Friday, 29 February 2008

“Let’s Talk… Green” in Liverpool – it’s about the money!

A brilliant day today at the Marriott by Liverpool’s John Lennon Airport. The subject: “Let’s Talk… Green Business”.

So, why was it good?
A great audience (120+) and three excellent presentations from ‘experts’ in their fields: Cameron Scott from the award-winning
Greenfield Training, Jim Collins from award-winning RS Clare and Nick Ward from Envirowise.

Key ‘aha’ moment…
From a straw poll on the door asking, “What do you think is the key benefit of ‘greening’ your business?”, there were 100+ replies and the voting was

32: money/profit/reduce costs
31: marketing/sales/PR10: money and the environment
9: environment/save the planet
5: staff/morale
2: it is our core business

So... some 60% of our sample saw the key benefit as marketing/money-related. This was definitely a room full of business people seeking to understand how to grow their businesses into ‘green businesses’. Excellent!

Also thanks go to Nigel and the team at Barclays Merseyside for hosting such a great event… and of course Gina from the local Business Link.

Let's Talk... Green/Profit/Marketing/Exit events with Barclays and The Directors' Centre
Is Green The New Black? - Robert Craven explains why going green will not just benefit the environment (Start Your Business, November 2007)
Green Is The New Black article by Tara Struk at
Global Warming - No Problem - Today's London Sunday Times reports on Bjorn Lomborg's latest book, Cool It... 'Do you care about global warming? Yes? Liar.
Whitewash - Greenwash: who cares if your business is green? - It is easy to say you are green, but consumers are skeptical.

Sunday, 24 February 2008

"Does Your Stuff Work In Africa?"

Ten minutes into a party back home in Bath and I get asked a pretty fundamental question about my recent visit to Africa:
“Does your stuff work out there? What value were you adding to the local economy?"

So, an answer...
As with all my work, I am not interested in simply entertaining – they could have hired in some local acrobats if they wanted that…

Neither am I interested in blinding people with science – too easy to do (and you get spotted if you do this).

So what was I bringing to the table in Africa?

1 UK/European culture is very different and so generates different approaches to marketing and growing a business… sharing these insights was highly valued – there was a real curiosity to understand how things are done/not done in N Europe. (Increasingly, local African businesses have to deal with the European ideology and need to understand it.)

2 The N European/US business model and its managers are different: they tend to be more sophisticated than many African business people and have different agendas (no-one in the UK ever mentions their family, their tribe and their church as fundamental parts of their make-up). We compared and contrasted these differences and how to deal with it.

3 'Bright Marketing' and the 'Kick-Start' ‘ologies’ are refreshingly simple and pretty much universal – in other words they work and they don’t hide behind some clever clogs theory. I saw lots of 600-page marketing books at my African seminars which I am sure are great to pass exams but may not be so relevant to help people grow their businesses.

4 Growing local capability – it is crucial for local managers to grow, develop and take ownership and control of their management capability. The British Council is doing great things by running programmes for ‘young rising stars’ as well as the current cohort of managers – economic stability and political stability are inextricably linked.

5 At all my events, I worked to the agenda of the participants – I asked them what they wanted to know by the end of the sessions and these agendas are not the same as in the UK – the marketplace is different, the attitude to entrepreneurship is different, the culture is different.

6 At all events we spent time discussing what would be done differently as a result of attending; the focus was on action.

So, what I have left behind will be measured by actions taken… What will be done differently by those who attended…? Has the way that they work been challenged/questioned and have they come up with better/smarter ways to run and grow their businesses?

That is not for me to judge!

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

"How To Grow My Business?"

While in Mauritius I was asked to help a particular business, a professional service firm that felt that it’s growth had stalled.

I would like to paraphrase an hour’s conversation..., condense it into a few lines...:

  • Is there a market for your service?
  • Are there competitors doing better than you? Why? How?
  • Does your brand/message/website confirm that you should be chosen by customers? Do you look like you are really good at what you do? Do you look like 'the expert' in your field?
  • Can you answer the question, “Why should people bother to buy from you?”

  • What makes you different from the rest?
  • Are you a leader or a follower?
  • Do you use testimonials and endorsements to promote your business?
  • What is your ‘performance to date’ and your ‘potential to grow’?

  • Put together an aggressive, six-week, marketing/sales campaign focusing on 20 target potential clients – contact each and every target every 10 days with a specific/unique interaction (send some research, invite them for coffee, send your brochure/testimonial, get a colleague to mention you to them, send a newspaper cutting, send them a free sample, offer a ‘try before you buy’ or a free business surgery/audit…)
  • Invite/take out/host a private dinner for 10 target clients… present some research etc and get them to talk shop to each other…

  • Take massive action…
On reflection, this is exactly what I'd say to a similar business in the UK - so in this instance the culture/background/business environment did not affect the advice!


How Do I Grow This Business? - SME WEB blog
How To Energise Your Business – Start Your Business Magazine article
How Do We Grow This Business? – transcript from a telephone seminar

Sunday, 17 February 2008

Mauritius #2

Some thoughts about Mauritius...:

It is a real fusion… a French then British colony… a history of African slaves and then an influx of indentured Indian workers creates a wonderful mix… of languages, religions, attitudes and approaches and all living in apparent harmony.

And some stunning food with the Afro-French-Indian combination hitting the spot.

Mauritius is very exciting and who knows what the next five to ten years will bring… protecting the ‘charm’ that a small island mentality fosters while fighting for a fair share of the tourist dollars is a difficult balance to make.

Meanwhile the local population is just starting to get fed the rich diet that is the western way – Macdonald’s, KFC… the unstoppable march of the West’s beacons of so-called civilisation, along with mobile phones and the other paraphernalia of conspicuous consumption.

I am no politician but I do know that I met over 150 committed business people in Mauritius who are working together to ‘make things happen’. It will be organisations like the British Council that will organise/facilitate opportunities to enable the local Mauritian businesses to do much more than simply survive.

There is a hunger to make businesses flourish in Mauritius – this needs local support and commitment… and an input of no-nonsense help and guidance that is hands-on, practical and results-oriented. How exciting!

Finally, my thanks go out to my new friends in Mauritius: Simon, Ann, Martine, Andrew, and of course Coom - I hope to see them all when they visit the UK!

AND the big message that we all took away with us from our work together: TAKE ACTION!!!

Mauritius #1

Leg Three of our Africa trip was Mauritius, perched in the Indian Ocean, some four hours by plane from Johannesburg.

We stayed (and did three seminars/workshops) at the stunning Le Meridien – great food/customer service… supremely attentive staff… such a great setting for two workshops on the theme of ‘Customer Is King’. I recommend you visit.

We also ran a full-day ‘Bright Marketing’ workshop, pretty similar to the one we run in the UK. The packed banqueting hall was treated to a sumptuous buffet lunch, sea views and some seriously effective networking.

The Mauritius workshops saw a diverse selection of companies from a small PR agency, local hotels and marketing agencies, Billabong, local newspapers, national cellphone networks, Air Mauritius and Shell. Feedback was incredibly positive. (As an aside, I also spent a day with a Government agency's senior managers and directors.)

The work (four sessions in three days) was ‘topped and tailed’ by two splendid and very relaxed dinners: one full-on veranda experience looking down over the bay from the hills with the director of the British Council (Simon, and his wife Anne), and a buffet/networking supper hosted by the Deputy High Commissioner at the ‘official residence’. Brilliant.

Mauritius is a land full of opportunities in business. This is not simply a paradise island where tourists can indulge their fantasies. There is plenty to be done and it needs to be done ASAP as the world won't wait and other holiday destinations will steal a march on my firends in Mauritius.

As I said (several times!): 'why should people bother to buy from you when they can buy from the competition?'.

PS photo taken from our bedroom at Le Meridien...

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Botswana (continued) and Zambia

Putting on the ‘L’ Plates

Today we went out to the Khutse Lodge and received a phenomenal welcome from Revelation, Tips and Flora who are the main people there. In ‘Customer Is King’ I talk about delivering ‘wow’ legendary service and that is what these people do.

Tips took us out with a Kalahari bushman who showed us some of the old ways… Tips then took us on two four-hour game drives… So here I was with my ‘L’ plates on, in Learner mode. And what happened…

Well in Learner mode I feel a bit vulnerable and a bit in awe of the ‘teacher’… I am frightened that my questions will sound na├»ve and maybe have been asked a thousand times before so I hesitate to ask. And that is, I guess, exactly how many of the delegates at my events must feel sometimes. This was a great reminder to me. And a great lesson in how a graceful teacher can share their knowledge and inspire the listeners.

So a special thanks to Revelation, Tips and Flora at the Khutse Lodge on the edge of the Kalahari.

'Customer Is King' in Lusaka
Lusaka, Zambia was the location for today’s 'Customer Is King' presentation. 70 highly intelligent and engaged people attended at the InterContinental Hotel, including people from Barclays as well as major Zambian businesses that deliver cellphone, broadband, insurance and sugar products.

The great learning point for me came when my belief that
‘for most people our biggest/best customers are our biggest fans and ambassadors who we love to do business with’ was quite rightly challenged.

When your largest customer is a multi-national then when they say ‘Jump’ you are meant to say ‘How high?’. Several people felt that their organisations were vulnerable to the whims of their multi-national customers who can easily switch sources at the slightest whim. Scary stuff.

Lots of discussion about how to make your business more customer-focused, and how to instil ‘that passion and excitement’ in your people. A very animated audience.

Other highlights of the day include finding Glenda clutching an old well-read version of the first edition of ‘Customer Is King’.

My special thanks go to Daisy and Paul from the British Council for making it all happen for their warmth and hospitality.

And 'Bright Marketing' in Zambia
An even better attended event with a patient audience who listened attentively as my voice croaked its way through the event. Again, special thanks to Daisy.

And then...
we visited two primary schools… a very humbling experience

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Trading in Zimbabwe

Yesterday I ran another seminar, back at Gaborone’s President Hotel, one based on my book ‘Kick-Start Your Business’.

Over 60 attended included the daughter of the President of Botswana.

It has been a while since I have presented the complete Kick-Start ‘ology’ and it was great to see how well it translated to a developing economy. The big one liners, as ever, did apply:
- How good is your business?
- Why should people bother to buy from you?
- Successful businesses are obsessed with three things…
- Fear holds back most people from growing their businesses…

What was the most fascinating part of the evening was a highly interactive Q&A session. Discussions ranged from ‘what to do if you run a business in Zimbabwe?’ through to how to keep corruption and bribery out of business. These are ’big’ questions!

Once again, I thank all my friends in Gaborone, especially Claire, Kuhkie and Zaa.

‘Kick-Start Your Business’