Saturday, 27 June 2009

Lousy Presenters

I listened to her tell me how one should do decent presentations, how the slides should be clear and easy to read, how the presenter must never read the slides off the screen word by word, how she could step in for me if I ever needed a helping hand as she had once spoken in front of 40 people.

And, when I saw her she was dreadful. See the advice above and reverse it. Dull, turgid uninspiring slides with 10-15 lines each... which were read from the screen even though she had a stage monitor... in a monotonous bored voice. The audience started chatting amongst themselves!

And next on was a chap who did exactly the same. And he kept apologising for the industry he came from. And he kept patronising the audience. (I wanted to stand up and shout "We are not morons".)

And then another. Groundhog Day or what!

Might I add that all three have serious Chief Exec/MD salaries.

Hasn't anyone ever read the "Moron's Guide to Presentations?
" Haven't these people ever sat through the dreadful presentations of other people and figured out what made them so dreadful??

Being invited to give a presentation does NOT make you a good presenter.

When the average is so dreadful it is not difficult to be above average.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Friday, 19 June 2009

Blackberry vs Apple

I've had a BB for about three years now... and now my kids are telling me I should have an Apple phone.

Call me 'traditional' but I see the BB as the business phone. The Apple looks like fun but does it do the job as well as the BB?

The Ultimate Celebrity Endorsement - blog entry

The post above was written in June 2009... How times have changed.

I now own a Samsung Galaxy S4.
Who'd have thought...?

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Barclays Press Release

A couple of people have pointed me to a PR/'market research' piece that seems to make little sense - let me try to make sense of it for you - my comments in italics.

"Research from Barclays Local Business carried out after the last programme of Let's Talk Profit and Marketing seminars
[some 18 events, 1,800 people attending, Autumn 08], showed that despite the importance of customers, pricing and staff to businesses, these were areas which hadn't had the priority." [Delegates cited customers/pricing/staff as key issues when they arrived at the events - specifically before the event started ie by 09:30]

"By giving business owners the key skills the majority went on to make changes to their business:
  • Seven in ten had confidence to approach new customers
  • 43 per cent sought out cheaper suppliers
  • 43 per cent changed the way they charged for a service"
[After the events the the main changes that delegates had made in their businesses related to customers and pricing - and this was because the workshops, Bright Marketing and More Profit, focused on how to increase sales and profits in your business]

The press release seems to lose the gist of the 'research', which was that people come to the workshops and take action as a result of attending. End of story.

PR/'market research' - the press piece
Most June/July workshops (London [West Ham, London Bridge & Hammersmith], Colchester, Gloucester and Peterborough) can still be booked on to at the Let's Talk webpages

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Twitter in real life - video

Twitter in real life - a great little youtube video - just 90 seconds.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Business Support - The BS/BIS Industry

We have succeeded in creating an entire industry around the subject of business support. Entire conferences are run by so-called experts telling others how to be experts in how to support businesses. It reminds me of the island where everyone took in everyone else’s washing to keep the economy going..

At the centre of the ‘BS’ industry is a series of partially-funded, target-driven organisations along with the usual suspects... A nice long list, but do they actually help anyone?

Business support is meant to be a ‘good thing’ (like motherhood and apple pie?!):
- to help start-ups (“out of acorns grow oaks, etc etc” goes the blurb),
- to help the fast-growth businesses (“the real engine of the future etc etc”),
- to help the ailing (“to save their pain”), and
- to help the excluded (“because we have a duty to pay attention to the socially excluded”).

In reality, when people say that business support is a good thing they mean that it is good ‘politically’ (rather than good ‘economically’).

The numbers talk for themselves.

Investing in start-ups is an entire lottery – and the fact is, most fail within two years.

As for existing business… only the fast-growers really generate the jobs; so rationally you should invest in them (and not the others) if you want the biggest bang for your buck. The reality is, however, that a policy focusing on high growth businesses only would be political suicide.

And then there is the government rhetoric about creating a small business enterprise culture in the UK, free of red tape. (Oh no –I’ve just wet myself laughing!)

I am really concerned that the quality of the services that our small/growth/independent/privately owned businesses get from the ‘BS’ industry is just not good enough. And I hear too many dreadful stories.

I am concerned that bureaucracy and remoteness of some of the policy makers may be unhelpful. How many members of the cabinet and the senior levels of the DTI have run their own business and know what the issues really are?

I worry about the products and services that are made available (that seem to be more about targets and tick-boxes than helping the actual businesses themselves).

I worry about the reputation that the business support industry has acquired – and yet it has had budgets that surely would have made it doomed to succeed!

I am a great fan of doing everything we can to help people who run businesses in this country - I have worked with, and do work with some stunning Bus Support Organisations and people worth their weight in gold.

MY POINT: I am, however, desperately concerned (unhappy would not be an exaggeration) that the word on the street is ‘that despite the BS industry's best efforts… it just isn’t working well enough.’

Please can you let me know I am wrong.

Regards, Robert (playing the Devil's Advocate!).

- The Truth is. no-one seems to care about BL
- Doug Richards Rips into BL
- Simplifying Business Support

PS - please be clear - this is not a pop at the people doing their best in the various organisations (at all levels) ... quite the contrary. I want to be proud of all that the BS industry has to offer to really help UK small businesses. Let's talk about it.

Friday, 12 June 2009

Mandelson at it again

Quoting Dan Martin at BusinessZone:
"Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR), a creation which resulted from the rebranding of the old Department for Trade and Industry in
June 2007....

now ... remember a new acronym following the merger of BERR with the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS), another section of the government set up just under two years ago at a cost to the taxpayer of £7m.

The three letters I now need to keep in mind are BIS or to give it its official title; Department for Business, Innovation and Skills."

All this was created by, wait for it....

"Baron Mandelson of Foy in the county of Herefordshire and Hartlepool in the county of Durham, Lord President of the Council, First Secretary of State, and Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills."

To recall how good the Government is at re-branding take a look at the early blog OGC unveils new logo to red faces - a classic waste of money (again).

(humour here) a quick search on the net and you find a ready-made series of BIS logos with strapline ("the key to making the difference") and everything (see above) so they can save some money - although my finders fee will be quite considerable... Job done!

GC unveils new logo to red faces - early Govnt attempts at re-branding Dan Martin at BusinessZone
ready-made series of BIS logos

Thursday, 11 June 2009

What keeps you awake at night...?

15 events in the last three weeks... about 1,500 people and all asked the same question: "What keeps you awake at night... about your business?"

The top two answers haven't changed over the past 12 months that I have been asking the question and the top two are:
  • how to get more/better customers?
  • how to get more profit/cash?
However new themes have been emerging that concentrate on the competition: "How can we compete on price...? how can we stop people migrating to the competition...? the competition are stealing a march on us..."

I am not sure if this isn't just a deflection from the real issues which are/were (for a recent consultancy client [professional service firm]):
  • get and keep the cash longer,
  • sell more to existing customers,
  • use existing clients and potential clients (friends and lovers) to reach new clients
  • do not discount prices but charge more where possible and justify the value-add
  • eliminate fruitless task/clients/marketing activities: just do a few basic things and do them stunningly well..., and underlying it all...
  • an obsession with the numbers on a weekly (if not daily) basis
In this case, the new seminar obsession ("competition, competition, competition") is simply not the big issue...

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Challenging or Nurturing?

A couple of people have made the observation that the Robert Craven/Directors' Centre approach to helping businesses is a bit harsh.

And I quote from an email:

"The last thing we need when we are feeling a bit vulnerable is someone crashing around our business making rash and damaging threats and statements. What people need is to be nurtured and developed."

These kinds of comments so obviously miss the point, so obviously misinterpret what I am/we are about.

The last thing you need is some kind of bully on an ego-trip acting like a wally - I agree with that but that really is not what we do.

Anyone who knows us and our reputation knows that often we are trying to invoke a response and a recognition that there is a problem that needs to be addressed (and that putting your head in the sand will do you no good at all).

More importantly, the very last thing you need is for someone to visit and charge you to drink nice cups of tea and to stroke your brow and tell you that it will be alright.

Getting out of a mess requires business owners to take action and that is what we are about... and we help clients to do just that (and by whatever means seems to be the most relevant).

There is a recession out there and businesses just like yours are going bust.

Let me explain what that means.
When you go bust:

- all your employees lose their jobs (and as a result most wouldn't p*ss on you if you were on fire)

- all your suppliers don't getting paid (see the statements above re: fire)
- you will probably be declared bankrupt which means that...

- you will probably lose your house and your pension policy which means that
- your partner will probably leave you and take the kids with them (maybe a good thing!!! [joke!])

- your reputation will be in tatters and no-one will want to employ you for your skillset - the very skillset that appears to have caused your business to fail
- no-one will want to lend you money because they won't want to lose it...

What is required, I believe, is "tough love".

It isn't easy to make the 'tough decisions' in your business. How we get people to make those decisions is actually the real issue.
So, maybe we should be a bit less shouty when we talk about being "challenging, honest and goading"... maybe that doesn't suit all tastes... but this can not change what is at the heart of what we do: getting people to make those tough decisions so that they improveo theoir sales/profits/cash situation!

I don't care whether my people drink triple espressos or camomile tea... but I do care about making sure that as few people as possible have to suffer the punishment of the indignity and humilation that the current UK bankruptcy laws impose on people - people who's only crime was to simply/blindly do their best to run a business but failed to keep it together.

So which do you prefer: polite or honest? Which one works best to motivate you?

End of rant!

The Directors' Centre

Friday, 5 June 2009

Referrer of the Month

FACT: In a world where no-one believes what companies say about themselves, potential customers depend on what others say about you.

FACT: My business grows because of the extraordinary power of word-of-mouth recommendations and referrals.

OUR HERO: Jenny (pictured left) is our hero of the month. To be precise she is our Referrer of the Month at The Directors' Centre. She is remarkable and yet she insists on remaining anonymous. She admits to being a shy-patch and while she loves to help our business (and others) she would prefer to not be identified. Fair enough.

Jenny is one our ambassadors and raving fans. She loves what our business does and she takes every opportunity to share her piece of knowledge, her special relationship, with people she meets.

THIS MONTH: So far this month she has sent us five very warm referrals/leads. Three have already been converted into business.

Jenny tells her business acquaintances what we do and how we do it so when she tells us to "give them a call" then we know that they are pre-qualified potential clients who have been literally been pre-sold our offering.

- Jenny gets no kick-back or commission - she helps our business because she believes that we are "such a good thing"
- We never asked Jenny to help - she just wants to. She says she wants "to give back to and help us" because of how much we helped her
- If we had asked her to help or we had offered her a reward then she would have been offended - this is her thing (hence the anonymity).

- Who are your raving fans and ambassadors?
- Who have you blown away with your legendary service?
- Who have you affected so much that they would want to see others also benefit from your business?
- What would you need to do to get this untapped resource working for you?
- Do you have a formal process for identifying, nurturing and developing relationships with the Jennys of the world? If not, why not?

Most of us have a budget for advertising and web costs etc but we don't have a time and money budget for developing the WOM marketing - yet for many of us WOMM generates most of our new business. Just think about it for a minute.