Taking a step back to move forward

Alice's medals

Start small but be consistent…

It’s that time again, when many people’s thoughts turn to making changes, using the new year (and this time decade) to start (or stop) a habit. For me, the festive break was a time to slow down, and spend time being rather than always doing. And now I’m back to my (very welcome) routine, I want to continue some of the good habits I started.

In previous years, I have used this time to make some crazy resolutions, which come March have all but evaporated. Last year, my goal was to run two half marathons, as I had never run that far before. And I’m proud to say that for the first time, I exceeded my new year’s resolution, and did three!!

So it started me thinking and reading about why I was able to achieve my resolutions last year when previously I’ve failed. There were a few things that I did differently which really helped. And by reflecting on what they were, I’m hoping that it will help me with future resolutions or changes I want to make.


Firstly, I had plenty of support from the Carla Gilder Fitness family. I’ve been a member of CGF since Carla started the business, and in the last five years have radically changed my attitude to exercise. I now can’t imagine a week without it, and love going to classes not only for the exercise, but also to see my friends.

In the last two years, exercise has become a consistent part of my life. It’s an ingrained habit now, and I really miss it when I don’t do it. So training for a half marathon was more a case of changing what I was doing, not how often. And with the encouragement from the CGF instructors and members, it made it so much easier.

Clear plan

If you’ve ever wanted to run a half marathon, it’s pretty easy to find a comprehensive training plan. Whether you are starting from the beginning, or can already run the distance but want to get faster, there is a plan for you. Finding the plan was easy, and then it was just a case of sticking to it. Which wasn’t as hard as I’d expected – three (or four sessions) a week, with one long run.

Having a plan to stick to with what I needed to do took any decision-making out of my hands. I just needed to put on my trainers and go. Which was made easier with the support of the CGF Run Club with twice weekly training sessions.

Take time to reflect

One new habit I’ve started over the festive break has been to write in a journal most days. By letting my mind wander and write about anything I want, I’ve discovered various things I hadn’t realised about myself.

One of the things that I have reflected on a lot is that I succeed more easily when I establish small but consistent habits. Like walking to the station on my commute to work. Calling my mum when I’m walking, even if it’s only for five minutes. Taking time to plan my week in terms of exercise and food. Meal prep on a Sunday.

And I didn’t start all those habits at once – they have evolved over time. But they are easy to do now, and I feel the benefits throughout the week, not just when I’m doing them. The fresh air and (occasional!) sunshine from a brisk walk in the morning sets me up for the day. And I sleep better at night. Fun exercise classes with friends are sociable as well as benefitting my health.

Start small and be consistent

So what about my work resolutions for 2020? Well I’m going to start with small changes, and be consistent. Before the end of each day, I’ve been making a list of my priorities for the following day, so when I start work in the morning, I don’t get distracted with emails, but focus on my plan.

And we will be bringing this approach – providing support, having a clear plan and being consistent – to our clients in 2020.

So if you want some help with your 2020 resolutions, why not get in touch, or come to one of our business skills courses in Macclesfield or Bolton.

We’d love to see you there.

comfort zone

Having a voice which is valued and listened to

Some people might think if you’re the youngest and least experienced, your opinion isn’t valued. At Kan Do Ventures, I can always voice my opinion and know it won’t be ignored, but will be valued. When I first joined, I was nervous and not confident enough to disagree or add my own point of view. Three years down the line and they can’t shut me up!!

I haven’t got as much experience as the rest of the team, so initially I felt my opinion didn’t matter. But I soon realised that isn’t the case here! My opinion is just as valid, and positively encouraged as I have a fresh perspective. We are always aiming for the right outcome for the business and our clients, so all opinions are welcomed.

Getting involved to learn

Having an experienced team around me with knowledge of different sectors has enabled me to learn every day. Previously, I would have sat and absorbed as much as possible, but I’ve realised I learn more by being actively involved. In the past I have sat and not understood a conversation because I was too shy to ask a question. Now I always ask if I have a question, as we will all benefit and come to a better outcome. If I don’t understand something, I know the team will all be wanting to help. 

In the time I’ve been working for Kan Do Ventures, I’ve been out of my comfort zone at times, but I know it will only help me in the long run. It’s easy to get too comfortable in a role and just get on with day-to-day tasks. 

It’s amazing what working in an experienced team with people who actually want to help and make a difference ‘Kan’ do! I still struggle with confidence sometimes, but I’m working on it and will hopefully it’ll happen less and less often in the near future! 

Exam stress

Risky business?!

Exam nightmares

So, this time last week I was getting over sitting two exams – I swore I’d never do any more exams after university!!  Immediately after the exam, I panicked about whether I’d missed out important points or misread questions.  After a week of time to reflect, I feel more confident and hope I’ve done enough to pass the exams!  However, the exams were definitely more difficult than I anticipated, especially considering one of the exams was multiple choice. 

I’ve always hated taking exams, from school right through to my finals.  I tried hard to find subjects with more coursework especially if it reduced the number of exams I had to sit.  Throughout university, I tried to pick the modules of interest to me but without exams if possible.  But to study an IRM course, I knew I’d have to sit exams. 

A new set of skills

I wanted to specialise in a subject and bring new skills to the Kan Do Ventures team.  My background has always been in sport but I’m struggling to apply this knowledge in my day-to-day job.  I was unsure about what to specialise in, but after reading about risk, I was excited to get started! 

To be honest, when studying the IRM Certificate in Enterprise Risk Management, I found distance learning quite difficult. I definitely learn better by attending classes and learning from the experiences of others who are also studying.  However, the flexibility of distance learning has allowed me to study alongside working and gaining experience in risk management. 

I had no understanding of risk terminology or standards, so I started from scratch with both modules I studied.  It took a while to get my head around it, as had to understand the basics of the first module before I could apply it in the second.

Underestimating the importance of risk

During my time gaining experience of risk management, it became immediately obvious how different sectors manage risk in different ways.  Many businesses don’t see risk as an important aspect to consider as part of every day operations. But if risk is considered and managed correctly, it can prevent major issues and also help organisations to identify opportunities. 

Hopefully when I receive my results next year, I will have passed and I can enrol on the diploma to further my understanding of the topic.  The subject is really interesting to me and I’m excited to apply my new knowledge, and really add value to Kan Do Ventures and our clients.

MEN Awards 2019

It’s not the winning…

This time last week, our team (and supporters) were reflecting on a fantastic night at the Manchester Evening News Business Awards. Being finalists in the One To Watch category, alongside Nadine Merabi and the winners of the category, Code Nation, makes us so proud.

It was disappointing not to win, but we celebrated like we had! We know that being included as a finalist is something to celebrate. We were by far the smallest business there, but felt we belonged, as we have big ideas for the future. Hearing from the finalists across all categories was inspiring, particularly knowing that they have all been where we are now.

Taking the positives

It’s easy to feel intimidated by businesses who are hugely successful, when we are still on the early part of our business adventure. But hearing from other businesses, who were once where we are now, was so inspiring and has really increased our determination to succeed.

Before the end of the year, we are taking the positives we heard, and developing a really exciting business plan. Having a goal which inspires the team to aim higher than we thought possible, so that next year, we can enter a different category.

Faking it until we make it

KDV MEN Awards
Double winners at the MEN Awards 2020?!!

We may not have won, but we borrowed two awards for our vision board for 2020! Thanks to two other winners, we have created our vision for next year. And before anyone asks, yes we did return the awards!!

So what does the next year hold for Kan Do Ventures? Growing our client portfolio, expanding our team of passionate individuals and finding even more ways to have a lasting positive impact on the businesses we work with.

With a great team, an inspiring goal and plenty of hard work, I know we can make it a reality.

KDV in Portugal

Escaping the tick-box mentality

Following a fantastic few days in Portugal with the team on a Carla Gilder Fitness holiday, it seemed an appropriate time to stop and reflect on how we do things. The way we work and how we implement policies within Kan Do Venture is something I’m incredibly proud of. We pride ourselves on doing things the Kan Do way.

Just to tick a box, not adding value

“That box is ticked.”

“We’ve been re-chipped.”

“The PC police say we cannot do that.”

These statements seem to feature in regular conversations in the corporate world.  While I (personally) understand the need for policy, tarring everyone with the same brush is a very simple way to enact a policy. However, it also goes a long way to making your staff – the people who make things happen – feel undervalued and like they cannot be trusted.  

What does the policy actually drive?

All too often I have seen policies stuck on a wall with a squiggle on it to show that a company has the required policy.  Does it actually mean anything more than the policy ticks another corporate box?

After writing a policy, it’s essential to implement, sustainably embed it and ensure that it is adhered to.  And now begins the true tick-box world of inefficiency.  If these words are ringing true to you, have a look at what you do.  Is it actually adding value to the day to day running of the business?  Or is it being done because someone had to write a policy and an action plan and now, you’re stuck ticking their boxes for them!

I am not for one minute saying that you should throw the policy out. Some of the tick boxes will be required to meet rules and regulations. But it is essential to know the difference between fulfilling the minimum legal requirements and adding value to your business. 

The Kan Do Ventures approach

My biggest focus on is two required company policies – Health and Wellbeing, and Diversity and Inclusion.  I have seen these two policies become a tick box exercise. In the past, I have even joked that I (being Chinese) immediately tick a diversity box for a department, as does my wife, who is a female engineer.  

As the Director of Kan Do Ventures, I like to do things slightly differently.  Ask any member of the team and they will roll their eyes, and say, “Here he goes again!”. But then we will discuss whether it is right or wrong, whether it adds value to the business and if it’s right we’ll get on with it.  

Health, Wellbeing and Fun Mission

I am personally very proud of having a health, wellbeing and fun mission at Kan Do Ventures.  This is definitely a way of life for the team and me, and so much more than a traditional health and wellbeing policy that is purely a tick box exercise.  Daily fresh air and exercise during the working day has become a habit, making sure that we get some Vitamin D and a change of perspective each day.  This makes us more productive, but also having time together away from the job makes us a close team with a really supportive culture.  

Our annual fitness holiday in Portugal and team building breaks to celebrate Christmas are key features in our calendar. These breaks have provided more opportunity to challenge ourselves physically as well as doing activities outside our comfort zones. And it is this that has created a very strong foundation to build our business on.

Another part of the health, wellbeing and fun mission is for each of us to have a personal challenge, while raising money for a charity close to our hearts.  In 2019, we have run four half marathons, and over 100km for the British Heart Foundation.  These events have challenged each of us individually, and for me, running 3km every day for a month has been harder than expected!!

Diversity and Inclusion

With diversity and inclusion, we recruit on diversity of experience and perspectives.  Attitude and work ethic is really important, but having a truly diverse team in terms of experience and ways of thinking is essential. It means that we are able to challenge each other to get the job done in the right way.  If you’re the best person for the job, then you should be doing it, regardless of the policy.  Just look at our team and you’ll see we all come from different industries and our common goal is to do the right thing in the Kan Do Ventures way.

If you want to talk about how to implement truly value-adding policies, please contact a member of the team.


Alice's medals

Maybe I am a runner…

I don’t think of myself as a runner

I’ve always said I’m not a runner, as I hated it at school, and despite having done a lot of races, until yesterday, I still didn’t think of myself as a runner. But getting myself around one of the hilliest half marathon courses at the Run Macc Fest yesterday, maybe I can say I’m a runner…

I’ve been running since my kids were little, and with the eldest now a teenager, that’s a fair few years of running! I used to run regularly as it was easy exercise to fit around work, the kids and being a taxi service. I found it was a great way to clear my head, get some fresh air and a fresh perspective. But I wasn’t a runner.

Catching the running bug

I ran my first 5km race at Tatton Park in 2009, having run a lot on my own, and since then, I’ve done quite a lot of organised races. It started with Race For Life for Cancer Research UK as a few friends, relatives and colleagues had cancer. And then I caught the running bug, and started going to Park Run regularly, which is a great weekly event with a fantastic community of support, without any pressure to run fast.

Up to now I’ve done over twenty timed runs, varying between 5km and half marathon in distance. And even though I haven’t done a marathon (yet!), I’ve supported friend with her marathon training, so my legs have done a lot of miles over the last 10 years. But I’d never call myself a runner.

To me a runner is a gazelle-like being, who bounces out of bed into their trainers, desperate to go out for a run in all weathers, and often very long distance. Which is certainly not me! Getting myself out of the door can be a challenge, but I never regret it once I go.

I’m a determined snail, not a runner

I’ll never be fast, and I think that is one of the reasons that I don’t consider myself a runner. I run for the way it makes me feel, and as a personal challenge to go further than I have before. And also to just keep going. Running 13.1 miles up some crazy hills was definitely more of a mental than physical battle. The voice in my head has a habit of arguing with me, and telling me that I’m not a runner, and can’t do it. But I did it – continually talking myself into keeping on putting one foot in front of the other, and arguing back against the negativity.

Finally, I feel like I can call myself a runner

Running 13.1 miles has been far more of an achievement than running the distance and getting a lovely medal. It’s made me realise how easy it is to be limited by your internal voice, which has years of beliefs (often based on incorrect assumptions) that can still have a massive influence on how you think. Finally I’ve told my internal voice it’s wrong about me and running, and I’m celebrating my achievements – but more importantly, I’m going to be a bit more critical of what my internal voice says to me in future.

So maybe, just maybe, when the London Marathon ballot is drawn, if I get a place, the internal voice that tells me I’m not a runner, will finally be silenced…

Business networking

How to grow your business network in Manchester

Get smart with your business networking

Growing your business network is key to all business owners and professionals.  A solid network can be used as a specialised cache of knowledge and experience, as well as development opportunities.  Manchester is brimming with professionals and entrepreneurs who want to meet as many people as possible to grow their network and brand.

But where to start or how to improve I hear you ask?   

This should be treated like any opportunity or obstacle that you and your business will face, so make a plan.  Firstly, consider how much time you can commit to developing your network.  Break this down into your time per week or month, and how this time is likely to be split – is it whole days, or spread across several shorter timeslots on different days?

Now that you know how much or how little time you have to spend you can think about how best to use it.

Who do you want to meet is the key question to ask yourself, and you should consider:

  • What sector are they in?
  • What is their role?  Do you want the owner, manager, department head, local decision maker etc.?
  • Where they are likely to spend their networking time?
  • Do you have any similar connections already?

Now that you have established how much time you can commit to networking, as well as your ideal networking audience, it’s time to find them, get some names and face time.

Be focussed like a laser, rather than a scatter gun approach

Do NOT take a scatter gun approach.  So many people attend every event they can get to or afford (usually the free ones), and then wonder why they rarely make meaningful connections.  I would suggest making a two-pronged approach to this, as social media is a huge resource that can be used to your advantage when networking.  

Firstly, draw upon your established connections by asking for help and referrals.  And secondly, if you haven’t already, it’s a good idea to join as many business groups as you can find, both local and regional, on Facebook or LinkedIn. 

It is worth asking for recommendations of networking events of groups that meet your identified audience from both your established network and in the Facebook / LinkedIn business groups.  Doing specific research for events to find your target audience, search for sector specific event on the more established networking sites. I would recommend:

The Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce (GMCC) is a good way to gain access to target sectors along with many other benefits if you have the budget for a membership, and it also boasts the largest membership pool of any UK Chamber which is always a plus! If your budget doesn’t stretch then you can always book individual events with them.

Before the event – preparation is the key

You have booked an event. Yay!  Now prepare.  Regardless of the format you will need to do some level of preparation.  Share on your social media that you are attending and tag the organisers and venue as a minimum. If you know other attendees, then tag them as well.  When the post is shared, this will reach a much wider audience.

Open events where you just mingle will require you to know how to describe your business and what makes you passionate about it.  This is something surprisingly hard for some and if you can’t do this, it really doesn’t look good at events.  Referring to your business plan or mission statement should really help with this.

  • Not got a business plan or mission statement?  Please get in touch as we can help – and keep an eye out for future blogs.

Some events are closed or round table events where you need to talk about your business for a few minutes or even take a small Q&A session.  This is a great opportunity to demonstrate and talk about your business’ unique selling point (USP). 

  • Not yet identified your USP? Please ask as we can help you identify it.

If you find the idea of talking about your business or taking a Q&A session daunting, you really don’t need it.  If it was a client enquiring about your product or services, I am confident that you would easily be able to handle that.  This is no different.

Tips when you get to a networking event

On the day of the event, don’t forget to post on social media that you are there and excited to network – and again, tag in as many people that are relevant.

Always take some business cards to hand out.  Nerves are fine but don’t waste your time by attending and not talking to people.  Remember the event organisers want it to be a success, so ask if they can introduce you to any one that meets one of your ‘ideal’ attributes.  Don’t be afraid to say it is your first, second or third event, as no doubt they will either remember exactly how you feel or be in the same position.

If you are nervous try and keep something in yours hands so you don’t use negative or nervous body language – get a drink or take a folder etc.

Try and remember that you are there to develop your business leads and network, so small talk is fine but try and bring up what you specialise in and good news stories or testimonials.

After the event

Post on social media that you enjoyed it and met several new people and tag them in.  When you meet someone that you want to remain in contact with, ask them if they are on social media – LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – and which one is the best way to stay in touch.  Ask them if you can connect and to expect the invite.

If it is someone you really want some 1-2-1 face time with, ask if they want to meet for a coffee.   Then when you connect remind them and try and organise it or diarise a reminder to set it up in the near future – don’t leave it too long, so within a couple of weeks is probably appropriate.

You should now know:

  • The time you have to commit to business networking
  • How to identify your ideal audience
  • How you find the most appropriate events for you
  • How to prep for an event
  • How to conduct yourself at an event
  • Things to do after an event

I hope this has been a useful guide and would love to hear of the success you have as a result of reading this blog.

Kan Do Ventures specialises in working with business owners and professionals to develop skills and business structure that can assist in all meetings and events.  Please get in touch if you think we could help you.

Living with Ménière's

Living with Ménière’s

Losing my hearing

At 15, I noticed my hearing deteriorated quite suddenly. 

“Your ears will just need to be syringed,” I was told, which wasn’t a surprise as I’d always suffered with ear infections. So I went to the doctor. When my hearing still hadn’t returned to normal a few days later, I started to worry something was wrong. I was referred to an audiologist for a hearing test where they confirmed that I had, in fact, lost hearing. 

Over the next few years, and after many trips to the hospital, I was starting to struggle in social situations, and was given a hearing aid for my ‘permanent’ hearing loss. But within a couple of months, I went for another hearing test and was told that I’m some kind of miracle! My hearing had apparently returned, and I had to give the hearing aid back. However, I didn’t feel any different, I still couldn’t hear, and it was really starting to get me down. 

Finally, a diagnosis

By this time, I’d completely lost faith in the consultants I was seeing, and so I asked for a second opinion. And I’m glad I did, because I was diagnosed immediately with Ménière’s disease, solely based on my notes. Although I didn’t fully understand the future impact of the diagnosis, I had a basic understanding of the condition. 

It wasn’t until my second year of university that more symptoms started, and the worst then came when I was 23. The room would spin uncontrollably for hours on end. I would find myself laid on the bathroom floor, just trying to cope. When it finally got too much to bear, I had a procedure – an Endolymphatic Sac Decompression – which was supposed to cure my symptoms. And it was a success…for about a year. Then all of my symptoms came back, but even worse than before. I was having vertigo daily; the tinnitus was roaring, and I didn’t want to leave the house. 

When the consultant who diagnosed me retired, he referred me to his colleague who he trusted to help me. I was given two Gentamicin injections, neither of which helped with the vertigo at all. And after months of really struggling with vertigo, I finally resorted to having another operation. Instead of being given an injection, the Gentamicin was put directly into my inner ear, with the sole purpose to damage my vestibular system, which is responsible for balance. I was told to prepare for four weeks of awful vertigo while the Gentamicin took effect, but after that, I would see significant improvements. Only the four weeks of vertigo never came, and my symptoms returned confirming what I was dreading – the operation had failed. 

Living with Ménière’s

Though the vertigo has reduced in duration, I can still have daily attacks. I try to manage the symptoms as best as I can using diet, sleep and relieving stress with exercise. Through the Ménière’s Society I have met and chatted to people in the same position.  Although I wouldn’t wish this disease on anyone, being able to compare our stories and ways of coping with the symptoms has been really positive for me.

Kan Do Ventures have been amazing with helping me to get back to being as healthy as I can be. And they have supported me in so many ways – letting me work from home, attend hospital appointments or just sit with my head on the desk for an hour!! I feel so lucky to work for such a great employer, and I’m pretty sure that if I didn’t work for such a supportive company, I would have struggled to continue with my career at times. 

For more information on Ménière’s and other dizziness or balance disorders, contact The Ménière’s Society.

KDV MEN Business Awards Finalist

Remember to see how far you’ve come

A great reminder to look back at the journey

Today the finalists for the Manchester Evening News Business Awards were announced. I am so proud to be part of one of three companies shortlisted for the ‘One To Watch’ award, sponsored by Bolton School.

As a business owner, I find it really easy to just keep going. Always looking for the next client, the next contract or the next business venture. But sometimes I need to remember to look at the journey I and the team at Kan Do Ventures have made. And more importantly, to remind myself why we started the business.

Putting in an application for the MEN Business of the Year Awards was a spontaneous decision with lots of encouragement from the team and our network. With 2019 being Kan Do Ventures’ 5th birthday, it felt right to express what is so special about our business and celebrate our first five years. Reflecting on what we are trying to achieve, and why we are one to watch was a really positive experience, and one to repeat.

So why do I think we deserve to win?

Well I (and the team) think we are the happiest company in Manchester!

I love that the first item at our team meeting is health and well-being, not to tick a box, but because prioritising it makes us all happier. We all have personal challenges as part of our professional objectives, so we can support each other. My personal challenge for 2019 is to run two half-marathons (one done, one to go). And that was inspired by Amy who is always challenging herself to run further and faster, and sometimes comes to work with mud on her legs from cross-country! And Chun-Kit who has entered the amateur British Powerlifting Union qualifiers so he can prove he’s a strong old man – and why not? We love to promote and encourage all sorts of personal achievement.

The Kan Do Ventures influence

Perhaps the best example of our focus on health and wellbeing is Billy. He had 2 heart attacks aged 29, and after an initial weight loss, going back into the corporate world of 12-hour days in front of a computer wasn’t conducive to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. He soon declined back into old, bad habits. Two years ago, when he joined Kan Do Ventures, Billy found taking a lunch break (or any break at all!) was really uncomfortable. But I and the team persevered, enforcing our company policy of a daily break out in the fresh air (more likely the Manchester rain!) to re-energise and go back to face the afternoon refreshed.

Fast forward to today, and when I phoned him, he was out for a lunchtime walk with his dog Rubble, in between client appointments. He’s also 5 stone 8lbs lighter and on a mission to maintain a lifestyle that means he will be around for his wife and children. And that mindset shift is down to the Kan Do Ventures health and wellbeing approach.

We all have a voice

I love that everyone in the team is empowered to contribute to running the company, as well as represent the business to clients. We are all different and can bring diverse perspectives which benefits our clients. And the differences can be challenging, but ultimately, we have a common goal, and so we actively encourage everyone to make their voices heard. This means that we end up with the best outcome for the business and our clients.

I really believe our positive environment and the way we celebrate and promote everyone’s individual merits, has led to the emergence of a wonderfully diverse team. We take the best aspects of our years of experience, our cultural diversity and our brilliant gender balance and bring these to clients to help them run better businesses.  

All summed up brilliantly by Carla from Carla Gilder Fitness. “Starting to work with you is literally the best thing my business has done. I have no doubt you could help so many businesses go to the next level and beyond!”

And it’s knowing that we are really making a difference that keeps us going. So watch this space…