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.
From a young age my parents drummed into me that honesty is the best policy. When I was at junior school I recall accidentally throwing a hardball through a high window, showering the entire assembly hall with glass. To my mates amazement I went and told the teacher immediately and was sent to the head master. He actually praised me for my honesty and then when in the next assembly (after the glass had been cleared) he made me stand up and used me as an example for my honesty, pointing out that it was because of my confession that I wasn’t punished.
What a great head he was, as this had a lasting effect on my attitude, which I've carried through to my business career too.
When it comes to selling in business there is a temptation to tell lies to further enhance your product or service. You may prefer to use the term exaggeration or stretching the truth but the principle is the same, it's lying.
Historically this is one of the main reasons why sales people have got a bad reputation. Whether it's the stereotypical slimy car sales person or the boiler room commission based telesales executive, we often have a perception that their morals are less than saintly and sometimes for good reason.
"But where do we draw the line, and how do we know
when we're stretching the truth too far?"
Lying is a fact of life, we all do it to a certain extent. Whether it's making an excuse for why we're running late or telling our partner that their bum doesn't look big in that outfit, it's a fact of life that we are all aware of. But where do we draw the line, and how do we know when we're stretching the truth too far?
I often find with business owners I coach who are new to selling or are less experienced in their product range (e.g. some of our BLAM Partners), they are tempted to appear more expert or experienced in their subject than they truly are. In this instance my advice is always honesty is the best policy. If you are found out to be less experienced than you have said, your credibility is completely blown and the chances of a sale are less than zero!
"Disarming honesty" is contrary to how traditional sales people are used to acting. Admitting that you don’t know the answer to a question can be a pleasant surprise to your prospect and can build trust and rapport. As long as the question is answered at some point (usually after the appointment) in an efficient and professional manner, it can actually help your pitch rather than damage it.
This has often worked for me and my sales people over the years. In the cases where the prospect has reacted badly to not being given the answer immediately, then they would never have been a good fit for our business anyway, if that’s the way they choose to behave.
So, I say to people who are new to selling, be truthful with your prospects and be disarmingly honest, after all it’s much more difficult to remember a lie than it is to recall the truth!
There seems to be an unlimited number of business gurus out there at the moment vying for the role of coaching entrepreneurs in all aspects of the business world.
“Coaching" seems to be the new buzz word that we keep hearing, and as ever there are a variety of different interpretations of what essentially is what we used to call consulting. Don’t get me wrong, I am of course a big fan of coaching, and have two that I use myself, I just tend to be wary when a new spin on an old idea starts taking hold!
Recently I attended an invigorating all day seminar where the familiar mantra of "be coachable" was pronounced at every opportunity (check out Les Brown for more being coachable inspiration). If you are being syndical, the reason for this seemed pretty transparent, as coaching is effectively what was being sold, at what on first appearance, seemed like extremely high prices.
The value of the coaching, we were told, was in the potential of what could be achieved once given the knowledge and then applying it. However, I found myself asking the question, "how valuable is this coaching and what is it really worth?"
During the seminar the speaker explained how he was charged hundreds of thousands of dollars by his own coach, based on how much he was likely to earn as a result of the learning. This seemed like a totally unreasonable amount of money on the surface, however the speaker was happy to pay it due to the high return on the investment he received. To him, it was actually amazingly good value.
So, the speaker took a decision to pay an extremely large amount of cash in exchange for the coaching sessions. He then went on to adjust his business in accordance with his coach's advice and went on to earn millions as a result.
“people don’t value what they don’t pay for”
The whole thing would have been a huge waste of money however, if the speaker had not applied what he had learnt and followed through with huge commitment and effort. It's a fascinating piece of phycology that having paid thousands for being coached, the incentive to make it work was enormous, and therefore more likely to work.
We often value that which we pay more for and in the world of coaching if we only pay a small amount of money, we're much less likely to take action with the learning.
An example of this principle in reverse occurs within our BLAM partnership programme. As part of the programme, all partners receive a full resource centre of all the knowledge that we have built up over years from selling hundreds of websites and apps. The value of this knowledge when added up, based on what it has earned all of our partners past and present is millions of pounds. Yet, what we find is that the resource centre is generally not exploited to the full despite it being freely available to all members. We have a record of how it is accessed and by whom and it's fascinating to see it's usage. A great saying from Oren Klaff springs to mind, “people don’t value what they don’t pay for”.
It's interesting to speculate what the usage would have been in our resource centre if we had made it an optional extra that partners had to pay for. How much more I wonder would it be used (we're not doing this btw!), and how much more successful would our network of partners be?
My point being that what ever product or service you are selling, be mindful of selling the value not the price. Often I see small business owners underselling themselves as they have an idea about their price being too expensive. We have some BLAM Partners that will sell a product for three times as much as another without any difficulty, and it’s essentially the same product. These are the partners that are selling the value not the price.
If you equate your product or service to its value rather than its price, it's an excellent opportunity to help the buyer take action and improve your businesses perception whilst doing so. So I urge you to take a long look at your business and think, what are my products and services really worth to my customers? And even if you don’t charge your prices, you need to let your customers know your real value.
This weekend my wife and I have left the kids with nana and grandpa and we've travelled to Buxton in the Peak District, apparently England's leading Spa Town, nice. The weekend escape in February is an annual event that we commit to every year, visiting a different destination each time, we love it.
I do all of the planning. The research usually starts in November, and the challenge for me is to find an interesting town or city where Abby and I can spend a whole weekend not tied to the usual demands of a busy family and work life.
"I'm thinking about my businesses all of the time, it’s in my blood."
The break away from it all, is a very important event in our calendar and one that plays a significant role in my business life too. Don't worry, I don't spend the whole weekend working, quite the opposite in fact (except for this blog). But, as a certified, got the t-shirt entrepreneur, I'm thinking about my businesses all of the time, it’s in my blood.
When I'm away from the businesses (my staff and business partners know this) the constant contact that we get so used to is intentionally policed. That combined with the removal of family commitments (my weekend role is usually taxi driver, tutor and punchbag) my brain unwinds very quickly and I often have some inspired ideas that are implemented on my return with much enthusiasm.
The idea of taking a break away from it all to unwind is nothing new, but these days how much of a break do we really take when we have our phones in our pocket? Part of the ethos of our annual break is being disconnected from texts, LinkedIn, Facebook, What's app, phone calls and all the other distractions in our connected world. Here in Buxton for example, I have no data reception, no wifi, just, me, my wife and my thoughts. It was following one of my “thoughts", I felt compelled to write this blog as testimony to the power of the disconnected weekend break in Feb!
'I have no data reception, no wifi, just, me, my wife and my thoughts."
However, "embrace the beauty of technology" is one of BLAM's, and therefore my, core values and detaching myself from that technology in order to think creatively is something of an irony. The key thing for me is having the discipline to connect and disconnect to get the best results, something that doesn't always come easy to me.
I am writing this blog on my disconnected mobile, with relaxing music playing, in a clothes shop that has given me free coffee whilst Abby tries on several outfits. There's no signal so no interruptions, heaven :)
It's a well documented subject, the idea of intentionally unplugging and getting away from it all. My advice to our BLAM Partners is to make sure you diarise the breaks the same way you do with the work behaviours and consider the amount of connected time you allow yourself whilst you are there. Like me, I'm sure you will find hidden inspiration in your unconnected escape.
Next week, I will be refreshed and technology will be fully embraced once more and I'll be loving it! Now, where's that awesome little bar with craft beer on tap I spotted earlier, that looked really inspiring...