Look For The Cause

January 30, 2014 4:45 am

Don’t get caught up in the problem, look for its origin. Whether cashflow issues, errors, delays, complaints etc, keep asking the question “what is the cause?”. Once isolated then correct it. And, often the correction of the one root cause will fix multiple surface problems.

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The Eagle

January 1, 2014 11:53 pm

Watching a flock of birds flying together, I noticed in the distance an eagle flying solo. The flock were doing what all flocks do – flapping their wings to maintain their togetherness and to continue on their merry way to their group destination. The eagle on the other hand seemed content in his solo existence. Effortlessly appearing to chart his own course. I picture him celebrating his differentness.

When it comes to our businesses and vocations, I observe that most are in the flock. They jump on the same bandwagons, do what everyone else is doing and fall prey to the latest fads and self help/business theories. You only have to read the daily posts on Facebook to see this play out. It’s convenient, safe and demands little thinking or self belief. Do what the other birds are doing, go where they are leading and we’ll be OK.

Being an eagle.takes courage. An eagle simply acts according to its being. It knows itself. It trusts its faculties. No flapping – just soaring. No ‘pack security’ – happy to chart its own course. Does what it was born to do.

As the new year gets under way, understanding YOURSELF in the context of your business or vocation is foundational. Do you love what you do and are you good at it? If not, be an eagle and change – leave the pack. If you do, ask “what makes me/my business significantly different to the flock?” Then ACT according to your ‘being’. You will see greater reward and experience less flapping.

Oh, and when the flock questions you, tells you it can’t be done, to seek something safer or de-friend you, you’ll know you are in the eagle category. It’s not safe but its definitely the way to fly.

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Virgin Australia and Consistency

November 28, 2013 8:53 pm

I have flown Virgin Australia frequently for a number of years and one thing that strikes me about the company is their incredible consistency in doing things well. I can never recall dealing with a grumpy attendant whether on the ground or in the air; a few though could be reassigned back office roles due to not being overtly people oriented but they at least maintain courteous service. There is a consistent energy and vibrancy about the look, feel and dealings with Virgin both in person or via phone and their website is designed for the customer. Their rivals in my opinion (on the occasions I have flown with them) don’t capture the essence of this energetic and consistent culture.

I think every company would do well to emulate Virgin Australia in the aspects of creating and maintaining a culture of consistent excellence.

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Focus Forward

November 23, 2013 8:27 pm

My dance teacher reminded me yesterday to not beat myself up about the last mistake. “Don’t live in the last step, focus on the next one.” And as Tiger Woods is often quoted as saying, “I hit it and forget it. You can’t go back in time and replay a shot, so just forget about it and move on.”

The next step; next shot; next meeting; next sale; next presentation. Whatever your ‘next’ is, focus forward.

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Invest To Grow

November 21, 2013 10:06 pm

It surprises me that many businesses want to grow but won’t invest in that growth. They have vision of where the next mountain top is (that they want to climb) but often sit on the plateau of their current success and performance or are impeded by fear or what others may think. Many owners would like increased discretionary time and money yet invest little time and money upfront to get the future gains required. My observation is that those who are willing to take risk upfront reap the corresponding rewards down the track.

Some, like me, have invested resources upfront only to be let down, disappointed, stopped in their tracks; obstacles that come along that seem too high to climb or the side swipes of life that disorient and take them away in another direction.

To reach the next mountain top means effort. If you’ve failed once or a hundred times at least you’re closer to making it work than if you had never tried. Training, applying resources to assist in the journey, working it out and never taking your eye off the goal are foundational requirements to growth.

Invest in the journey, enjoy the ride and once at the top, you’ll be glad you did.

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Observations From The Trenches

November 14, 2013 6:59 am

This months observations of the successes and challenges of businesses and organisations are:

1. When recruiting, keep emotion out of it. Don’t want the potential candidate more than they want you. Go with initial gut instinct and do thorough background checks. Don’t settle for those who have the technical skills and abilities back lack drive and enthusiasm. Ask the hard questions.
2. Resilience is built from challenging and discouraging times. A strong tree is one that has faced many strong winds and yet remains the better for it.
3. When discouragement hits and it will at times, sometimes it’s best to do something that re-energises you rather than just plough forward. Take a step back. Read, cook, shop, walk the dog, sleep…whatever it takes – a few hours of downtime will significantly increase your uptime.
4. Successful business owners and managers that I work with are those who are not afraid of owning their shortfalls (whether business or personal), actively deal with them whilst maintaining hope.
5. Working on frontline expansion and revenue generating activities, along with ensuring the foundations of the business are strong – whether they be financial, people, systems etc, is a great model of moving forward.
6. Success is born from a number of things, one of which is significant investment into organisational and personal development.
7. Those organisations who exercise tight financial management can make ‘just in time’ adjustments. Those that see their accountant once a year for an update and rely on how much money is in their bank are always making decisions twelve months in arrears.

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The Misnomer of “I Don’t Have The Time”

November 12, 2013 5:06 am

How often do you hear people say “I don’t have the time?” And how often do we say it? We have the same 24 hours as everyone else. Why is it that some seem to achieve much more than others? Three quick observations…

  • Prioritisation. Time is spent in direct proportion to what we value or what our priorities are. Understand your priorities and schedule your time and life accordingly.
  • Waste. If we have a very clear understanding of  what our key actions are for the day, and, plan how we spend our days, it will keep waste to a minimum. I meet with many people who easily get sidetracked onto things that don’t really count.
  • Meetings. Go into meetings with a planned agenda and deadline for the finish time. Communicate this to those you are meeting with and stick to it. One idea I’ve been a big proponent of (and clients of mine have practised with great success) are stand up meetings when the agenda is short. You will finish these in record time and as soon as you are done, start walking toward the door.

Saying “I don’t have time” or  “I’ve been too busy” are not valid reasons. Better to say ‘it’s not a priority so haven’t got to it as yet.”

 

 

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Beware The Whisperer

November 6, 2013 6:08 am

There is a Whisperer at large…. an unobtrusive personage who begins to influence us through the subtlety of whisper a couple of months out from the start of the New Year. This is what I hear…..

  • “you don’t need to do this now, leave it till next year”
  • “it’s been a big twelve months, you deserve to back off now”
  • “you don’t need to plan or think too much – things will work their way out”

I’m not sure about you, but I find myself at this time of the year tempted to listen to the Whisperer. The idea of slowing down is definitely appealing but then I think:

  • Yes its been a big year, but what year isn’t.
  • Yes, I can see the finish line of the calendar year but does that mean I should back the pace off now and not run right through it at full throttle?

Athletes lose races when they do that.

One of the things I have found most helpful over the past few years is that when I hear the Whisperer start, I don’t silence him, but rather use it as the motivation to push forward and even step up the pace so I can hit the years finish tape faster than when I started.

A few things to consider as we approach years end…

  • take time to reflect on the year and begin identifying what you will stop doing, keep doing and what to initiate as the new
  • what are the major outcomes of 2014 that you would like to see eventuate? (List these in the various life areas)
  • what are the key activities that you need to do in order to get those outcomes?
  • schedule those activities (even if it means using a diary or planner for the first time)

The major reason that people fail in getting the outcomes they want is that they neglect to follow through on the discipline of constant actions to create those outcomes. Outcomes don’t merely happen, they are the result of disciplined actions.

So, when you hear the whisper to slow down, drive forward hard. You will start the new year in much better shape if you do.

PS: For a planning tool to help you in ordering your thinking and actions around achieving your outcomes for 2014 click here

 

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Inefficiency Is Costing You

October 22, 2013 8:58 pm

Inefficiency, in any area of life whether personal or business, has correlating costs. Some examples…

Travel – not taking 15 minutes to think through what you will be wearing and needing for travel will cost you four to ten times as much in waiting at baggage claim. (I have just travelled for three weeks in the USA with only carry on)

Finances – inefficient record keeping and filing will cost you more in time and money when preparing your tax returns

Relationships – not dealing with issues directly at the time create increased angst, loss of focus, productivity and increases the time required to finally deal with the issue

Business – inefficient people and systems create decreased revenues and profitability, increased discord in the workplace, low productivity and so on.

Getting efficient requires the investment of time, thought, and money upfront. No spend upfront, no return. Invest in efficiency and your return will be far in excess of the initial effort.

 

 

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Selling is not Telling

September 30, 2013 9:11 am

Many approach selling from the historical erroneous proliferation (by the many ‘sales gurus’ that have gone before us) that it is all about the ‘telling’ in selling. In that, we are there to tell the potential buyer about how good our product or service is, rebut objections, convince them to buy and walk away with an order. I think there’s a better way?
Approaching a sales situation from the buyers perspective and not our own makes a whole lot more sense, especially given the fact that they obviously have a need or want, we potentially have a solution and it’s not until we truly ascertain what that need/want is do we know whether our product or service will assist them. We can’t get understanding if we are in telling mode.
Asking well directed questions, listening, asking, listening is the priority for any situation. Advising a buyer that we are there to find out about them and to see if there is a potential match and synergy between us puts the sales situation into a whole new light, especially when they know you are more than happy to refer them to a better product or service if that is best for them. That communicates integrity. We approach it from the perspective of mutual benefit not in just getting a sale.
The 80/20 rule applies here. Listen 80% of the time, talk 20%. I think that ratio also applies to our success. If we listen and carefully provide a solution chances are we’ll be successful 80% of the time. Sell by telling and you’ll effectively reduce it to 20%. I know which I’d rather.

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Stupid Language

September 24, 2013 11:07 pm

I just received an unsolicited email from an unknown saying “just thought how similar we are in our approach to problem solving…I am personally inviting you to join me in helping sales team all over Australia for a better Sales Improvement Process.” It was OK to this point.
THEN…
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for me to make YOU the HERO just like Steve Jobs to your clients.”
Delete…… 

If you want to sell your services don’t use stupid language

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The Dance of Mastery

September 9, 2013 1:14 am

Fulfilling a long held dream to learn to dance, I started the process about five months ago. My experience can be summed up as frustratingly enjoyable. I have reflected on the lessons learned in dance as they apply to mastering any new skill whether in business or otherwise.

  1. The importance of a Dream. Entertaining a dream is important, even if we don’t initially set a deadline converting it to a goal.
  2. Mastery.  Starting something new begins at the bottom, requires patience and is achieved with continual practice. Research from various sources would suggest that mastery takes place after ten thousand hours.
  3. Stress. Frustration and stress from our lack of progress, combined with trying too hard actually hinders growth. My dance teacher tells me I’m an overachiever. In  a recent lesson after failing to recall a particular step I had practiced for months, I stopped midway frustrated with myself.  She forthrightly asked “how long did it take you to walk?”. I responded “I ran straight away”.  (I’m sure she gave me a new name at that moment!!!).
  4. Perfectionism. Tightly tied to point 3 above, perfectionism massively hinders the learning process. My teacher said I would learn twice as fast if I’d only let go and stop trying to be perfect. Only had to tell me once.
  5. Practice Practice Practice. In various business start ups and new learnings I’ve initiated, I’ve always given much time to practice, even if the exercise did not yield results at the start. With the mix of success and failure in the learning process, often there comes a break through point that yields increases of more than double our current results.  
  6. Mentors and Coaches. Having exceptional objective input into the learning process is essential. It speeds up the learning and assists in maintaining focus on the two or three main priorities at the time.
  7. Have fun. Life with all its variety, is to be embraced. Learning a new skill, starting a new business, embarking down a different path all create degrees of fear, excitement and wondering whether you should have ever started in the first place. Give yourself to the task. Practice, get up after you fall down and keep your eye on the goal. No one ever achieved anything worthwhile without challenge in the process. Laugh at yourself often and have fun… I think this is the way life was meant to be lived.

Happy dancing!

PS. oh and, I think my next blog will be to dance teachers to help them cope with students like me. My teacher definitely deserves a reward – thanks Judit!

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The Gift of Singularity

July 30, 2013 12:15 am

Freedom…unfettered, unhindered, not bound by constraints. Watching a child at play we gain insight into this beautiful gift of unchecked freedom. Born with this infant gift of liberty we run, dance, perform, with no concern of what others think of us. Everything within us flows in one stream – a coordinated singular current. As we progress through the various stages of childhood, adolescence and into adulthood, the freedom we once knew often becomes a stifled trickle. Erosion of confidence creates an inner conflict, the duality of intrinsic desire against the sense of needing to conform to extrinsic standards, whether they be societal, moralistic, imposed by authority figures and peers etc. This internal conflict has the effect of replacing the singular flow of emotion, action and purpose with that of obstruction. 

Musicians, athletes, artists, business leaders, dancers, chefs – to name a few, understand the need to recapture the essence of singularity. Without it they know they will never get to elite levels. For others, performing the simple tasks of the day or learning a new discipline, they know the importance of being fully present in the moment, focused and unimpeded by external or internal conflict. Here are some areas to consider in your quest for maximising singularity.

Being Present
Slowing down, centering ourselves in the moment, being fully aware of what is happening around us assists in achieving freedom in the present. The discipline of scheduling agenda items till a later time is essential

Small Goals
Not just the longer term outcomes we want to achieve but what are our important shorter term goals? It might be the floors washed in the morning, to master four particular bars of music in the practice session or to read a chapter of the book tonight that we’ve been meaning to get to. These small accomplishments create ascending platforms of achievement that confidence and self esteem are built upon, providing the ongoing impetus, motivation and momentum in tackling increased feats of difficulty.

Stress
All of us deal with the push and pull of daily life. Stress is the result of our attachment and internal reactions to external situations. If we allow ourselves to be attached to these external circumstances and essentially pull them into ourselves, this gift of singularity becomes conflicting double mindedness. Identifying the source of our stress, approaching it rationally and actioning that which is within our power to do, puts the control back into our court. Finances are a good example. Many people stress over bills and the ‘what if the car breaks down?’ The simple act of scheduling a weekly time to do your finances helps maintain control, alleviating the stress that comes when our heads are in the sand.

Focus
Without focus, effort and concentration is dissipated. Being fully present, having small achievable short term goals and a lack of stress results in singularity of purpose. Taking this one step further, exercising full concentration at the time, limiting external distractions such as email and phone calls assists in this singularity of purpose and progress.
Freedom…it’s up to us to regain it. Run, play, learn, achieve, have fun. No one else will do it for you and as my dance teacher constantly reminds me, “your muscles know what they’re doing, your brain just gets in the way.”

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Scheduling Worry

July 17, 2013 1:48 am

Worry and the daily concerns of life can render us powerless if we’re not careful. Conflicting thoughts from multiple directions can impede progress on the most basic of tasks.

Try scheduling time to worry.

My time is late Friday afternoons. As concerns start to build during the week and I find myself beginning the slide down the slippery slope of worry and fear, I tell these well meaning but misguided passengers that they will have their moment, but just not right now. Interestingly, by the appointed time on Friday, they have both disappeared, things are sorted and I get to enjoy my late afternoon  beer with a mind at rest.

Counter-intuitive yes, but it works. Happy days!

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Perspective

July 4, 2013 7:53 am

For achievement orientated individuals and in the running of our businesses, perspective is one of the things we lose sight of very quickly. No matter how much progress we have made over the last five years, five months or five days, if things aren’t going well now or we haven’t seen results in the last week, we can quickly go into a tail spin with the self flagellating whip out, ever ready to beat ourselves into increased performance. 

One remedy is the purposeful gaining of perspective. Just as we would return from an overseas vacation and take time to review the photo’s, memories and travel experiences, we would do well to simulate this activity for our personal and business progress.

Remedial Interventions

  1. Take time out to review the journey. Five years, the last year, the last quarter etc – whatever is relevant.
        • What have you learned and grown in personally? 
        • Where did you detour or get lost? What were the reasons?
        • What hills have you climbed and what were they called? 
        • What have been the results?
  2. If you’re reviewing your business progress, list all improvements made including personnel, financial management, education, systems, sales etc
  3. If you’re feeling frustrated with your current situation or performance, sometimes looking back over a similar period of time in the last year or two can give you perspective that otherwise goes unobserved. One client of mine was beating themselves up for the cashflow drain that happened in the month of July. Reviewing the financials of previous years, every July was the same. Gaining perspective, he put the whip down and got to work to remedy the situation for the following year. 

As someone rightly said, “we overestimate what we can achieve in twelve months but underestimate what can be achieved in five years.” We would do well to take a longer term view, understand what we need to do daily in order to get to the five year destination, re-align our goals and then…put the whip down. Self flagellation, apart from hurting, simply impedes progress. 

Enjoy the view – from where you came and the mountains up ahead. You were born to climb!

 

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Think Outcomes, Not Goals

April 30, 2013 2:58 am

If you’ve been in business for any length of time you’ve heard time and again about the importance of goal setting. Goalposts, as in football, help us define our aim and assist in directing our energy toward that end. The goal scored provides the outcome we are after points against the opposition.

Often times though, a subject can lose its power. We read about goal setting, attend seminars, try our best to action what we’ve learned but still seem to head toward the oppositions goals. Deflating!

Here’s a twist on goal setting.

Think outcomes not goals.

Outcomes are the results that ‘come out’ over a set period of time and from specific activities. For example, heading into today we could set the following:

1. Call key prospects and set two new appointments for next week

2. Follow up 4 previous clients to see how they are progressing and communicate the latest products available

3. Complete ABC Pty Ltd quote and post

4. Visit each of my staff over the day and express how much I value them

5. Knock off at 4pm for an hour’s exercise before dinner

Five outcomes that are easily achievable and measurable. At days end you will have the satisfaction of tangible results from your planning and actions.

Outcomes can be set for any period of time and in any area of life. Try it for a week. You might just find a new sense of success, the feeling of a job well done and that you’re not simply sitting around watching the opposition beat the pants off you.

Good luck!

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Your Gaze Determines Your Future

April 13, 2013 5:17 pm

Walking along the oceanside winding paths of Noosa National Park I was captivated by the surrounding natural beauty. Crystal clear sparkling water, a soaring eagle, a lone turtle playing in its natural habitat. For a time, as I wandered, my eyes were on the ground in front of me –caught up in the dead leaves, old branches, the odd bit of litter. Then I looked up. The view once again was inspiring, and not just the ocean but the filtered light gently caressing the new leaf growth above me.

Life is like that.

We oscillate from the old to the new; from looking up to looking down; from what has been to what is – to what could be. We become consumed with the events of the past – our successes and failures, shattered dreams, dashed hopes. We get trapped in these. The harsh words others have spoken, the brokenness and confusion that has come from life’s sideswipes. We can live there, in the safety of history. Building a shell around ourselves, we at times fear looking up, looking out, trying again. The past becomes its own cocoon, sedating us against all of life’s possibilities. What we miss when our eyes are at our feet, are the opportunities and inspiration that come from looking up. New life, hope, fulfilment, success.

Old rotting leaves at our feet, or the new abundant growth displayed in the leafy canopy above. The choice is ours as to where we fix our gaze and I can promise you – if its upward, your life and future will rise accordingly.

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The Stupidity Of Business Coaches

February 6, 2013 5:17 pm

Here are some complaints I’ve received (and some constantly) from business owners about coaches and consultants they have experienced:

  • “It was all too ethereal. They weren’t ever able to ground anything.”
  • “They give me loads of work and advice but given our busyness, I couldn’t fully get around to doing it.”
  • “We’d do our 90 day planning but it was all left up to me.”
  • “I paid good money and got little in return.”
  • “They’re lazy and dislike to travel.”
  • “All they seemed to do was talk and dispense advice.”
  • “They had the concepts but lacked actual real life experience.”

And my personal observations over the last 13 years:

  • Many coaches have as one of their KPI’s, length of retention, meaning, the longer I can retain a client on a monthly fee then I am a successful coach; the more clients I have on monthly fees with long retention I am really successful
  • Some, have been employees all their life, do a business coaching course for ten days and voila, they’re a ‘coach’, instructing people on how to run their business
  • If the coaching doesn’t work for the client, it’s always the clients fault
  • Big on advice, light on results
  • Like to sit on the phone or use skype/email rather than go to the actual workplace, engage with the client, observe behavior, the environment, people etc
  • Limit coaching to one hour blocks or less (by remote means), X amount of emails and phone calls
  • Are personally time driven,  not results driven for the client
  • Many haven’t done it tough in business – haven’t been in the firing line, in the trenches
  • Are big into motivation rather than changing actual behavior and monitoring that change. As Jim Rohn so pertinently stated “Motivation alone is not enough. If you have an idiot and you motivate him, now you have a motivated idiot.”
  • Qualifications from the Franchisor, certification from a coaching body, a degree…really means bugger all if they don’t deliver

I receive emails from ‘coaches of coaches’ that promise to double my income, halve my consulting time, live the dream life etc etc.  It would seem to me, that in most of the marketing that comes from these ‘coach of coaches’ it is always weighted (and sometimes 100%) on the side of the coach. Nothing about benefiting the client at all. Here is the opening line of one of the marketing emails I received from a coach that bears mentioning and that portrays coaching marketeer speak on the whole:

“Ray, I’m writing to you barefoot from the table on the deck at our beach house.”
(we Australians have a term for this kind of marketing inanity that I won’t publish here)

Where is the authenticity, congruency, focus on bettering the clients condition? Where are the results, doing the hard yards to yield significant and solid business outcomes for a business? Yes, the coach has a business to run themselves and needs to do it efficiently and profitability. I get that. But what I see in today’s proliferation of this profession is a self centeredness and self absorption that is disturbingly devoid of integrity. And business owners see it too.

To the coach – put your clients interests first. Yes, do it efficiently by all means, making sure you get paid well and the lifestyle you desire but… focus on their needs, wants and for goodness sake, get them the results they’re after and then some. Add incredible value to their situation and change your main KPI to the amount of referrals you receive.

To the business owner, manager – find a coach or consultant that has done the hard yards, who gives you unlimited access, who ideally is recommended, who guarantees their work, has got significant results, someone that is orientated your way, not theirs. Make sure they charge you for the value they contribute, not by the hour, the month or the day (they will more likely drag their heels if this is the case). You want someone who will give you the results you want, and achieve them quickly.
And, if the above isn’t clear enough, I think some of the current coaches in the market place should go and get a real job.

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All You Have To Do is Ask – Referrals

January 21, 2013 2:56 pm

Business owners, managers and marketers spend countless hours in developing complex marketing strategy models with lengthy roll out times. One of the most overlooked and quickest ways of getting new business is that of referrals.

There are two main ways of getting referrals.

1.       Wait for them

When someone contacts you from having been referred from a colleague,  the business is often 80% completed. These are fantastic and ideal but can be a slow wait.

2.       Ask for them

This is one of the most disregarded marketing methods used in today’s business world. Some are excellent at this, most dismal. Here are some ideas for getting new referrals today.

  • Contact your best clients, alliance partners etc and say something similar to the following. (This is what I find works for me but adapt to your own style)

“As the majority of my business comes from word of mouth and referrals from colleagues, I was wondering if you know of 2 or 3 people that could do with assistance similar to what you’ve experienced in my working with you?”

Or…

“As the majority of my business comes from word of mouth and referrals from colleagues, I was wondering if you know of 2 or 3 people that are needing help with ????? (be specific here to help your contact identify people that you particularly want to be referred to)

  • Once they have agreed to give you some names, ask them if they would mind contacting them to let them know you will be in touch or, if they would prefer not to do this, ask them permission to use their name when calling
  • When calling the referral, try this to start with and adapt to your style and the situation as you go…

“Hi <NAME>. My name is NAME> from <Company Name>. John Smith passed your contact details on as someone who might be interested in the type of work I do. I have worked with John for 2 years and he only gives high quality people for me to connect with. I’d like to just drop in for 10 minutes on either Tuesday afternoon or Thursday morning just to introduce myself for a start. Which one of those would work best for you?”

Everyone can afford ten minutes of their time and the rate of which you will get in front of people will escalate dramatically. And remember…all you have to do is ask.

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Customer Service and the Bottom Line

January 12, 2013 2:21 pm

Companies and organizations often spend inordinate amounts of time and energy focusing on how to increase sales and profits and rightly so. But, there is one area in particular, right under their analytical noses that escapes notice – the link between their front line people and profits. Here are some real life, personally experienced examples.

The great

  • Staff who remember your name (and they’re not looking at a screen)
  • The new cafe owner who gives you free coffee to try 
  • The employee who notices the small things and takes it upon themselves to improve your condition
  • The retail assistant that says “so what brings you into the store today?” Brilliant question, interested in directing me and I can’t answer no
  • The taxi driver, mindful of your time and money takes you the quickest route. For the antithetical example go to http://rayhodge.com.au/blog/dismal-customer-service
  • The company, hotel or store you visit that always makes you feel you’re the most important person while there, not just a number (or dollar)

The Bad

  • The restaurant where you always have to ask for service
  • No initiative by the team member
  • The retail assistant that says “are you happy browsing?” always says to me “please don’t bother me, just browse away.”
  • The tradesman who grunts and leaves a mess
  • Non smiling and disinterested receptionists
  • Sales people who are more interested in getting the sale than in my needs
  • One star service in five star establishments

The ugly

  • Telephony support  who upon my complaint say “I understand.” How can they? They’re not me!
  • Cabbies who take me the long way
  • Invoices that end up double what I expected because things weren’t explained properly at the start. 
  • The bank that provides one teller for lunchtime queues. (I ‘d be out of business within a month if I treated customers this way).  
  • Frontline staff interested in themselves, on personal calls while I am waiting, exhale heavily, lethargic in their service etc etc 

 A few things to keep in mind for your business

  • Does the receptionist answer the phone with energy? Remember, people hear smiles. (I once put a mirror in front of a receptionist to remind her of this fact).
  • Frontline People. Any one, dealing with customers needs to be trained and monitored in how they engage with your clients. From tradesman to retail, from support to sales. Some staff do this naturally, others have to have vigorous training, others allocated to back office roles.
  • Hire behaviorally for the role. If you are recruiting someone for a ‘people role’, much better to get it right up front than try to train someone in it afterwards. 
  • Teach your team that the customer is the most important person in your business. Go out of your way to ‘wow’ them. (I am the only consultant I know of to offer 24/7 support and most often return calls within 2 hours – some say it’s stupid, I say its normal. 

As in all things, what you value, shapes your actions. And, if your company puts me first and communicates I am important, I will more than happily be a long term paying customer I will refer my friends and be your evangelist. It will mean less cost cutting, more sales and profit for you!

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Why resolutions aren’t enough

January 3, 2013 12:07 am

Resolutions, whether they be to get fit, quit smoking, spend more time with the kids or make a million dollars is more akin to the dream of the night rather than the actions by day. Some think that the mere fact that “I have a resolution” will bring the outcomes they want. We start well and generally fail in dismal fashion.

A resolution in any form, whether the current new year’s practice or any other form of resolution, invariably fails without two other ingredients – scheduling and accountability.

Resolutions start in the mind yes, but are achieved through daily actions. Basic I know but then again, I am a simple man.

Make your resolutions yes, but then..

  • take your diary and enter daily or weekly times for the fulfillment of these goals
  • ask someone to keep you accountable to your resolutions and talk daily, weekly, monthly – whatever is appropriate
  • celebrate small achievements

A final thought…

Some think that there is a secret for living the life we want. If you’ve read the book ‘The Secret’ you’ll know that all we have to do is think and focus on things in the realm of the mind and they will actualize in life. This is called the law of attraction. What is missing in the modern sub-culture of the success movement is that of the law of perspiration. Yes, cerebral positivity is essential, but without the follow through in daily actions and choices, life is a series of unachieved wishes.

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Getting Wet

December 9, 2012 5:03 am

Watching a fisherman braving the ocean on a cold winters morning here in the US, made me think of how those in business fear getting wet. This guy knew that to have success he couldn’t stay on the shore. Out of his comfort zone and into the water. Those in war, won medals more often than not from their bloodied work in the trenches and on the field. Elite performers in any field rise to the top from putting in the hard yards at the bottom, not from reading self help books in the comfort of their room. From safe to risky, from shoreline to the water. If you don’t try you’ll never know and if you don’t throw your line out, your bucket will remain empty.

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10 Momentum Builders for 2013

November 13, 2012 4:14 pm

1. CHECK CASHFLOW
Cashflow is critical at this time of year and can be a momentum robber. Check how you’re placed through till mid February; get onto outstanding receivables and send out as many invoices as possible. Stagger payments to creditors as appropriate.

2. CLEARING BOTTLENECKS
Identify key inefficiencies within your organisation outlining a plan to deal with them. Complete anything you’ve been procrastinating on.

3. ASCERTAIN KEY PRIORITIES
Determine what key things, if done now, will launch you into the New Year with the least amount of resistance. Focus only on these.

4. TAKE TIME FOR PLANNING
Plan 2013, scheduling your holidays first. Plan in items such as personal and staff development, marketing and sales strategy, financial requirements, travel etc.

5. ESTABLISH YOUR GOALS
Establish 7 goals you’d like to accomplish next year. They should include business and personal.

6. PREPARE YOUR TEAM
Ask your people what they’d like to see in 2013 and then communicate your vision. Collaboration increases employee engagement.

7. GET IN TOUCH WITH YOUR CUSTOMERS AND KEY PROSPECTS
Now is a great time to be sending cards, giving gifts, calling your customers. Identify the top 20% and treat them preferentially.

8. MAKING THE PHONE RING IN JANUARY
What marketing can you do NOW to get the phone ringing in January? Who can you set appointments with? What offer can you send out NOW that will build momentum?

9. WHAT TWO THINGS DO YOU WANT TO DO DIFFERENT IN 2013?
This might relate to closing down a section of your business, a new market to explore, training your staff, increasing your management effectiveness and so on.
10. GET SOME REST
Use the break to get some rest, find some refreshment, get inspired. Running a business is a tough gig and you deserve to put your feet up.
Good luck and all the best for 2013.

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Ray’s 17 Rules for Effective Self/Time Management

October 16, 2012 3:52 pm

Time management books and articles abound. What is tail about (to put it nicely) in the modern age of rush and overburdened schedules is that we talk about managing time not self. Here are fourteen keys to increase your daily performance while maintaining a healthy self.

  1. Understand what your limits are. What agendas and schedules have you living out on the edge?
  2. Know the amount of sleep you need and make sure you get it
  3. Get to know yourself. What are the ingredients that make up living at full capacity and energy?
  4. Maintain both intellectual and physical fitness
  5. Clarify the outcomes you want
  6. What are the few things that contribute to these outcomes?
  7. Incorporate into your schedule ONLY that which contributes to these
  8. Plan next week this week; tomorrow, today
  9. Reposition success based on the space in your day, the ease at which you pace yourself (this is very much tail about in current business life)
  10. Always ask, ‘who else can do this’?. Delegate and then follow up
  11. Learn to say no to others agendas, yes to yourself
  12. Do things quickly and intensely 
  13. Schedule the hardest things that match your highest energy 
  14. Procrastinate on the non critical, act now on the vital
  15. Ease the pedal  back to 90% capacity. Studies have shown athletes break records by adhering to this
  16. Reward yourself
  17. And finally – cut out the crap. You are much too valuable to fill your life with stuff that doesn’t count. One life one chance
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Dismal customer service

October 2, 2012 12:40 pm

Catching a cab to the airport in a city I knew well, I communicated to the driver where I wanted to go. He then proceeded to take a route that I wouldn’t have taken. Here is the conversation that ensued.

Me. “Why are you going this way?”

Driver. “It’s the shortest.”

Me. “But the other way is quicker.”

Driver. “My customers want the shortest way.”

Me. “Why would they want the shortest when the quickest costs less?”

Driver. (Uncomfortably quiet and didn’t speak for the rest of the journey)

LESSON. If you want customers to return, treat them well and provide high value. Customers need to know that you are putting their interests first, even if it means you losing a few dollars in that transaction. Blow it here and you will miss out on further business from both them and the referrals they’ll send your way. But, if you’re in it for yourself, just screw them upfront and follow the cabbies example

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Keeping Good Staff – from an Italian ‘mama’ restaurateur

September 10, 2012 5:54 pm

Dining at the Sorrento Italian Restaurant in Northbridge, Perth is always on the travel agenda. While the food is great, the service is exceptional. I asked mama what her secret was to keeping good staff. Her response was really quite simple…

1. Communication

‘We meet at the end of every night and we communicate what went well, what could have done better’.

2. Incentivise personal performance

The staff are exceptional at making sure you don’t leave without getting all the extras and they do it in a way that you don’t know you are being sold to.

3. Put your smile on

‘When my staff walk through the front door I tell them to take the smile out of their pocket and put it on’. (They are some of the happiest I’ve encountered).

4. Work with them

‘I lead by example, doing what they do with them. I’m often called a workaholic’.

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In Your Prospects Best Interests

August 26, 2012 7:14 am

My wife and I were given a ‘free’ night at a luxury resort on the one condition that we attended a 90 minute session to hear about the time share offers they had available. We went through the talk quite impressed by what they were offering and then afterwards were directed into a room with one of the salesman. At the end of our discussion he then said the following words, “now, I will give you both a few minutes to discuss this wonderful opportunity.” I responded by saying that we never make on the spot decisions and would prefer to discuss this and come back to him later. That caught him from left field and landed a blow to the effect that displayed immediate disappointment on his face. And he never rebounded. He quickly shut the meeting down, showed us to the door and we’ve never heard from him since.

Some lessons for all of us in sales:

1. Treat people with respect, with THEIR interests as center, not yours

2. When they say they won’t be making a decision on the spot, respect the person and instead of showing disappointment simply say “yes, it is a big decision and you need to make sure you are very comfortable in what you decide. May I ask what the main reason is for not being able to make a decision today? Is it the money?” If they say that no, it isn’t the money then ask what the main thing is holding them back at this point.
By going down this track you have shown respect, kept the conversation and relationship flowing and are now getting to the key objections by asking “is it the money?”

3. If you don’t end up with the sale, keep in touch. Ask permission to contact them at a set time within the next week, add them to your mailing list with their consent and reinforce that you have their best interests in mind.

When it comes to sales, it’s all about the buyer not the seller.

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Car Lovers – getting a customer to return

July 24, 2012 6:19 pm

Having a filthy car from my travel in the country and disliking the process of washing it, I decided to call into a car wash I’d never been to before – Car Lovers,Toowoomba QLD. It was my first time and won’t be my last time. Why?

– the employee was very patient with me describing all the various options
– did a great job with energy
– even though the detailing option wasn’t available due to being the weekend he let me borrow what was required.
– he then came over, suggested blackening my tyres, provided the product and upon watching my dismal efforts of application said ‘I’ll do it for you’.

Patience, Energy, Generosity and The Extra Mile

When a business goes the extra mile, customers are happy to drive an extra mile.

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Marketing Shift

June 29, 2012 7:04 pm

Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity, ‘doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results’ can quite adequately be applied to the area of sales and marketing.  The word ‘shift’, means to ‘move or cause to move from one place to another’. To gain different results, we have to try different things and measure the effect of these changes. Here are some ingredients for creating shift.

1.       Measure and analyse what is currently happening (most don’t do this). For example:

  • Enquiries derived from your marketing efforts e.g. Website and Social Media enquiries, publications, public speaking opportunities, newspaper advertising, walk-ins, word of mouth etc
  • Enquiries resulting in appointments or meetings
  • Meetings resulting in request for tenders
  • Tenders or quotes resulting in sales
  • Reason for not converting either from initial enquiry to meeting or meeting to sale etc
  • Sales performance of individuals
  • Average dollar sale
  • Seasonal results

You get my point? There are numerous things to measure and too many to list. Create the appropriate indicators for your business and start recording and analysing the results.

2.       Try some variations to what you are doing. Here are some ideas:

  • Change your quote presentation. Offer different options with higher pricing and value. Change the layout. Include testimonials etc
  • Try different scripts or different marketing materials
  • Use different headlines, change the call to action (or add one)
  • Look at your sales closing process and try a different approach
  • Update your website, designed around your buyers need (not just about how good you are)
  • Identify your key buyers, markets and major profit areas, narrowing your focus

3.       Analyse results against the original baseline

4.       Improve further

5.       Analyse

6.       Improve

7.       And so on

Getting a ‘shift’ in results is relatively simple, but it does mean constant improvement with ongoing analysis.

For some useful tools to help you here, go to http://ignitebusinessconsulting.com.au/free-resources?cat=7

Good luck!

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Interview questions to ascertain Enthusiasm and Teachability

June 1, 2012 10:38 pm

I recently posted the following post on my facebook page

Recruit enthusiasm and teachability not just technical skills’

This raised the question by one reader –  ‘What are some questions you would recommend asking prospective employees in an interview Ray?’

Enthusiasm  
What’s your dream job?
Why are you applying for this position?
What do love to do?
What do you dislike?
Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
Tell me about a time in your current or previous work where you were intensely motivated? Where you were bored?
What things in life do you do where you lose track of time?
Why have you chosen this industry to work in? (​Do they show an interest in your industry and company?)

​What research have they done on your company?

Do they display general enthusiasm and eagerness to learn and try new things?

The key here is to watch  where the person lights up/comes to life which is often indicated by faster speech, eyes and body language etc. Also when they over talk, it can indicate a subject they are passionate about. If you are dealing with more of an ‘analytic’ as opposed to a more ‘expressive’ person this can be a little harder to gauge.

Teachability

Tell me about what you have been learning, reading etc?
What areas do you feel you need to grow most in?
If you were to be successful in this application, what areas would you see you would have the most challenge with?
How would you deal with those challenges?
Tell me about a time how you handled criticism or a constructive critique from your boss?
​Tell me about a time how you handled criticism or a constructive critique from your  peers?
What did you learn from this?
What did you do about this?
How do you stay up to date with this industry?

Summary

I find that many employers interview based on skills assessment (90%) and the
remaining 10% on other matters. It is much more important to spend the appropriate time upfront in your interviews to understand the motivation of a person, not just their skills because if you sacrifice here you will pay the price down the track if you employ the wrong person.
Good luck!

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Does more money equal more motivation?

May 24, 2012 10:34 pm

A question I frequently get asked is “should we be incentivising our staff by way of financial bonuses and rewards?”

This is a challenge for companies of all sizes – trying to keep good staff performing at optimal levels and also from being poached by larger companies with bigger wage budgets. I have heard story after story in my travels and especially in my work with mining related businesses, of people being sweetened with big pay packets to lure them away from their current employment. How do we as employers strike the balance of not allowing wages to blow out and at the same time keep our people happy and performing at the highest levels?

Intrinsic verses extrinsic motivation

Intrinsic motivation is best described as that motivation that comes from within a person whereas extrinsic motivation is that which comes from external sources. Intrinsic motivation is all about doing that which we find enjoyable and are passionate about, that which relates to what we value highly and where we gain a personal sense of satisfaction. Extrinsic motivation is about external factors that create stimulus to achieve or perform certain tasks such as when a child is obedient due to potential consequences.

In the workplace, the starting point is the hiring process. Identifying keenness and passion for ones work should be primary, skill levels secondary. Much easier to train someone in the technical aspects of their job than teaching them to love their work. The latter akin to trying to make a slow horse speed up – just plain hard work. Many employers bypass this stage. Due to labour shortages (and not really understanding the ‘whole person’), we tend to hire anyone that is somewhere near the mark technically, rather than considering the person themselves.

One of the key observations to consider when both hiring and working with people is that all of us are motivated by what is most important to us. If we value money highly then money it is. If satisfaction from a job well done, then that is reward enough. If it is time with the family, then that is what drives us. Our workers are no different. Different factors drive different individuals according to what is most important for them. Tap into these internal drivers, adapt the workplace around these and you will have employees more inclined to be intrinsically motivated in their work with both themselves and the company reaping the rewards. Their work then relates to their higher values. Incentivise everyone with financial rewards and you potentially will miss the mark much of the time. As Edward L Deci observed:

“If a person who is intrinsically motivated to perform an activity begins to receive external reinforcement for the activity, what will happen to his intrinsic motivation? Previous studies and the present study indicate that money decreases intrinsic motivation, while verbal reinforcements tend to enhance intrinsic motivation. ”
Edward L Deci – Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 1972, Vol. 22, No. 1, 113-120

And if you do head down the path of financial rewards, look at incentives based on team performance as opposed to rewarding individual effort.
Good luck!

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The attentive cleaner

May 7, 2012 7:52 am

I was staying at the Pan Pacific Hotel in Perth again recently and went to slurp some water out of the bathroom (as the bar wasn’t open). One of the staff was doing the cleaning and watched my very undignified drinking manner (some things are never lost from growing up in the country). Thirst satisfied I went back to working in the bar and about 10 minutes later this employee returned with a bottle of water for me. A small thing I know but when a cleaner or any of your staff for that matter, notice an opportunity to make a difference and take personal initiative to do so, you know you are doing something right. This is what creates both word of mouth and repeat business. Whether it is a city five star hotel or a tradie in the country, attentive staff with enthusiasm and initiative are one your most valuable assets.

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Cigarette butts and the most important employee

April 17, 2012 3:49 am

I recently stayed at the Pan Pacific Hotel in Perth. One of the employees was picking up cigarette butts out of the garden and I commented on what a wonderful job he had!!! His comment back surprised me. “My job helps keep our hotel its five star rating.” Helping workers see the bigger picture, the importance of our work in the context of customers and our standards, increases both employee and ultimately customer satisfaction. My final comment to him was “that would make you one of the most important people on the team”. He responded with a smile and said “I guess it would.”

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Feedback given to a hotel I stayed in

March 31, 2012 12:16 am

You asked for some feedback so happy to provide it. I am a business consultant so am always evaluating every business I interact with, and thought of some things while I wasthere that could assist you in getting more repeat business.

Apart from the fact that I know your rooms are being upgraded this year (and the room I stayed in this time wasn’t as good as the previous one I had been in) my experience just left me feeling with a lack of attention – both to me personally and also the room (eg finger marks left on windows and mirrors hadn’t been wiped off from the previous occupants). As far as personal attention, it was OK but not exceptional. Staff were pleasant but not actively trying to make my life better. Checkout was a longer than normal experience given that there was only one girl on reception.

If I managed your hotel, I would be looking to teach my people more active ways of being able to connect and assist our clients through eye contact, pro-active assistance, excellence in all areas (cleaning for eg) etc etc. I would also have some of my key people go and stay somewhere like the Pan Pacific Club rooms for a couple of days (where I am now) to learn exceptional service and attention to the small things. I think you could learn a lot from hotels like this.

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Working hard precedes working smart

March 1, 2012 5:37 pm

I constantly hear talk about working smart, as if we can cut out a thousand miles to arrive immediately at our desired destination (and business coaches can be some of the worst offenders). My observations, research and personal experience would suggest that the most successful in any field have worked hard to get their smarts. The road to working smart is through working hard – no two ways about it. No book, coach, get rich scheme, cab drivers advice will give you what the process of working hard will do. And, in working hard you will find the ‘smart’. And that’s where external advice becomes useful…as you’re working. (except for maybe the cabbies advice)!

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Mirror mirror on the wall (2)

November 24, 2011 3:10 pm

People often ask me, ‘how are business’s doing in these uncertain times’? ‘Should I go into business now or wait until the economy gets more stable’? My observation and response to these kind of questions is that that in any economy and in any industry, business’s thrive where a good operator is at the helm. Sure, outside influences affect business, sometimes you have to close the doors and find other avenues, but good business owners see hard times more as opportunities than depressing realities.
I remember starting a new business just after the Global Financial Crisis hit, and more than one person asked me if I thought this was a wise move given the global uncertainty. I recall running this idea past my accountant, who is a very successful business owner in his own right, and his reply was that some of the most successful businesses have been initiated in depressions and recessions. So to re-iterate – a good business is a reflection of a good business owner.

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Key attributes of a successful business

October 25, 2011 11:14 pm

Some key attributes of a successful business.

1.      Happy customers

2.      Inspired and satisfied employees

3.      Information and processes streamlined and organised

4.      The ongoing push and pull of chaos and order

5.       A well thought out and executed sales and marketing strategy

6.      Procedures and processes documented and communicated continually

7.      Cash flowing with continued profitable growth

Identify which of these needs particular attention and get to work.

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