I’m not a salesman, I’m a kitchen designer!

At home we are in the throws of having our kitchen updated. Well, I say updated, it has been totally gutted, back to bare walls. Now that we are coming to the end (we have a fridge in the house, rather than taking trips to the garage, and the washing machine is back in operation) I am happy to recount a story that happened before the carnage started when we were deciding on the design.   Having whittled down the list of contractors we had made our decision on who we wanted to work with. We met with their salesperson to finalize our requirements. We had dealt with this individual from the start and he had built a trusted relationship. During this final meeting he professionally answered our objections, he helped us, up sold us and at the end we felt confident that we made the right choice as we signed the agreement.   As we were leaving I complimented him on his professional salesmanship. Well, I thought it was a compliment but it was as if I had insulted him and that is when he said “I’m not a salesman, I’m a kitchen designer!’   Well this got me thinking. When working with business owners and their teams I meet a lot of people who claim they are not salespeople but in reality that is what they do.   The trouble with the word salesperson is that archetypal pushy person in our head. I’m not going to list out the negative traits that come cascading out when we ask the question. Why not take a moment and write... read more

The Speed of Change

Isn’t it odd how we don’t see slow changes until something draws our attention to it. This certainly happened this morning on my jog (notice the word jog not run!) In the UK we have experienced a prolonged mild Autumn. The leaves started to turn colour about six weeks ago but because of the mild weather the big drop has been delayed. Suddenly this morning I became aware that the branches were becoming bare. The change had happened without drama. It happened slowly but it still happened. It’s just that I had missed it! Some of you reading this in the UK may be like me and now realise that the trees are bare. Others may ask what am I on about as you have been clearing up leaves for weeks! The thing is we only see changes that we are prompted to see. Isn’t it the same in business. Change seems to creep up on us. You know or suspect something is about to change but you miss the tell tale signs as you are focused on other things. However, just like the leaves on the trees change will happen- it’s natural. I have found that the hardest thing for a business owner to accept is that their business will change and the whole team may have to change to cope with the new circumstances. It may be slow but things will change. No matter how much individuals may fight against the inevitable. Thinking about this I was reminded about a former colleague who fought the introduction of a computerised sales order processing system. I remember him uttering... read more

Sometimes you need to be reminded to change.

Well I don’t want to be the first to talk about Christmas but today I noticed in the local supermarket special offers on the Quality Street tin (a popular selection of individual sweets in UK). Yes, I have resisted the temptation so far but for how much longer? Now I already know that as soon as that tin appears at home or in the office my will power will evaporate and before I know it I will be enjoying my favourite Toffee Penny quickly followed by the Purple One. The good habits I have been following all year will be no match for that Quality Street moment. Now by justifying to myself that it is short term and that come the New Year I will get back on track I convince myself that all will be well. Isn’t it interesting that the wiring of a bad habit can be so easily be reconnected to restore an old behaviour. The key is to be aware that a change has occurred and then have a reminder to get you back to the new behaviour as soon as possible. Imagine you had not ridden a bike for some time maybe even years. How long would it take to regain your balance and be peddling away? That’s right, minutes because the wiring, the muscle memory, is all still there. I often see business owners who struggle to change their work practices away from the daily grind.They make the necessary changes and briefly enjoy less stress and some personal freedom to spend their time away from the business. This change can appear to have... read more

To decide or not to decide that is the question

How good are you at reaching a business decision? I am not talking about those everyday decisions such as who to place an order with or other repetitive decisions that need little thought. I’m talking about those that are going to bring about change. Change of direction, change of lifestyle, change of relationships. Let’s look at those difficult to decide moments. Perhaps you may be scared of making a mistake or you are not sure what to do for the best or maybe you just don’t want to upset people. Decisions can seem so finite, there’s no going back. In the end you overthink the situation and never get round to making a decision. The outcome is a fudge and results in maintaining the status quo and avoiding change. On the other hand, we view a choice as somehow easier as that’s what we do all the time. We are more comfortable with choices and they don’t seem such a big deal. Indeed without getting too heavy life is a series of choices. What is the real difference between a choice and a decision? Well a choice is based on our emotional response. They just feel right and we rely on our gut whereas a decision is more often logical and based on fact. Choices we feel, decisions we think. So, what is right? Well neither, surely it must be a combination of both. Indeed, a decision can only be made once you have made the choice and you have decided to make a change. What I have found over the years is that it’s the reluctance to change that... read more

Is it time to wean yourself off the business?

Have you experienced whilst on holiday the person who seems to spend most of their time with their mobile glued to their ear deep in conversation with what is so obviously their office or business. Speaking much too loudly as they either laze on their sun bed or prowl the pool area disturbing the otherwise tranquil calm. Now I’m not sure whether this is sometimes in a vain attempt to impress the assembled onlookers how important they are in their own world or that they really are so integral to the future of their business that they have to make every decision. Now I have picked on the noisy mobile user as I’m sure you will may have experienced something similar. Luckily, most prefer to do it a more subtly and keep in touch with the office via email or privately call to keep their finger on the pulse. Interestingly, they may be physically on holiday with their family but their mind and thoughts are elsewhere. Well, either way, perhaps in the future they should just cancel their holiday and stay at home or consider how they can start to wean themselves off their business. As a business owner it is so easy to become accustomed to the stress and pressure of having your own business and believe without your input your team cannot make a decision or will just drive it into the ground. Holidays are a natural break to what may have become second nature or just habit. So, make the most of this time to put some distance between the business and you. It is a... read more

Is now the time to adapt or die?

Technology is and will continue to have a fundamental impact in so many areas of business and indeed society. Rightly or wrongly, technology is going to increasingly accelerate the rate of change in our personal and business lives. Of course, at the end of the day, it is our choice – whether we face and accept the progress of change or choose to ignore it. However, let me share with you a cautionary tale which for me, shows exactly which way that choice should go. Recently, I came across an interesting article by a science writer, Stephen Luntz, about the unique animal species found in Australia. Now I cannot confirm his finding or conclusions but Luntz reported on a study that since European settlement, 11% of Australia’s native land mammals have become extinct and 21% are currently classed as ‘threatened’, whereas in comparison, over the last 500 years only one native land mammal has become extinct in North America. So, what happened to cause the extinction of animals like the Tasmanian tiger and will the fate of the beloved Koala soon be the same? Well, it seems that the problem is something to do with the fact that these animals had evolved over millions of years to the very unique environment of their island environment. Unfortunately, this meant they were totally unprepared for the arrival of new predators introduced by settlers such as the feral cat and European red fox. Now, I’m not looking to get into an environmental debate on this topic (I’ll leave that to the scientists), but it struck me that there really is a modern... read more

Who sets the mood within your business?

Over the weekend in the UK we advanced our clocks one hour to switch to British Summer Time. This morning was the first working day having ‘lost’ our hour sleep over the weekend. When I drew the curtains the sun was shining, the birds were singing. It was a glorious morning. A wonderful day to be alive! This got me thinking how for some the weather has a huge impact on their mood and indeed how they expect their day to pan out. Yes, I know us Brits are known for our preoccupation with the weather. Normal weather, a little rain or a chilly northerly wind isn’t going to impact the outcome of our day unless we allow it to influence how we feel, our mood. Consider for a moment your business. How many external uncontrollable factors influence the outcome of your day? Let’s not dwell on that too long and swiftly move on as it may influence your mood! Over the years, working with hundreds of businesses, I have seen how just one person or one event can set the tone for the whole day in a company. Either generating loads of energy or as easily sapping the energy of a department or indeed the whole business. Sometimes, individuals seem to bring with them their own micro climate. It’s either a sunny high energy day or one of those dull, depressing milky sky days. Even a poor weather forecast can make those shoulders slump. We can’t choose the weather but we can choose how we react to the weather. Sun and shine or rain and cloud choose to... read more

Leave it to the experts!

One of the common themes that I have returned many times since starting this blog is the power of review and change. It is so easy to get caught in the daily doing of a business so that each day rolls into the next that then roll into weeks and then the months fly by and before you know it’s the end of another year. Yes, another year gone but at least in return you have another year’s experience under your belt to add to the ten, twenty, thirty or forty years experience you may have already gained in business. Hang on a moment, is that the case? Have you gained another years experience or just replicated a year which was a replication of one of the last ten. Perhaps it is as if you just photocopied say the first five years of your business over and over again? Hopefully, you get my drift. So take a little time out during all those end of year celebrations to look back on the year just ending. What went well or not so well? What do you learn? How could you have handled a situation differently? What changes happened in your market, business and team? In fact sit down and review all your weekly reviews. If you have not written down your reviews this will be a little difficult. Can you truly remember what you did last month let alone every week of every month of the last year. Choose to change some habits that have held you back. Decide to make a weekly review a positive habit. So to finish... read more

At the end of the day it’s your choice!

Like the proverbial rabbit caught in the headlights it is so easy for business owners to become mesmerised by the oncoming lights. The rabbit does not know which way to run so just stays transfixed unable to change its future. When was the last time you put off making a decision only to find events overtook you and forced your hand? When was the last time you felt you had to do something where you had no choice? The truth of the matter is that in business we always have a choice. Whether you make that choice or not you have still made a decision. Recognise that every time you choose you are making a decision and be prepared to be held responsible for that decision and accountable for the results or consequences of that choice. Surely, the real choice is whether we are prepared to face those consequences. Interestingly, we rarely link the choice with the consequence. It may be that we don’t see that we have a choice but in reality we always have a choice. For example: We chose to be in business no one forced us! We chose the services or products we supply no one forced us! We choose to extend credit to customers no one forces us! The great thing is that you have the choice to do something different. Business is a series of choices but it may be the fear of the consequence that stops you making the choice to change. Acknowledge that you have made a choice and then be proactive in achieving the outcome. If the results, the consequences,... read more

Where is the devil?

When was the last time you read the terms and conditions presented to you as you downloaded a program from the internet or signed up to a new website. Programmers often include a checkbox you can’t go past until you have confirmed you have read those dreaded terms and conditions. With time being a challenge, you may want to get onto the next stage so you check the box and move on. Now I understand that you may not have the time to read all the small print on every Terms and Conditions but beware- you ignore terms and conditions at your peril. Obviously, to read or not to read all the small print is a personal choice and it is for you to take a commercial decision. Indeed, you may assume that as those terms are so widely used they must be alright as everyone else has accepted them, but I wonder sometimes who has read all the terms apart from the person who originally wrote them. Think about it, most legal contracts once signed go into a drawer and don’t come out until the end of the contract or when something goes wrong. Now be honest and think back to a time when you have entered into a contract in good faith only to be bitten by a clever clause in a contract at a later date. Now this article is not really about the do and don’ts of contracts. So let me explain. Some years ago, when selling a business my solicitor asked me to read and understand the Sale Contract and then to read and... read more