A lot of people are eager to do something different with their lives, something entrepreneurial, but often don’t know where to start. Others have managed to start a business, but at some point later on might end up feeling stuck and unable to take it to the next level. In reality, one of the two scenarios happens with the majority of new entrepreneurs out there, because let’s face it – starting a business is not an easy task, let alone for people without any prior experience.
So what happens when you suddenly find yourself struggling in these situations? Do you give up? Do you let your dream become one of the 9 ouf 10 start-ups in the UK that end up failing? The answer is no. No, giving up is never the right option, especially when there are people out there who can help you get through those rough patches.
I’m sure you’ve heard of business mentors before. But, what is a mentor? A mentor is essentially someone with plenty of business knowledge who is willing to provide you with advice and guidance on how to cope and develop your company. It could either be someone you know and admire such as a friend or a family member, or even a professional whom you can hire to do the job.
Richard Branson, Larry Page and Steve Jobs have all received advice and guidance from business mentors at some point in the beginning of their careers. In fact, most successful entrepreneurs have benefited in one way or the other by trusting other more experienced individuals.
Even experienced tycoons can reap the benefits of hiring a mentor. One of the most common obstacles businesspersons need to overcome is their lack of motivation and self-confidence at times. That is where a mentor can come in most handy. Having someone who believes in you can make a real difference in running a business. I often find that people who have everything it takes to succeed have no idea how great they really are – not only will your mentor know that, they will also make sure you fully understand it.
If you’ve recently started a new business, chances are you are under the impression that nobody else would ever be able to appreciate the problems your own start-up is facing. Each business is unique, right? So how on earth would a complete stranger walk in one day and tell you how to run things? While that is a typical perception, it is entirely wrong.
Trust me when I say you would be surprised to find out how many people have been exactly through the same issues you are going through at the moment no matter how different the type of their business or product might seem. The main business principles are always going to be the same, despite all the emerging business models or distribution channels that deceive people into believing they are all alone out there.
Recognising and accepting the need for a mentor is actually one of the wisest and most courageous decisions you’ll have to make as a recent entrepreneur. Having the right guidance at the initial planning stage of a start-up is crucial and will definitely help you dodge a lot of the mistakes you would have undoubtedly make otherwise.
At the end of the day, you are the only one who can judge whether you could use a business mentor or not. One point I would like to make clear with this article is that accepting to hire a mentor is not a sign of weakness or incompetence to run your business. It is a sign of strength, wisdom and resourcefulness.
This weekend, I've been chilling out with my family after an eventful trip to the Isle of Man last Thursday and Friday. I paid a visit to John, our AMAZING Isle of Man Partner. John is a great guy who's been with BLAM! for over 18 months. He's the type of guy who isn't technically minded but he's successful because of the way he builds a client database, and he has an incredible work ethic (more on John in future email).
John hosts business and sporting dining events on the island every other month, and has had many successful entrepreneurs and sporting legends attend as speakers. His most recent speaker was a huge hero of mine, Warren Gatland, Wales, British & Irish Lions rugby coach. As a proud Welshman, rugby is in my blood and it was an event I didn't want to miss. However, getting to the Isle of Man wasn't as straight forward as I would have expected! In fact we nearly missed the flight! This is what actually happened...
My colleague Ed (our International Partner Manager and all round top guy) and I, planned to visit John and attend this latest awesome event. John had promised me a seat on the top table, next to Warren Gatland and to say I was excited doesn't really cover it!
I set off at 9:30am from Cardiff on Thursday, heading towards Worcester to pick up Ed. We were aiming for Liverpool Airport and our flight was at 4:30pm. So that meant we had plenty of time...
The weather was horrendous, it just wouldn't stop raining, but I eventually arrived at Ed's at around 12:15pm, a little later than expected. But, we still had plenty of time, as the Sat Nav stated we'd arrive at 2.30pm, no problem.
We set off up the M5 and within 15 mins of driving, Ed realised he'd forgotten his Passport. I immediately called him a WALLY and managed to come off at the next exit to head back to Worcester, picked up his Passport and left his house again at 12:50pm. The Sat Nav said we'd arrive at 3.05pm which still gave us time to get there, fine.
But then something bad happened...
Within 30 minutes of getting back on the motorway, a road sign appeared "INCIDENT LONG DELAYS 30-45 minutes" and the Sat Nav jumped up to 3:30pm! This was the first time we started to become anxious. I made an executive decision to come off at the next junction and by-pass the incident on the motorway detouring through Dudley in the midlands. It wasn't plain sailing driving through Dudley, as we made a wrong turn, the traffic was bad and had further poor driving conditions. We finally managed to get on to the M6 but due to poor weather conditions and heavy traffic our speed didn't exceed 60mph for miles. The Sat Nav was showing 3:45pm, aaaarrgggh!!! We knew the gate closure was 4pm and this was going to be close! If we had one more traffic jam, we wouldn't be making the flight.
Then, what we had feared, happened! Another traffic jam by Stoke. We felt sure we'd been defeated as the Sat Nav was showing 4:00pm. This was the moment when we could have given up, but we still believed we could make the flight. I made the decision to come off the motorway again and head though country lanes, dodging sheep, hitting big puddles and overtaking tractors. Ed contacted Liverpool Airport Customer Service to see if there was anything they could do for us. Deep down we knew they couldn't delay the flight, but we were running out of options.
We managed to get on to the M56 and the Sat Nav was showing 4:05pm, the road was clear and Ed and I were shouting to each other, "WE ARE MAKING THIS FLIGHT! NO WAY ARE WE GOING TO MISS IT" Clearly our determination was all we had left, and we knew that we would be arriving after the gate closure time. Then something incredible happened.
We were approaching Runcorn and out of what seemed like nowhere appeared a new bridge called the Mersey Gateway. We couldn't believe it, this bridge had only been opened a few days and didn't show up on our maps. Ed and I were confused and so was the Sat Nav. After crossing the fantastic Mersey Gateway bridge we joined the A533 and the Sat Nav came back to life and was showing 3:55pm!!!!!
We'd taken a vital 10 minutes off our time. This was a defining moment. Ed and I were shouting with joy but we still only had 5 minutes to park the car, get through security and then get to the gate! This wasn't going to be easy and the odds were still against us.
We arrived at Liverpool Airport at 3:56pm and headed straight for the long stay car park which wasn't too far from the terminal, or so we thought. All we had to do was park the car and get to the airport as quickly as possible, sounds easy right?
This is when the worst happened. Zone A... Full, Zone B... Full, Zone C... Full!!!! We entered Zone D and it turned into a single road. There were no spaces available and it turned into a dead end, grrrrrr! There was no way we were coming this far only to be being defeated by the car park. I reversed all the way out of Zone D and headed for the furthest Zones. Again, Zone E... Full, then eventually arriving at Zone F we found a space, phew. It looked like we were at least a 5 minutes walk/run to the terminal and the time was now 4:05pm!
We knew the gate would be closed but we grabbed our bags and ran as fast as we could to the terminal believing we would still get on the plane. Being younger and fitter than Ed (probably doesn't appreciate me saying that) I ran ahead and entered the terminal building. I saw the Easy Jet customer service booth and shouted " HOLD THE ISLE OF MAN FLIGHT". The lady radioed through and said "run as fast as you can".
We got to security and I pushed my way to the front, asking all the passengers to let us through as we had an imminent flight to catch! Every passenger complied and let us through. We could hear over the tannoy "FINAL CALL ISLE OF MAN". Rushing through security we ran as fast as we could towards Gate 10, the furthest gate away (of course it was). We were like the McAllister family running for their flight in the Home Alone movie!
Again, I ran ahead of Ed until a gentleman shouted in a Liverpool accent "HEY MATE, ARE YOU THE GUYS FOR THE ISLE OF MAN FLIGHT".... "YES" I shouted being almost gassed out.
We made it!!! I could not describe the elation! The impossible became possible and we boarded the flight high five-ing all the passengers on the plane as we walked to our seats. "WE MADE IT" we shouted, it was a great moment, as if we'd secured the best deal of the year. I had no idea where I'd parked my car but at that moment I didn't even care!
The most important part of this story is that we never gave up! We could have given up in Stoke, but we still believed and kept going! Despite all the odds, and despite the Sat Nav telling us you're not going to make it on time, we both believed we would make the flight!
Having a never give up attitude is the best formula to ensure business success. If you are persistent and consistent with your work ethic and determination, you will succeed. Hard work will always beat talent and add that to following a consistent business plan with defined goals and it is impossible to fail!
If you’re in a business where you are aiming at generating multiple leads a week, you’ll need a system to manage those leads.
In the most basic form that means you’ve got a spreadsheet where you list your prospects name and contact details and have a notes field for each time you make contact with them. This simple form of contact management does the trick to begin with but is only good for a basic sales process and soon becomes tiresome when your list starts to build.
You now need a Customer Relationship Manager or as we say in the trade, a CRM.
There are plenty of CRM’s out there that will allow you to import this list when you are ready, so you can start managing your data more efficiently. We’ve tried a few of them at BLAM and find that they tend to fall into two categories, those that have marketing tools and those that stick to contact management.
At BLAM Partners we’ve been using our own CRM for a few years now, which is a white label product based on an American platform. We’ve found this system to be extremely useful in our business due to it’s powerful marketing integration tools that not many CRM’s offer at this price point.
Pretty much all CRM’s these days offer great contact management tools, that’s almost always a given. A lot of them also offer a deals tracker tool which is a great way of managing a sales pipeline for forecasting, follow ups and general sales best practice. What we like about the BLAM CRM falls into three categories:
1. Ease of use: All elements of the BLAM CRM come with a video tutorial that simply shows you how to make the most of the system. All too often these days it can take a long time to get used to a new CRM system and can often require expensive training from a qualified specialist. We have found that even the most adamant technophobes can get to grips with our CRM within a few hours.
2. Landing pages: These easy to design pages can be built with a form to capture information that will go directly into the CRM with the appropriate tags attached. This means if you run a Facebook campaign to capture leads from a specific industry for example, each time the lead is filled in it will be tagged with that industry. Further email campaigns directed at that industry can then be managed and sent easily.
3. Autoresponders: All contacts can be added to an autoresponder campaign that is pre-defined by you and can run for months there after. This powerful tool allows you the sophistication of some much more complicated and expensive CRM’s and means contacts can be communicated with automatically without any further action. These campaigns can also overlap, meaning if a prospect on the fifth email in the autoresponder campaign turns into a customer they can be added to a different autoresponder campaign for new customers.
Some of these functions can be gained through using email campaign software such as Mail Chimp (which is great) but the ease of having everything work seamlessly in one place is really convenient.
To find out more about the BLAM CRM or any of our other partnership programmes get in touch here .
If you’re a businessperson, you are a salesperson whether you think you are or not. In fact, I would go as far as to say that everybody in a business, from the bottom to the top is in sales. After all, the sum of every single part of the business contributes to the whole, and that’s what people are buying when they make a purchase.
When I’m dealing with BLAM Partners, they are nearly all engaged in direct selling, but often say “I don’t want to come across as a salesperson” as there are lots of negative connotations to the word and the role. The truth is, because when we’re in business we are all salespeople so lets get over it and learn how we can sell best!
There are many ways to improve our competence at selling but first and most important is changing the mindset and embracing that we are all salespeople on some level. We are currently running a course for BLAM Partners called our Super Sales Training Day and on it we begin by helping people understand that being a salesperson doesn’t have to be a dirty word. Once that has been accepted, the real leaning can begin and from there leads success.
In order to help you embrace the inner salesperson a friend of mine Phil Jones, wrote a book called Toolbox. This useful guide to sales is full of great information that will help any salesperson develop their skills at this ancient art. You can get a free copy on Amazon here if you are quick, the offer ends tonight (Wednesday 31st May 2017, midnight UK time).
One of the great parts at the beginning of the book is a list of people who are awesome salespeople. The list includes Nelson Mandela, Katie Price and Jamie Oliver among others, all experts at getting us to buy from them in their own way. These people are not typically the kinds of people that spring to mind when we think of "salespeople" but without the skills of a true professional salesperson they'd be far less effective.
So the next time you hear the word salesperson, give a thought to the job and what it entails. After all one way or another we are all in sales!
"Sorry Grant, but I've been too busy, so there wasn't enough time to do that task you set me." grrrrrrr!
Anyone that's been mentored by me or attended one of our BLAM courses will know how annoyed I get when I'm told that someone didn't have enough time to complete an important task. "Being too busy" is a bloody epidemic that is infecting a huge amount of people and in most cases it's just an excuse.
Don't get me wrong, a lot of us have very busy lives and it can be challenging getting all of our tasks completed. The order in which we undertake those tasks though, is completely under our control, we decide which tasks we prioritise.
In nearly all cases, when we hear these kind of "too busy" excuses, there definitely was enough time, it's just that we chose to do something else instead.
If you fall into this trap, you may have been prioritising family time, relaxing in front of the tv or having a night out with friends. It's not that you were too busy or didn't have enough time, it's just you chose to do something else instead, which is fine. What's not fine is kidding yourself that you didn't have enough time, because I'll bet you did!
Acknowledging that there was enough time and that in fact you weren't "too" busy but you decided to prioritise something else instead is a huge step change in your thinking that can help you make decisions about how you spend your time most productively.
So next time you catch yourself saying, "I've been too busy" or "I didn't have the time to do that", remember you weren't too busy and there was enough time, it's just you chose to do something else instead.
Have a great week.
Running BLAM Partners gives me the privilege of meeting lots of people starting a business for the first time. This can be a daunting prospect for them and, let's face it, it's not for the faint hearted!
We provide plenty of resources to help these first timers, but with this article I wanted to reveal some of the less conventional tips that I've seen used to great effect for start ups. They may not be for you, but that's what makes life interesting, it takes all sorts!
1. Develop morning routines - This may seem a fairly ordinary tip, but that does very much depend on the routine! Having a sequence of practices that are geared around your businesses performance from the moment you wake up, puts you in the right mindset as the day begins. I know of some entrepreneurs that get up at 4am to get their work done whilst there are no distractions at all, so after their first stint of work they can fit in a gym session at 6.30am then a family fix around 8am, then they finally go into work.
2. Affirmations - Writing down a statement of intent and then repeating it out loud several times a day may sound a bit crazy, but thousands of successful millionaires do this, as described by Napoleon Hill in "Think and Grow Rich". There are numerous variations on this practice and it’s not for those that feel self conscious when caught doing it. I’ve had many a weird stare from other drivers when they catch me talking to myself on my morning commute in the car!
3. Meditation - Meditation can help you focus on your goals, define your purpose and relax your mind when the stress of running a business gets to you. It is becoming a more conventional tool these days and there are plenty of apps that will help you begin your journey to reaching mindfulness nirvana. How much meditation you undertake though is down to you, but it's all too easy to say "I'm too busy to meditate”. I’ve even gone as far as getting a meditation teacher in to the office to educate the my team on how to get the most out of their meditation.
4. Talk to your pet - I recently read an interesting article from a fantastically wealthy entrepreneur who gauged his motivational talks by how long he could keep his pet Great Dane sat paying attention to him. If the dog lay down whilst he was practising he would assume it wasn’t good enough and adjust it until he held his attention for the full speech. So, I am now suggesting that we all practice our pitches on our pets, if we can’t hold their attention, what chance do we have with prospects?
5. Dress to impress - Think about what you wear and the way you look every single day because like it or not you are judged by the way you look. Unless you are a Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg (who are on another level entirely) looking as good as you can, appropriate to the business you are in, can give you the edge. If you are the best dressed person in the business meeting you are already making a good impression and for the right reasons.
If you find these tips interesting and want to find out more about how we help our BLAM Partners achieve success check out one of our webinars that we run every week, available to all here .
Have a great week!
One of the hardest parts of growing a small business is managing staff. Dealing with the day to day issues that come up preventing you getting on with growing your business is one of the most frustrating parts of running your own company.
I've listed five tips here that have helped me manage my staff over the years that you may find useful.
1. Build systems: If your internal business systems are designed around the roles of your staff it can save a lot of problems along the way. If each time you have a staff issue you amend your system to accommodate the situation, your systems should evolve and avoid similar problems in the future. An example of this would be a member of staff consistently forgetting to undertake a particular task. By applying a flagging system, a reminder, alert or trigger, you will then either solve the problem or have the evidence to discipline accordingly. My motto is, always be improving the systems, always keep learning from mistakes.
2. Communication: One of my personal weaknesses this one! Quite often I have found that I have neglected to communicate new initiatives in my businesses appropriately to all of the organisation. This sometimes causes me to verge on paranoia and end up repeating myself a lot to my team! By keeping all of the staff informed on the business goals, objectives and general on-going issues, you can build a fantastic team atmosphere. Regular team meetings, social events and a communication system that fits appropriately with your business are key. In my various businesses I have used a variety of different tools for doing this and they change depending on the level of staff I'm communicating with. For example, I often use a What's App group for management teams and then email communication, triggered from our CRM for more general staff matters.
3. Set goals with rewards: I use a staff review system that includes goals and targets set on a quarterly and annual basis. Each quarter the previous goals are reviewed and marked by achievement. My managers also use this system with their staff and it works consistently down the managerial line. When goals are achieved rewards are based on the achievement. There are several rewards systems available to employers now such as Perk Box but I've used a variety, from a good old fashioned bonus through to a holiday.
4. Work with strengths: I few years ago an extremely successful entrepreneur showed me how he managed his staff from the very beginning of their employment by assessing their strengths. I found this to be completely in line with my core values and love the positive approach of focussing on strengths rather than weaknesses. There are various strength finder tests that are available along with books that help you best understand the way to utilise the strengths and manage accordingly. Each member of staff takes the test and then you can see what their strengths are and what job roles will suit them best. I have now taken this to the next level by employing team members based primarily on their core values fitting with the business and then fitting their strengths with the appropriate role there after.
5. Know the law: On more than one occasion I have found myself in need of an employment solicitor when dealing with a tricky staffing situation. Employment law can be a minefield and when faced with a situation you need to know you’re getting the right advice. For many years I have been a member of the Chamber of Commerce who offer a free employment support line. They gave me invaluable advice and support and I highly recommend their membership for that service on its own. There are other organisations that provide similar services and for the business owner with only a small team this is a great first step in resolving issues or making sure you are operating correctly and in accordance with employment law. Of course, for more serious instances, a employment law solicitor may not be avoided!
Despite this article having elements relating to staffing problems, I would like to end it by saying that despite having my fair share of issues over the years, my team have been awesome. When you find the right people, they are the greatest asset your business has and are the foundation of the organisation.