Could The Wizard of Oz hold the key to success for Norfolk’s businesses?

PUBLISHED: 08:00 09 July 2014 | UPDATED: 13:32 09 July 2014

Ian Hacon at finish of Ironman ©

Ian Hacon at finish of Ironman ©


President of Norfolk Chamber of Commerce Ian Hacon is to launch a new-style leadership development business - Yellow Brick Road - focusing on mind, body and soul.

The key to success?

- Keep Active – being physically fit gives us more agility to do things. Just 20 minutes of light exercise a day can make a real difference.

- Diet – The old saying you are what you eat is true, avoid too many carbs and too much saturated fats. The other old saying, eat like a king for breakfast, a queen for lunch and a pauper for dinner is great advice.

- Live in the moment - we spend our lives rushing through focused on the past and the future.

- Practice Mindfulness - it is scientifically proven to help. If you don’t like the idea of meditating, try listening to classical music on your commute.

- Avoid distractions – Our phones and tablets go everywhere with us, try turning them off some times, take a two week Facebook / Twitter holiday.

- Don’t take life too seriously – Try to have fun, laughter is scientifically proven to be good for our well-being.

The former CEO of Blue Sky Leisure has secured premises at The Shrublands Centre in Gorleston, and emphasising the holistic approach of his new enterprise, will be launching it at the Norwich and Great Yarmouth offices of mental health charity MIND on July 18.

On that day he has assembled a team of more than 20 business people, ranging from solicitors to IT specialists, to help the charity plot its strategic course.

Mr Hacon, 45, of Lyndhurst Close, Gorleston, describes Yellow Brick Road as the metaphor for a journey - “Wizard of Oz is a really good metaphor as characters such as the Tinman and Scarecrow all had it within them to succeed” - and it mirrors his own personal journey from out-of-shape executive to Ironman triathlete.

The father of three, who has taken to wearing red shoes, a la Dorothy, said: “When I started training at the age of 39 I noticed the endorphins release and how the runner’s high helped me get through the day better; for one thing my attention span improved.”

The positive impact physical fitness had on his ability to run a successful business - culminating in Blue Sky Leisure winning last year’s EDP Business of the Year title - inspired his vision for a new type of leadership course.

Creating Leadership ViTALiTi, initially targeting senior managers in organisations, will combine traditional leadership training with a focus on nutrition and physical and mental health care.

He said: “It won’t be a boot camp. The emphasis will be on providing information for people to make informed decisions although there might be some light work, yoga and stretching.”

Better physical and mental fitness throughout an organisation resulted in sharper decision-making, lower absenteeism and less likelihood of people leaving.

He said mindfulness was an important tool for bringing about a clearer mind - he practised meditation - but improving mental wellbeing in a company could be as simple as encouraging staff to take a walk at lunchtime.

Mr Hacon, who expects to employ up to four people within a year, said he felt his journey with Blue Sky Leisure had come to a natural end – “I had left a staff united behind one set of visions and values and prepared the groundwork for franchising Zaks restaurants” – and had a strong desire to be an entrepreneur again.

He is confident Yellow Brick Road has strong potential to grow and is particularly eyeing the London market.

As well as Creating Leadership ViTALiTi, initial programmes will include one on Creating Purpose with Meaning, aiming to help organisations find their true purpose and clearly articulate it to their teams and other stakeholders.

Courses of up to a week will be followed up by longer-term coaching sessions to complete the journey and regular assessment to track progress.

Mr Hacon’s personal journey to physical fitness resulted in him completing the Ironman France Triathlon last week – his first outing over the Ironman distance which includes a 2.4 mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a marathon (26.2m) run – although he was keen to stress that completing an Ironman would not be part of course content!

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