Author Archive

Client Acquisition – Maintaining an equilibrium

One of the biggest surprises for people setting up their own business is how hard it is to get paid. It’s therefore well worth investing some time on how you can best identify prospects who are likely to be timewasters, bad debts or just inappropriate.

The obvious problem here is the fact that most start-ups don’t feel they are in any position to turn down business. However, though it may seem counter intuitive, accepting a ‘bad client’ cannot only have a detrimental effect on your business as the time but can adversely affect your business in the future.

To understand this and to work up the courage to say ‘no’ it is worth investigating exactly what constitutes a ‘bad client’. In short, a bad client represents a mismatch. This mismatch can be practical in nature or it can be ethical.

A practical mismatch is easier to turn down. It is not uncommon to be approached by a potential client whose problem does not match the solution you are providing. They may require someone with skills very similar to yours or have an issue that is appears to be very close to your area of expertise. However, if it is not what you do then it can be a dangerous road to go down.

Turning your hand to a similar line of work to your own can seem well within your grasp but if your client requires a service that you do not there is ample space for a divergence in expectations. An unsatisfactory conclusion cannot only lead to problems getting paid for the work at hand but can damage your reputation in the long term. People will not necessarily pick through the backstory to discover that the client had unrealistic expectations with regards to the service you provide, they will just see an arrangement that ended badly.

Whilst you may only have yourself to blame for accepting work for a mismatched job, whether or not to accept work from a client with mismatched personal standards is a trickier question. We have discussed at length the importance of setting your own high standards of professionalism, honesty and trustworthiness. If the standards you’ve set yourself are conspicuously absent from a potential client (say their communication or organisation is not near the level you would accept from yourself) then alarm bells should ring.

This is when rational thought is required as opposed to emotional reaction. It is perfectly understandable that a start-up may need to work with clients who are not ideal in order to pay the bills and make ends meet. However, fear is a strong emotion and when it kicks in we humans are often keen to lower our standards sooner than we would if we thought the situation through. The situation is not always as desperate as our initial fear leads us to believe and a timewaster or bad debt is no way out.

If, however, you do need to lower your standards or increase your tolerance, keep two things in mind. Firstly never forget that you are making ends meet. Don’t let a temporary arrangement come to represent a permanent lowering of standards or ‘the shape of things to come’. Approach each new prospective client with your original, high expectations. Secondly, ensure you don’t operate without the safety net of a contract.

When a prospective client is sending out all the wrong signals, explaining that you’re not in the same place and eventually saying no can seem like an incredibly tough ordeal. The experience of selling out your principles to work with a client who lives up to your expectations as potential trouble is far, far tougher.

Posted in: Business Tips

Leave a Comment (0) →

To trust or not to trust….

Our whole world is built around trust. The idea that people will do what they say they will do is central to society. Certainly the economy is built around trust – without trust there can be no confidence. A global economy relies on the fact that one party trusts that the wealth they perceive to be valuable is actually worth something to others.

When you paying for an apple, you trust that its price has been fairly calculated based on the costs involved in bringing that apple to market. The vendor places similar trust in you, or rather the metal discs you give them. They trust that these can be exchanged for something of equal value to an apple. The items aren’t directly comparable but, as long as both parties trust that they are making a fair deal, apple sales continue.

Unfortunately, the importance of trust is easiest to understand when trust is misplaced. On a global scale, and in very simplified terms, the 1720 South Seas Bubble and the housing bubble of 2007-8 serve as examples when many placed trust in value that simply wasn’t there.

From buying apples to investing in housing markets, trust is essential in all areas of business and I’ve written previously about how very precious and fragile it can be – especially on a personal level. If you choose to operate without sound ethics or honesty you might succeed for a time, but when that trust in you is broken it is incredibly difficult to build again. If people no longer trust in the value of your product or service, you will experience your own personal crash.

The obvious difficulty is that you can only be totally assured of your own honesty, integrity and trustworthiness. Not everyone applies the same standards as yourself but, as the world is built around interactions, you need to place trust in other people. One of the top ‘wish I’d known’ issues in a survey I recently carried out was people. Respondents wished they had known to be less trusting and more discerning.

We all need to be discerning, but ‘trust no-one’ isn’t a realistic option. As all commercial transactions ultimately involve mutual trust this approach would lead to an alienated, paranoid existence. A study published by Oxford University in 2014 certainly found that people with more generalised trust are healthier and happier.

Generalised trust is an important idea. The belief that, on average, the majority of human beings are decent people keeps you from sinking into paranoia. The words ‘generalised’, ‘average’ and ‘majority’ also serve to remind you that a reasonably large percentage of people may not be deserving of trust. In short, stay positive but stay mindful.

To be mindful and discerning about who you trust, it pays to start from a blank slate each time a key decision needs to be made. The vagueness of the words highlighted above is a reminder that trust is not a binary issue, that there are many grey areas and that the same individual is capable of moving along a sliding scale of trustworthiness. Every situation could be slightly different.

There is a difference between a rugby referee asking his TMO ‘is there any reason not to award the try?’ and ‘try, yes or no?’ The first question is an invitation to challenge a preconception, the second is open. In order to be more discerning, always ensure you are asking yourself the open question and considering all the evidence, rather than working to confirm or challenge a preconceived opinion. Asking yourself ‘is there any reason not to trust this person?’ is less open and less discerning than starting a fresh enquiry with: ‘should I trust this person?’

The world functions on trust. The majority of people in the world realise this and therefore mutually beneficial interactions are possible and common. To weed out the minority who don’t, you need to ask yourself open questions and treat each situation as unique. There is no need for despair, just discernment.

Posted in: Top Tips

Leave a Comment (0) →

What does your iceberg look like?

‘Don’t let go, Jack’ implores Kate Winslet’s character in the closing scenes of Titanic. Sensible advice for people clinging to wreckage after an unfavourable encounter with an iceberg. However, there are times when letting go is important and essential. The founder of a growing business will eventually need to delegate and let go of certain aspects. The question is how do you decide which aspects?

Perhaps the iceberg can help. Icebergs are handy metaphors thanks to their famous characteristic of being roughly only 10% visible. Due to this seen/unseen nature, icebergs have inspired and visually supported many theories, including ones relating to culture, content marketing and change management. The earliest ‘Iceberg Theory’ derives from literature though.

Hemmingway’s Iceberg Theory is also known as the Theory of Omission. In his reporting and storytelling he would use a minimalist style, focussing on key elements and allowing the deeper meaning and detail to be inferred.

Very crudely put, the reader’s imagination is better than any writer’s prose and so the more blanks that are left for the reader to fill in themselves, the better the story. Knowing that a better alternative exists is a useful indicator of where you should delegate.

Many business owners employ IT specialists right from the beginning – they have let go of this aspect without necessarily realising it. Perhaps this isn’t you; IT could be your strong suit, but most people have a skills area they are more than happy to offload. They are well aware that experts exist who are better at it than they are. Honesty and self-awareness can help identify other areas which you could delegate.

Letting go is not necessarily tied to capability though. Returning to the iceberg, it may be visibility which dictates what and how you delegate. If your business is built on your reputation and expertise there will be certain aspects clients will expect you to carry out personally. Depending on how your personal brand is linked to your business brand, you may find it impossible to delegate visible tasks, and so should look to the ‘below the waterline’ areas.

However, for some, it could be more straightforward to let go of the tip of the business iceberg. Sales and marketing are visible (that’s the idea!) and as such they are more easily measured, defined and linked to a timeline. Whilst you can delegate the role, you are still able to keep tabs on progress. Letting go of the more abstract work that goes on below the waterline can be more nerve wracking for the precise reason that it is less visible.

In short, once you’ve realised the need to let go there’s no simple formula for how or where to do so. There are however, several logical ways to decide. Snowflakes are unique but businesses are more like icebergs – each one different but with common characteristics and structure. This allows for rational assessment, whether it’s based on capability, enjoyment, or visibility. A thorough understanding of your own iceberg clarifies the decision and thoughtfully allocating the tasks enables continued success.

Posted in: Business Tips

Leave a Comment (0) →

Emotional Intelligence and the Importance of Being Genuine

There’s an enormous amount of research suggesting that emotional intelligence (EQ) is critical to your performance at work. Recent research has tested the EQ of more than a million people and found that it explains 58% of success in all types of jobs.

People with high EQs make significantly more annually than people with low EQs. Ninety percent of top performers have high EQs, even a single-point increase in your EQ adds to your salary.

Suffice it to say, emotional intelligence is a powerful way to focus your energy in one direction with tremendous results.

But there’s a catch. Emotional intelligence won’t do a thing for you if you aren’t genuine.

A recent study from the Foster School of Business at the University of Washington found that people don’t accept demonstrations of emotional intelligence at face value. They’re too skeptical for that. They don’t just want to see signs of emotional intelligence. They want to know that it’s genuine—that your emotions are authentic.

According to lead researcher Christina Fong, when it comes to your coworkers:

“They are not just mindless automatons. They think about the emotions they see and care whether they are sincere or manipulative.”

The same study found that sincere leaders are far more effective at motivating people because they inspire trust and admiration through their actions, not just their words.

Many leaders say that authenticity is important to them, but genuine leaders walk their talk every day.

It’s not enough to just go through the motions, trying to demonstrate qualities that are associated with emotional intelligence. You have to be genuine.

You can do a gut check to find out how genuine you are by comparing your own behavior to that of people who are highly genuine. Consider the hallmarks of genuine people and see how you stack up.

“Authenticity requires a certain measure of vulnerability, transparency, and integrity,” – Janet Louise Stephenson

Genuine people don’t try to make people like them. Genuine people are who they are. They know that some people will like them, and some won’t. And they’re okay with that.

It’s not that they don’t care whether or not other people will like them but simply that they’re not going to let that get in the way of doing the right thing. They’re willing to make unpopular decisions and to take unpopular positions if that’s what needs to be done.

Since genuine people aren’t desperate for attention, they don’t try to show off. They know that when they speak in a friendly, confident, and concise manner, people are much more attentive to and interested in what they have to say than if they try to show that they’re important. People catch on to your attitude quickly and are more attracted to the right attitude than what or how many people you know.

They don’t pass judgment. Genuine people are open-minded, which makes them approachable and interesting to others. No one wants to have a conversation with someone who has already formed an opinion and is not willing to listen.

Having an open mind is crucial in the workplace, as approachability means access to new ideas and help. To eliminate preconceived notions and judgment, you need to see the world through other people’s eyes. This doesn’t require you to believe what they believe or condone their behavior; it simply means you quit passing judgment long enough to truly understand what makes them tick. Only then can you let them be who they are.

They forge their own paths. Genuine people don’t derive their sense of pleasure and satisfaction from the opinions of others. This frees them up to follow their own internal compasses. They know who they are and don’t pretend to be anything else. Their direction comes from within, from their own principles and values. They do what they believe to be the right thing, and they’re not swayed by the fact that somebody might not like it.

They are generous. We’ve all worked with people who constantly hold something back, whether it’s knowledge or resources. They act as if they’re afraid you’ll outshine them if they give you access to everything you need to do your job. Genuine people are unfailingly generous with whom they know, what they know, and the resources they have access to. They want you to do well more than anything else because they’re team players and they’re confident enough to never worry that your success might make them look bad. In fact, they believe that your success is their success.

They treat EVERYONE with respect. Whether interacting with their biggest clients or servers taking their drink orders, genuine people are unfailingly polite and respectful. They understand that no matter how nice they are to the people they have lunch with, it’s all for naught if those people witnesses them behaving badly toward others. Genuine people treat everyone with respect because they believe they’re no better than anyone else.

They aren’t motivated by material things. Genuine people don’t need shiny, fancy stuff in order to feel good. It’s not that they think it’s wrong to go out and buy the latest and greatest items to show off their status; they just don’t need to do this to be happy. Their happiness comes from within, as well as from the simpler pleasures—such as friends, family, and a sense of purpose—that make life rich.

They are trustworthy. People gravitate toward those who are genuine because they know they can trust them. It is difficult to like someone when you don’t know who they really are and how they really feel. Genuine people mean what they say, and if they make a commitment, they keep it. You’ll never hear a truly genuine person say, “Oh, I just said that to make the meeting end faster.” You know that if they say something, it’s because they believe it to be true.

They are thick-skinned. Genuine people have a strong enough sense of self that they don’t go around seeing offense that isn’t there. If somebody criticizes one of their ideas, they don’t treat this as a personal attack. There’s no need for them to jump to conclusions, feel insulted, and start plotting their revenge. They’re able to objectively evaluate negative and constructive feedback, accept what works, put it into practice, and leave the rest of it behind without developing hard feelings.

They put away their phones. Nothing turns someone off to you like a mid-conversation text message or even a quick glance at your phone. When genuine people commit to a conversation, they focus all of their energy on the conversation. You will find that conversations are more enjoyable and effective when you immerse yourself in them.

When you robotically approach people with small talk and are tethered to your phone, this puts their brains on autopilot and prevents them from having any real affinity for you. Genuine people create connection and find depth even in short, everyday conversations. Their genuine interest in other people makes it easy for them to ask good questions and relate what they’re told to other important facets of the speaker’s life.

They aren’t driven by ego. Genuine people don’t make decisions based on their egos because they don’t need the admiration of others in order to feel good about themselves. Likewise, they don’t seek the limelight or try to take credit for other people’s accomplishments. They simply do what needs to be done without saying, “Hey, look at me!”

They aren’t hypocrites. Genuine people practice what they preach. They don’t tell you to do one thing and then do the opposite themselves. That’s largely due to their self-awareness. Many hypocrites don’t even recognize their mistakes. They’re blind to their own weaknesses. Genuine people, on the other hand, fix their own problems first.

They don’t brag. We’ve all worked with people who can’t stop talking about themselves and their accomplishments. Have you ever wondered why? They boast and brag because they’re insecure and worried that if they don’t point out their accomplishments, no one will notice. Genuine people don’t need to brag. They’re confident in their accomplishments, but they also realize that when you truly do something that matters, it stands on its own merits, regardless of how many people notice or appreciate it.

Bringing It All Together

Genuine people know who they are. They are confident enough to be comfortable in their own skin. They are firmly grounded in reality, and they’re truly present in each moment because they’re not trying to figure out someone else’s agenda or worrying about their own.

What other qualities do you see in genuine people?

Posted in: Relationship Management

Leave a Comment (0) →

You can’t buy time, but you can spend it wisely

As Theophrastus wrote, ‘time is the most valuable thing a man can spend’. If you’ve made the transition from working from a big institution to working for yourself you’ll realise how true this is. Time management is a crucial skill for the sole practitioner and needs to be given the attention something of such value deserves.

Working independently, your flexibility and freedom to react to situations more rapidly than someone working within the constraints of a large, ponderous organisation are key advantages. The ability of a sole practitioner or SME to respond quickly to a client or potential client unimpeded by bureaucracy is a distinctive plus point. However agility doesn’t always mean efficiency and you can end up paying a price.

Dashing from meeting to meeting, travelling to and from your office and following up client leads can lead to large chunks of time being used inefficiently. You don’t want to lose your nimble edge and the advantages it brings but planning your time and being flexible around that plan allows you to retain more control over your most valuable asset.

I urge you to review your use of time. I realise I’ve recommended this before and I do so again because it’s important to regularly take a look at how you spend your time – you’ll be amazed how quickly bad habits can creep back in.

Keep a time journal. There are software programs available to help with this, but a notebook and paper will suffice. What you are primarily concerned with is logging how much time is wasted, or could be used more productively, so it’s worth noting down not only what you are spending time doing but what you actually accomplish in that time.

Use the findings from your journal to inform your future decisions. If you are required to travel somewhere on a certain day, what else could be planned to coincide with that location or that route? If you know you are likely to be making a long journey or spending time waiting between meetings, what work can you allocate to that time? Ensure you use the time in your office to complete tasks which require all the resources that location provides. Allocate other tasks, which only require a Wi-Fi connection, to fill these transition periods.

The secondary use of this journal is to form a realistic picture of how long tasks actually take. It’s all very well planning to spend an hour to complete a certain activity, but reviewing a time log will tell you if this is a realistic goal. If your journal indicates that the task normally takes you far longer, give it the time it deserves or, if an hour is all you have, do a job you know you can do justice to.

Thirdly, studying how you spend your time and what you achieve in that given period should indicate when you’re working at your most productive. We like to think we already know this, and happily tell others ‘I’m a morning person’ or ‘I’m a night owl’. However, does the evidence back this up? You might think of yourself as a night owl but, if your late nights actually produce very few results, why burn the midnight oil? If your journal suggests you achieve far more in the morning, call it a night and recommence, rested and alert.

This is particularly useful for managing the time we all know is important but all tend to neglect. Work/life balance is vital but rarely treated as such. When it comes to allocating yourself free time, the decision to ‘down tools’ becomes much more palatable when you have evidence to suggest that you’re unlikely to achieve much past/before a certain point. Time is your most valuable resource, but you need to ensure you’re not too tired to use it – timetable yourself a rest.

Posted in: Business Tips

Leave a Comment (0) →

Time is precious, so is your network….

The Pareto Principle still holds very true when assesing your network. It may have become an unweildy and misunderstood tool, but I have found that within my contacts, there certainly exists a small and powerful 20 percent.

A brief internet search will tell you just how many areas of life Vilfredo Pareto’s 80/20 rule has been applied to. Intitially created to describe the inequalities of wealth distribution in Italy, the concept that a minority 20 percent of a population posess 80 percent of the wealth has been applied as a general descriptor of imbalance in areas beyond economics.

This wider interpretation of the principle states that 20 percent of a set is responsible for 80 percent of a related result. It can be applied to time allocation, stock-management, team dynamics and many other situations. It can even be applied in reverse, used to describe how 80 percent of your problems may result from the same 20 percent of issues.

The principle is often misunderstood and used an a justification for a kind of organisational culling, which is not the intention – certainly not when applied to network contacts. The principle is about being aware of where true value lies – not restricting your activities to that area. Take time management as an example.

20 percent of your time may be spent on billable hours, actually consulting. The remaining time may be spent on activities which yeild less income, such as dealing with emails, phone calls, accounting, networking, or travelling. Just because 80 percent of your profit results from the former 20 percent of time, doesn’t give you liscence to dispense with the rest. Your supporting activities are not a waste of your time – they are essential, but by being aware of what activities bring financial results you are in a better position to strategise.

In the case of personnel, identifying a valuable 20 percent subset of individuals within your organisation does not then mean you should invert the ratio and devote 80 percent of your time to your ‘star performers’. It may well be those who aren’t performaing so well who need the lions share of a leader’s assistance and attention.

When it comes to your network contacts, the 80/20 Principle acts as a reminder to focus your attention on the subset from which you can derive the most value – those who provide the most opportunities for work or routes to work. Your entire business network is valuable but, if your time is limited, ensure you make time for your key contacts.

As with the less lucrative activities in your timetable, you cannot simply dispense with the less valuable 80 percent of your contacts. As with team management, you may wish to deliberately devote time to less valuable, more remote contacts and attempt to form a closer professional link which may bring them into the core 20 percent. As this suggests, your significant 20 percent may be fluid and likely to change over time. However, it is important to understand what it is and who it contains right now.

Being aware of your key contacts allows you to work smarter and, in a world where time is precious, to know who you absolutely must make time for.

Posted in: Networking

Leave a Comment (0) →

Positive Changes

Sometimes little changes can produce dramatic results. One little change I would recommend would be to start carrying a notebook. A key practical benefit of this is simply put by Will Self:

‘Always carry a notebook. And I mean always. The short-term memory only retains information for three minutes; unless it is committed to paper you can lose an idea forever’. 

Self is in good company, and it’s not just fellow creatives. Yes, Hemmingway, Picasso, Twain and Beethoven all carried notebooks, but so did men of science and business like Edison, Newton, Darwin and Rockefeller. Aristotle Onassis attached great importance to his:

‘Always carry a notebook. Write everything down. When you have an idea, write it down. When you meet someone new, write down everything you know about them. That way you will know how much time they are worth. When you hear something interesting, write it down. Writing it down will make you act upon it. If you don’t write it down you will forget it. THAT is a million dollar lesson they don’t teach you in business school!’ 

Though most of these individuals lived in a time without access to the same technology as us, the importance of carrying a notebook has not been diminished by the emergence of new tools, nor are the benefits of having a notebook to hand confined to aiding the memory. Self has access to phones and tablets, as does Richard Branson, who swears by his notebook.

We all carry smartphones and tablets which allow us to instantly update our diaries and contact details with important information. This is fine for data that can be easily compartmentalised. If you set a date for a meeting, you can record it in your calendar. If you get passed a business card you can add the details to your contacts.

Ideas can be woolly, sprawling and evolving and a blank page makes for an ideal repository. Listening to an effective presentation and noting down not the key information but the methods being employed and the effects on and responses from yourself and the audience involves summarising disparate pieces of information that are difficult to categorise.

An electronic blank page is not always an effective substitute because of the temptation to revise your notes. The editing capacity of software makes it invaluable in many situations but the beauty and utility of notebooks is that they record every idea – good and bad. Ideas don’t always materialise at the appropriate time and place. A terrible idea in the current moment may be a perfect solution to a future problem. When given the opportunity to save over or delete your notes, potential brilliance for times to come can be lost.

For this reason it is important to revisit your notebook regularly. Don’t judge your thoughts at the time, but consider them when you need inspiration. Personal notes and thoughts for the day also provide a starting point for much of my online content. Having a record of your experiences over the course of a week and noticing the key themes and patterns which emerge acts as a great preventative measure against writer’s block.

Some positive changes involve a significant shift in lifestyle or the purchasing of expensive new tools and equipment. Carrying a notebook and remembering to record key moments from your day is a change you can make where the potential benefits vastly outweigh the effort. It’s such a small change that, though you may not initially think it will work for you, there is no real reason not to give it a try for a few weeks. Be sure to note down how it works out.

Posted in: Life Skills

Leave a Comment (0) →

Consistency, Selfie Sticks and Giant Anthropomorphic Mice

Once upon a time, in an age when taking ‘selfies’ was not common practice, Disney hit upon an idea. Back in this forgotten era, a friend of mine returned from Orlando and remarked that his family holiday photos from Disneyworld were different to the rest – all of his family were in them. Normally someone was out of shot because they were the one actually taking the photo. I checked my own photos from a similar holiday and the same phenomenon had occurred.

Like or loathe the American customer service model, I’ve always found Disney’s approach to be a great example of consistency and attention to detail. Investigating the photo quirk I discovered that all park staff, regardless of their primary role, are given the same training with regards to photos – instructed that, should they see a family taking a group shot, they are to offer their services as photographer to ensure no-one is left out of the picture.

If only the world had cottoned on, we might have been spared the invention of the ‘selfie-stick’. However, it’s not the idea that stays in my memory so much as the application. Many businesses worry about the consistency of their service. Will customer number 100 receive the same treatment as customer 1? If this hasn’t occurred to you then perhaps you should give it some thought.

Human nature tempts us to be inconsistent – the prospect of working with a big name client may (should?) excite you. You might pull out all the stops and go the extra mile for this particular customer. Great for them, but what about your reputation overall? What happens when the next customer only gets the ‘standard’ service (however high that standard may be)? Reputations are precious and hard won and you don’t want to dent yours with evidence of inconsistency.

A technically effective, but ultimately self-defeating approach is to ensure you work to the lowest common denominator. If everyone only gets the one-star treatment, everyone is equal and everyone is happy, right? No, the real challenge we all face is to ensure consistently high standards. The key to this lies in systems, processes and, if yours is a growing business with staff other than yourself, in training.

‘Systems’ does bring to mind the US customer service model, which is not necessarily a good thing to all people. However, our aversions tend to be cultural. A stranger telling us to ‘have a nice day’ may grate on this side of the pond, but knowing that you will be offered iced water at your table or a refill of your coffee at breakfast is often welcome. That system is in place for all customers, not a select few, and our expectations are managed. Look past the cultural differences and you can see the advantages.

Disney’s photo system is a broad approach. Every ‘cast member’ from street sweeper to shop assistant to giant mouse impersonator (assuming their gloved hands can work a camera) is trained to perform an additional role so that, wherever the need arises, someone is on hand to help. No customer loses out because the ‘right’ member of staff wasn’t present at the right moment. The specifics of this system may not be relevant to you, but the concept might resonate.

Introducing systems and processes does not automatically mean acting like a robot, treating clients like numbers or turning your bespoke service into a production line. A tailor will still have a system for measuring each customer, even though each finished suit is unique. Systems are in place to ensure the same level of service is given to every client, not the same service. You want a second, different suit so you return to the same tailor. Systems build trust and secure loyalty.

Every client journey will be unique. Not everyone will accept the free refill of coffee (there’s only so much coffee one can or should have in the morning) but the offer is there. Without the process and staff training, customers could be sat at their table looking enviously across the room at others. Why do the other customers get their coffee refilled, they may wonder? Are they friends of the owner, regular customers – am I not deemed important enough to warrant that attention? Systems provide everyone with the same opportunity and the same high standard of service. Everyone can be in the photo if they want to be, without the need for a selfie stick.

Posted in: Business Tips

Leave a Comment (0) →

To Err is Human

No one likes to dwell on the topic of failure. Accepting the situation for what it is and moving on is sound advice. However, we are also encouraged to learn from our mistakes and therein lies the problem. If we need to deal with a situation, learn from it and focus on the future, at what point does the dealing and learning turn into dwelling?

First things first, mistakes and failures can and do occur. A significant step towards successfully dealing with failure takes place before you even start. If you’re making the transition from a large business or organisation to working for yourself, you are taking a risk. You are taking many. Risk taking is the very spirit of entrepreneurship and if you can accept that and the fact that not 100% of these risks will succeed, the occasional hiccup will seem far easier to deal with.

When things don’t go your way, it is important not to obsess over things you have no control over. Unless you’re given some direct feedback, you can’t be sure what’s going on in other people’s heads and what their decision making process is. You could devote hours trying to unpick a situation which led to a prospective client walking away, wondering how you could have pitched things differently but for all you know they were merely fishing and never genuinely interested in the first place.

Perhaps you have some form of concrete evidence to work with, such as a correlation between you revealing your pricing structure and people walking away. This is useful as it provides you with an area to consider or discuss with your mentor. Prospects who vanish without trace or leave no explanation as to their change of heart do not deserve the room in your head. We like to think we can put ourselves in a client’s place, but without evidence or a clue to infer from we can only project what they may be thinking and that is not helpful.

If something has not gone to plan and you recognise that you have made a genuine mistake, the first step towards dealing with it and moving on is to acknowledge the error and apologise. Your reputation is incredibly important and though an error on your part may tarnish it somewhat, the honesty to admit a mistake and the humility to apologise for it will serve you far better in the future than developing a reputation of being blind to your own mistakes, too proud to admit them or insecure enough to insist palming off the responsibility to anyone or anything else instead of yourself.

In terms of moving on, acknowledging and apologising for your mistake will have given you a clear idea of what it was you did wrong and therefore clear targets for how to operate differently in the future. You can accept the situation for what it is, refrain from overthinking and replaying past events and focus on the future using your experience to improve your performance.

Of course, not all failure will be your fault at all or the failure may not be complete, just not the ideal solution you were looking for. In these cases it is even more important not to dwell on the past. High aspirations are commendable, but perfectionism can drive people mad. As Solomon Ben Judah put it: ‘At the head of all understanding is realizing what is and what cannot be, and the consoling of what is not in our power to change’. The situation is what it is. We can’t change it now. Let’s learn what we can and use it in the future. If a similar situation occurs we could try doing things differently. Now let’s move on.

Posted in: Personal Development

Leave a Comment (0) →

Can you help me?

It’s easy to point out the splinters in other people’s eyes and miss the plank sticking out of your own. This is particularly true when it comes to the idea of asking for help. No doubt you will have experienced the frustration caused when a member of your team or an individual you’re working with has made a complete mess of a task by trying to go about it without really knowing what they’re doing. ‘Why didn’t you ask for help?’ is often the resulting question.

If we’re honest with ourselves, we know the answer. Most of us associate asking for help with weakness. The further we progress along our careers, the more acutely this is felt. The more experience we have gained, the damning it would seem in the eyes of others if we were to admit that we didn’t have all the answers and were forced to ask for assistance. The hypothetical individual didn’t ask for help for exactly the same reasons we wouldn’t.

However, if we are able to put pride to one side and think about the situation logically, there are obvious benefits to asking for help and avoiding the potential pitfalls of trying to go it alone. The fact that business has become so specialised in recent years helps to reduce the worries about doing so. IT specialists, for example, exist because not everyone can be expected to be an expert in technology as well as in their main role.

Using IT as an example brings to mind the phrase ‘have you tried turning it off and on again?’ which serves as a reminder that whilst there is no shame in asking for help, it pays to first explore the options which are obvious or clearly within your grasp. Coming to terms with the acceptability of asking for help does not absolve you from all responsibility. This is yet another balancing act. You need to refrain from taking the easy option and passing the buck but possess the discretion to recognise when you need assistance.

Not only does ensuring you’ve investigated possible solutions yourself confirm that you really do need help with your issue, when asking for help it is always beneficial to accompany a request with evidence that you have attempted a solution and, importantly, what you’ve identified won’t work.

Even better is to arrive with a set of options you’ve compiled outlining possible solutions that may prove successful but that you need help implementing. If this all still smacks of weakness to you, remember that if a problem has ground you to a halt, at the very least you could bounce ideas off of someone else.

Things are slightly different outside of the corporate structure and as a sole practitioner it is not so much the shame of asking for help that holds people back, more the fact that the thought doesn’t occur. You have talented individuals amongst your contacts so why bang your head against the wall when one of them might have the solution to hand.

Running ideas by other people isn’t a fully collaborative project, but it’s always good to be able to be able to repay someone for their help. If you possess a strong presence on social media, a piece of advice can always be repaid with an online mention, thank you and the publicity this brings. However, you’ll never know if anyone can help unless you ask them.

Posted in: Business Tips

Leave a Comment (0) →
Page 5 of 18 «...34567...»