organisation.  It’s something we always tried to do at Learning Pool.

Rosaleen told us her story about how she arrived in London from Dublin in the 1990s, not knowing a soul but with a background in recruitment and having run a few small businesses in Ireland, believing herself to be fairly unemployable.  She went to work at Alexander Mann and over the course of time, persuaded her employer to allow her to try something new to fill a gap in the market and co-create adjacent services with clients (the first one being ICL/Fujitsu).  As it happened, she, working along with James Caan, became one of the early pioneers of what these days is known as RPO (Recruitment Process Outsourcing) and the rest is history.  In 2007, Rosaleen led her team through a £100m management buyout with the backing of private equity house Graphite Capital.  These days her company Alexander Mann Solutions employs 2,000 people working in 70 geographies and 42 languages.

Rosaleen also gave us some priceless bits of advice which I hope she won’t mind me passing on here to others:

·         When looking at which private equity house to go with, do some research and talk to some of the companies your main players have divested themselves of

·         As CEO, always keep your bank manager close & don’t give them any surprises; don’t pass that bank relationship off to someone else in your team

·         If your company is going to be working in some way with a private equity house, get yourself a CFO that has previously worked with a PE house, a CFO coming from a big corporate background won’t have the right sort of experience

·         Trust your own instincts and that of your team every day of the week over the advice given to you by external “experts”

Thanks Rosaleen, thanks IIBN and hello London!