How to hire amazing people!

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In the first of a series of helpful articles, Oxfordshire business hero Peter Mols offers his words of wisdom to help you employ the best people to help your business grow

300- 1: The #1 rule for hiring amazing people.

In the last month, a staggering 300 people have applied for jobs with our small business, and today, I’ll share my #1 rule for attracting the right people to you.

As a business coach, the facilitator of mastermind groups and the founder of a kick-ass networking group, I speak to lots of people who tell me that they scaled their business, only to find the challenge of “managing people” too hard, and decided to scale back down to being a “solopreneur”. It’s a sad story, which, to be honest, is completely avoidable if they’d just followed my #1 rule. 

Decide on the “culture” you want for the business before you’re ready to grow.

In the past month, 300 people have applied for positions at Outside Ideas, and I put it all down to that rule. It’s not because we’re paying the most, it’s not because we’re doing groundbreaking stuff and not because we’re the #1 in our industry (watch this space:). It’s because we focussed on telling the story about the business, where were going and our culture.

I speak to lots of people who tell me that they scaled their business, only to find the challenge of “managing people” too hard.”

I first learned about corporate culture more than 20 years ago during my business degree, when I read, Screw It, Let’s Do It by Richard Branson, Branson’s quote, “Train them so well that they could work anywhere, treat them so well they wouldn’t want to” sticks with me to this day.

The reality is, that most business owners are so focused on “making the furniture” that they never find the time to decide on the crucial first step to growth: deciding who you are, what you’re great at, where you’re going, and what you stand for; and WRITING IT DOWN.

By missing this first step, they set themselves up for a life of long weeks, short holidays, and spinning all the plates. 

In “business coaching” speak, we call this process creating a Vision, Mission, and Values, and I start there with all 121 clients.

If you’re a business owner who’s thinking about growing, my challenge to you this month is simple, spend some time answering the following questions:

  • Where is the business heading, where do you see it in 10 years’ time? This is your Vision
  • What do you want to be “world-class” at? This is your Mission
  • What are your internal values as a human? These are your Business values

Next month, I can share my strategy for attracting the right kind of people to your business using the Oi Way of hiring great people, or I can discuss creating values for your business. You chose, and let me know at [email protected] 

Onwards and upwards, my friends!

Buy a butterfly to celebrate memories!

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BBOWT wildlife charity launches new commemorative display

To mark Valentine’s Day, a local wildlife charity has opened two new butterfly memory walls to celebrate special occasions, declare your love for nature – or your sweetheart!

The ‘Your Wild Memories’ displays have been installed by Berkshire, Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) at two of its visitor centres. They feature specially-designed butterfly plaques which can be personalised with messages to remember precious moments, people or wild times.

The butterflies are made of brushed stainless steel and fly above an eye-catching wildlife border. They have been put up at the Nature Discovery Centre near Thatcham and College Lake visitor centre near Tring.

Laura Pepper, BBOWT’s Head of Philanthropy, said: “If your Valentine sets your heart a-flutter or you’ve just got engaged or married, why not celebrate your love with a specially engraved butterfly? Or you might like to commemorate a special birthday, a retirement, a favourite family walk or perhaps remember a loved one.

“Butterflies hold all sorts of different meanings for people, as well as being beautiful to behold. Our new ‘Your Wild Memories’ wall is a lovely way to celebrate your special memories and help the vital work of BBOWT at the same time.”

The Your Wild Memories walls have got off to a flying start, with butterfly messages added by local MPs, writers and nature champions.

Estelle Bailey, BBOWT’s Chief Executive, wrote: This special place, with nature at its heart. Here for every community.

Laura Farris, MP for Newbury, left this message on her butterfly at the Nature Discovery Centre: Delighted to support the NDC, bringing the wild into the heart of Thatcham.

Buckingham MP Greg Smith’s butterfly at College Lake reads: Thank you BBOWT, our nature champions. Proud to support you and work with you.

Writer and butterfly lover Patrick Barkham left this beautiful message: Breathe in green, Breathe in blue, Soar soul! Thanks, nature.

Priced at £250 (inclusive of VAT), each butterfly can be engraved to order with the wording of your choice. Funds raised from the sale of the commemorative butterfly plaques will go towards BBOWT’s work creating more nature everywhere for everyone, to benefit wildlife, climate and people.

To order your personalised butterfly visit: www.bbowt.org.uk/support-us/your-wild-memories Order forms are also available from College Lake or the Nature Discovery Centre. For more information call 01865 775476 (Monday-Friday 9am to 5pm) and ask to speak to the Membership Team.

Maestro Matthew Taylor of Farnham Sinfonia

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Diana Martin tells us more about Matthew Taylor, the man behind Farnham Sinfonia

There really couldn’t be a better time to write an article on local composer and conductor Matthew Taylor, for the Oscar nominated Leonard Bernstein biopic Maestro is due to show at Farnham Maltings in February…Matthew was one of Bernstein’s protégées! 

Bernstein, who is known for composing one of the most successful musicals ever, West Side Story, had an inspired conducting style which led to his big break conducting the New York Philharmonic in 1943. He was one of the first American-born conductors to lead world-class orchestras and achieve success globally. Maestro tells the audience of Bernstein’s complex life, his musical fame and his marriage.

During his twenties Matthew was selected by Bernstein as one of three conductors to attend the Schleswig Holstein Musik Festival – when young musicians from all over the world are given the opportunity to study and perform great works from the orchestral literature with famous conductors.   During the summer Matthew continued to conduct concerts with Bernstein in Northern Germany. Matthew was a friend of Bernstein’s until his death in 1990.  He recalls with amusement Bernstein’s ability to put young musicians at ease by reciting limericks, some of which were quite risqué.

Matthew felt a passion for music at a very young age when his father would play Beethoven to keep him amused rather than playing nursery rhymes.  This led to his lifelong enthusiasm with music as he became both a conductor and composer.  He says, ‘Beethoven has always been central to all my thought processes as a composer.  I still find more life force in his work than in any living composer.’

Over the years, Matthew has appeared as Guest Conductor with many renowned orchestras both at home and abroad and which included many first performance pieces by Robert Simpson, Vagn Holmboe, David Matthews and James Francis Brown.  Matthew has also held significant roles such as Artistic Directorships, Composer in Residence and Lecturer in Composition at the Royal Academy of Music.  He currently works at the Yehudi Menuhin School, supporting the development of his students.

Matthew’s recent work includes his 6th Symphony which was commissioned by the family of Malcom Arnold for the composer’s centenary celebrations. Matthew has long been an advocate for Malcolm Arnold’s music. This work will be broadcast later this year with Matthew conducting the BBC National Orchestra of Wales.

Having moved to Farnham in 2010, a town that he considered home to many artistic people, Matthew decided to form an orchestra and the Farnham Sinfonia was born. Over time, his vision became a reality, and the orchestra nurtures the next generation of musical talent by inviting young aspiring musicians to perform solo with a professional orchestra. This is a unique proposition for the students and graduates alike and underlines Matthew’s enthusiasm to promote young talent.

Sinfonia’s Outreach programme includes Matthew and Lead Violinist Elizabeth Cooney visiting local schools and colleges to fill the gaps in musical education. Matthew is keen to impart his musical abilities with the rising stars of the future as well as nurturing the orchestra to its full potential.

The next concert is on Saturday, 23 March at 7.30pm at St Andrew’s Farnham.

Mahler – (theme from Death in Venice)

Beethoven – Piano Concerto No. 2 and Two Romances

Schumann – Fairytale (for Viola)

Hindemith – Trauermusik

Piazzolla – Spring

For further information on Farnham Sinfonia (CIO), please go to their website

Big Balloon Build raises over £10,000

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Local charities’ funds inflated by colourful display of more than 125,000 balloons with the help of Surrey’s Peanut Balloons

Surrey balloon artist Amy Brown has raised more than £10,000 for charity with her Big Balloon Build, an incredible festive display of creativity in December.

More than 1,000 people visited the Big Balloon Build created out of 125,000+ balloons and built in just under four days.

“I’ve seen such wonderful achievements from all the artists involved and incredible possibilities of what can be created out of the humble latex balloon on my journey with the Big Balloon Build,” said Amy, who owns and runs Peanut Balloons in Thursley. “Since my first build in 2017, I have wanted to bring this impressive world to the people in my area, so by bringing it home, I have not only been able to do this, but also help local charities within the community too.”

As a certified balloon artist, Amy has more than 15 years of balloon industry experience and loves the new challenges that balloon decorating brings. This was her sixth Big Balloon Build.

Seventy five of the best balloon artists were selected from around the world to come to the UK and transform the Charterhouse Club at Charterhouse School into a unique, walk-through balloon world, filling the 12,500 square foot Sports Hall.

The impressive display was created in just three and a half days although Amy worked for months behind the scenes with designers and organizers from the Big Balloon Build to bring this incredible event to Surrey.

Visitors were taken on a journey from London to the North Pole made entirely out of biodegradable, natural latex balloons and saw Big Ben, shops, enchanting elf villages, a ski slope with a skiing bunny, life-size reindeer ushering Santa’s sleigh across the winter sky and so much more. Paddington was certainly very popular.

One of those which benefitted was Meath Epilepsy Charity., Lucy Miguda, head of fundraising said: “This was incredible, it totally blew my mind!”

A VIP launch party was held with more than 80 guests including The Mayor of Waverley Cllr Penny Rivers, The Mayor of Godalming Cllr Adam Druce and The Mayor of Guildford Cllr Masuk Miah. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt, and his family joined in on the fun stopping by for a look when the build opened to the public Friday 15th to Sunday, 17th December.

“We had a lovely time at the balloon event, we have never seen anything like it and had to go around twice,” said Kimberley Burmingham, an associate at Phyllis Tuckwell.

“We are so very happy to receive this wonderful donation, which we will use to provide vital play and leisure opportunities to local disabled young people across the South East, so they can have fun and enjoy new activities with their friends,” said Becky Cox from Disability Challengers.

All profits from ticket sales have been donated in an equal split between the five charity partners: Disability Challengers, Action for Children, The Meath Epilepsy Charity, Phyllis Tuckwell and Farnham Youth Choir. The five charities will split the $10,000 raised to help children in the greater Surrey area.

“The funds raised from the Big Balloon Build could support up to 380 children by paying for soft furnishings for a young person moving into care, helping them to make their room feel like their own,” said Sam Jones, regional manager at Action for Children.

Generous sponsorships were also given from Brewers Decorator Centres and Dominos Pizza Guildford-Stoughton branch who provided a group trip for the delegates to Wisley Glow and evening pizzas for them too. “We are extremely grateful as without the delegates, these fundraising events don’t happen!” said Brown.

Gemar Balloons, a leading manufacturer of 100% bio-based rubber balloons, donated all 125,000+ balloons to the cause and PremiumConwin, the world’s leading manufacturer of high-quality balloon  inflators and ecofriendly balloon accessories, provided all equipment to inflate the Christmas Wonderland.

Hard & Fast

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We’re sharing a taste of The Fast 800 Keto recipe book, as seen on Channel 4’s Lose A Stone In 21 days by Dr Clare Bailey who is on tour with her husband Dr Michael Mosely this month

Creamy broccoli, ginger and coriander soup

A light soup with the warming qualities of coconut, ginger and coriander running through it. The recipe makes enough for four but it keeps well in the fridge or freezer.

Serves 4, Prep 5-7 minutes, Cook 15-20 minutes.

Ingredients

1 small onion, peeled and roughly chopped, 40g fresh root ginger, roughly chopped (no need to peel)

1 and half tbsp oil

1 head of broccoli, roughly chopped

1x 400ml tin coconut milk

Vegetable stock cube

15g fresh coriander

40g flaked almonds, toasted, to garnish

Cook’s tip:

Add a protein top-up if you like. Fried diced bacon or feta cheese would go well

1. Place the onion, ginger and olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat and saute for three or four minutes until softened

2. Add the broccoli, coconut milk, stock cube and 800ml water (simply refill the empty tin twice). Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

3. Remove from the heat, add the coriander and blitz with a stick blender until completely smooth. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and serve, topped with flaked almonds.

Persian love cake



Loosely based on a Persian Love Cake, this enchantingly exotic concoction lives up to its name. not sure I do it justice, but it certainly goes down well, with its tangy, orange-flavoured topping, and rich, nutty base. High in protein and nutrients, it has no added sugar, is low-carb and feels like a real treat… Enjoy

Serves 8, Prep 30 minutes, Cook 30 minutes

Ingredients

100g dried figs, finely chopped

60g coconut oil or butter

Two medium free range eggs

60g shelled pistachio nuts, roughly chopped

Two medium oranges, zested and juiced

100g almonds

1tsp ground cinnamon

1tsp bicarbonate of soda

2 tbsp free-dried raspberries

1 tbsp cider vinegar

For the icing

60g cream cheese

1tsp honey

1tsp lemon zest

Cook’s tip:

This freezes well (so you don’t need to eat it all at once, as Michael is frequently tempted to do). You could use a loaf tin liner if you have one.

1. Preheat the oven to 180C / Fan 160C/ gas 4. Line the base of a 20cm x 10cm loaf tin with parchment paper.

2. Place the figs, coconut oil and eggs in a bowl and blitz with a stick blender for about a minute, until creamy but retaining some texture.

3. Stir in 40g of the pistachios, the orange juice, half the orange zest, the ground almonds, cinnamon, cardamom, bicarbonate of soda, half the dried raspberries and a generous pinch of salt. Mix well, then add the cider vinegar and mix again.

4. Pour the mixture into the loaf tin and bake for about 30 minutes until cooked through and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Turn out of the tin and leave to cool on a wire rack.

5. To make the Topping, mix the remaining orange zest with the cream cheese, honey and lemon zest in a small bowl. Spread it on to the cooled cake, then sprinkle the remaining chopped pistachios and dried raspberries on top.

Win! A hotel stay for two

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Our lucky winner can win a hotel stay for two with breakfast & dinner at the refurbished Cheltenham Chase Hotel & Spa

Step away from the hustle and bustle with a friend or a loved one, and picture morning walks in the Cotswolds’ countryside with crisp air and crunchy leaves, followed by a rejuvenating visit to the spa.

Cheltenham Chase Hotel can provide you with just that.

Our lucky winner can enjoy a one-night stay with breakfast, plus a two-course dinner, for two people.

To enter our prize draw, fill in the form below before 12pm on Friday 23rd February.

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Win! A luxury Sensory Sleep bundle

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Our lucky winner can win a Sensory Sleep bundle including silk sleep mask & more

Sensory Retreats was set up by beauty & wellbeing expert Clare Anderson who brought the Lava Shells massage into the UK and whose company has trained more than 10,000 therapists in the technique.

We’ve teamed up with Clare to offer one lucky winner a sensory sleep bundle worth £150 to help you have sweet dreams. Find out more at sensoryretreats.com

To enter our prize draw, fill in the form below before 12pm on Friday 23rd February.

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Win! Lynchpin Theatre tickets 8th February

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LynchPin Theatre company celebrates its 25th anniversary this year and the local legends are reviving their first production, Emily Dickinson & I, at Petersfield Museum on 8th February

LynchPin is offering Round and About readers pairs of tickets for each of its shows this year, starting with Emily Dickinson & I.

To enter our prize draw, fill in the form below before 12pm on Sunday 4th February.

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Skateboarding: get on board in 2024!

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Now’s the time to take up skateboarding, with the sport set to soar at the Olympics later this year & the Design Museum ramping up the excitement…

Skateboarding, in case you didn’t get the memo, is cool. British-Japanese star Sky Brown, the youngest professional skateboarder in the world, is set to star for Great Britain at the Paris Olympics this summer. And the hot ticket in town is the Skateboard exhibition at the Design Museum in Kensington featuring the UK’s newest skate ramp inside the exhibition gallery.

As well as admiring the 100+ rare and unique boards from the 1950s to the present day on display (with a free go on the halfpipe if you’re up to it), on 20th January you can book in to enjoy a skate photography workshop with Bucks skateboard star Leo Sharp (@sharphoto). Growing up in the concrete jungle of Milton Keynes, Leo’s skate photographs have been published in international titles including Thrasher, Transworld, Skateboarder, and more. Sharp has also worked as a lecturer in photography at Falmouth University and exhibited in a number of exhibitions.

“It’s the best part of my week!”

Harrison Neave, nine

Skateboarding developed in the US in the 1950s as surf culture was taking off. It was then part of the underground, alternative culture of the 1980s, going hand-in-hand with the values of freedom, rebellion and thrill seeking. The sport continued to develop and became more widely accessible at the start of the 21st century, proving a huge hit among young people. If you look carefully you’ll find a like-minded tribe of skaters and scooters of all ages at a park tucked away near you.

Amersham Skatepark, at King George’s Field, was upgraded in 2020 to a concrete plaza course. Its higher level leads down to the lower level via a set of stairs with rail and a pair of “hubbas” either side. On the lower level is a hip, pair of ledges, rail and a manual pad, following on from these obstacles is a half-width spine and a quarter-pipe ramp to get you moving back up the other end.

The skatepark at Aston Clinton, HP22 5HL, consists of metal-framed composite ramps and concrete ramps on a concrete base. At either end of the course is a flat bank and a quarter pipe that flank a driveway with rail and an adjoining spine. There are also some rails and benches scattered around the edges.

Aylesbury Vale skatepark, HP20 1DH, had an upgrade in 2015, with the old metal ramps replaced with a concrete skatepark. It now has a stair set with handrail, grind wall and boxes, tombstone jump ramp, “wally bar” and a selection of banks and quarter-pipe ramps.

There’s also Chesham Skatepark in Lowndes Park, HP5 2JE, and Holmers Farm Skatepark, HP12 4PE, a plaza-style concrete skatepark with ramps and ledges across different levels, and with low quarter pipes at each end.

Marlow Skatepark, SL7 2AE, is a concrete park featuring various flat banks and quarter pipes with spine, ledges and a rail.

Princes Risborough Skatepark within King George V Park, HP27 9EP, features two sections of tarmac, a mini-ramp with a roll-in ramp attached at a 90degree angle at one end.

Chalfont St Peter Skatepark, which is always open, can be found on the grounds of the Chalfont St Peter community centre. It is made up of a metal half-pipe with a set of small metal ramps off to the side with a tarmac base. The ramps comprise of a low kicker/bank at each end with a funbox in between.

Thanks to a group of enthusiastic local parents, The Chalfonts Activity Park Project is on a mission to improve the free-to-use outdoor sports facilities. David Rollins of the group has said that their objective is to collaborate with the community and local authority to build a modern wheeled sports activity park for people of all ages to enjoy, on their bikes, skates, skateboards and scooters. He points out that he’s in his forties and loves skateboarding along with many friends his age and above.But it’s not just about a skatepark. If there is enough interest and funding, they’d like to see it include other features to become something the whole community can enjoy. To find out more about the project please visit chalfontactivity.com

A great example of a honeypot for skaters is Thame Skatepark, OX9 3RN, which recently had a £250,000 renovation and is suitable for all abilities. The park is free to use and is open all year round. One enthusiastic user is Harrison Neave, nine, who says:
“I love coming here on my scooter at the weekend – it’s the best part of my week! What I love most is that I get to hang out with some older boys & girls who are doing really cool tricks.”

Recipes from The Skint Cook

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We’re sharing  a taste of inspiration from The Skint Cook, by Jamie Oliver’s Cookbook Challenge TV series finalist Ian Bursnall, out on 18th January

Five spice duck legs with a sesame salad & crispy seaweed

Ingredients:

•  Two duck legs

•  1 tsp five spice powder

•  3/4 tsp salt

•  3/4 tsp pepper

•  150g red cabbage, shredded

•  4 large spring onions, sliced

•  120g beansprouts

•  2 tbsp olive oil

•  2 tbsp cider vinegar

•  2 tbsp soy sauce

•  2 tbsp honey

•  2 tsp sesame oil

•  1/2 tsp chilli flakes

•  1/2 tsp caster sugar

•  1 tbsp sesame seeds

•   Crispy “seaweed” – also featured in the book

Such a nice dish – you have the crispy duck skin and tender meat. The sesame salad cuts through the fattiness of the duck so perfectly, contrasting flavour at the highest level. I love it. Adding the crispy seaweed gives it a restaurant vibe!

Method:

Preheat the oven to 160°C fan/180°C/gas mark 4.

Take your duck legs and prick them all over with a cocktail stick. This helps to release the fat and get a crispy skin. Now mix together the five spice powder and half a teaspoon each of the salt and pepper. Rub this all over the duck legs, top and bottom. Now place them into an ovenproof dish and cook in the oven for half an hour. Check and baste them from time to time. The skin should be nice and crisp when done.

Meanwhile, put your cabbage and spring onions into a bowl and set aside. Bring a saucepan of water to the boil, then add the beansprouts. Bring back to the boil, then drain and cool under cold running water for 30 seconds. Drain and add to the cabbage mixture and mix well.

“Adding the crispy seaweed gives it a restaurant vibe!”

Ian Bursnall

In a separate bowl, add all the other ingredients, minus the sesame seeds and crispy seaweed. Give them a good mix to emulsify. Set aside.

Put a frying pan over a low heat, add the sesame seeds and toast for a minute or two. Tip the toasted seeds into the dressing, give it a mix, then pour over the salad veg. Stir well to coat.

When the duck is ready, spoon the salad onto the middle of two plates. Take the duck out of the oven and shred the meat off the bone. Place on top of the salad and sprinkle over the crispy “seaweed”. Enjoy.

A Blackberry fool & ginger biscuit topping

Ingredients:

•  250ml double cream

•  3 tbsp icing sugar

•  1 tsp vanilla extract

•  150g cream cheese

•  100g Greek yogurt

•  200g fresh blackberries

•  2 tsp caster sugar

•  Four crunchy ginger biscuits (I use Ginger Nuts)

The cream cheese gives this such a silky smooth feeling. Ginger biscuits add texture to the top. Spot on.

Method:

Take the cream cheese out of the fridge 30 minutes in advance to let it soften.

Add the double cream to a large bowl with the icing sugar and vanilla. Whip together until the cream starts to stiffen (soft peak stage), but don’t over-whip it. Now add the cream cheese and whisk until combined, then add the yogurt and fold it through. Set aside.

Place the blackberries in a separate bowl, putting a few aside to decorate. Sprinkle the caster sugar over the blackberries, then mush them up a bit with a fork, leaving some chunky.

Now spoon some of the mushed berries into the bottom of four clear glass ramekins or wine glasses, then spoon some cream mixture on top. Repeat three or so times, ending with a layer of the cream mixture.

Take your biscuits, put them into a food bag and smash into crumbs with a rolling pin, but leave them quite chunky. Decorate the desserts with the reserved blackberries, then sprinkle each dessert with the biscuit crumbs and serve.

You could make these ahead and chill in the fridge, then add the biscuit crumbs just before serving. I might try this again adding a splash of balsamic vinegar to the blackberries before mushing them up.

The Skint Cook: Over 80 easy, tasty recipes that won’t break the bank by Ian Bursnall (HQ, HarperCollins). Image credit Martin Poole.