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Welcome…

Thank you for finding my blog; I hope you enjoy reading it and also find it useful.

So why am I writing a business blog?

In answer to that, I guess I need to start at the beginning. I’ve never been one for lots of rules and taking orders from other people. I know it’s a fact of life and at some point we all have to, but I wanted to minimise these things as much as I possibly could and so at the age of 21 I started my first business.

As both my business and my commitments grew (a mortgage and a growing family) so did the rules and having to do what others say. But I still wanted to ‘play’ a little at business and at the same time earn some extra money for the fun things I wanted that my mortgage payments wouldn’t let me have, and so I’ve always been involved with other businesses; mostly successful but some not so.

Building businesses successfully from scratch, coupled with the knowledge gained of other business sectors, has given me not only a great deal of enjoyment but also invaluable practical experiences.

For the past eight years I have concentrated on providing support, marketing advice, networking know-how, plus a wide-range of other business learning to my clients. Often this has led to mentoring and consultancy.

And, that is why I’m writing this blog because other business owners might find my ideas and experience useful.

Has your business already closed for Christmas?

I was at a networking event last week when one of the people I was chatting with said that they wouldn’t be doing much work the week before Christmas.   I asked why and I have to say that their answer astounded me!

Well, the person explained, I won’t want to be out working, the people I work for will be winding down for Christmas; no one will be interested in doing any business… His reasons seemed endless.

I pointed out that I would be working right up until Christmas Eve, certainly until the lunchtime.  Also, that I wanted new business right up until then and I certainly wanted work early in January.  Not working Christmas week could mean that it would be the second week, maybe even the third week, of January before things really got moving again.  It happens every year.  Think about all of that lost business; the sales momentum lost.

So, my question is a serious one.  Has your mind-set already closed your business for Christmas?  Are you thinking, no point looking for new business? No point contacting existing clients? No one will be interested in doing business?  If you are, you have already closed for Christmas.

Really successful people don’t follow the herd, they do something different.  So, instead of closing early for Christmas, why not make sure your business is well and truly open and ensure that not only do you have a better December than most but also a far better start to 2019?

Will It Make The Boat Go Faster?

I have to say that I love this book and if you haven’t read it I highly recommend that you do.

The book was introduced to me some years ago at an Entrepreneurs Circle event where Ben Hunt-Davis was the main speaker. Ben was part of the GB Men’s Rowing Eight that won gold at the Sydney Olympics in 2000. It is the story of how after years of winning little they changed the way they worked and the result it had; a gold medal.

David and Ben BW
Me with Ben Hunt-Davis

I remember one of my fellow attendees saying that listening to some bloke talking about winning a gold medal in rowing (for an hour) had nothing to do with their business and it was a complete waste of their time. They couldn’t have been further from the true value of his story. But no amount of trying could convince them otherwise.

You need to read the book but this, in a few words, is the basis of the story. After yet another defeat the crew sat down to discuss what they could do about it; how they could change things. And that is where, ‘Will It Make The Boat Go Faster?’ was born.

The premise was that they would measure everything they tried by – Did it make their boat go faster?

Fighting amongst the crew – did it make their boat go faster? Not surprisingly – No.

Lack of sleep – did it make their boat go faster?

A certain training method – did it make their boat go faster?

Everything they did was given the same test. Did it make their boat go faster?

If the answer was ’Yes’, they did it again and if the answer was ‘No’, they didn’t. It was that simple.

So, if you haven’t got it already, what’s that got to do with your business?

Well, you can run exactly the same test on your business; whatever your goals are. More sales, more profit, better training of staff, it really doesn’t matter what it is. Just run the test.

For example: you produce a new sales advert. Did it make the boat go faster? In your case did it generate more sales? If ‘Yes’ you run the advert again, if ‘No’ you change the advert. You run a workshop. Did it make the boat go faster? In your case did it have the result you were hoping for? If ‘Yes’ the workshop was a success, if ‘No’ it needs to be changed or dropped.

Many things in your business will be done the way they are, just because that’s how they are done. Most without any real thought as to if it’s the most effective way of doing whatever it is.

I was at a large office block recently where at the beginning of the day, when most people are arriving for work, the lifts don’t stop at the first two floors. Why? Because it gets people into the building faster.

So, why not try ‘Will It Make The Boat Go Faster?’ on your business and see what results you get? You might even win a ‘Gold medal’!

Networking doesn’t work…

It’s a FACT!

Well, at least that‘s what I was told at a networking event recently.

I had seen the articulator of this statement before, often in fact, and even spoken to him on occasion; not that he remembered me.

He told me that he had been networking for two years and to date had never got a single piece of business from it. And I can tell you exactly why this is the case. I even tried to help the person concerned but they wouldn’t listen and throughout the remainder of the event he carried on in just the same manner. There’s no need to mention here what Albert Einstein had to say about this sort of action.

The problem was that he wasn’t networking. Well, not in an effective way anyway. His idea of networking was to thrust his business card into some poor unsuspecting person’s face and then quickly move on to his next target. Casting his ‘seed’ far and wide and hoping that something would take root. Rarely does this kind of tactic work as the very act of this sort of behaviour damages the personal brand of the person concerned and with it the likelihood of any business.

What should this gentleman do to improve his networking?

Well, to start with he should stop spreading himself so thinly and spend more time focusing on a few well-chosen networking groups.

But, the big thing is to start building relationships. Networking only really works consistently with people that you have a strong relationship with and this will take time to cultivate. The relationship must also be two-way, not just what you can get out of a person. You need to find out how you can help the other person.

So, networking is the start of a journey. You meet someone at a networking event, ask about them (they will ask about you) and then arrange to meet them again and again. And this may lead to a relationship that keeps giving year after year as you become friends.

Trust me, the results will be so much better than sticking your business card into someone’s hand.

Practice makes permanent!

I expect that you have heard the saying ‘practice makes perfect’. Well in reality this couldn’t be further from the truth, as no matter how much practice you do, if what you are practising is wrong, you will just become very bad at whatever it is you are doing.

Some time ago I heard a better version of the maxim from Nigel Botterill; he added a perfect at the beginning. ‘Perfect practice makes perfect’. And of course this makes perfect sense. After all, that’s why I have drum lessons because my teacher will ensure that I am practising correctly; even down to the way I hold my sticks.

But better still, and therefore more valid, I think, is something I heard Tim Henman say when he was commentating on a match that Andy Murray was playing at Wimbledon. It covers the real truth and benefit of practice. ‘Practice makes permanent’, he said. And that really is the key. Whatever you practise, good or bad, it becomes permanent. And it is exactly the same with us as business owners.

As a business mentor often it is the business owner who has been in business for a good number of years which is the hardest to help. Why? Because they are set in their ways. Practice has made what they do permanent. And, as any tennis coach will tell you, it is very hard to change a bad swing; sometimes impossible. The only chance is if there is a real willingness to change and then a great deal of practice!

So, if you are new to business, or been around a few years, is what you are doing, what you practise each day, what is becoming a habit, good for your business? Because, if not, you could be damaging the very success of your business in the long term.

It’s something I think we all need to think about very carefully!

600grms of prawns

I was sailing around Corfu last week; it’s something my wife (and family) does most years at this time. We enjoy the end-of-season sun, increased winds and the fact that things are not quite so busy due to places beginning to close up for the winter.

During our week we eat out most evenings, love the fresh fish (and glorious prawns in Sayiadha), and it’s what happened on a couple of these occasions that I want to talk about and how the little things can make such a difference to your business success.

First the prawns in Sayiadha; the Alekos Taverna is famous for its prawns and you can buy them by the kilo. You can have them grilled or fried and they recommend a kilo to share between three people. We had 600grms grilled with a wonderful salad of our choosing – simply delicious. But what really stood out here was my starter as I fancied something that wasn’t on the menu. I spoke to the person looking after the fish and asked if I could have grilled sardines. ‘Of course he replied.’ I thanked him and then added that I only wanted four. ‘No problem’, was his reply and when they arrived they were perfect.

Will we eat there again? Of course; hopefully next year.

The second occasion was at the Gouvia Marina when we were about to depart for home. It was pouring with rain so we decided to get a quick breakfast; Greek Yogurt, honey and fruit. It wasn’t long before every table was full and most people were turning a small coffee into a very long stop. Chatting, playing on their mobiles or just reading, as in my case. I noticed that people were waiting for a table and started to feel guilty about just sitting there hiding from the rain when the owner was losing business.

We decided to leave and while my wife popped to the restroom I started to gather our belongings together and motioned to the waiter that he could clear our table ready for the people waiting.

The owner noticed what I was doing and came over and put his arm around my shoulder and said, ‘Take your time. You are on holiday my friend, there’s no rush’. His attitude was so different to that of other restaurants I’ve been to in other parts of the world.

Will be go there again next year? Once again – of course.

So, what small things could you be doing in your business that will keep your customers coming back time-after-time? Get the small things right and you could see a major change in the success of your business.

You’re no good to me!

I was at a networking event once; it was in a nice restaurant, lovely evening, great food and pretty good wine.  Just a typical, well to be honest, better than average, networking event with well over one hundred people intent on doing business or just having a good time.

I’ve been to many similar events – some good, some bad – but I have never witnessed what I did that evening.  I have to say that even I was speechless!

I’m sure that we have all seen the inexperienced, or just plain bad, networker who thrusts their business card in your face and says “If you ever need a (whatever it is) you know where to find one”, and disappears as quickly as they appeared. But this person, at this event, took it a whole stage further.

He walked up to the person I was standing behind and said, and I am not making this up, it really did happen, “Hi.  Have you got a will?”  The startled man said, “Yes” and this guy just said “Well you’re no good to me then”, and walked off.  I still can’t believe I heard it or saw it happen.  Needless to say, I avoided that person for the rest of the evening.

So, what’s my point?  Other than the fact this is not a good way for anyone, ever, to act when at a networking event.

Well it’s simple. Networking is about the beginning of a relationship; it’s not about selling whatever it is that you are selling.  Not at the event any way.  It’s about helping people; it’s about building relationships that hopefully will be rewarding and beneficial to both parties, over many years.  Above all, it has nothing to do with a quick sale and moving on to the next prospect.

If you treat networking with respect and forget the quick hit, I promise you networking will bring you the rewards that you are looking for.

Good but not quite Carling!

Do you remember the Carling adverts? I think I like the cricket with the nun’s one the best, but I also like the office escape. If you don’t know the adverts, it’s where a guy does some amazing feat just to fail at the very last moment.

And that is exactly like a great many businesses’ marketing. There is some great marketing about but most fails just when it might have converted into a sale. And that’s just the case with a piece of direct mail (door drop) we received from one of the estate agents in our town. We were just about to put our house on the market when a card dropped through our letterbox.

‘Just SOLD in your area’. The design was good, the photos lovely, each picture had ‘sold’ printed on it – just what we needed. But then I turned over the card and they lost our business.

You see they are looking for ‘…similar cottages to yours…’ because they can sell more. Well we lived in a large three storey semi-detached Victorian house. And to my mind, if they don’t know the difference, that’s going to be a problem for me.

Now you might be thinking that some delivery company did the door drop. Well, even if they had, a good estate agent would know which roads were lined with cottages. As it happens I saw the person doing the door drop; it was a suited young man who looked very much like an estate agent. Now I’ll be fair, in our road there are both cottages and houses, but that’s where the ‘good but not quite Carling’ comes in. This guy (the estate agent) to a point was doing a great job, but he failed just at the last moment, because he wasn’t thinking about exactly where he was posting his marketing cards and it cost his company business.

So, is your marketing Carling or not quite Carling?