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.

Sherlock Holmes gets it!

I watched an episode of Sherlock recently, ‘The Sign of Three’, and I must confess I was beginning to think that maybe I could be doing something better with my time.  But, the last ten minutes, or so, saved the day; because it made me think about business.

So, what’s Sherlock Holmes got to do with any business?  Well, he’s a pretty good detective, and in business we should always be looking for clues, such as to business trends, customer delight and staff morale – to name just three.

And something that caught my attention was when Sherlock was ‘helping’ Mary with the seating plan for her wedding.  She asked Sherlock if this particular person should sit at the top table and Sherlock said no.  When Mary asked why Sherlock replied, ‘Because he hates you and barely thinks about you.’ She replied, “Really?”  Sherlock then explained, “…Second Class post, cheap card, bought at a petrol station…”

The thing is this is also the case with many businesses.  They use 80gsm paper, manila envelopes or cheap off-white, thin card, Second Class stamps, leaflets printed on their inkjet (often crooked), and much, much more; everything for as little money as possible.  Now I’m not saying that you should throw your money away.  But, when talking to clients and prospect customers, what does cheap stuff say about you?  And, more importantly, what does it say you think about them (your client)?

As Sherlock says, do you barely think about them?

Little things can make a bid difference to the success of your business so make sure you get them right.

£100 Bar Tab

Collecting the details of your clients and prospective clients, and keeping in touch with them, is essential to your future success.

And I really like this simple little card that I picked up at my local just last week.

It offers the chance of a £100 Bar Tab. Now that has to be worth my name and address. But there are also another couple of nice things offered.  A small gift when you sign-up and the promise of a little treat on your birthday.  Well at least I know I’ll have one present to look forward to!  But they also have a clever promise, a guarantee, especially useful for those worried about handing over their details to companies.  They will “… NEVER, EVER, EVER rent, sell or share your information”.  That’s a nice reassuring touch.

Their fishbowl was already pretty full with completed cards when I dropped in and there was even a pot of pens conveniently close by.  Not one pen mind you – about thirty.  Another bit of good thinking.

So, what simple mechanism can you put in place in your business to collect data and ensure yourself a brighter future?

Their phone went dead!

I rang a prospective new supplier today – at 9.37am. After ringing for ages the phone suddenly went dead. Maybe they weren’t open yet, I thought. I rang again, this time at 10.52am. Again the phone rang and rang and rang. Again it suddenly went dead. Did I try a third time? No!

That company lost what could have been a huge amount of business for them. Why? Well, for any number of reasons. Their phone is left unattended for hours. When it’s not answered it just goes dead; not even a boring answerphone message. At least with an answerphone message I would have known the business still existed. There’s lack of customer care. Lack of organisation. Lack of thought. I could go on. What’s certain is that nothing is saying we really value your business.

So do you know what happens when someone calls your business? Is the phone always answered? How many times does it ring before it’s answered? What is said when it is answered? A bored ‘Hello’ or a helpful ‘How can I help you?’

You could be spending a great deal of money on advertising only for it to be wasted by how your phone is being (or not being) answered.

Why not run a little test? Ring your office the moment it opens, then again half-way through the morning, again just before lunch, during lunch, just after lunch, half-way through the afternoon and lastly just as you are about to close (but not all on the same day). You might be surprised at the results.

I know of a company where the receptionist wore headphones; no one heard the phone ring and no one knew she often didn’t answer it when it did.

In my business the aim is to answer the phone within three rings (by the office staff). Should the phone ring more than three times then the person nearest a phone picks it up. It doesn’t matter who that member of staff is as they have all been trained on the best way to answer a call.

Glasses on the bar!

It amazes me how many businesses seem to go out of their way to lose business and customers. And I fell prey to this just last weekend.

Now, okay, the pub I was in had been busy. But no business can afford to throw away business – ever. Well, not if they want to be Super Successful. Or, maybe, even just stay in business.

This is what happened. Things were becoming calmer after a hectic lunchtime and two of the bar staff started to clear the tables of empty glasses; something that really should have happened as part of the service. Soon the bar top was covered in an assortment of dirty glasses. Now to my mind it would have been better for one member of staff to collect the glasses and the other to take them off to the kitchen. As the whole bar looked a right mess.

But, things were far worse than that. No one was served for over five minutes! And there was a fair number of us; in fact the bar staff had to work their way through us to get to the bar. This was when three locals had decided they had had enough. There was another pub up the road. A couple that had only just arrived followed them out of the door. And I was only getting some extra drinks or I would have left as well.

The thing that got me was that these two members of staff could see us all waiting but didn’t think to stop doing a job that could wait and instead do a job that would make them a profit. Now I certainly won’t be going to that pub again; maybe I never would have done as we were only passing by. But the three local people certainly gave the impression that they wouldn’t be back as it seemed this was pretty much normal service.

Business is tough at anytime, and is certainly hard at the moment, so you just can’t afford to throw away business that is already in your hands. Now I’m sure that you are thinking that you would never stack a bar high with dirty glasses when you had customers waiting, but are you absolutely sure that you aren’t doing anything similar in your own business? Might just be worth a look and you never know you just might see an increase in your profits if you were to find something.

Thank You ……….

Most well-mannered people say Thank You.

However, I have to admit that I, almost, dislike intensely people who don’t say ‘Thank You’. I don’t know if they are half-asleep or just plain rude.
I’ve held a door open for someone and they just walk through as if it’s their right, without even a flick of the eyes in acknowledgement. Many a time I’ve given them a sarcastic ‘Thank You’ in passing but most often it doesn’t even register.

Then of course there are car drivers. You’ve pulled in to let them pass, or stopped to allow them into a stream of traffic, and you get nothing in return.

Surely it’s a common courtesy, just well-mannered, to say thank you?

But enough of my ranting, because I’m actually writing about those people who do say ‘Thank You’ – which in my experience is the majority of people.

‘Thank You’, ‘Thanks’, ‘Cheers’ are all nice to hear but often are ‘lost’ because it’s a semi-automatic response from a naturally polite person and you are expecting it.

Here’s a simple example – you give someone a tube of Smarties and they say thank you. Nothing wrong with that, it’s polite. The moment passes without much further thought.

But how much better would it be if instead the person said, ‘Thank you, I love Smarties’? How much better would you feel? You had got them a gift they really liked.

Think back over the last few times that someone has thanked you for something. I bet you remember, and feel better about, the times that you received more than a plain thank you.

In business, and your personal life, you will see a big improvement in your relationships if you thank people with more than just a bare ‘Thank You’.

And it’s so easy to do.

When a delivery is made, rather than saying ‘Thank you’, say ‘Thank you for delivery so quickly’ or ‘Thank you for stacking the boxes for me.’

If someone gives you a referral, try saying, ‘Thank you, that’s just the sort of work I love.’

As often as possible add something to your thank you. Imagine how you would feel if someone took the time to thank you specially. Well that’s exactly how they will feel.

It’s only a small thing but I promise it will make a massive difference to your relationships.

And thank you for taking the time to read this blog.