Our deliberations, thoughts and opinions on all things business.

  • 6 Feb 2020 11:11 AM | Anonymous

    Finding and attracting new talent to your business shouldn’t be rocket science, yet it’s something that many of us struggle with.

    From encouraging individuals to apply for a position, to whittling down a candidate list and offering the winning prospective employee a role, it’s a process that runs like clockwork.....until it goes wrong. It’s a huge financial risk often overlooked before we dish out that new contract. 

    Regardless whether you’re an FTSE company, a leading firm in your region or a start-up, we can all make the wrong decision when it comes to finding the right fit. Recruitment mistakes are costing UK businesses a pretty penny every year and it’s no surprise that 51% of HR directors admit to not knowing the true cost of a failed hire, particularly when considering not only the loss of salary and investment in that individual but the loss of team productivity and wider impact on the business. But it’s not always easy to define what it is that we are actually doing wrong. 

    Whereas it’s likely to always be a requirement, unless you’re prepared to offer training, hiring based on skillset alone is no longer enough. Nor is ‘gut feel’. We now need to consider whether our new potential candidate has the personality and values to complement the rest of our existing team. It’s not just about who can get the job done, it’s about making the decision to bring someone onboard who can make your business and team thrive.  

    One thing we are big believers of at DKS Straightforward is the culture catalyst and ensuring businesses are promoting a positive cultural change both by hiring the right people whilst also looking after current staff. The people we hire are the heart of our business and play an integral role in our growth and delivery, yet we can neglect their happiness and satisfaction within the workplace. In order to get our recruitment right, we need to understand our people, our values and our culture so we can implement a strategy to start hiring smarter. 

    The war on talent is only getting fiercer so now is the time to make sure you are attracting the best of the best in your industry, whilst ensuring they are the correct fit for your business. Here’s some tips to get you started:  

    Put a strategy in place 

    A solid recruitment strategy in place can help you to track and evaluate potential employees every step of the way and ensure you are speaking to the right people in the first place. Products such as PXT Select can help with this by removing any bias and assisting you to make the right decisions based on your criteria, whether that's for a new role or an internal promotion.  

    Define your brand values 

    As our businesses grow, the messaging of why you got started in the first place can get lost. So, what does your business stand for? What kind of person do you want associated with your brand? What is it that really makes your company tick?  

    Establishing what your core values are, as well as ensuring your existing team is onboard with them, is a great place to start when you’re looking for someone new. You want to bring someone in who is on the same page as you, not writing a completely different book. 

    Address your current workplace culture 

    Making sure you have a happy workforce should be a no-brainer and it’s the key to retaining your top talent. But creating a fantastic culture goes beyond just offering a free lunch occasionally, it’s understanding what your employees want and need in order to grow.  

    Tools such as Everything DiSC are great for engaging your team and de-coding the different ways that people communicate with each other. By offering your team a personalised insight into how both they and others work, engagement and communication internally can improve drastically.  

    Be transparent  

    Transparency with new employees can be key in ensuring they choose your business over a competitor. Is there potential for them to develop their skills and grow with your business? What are your people really like? You may think it’s a fantastic place to work but why does the rest of your team choose to stay?  

    Asking these questions to yourself ahead of time can help you craft a conversation during the interview process that allows you to put your business on top and also gives both you and the interviewee the opportunity earlier on to see if they are a great fit for the environment you are offering.  

    DKS Straightforward is a management consultancy based in Sunderland. If you’re interested in learning how to hire smarter or to engage your current workforce, send us an email on 

  • 22 Jan 2020 10:50 AM | Anonymous

    The festivities are well and truly behind us and it’s time to kick off a brand new year! We know how difficult it can be to get that business motivation when you’re suffering from serious January blues but it’s actually the perfect month to get a strategy in place for the year ahead. 

    At DKS Straightforward we had a great 2019. From expanding our workforce to launching our Leadership Academy, it’s been exciting to work with businesses both in the region and a little further afield.  

    Our Leadership Development Program (LDP) took on two new cohorts of future leaders that’ll continue to work on their skills into 2020. Designed to work with individuals, the LDP allows leaders to improve their leadership skills and mindset whilst growing a network over a 13-month period, with only six days away from the office during that time! It’s perfect for future leaders to enhance their knowledge and gain experience from professionals who have been in their shoes.  

    We also launched our Leadership Academy which has been specifically designed as a dedicated learning environment for business leaders and teams. As well as being the home of our coaching and training workshops, the space is perfect for office away days and it’s based right in the heart of Sunderland city centre. 

    In 2019 we also introduced another Wiley product to our catalogue - PXT Select. We’re the only authorised partner outside of London meaning that we can offer businesses in the North East a talent management solution that’ll get you great results. Organisations of all sizes struggle to hire and retain great talent and with PXT Select you can analyse new hires before they join your business, ensuring you welcome the right person to your team.  

    We’re expecting 2020 to be just as busy as 2019 was so here’s a sneak peek at some of our plans for the year ahead... 

    The Leadership Academy is available for hire! 

    Alongside hosting our workshops and programmes, the Leadership Academy will be available to hire in 2020 for team meetings and away days. You’ll have full use of our wall-to-wall whiteboards, projection technology and there’s even a coffee station - ideal for a productive day of strategy planning! Drop us an email on for more information and bookings.  

    We’ll be continuing to deliver leading Wiley products 

    Alongside PXT Select, we’re also the only authorised partner for The Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team and Everything DiSC in the North East. Whether you’re looking to be more tactical with hiring new employees, to improve your personal development or boost team effectiveness and productivity, we’ve got a programme that can help.  

    The next cohort of the Leadership Development Program (LDP) will be kicking off 

    If you’re looking to expand your leadership skills this year you’re in luck! The next cohort of the LDP is launching in April 2020 and there’s still some spaces left. You can view the programme schedule on our website and if you’re interested, make sure you get in touch.  

    The fun doesn’t stop there! We’ve got more announcements on the way so why not sign up to our newsletter to be amongst the first to hear about them?  

    DKS Straightforward Ltd is a business management consultancy based in Sunderland. Follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn for the latest business updates and our thoughts on coaching, training and consultancy tips to help your SME thrive. 


  • 22 Jan 2020 10:29 AM | Anonymous

    Originally coined Blue Monday as the result of PR stunt from Sky Travel in 2005, the third Monday in January is now considered the most depressing day of the year and it’s no surprise as to why.  

    With Christmas a distant memory, dark nights kicking in from mid-afternoon and a strict detox plan lacking sugar and alcohol, January is hardly the most exciting month in the calendar. However, it is an important month to drive change ahead of a brand new year. 

    Blue Monday’s stark reminder of how gloomy January is, is also an ideal time for employers to evaluate their people and working environment. At a time where the typical working environment is constantly changing, whether that’s staff members evolving to adopting different working styles or the introduction of more agile solutions for everyday tasks, it couldn’t be more important to ensure that your employees are happy in the workplace beyond Blue Monday. 

    When specifically looking at creating a more positive working environment, ensuring you have an inclusive and collaborative company culture is key. Our CEO and founder, Dianne Sharp, reveals three top tips to ensure your team are happy and on the same page to drive your business forward. 

    Embrace the culture catalyst  

    With hundreds of organisations out there vying to attract the best staff, developing your workplace culture is becoming more crucial. Poor company culture costs the UK economy £23.6 billion per year but it isn't impossible to start making a change.  

    By addressing a toxic culture such as a team that may not be communicating well, you can work towards creating a more positive working environment for everyone. Applications such as Everything DiSC, a learning experience based on the DiSC model that aims to promote a more engaged and collaborative workforce to spark culture improvement in organisations, can even help your team to understand themselves and others more. 

    Invest in your people 

    Your people are at the heart of your business and by fostering a working environment where employees can grow professionally, you can keep your top talent for longer.  

    Providing clear professional development programmes for career progression, setting your employees achievable goals and offering training to develop skills can all go a long way in boosting a positive mindset and creating a happier team that are willing to grow with you. 

    Operate an ‘open door’ policy  

    As a business owner or manager it can be easy to fixate on the day-to-day tasks at hand, which can result in isolating yourself from your team.  

    According to management consultancy company McKinsey and Company, the demand for social and emotional skills will rise by 24% by the year 2030 meaning it’s a good time to start having that face-to-face with employees, both for your mental wellbeing and so that your team know you are there to support them. 

    Consider operating an open door policy at set times, or all the time if possible, to remove any barriers between you and the rest of the team so you can discuss any issues or challenges before they grow. Providing that freedom to communicate and level of transparency between you and your team is great for building trust.  

    DKS Straightforward Ltd is a business management consultancy based in Sunderland. For more information on how we can help your business, email us on

  • 21 Jan 2020 3:34 PM | Anonymous

    Words by: Dianne Sharp

    Being a great leader. What’s the secret? Where’s the recipe for success? Well, there’s certainly no handbook.

    When I first started out in a management position quite early on in my career it was based on how good I was at my job. That’s usually the case, right? You work hard, master your craft, add value to the business and you’re rewarded with a promotion. Result.

    But hang on, what about all these other direct reports you’re now responsible for, other people’s career development in your hands? You can’t just fly solo now and look out for numero uno. Your team needs you to lead them, the business needs you to unlock their potential. Do any of us really know how to do that?! 

    Every leader has a different style and a different group of people that will have different needs depending on their role and experience, so one approach certainly doesn’t fit all. Leadership development takes time. Making mistakes is inevitable and it’s a continuous learning curve. At DKS Straightforward we don’t believe in training days to tick a box in your PDR. Our delegates are committed to developing themselves, understanding their needs, their teams’ needs and the needs of their business. It’s focusing on understanding and adapting behaviour for best results. 

    Having  spent the past 25 years both researching the right methods and managing people, I’ve found that there are five key traits that stand out in a great leader. 

    1.    Transparency 

    Having worked in both finance and pharmaceutical industries, I understand the need for discretion. We’ve all been in a situation where we’ve said too much and opened a can of worms. Teams understand that you can’t share everything, but share what you can AND be honest about the fact that you can’t share certain pieces of information or answer a particular question. Trust is the foundation of any relationship  and avoidance or lying undermines all of that. Trust your team and they’ll trust you back – you’ll then see ten-fold back from the relationships you have created. 

    2.    Know yourself 

    How can you lead others until you understand how to lead yourself? No-one is perfect and that’s okay. Acknowledge that, work on improving those weaknesses and openly admit when you fall below team standards. Holding your hand up and being accountable is strength not weakness. Finding a solution is and sharing the learnings is even more potent.

    3.    Walk the walk and set the standard 

    We’ve all been in that situation where you’re sat in a meeting with your manager and they’re displaying attributes of the double standard. Asking you to do things that they don’t or disciplining you on things that they often do. No one likes feeling like there’s one rule for one and one rule for everyone else. A great leader exhibits all the behaviours they expect their team to live. They literally, ‘lead by example’. A team that feels aligned with you will be a team that respects you and wants to do well for you. 

    4.    Be flexible 

    No two leaders are alike, no two employees are alike and no two situations are alike. Everyone has a leadership style and that’s okay but remembering that each person in your team has different nuances , strengths and weaknesses will allow you to flex your style accordingly.   

    Every great leader knows their team well, understands how they work differently and is able to unlock true potential.    

    5.    Communicate, communicate, communicate 

    You need to build the vision and get buy-in from everyone in your team, align all activities around that vision and let everyone know how the team is progressing, and what route changes are needed along the way. Remember you are the one in the helicopter with the best view; you need to keep the team on the ground up to date with where they are going, the progress they are making and the obstacles that may be ahead. Keeping them in the dark will only erode the trust you’ve built. Remember the old BT advert – it’s good to talk! 

    So, what makes a great leader? Someone who’s transparent and honest with their teams, communicating often. Someone who knows themselves well and sets the standard for their team. How many do you tick? 


    DKS Straightforward Ltd unlocks the potential of the NE business community, one leader at a time. Offering bespoke consultancy packages and business support alongside its flagship coaching courses; Strategy Bootcamp and Leadership Development Programme. Click here to find out how we can help. 


Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software