Author Archives: Ben Cross

The Platform – Commercial Property in Liverpool

When attending networking events, it can be difficult to find one that focuses on quality of networking. This month I attended The Platform, which is a unique business networking event, in that it not only allows professionals to network, develop quality connections, and listen to top-level speakers, but it also allows them to talk about their businesses. It is the latter that separates The Platform from other events that I have attended previously.

Held at Hill Dickinson in Liverpool, the event’s theme looked at Liverpool’s commercial property sector. This included what the Liverpool City Region (LCR) has achieved, along with some of the shortcomings that can be addressed for the region to do better commercially. Being interested in what is happening in Liverpool, with regards to commercial developments and how the local and national economic landscape is changing, I was keen to find out more for myself.

To discuss Liverpool’s commercial property sector in detail, the event included a panel discussion featuring interactive questions submitted by attendees. The panel featured Sue Wrightthe_platform1-2 who is Signature Living’s Managing Director, Mark Lawler who is the Managing Director of Baltic Creative CIC and Alex McCann of Hill Dickinson. Each speaker talked about their businesses, and their opinions on the strengths and weaknesses of the LCR’s commercial property sector, which was interesting for me to learn about.

The discussion was a fascinating insight into the workings of the commercial sector of Liverpool. With the panel’s experience and knowledge, I discovered some interesting points about Liverpool’s commercial strengths and areas for improvement. These gave me plenty to ponder for myself, which I have included below.

  1. Despite economic uncertainty the commercial property sector in Liverpool is very buoyant.
  2. Investors are still coming from countries such as China and America to invest in the city region.
  3. Major successes include the growth of the Baltic Triangle, which has delivered 1500 jobs in the last five years.
  4. Liverpool has a fast developing digital and creative economy.
  5. 4% of economic growth comes from outside of Liverpool.
  6. Major infrastructure improvements in transport, telecommunications and others are needed.
  7. Getting the balance right between residential and commercial property is paramount.

From listening to the panel discussion, I gained a balanced understanding of Liverpool’s commercial property sector. What I have learned is the city region has a tremendous can-do attitude and massive appeal to global investors, evident from the development of the Baltic Triangle, and to the sight of massive cranes visible over the Liverpool skyline. Future developments such as the Ten Streets, Paddington Village and the Fabric District also bring many possibilities to transform the city region’s economy. Despite these currently difficult economic and political times, the city is looking ahead in an optimistic and positive mood.

I am also aware there is still plenty to improve upon for Liverpool and the surrounding boroughs e.g. Wirral, Sefton and Knowsley to realise their commercial potential. This means everyone in the city region need to not only come together, but to also have a single unifying purpose and vision that inspires, encourages and drives all to work together as one, for the greater good of the Liverpool City Region.

I enjoyed ethe_platform1-3verything about The Platform from start to finish. I loved the quality of the networking, the panel discussion, the conversations, and the plush surroundings. As a result, I am looking forward to attending the next Platform event, of which I recommend to any professional in business.

In conclusion, I would like to thank Garth Dallas, Steve Dickson, Amanda Follit and Mick Ord for organising the event, and to Sue Wright, Mark Lawler and Alex McCann for being such great and interesting speakers. My thanks also go to Hill Dickinson for hosting the event.

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Professional Liverpool – Networking Breakfast with Nicola Forshaw

By constantly dealing with the pressures of everyday life at breakneck pace, we put ourselves under plenty of stress. In these chaotic times of this VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) world that we live in today, the feelings of busyness, tiredness, as well as being distracted and overloaded can be overwhelming, to the detriment of our physical and mental health. This means we need to be non-judgementally aware and feel what is happening in the present moment all around and inside ourselves, which is also known as mindfulness.

Last month I attended a networking breakfast organised by Professional Liverpool. Held at the Cotton Exchange, this was delivered by Nicola Forshaw of Mindfit, which looked at mindfulness. I was curious to learn about how I could personally incorporate mindfulness into my everyday life. A second reason for attending, was I also saw this as an opportunity to develop a mindful approach to leading and helping others.pro_liverpool_networkingbreakfast3

Nicola was a superb speaker with a great passion for her business. From start to finish, Nicola delivered a talk that was succinct, easy to understand, clear, knowledgeable and reassuring for the entire audience. Indeed, I was impressed with how Nicola clearly showed her expertise with a smooth tone and flow, leaving myself and everyone mesmerised.

There was plenty that I learned from Nicola. From using mindfulness personally in everyday life, as well as using mindful leadership to cultivate, nurture and support others, I learned and gained an understanding of mindfulness.

Below are some examples of what I learned about mindfulness:

  1. Mindfulness is a practice of living in the present moment without consciously passing judgement.
  2. If you worry or dwell on the past and future, you will miss out on the present.
  3. Drop into the present to get a sense of calm.
  4. The threat is in the mind most of the time through overthinking.
  5. Overthinking makes you ill.
  6. Meditation is clear seeing of the mind.
  7. Mindful listening involves being comfortable, connected and happy. This is required as you need to feel able to express yourself thorough your presence, clarity, focus and compassion to others.
  8. The quality of your presence has a diverse impact on another person’s thinking.
  9. Mindfulness is not a quick fix, as you must be committed to it for the long-term, and it requires patience and practice.
  10. Being a mindful leader not only improves your resilience, but also improves complexity, communication and collaboration with others.

From the above, I now understand that is important to make the most of the present, and not worry and overthink about the future. The latter is especially true with some things in life and business that you have no control over, as it is easy and understandable to feel concerned about what may or may not lie ahead.

To summarise my thoughts, I found the event to be a fascinating introduction to mindfulness. From this I have learned plenty of interesting points on mindfulness and mindful leadership, and how I can apply this to my own life and to assist others. I can pro_liverpool_networkingbreakfast2honestly say this has been extremely useful to me as part of my personal and professional development, and I have since been trying to apply mindfulness in my daily life, by applying a few minutes every day to practice.

Overall the event was excellent. From meeting Nicola who was delightful to speak and listen to, from networking and catching up with several familiar faces including Chris Burgess, David Wafer, Lee Parry and Leon McCowan, there was plenty of conversation and opportunities to strengthen networking relationships. The breakfast provided was also delicious with fresh fruit, bagels, cookies, croissants, meat, cheeses and plenty of tea and coffee, giving a cultured and continental taste.pro_liverpool_networkingbreakfast4

In conclusion, I would like to thank Nicola for being a wonderful speaker, and for opening my eyes and ears to the power of mindfulness. My thanks also go to Alex Clark, Emma Rittenberg and Keri Stanistreet of Professional Liverpool for putting together a fine networking event, and I certainly hope my fellow attendees got as much out of it as I did.

Thank you very much!

Future Boss Club – Who Are They?

Who are the Future Boss Club and what do they do?

For female professionals and entrepreneurs who work in Merseyside and browse their LinkedIn and Twitter feeds, the name may ring a few bells. This is because Future Boss Club is a networking group for females aged 18-35, which aims to boost and empower the next generation of women in business from all over the North West.

Since being formed in September 2016, Future Boss Club has grown considerably, with a diverse group of talented women representing several businesses. By focusing strongly on business-related issues from a female perspective, from networking and other events related to business, Future Boss Club is an interesting concept that aspires to help and support women in becoming the best they can be in business.

Future Boss Club is more than just about networking. It is also a support network and hub for women from various backgrounds including graduates, professionals and entrepreneurs, to support, help and learn from each other. In simple terms, they are a community of enthusiastic and positive like-minded individuals, with a shared passion for business.

Having read and learned about Future Boss Club, I cannot help but admire their work and ambition. Certainly with talk about gender pay gaps and other inequality issues in business and industry today, I consider the work of Future Boss Club to be very important in supporting and championing women to become future leaders in their chosen industries, from technology, manufacturing, engineering, science, marketing, finance, law and many more. Therefore I believe that Future Boss Club are an important part of the business community in Merseyside, and I certainly hope they continue their fine work and grow further.

To everyone at Future Boss Club, I shall finish with these words.

Keep smashing those barriers!

My Year of Running

Running has taken over my life this year. From taking part in 10 races in 2018, including the Liverpool Half-Marathon, Southport 10k, Run for Rhys 5k and the Liverpool Santa Dash, I have lost over 2 stone in weight since January. In addition, my year in running has given me some proud memories, which I would like to share with you as 2018 draws to a close.

It was back in January when I set myself the goal of running the BTR Liverpool Half-Marathon. By running that race for the first time ever, I was out of my comfort zone, but at the same time relishing and energised by the challenge of pushing myself. Looking back, it was a proud and rewarding experience for me, even if I had to perform through the pain barrier, and I would gladly repeat the experience again. I say this because crossing that finishing line in under 3 hours was a great feeling, and I am convinced this was when I knew I had caught the running bug.

Another pleasure was the opportunity of experiencing such delightful scenery. This is because running has allowed me to take in some picturesque views of the River Mersey, the lush outdoors of Croxteth Park, and the Three Graces of Liverpool. As I have pounded the pavements and off-road tracks, seeing such fine sights through my own eyes has been a lovely treat.

Through the races and training, I have also learned about running in different weather conditions. This year, I have run in conditions where the weather has been either very hot or cold. When I ran the Southport 10k in July, the weather was very hot, meaning I had to adjust my running style to suit the conditions, by pacing myself and keeping hydrated.

In comparison, the Run for Rhys 5k was on a day of torrential rain and winds. This meant the course in Croxteth Park was full of mud, fallen leaves and big puddles, making it extremely difficult. On reflection, I was glad to have done the run, if only to experience the feeling of running when it is very wet and windy.

In addition to the races, I have done plenty of running in the countryside as part of my training, which has been extremely enjoyable. An example was back in October, when I ran 7 miles from Ormskirk all the way back to my house. This was on a cool Saturday morning, and my route took me past Edge Hill University, through the village of Bickerstaffe, and all the way back home. I also vividly remember being surrounded by blue skies, hanging clouds and being surrounded by peaceful countryside. Running along the pavements and open roads surrounded by silence, I can honestly say it was pure bliss!

There has been plenty that I have learned from my year of running. I have learned that anything is possible when you put your mind to something you want to achieve. Secondly I have also learned that training and preparation is important, and that you need to be courageous and willing to push yourself out of your comfort zone.

Finally I have also learned is that running is not just good for losing weight, but it is useful for relieving stress. This is because after a hectic day, I enjoy going for a quick run, as it helps me to mentally clear my head of stress and doubts, and allows me to calmly think more clearly with perspective, and it makes me feel good about myself. I also find running outdoors to be rather meditative.

And that’s all I have to say about my year of running. I hope you have enjoyed reading about my experiences and also what I have learned from them. Rest assured that I will be keeping up the habit, and will be looking forward to more running exploits in 2019.

In the meantime, I would like to wish all you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Thanks for reading!

Weightmans Wednesday – ABS Solutions

Health and fitness is important to everyone. There are so many gyms and other fitness establishments that offer services to customers looking to exercise for various reasons, which is why the fitness industry is currently booming. Like any other business however, fitness establishments need to have their individual style or brand to attract customers.

At last month’s Weightmans Wednesday bi-monthly event, I was delighted to listen to Connor O’Brien the founder of Absolute Body Solutions (ABS), talk about the story of his business. It was a very good story too, from opening the first gym in Speke, to the latest gyms in Liverpool City Centre, and also recently in Manchester. In addition, Connor also talked about the rigorous attention to detail involved with ensuring the business performs and delivers the highest quality personal fitness training to customers. Listening to Connor speak, I recognised the crucial qualities of relentless hard-work, a strong emphasis of quality and consistency of performance when delivering services to customers, as well as Connor’s own passion for fitness.

For myself, I had a particular interest in this event, and of what I could learn from it. The result from listening to Connor’s story, was that I learned of the difficulties of being a good personal trainer and business person, because there are so many responsibilities involved with running both the front and back-end functions of the business. From the personal training of clients, to looking after the finance, marketing, as well monitoring the performance and continual development of the 19 personal trainers employed by ABS, I can only imagine and admire the tremendous work and dedication of everyone involved, that goes into making the business successful. This is why a key takeaway for any business owner is to surround themselves with the right people.

Connor also talked about how the fitness industry is changing. This involved the growth of online platforms such as YouTube to deliver personal training online to a wider audience. In the long term, I believe it will be interesting to see how gyms and personal trainers make use of online platforms. However technology will need to be tailored to suit the needs of gyms, personal trainers and their clients.

Overall it was a very good event, with plenty for me to take away and ponder for myself. This is because I came away thinking about my own self-improvement in my work and personal life, learning new methods and consistently applying them to develop as a person and as a professional.

In conclusion, I would like to thank Connor for sharing his story, and also to everyone at Weightmans for coming together, to organise and deliver an interesting evening.

Ignite Liverpool 19th September – A Review

Liverpool is a city bursting with creativity. With storytellers of innovative and many creative minds, full of stories and interesting projects, there is so much Liverpool has to offer. Some local gems however lie beneath the surface like hidden treasure just waiting to be discovered.

I am saying this because I would like to share with you my thoughts on last month’s Ignite Liverpool event at Leaf on Bold Street, which I attended for the very first time. Similar to TED Talks, Ignite Liverpool is a bi-monthly event that allows creators, innovators, shakers, thinkers, dreamers, and other storytellers and doers, a five minute opportunity each to speak about a subject they are passionate about. As somebody who enjoys listening to stories, I was only too delighted to listen, and I was not disappointed by the content.

What impressed me greatly was the wide and eclectic mix of people who spoke about various subjects. Each talk was different and interesting, with topics ranging from the Kalman Filter, the Wapentake of Wirral, the hidden history of the Argentine Tango, and the connection between the 3’Ps (Palm Oil, Peanut Butter and Peat) and the loss of habitat for orangutans in the Tropics. Looking back, I found these to be enlightening and interesting enough to give me food for thought for some creative ideas, that I may even consider writing or talking about in the future.

I can honestly say that attending Ignite Liverpool was a worthwhile experience, which I gladly recommend to anyone. Just to hear so many stories from members of the community from all walks of life, who spoke about their subjects with passion and also emotion at times, is a wonderful reminder of why I love the city of Liverpool.

To conclude, I shall say that if you love watching TED Talks and being inspired by new ideas, then Ignite Liverpool is too good an opportunity to miss. For me personally, I am looking forward to attending more of these events, and to be creatively inspired.

You can even view a recording of the event on Ignite Liverpool’s official YouTube channel.

Enjoy and be inspired!

Liverpool Tester Gathering – Featuring Lisa Crispin

Having enjoyed and learned plenty about testing from the previous Liverpool Tester Gathering event, I was delighted to attend last week’s event at Avenue HQ. The featured speaker was Lisa Crispin, a well known and famous tester, in the world of agile testing.

Since 1982, Lisa has worked extensively as a programmer, analyst, engineer and tester, with many organisations. Therefore with such experience gained from an incredible journey, I was intrigued to learn more and I was not disappointed.liverpool_tester_gathering_sept2018_3

The event began with a lively and welcoming introduction by Leigh Rathbone from Liverpool Tester Gathering. I was greatly impressed with how Leigh introduced the evening with warmth, humour and a vibrant enthusiasm, creating an atmosphere of positive energy that swamped and caught the audience’s attention. Such an introduction certainly helped to set the feel good tone for the evening.

Listening to Lisa share her testing knowledge and experiences, there was plenty that I learned about testing simply from listening to her stories. What I learned was testing is more than just using technical tools, as it is also about human interaction, through the power of collaborative working. This is because agile testing of applications is paramount, and affects everybody who interacts with them, meaning that testing requires teamwork, collaboration and winning the hearts and minds of people. Therefore testing is the responsibility of everyone!

I also learned that testing requires the following:

  1. The courage to experiment, keep learning and push yourself.
  2. Willingness to use your beginners mind and curiosity to ask questions.
  3. Acknowledging and learning from your team and other people.
  4. Knowing when to stop testing.
  5. Understanding skills and knowledge can be transferred by asking questions, writing documentation, team activities, switching roles, video blogging and shadowing colleagues.
  6. Learning through self education including meetups, round table sessions, online courses, digital content, social media and peer learning.

Audience members also had the opportunity to take part in a lightning talk. This was a three minute slot where volunteers could talk about any subject they feel passionate about, so I took the opportunity to talk about blogging to share stories aliverpool_tester_gathering_sept2018_4nd knowledge with others. I admit I felt the nerves beforehand as giving an unscripted three-minute talk was daunting, but I kept calm and spoke clearly and to the point with confidence. It seemed to go down very well, as I received applause from the audience, and also a person asked me afterwards for advice on blogging, of which I was happy to help.

There were other volunteers who took part in the lightning talks. One talked about the importance of caring and sharing knowledge and expertise, and another talked about the importance of sharing domain business knowledge with colleagues. Such talks encapsulated the whole theme of the evening and spoke volumes of the Liverpool Tester Gathering community.

I would like to thank Leigh Rathbone, Duncan Nisbet, Chris Thacker and Philip Hughes from Liverpool Tester Gathering, for organising the event. In addition, my thanks also go to Lisa Crispin for sharing her testing expertise and knowledge, Stephen Johnson of ROQ for sponsoring the event, and to American Pizza Slice for providing such incredibly delicious pizza!

If you are interested in testing, technology or digital, I recommend these events wholeheartedly, and you can follow Liverpool Tester Gathering on Twitter and YouTube.