Earlier this month, I shared a link to a podcast in which I asked Mike Reader 5 questions on business strategy and content marketing. You can now read a selective transcript of the recording below.
Mike Reader is the National Director of Strategic Development at Pick Everard. You can read his thought leadership here. Pick Everard is an independent, multi-professional consultancy practice working within the property, infrastructure and construction industry.
Claire Trévien: You’ve had an impressive career already leading you to being the youngest ever appointed director at Pick Everard, and winning the Young Achiever of the Year at this year’s Constructing Excellence National Awards. What key advice would you give to someone more junior looking up to your career?
Mike Reader: It’s an interesting question really. The honest answer is that you’ve got to do something that you love doing, and therefore, if you love doing it, you’ll put in the extra hours and the extra work in. I do have a pretty crazy work-life balance, as some people would see it, but I love doing the job that I do. And I think you have to love what you’re doing to be motivated to spent the extra time learning and reading and exploring new things. I wouldn’t have found Passle without trying new things. I definitely have a long-term plan of where I want to be and I’m in the right environment to do it at Pick Everard. The support network is there to both try new things and fail, and we have failed on some things we have tried in moving the business forward. And I think if you don’t have that environment then you won’t succeed and move forward. So it’s both about doing something you love and having the support network around you to make it a reality.
A professional athlete lives and breathes being a professional athlete: their diet, their lifestyle, who they meet, who they live with, is defined by them being the best in their field. So why can’t you apply that to business? Why does business have to be something you do between 9 to 5 and outside of that you turn off? That’s fine for some people and some of my friends enjoy that, but for me, because I love what I do, I will live and breathe construction, and property, and marketing, and business development and strategy, all the other bits I do through the mornings, through the evenings and the weekends. Why shouldn’t you be passionate about work?
CT: In one of your most popular posts you talk about watching TED talks once a month with your team. How crucial do you think encouraging a culture of continued learning in the workplace is?
MR: My team is a mix of creatives and having an environment where they can learn which isn’t doing a course or learning through books, is important. We watch talks that have something to do with work whether it’s the power of introverts, which is about relationships between people, or we watch some about teams or motivation, but what I like is at the end we have a discussion where we debate as a team. I get some pizzas in so we don’t have floppy lunchtime seminar sandwiches and we sit down for half an hour and just debate the topics. It’s quite good as the younger members of the team get in discussion with the more senior members of the team, and we all learn to be part of a group, respect each other talking, so it’s an active learning tool.
It’s about learning, but it’s also about learning to develop skills beyond learning how to write for my bid writers, or learning the latest updates to Adobe for the graphic designers, or learning the latest content marketing trends for our marketing team. It’s about developing their soft skills in interacting with people, conducting themselves in a group, respecting boundaries of opinion. We’ve had some heated discussions on Brexit and Donald Trump and all sorts of things. I think it helps the team long-term to overcome problems. The central part of our team is the bid team and it’s not uncommon that something will come in with a three-day turnaround, and the ability of the team to work together to overcome problems and deal with stress is really important in the day-to-day.
CT: You’ve created over 40 posts in less than a year using Passle – where do you find inspiration for your posts?
MR: I probably break the Passle rules a bit. At least 50% of the posts are things I’m thinking about and I tie them back into a Passle post. Most recently I did a post on the new T-level qualifications which was very much driven around thinking about the latest budget statement. But equally, I did a thing on collaboration which was actually something I’d been thinking about and I just happened to link it to awards for collaboration. So it’s a mixture, I think this links back to the first question – because I’m always thinking about property and construction and marketing, and improving what we’re doing, these little ideas for Passle posts come up. So to try and meet my quota, I have four a month which is quite a target, I pick up on things thinking ‘that would make a good post’. So I naturally formulate ideas in my mind, then when I have a spare 30 minutes I just sit down and write. Just write, without thinking about it, which is a tool I developed doing bid writing – it’s how I was taught to do it. Just write, and then you can go back and edit them. Otherwise you get caught on wondering ‘Is that heading right’, ‘Is that sentence right’. The fear of white paper is real in bidding.
But of course things like keynote statements, industry news, general news, and reading research papers on topics that I’m interested in, and social media. If I see someone tweet something, I’ll save it and go back and find it later. One recent post I did on Brexit and the impact on construction came from something someone had tweeted which had a nice graph – I did a post around it. So you find inspiration in all sorts of places – I think if you have an opinion on something you can create a Passle post.
CT: How has your relationship to social media evolved throughout your career?
MR: I’m not sure about evolve, but social media has become more part of business, and therefore the lines between professional and personal are more blurred, so I’ve had to be more conscious of that. My Facebook page will be locked forever, as that’s the page I had when I was at university and Facebook was only available if you had a .ac.uk email address. I’m very conscious that the things you put on social media can be taken the wrong way!
It’s become more mainstream in terms of business development now. Using data mining tools, it’s become a lot easier to get contacts and build relationships through a social environment than perhaps traditional networking events. I’ve been meeting really interesting business people on Instagram which you would never think you would do before. There’s a chap whom I’m hoping to meet who is a property funder in London – we would have never been in the same circles, me being predominantly public sector frameworks: new hospitals, new prisons,… and he’s funding residential developments in outer London and across the south of the UK. But on Instagram, we can connect on a personal level. I know more about him than I probably know about some of the people I sit with in the office in terms of what he enjoys, and what he gets up to at the weekend. It breaks down barriers and it makes business more personal.
So I don’t know if evolve is the right word, but the lines are definitely more blurred. You can do business through Whatsapp now – I communicate with people through it as much as I do email now. I think the world is changing and social media is going to be enabler to help people to connect.
CT: What tools do you find helpful when creating content or engaging on social media?
MR: I’ve started using scheduling tools like Buffer just because I recognise that the way algorithms work, or my theory about them anyway, is that they benefit those who post regularly. I sit down on a Sunday and schedule out a few posts of what I’m doing throughout the week and @ or tag people in them, just to keep that engagement going. Some of my favourite simple tools like liking a tweet so you can get back to it later I find quite useful, as well as lists in Twitter. They’re also useful for Passling as I said earlier.
I don’t really use Google alerts but I know some of my colleagues who perhaps are posting just once a month on Passle, use it as a good tool. They schedule some time and go through the posts finding something they want to write a Passle about. If you’re not living and breathing in that space of constant information like people like you and I who live on social media are, then something like Google Alerts is really useful as you can get a digest at a certain point in time as a tool for creating content.