calling on the mantra

If there’s one question I ask as I approach my work, it’s “how can I make this easier?” Not that I’m afraid of hard work. It’s just … nothing frustrates me more than working hard, unnecessarily.

How do I ease the frustration of avoiding hard work? It’s tied directly to (one) of my core principles. ‘If you don’t do, you don’t get.’

If I find myself struggling to sustain motivation for a new habit, combating the ‘lazy’ option, and not bothering … I immediately look at what the cause for apathy may be. What is making the decision unnecessarily difficult? I know how to remedy the dilemma, I just need to stop ‘lazy’ winning. It often boils down to a few key areas.

Decisions (or, is it important?)

If I have to make too many decisions to start an action, I am less likely to do it. So, I need to address the steps holding back my actions. Here’s a good example …

I own a set of golf clubs that I don’t use often. One reason for this is that I have yet to decide to pick them up.

Always I have questions for myself …

Do I have time?

What’s the weather like?

Who do I call for a game?

Am I up to it? Fit enough?? And on it goes.

Here’s what I know to be true.

If I can arrive at the course, I will play. I will do the hard work of ‘playing the game.’ (Sounds contradictory, I know.)

It’s all the stuff beforehand that trips me up. That’s when I choose lazy instead of recalling ‘If you don’t do, you don’t get,’ … making it simple to pick up the clubs.

Willpower (It’s my mind thing)

Do I enjoy golf? Yes. Does it keep me fit? Yes. Is it hard work?? Yes.

Why then should I exert willpower before the event? My willpower should come to the ‘fore’ (excuse the pun) during the actual game. You see, I want to keep enough of the willpower in the tank for the full eighteen holes. Not to burn-out after nine.

So my routine? I like to prepare the night before …

This is how willpower overcomes the lazy … being ready, (ahead of the game,) preparing ahead of time helps me ‘be lazy’ and still do what I want to do.

Why not let me know what’s getting in the way of your efforts? What’s making your work unnecessarily hard? How do you overcome ‘the lazy?’

Apart from blaming the weather? 🙂

Life’s a playground

I was visiting friends recently when the conversation turned to the fact that Sarah, (aged 8,) wasn’t enjoying school so much. Sarah had only recently moved to her next ‘big’ school after living with mum and dad in a rural community.  

Sarah declares, ‘It’s not the same. My friends are all different and we don’t play so much …’   

Agreed. Friendships change when we start new schools. During career changes, most of us manage to hang on to strong connections. We move house and take those close friendships with us. Moving schools can be a ‘big deal’ and I loved that Sarah says ‘we don’t play so much.’    

‘My new friends are always grumpy.’   

Once mum and dad convinced her that the new friends will play more in time once they see her best ‘sparkly smile.’ We all agreed that the wrench for youngsters moving communities can be profound.  

Not just the kids, I believe most of us would benefit profoundly by reaching out more often, offering more time to developing those all-important relationships … these days particularly, in our insular world, there’s always someone ‘out there’ who may be in need …

We can help …  

New acquaintances often bring challenges for the more introverted, and friendships often take a little while to develop, especially (as Sarah described) through mum and dad’s house move, and that new job might mean anxious times for some … as for the self-employed opting for ‘remote working..?’   

Life is all about those moments, I call them opportunities. There are times when I stop for clarity, seeking definition in my role as a friend and I’m often asking myself ‘am I giving enough?’ Be it time for engagement, advice, or help and support.

Even today, when 8 yr old Sarah reminded me that we’re so busy working ‘in the moment’ that we forget to smile. We should be setting examples, by making time to share those light-hearted moments, our playtime…  

Lessons from our younger selves are within us all. Let’s take time to realise that more than ever, business is personal,  ‘people buy from people.’    

What’s in it for me?

  “Hi Charlie, I’d like to come along and meet you at the networking forum next week, the cost being £10 per head right? If you don’t mind me asking … what do I get for the money?” 

 ‘Fair comment Ben,’ I replied. ‘A choice of breakfast, certainly, the venue also offers delegates exclusive use of its premises.’

OK, that’s fine. We don’t mind paying for the breakfast, although I thought you mentioned on the telephone that the networking was free?” 

 ‘Correct. The only thing you are paying for is what you consume. By coming along to the meeting you’ll find that in reality, you are absorbing much more than the great breakfast of choice.    

Ben, you will be meeting a variety of like-minded business owners, each with their own circle of contacts. You will also be the only specialist of your skills in the room and you will have an opportunity to introduce your own business.’

  “OK, Charlie, so there’s the possibility I could come away with some business?” 

‘Once your new contacts get to know you, there’s a great chance your message is discussed outside of your circle, perhaps in conversation with your next ideal client …

New business is always a possibility, it depends on who’s listening (or in the market at the time of your offer.)’

‘What else do you get for your £10?

Think about your message Ben, think … who can YOU help? It just may be reciprocal.

Networking offers an introduction to new contacts in a variety of industries over information exchange. Your allies. There’s your business’s well-being to think about. Self-esteem, confidence through the presentation, new friends also … networking is more than new business, more than a good breakfast. 

Where would you like to take your business, Ben?’

People buy from people.

Only people can

Does anyone care to imagine how the new business ‘entrepreneur’ grew the businesses prior to the advent of the internet? Before digital?

Give me just a minute …

With the consolidation of in-person networking during the mid 80’s ‘word of mouth’ established itself as the preferred tactic of obtaining new business introductions.

People recognised the value of the professional, informed connection and face-to-face interaction.

Prior to 1990 the business start-up had the choice of advertising through a very different media landscape to today … there were market-focussed magazines, local newspapers, and community ‘rags’ were abundant. 

Specialist sales-people, those who had people skills, the experts in their field who were engaging the prospects and (potential) new customer were a valuable asset to any company.

No doubt, word of mouth, and business by recommendation are still recognised as the best form of business.

Although today, the use of digital media has brought about the spectre of the ‘redundant salesperson.’ The soft skills that were so important thirty years ago are often lost on the potential impresarios of today. 

What value is the educated connection? The business landscape continues to change alongside an ever-evolving digital influence and it is proven that those who don’t adapt, are lost.

Ambitious individuals can evolve in step within the forward-thinking company. Although, the one thing that cannot be overlooked is that people buy from people. You may have the best product in the market although if you cannot personally relate to the prospective customer you may be lost.

There will always be a special place in business for those individuals who are able to develop meaningful relationships, and trust.

In-person networking continues to support the organisation that values the soft-skills, those personal experiences that only people bring to ‘the room.’

Be surprised.

Looks can be deceiving, life tests us each day, dares us to raise a smile and still, I often never see it happening.

I’d like to share a short story with you. Not particularly linked to business, with only the merest reference to the practice of networking … although … well, you’ll see.

Our son moved out recently, taking his cat with him. Since then, I’d been looking out for a ‘mouser’ to join the remaining family menagerie of four chickens and one black and white dawg …

So, when a friend coincidentally called to ask whether I’d be interested in adopting her young male cat named Dave I was listening.

Christine explained that she had been recently diagnosed with a long-term illness and with a ‘needy pet’ in the house, she was finding life tough. Dave though was fully vaccinated and in good health … without hesitating I agreed, “Yes, of course. No problem and thank you!” 

I put the ‘phone down. “You’ll need to have him sterilised you know?” Came a shout from a learned, listening ear.

It wasn’t long before I was on the way with ‘our Dave’ to the local veterinarian.

“Pop him up on the examination table please.”

The next few minutes saw me grappling with Dave’s ‘front end,’ as my lovely assistant qualified the rear area for the possible procedure.

 “Excuse me, she said, I’ll need to collect a torch. Would you take hold of him for a minute?” 

Returning quickly with another assistant and the required illumination, a further investigation ensured my assistant was finally satisfied.

You can put the pet back in the carrier please, there’s nothing we can do for you today.” 

I could see Dave was happy as I looked quizzically at my nurse …  “Your cat is female.”

Dave … is Davinia?

Needless to say … my quarter-hour journey home with Dave/Davinia provided reason to be happy for the little beast – he/she wasn’t to face ‘the knife after all.’ I’d also saved some cash and decided to maintain the boy-blue collar and the name Dave.

All in the name of the unexpected and of course a gentle nod of affirmation to the local profile of LGBTQ+ awareness.

Dave had done ‘her bit.’    

Go tell …

During the course of these past ten years, I am constantly reminding myself that I could be better. I’m happy ‘where I am’ with the business, sure, although these days I’m driven to consider how I could improve. 

Business is good. Recommendations are coming my way and while I’ve never been one to rest on my laurels, the stories I’m asked to develop on behalf of my clients are qualification enough for what I provide as a service. 

Stories have a wonderful way of reminding me there is so much more around us than what is in front of our own eyes. Stories for me, enable me to dive deep, dismissing my own needs and focus on … how I’m able to make the experience better for my client?

We all have a unique level of experience. Successes, challenges, and of course, the odd failure and I’m not saying treat these milestones as a ‘badge of honour’ but if we don’t go out and try, we won’t experience the highs and lows, right?

My own life experiences combine to form a melting pot of stories that I’ve learned to bring together. Great things happen when we take time to encourage our stories, reflecting perhaps … on life experiences. I’m not talking solely about ‘my job’ either, the production of a memoir or novel, sometimes takes years to complete. 

Tell the tale, inspire the imagination …

By engaging in-person, through groups such as the Weeklybiz, connecting through stories based on personal experiences, we’re creating opportunities. We’re also offering insights into the possibility of further collaboration.

Unbeknownst as we deliver the tale, we conjure pictures to go with the story. We’re encouraging comparisons, the possibility of solutions emerge, something that may not have been possible prior to conversation.

We’re developing a far richer association via stories. Each time I’m reminded to do better I now look at how I could make it better for my customer, I reflect on my own journey and how far I’ve come through collaboration.

Today’s business is not so much about what we know, it’s how we relate that set’s us apart from the competition. Go and build, tell your story, because ultimately, reputations matter.

Who’s that?

We make plans, and we picture the goal and the path to success as dictated by the plan. There is a preparation for action within our ability and that is complementary to our skills which will see us benefit from that plan.

Then we step forward … 

Alan is a new acquaintance I met recently. He’d had heard that networking was, amongst many other things, a great sounding board.

He was looking to introduce his ideas to the Weekly Business forum and of course, he was welcome to join us for breakfast.

“So, Alan thanks for joining us, what is it we can help you with?”

Sadly, for the most part that day Alan was invisible amongst us and continued to be so for the next couple of weeks until I decided to sit down and see if he might benefit from a conversation.

Like many who step into a new environment for the first time, there can be a sense of unease – even dread. The ‘what if’ … or ‘what if they don’t?’

We may have the best-laid plans (Robert Burns) but if we cannot see the way to communicate ‘the plan’ we can become lost. Even with the confidence of knowing precisely what it is we need and with the steps toward success being obvious there is still one thing that is overlooked.

Learning to trust.

Do we have the faith in our own ability?  Am I able to recognise genuine support, will I be able to keep up the pace … and how do I trust??  

Alan was coming across as a little uncertain, he was worried, nervous, and lacking in faith in the plan he himself had laid down. He wasn’t able to relate and so went unseen, unheard.

Alan soon realised that running a business is a leap of faith. There is rarely an end game, the spirit of reason and enterprise that led us to start in the first place is not necessarily going to be with us after the early years of success. Learning to trust in the influences and changes as our business grows is important as we adapt and initiate the change within ourselves.

Such as the change we face today, Alan.

You have a plan, you know the route to success and now, stepping out – here before you, here is a room of people following similar paths with stories that may inspire, influence you, or at the very least keep you from becoming the invisible man. 

People buy from people because business is personal.

Time away from the job

How do I spend my leisure time?

If the weather isn’t good and I’m all caught up with the business follow-up, then I have a garage with long-term projects to keep me busy. Otherwise, I like to stay occupied with any tasks that need attention, and I’m never sitting for long.

When the sun is out I’m likely found in the garden. I enjoy the open space and exercise. It’s a diversion that comes through caring. Planting, supporting, watching for growth, pruning, growing on.

I’m no professional gardener or arborist, my patch is small, but it ‘does for me.’ There’s no fuss, I’m seeing what develops and I find the garden is definitely cathartic. Whatever may be on my mind at the time, I’m able to ‘think things through. It’s time away from the day job. 


I can’t help thinking how much alike gardening and networking are. I use the comparison often when asked ‘what’s so good about the morning meeting?’

It’s a regular happening seeing new people visit The Weekly Business. It’s where everyone ‘wins.’ We learn from each other. Affinity develops, opinions are sought and insights are found through different stories. Enlightenment … conjured up during the conversation.

Away from the regular meeting, we look to share with the wider circle what we learn from one another and by doing so we find out how where we’re able to help.

 We’re sharing those new stories, looking out for one another.

It’s gardening! We’re helping each other grow, cultivating relationships through trust as we thrive.

Business is personal because people buy from people.

Catch of the day!

Not all are successful when it comes to networking.

An open mind helps, and the willingness to engage in good conversation also.

Craig was the type of fellow who was only with us to pick up the business (aren’t we all.) He wasn’t interested in the benefits of any long-term mutual collaboration. Craig was hunting for the business, ‘the catch of the day.’

“I’ll give this meeting a couple of weeks Charlie, see how we go. If it doesn’t produce, then I’ll move on …”

My response?

I’ll tell you a little later, first though, let me describe what happened when I agreed to share my time.

This was long ago, in the days when I was the owner-manager of a busy design and print company. 

We saw our suppliers daily, there was a regular need for expertise in ink, chemistry, other press consumables, plus of course … paper!

One particularly busy time I opened the door to Terry (our paper merchant) who was in full flow, announcing:

“Charlie! Would you be able to attend a paper ‘mill visit’ at the end of the month?

We have a new line of eco-friendly papers produced in Switzerland. You’ll (only) be away Thursday, returning Friday evening. Charlie, if you can do this, it would help me, the boss is looking to impress the new producer, I’m sure you’ll also make some good contacts?”

Impossible I thought, before responding that he’d best ask another, someone with a little more free time … “I couldn’t afford time off from the business Terry.”

Terry was persistent. He explained that, apart from my time away from the office, here was an opportunity. Fights, transfers, food, and accommodation were all ‘taken care of.’

Before long I ‘saw sense’ and surrendered to Terry’s persistence. With the necessary delegations in place, a few weeks later I boarded my mid-week flight. I and a healthy delegation were on our way to Zurich.

As I made my way toward my seat I couldn’t help but notice a rather large gent., sporting a mop of dark hair and a beard. He (Geoff) greeted me with a cheery ‘hello there’ as I took the seat beside him, just in time, as we were on our way …

Geoff, I learned was Creative Services Director with Glaxo Pharmaceuticals …

 ‘So, what do you do, Charlie?’ he asked.

Geoff and I learned a lot over the next few days. Not least the benefits of a good Bavarian lager and of course, non-chlorine bleached print materials! In fact, we were both so content being away from the routine, we rarely ‘talked business.’ We did though, returning to London, exchange contact details, while thanking Terry, our host before continuing our separate ways …

I dropped both Geoff and Terry handwritten notes in the post over the following days, thinking no more.

It was several months later I received a telephone call from Geoff. He wanted to know whether we could use a little more business?

In fact, it was the beginning of several good years of trading with Geoff. He was someone who understood the importance of common ground, strong relationships, and trust.

So, returning to Craig, I suggested to him that it was unlikely there would be any takeaway business in the room today. If he wasn’t prepared to sacrifice time networking in support of better relationships … he’d likely find himself forever looking for the incidental business, the ‘order book fillers.’

You may have the best products and services in your sector …  but if you aren’t prepared to engage your prospects, and learn from them, you’ll be disappointed.

Business is personal because people buy from people.

It’s cash in hand!

It was at the regular Weeklybiz network morning session I’d been introduced to Thomas … 

Thomas had left Uni a few months beforehand with a decent degree in Engineering and was now finding it tough to find work. His ‘careers adviser’ suggested he talk with Sara Eke ** and join The Weeklybiz for conversation.

Leaving Uni., like most young students, Thomas was hopeful of finding a position in his favoured sector, but so far he’d had no luck. Four months on, he was wondering when he might see the fabled green ‘shoots of opportunity.’

‘It’s tough for everyone now Charlie, I understand that. The trouble is, I’m not sure how to go about applying for ‘a regular job’ … I’ve never spent any significant time in employment.’ 

I understood his predicament. More than 50% of graduates fail to find their preferred posting right after leaving school. Post-Brexit/Covid pandemic, the job market still finds itself in shock.

Employers are wary. There are more opportunities prior to lock-down, although generally, this is a result of those taking early retirement and the booming home-working economy.

Thomas looked to enjoy our meeting. He made a few decent contacts and I left him deep in conversation with those who knew the jobs market along with my friend Sara Eke. **

As I made my way home to the ‘office’ I couldn’t help but think how fortunate I was when leaving school aged sixteen.

I found myself ‘graduating’ from the ‘paper-round,’ to stacking shelves at the local supermarket during evenings. I washed cars and began cutting grass at the weekend for an elderly neighbour as well …

The extra cash was useful, (spent before I received it!) I wasn’t aware of the magic ingredient – life experience – that was unfolding. I had no idea there may be a ‘career path’ to follow. “What’s a career path, anyway? This is it, isn’t it?”

I had cash in my hand but had no idea.

Until …my ’employer’ (the elderly neighbour) suggested I consider starting an apprenticeship … I was oblivious of course, but with a nod of affirmation, I accepted the handful of coins offered for the grass well cut and made my way … thinking nothing more. 

That is, until a few days later I found myself at my first-ever ‘interview!’ The result was a four-year assignment with a national newspaper, it was the beginning.

For me, nothing beats the word-of-mouth life experience. I never underestimate the people we engage and interact with along ‘life’s journey.’  

Thomas would take a little while to find his own ‘magic referral.’ Although by sharing a smile during conversation and acting on qualified advice … it was clear he had taken the important first steps toward improving his current situation.

Thomas had reached out through a friend.  

** Sara Eke, produces marvellous Aromatherapy remedies. Check her ingenious ‘roller-balls’ here.

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