Focus on winning the key battles


After 11 hours and 5 minutes of play, spanning 3 days, John Isner came out victorious against his opponent. It was officially the longest match in tennis history, with both players slugging it out over 183 games before, finally, Isner won 6-4, 3-6, 6-7, 7-6, 70-68.

Referred to as ‘the endless match,’ the contest was named as one of the Top 10 Sporting Moments of 2010 by Time Magazine. Following his victory, an exhausted John Isner advanced to the second round of the tournament where he lost in straight sets in just 74 minutes.

What can we learn from this?

Although I admire this story, and the incredible athleticism involved, I believe it serves as a metaphor for the difference between working hard and working efficiently when it comes to achieving success. Allow me to explain why.

A tennis player’s goal is to get as far into a tournament as possible, with the ultimate aim of winning it. So, although John Isner and Nicolas Mahut achieved an incredible feat, neither of them ultimately got past the second round of the tournament. Looking at that goal again, does that make their 2010 Wimbledon tournament a success or failure?

Whilst you are chewing on that one, allow me to throw in another comparison between the world of tennis and the world of successful endeavours.

Consider this question. Is the winner of a game of tennis the player who wins the most points? No, it’s the player who wins the crucial points.


Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray are great tennis players and exponents of ruthless efficiency when it comes to taking advantage of opportunities. They know they don’t have to win every point, they just make sure they win the key ones.

Had John Isner managed to do that more successfully in 2010, he would have been off the court a lot sooner, allowing him greater recovery time for his next battle. Yes, he will forever be recognised for his part in the longest match in tennis history. But, ask yourself if he would have given that up for a Wimbledon quarter-final place?

The world’s fastest man

Switching sports now. Whether you watched the 2016 Olympics or not, you’ll recognise the name Usain Bolt. This legend of sport is a great example of someone who performs at his best just when he needs to.

Like me, you may recall the same story unfolding at every major championship over the last ten years – be it the Olympics or the World Athletics Championships. It has been a repeat pattern – journalists and analysts wondering whether the ‘great’ Usain Bolt could defend his 100m and 200m titles, following periods of injury or being beaten by rivals in athletic meetings in the run-up to the championships.

So, come the final of the 100m and 200m at each and every Olympics and major championship, what happened? That’s right; Usain Bolt stormed to victory!

Although perhaps not looking convincing leading up to the big event, he still performed at the critical moment to win the gold. And he didn’t just win by small margins – he stormed each race. Without fail – every single time.


Win the key battles

In business you’re not going to win all the time and if you expect to, then you will be disappointed. It’s simply not realistic. Successful people win at the crucial times.

Would you rather be the tennis player who wins point after point against his opponent and yet ends up losing? Or would you rather be the player who plays efficiently, waits his time and strikes at the pivotal moment to win the match?

You don’t have to win every battle when it comes to being successful – just win the important ones.


The heroics of William Harold Coltman

Born in November 1891, William Harold Coltman was enlisted into the British Army in the First World War in 1915. As a conscientious objector, William’s religious beliefs prevented him from taking up arms. Still keen to help, he became a stretcher-bearer, performing incredible feats of bravery as he charged alone and unarmed into the path of enemy fire; tending to wounded comrades and carrying them back to safety (on his own back).

William was awarded the Victoria Cross – the highest award for gallantry in the face of the enemy – and became the most decorated enlisted man of the First World War.

William’s awarding of the Victoria Cross was published on page 308 of The London Gazette on 3 January 1919.

William Coltman and the Victoria Cross

Become a leader

I love this story because it demonstrates that we all have the ability to become a leader and make a positive impact on the lives of other people – no matter what our position, ability or beliefs. At times we may feel like we don’t have the most important job in the world, but opportunities to make a difference are around every turn and it’s all about how we act upon those opportunities that shapes who we become.

Embrace your inner hero

I believe that making a positive impact on someone’s life is the most rewarding thing you can do. Our world is full of chances to do just that, on all sorts of levels. Try volunteering, donate to a charity, or even buy a homeless person a sandwich. Believe me when I tell you that random acts of kindness, of whatever size, can be incredibly fulfilling. Your reward will be in the form of a greater sense of being – you feel alive. It’s a win-win.

We live in a fast-paced world where people feel increasingly fractured and segmented from society as a whole – often looking for validation and recognition from social media to fill the void. Making even a small difference to the life of another person helps create a connection back to the world – you’ve created something and made a difference. We don’t all need to be looking to have the impact that William had, nor will we have the opportunity to do so, but there are many ways to find and release your inner hero.

William’s story is as inspiring today as it was a century ago. No matter what our views, we can all aspire to make a difference in both our work and personal lives.


How to react to negative feedback

In 2010 the clothing giant Gap announced unveiled their new logo design on their Facebook page. The re-branding project was rumoured to have cost $100 million and was labelled by the company as ‘a more contemporary, modern expression.’ Sadly for them, the reaction to their logo was far from what they had hoped. A backlash of criticism swept across social media and the company was faced with a very tricky situation in the face of an enormous PR disaster.

Knowing they had to react quickly and decisively, Gap made a good and very positive move. Putting focus on the fact that customers always come first, they published a message on their Facebook page:

“Ok. We’ve heard loud and clear that you don’t like the new logo. We’ve learned a lot from the feedback. We only want what’s best for the brand and our customers… we’re bringing back the Blue Box tonight.”


This is an extreme example of handling negative feedback and I’ve used it to demonstrate that how you react to negative feedback is key. As an established brand, Gap got their logo rebrand very wrong – and they’re not the first to have done this. But, by reacting to the negative feedback in the way they did, at the speed they did, they actually turned it around– giving out a strong “we listen to you” message. It is interesting to note that in the months that followed, Gap’s sales were up compared to the same period the year before.

I’ve read a lot of articles about how to give negative feedback, but very few about how to receive negative feedback. I’ve been in the situation of receiving negative feedback during my working life. In my first full-time job, I found it particularly difficult to take, in part because of the way it was relayed to me.

Although I’ve learned to handle it a lot better over the years, mostly due to adopting the mindset discussed below, there are still times where I find myself in a situation where I want to say:

‘Well I could agree with you… but then we’d both be wrong!’

I manage to stop myself 99% of the time, but sometimes I just say it anyway – just to see what happens.

So, what has changed for me? Well, over the years I’ve come to learn to be more open-minded and take emotion out of the negative message. It’s all in the mindset you adopt.

As human beings, we do take criticism very personally. As I mentioned above, I’m guilty of it too. It can become deeply personal when someone criticises something you’ve created, written or spent time on.

It’s key to remember that the person giving you the feedback often does not know you (or at least doesn’t know you as well as you do) and is not aware of everything you’ve done to get where you are. They’ve simply told you what they think, based on their own views and experiences and in their own mood at that given time. It’s just a piece of feedback – it’s up to you how you deal with it.

So, why not look at the opportunity you can get out of it? There are two major potential opportunities open to you.

Opportunity 1

When you take the emotion out of it, feedback is an incredibly useful thing. It gives you a chance to see things from another point of view. So, before you throw the feedback away or reply angrily, take some time to think about what has been said. Is there anything useful you can take from it – whether it be to adapt your functionality, explain things better or fix something and be the hero (like Gap). This represents your first opportunity.

Opportunity 2

Our second opportunity is even better. How you react to the person giving the feedback can, in the right situation, win you a lifelong customer or fan. How? Thank them for their feedback and tell them how useful it is. Say that you appreciate them taking the time to tell you and that feedback helps you develop and improve your products – whether that’s you or something you’ve made. When you personalise your reply, you will give yourself a great chance of being appreciated.

I have experienced this so many times it’s impossible to count. Even with negative feedback I’ve turned the person from someone with a negative view of my product to someone who tells me that they will not only continue to use it but will also tell all their friends and family about it. And, as any good marketer will tell you, personal recommendation is gold dust – the most valuable form of marketing. If you go above and beyond what they expect (replying quickly, thanking them for their valuable time, offering assistance) you can end up being rewarded yourself. And that’s a win-win.

It doesn’t happen all the time, of course. You’re only in control of your reaction, not theirs.


How to respond to negative feedback in person

Here’s a quick checklist for responding to negative feedback in person:

  1. ‘Thank you for bringing your concerns to my attention’
  2. ‘I always like receiving feedback as it allows me to improve and evolve my abilities and because I care about X.’
  3. I will take your feedback on board and will do Y and Z.

How to respond to negative correspondence

Here’s a quick checklist for responding to negative feedback in an email or correspondence: 

  1. Thank the person for their feedback and for taking the time to write to you. You can even tell them their feedback is important to you (it is, after all). You’ll notice how many big companies adopt this approach.
  2. ‘I’m sorry to hear you feel this way’ (you’re acknowledging it’s how they feel about it, not that they are factually correct about what they are saying).
  3. Put your point across and tell them what you are prepared to do (even if it’s just keeping their feedback in mind for future updates).

Remember that you won’t win every time and you may not receive the response you want. But, much like a game of poker, you will increase your chances of winning by adopting this strategy and, importantly, you’ll find yourself released from negativity.

Good feedback is a gift – one that we love. If you change your mindset to think about negative feedback in the same way – as an opportunity – you’ll go far.


End of a Bexhill era

During the 1990s and early 2000s my father helped bring joy to hundreds of thousands of people through the Bexhill 100 Festival of Motoring, as one of the main organisers and the man who came up with the concept of the event. More than that, he was a much loved and respected figure in the town and brought emotion and joy with his photographs of Bexhill as the ‘Master of Sunsets’. My father laid the foundations of the Hazell family’s Bexhill legacy, and I took up the mantle to further it.


Through my work on Discover Bexhill (a non-profit website) over the years, I’m proud to have been able to make a very sizeable contribution towards Bexhill’s tourism and visitor industry. Since I came up with the first design of Discover Bexhill in 2003, it has stood tall and proud as Bexhill’s biggest promotional tool. During its 13 years, it successfully generated well over £1m in accommodation bookings and had an impact on Bexhill’s visitor economy of several times that figure.

Alongside Discover Bexhill, and thanks to my business successes, I’ve been pleased to make sizeable donations not only to local charities but also to assist schemes such as the Bexhill Motoring Heritage Trail.


They say that all good things must come to an end, and so it is in 2016.

Now in my late thirties, and having sold my health information company, I leave Bexhill behind,  feeling proud of the contribution my family has made to the town. Although I’ve not previously wished to publicise it, I have over recent years personally injected many tens of thousands of pounds of funding into Bexhill events such as the Bexhill Festival of the Sea, Bexhill Roaring 20s, Bexhill Lions Triathlon and many others. Without this funding, two of Bexhill’s major events would have struggled to get out of the starting gates.

I’ve very much enjoyed supporting organisers Roger Crouch and Carole Green with their amazing events – these two people are gems that Bexhill needs to support and look after. Appreciation must go to organisers of all events in Bexhill – putting on events is very hard work, with the only reward being the enjoyment of people who attend.


Through my funding, I’ve laid the foundations for Bexhill as an events-led town, and I now hand over the reins for others to take up the funding baton so that these events can continue to bring joy and pleasure for so many tens of thousands of people. This leads me to an important point…

If you rightly think that change has to happen, then I must agree with you. Bexhill can’t have a situation where events are so reliant on organisers self-funding them. Why should organisers who put on such beneficial spectacles for our town end up personally paying off the debt of their events with their personal credit cards? This cannot and should not be allowed to continue.

Many small businesses generously support events in our town, and this needs to continue and to increase. Rother District Council must also improve its funding from the £9,000 yearly amount (originally set aside for the Bexhill Guide). More funds are available if they look at the £30,000 yearly brochure distribution deal they currently pay for town guides (the money for which originally came from the Tourist Information Centre budget).

If funding does not improve then I fear for the future of events in Bexhill. And, as you no doubt agree, that would be an enormous shame.


My final hurrah

Before saying goodbye to Discover Bexhill and to my time living in Bexhill, I’ve chosen to make a final couple of charity donations. The first is for £3,500 to Charity For Kids, a fantastic Bexhill-based charity helping sick and disabled children. The second is for £3,000 to aid the work of the wonderful people caring for sick animals at Mallydams Wood RSPCA Centre. Long may their great work continue.