The book you don’t read won’t help you!

I was asked recently why I was always reading a business book and my answer was very simple: development. After all, you can always learn.  Plus, the more you know, the easier things become.

One of the benefits I find is that by reading more than one book on any given subject is that I learn more.  The reason is that one author will explain a subject slightly differently to another and this difference, plus the repetition, helps me to fix things in my head.  Even then, I can always learn more about the subject.

What is most important as a business Start-Up, SME, is that you learn, continue to learn and develop.  If you come from the corporate world things are very different in the world of small business, and if you are an expert in your chosen field that doesn’t make you an expert in business.  So, you must learn if you are going to achieve real business success.

The more you learn and understand about business, not only will you be increasing the odds of you staying in business, but it is likely that you will have more fun and make more money along the way.

Every book you don’t read won’t help you, and, what is more, every book you don’t read can’t help your business.  So, please buy or borrow a business book today and just see what a difference it makes to the way you think about business.  Almost any business book will be of benefit, but think about one of three areas: what you are good at, what you are not so good at, and motivation.  Then choose something that covers one of those areas.

And, don’t just think you have to read. Audio books and CDs are ideal for the car, train, plane, etc.

Here are a few books that I can highly recommend: The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs by Carmine Gallo, Playing with Fire by Gordon Ramsay and Blowing the Bloody Doors Off by Michael Caine.  Each could make an amazing difference to your business and will completely change the way you run your company.

Email overload?

It is a common problem for most business people these days. After all, the internet never sleeps and now nor do we have to.  Or, at least that is how it feels for a great many people.

So, how do we get away from this ever demanding, never sleeping, giant of communication, that none of us can now seemingly live without?  Well, in part, it’s easy:  don’t play the game! But of course that is easier to say than to do, so here are a few tips to help you.

1) Don’t have your email account set to auto-download.  Few can resist that little ping as yet another ‘important’ email is delivered into our Inbox.

2) Have set times when you look at your emails.  Putting email time in your diary may be a little extreme but I bet most other things are in there.  Breaking into something that you are doing to answer an email means that both things don’t get your full attention and effectiveness is lost.

3) Set an auto-respond when you don’t want to answer emails.  Evenings and weekends.  Something simple like – I am currently out of the office, all emails will be replied to, at such and such time.

4) Don’t open emails, read them, and then close them again.  Answer on the spot, it saves time and things being forgotten.  If you haven’t got the time to act on the email, you haven’t got the time to open it.  Answers can be just a few words.

5) If it can be said, phone instead.  Often we all get caught up in email sagas, tens of emails that could have been replaced with just one phone call (the same is true of texts).  Okay, you might not be able to call at 11.30pm, but then by not sending the email either you won’t be adding to the ‘email overload’.

If you are one of those who can’t resist the next email, but would really like to be able to, I hope the above will be of help to you.  Maybe other people have their own ideas on how to cure the problem?

And, of course you could just leave your computer, laptop, mobile phone, ipad, etc., turned off!

Networking – the biggest mistake: selling!

I was at a networking event recently with well over two hundred other business people.  About half way through the evening there was a speaker. He asked us all a question.  ‘How many of you are here this evening with something to sell?’  Just about every hand went up.  He then asked us another question.  ‘How many of you are here to buy something?’  For the second time my hand didn’t move, but what was more to the point, only a few hands went up.  The speaker then said, ‘Well you are all pretty much stuffed then aren’t you!’  Everyone laughed, but he had made his point!

So, what’s the point of networking?

Well, it’s certainly not to sell.  If you think about it logically, what are the chances of someone you don’t know, wanting to buy what you are selling, just at that exact moment?  Answer: just about zero.

There is only one reason to go networking and only one.  Forget collecting business cards, eating great food, or not so great food, and having a glass of wine.

Networking is all about the beginning of a relationship.  Finding people that are also interested in exploring the possibilities of a future relationship and who are happy to meet at a later date for a coffee.  That’s it! Nothing more.

So, forget all of your sales brochures and samples, and instead find out who is at the networking event, who may be a good contact for you, and how you in turn may be a good contact for them.  Locate them, introduce yourself politely, ask lots about them, ask interesting questions, listen intently and see if they would like to meet another time.

I promise you, you will soon have a diary of appointments, and not just a desk piled high with soon forgotten business cards.

Introduce Yourself

Often you will not have the luxury of someone else introducing you at a networking event, so it is important that you are practised in doing it yourself.

What makes this even more imperative is the fact that most of us make assumptions about the people we meet within the very first few seconds of meeting them.  What’s more, that first impression is hard to shake or to change.

So, what can we do to ensure that the first impression we give is the one that we want those that we meet to form?

Well, the answer, as with most things in life, is to prepare: to practise.

You need to define your message.  However you introduce yourself is what will be accepted by the other person.  Will it be with confidence and energy, or just dull?  What will make you interesting?  Please don’t say’ “I’m a – whatever you are”.  It’s just so boring!  Make yourself stand out from the crowd: be different from the masses and you will be remembered.  Another very important thing is to ask great questions.  Once you have passed the opening small-talk (but interesting) stage ask great questions.  People love to talk about themselves, so be interested in them; don’t just talk about you.

Then what about your appearance?  Do you look as you want to be thought of?  Do you look like people in your profession should look?  You may not think it is important, but remember those first few seconds.  It’s their judgement that counts, not yours, and that will gain you more business. Do you look successful; someone they would want to do business with?

Also remember that a great deal of communication is non-verbal: your mood can be picked up.  So imagine that you are on stage.  Before you enter any room, be it networking, a sales meeting, whatever, stop and calm yourself, put everything other than what is about to happen from your mind, imagine what you want to be, and then enter the room.

Make your introduction interesting and you will have better conversations. And, better conversations will lead to more opportunities.

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.