Friday, 23 November 2012

So What Is Black Friday?

So, what is Black Friday? 

So many American emails trying to flog me things today!!! 

I had to look it up on wikipedia

Black Friday is the name given to the day following Thanksgiving Day in the United States, traditionally the beginning of the Christmas shopping season. 

On this day, most major retailers open extremely early and offer promotional sales to kick off the holiday shopping season, similar to Boxing Day sales in many Commonwealth Nations. 

 Black Friday is not an official holiday, but many non-retail employers also observe this day as a holiday along with Thanksgiving, giving their employees the day off, thereby increasing the number of potential shoppers. 

An explanation... "Black Friday" indicates the point at which retailers begin to turn a profit, or are "in the black".

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Trainers: How to tell a Brucie from a Hippy

For the past few years I have worked with numerous trainers, teachers and lecturers of varying degrees and qualities. 

Prior to that I spent years on the other side of the projector, in various classroom situations as student, delegate, manager, even on train-the-trainer events. In my time I have become aware of recurring training styles as I watched different characters try to persuade their subjects of the finer points of the latest management craze.

After years of discovering Covey's "Seven Habits of Effective Managers", McKinsey's "Seven S's" and Porter's "Five Forces", along with mnemonics such as Campari and ICE, Aida and Cleo, and numerous teaching and learning styles, we are proud to present Craven's Nine Trainer Roles. Like Belbin's Eight Team Roles, each trainer possesses elements of each style, although one or two styles seem to predominate in each trainer. 

The Counsellor 

The Counsellor has spent too many years on the psychotherapist's couch to believe that we do not have some deeper meaning than that presented in a simple question. For instance, in reply to your question, "I don't understand what you mean?" he might reply "How does that make you feel?" or "Why do you think you feel like that?" This trainer spends much time deep in thought, hand propping up his chin and nodding empathically (or is it empathetically, I never knew). Look out for passing references to NLP, TA, T-groups, sexism, racism, equal opportunities, triggers, stroking, mentoring and any references to vegetarianism in a former life!

The Slapper

"I'm going to slap them round and show them just what they need to know!" These are the words you might overhear when the trainers are comparing notes in the lavatory. The Slapper tends be pretty "macho" in approach. He believes that delegates need to be woken up to reality and it is his job to do it. He believes that you have to be cruel to be kind and that the only way to bring people around to his view is to beat it into them and let them know who is boss. Once the audience has been beaten into submission the Slapper can impose his views on the willing audience. Beware of Slappers, they are very prickly! Don't make small talk, be personal or attack them unless you want it used as evidence against you.

The Academic Expert

These creatures are simply unbearable unless you are one of them! You cannot argue with the expert who has a quote or a reference to dispute anything you ever say. These experts are pre-occupied with the numbers, statistics, models and theorems, and find the academic/intellectual part of the argument (or do I mean monologue?) their raison d'etre. They seem to lack balance in their lives but cannot believe that no one else is interested.

Bruce Forsyth

"Nice to see you, to see you nice! Our first game needs two teams, 100 sheets of paper and I want you to build an eight-foot-high tower in six minutes ... And then I want you to imagine you're on a desert island ..." These trainers joined the wrong profession; frustrated "academic luvvies" play games to entertain themselves and the delegates. A nice way to pass the day if you are, as they say, "Up for it", but I am not always sure of the value. Beware of the difference between cheap tricksters (sub species, It's a Knockout) and genuinely inspiring training styles (sub-species, Games People Play) - don't confuse the sizzle with the steak.

The Ageing Hippy

Tell-tell signs that you are with an Ageing Hippy are the following: any references to the Isle of Wight, Glastonbury, the Thatcher regime, and Bob Dylan. The Ageing Hippy will delight in reminiscing in how it used to be and how it could be but is not really rooted in the l990s. The other give-away to these social Christians is any kind of reference to writing epitaphs, attending your own funeral, or having only six months to live. A bit head-in-the-clouds for me, but they do make you stop and think about how you live your life. Ageing Hippies often combine with the Counsellor. Also look out for the quotes such as "Life is not a dress- rehearsal" (see Quoter).

The Quoter

The Quoter's skill is to have a quote for every occasion; it gets tedious eventually. Being a Quoter gives a clue to the background (and sub-species) of the trainer; try not to confuse the symptom with the cause. Either they went to Cambridge to read English and philosophy and know all of the Monty Python team and most MPs, (the don) and/or they have little real life experience and so learn pretty little witticisms to (apparently) demonstrate their wisdom (the shallow con). It's a bit like the joke about the economist who knows 365 ways to make love to a woman but does not actually have a girlfriend himself. Destroy a Quoter's ability to relate to you by quoting Ralph Waldo Emerson's "Don't quote other people's opinions, tell me what you know".

The "Been there, Done it"

This one can be a raging bore - they've done it all and they can prove it. There's nothing you can tell them. However, if they are of the sub- species Hugely Successful and Interesting, Been there, Done its, then they can be fascinating as they tell you numerous stories of living with aboriginal Indians, losing a million and sacking an entire work-force. The alternative is that they can be incredibly dull, in which case they are of the sub-species Tips and Wrinkles Windbags. Normally they were in Burma in 1942 or running the Hong Kong operations for ICI or Ford in 1952 and don't they let you know about it! Well-meaning souls if a bit high on the old ego-count.

The Slide Show

Another training style that has some sub-species. The primitive form, the overhead projector maniac, can show upwards of 200 slides an hour. They don't vary or drift from the words on the slides and use the OHP machine and any desks to hide behind. Often, sad, almost unreadable slides make up for either their nerves or a deficient personality. Disaster strikes when slides get dropped on the floor because they are often not numbered and the general level of nerves and tension sends the presenter over the edge! The second sub-species, the highly evolved form, is called PowerPoint Plus and uses the latest multi-media, high-resolution presentation graphics technology, which whooshes and sploshes to the audience who sit in the dark as the presentation unfolds with the presenter giving a commentary in the dark - an alternative to hiding behind the OHP - a high-risk strategy because if things go wrong then they really tend to screw up!

The Loveable Clown

The Loveable Clown hides his intellect by appearing slightly foppish. This silliness may well irritate the impatient but behind the clowning about is a wonderful trainer waiting to be unleashed. Typical Loveable Clown behaviour includes dropping or losing slides, arriving late and - the classic Loveable Clown trick - writing on the whiteboard with a permanent marker. Have patience with the clown (they come in two styles, extrovert and introvert) because they are often the true stars. Do not under-estimate them.

While this list is not exhaustive it covers the characteristics of the key training styles.

I make a total and utterly abject apology to anyone who might think that they recognise themselves in the above. If they do, it is evidence of just how vain the training fraternity are. - they would find it impossible to believe that people were not talking about them!

Thursday, 15 November 2012

For And Against Paying For A Mastermind Group

For and Against Paying To Attend A Mastermind Group

In a nutshell,
  • The overt business benefit of attending a Mastermind should be a 30% increase in profits within the year
  • The reason to believe a group will do it for you is its track record
  • What makes those I am talking about so very different is the fact they have been run for some twenty years in various guises and constantly deliver. 

In order to avoid paying a premium price for attending a fully-fledged mastermind group, people try to run their own groups. The apparent upside is obvious – it will be cheap; the downside is less obvious at first. The reality is that such a 'less expensive programme’:
  • Isn’t run by a professional with a clear process for growing a business or a clear process for facilitating a mastermind group
  • Doesn’t have enough tried-and-tested processes in place; things are made up as it goes along (AKA “real-time R&D”)
  • Doesn’t tie people in through a financial commitment
  • Doesn’t create huge expectations
  • Tends towards being a social event if the results-focus wanes.

On the other hand, a high price point anticipates a high-quality offering that delivers on the promise. The high price point keeps the following out of the room:
  • Cheapskates
  • Free-loaders
  • Basket cases

A premium price attracts people who:
  • look for like-minded and ambitious people
  • are able to afford to invest (time and money) in the growth of their business
  • are looking for support from experts and colleagues 
  • want to be working with an ‘expert’ is their field using a tested, proven process and ‘ology’
  • are looking for space to
    • think strategically
    • talk through specific issues
    • have their feet held to the fire.

So, the price point goes some way to creating a self-selecting group of ambitious business owners and directors.

But what do they get? 

Well, I can only talk about my experience as a mastermind delegate and from running my own groups for the last 20 years.

The list of ‘soft’ benefits goes as follows:
  • an incredibly supportive and proactive group of like-minded business owners determined to help you grow your business
  • a mastermind expert, an acknowledged expert in their field (author, keynote speaker, been-there-done-it individual) who also has the facilitation and motivating skills to turbo-charge your thinking
  •  access to the network and ‘black book’ of the expert and your mastermind colleagues putting you in contact with potential suppliers and JVs
  • access to a tight and loyal ‘team’ or ‘club’ who will have experience of dealing with issues that are challenging you
  • new sales, referrals, recommendations
  • a better business from implementing processes and systems that roll out of your boardroom and through the business
  • the confidence to make tough(er) decisions and to follow them through.

Long term, the benefits can be seen by looking at a group I worked with 10 years ago and seeing the results for that group.

The 10 businesses were turning over just under £1.3 million (on average) back at the start of the decade. Some ten years later all are still in business (in some form) and the average turnover is now £15 million. More significantly, profit grew a staggering thirtyfold in the time period.

On average, the long-term performance of these businesses has more than outperformed the market. Maybe the programme just attracts high-performers.

Anyhow, what we can say is that those who choose to attend such programmes achieve above-average performance. 

Sunday, 11 November 2012

You Charge How Much? - why high prices are good, mastermind et al...

Just had a fascinating discussion with a potential client about why (my) high prices are often a good thing. We were talking about a premium-priced service. A Mastermind Group that charges £1,000 per month. On the scale of mastermind groups it is the price point that is interesting: some are free, there are lots in the sub-£500-a-month range and a few at £10,000-a-month.

The conversation started with the usual price-related issues: “What do I get for the money? What will it look like? How does it all work?” Somehow the questions missed the point. The point, of course, is about what the client really gets for the money.

The client doesn’t buy what you do… they buy what it does for them. They buy benefits. And the more overt they are then the easier it is to sell.

Suddenly the sale becomes easier for both buyer and seller.

A clear expression of the overt, explicit benefit clarifies the situation. “30% increase in profits within six months… clients from 2001 have grown thirtyfold… return on your investment in the region of 500%...”. Measurable, tangible results make the service come to life (yet so few of us offer more than a few features when trying to sell, eg six meetings, monthly conference calls…).

But still this debate has not got to the root of premium-priced service sales.

The centre of this debate was really around exclusivity.

The client could get cheaper offerings (and sit with other people obsessed with buying the cheapest). But that wasn’t what was wanted!

The client could get cheaper offerings (and sit among people who could afford the cheap, cheap prices). But that wasn’t what was wanted!

The client could get cheaper offerings (and work with a facilitator who had read the books rather than someone who has written them). But that wasn’t what was wanted!

The price point pre-qualifies the sort of people that may wish to participate. The price point excludes certain potential clients. The price point sends out a clear message about what the programme is and is not.

For many people, the higher price point actually makes the offering more attractive. In the mind of the client, the high price point creates exclusivity and scarcity; it is a statement of intent. If a product offers a return on investment of, say, 500%, then I would rather have 500% of £1,200 than 500% of £120. Stands to reason. Suddenly the client wants to give you money!

In order to cement the overt business benefit there are two additional components required.

First you need to demonstrate why the client should believe you can deliver. Here, the use of customer testimonials and statistics and invitations to talk to past clients removes most barriers.

The second component required to cement the overt business benefit is what makes you different from the rest. After all, if you are the same as the competition then I cannot think of one reason why people should bother to buy from you. 

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Locking Horns on Blogs and Social Media

After various 'lively' debates I have witnessed, sometimes personal/sometimes toxic/sometimes mind-numbing/sometimes bitter and twisted/sometimes plain dull... I would like to point people to...

Thumper's Rule - Knowing When And How To Avoid An Online Argument 
 a great blog posting by Sean R Nicholson. 

To summarise the blog: 

1) Learn Thumper's Rule - In case you have never seen the movie "Bambi", you need to learn this one little piece of sage advice from the bunny rabbit named Thumper. His father taught him (and his mother reminded him) that "if you can't say something nice, don't say nothing at all." Sometimes it's just a good idea to walk away from the argument, especially before it gets personal. 

2) Don't argue just to argue 

3) Know your position and why you're defending it - Do you really believe in the argument you're making or are you just attacking the person who is disagreeing with you. 

4) Think about the community - Is your argument about gun control really beneficial to a community focused on helping solve technology-related issues?  

5) Consider how others would view the discussion and your behavior 

6) Consult with the site owner or community manager - When in doubt, ask the community manager whether they are okay with the way the conversation is going. 

7) Learn to agree to disagree 

8 ) Consider learning from the person you are debating with - Do you know everything? If you do, then turn off the computer because you're done. 

9) Be You…The Real You 

10) Back up your position with real, verifiable facts - If you have facts to support your side of the debate, great. Prove it.