Friday, 25 October 2013

How High Achievers Actually Get Results

The problem many businesses have is not so much about plans and planning as it is about just making stuff happen. The planning bit just makes it more likely that the right things will happen.

All the preoccupation with “The Business Plan” is pretty much a waste of time if it doesn’t actually get followed through.  And that is normally the case!

The Magic Million Survey (Directors’ Centre, 2008 and repeated in 2012) looked at this very issue and was able to tell why the MMs (The Magic Millionaires) were so much better at the follow through. More importantly, it identifies what these MMs actually do (when compared with the ‘ordinary’ performers) to achieve their excellent results.

Firstly, what tends to hold people back from achieving more is their attitude. Most people blame their circumstances for what is happening to them. The MMs, on the other hand, see that they themselves are the ones who are responsible for making things happen. There is no-one else to blame.

Most of us are too much in love with our businesses. As Michael Gerber points out in the E-Myth, we are technicians who spend most of our time working IN our businesses and don’t spend enough time stepping back and working ON the business. We are too busy trying to climb the ladder that we don’t think about whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall!

If you know what your endpoint is then you can create a plan, a roadmap, that will show you how to get there. Business planning is making your mistakes on paper and a great way to see how your ideas might pan out.  However, the plan and reality are not the same thing.

The theory then goes on to suggest that with a bit of overview (AKA strategic thinking) we can create a scaleable business. Just put in systems and processes that can be duplicated and, hey presto, your business grows like topsy. 

There is, however, a flaw in this argument. If it is that easy to scale or duplicate then anyone else can do it. So you need to have something that is scaleable but also not easily cloneable. Not so easy, eh! And that’s why the dragons on the Dragons’ Den always ask “Is it scaleable?” and “Is it patented?”

So, having a really magic formula (scaleable and defendable) is part of the secret of the MMs as is an unnerving self-confidence. Likewise, the ability to spend time working ON the business, designing and managing it, rather than working IN it is a key element.

Meanwhile, most businesses sow the seeds of their own destruction. Set up from the entrepreneurial spark of an idea, most inventor-creator-technicians may be great at all the “working IN the business” stuff (making, building, doing) and might be great at getting a small business going, but as you grow you need the very things that most self-employed people loathe, hate and detest – things they set up in business to run away from - namely systems, process and controls.

In order to get smart and stop duplicating things, endlessly reinventing the wheel, you need to streamline and systemise much of what you do.

At the top level the whole planning process needs to be a methodical process combining the creative and the logical skills. 

Without going into detail here, your VISION (blue skies ambition) creates your MISSION (the key numbers you want to hit) creates your STRATEGY (how you are going to get ‘there’) creates your CORE SUCCESS FACTORS or MILESTONES creates your PERFORMANCE MEASURES (what you are going to measure).  

This is an iterative process where each level informs and affects those above and beneath.

By creating a weekly or monthly SCORECARD or DASHBOARD of, say, a dozen key performance measures, you can monitor and run the entire business. You can see what is and what is not working and take immediate action to get yourself back on line.

Work on the IMPORTANT not the URGENT things. It’s about getting the big stuff in place. Ask each of your reports to give you a half-a-page note every Friday telling you what important things they’ve done for the business and what it means for the business... every evening write a short list of things to do the next day and DO THEM... sack energy sappers and work with energisers... create a weekly and monthly meeting regime... run meetings to time and ban latecomers or unprepared attendees... measure, discuss and focus on actions and results. The list is endless. Just do it. 

No more excuses. Just do it.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Lousy Rotten Stinking Customers and Clients

It seems that, despite numerous reminders, the pompously named ‘customer/client relationship teams’ just don’t ‘get it’. In fact, the majority of the marketing team don’t ‘get it’. They just don’t understand the whole ‘customer’ thing. This isn’t a latest fad or a na├»ve but sales-hungry business school professor’s idea of a good wheeze. This is here to stay and until your business ‘gets it’ then you will lose sales to those businesses that do ‘get it’.

Customers are in CONTROL

We are now in a world where the customers are in control. They decide what is thought about us. They no longer believe our adverts but they do believe what other customers say about you. If they ask for something and you don’t give it to them then they will tell others and they will move on to a supplier who can give them what they want.

Customer Relationships COUNT

Most customers are now interested in more than just the transaction – they are looking for some kind of a relationship. They want to buy from a brand that they are proud to be associated with and one that seems to share their own values. Fed up with foreign call centres or not being able to talk to a real person, more and more customers  are despairing of the cheap (and not so cheerful) stack ‘em high brands.

While we love their prices we hate their customer care and inability to give anything other than the basic service that we paid for.


And, the more the cheapies depress us, the more we are willing to pay a fair price and get what we pay for. The pleasure of being herded like sheep at an airport gets less attractive; the inability to get a train anywhere on time drives us mad. 

Most businesses are now competing with Disneyland. Customers carry the memory of how they are treated in one place to another. I now expect a decent customer experience not just in a restaurant but at the bank, the estate agent and the solicitor. And if that experience is poor then woe betide you.


At the heart of this whole argument is a recurring theme. Customers talk to each other a lot. In pubs and clubs, on Facebook and Twitter, on LinkedIn and email they swap stories and experiences. They can make or break you. A wall on Facebook can be created in a few moments where people can discuss the brilliant customer experience you offer or begging people to boycott your products and services.

Meanwhile, like rabbits in the headlights, the large company marketing and customer care departments are frozen stiff, not knowing what to do next. The rumour in the discussion forums is that there’s money to be made from all this “new fangled stuff” but no-one quite understands how. And it all seems to be moving so quickly.

The corporate answer is to create a committee or call in the so-called expert consultants. But all this misses the whole point. To be thinking like this just tells me that it is already too late for you. Don’t you think that when a company needs to pay for a customer focus group or a consultant to tell them what the customers think that it is all a bit too late? You should have relationships with your customers. You don’t have a relationship via a third party, you do it direct, and so it should be with you and your customers. 

Maybe the penny will start to drop as to why outsourced service centres so often stink.

Your customer relationship is not something that you can outsource and control by pretentious service level agreements. Customers want to talk to and relate to you. Otherwise they will feel out of control and feel they have no real relationship with you (and vice versa) and they will tell the rest of the world. And they will vote with their feet.

So, rather than waiting for the consultant’s report, how about doing the simple stuff? Get out there and talk to your customers and clients. Ask them what they think and feel about your product and your service. Stop following the conversations and join in. They talk about you because they care. You can show them that you care. You can explain what’s gone wrong and what you are going to do. But you can’t do that by hiding behind the next report. Try it. You’ll be surprised.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

NEW: Customer Is King: How to Exceed Their Expectations - New Edition

Customer Is King: How to Exceed Their Expectations 

(Virgin Business Guides) [Kindle Edition]

STOP PRESS - new 'updated' edition just out - this week...

What happens to your customers when you do business with them? 

Customer is King helps you to approach the problem from the point of view of the clients and work towards the level of customer satisfaction that makes them come back to you again and again.

Practical and packed full of easy-to-understand advice, you'll find:
  • checklists and worksheets
  • case studies of real businesses
  • frequently asked questions

Sir Richard Branson says:

"In Customer is King, Robert Craven says that 'your whole business hinges on what your customer gets from you'. 

I agree wholeheartedly. 

Customers and customer service have long been essential to Virgin - from customers to customers who have been with us for years - but, as every business should, we want to build on that. 

Whatever our official job titles, we work in customer service."

Now available at Amazon:

Monday, 7 October 2013

Why You Are Probably A Negligent Director

The on-screen PowerPoint boasted “record sales and profit growth”. Charts screamed success. The MD punches the air: “onwards and upwards… The elephant in the room is…” You could see the success writ large, hear it in the voice and feel it in the room. Or so it seemed.

That was a year ago with a FTSE100 multinational. Then Groundhog Day: the next conference I attend (for an entirely different company) is identical but this time a thrusting, growing business. 

But all was not as it seemed. Today both businesses are writhing around on the floor, twitching in their final death throes.

Both boardrooms displayed similar psychotic tendencies: incapable of reading or interpreting the world around them they made the wrong decisions. They were incapable of acknowledging what was really going on internally and externally. The consequences became inevitable. 

The multinational blames the bank for pulling the plug... Pardon me but how about identifying the inevitable, terminal decline of a product that was out-of-date, dull and inappropriate for today’s market? I think they missed that one! 

Talk about “elephants in the room”. The growing business had ignored collapsing customer demand by a factor of about ten.

These two stories of how the board can get out of touch need a little reflection.

You ask what the role of a director is and most start mumbling about the board and responsibility for the business and share options and so forth.  Like parenting, you are not given a manual and most make it up as they go along. At all levels! Pathetic.

The board is the business brain – it links the short term and the long term; it links the external and the internal perspective (focusing on policy formulation, strategic thinking, supervision of management, and accountability).

Our boards failed to deal with the most basic of ‘directorial dilemmas’:
  • To simultaneously be entrepreneurial, driving the business forward whilst keeping it under prudent control
  • To be sufficiently knowledgeable about the workings of the company and yet stand back from the day-to-day management and retain an objective view
  • To be sensitive to the pressures of the short term and yet be informed of the broader trends and competition
  • To be focused on the commercial needs of the business while acting responsibly.

Both boards were irresponsible. Incompetent. Negligent.

What about you?

Thursday, 3 October 2013


till 10th October

What we are looking for?
A group of testers to check, proof-read, validate, and give feedback….

What do we want testers to do?
Sign in and explore as much or as little of the programme as you wish…
then send us your feedback and score the programme.

People who want to “find, win and keep” better customers.

You road-test a fully working £120 programme for free; we get your feedback.

We need your feedback ASAP. Ideally by 25th October.

How much?
Nothing. (The RRP is £60, rising to £120 after 6 weeks.)

What is the Academy? (The ‘Pitch’)
This no-nonsense course will help you decide what marketing means in your business... how you can make your marketing more effective... and how this will help you make more profit.

Based on the best-selling book and workshops,
 Bright Marketing works by helping you to see your business through the eyes of your customers.

The programme combines: video lectures, excerpts from the Bright Marketing book, audio interviews, case studies, workbooks and articles. Most delegates will complete it in 3-4 weeks (at 10 hours per week). Testers should spend as little or as much time as they wish.

Content and Goals
·         Understand why people should buy from you
·         Craft a compelling sales message
·         Understand which channels to use to market and sell
·         Make more sales (and more profitable sales as well!).

What to do…

2.   Enter “ brightblog “ after you click the link ‘redeem a coupon’ 

3.   Sign in and get looking and learning.

Giving feedback – what we want…
We would love your feedback about any aspect… the more the better (typos, language, approach, length, level, broken links, what is missing etc etc).
Send it to when you are ready!

Please do rate the course at Udemy (when you are ready)…



Intro Video

PS Thanks for all your help... we have had nearly 100 people testing the programme and giving us feedback... the 'offer' is now closed!