Thursday, 21 August 2014

Stop Blogging and Think

If you wish to prove that your new business is just a run-of-the-mill and unoriginal, vanilla-flavoured company like the rest, just keep on banging out those quickly-written and, to be honest, shallow blog posts.


Every so-called social media guru screams, ‘Content is King’. No! Content is not King; Engagement is King. If you put out even more mediocre, average and truly uninsightful blog posts then you will simply be adding to the mass of mediocrity that clutters our inboxes.


Do you truly believe that your audience can differentiate your unremarkable and unmemorable little blog offerings from anyone else’s? Do your “10 Tips...”, “What we can learn...”, and “How to…” –type titles really make potential clients think, “Yes, I want to buy from them!”? I doubt it. No, you just look like a breathlessly over-enthusiastic start-up. Why would they look at your sheer predictable averageness? More relevant, who does find those titles attractive? I doubt it will be the people you are trying to attract...











Friday, 8 August 2014

Owner-Directors Do Not Need Silver Bullet Advice

Owner-managers (the smaller, younger naive businesses) find it almost impossible to sort the good from the bad in the sea of offers of help. Their very naivety excludes them from knowing what they don’t know and what it actually is that they need. As a result, they tend to jump from one exciting initiative to the next.



On the other hand, owner-directors (in larger and more mature businesses) are not taken in by the breathless excitement of those selling hope to the needy. However, they find it hard to find the right assistance (being too big for the owner-manager offerings and too small for the offerings of the big consultancy houses).

 
As a starting point I would suggest that asking, ‘Where should the owner-director look for help and support?’ may actually be the wrong question.

 
The right question might be to ask ‘Exactly what is the problem and what are the underlying causes?’.

 
Unfortunately most suppliers of assistance do not carry out the appropriate diagnostic. Marketing consultants assume the problem is marketing, social media consultants assume the problem (and the solution) is social media and so on.

 
I would argue that what the business actually needs is an objective diagnostic, a look under the bonnet that examines what the key issues are and some sort of prioritised shopping list. The systematic approach is especially required for the owner-director.

 
Too often, the focus of interventions is on the business and the business goals and performance indicators. While it may be easier to measure and report on the easily measurable (the things that we can enter on to a spreadsheet), this rarely tells the whole story. The items that are tougher to measure are often left out of the equation. This is ironic as these are often the really important things.

 
The sort of questions I am referring to are less tangible but more about many owner-directors’ definition of success: Is this business fulfilling its purpose? Have we created a team and culture that is positive and self-reinforcing? Is this business sustainable in the long-run? Does it allow me to do what I really want to do with the rest of my life? Is it going to provide me with the funds I need (now and later)?

 
As we come out of the recession and as a little bit of pressure is coming off businesses so more and more owner-directors, managing directors and CEOs are starting to question the very fabric of their business and why they as individuals do what they do. There seem to be more and more people searching for answers, if only to validate that what they currently do is ticking all the right boxes.


Businesses are looking to create far more of a well-rounded solution recognising the need to create balance as well as a sustainable future. This requires an understanding of the bigger picture as well as its component parts: aspiring to develop a flourishing team, sales processes, cash-flow and profitability that deliver on the greater goals of the business. It seems that it is no longer just about the profit and the ROI but now there is a desire to create a more complete business that it is more satisfying and rewarding to own and run.

 
The owner-director may have been duped into parting with their own hard-earned cash in the past; the last thing they need right now is another guru with a magic wand. 


While a dramatic transformation, a radical revolution in how one does business may sound exciting (re-stimulating the passion and excitement of the old days), the wise owner-directors realise that what they probably need is a more delicate and evolutionary approach to growing and developing the business. The quest for explosive sales results is replaced with a desire to achieve sustainable growing profit.


The owner-director is very different from the smaller, owner-manager.


They have too much to lose (the nice car, home and holidays that come with painstakingly nurturing and growing a business) and they are no fools. What they are looking for is far-more considered support from people who have a mix of: been-there-done-it expertise, grey-haired wisdom, background credibility and the ability to communicate and assist. At this point in the business, one is looking for support in the long game, recognising the benefit of consistent and constant improvements (3% here and 4% there) that will create an engine for growth.

Friday, 1 August 2014

Work Less, Achieve More

We are endlessly told that hard work creates more profit. Work harder to create more profit in your new business. Does more work really mean more profit? Do we have to put in ludicrously long hours to be successful?


We have been brought up to believe that working more equates to being more successful. More input equates to more output. Well, I am not sure I agree. I think the logic (and many of the assumptions behind it) is flawed.


Sure, if you are a one-person-business, charging per unit of time, then more units equals more money. But most businesses try to grow by employing people to spread the workload. Or, maybe you should simply charge more per unit of time!


For those of us who are not charging by the hour, then I would argue that it may well be more profitable to work less. I repeat… to work less. Less hours… less stress… less banging your head against a brick wall.


I shall be more specific.


Jim currently works 5 days a week. In effect, he contributes 20% of a week's value on each working day. He admits that if he only worked four days a week (ie took Fridays off), then he could easily do “25% days”. In other words, with a Friday off he could and would work more productively on the other four work days.


But the maths deceives us of the real benefits of the extra day off.


If Jim spends Fridays doing whatever it is that he wants to (gardening, household/DIY chores, playing guitar, walking the dogs) then he will spend much of that time ruminating and reflecting on the days that he does work. Consciously, unconsciously, or subconsciously, he will be thinking about what he does on the working days. And this is where things get interesting.


With a bit of space from the work environment, Jim returns on a Monday with a new zest and vigour. But that is not all.


While Jim spends his Fridays doing his own thing, he will come up with great ideas for the business. So, he comes back to work refreshed, reinvigorated, and ready to go. Except now he has a freshness and an intensity about himself. He has more focus. More focus on what is required.


FACT: You never come up with great light-bulb moments when sat in front of the computer.
MORAL: Spend time away from the computer.
ACTION: To help your business, book more days off! 


To be more effective you need to work less. My challenge to you is that you can achieve more by working less.


Working harder creates burn-out. Working harder satisfies the voice in your head, the monkey on the shoulder, who says, “If you are not working long hours then you are short-changing yourself".  What utter tosh. 


We have been sucked in by the protestant work ethic (which did apply to factory workers where longer hours equal more pay). However, most of us are not factory workers, we are knowledge workers, and our pay is proportionate to the quality of ideas rather than the number of hours that we work. 


So, what's holding you back?


Admittedly, you have to put in the hours in the early stage of your business in order to get the enterprise off the ground. If success is a consequence of the number of people that know about you then you need to meet as many people as possible. However, I would argue that there is no point being a busy fool.


Once the business is up and running, the quality of your time is more important than the quantity. You need to spend as much time working ‘on’ the business as possible, stepping back and making sure you are doing the right things. The risk of spending too much time ‘in’ the business is that you might become a busy fool where you can’t see the wood for the trees. You don’t want to build a business that is 100% dependent on you 100% of the time. You want to create a self-sustaining machine that will survive without you.


Taken to its logical extreme, anything that is a repeated task should be handed over to someone else. If you can give a task to someone who can do it for £6.50 per hour then your holding on to that task means that, in effect, you only value your time at £6.50 per hour. Surely it is worth more than that.


Here are my one-liners, to print and put by your computer screen:


“ONLY DO WHAT ONLY YOU CAN DO”
“PRODUCE 20% MORE AND WORK 20% LESS”

 

Let others do the rest.






Saturday, 26 July 2014

Clients see a decline in professionalism - everywhere



There was a golden age in the years before the internet.


Clients of lawyers, accountants, architects, business consultants and financial advisers looked up to and respected their advisers. In fact, it was a two-way thing.


Advisers understood what it meant to be professional. They worked on behalf of, and in the best interests of their clients. Clients trusted you and you valued the trust that they imbued in you. But that trust got shattered.


Cunning advisers in almost every field would take advantage of their position. By definition, the professional expert had been trusted to do everything in their power to improve the lot of their clients. But now things had changed. Advisers started to work on their own account. They put their own needs (or should I say greed) ahead of the needs of their client. They started to abuse the trust. 


As it happened, the next thing was that the internet came into the equation.


The actions of the few unscrupulous advisers had muddied the waters for all their kind. All got tarred with the same brush. But the internet seemed to redress the balance.


For a start, the speed and reach of the internet meant that a good or a bad reputation got spread ten times faster than in the old-days. More importantly, much of the so-called precious, hidden, ‘expert’ information was now available for all and sundry to see. It took a few clicks of Google and there it was for all to see. The big ‘secrets’ were no longer so secret.


The days when people in authority abused their power were over. Hurray! At least that’s how it seemed.


But be warned, because now there is a different kind of knowledge and it is in the hands of your clients. I am referring to the half-baked, semi-, demi-, wiki-cum-people’s knowledge that is very much a mixed blessing.


Doctors now see patients who have already self-diagnosed and are in a state of perpetual anxiety as they have looked up maybe 23 potentially life-threatening diseases they may have contracted which any expert could see was flu. Lawyers have clients quoting case law as if they had been in articles for the past five years. And on and on it goes.


Now, the downside of such a situation is clear. Everyone’s an expert and a little bit of information is a dangerous thing. The upside is that clients will be savvier, more aware, and will no longer take recommendations at face value.


I see this as an opportunity. The experts, those in authority, need to recognise that their reputations have been battered. Priests, politicians, bankers and pop stars are at the top of the list of abusers. Lawyers, accountants, architects, consultants, journalists of all kinds have all had their share of damage caused by the abusers of trust. 


To stand out in this new world requires you to have a reputation beyond reproach. You need to recognise that people have always talked but now they talk to several thousand people with the single click of the keyboard.


There will always be a place for honest servants of their clients (after all you do serve your clients!) whose actions vindicate, validate and justify the trust that has been put in them. Every industry will have their abusers. You, however, need to consistently deliver with honesty and integrity.


Actions speak louder than words. Your reputation is created and spread by your clients. End of. 


We are not talking about some kind of cover-up or euphemistically called reputation management campaign. We are talking about acting and behaving with respect for your clients and their needs. All the time. Always.


Remember, a pig with lipstick on is still a pig, no matter how you look at it.



PostScript – the same applies to food manufacturers and their inability to put the advertised ingredients into their products!



image: http://www.cisi.org/bookmark/genericform.aspx?form=29848780&URL=ethics

Sunday, 29 June 2014

I don't like Customer Service...




"We should celebrate how grumpy we are in the UK!"
Jack Whitehall - Live at the Apollo - British/American customer service

Friday, 27 June 2014

Mind the Gap: Service Delivery Myopia



I have been asked to gather examples of my recent study, 'Mind the Gap'. Certain individuals have seen fit to 'borrow' and misrepresent the findings (text and graphs). 

Twelve years of polls and surveys (the ‘Mind The Gap’ research, 2014) revealed that there is a significant gap between what companies believe they deliver, and what customers believe they receive. This is referred to as the service delivery gap or service delivery myopia.

You can see the original work at the following places:


You can download the full pdf here

Robert Craven



The Directors’ Centre Ltd ©2014


Friday, 16 May 2014

Anti-Social Media: a rant





Social Media is not…!




Why do they call it social media? It is anything but social. It is anti-social.

What social media does can be really damaging to a business. Under the mistaken idea that they are ‘doing business’, business owners and sales/marketing people get preoccupied with social media and replace the basic, traditional forms of sales and marketing with counting clicks, likes and followers.

The bare facts are that ‘doing business’ is about understanding who your customers are, what their problems and hurts are and engaging with them in a way that they buy from you when they are ready.

Social media may be part of the recipe but it is not the recipe.

Too many people confuse talking business with doing business. They become social media-obsessed and confuse their social media interactions with their original purpose. In effect, they become busy fools.

Most businesses spend
  • 75% of their time arguing over communications channels (LinkedIn or FaceBook or Instagram etc...)
  • 20% of their time discussing marketing, and
  • 5% of the time discussing whether they have the right product for the specific target customers needs.

This is all so wrong. So upside-down...

You need to turn this pyramid on its head and spend:
  • 75% of the time discussing whether you have the right product for the specific target customers needs
  • 20% of your time discussing marketing, and
  • 5% of the time of your time arguing over communications channels (LinkedIn or FaceBook or Instagram etc...).




Obviously, social media done well is another matter.




image link: http://s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/24dash-media/image/2008/05/08/3866/380_Image_antisocial_graffiti.jpg