Serendipity?

Brian D. Powell was born in York in 1932. and as a young boy, he frequently accompanied his grandfather down by the River Ouse.

With Britains involvement in WW2 Brian spent many a day ‘sculling’ the (mostly) servicemen/women back and forth across the river. It was during 1944 that Brian Powell, budding artist, spent a day sketching the ‘traffic’ upon the water at the Leeman Road Ferry. There’s a copy of that very scene, opposite.

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Leaving school, Brian completed an electrical apprenticeship, then national service before joining the Fire Service for a career that was to last 30 years. It wasn’t long before Brian rediscovered his passion for art and in 1965 he produced a watercolour depiction of the aforementioned original. This watercolour was presented to a cousin who kept it in the family for over fifty years, until his passing. The painting, along with the contents of his house then went to charity …

At around the time of the house clearance, Pauline Sturchfield and her husband were looking for something that little bit different and found Brian’s watercolour. The condition of the canvas was ‘a little worse for wear’ although they immediately fell in love with the depiction of life by the river, an ideal addition to their home collection as it reminded them of their time ‘sailing’ on the River Ouse. It was only recently that Pauline decided to find out a little more about the artist and the painting.

Brian Powell, today aged 87, lives and paints in Northumberland. He is an active member of his local art community and regularly exhibits his work … never did he think he would have someone contact him, asking for verification of a painting produced – in 1965 … but to his surprise and to Pauline’s credit, this was exactly what Pauline Sturchfield did.

Although, little did Pauline know, that Brian also had a surprise for her! He was still in possession of that original sketch from where the watercolour was painted. Dated 1944.

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I know what you are thinking dear reader, a good ‘yarn’ perhaps? Simply another example of coincidence, serendipity?

I prefer to think of this as a wonderful example of friendships forged by simply reaching out, or how art has that ability to bind a community together. Don’t you think?

FOOTNOTE … Brian D. Powell is not only an accomplished artist. During his time in the Cumbria Fire Service, he was responsible for some of the more profound innovations in health and safety. Brian is recognised as the inventor of today’s portable life raft, the fire safety door, decontamination chamber, HGV anti-spillage valve and much more. He is credited with saving dozens of lives, appeared on BBC television’s Tomorrow’s World and inducted as a fellow of the National Geographic Society. He has published his story, widely available, “Thoughts Of A Watercolour Artist.”

Fail sometimes. It’s ok.

 

So how about a salesperson Sally? Who looks after sales within your organisation??

Employ someone? Where am I going to get a salesperson that understands my business, Charlie?

Fair comment I thought to myself, we’ve all asked the same question.

I knew that Sally was a sole trader and the question from me was an honest one. Sally had her bookkeeper, relied on some freelance and just now was worrying about the struggle for new business.  Social media brought the odd enquiry although nothing substantial.

Besides Charlie, I don’t think I could burden the business with the cost of an extra person, even if it were part-time. I would worry about their messages, fear for their rejection, the critique acquired through competitor comparison … if that makes sense.

It does. So, you’re going to come along and find out how networking may help?

Yes, next week. It’s early, which is good as just now, it’s the only time I have Charlie and I feel I need to be more accountable for new business, for sales.

Fear of transparency, failure as a consequence of taking the opportunity, stepping out of the comfort zone is commonplace Sally. The very thought of turning up and engaging a room of expectant strangers is enough to undermine any thoughts of a great first impression … but … the positive to networking can be profound.

So when should I expect results?

I’m just as impatient Sally, although when I started networking I soon found out that not everyone is in the marketplace for my services at the same time. Networking ‘works’ with calculated patience.

You already know and understand that you are the best qualified to offer your business services. The ‘selly-sell’ is not required.

Be prepared to fail sometimes, show your vulnerable side … (develop empathy.)

If you can keep your eye on the ‘why am I doing this?’  Clearly explaining this to your audience, by being concise you will soon find support.

Benchmark your efforts Sarah. Deliver consistent messages over a given period of time and adjust your presentation accordingly, for ‘the room’ or seasonally to suit your business, create the trust among your audience to realise the opportunity, the ‘bizability.’

Something else, don’t forget to have fun Sarah, smile.

At 7 am?

People buy from people Sally.

Hey you, Mr Referable!

Referable? No such word.

More ‘business-speak/jargon’ from Charlie I hear you say. Although, if you’re in business then being referable is absolutely essential. Let’s look at what makes you so while understanding why the fundamentals are so vital for success …

Beginning with treating people as you may expect to be treated …

not to mention:

Are you visible?

What? It’s true, there are those out there that expect the business, that new best client to simply come ‘a knock-in’ on the door, out of the blue … just because you’re you … Nope, we need to work on the bizabilty (more jargon!) After all, there is any number of ways to be seen, some simply DIY in the world of ‘social.’

Do you know your p’s from your q’s? Yes, remember them? Those mirror images, the p and the q. We get what we give right? So let’s understand that there is mileage in good old fashioned manners, respect and etiquette. Let’s just call it p and q.

Thinking of others. Of course, it’s second nature to you, right? If we’re looking for referrals, think of those with like-minded ambitions, offer help and support and you will soon find that it’s reciprocal. Think business underdog. That was you once, right?

Doing as you say you shall? Following up. Well, that’s a no-brainer … innit? We do though, still hear of those given the opportunity who simply don’t follow-up. Isn’t it true that more business is lost through procrastination than by making the wrong decision? We know this, but still, the lack of follow-up by those who say they shall remain one of the largest obstacles to ambition.

Are you communicating? Some don’t. It’s true, they don’t call you because they assume that you are a mind reader … We’re supposed to know that there is a delay or that they’ve cancelled the meeting or the one to one. Lack of communication does not help the bizability, the reputation.

So, how is your reliability? Ask yourself this. Can we count on you?

This is the nugget, friends, your reliability is what makes you referable. If you are not readily visible and you don’t have the courtesy of thinking of others when the business opportunity arises … if you don’t follow up on the enquiries by communicating, then you are simply not reliable.

Unreliable = unreferable.

The gift, share it.

Life is too short! 

Heard that one before? At some point in your career, there will come a morning when you’ll awake and ask yourself, “What am I really doing?” It’s at this point that earning money by making/selling ‘stuff’ will no longer be motivation enough. However, if your answer to that question reflects a specific, greater purpose, you’ll have the energy and inspiration to continue, it’s your purpose.

How about your employees? Those you work with, or your co-workers, are really no different than you. They also want to feel that they are contributing to a greater good, something more meaningful than putting in the hours and earning the money. What’s different with colleagues, though, is that unlike you, the business owner, they may not have that innate sense of what the business’s purpose is. It needs to be articulated, so the whole of the company is of one mind, moving in the same direction for the same reason. Driven by purpose.

Your customers, what’s it mean to them? Will people buy your products just because your business serves a greater purpose? Generally not. Most people need to realise some kind of specific, tangible benefit from their purchases. So given you are providing benefits, many customers, especially new customers, the millennials are keen to look beyond their bottom line to support organisations that are cause/purpose driven …

Purpose. It has impact. Your community may be the rural outpost or the large city in which your business operates. Increasingly, our communities, our local surroundings are our world, all of which needs a variety of help. In many ways, business represents the best way to bring about significant change to communities. Bringing value through change is where the purpose driven organisation can benefit, a purpose-driven business generates an influence that in many ways are profound, much more far-reaching and impactful.

Your own Purpose? You know your compelling reason. Whether faith, community, legacy or your own personal goals. Either way, purpose is a work in progress. Share your gift.

It’s on the nose!

I’ve had a great morning, just cleaned the wheely ‘garbo,’ the bin. Treated her to a …

disinfectant and hose, she’s a little on the nose.’

Working at home is like that, isn’t it? I mean, it’s the flexibility …. we get things done when we want, we schedule stuff in like a walk with the dog, a leisurely breakfast perhaps or a visit to the beach before the day even starts.

Routines are good although being accountable, working alone and the routine for self-preservation, planning to make a crust can take some doing. A little balance is needed so I tend to work well in advance and ensure my diary is up to date. How about you?

Mulling over forward plans the night before is good for me. I do have a tendency to revise my ‘stuff,’ including the plan for the following day and it’s just as I’m falling asleep, evening peace and clarity brings some surprisingly good results.

Holes in the net?

The regular meeting I was due to attend this morning had been planned months in advance. A dozen or more like-minded souls from the Weekly Business Network are looking to put down roots for new referral forum. It has shown great promise.

Today though I awoke early to find that a half of the regulars had other ‘things’ planned. One was a family welfare call (fair play) always family first! Another couldn’t face the walk(!) someone else had taken a last minute order she needed to fulfil while another suggested it was going to be impossible to stop the car between regular appointments.

Couldn’t stop the car? For our appointment?

So with a net that had so many holes it was a no-brainer that any messages I’d planned during introduction were going to be lost this time ’round, and so I made decided to contact our featured speaker, advising him of our postponement to his presentation, did the same with the caterer, the venue and followed-up with our intended guests …

It’s great to get up early’ I thought to myself.

Networking. The regular contact with like-minded business owners is a great way to show your colours, your intention … a great opportunity to enhance the reputation, don’t you think?

It’s our choice. We can come up smelling roses or if you’re not careful the scent may be a little more repugnant. Think wheely bin … you may need a spring clean.

Reputable, reliable, referable

Is he reliable Charlie? Ben asks.

Do you know him well enough to refer him??

Fair questions. I thought for a single moment and realised that this time, I just wasn’t sure of my answer…

All in business have had times of dilemma, finding the reliable trading partners, co-workers and suppliers are part of that conundrum. Yes, there is an abundance of reputable offerings … but are they reliable?

I consider myself lucky that I have made some fantastic, trusted long-time connections through networking. We seem to ‘sing from the same hymn sheet.’

Similar to what was being asked of me now, think yourself, what characteristics would a potential business partner or supplier need to possess? There’s a good chance you’ll come up with a list of attributes (nearly) similar to the following …

Is there evidence of:

Like-mindedness

Product knowledge

Empathy

Not forgetting, a reputable name?

Connections

Reliability

What makes them so referable, to you?

Personal recommendation. Reputations are built on them.

You may be given an introduction to a wholly reputable business, someone who fits the bill, an organisation that tick’s all the boxes, even drinks your brand of coffee, but if that connection is more a ‘maybe’ instead of a clear yes/no kind of outfit then chances are, you’re going to hesitate in referring them.

There are many reasons we buy into our professional network and each of us has our own prerequisite when choosing to work with someone.

Personally? It’s reliable. If we’re unable to count on our supporters to be with you when it matters, then they’re certainly not referable.

So in answer to Ben? Sit down, take a minute, share cake and get to know what works for you both.

Our fair weather friend(s)

 

“Hey, c’mon we’ll be late for kick-off!”

It’s Saturday morning and I’d called by to collect one or two lads for the local rugby meet, the regular transport being unable to support us this time around …

As the boys clamoured into the back of the wagon, there was the usual hubbub, high spirits and lots of chatter with plenty of wise-cracks. It was just what you’d expect from a bunch of ten year old’s out with mates, on the way to ‘rugger.’

The exception amongst the car load being Joe, our ‘perennial sub.’

“So what happened to transport this morning Joe?” I asked.

‘Oh dad said he had a few things to do around the house, he said he’d be back to see us when we start winning again …’

“Whaa … ??”

Joe explained … ‘Dad said he liked to watch the team although didn’t like the coach so once we start winning he might come along.’

The response from our clearly deflated chum was profound enough to hang in the air for a minute, a full minute before the usual in-car banter recommenced.

Nice encouragement Dad! I thought to myself.

Sure the boy’s team were on an unlucky run just now and morale may be low but hey, how to inspire belief, eh?’

As it happens our opponents didn’t play so well that morning, whilst we, the home team managed to excel and win the game by a good stretch, even Joe being amongst the scorers. Much reason to cheer!

Sure enough, our coach had come good and this particular win was a prelude to a welcome run of good fortune which brought the ‘part-time support’ back to the fold, even Joe’s fair-weather supporter managed to be with us toward the end of the season …

With friends like that, I hear you say?

Attitudes. We all know the importance of a positive mental outlook if we are to be competitive on the sports field and it’s certainly the same in business. We learn from our peers, we listen for inspiration … but what lessons are we passing on when all we have is apathy?

Fair weather friends, can you afford to have them in your network?

That glittering prize …

Living by the coast, I spend much of my spare time along the shore-line. The combination of energy by the sea, oxygen in abundance, space, the solitude and of course, the dog are a great combination for inspiration.

I inadvertently scour the shoreline for washed-ashore treasure. Just fragments of colour glistening amongst the sand and pebbles perhaps, the cast-off once loved bits and pieces. The sunlight draws me in and catches them and I’m always tempted to pick them up and slip them into the pocket. It’s become a bit of a routine now.

You can picture it can’t you? The dog bounds aways one direction while I’m stuttering along, picking up pieces of broken ‘treasure’ in the hope of discovering the best piece yet.

Much to the dismay of Mrs Kenny (known as the ‘better half’) I’ve managed to now gather a really healthy collection of ‘pocket trinkets’ that are regularly brought to her attention as they somehow manage to confound the spin dryer …

A little like networking?

No, not the spin dryer! I do spend a good deal of time with my network colleagues, it has become another routine. The routine here though is keeping an eye out for the glittering prize of referral, all shapes, all types of referral.

These come along through a developed understanding that when I’m ‘on the patch,’ when I’m attending The Forum I have the opportunity to hear what others are looking out for. Learning how can I help them, where might I find the prize they look for. I’m learning to keep an eye and an ear open for those friends I see on a regular basis.

Good referrals, treasure, do not come along readily enough for some. Maybe it’s because they don’t frequent their patch often enough? This is often the case when people errantly declare “networking doesn’t work for me.” Of course, these miss out, they are not available to give and receive, or perhaps they have yet to determine exactly what prizes others seek.

Know what treasure do you seek? Make the networking routine, embrace the structure and the opportunity of picking up the not so perfect and understand that we are learning, training our senses for the time we recognise the glittering prize.