What goes around …

The call came in:

‘Hey Charlie, Steve here, long time no see? I’ve developed a great new product and I wondered whether you would be kind enough to pass on the news to friends within your network for me?
Blah … blah … this ‘n that, blah, great offers, blah – and by the way, hope all is well with you?’

My immediate response to Steve’s question was yes, sure, no problem … Happy to do so! Steve’s enthusiasm captivated me, I wanted to help him (because help is what I do.) 

Although …

You know, people often come to me with requests to spread the word about their business. I’ve been doing just that for the last ten years through close connections. There is value in supporting each other, it’s something I strongly believe in.

We all know that reciprocal arrangement, the unwritten rule of life and business, ‘what goes around comes around?’ That same arrangement continues to attract the ‘right kind’ of people to the network and it’s for that reason, I see why Steve called me.  After all, if you don’t ask, you don’t get.

So, in this instance, I wasn’t sure how to tackle Steve’s question … ‘Charlie, pass the news on to friends in the network?’ 

I really didn’t know Steve so well, an acquaintance of a friend so to speak, so I decided to call him back, make him an offer … ‘

Steve, thanks for the news, why not come along to the meeting, introduce yourself? Show your face, spend an hour or so as you extol the virtues, the value of the new project you’re involved with?’ 

Charlie, I appreciate the invitation although networking is not for me and to be honest I simply don’t have the time. I’d be grateful though if you would give them my details?’ 

So don’t get me wrong, I’m excited for Steve and hope his new idea takes off. I’ll mention his news, although I couldn’t personally recommend a product or service I haven’t used myself to close friends or family.

Good business comes via those we know well. Referrals take time and are earned. Strong reputations we build through trust. Because business is personal.

Take time for conversation

I sat down for a ZOOM chat with Adam the other day, he’s decided to start-up a domestic cleaning business. We shared the virtual cake …
His first question to me?

Can networking help my business?

It’s a question I’ve heard many times and I’ve always given the same answer:
Yes, networking can help your business start-up. With enthusiasm, ambition and desire we inspire others. Attitudes are infectious and listening to you as you talk up the business, share dreams, goals, products or services, we’re often empowered to refer you to others.
Networking is a great way to kick-start any new business.

Even in today’s economic climate?

In any business landscape, correct. Talk about the people, someone else’s magic and you start the gossip …
The aim of networking is to develop the diary of connections, broaden the horizons. Spread the good word, the benefits of association, all through word-of-mouth.

I could do that, the same through social media, couldn’t I?

Of course, and I see you already do that, although the difference between an ‘average’ referral and ‘great’ one is always the personal connection.

So, I need to spend time developing skills, how long does it take to become successful when networking??

You can grow your audience through social, collect the likes, shares and emojis. the difference is the Unique Selling Person.

The difference when we spend time with others? Nothing beats your presence, being ‘there’ for when a potential client needs help. To excel, with your audience, show your values, your ‘why’ your ‘how’ and where you work, the difference is personal. It’s you.

Develop your listening skills, Adam, be reflective and converse, share wisdom, allow others to learn from you. Familiarity develops certainty, so spend time knowing your audience, the market. You ask how long?

People buy from people who they know, like and trust.

the gift of time

Chrissie called the landline this morning to let me know that she wasn’t going to make the ZOOM call this week.

That’s just like Chrissie, I thought.  Calling to speak instead of a simple text or email, I admired that about her. It was unlike her to miss the weekly ‘human interaction’ and so I asked whether there was anything I could do to help? 

Nothing new to offer from me this week Charlie, I’ll take the week off, perhaps that will ‘do the trick’ and I’ll return inspired, refreshed!

There are many occasions when misguided thoughts can thwart our intentions. Chrissie offered a prime example. I’ve known many in business believe that networking is about ‘what’s new, what do I have to offer??  Or, what can I give?’  Of course, networking is so much more than what you have …

The greatest gift we’re able to offer one another is time, attention.  By being there, listening.

Yes,  it’s understood, Chrissie knows this already. She may have ‘other stuff’ happening,  jobs to do – family – we all have stuff, right?

From past experience, I’ve learned the main reason we’re networking, meeting on regular basis is to be there to offer support for those who need it. We’re together to learn from one another and wherever possible, lend our expertise, offering solutions.

We offer our own views on the topics of the day, together with best business practice and by being attentive we’re making ourselves available…

Marvellous things happen during a conversation. We listen as we hear, relate, we develop self-reflection, we have something to offer and so we overcome the scarcity Chrissie mentions. By participating in the GIFT of group conversation we’re learning the language of others, leading to empathy & trust.

There’s another oft-overlooked magic that comes through conversation. The regular conversation develops the relationships, opportunity.

Give the gift of attention,  conversation, inspire through collaboration.

Training for your discipline

How do you feel?

What do you do when the business you love begins to promise so much?

You dare to build on that promise, you dream big, you start to see progress from all the graft with the route to fulfilment becoming reality. The promise of success excites, doesn’t it?

All is well until …

The very path we’re following, channelling the time and energy changes forever with the arrival of negative market forces. Worse still, the changes are something we’re unable to control, suddenly there’s a feeling of helplessness when the strategy, the certainty we once had in place is all but gone, we’re driven to look at strategy. Plan B.

Planning on how to pivot the business.

The above scenario is affecting organisations large and small everywhere just now and for one such business owner, with an established fitness studio, twelve months ago Beth found her livelihood under threat of permanent closure unless she found a way to keep her clients and the money coming in.

Being so ‘wrapped up’ in the day to day of the business can be debilitating, although Beth somehow had the foresight to develop a strategy, at the same time brave enough to admit to herself that she needed help taking the concept of the pivot to reality. 

Gareth Shackleton eventually met with Beth and discussed (amongst other things) ambition, what was possible (or not) today, building for tomorrow including five components that VALUE the business all before sitting down to discuss Action – working on the new baby, the result of ‘pivot.’ 

With Gareth’s help, Beth came up with a plan to incorporate an existing degree held in Sports Therapy with her broader life skills, those as a former jockey and competitive horsewoman. This strategic move tied in with a client offer of all-round defined fitness for both rider … and horse!

Equine biomechanics.

Before long, ‘Equiskills’ was established combining the fundamentals of Pilates, inner physical and mental fitness, all presented as a rounded offer in a series of online tutorials … ‘Training for your Discipline.’ 

.  .  .

Extraordinary times call for extraordinary plans and by taking the time to share the ambition with recommended, trusted friends it can be possible to step outside of the comfort zone and realise the benefits of enforced change.

Off to market?

So how do we know when could be the right time to sell the business and move on?
Perhaps a combination of external forces could trigger a long-desired need for diversity, or adapt, personal circumstances sometimes enforce change, partnerships are disputed, there are a myriad of reasons why the business we’ve built, spent so much time nurturing seemingly becomes passe. It may simply seem like the right time to leave the business, start afresh …

Some of us were lucky enough to hear Gareth Shackleton offer a presentation at a recent Weekly Business network. Gareth brought VALUE to the meeting. The business ‘value’ may be considered in this way:

V.A.L.U E.

Value? What do the figures say, the intrinsic difference between incoming and outgoing? What say the bottom line?

Acquirers?  Do you have interest from potential buyers for your business?  Are they genuinely interested in continuing the legacy or simply looking at the aforementioned bottom line …? What’s in it for them? 

Lipstick?  If we’re going to present our business to potential buyers, we should portray the enterprise in a way that she looks attractive. Going to market? Dress up the positive, accentuate clarity so that any potential candidate might find it easy to step forward, at the right price.

Understanding?  Your buyers will need to understand you somewhat in making up their mind whether your business is for them. There will be time spent working on how your business excels, how it contributes to the existing marketplace and perhaps additionally, why did you start in the first place?

Extras?  What are the benefits to your potential buyer? Try to visualise where/why your business is especially attractive to a potential buyer and so find ways to accentuate the positive value now and in the future.

Sounds simple enough? Agreed, for some, the process may need no explanation, although there’s still plenty of ‘work’ to do in preparation of moving on from the business we’ve spent time bringing to market. The challenge is continuing to sustain the business if we’re considering stepping away.

I’ve always felt that the trusted network has so much more to offer than a cultivated route to orders on the day book, the above example is surely confirmation to that. Cheers, Gareth!

How do we know when the time is right? We talk. It’s always good to talk.

Forging the business

I met with Stephen Lunn recently, an artist who has been part of the family-run business since 1974. The renowned foundry itself operating for over a century.

During our conversation, I asked Stephen whether he had any business advice, something he may wish to share?

Stephen thought for a minute before offering the following tips, genuine ‘gold dust’ in my view … fundamental points to pass on to any budding entrepreneur.

‘Charlie, there are many lessons my grandad taught me over the years, here are one or two I tend to stick by:

  • Never denigrate the value of someone else’s services or business, certainly not publicly. If you have nothing positive to say, then say nothing at all.
  • If you believe that a potential client proposition is wrong, then let them know why by advising them accordingly.
  • Quality, a job well done, should always take precedence over time. There’s always seems to be time for a re-do!
  • Make it special. Try not to compare your client’s project to similar work …
  • Recommend others if you cannot complete a project. Share your connections.

Any of the above sound familiar?

Why are the above points so important?’ I hear you say?

Life is a circle.

Over the years I’ve found that what goes around, comes around. If you generate bad news you tend to be described by others in the same way. In the same way, by supplying only quality service or products, we’re positioning ourselves as a valuable provider and by making the ‘customer experience’ a special one, we’re more readily referrable. Likewise, by recommending an alternative provider of specific services we’re doing our reputation no harm at all.

In all aspects of life, we reap as we sow, and I’m a firm believer in that business should be a rewarding experience for all concerned, especially today!

Not forgetting … if we share smile, we’re generally receiving a smile in return.  

People buy from people who they know, like and trust.

Thank you for the reminder, Stephen.

A handful of skills …

You don’t need formal qualifications to be a great salesperson, really you don’t. You simply need to learn what to do with the fundamentals.

Qualification (or studious credential) in a specific cause, subject or topic will bring you certain hard-won skills, although I firmly believe the traits of the exceptional salesperson is inherent, characteristic.

The diplomae are a fabulous confirmation of studious intent and the degree certainly confirms commitment to the cause. Although … while intention and commitment are attributes that anyone looking for success should possess, there are but a handful of skills we all possess, already resident in our DNA which, in my view should be observed.

Here are a few of that handful …

We should be genuine, credible

As a people person, we should have empathy

Our engagement should be generous in time, considerate in offer

We need to understand that discussion is two-way, time spent in conversation

With some/all of the above, success comes by also remembering that we have a better chance of attaining exceptional results, when offering our prospects the courtesy with which we would expect ourselves.

Being a representative of the very best that you provide takes application, time. The excellence we seek comes from the repetition of certain life skills cultivated over a given period. Sure, the diploma, the qualifications we’ve worked so hard for are a great starting point, although the real, meaningful lessons come from spending time with peers, those who understand that people buy from people and that it’s not necessarily what you have to offer, but how you relate.

So, how to reap the rewards of a hard-won qualification?

Practice what you preach.

grateful for the vision

Like most, I’ve had plenty of time recently to reflect on lessons of the past twelve months. More importantly, I’ve realised I’m in a very fortunate situation, a new (better) year is ahead of me, I have some great people in my circle and a vision to take me forward. I’m grateful.

One of my first tasks during the holiday was to clear that path that takes me forward. I’ve been making a concerted effort to remove some of those ‘unseen’ obstructions that seem to hinder any kind of progress.

The time thieves.

I started with email and I must be honest, logging on after a few days felt a chore. The inbox was carrying assorted offers, most of it promising my exclusive part of the brave new world, there were exclusive ‘deals’ if I order now plus of course the ubiquitous offer of help with my SEO – from several different ‘connections’ representing the same company!

Time for a clear-out.

The process started out as a tedious distraction ‘though soon became a kind of rewarding therapy … spending the best part of the day ‘unsubscribing’ and severing links with any kind of new year distraction. I followed up on the ‘valid stuff’ and prioritised the written ‘to do’ list for January (yes, I still keep a list!) I’m keeping in touch with my connections of course and all the while I’m making the mental note to answer those holiday cards …

‘Social’ media is another story.

The routine is just that now. Each new season, at the start of ‘every quarter’ I find I learn a lot from my aforementioned clear-out. I’m giving myself space, clearing the path to visualise the route, qualifying what I need to do if I am to go further in pursuit of my goals. 

By sticking to a modicum of routine I’m creating the freedom required to see the future.

By following-up, I’m also making myself referrable by being seen as a reliable business connection.

‘people buy from people’

I see you!

I was interested to learn recently that, according to a recent Deloitte survey, 59% of consumers say they have  increased their usage of local services and retailers. (< link)

With this shift towards local business offering greater support to the surrounding economies, it certainly seems good business sense to play a proactive role in supporting community-level enterprise don’t you think?

Here’s one way to participate.

… especially during this time of lock-down and considering many of our potential ‘customers,’ work from home, it needs little explanation that the priority should see us all ensuring our online presence is attractive, fresh and engaging …

Tough times also call for bold decisions by stepping away from the relative ‘comfort’ of the online world (when possible,) so introducing your solutions in-person should be encouraged. Why? Because even more so today, personal business relationships are hugely important and it’s not simply those well-established local ‘cornerstone industries’we should be approaching either …  

According to “New Business Start-Ups”there are an expected 85000 new businesses established in the UKby the end of 2020. For any would-be entrepreneur, engaging the like-minded local establishments shouldn’t be dismissed. After all, developing close allies and affinity, better understanding through relationships are the type of associations that turned the one-time small business start-up into the ‘cornerstone industries’we see thriving today.

People buy from people.

Not forgetting, it’s not all the furthest, most sparkling horizons hold the richest of rewards. Try to imagine what may be right in front of you, by reaching out. Simply introduce your own local services, define your offer and invite the engagement. By lowering the ‘horizon of expectation’ and engaging local we’re creating opportunity when that local needs arise. With our own genuinely local flavour, our prospects see the worth of association and we become more readily referrable. More business at a lower cost.

Of course, readily referrable means we’re seen as a reliable business connection, the reputation grows and over time, the horizons for business broaden organically as the reputation sells for you.

A new business can be challenging during tough times although you are never alone and just now (right now!) the opportunities are enormous, we simply need to embrace the change and be prepared to adjust the expectation for when our prospects need us and …

Fly the flag for your business.

Be like Mr Costas

I received sad news recently that an old friend, someone I had known for years, had passed away. The news was entirely out of the blue (as most sudden deaths are) and when I was asked how I best remembered my buddy Mal, I immediately thought of how much he gave.

Mal was the type of fellow who had time for everyone, for me he will always be remembered as a guy who gave time (no matter how busy) to each and everyone he met along the way …

Do you know many people like that?

I remember one family holiday to Greece, we’d flown to arrive mid-afternoon and the sunshine was blisteringly hot. The queue for the cab (all of 3 minutes) to our designated hotel was even becoming tedious – what else did I expect? Midday … in Greece??

So, our cab arrives, driver relieves us of luggage and the three of us jump into the car – immediately the driver opens an icebox on the front seat and produces three perfectly chilled, gratefully received drinks – ‘relax,’ he says, ‘we’re only ten minutes away … and the pool is good where you are staying.’

After ten animated, informative minutes, we reached our destination. Again, insistently in charge of luggage Costas (we’re on first-name terms by now,) duly escorted us to the reception, introducing us to our hosts (his mother and father) and upon completing registration, he politely offered his card and suggested … ‘ if there is anything you want during your stay, just call me.’

‘Perhaps you would like a suggestion of where to dine with your family during your stay?’

Our short stay in Greece became known as ‘5 days with Mr Costas’ … someone who went out of his way to understand, engage his audience.

As it happens, we did take up his offer of recommendation to dining. He’d directed us to a local taverner run by a close family friend … his sister. In fact we found the experience so irresistible we returned each evening before our eventual departure to the airport … via Mr Costas, luggage hauled and inclusive of in-car refreshments.

So, back at ‘the office’ when asked:

How was the break? Meet any good people? Was it anywhere you would recommend?

Mr Costas had done his job, given his time and made us feel special, just like Mal had done during the time I’d known him.

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. Maya Angelou.

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