So what is a business conversationalist?

Business Conversationalist - someone who both enjoys and is good at conversation

Asking me what is a business conversationalist is unsurprisingly one of the questions I get asked the most. (Which is kind of the point; I’d rather explain what I do, rather than people think that they already know). For those of you who I won’t ever get to meet, you get the chance to read it here.

A simple definition of a business conversationalist is someone who both enjoys and is good at business conversations. This is a great description of me; I love talking with people about their businesses. Hearing about why and how people do what they do is always really interesting. In my role, it’s my aim to add value to people’s businesses through these conversations. Helping them gain a new perspective on what is going on or finding new ways to communicate what’s important in and about their business. It is through these conversations that we can learn, develop and grow.

In fact, we should all be a business conversationalist in our roles. If you aren’t good at and don’t enjoy talking about your business then you are always going to struggle to succeed. You might be talking with your employees, communicating your vision and helping them to understand how their role contributes to the success of the organisation. You might be talking to your prospects, engaging with them on how you can help their businesses grow. It could be anyone of the many others conversations you have within business every day. It will be through your conversations that you will develop your best relationships within your business, that you will convince other to share your vision and bring about the change that you want to see within your business.

So whatever you’re trying to achieve, think about working on your conversational skills. If you can be a business conversationalist in your work then you can achieve pretty much anything you set your mind on.

What is leadership?

What is leadership?

‘When is a book not a book? When it is a conversation! ‘

Like many of my jokes, this one might seem like it doesn’t make a lot of sense and isn’t particularly funny unless you happen to be a small child who doesn’t really understand jokes. 

The problem with books

Though, it does sum up my biggest problem with the majority of business and self-help books. In a book, the writer makes an assertion or communicates an idea, and it’s generally at that point when I want to ask a question. It could be seeking clarification or justification on what has just been said. But you can’t ask questions in books, at least you can’t really expect a direct answer. You just have to hope that the writer has thought about what your problem might be. Or that their thought processes have been similar to yours. Often for me though this isn’t the case or it doesn’t do it until four chapters later. 

A conversation, on the other hand, allows you to ask questions, to interrupt. Hopefully, with the aim of better understanding what the other person is trying to say. It enables us to go back and forth on a subject, to build upon what the other person is saying. Furthermore, if we accept that no one person has the right answer, we can all contribute to working towards having a better understanding of the concept or idea. 

Which leads me to my other problem with these kinds of books, and it comes from the fundamental premise of why people write books. Generally, people write a book on a subject because they want to position themselves as an authority on a topic. They know the answer, and you should listen to them because they are the expert. They do this because it can be an effective way of marketing yourself and building a business. They’re not actually interested in what the right answer is or if there even is a correct answer. They are trying to put themselves in that position of authority and you in a place of need. This may be fine when there are simple, right and wrong ideas that you are talking about. So many books though deal with opinions and beliefs and where there isn’t a right or wrong answer. All there is are the ideas that the writer is trying to communicate. 

So, unlike most consultants or coaches, I don’t want to write a book, or preferably I do, but I don’t want to write it in the usual way. I don’t want to just tell you what I think and all the reasons why you should listen to me as an expert on the subject. What I want to do is for us to write and edit a book together, sharing our ideas, thoughts and questions as we go along. (Don’t ask me about writing credits or royalties as this stage because I don’t know and as this will probably never be published, so it’s not really important)

Now you might just think that this sounds a lot like a blog, but for me, there is a fundamental difference. This isn’t an infinite work that has no end or objective beyond the self-obsessed ‘look at me’ of many people’s blogs. This is a process by which we can travel together in search of a better understanding of a subject, a topic that can have an enormous impact on us all. We may not get to a definitive answer, but we will get closer than we have before. 

What’s it all about?

Therefore, having talked about the mechanism for us co-writing this book, we should probably talk about the subject of the book. 

If you were to ask a hundred people what is the main problem with any organisation or situation, you might get a hundred different answers. But, if you were to drill down, I am sure that you would get to one of two things; leadership and/or communication. So, in this book, I want to have a conversation with you about leadership, and I’m relatively sure that as we do, we’ll spend a fair amount of time talking about communication as well. 

So where do you start on a subject that already has thousands of books written about it? Well, one thing that amazes me about most leadership books that I’ve read is how few of them actually define what leadership actually is. Most books on leadership start with the premise that you are a leader, that you are in a position of authority or control within an organisation. They don’t define what a leader is because they begin with the assumption that you already are one and you just want to improve. The issue with this is that we can all point to people who have been in positions of authority who are not leaders and equally, we can name people who have had no power but are clearly effective leaders. Therefore, if neither of these is necessary to display leadership, then we should ask ourselves what is?

I’ve got a few ideas on what I think leadership is all about, and I even have my own definition, but before I talk about what I believe I would be interested in what you think. How would you define leadership? Who epitomises leadership for you? In your experience, what are the characteristics that you see effective leadership displaying?

Please leave your comments below, and I will try to build them into the conversation. I’m not big on rules, but there are a few that I think we should abide by if we want this process to work.

  1. Be kind to others, and what they are saying. It’s ok to disagree, but you don’t have to be a dick about it.
  2. Try and stick to the topic that we’re discussing.
  3. If you don’t understand then ask. That’s kind of the point of doing it this way.
  4. Don’t promote yourself or your stuff. You’ll just annoy people which I guess is the opposite of what you want.

Is compromise killing your business?

Is compromise killing your business?

Is compromise really such a good thing?

When you think of the word compromise most people think of it as being a positive approach. Someone who is willing to compromise is someone who is willing to be flexible.  Willing to see things from both sides, someone who doesn’t have a rigid view of the world. The problem is, most of the time, that is not what it actually is. Here’s another definition:

“A weakening or reduction of one’s principles or standards”

When I explain it that way to most people don’t see it as such a great thing. If someone came to you and asked whether you were happy to compromise on your principles and standards you’re probably unlikely to say yes. Equally, you’re not likely to want someone to do work for you when they don’t stick to their own standards or principles. We respect people for sticking to their principles and standards but yet at the same time we often can come across as happy to let go of ours.

So if it is such a bad thing then why do we do it?

We believe the customer is always right

Before you start shouting at the screen I’m not having a go at customers. We need people we can work for and with, after all, a business without paying customers is just a hobby. Where we can often go wrong is that we give to much power over to our customers. In an effort to provide the best customer service, to over-deliver and to delight our customers we are afraid to say no even when we know it is the right thing to do.

We forget that the whole reason why our customers have come to us in the first place is for our expertise. They believe that we can achieve something on their behalf that they cannot do on their own. When we forget that, we completely lose our value to our customers. Not only do they secretly want us to say no, they need us to say no as well.

We’ve got to beat the competition

A problem that many small businesses have is that we spend lots of our time hearing about big businesses in the news. We hear about companies that have large market shares, we hear about technology companies that have 40% of the market share. This leads to us to think that we have to fight for every single customer, we think that we have to beat the competition.

In reality, most businesses would be delighted with a very small market share. If we worked with a fraction of the potential customers in our markets we would still have an amazing year. Fighting with our competitors over customers is like fighting with the bloke next to you in the supermarket for a pint of milk. Not only is their plenty for everyone, milk also comes in lots of sizes and varieties. What makes a great customer for one business would be a lousy customer for someone else. Another problem with trying to beat our competitors is that in most instances we do this by lowering our prices or offering to do more. Neither of which is a great way to grow your business.

Finally, the whole time that you are trying to compete with your competitors you’re missing out on opportunities to collaborate. People who work with similar customers and people who do similar stuff to you are the best people to work with on bigger projects.

We think that any business is better than no business

This is particularly a problem for people when they first start in business. You get closer to the end of the month and you’re worried that there isn’t going to be enough cash to for you to pay all the bills. It’s ok we’ve all been there. But it can also be a problem for any business at any stage. If you don’t have enough business it’s really hard to say no to any new business opportunity. It doesn’t matter if it’s not quite what you normally do or it’s not quite your normal rate, we programmed to say yes. If you don’t have enough business surely you can’t turn work down, who cares that it’s not great work, its money isn’t it?

We worried that we might be wrong

For lots of people, one of the hardest things to overcome is the belief that we might be wrong. It’s natural to doubt ourselves sometimes, to worry that we’ve made a mistake or made the wrong decision. This gets multiplied when you’re talking to a potential customer.

You’re doing your best to explain what you do and why and all your getting back from the other person is a blank face. You start off with really firm belief in who you are and your business and then sentence by sentence you become less confident. This can be even worse when you perceive the other person to be more successful than you. So you change your ideas, your business model, your pricing and lots of other aspects of your business. Then you go and talk to another person, confident in your new business ideas and you get more blank faces. So you flip flop around unable to settle on a business idea.  You change your ideas, your business model, your pricing and lots of other aspects of your business. Rather than change what we say to people sometimes we need to change who we’re talking to.

Is it really that big a problem though

In the short term the honest answer is no, it’s not that big a deal. Occasionally we all have to do things in our business that we’d rather we didn’t have to. We make decisions that turn out to be wrong, we listen to people who know less than us. Anything in the short term isn’t going to make that big a difference. The problem is that it’s easy for the short term can so quickly become the long term. We convince ourselves that we’re just making the compromise for now, that once business gets better we get back to doing what we really want. As soon as you have enough money coming in you’ll stop making compromises.

The problem is that once you start making compromises it becomes so much harder to actually achieve the things that you want. The work that you do when you compromise is never your best work. If they are not paying enough, you eventually resent doing the work and putting in all the effort. You take short cuts and leave things to the last minute, you put off answering the phone when they call.

Eventually, you get fed up with your own business and then the worse thought for a business owner pops into your head.

“I’d be better off if I just got a job”

At that point, unless you make some drastic changes you end up being right, you would be better off getting a job.

So how do you fix it?

The simple answer is stop compromising. You need to understand what most important to you in your business and stick to it. You need to shout about your values and principles from the rooftops. Then everyone around you will help you to stick to them. Even more importantly, you will attract the people who won’t ask you to compromise. You don’t need to compromise for them because they like you for who you are.

There are three areas that if you can get sorted, the rest of them will be easier to manage.

Be Yourself

One of the biggest areas that people often feel that they have to compromise on is who they really are. Whether it is basic stuff like how we dress and how we talk or really important stuff like how we value ourselves and our time. Not only does society put pressures on us to conform, when you run your own business these pressures are magnified. It’s so easy in putting others before yourself to allow what important to you to get lost in the process.

The only way that you can truly be yourself is by first of all knowing who you really are. Then you need to love and accept who that person is. Once you can do that it’s easy to resist compromising.  You’ll recognise that it’s by being yourself that you achieve success in the first place.

Do what you are best at

Strengths are called strengths for a reason. It is easy though to spend your time doing the things that we’re not that good at. It can be easy to lose focus and get caught up in the things that other people want you to do rather than the things you need to do.

If you want to make sure you don’t compromise then find out what you enjoy doing and what you are really good at. Find a way to increase how much of your day is spent doing the things you love. If there are things in your business that you don’t enjoy or you’re not any good at, then find a way to outsource them or stop them altogether. Your best work gets done when you do the things you are best at. When you do your best work you get to grow your business the way you want. You get to have the success that you deserve.

Work with and for the right people

Finally, one of the biggest things that you have control over in your business is who you work with. You want to be excited about working with your customers. You want to look forward to when you are next going to talk. It will be these clients that you do your best work for. These clients that will be the most grateful and most importantly refer you to other people.

Furthermore, if you’ve got customers now that you dread talking to. If you don’t get excited about working with then you should think about ditching them.

So if you want to be successful in business and grow the business that you want then don’t compromise. Just be yourself, do what you’re best at and work with and for the right people.

If you’ve found this article helpful then please share it with another person who you think might find it useful too. Who knows they may even thank you for it. If you think that I might be able to help you with your business then why not book a free phone conversation to talk about your business. Click here to book now.

What makes a great conversation?

What makes a great conversation?

What makes a great conversation?

A question that I get asked all the time is what makes a great conversation?  The answer can be different for everyone and it changes for different types of conversation. However, there are certain elements that should always be present to make a conversation great. When used in varying combinations they will always improve the quality, and therefore the outcome, of a conversation. You can ask yourself questions about the conversation to make sure that you’re ticking all the boxes. So here are six questions you should be asking yourself about your conversations:

Are they focussed on the positive?

In any situation, there are two ways a looking at it, the positive way or the negative way. We can talk about someone’s strengths and weaknesses. About the carrot and stick approaches to management. Work on the opportunities or the problems in a situation. Unfortunately, it is too easy for us to focus on the negative side of things, to get stuck in the mire of the negative side of conversations. Now I’m not saying that you don’t acknowledge the negative aspects, that you blind yourself to problems. If you keep your focus on the positive and help others to do so too, not only will you have a great conversation you achieve more too.

Are they meaningful?

If we want to engage with other people we have to talk about things that are meaningful to them. We also have to talk to them in a way that is meaningful to them. We also respond better to other people when we are spoken in a way that is meaningful to us when we are spoken to about things that are meaningful to us. The absolute best conversations happen when both parties are conversing in a way that is meaningful to each of them about things that are meaningful to both of them. So when you’re planning on having conversations with other people think about what would make it meaningful to them whilst at the same time keep it meaningful for you. It’s about understanding the why in your business and in the other persons too.

Do you have the right intention?

One of the biggest problems we have with conversations is that we often don’t have a clue about what we want to get out of the conversation in the first place. Or we have such a rigid view of what we want that we are not open to the opportunities that might be available. We finally get that meeting with a new prospect and we are so fixed on getting the quick sale that we miss the bigger opportunity. I wrote a post a little while ago about having the right conversation that goes into this in a bit more detail. When we have conversations in our business we need to get it sorted in our head what our intentions are. We need to have an intention that is beneficial for both sides of the conversation.

Is it personal?

One of the big changes that are happening in the business world at the moment is the blurring of business and personal lives. Through social media we are becoming more connected with the people we are doing business with. Whether it is our employees, our customers, our suppliers or anyone else we come in contact with, we can be closer to their lives than ever before. We can often find this difficult, though, we connect with people on Facebook but post less about our lives. We bring each other closer whilst at the same time making sure we keep people at arms-length. If understanding the why helps us tap into the meaningful then understanding the who helps us to keep it personal. If you ever hear yourself saying that it’s just business it’s not personal then you’re getting the conversation wrong.

Are you collaborating?

Collaboration has become one of the current business buzzwords and it gets used too often. So often that it can end up feeling a bit twee or insincere. Collaboration is actually about two people coming together and achieving something that neither could achieve alone. It takes the knowledge, abilities, passions and efforts of two groups and creates something that that is greater than the sum of their individual’s efforts. When conversations are collaborative they have a multiplying effect on our efforts. They allow us to co-create something exceptional.

Are you being honest?

Finally, great conversations are about being honest. Honest with yourself and honest with the other person. I grew up as a blagger, I could bluff my way through most situations. If I wasn’t sure of an answer I could blag my way out. If I hadn’t done something I could blag my way out of that too. For many of us, blagging can become a way of life and we can learn to be successful at it. The thing is whilst blagging can be successful it’s not as powerful as being honest. Honesty is the best why to have great conversation and to build the best long term relationships that most of us are trying to achieve in business.

Great Business

If you want to have a great business then you need to have great conversations and to have great conversations you have to think about the above. If you would like to talk about how you can make your conversations great then click here to have a free, no commitment conversation.

Need more sales but hate being a salesperson?

Need more sales but hate being a salesperson? Try thinking like a buyer

Need more sales?

If you’re struggling and you need to get more sales in your business then you’re not alone. It’s one of the most common problems that any business faces. To make matters worse, if you’re like most business owners, you don’t see yourself as a sales person. It is a skill set that you don’t feel you possess or even want to learn. So how do you get more sales without being more ‘salesy’?

One idea is to spend less time focussing on how to sell and think more about why people buy. You need to focus on making it easier for your prospects and customers to find you and buy from you. The great thing is that whilst most people don’t like to sell, and virtually no one likes to be sold to, nearly everyone likes to buy.

So why do people buy?

An individual purchase is made up of lots of complicated emotional and logical decisions but the basic principles are in fact very simple. They’re also something that you can build into to your business. If you want to understand why people buy you have to look at your business from your customers point of view.  You have to understand what’s important to them. So why do people buy? Well:

The Right Product – One that helps them achieve their goals

Whether subconsciously or not the main reason that drives our purchases is the belief that in buying the product or service it will help us achieve a goal or solve a problem. It doesn’t matter whether it is a specific goal or a more general one like being more successful. Our purchases have to support the belief that we are getting closer to our goal. No one buys something to make them less successful, less attractive, less wealthy; it is always the reverse.

To make people more interested in buying from you, you need to talk about how your product helps your customers achieve their goals. We moved on from only talking about the features of a product to talk about the benefits but to really get people to buy from you, you need to talk about outcomes. You also need to be as specific as possible, too often people talk about general goals or make high-level statements, rather than getting to the heart of what an individual wants.

You also need to focus in on the most important and most urgent of goals, you need to find the goals that the person is needing to reach right here and right now rather than the “someday” goals.

The Right Person – you’re liked and trusted

The second area is that you have to be the right person. If you’re wondering what makes you the right person, it comes down to two simple things. They like you and they believe you can deliver on what you say you can do.

Being Liked

Being liked is relatively simple, we can all be likeable, it doesn’t take any difficult skill set. It comes from doing some very simple things, like remembering people names and basic facts about them. It comes from genuinely engaging with people on a human level.

Being Trusted

Being trusted and believed is a little bit more complicated, particularly if you’ve only recently met the person. There are lots of things that you can do that can help build your credibility and trustworthiness, though.

When I meet someone new often the first thing that I do is look them up online. I check out their profile on LinkedIn and look at their website. In doing this I can see any case studies, testimonials, articles or blogs they have on there. So the more of these you have the better the chance of people feeling that you are an expert in what you do. I can also see who else they know and if they other people that I know, I can check them out that way. You can also present at networking events, offer free consultations and so many other ways. The important thing is that when people talk with you, they see you as someone who can help.

You can also present at networking events, offer free consultations and so many other ways. The important thing is that when people talk with you, they see you as someone who can help.

Another way is to have an aspect of your product or service that is either free or at a lower price. My local pub is a real ale pub and they will allow you to try any beer before you buy it. I like real ale and I like trying new beers but some of the beers have a very strong flavour that puts me off. Being able to try them first means that I will continue to try lots of new beers rather than sticking with one I feel safe with.

The Right Price – it creates the right amount of value

We often get fixated on the price we charge our customers. We can spend a lot of time talking about how we are cheaper than our competition or how we have a great deal or discount on at the moment. In fact, we can spend loads of time talking about how much something costs. I’ll let you into a little secret that might surprise you. When it comes to wanting something the cost is the last thing on somebodies mind. The question isn’t how much does it cost but how much is it worth?

If you want to people to buy from you then work out how much solving their problems or helping them achieve their goals is worth to them. Imagine as a result of reading this blog you managed to get 10 new customers, who not only bought once from you but came back regularly to buy from you, how much would that be worth to you? How much would this article be worth? See how it works. So focus on the value you bring to your customers, not the price that you charge them.

The Right Point – can they afford it

Now I know that I just said that it’s not about the cost but at the end of the day you want customers who can actually pay you. So whilst it isn’t about cost, they still have to be able to afford it. You need to think about how you can make things as affordable as possible. There are lots of ways that you can do this. Payment plans, delayed payment and accepting credit cards and are just some of the obvious ones. Depending on what your business is there are probably some more creative ones as well.

Affordability isn’t just about money, sometimes it is the effort and emotional cost that stops us from buying. Any purchase can involve change and if we feel that change is too great we delay making the choice. So as well as making the cost affordable, think how you can make it as easy as possible to buy. Avoid putting  in long contracts, complicated processes and difficult requirements that don’t improve the service for the customer. If your product delivers and you give good service, customer loyalty will keep them coming back better than a contract.


Now I’m not saying this will work in every situation. If you focus on viewing things from the customer’s point of view, though, you’ll have a much better chance of them choosing to buy.

If you want to know more about how you can change your conversations. Change them so that more people want to buy from you then just book some time with me. To book a half hour introduction phone call just click here.

Right Conversation

Having the right conversation is more important than getting the outcome you want

Having the right conversation is more important than getting the outcome you want.

Your first thought might be that this is a load of rubbish, surely nothing is more important than getting the outcome you want. If you get what you want from a situation, then it doesn’t really matter whether you have the right conversation or even how you get there, as long as you get there. Unfortunately too many people think this way and in the end, it means that they have to work harder and longer to achieve the success they want.

So what do I mean, well let’s look at the options:

The wrong conversation but not getting what you want

The first combination is clearly not working for anyone. If you’re not getting what you want and you’re not having good conversations with people, then you are wasting everybody’s time. Every time you find yourself in this situation, not only are you going to be frustrated, you’ll also risk damaging your reputation and the options you have to grow your business in the long run. You’ll waste time, effort and money having the same conversation over and over again with people without ever really growing your business. The most that you can hope for from a conversation like this is to learn not to have it again.

The wrong conversation but getting what you want

Now you might think this is better, it’s a shame the conversation didn’t go well but you got what to you wanted so that’s all that matters, right? The problem is that this is a short-term result, you might make the sale or get your employee to do what you want but it won’t lead to customer or employee loyalty in the long run. If you use tricks or worse deception to get the outcome that you want, it will always backfire on you in the end. Even if you are totally honest and upfront, you’ll still only get the short term result and not the long term relationship. The big risk with this type of conversation is that you never learn to have any other kind of conversation and you will keep going until you run out of people to talk to. You can make money this way but you will never reach your full potential.

Having the Right Conversation

I’ll deal with the last two options as one because if you actually have the right conversation your idea of what the outcome should be at the beginning might be very different at the end. I believe that it’s only by having the right conversation in the first place that you can truly know what it is that you might want at the end.

Take for example a sales conversation with a potential customer, they might seem like a great match but when you have the right conversation you realise that it will end up being a disaster. Maybe they have unreasonable expectations, they haggle over every detail of your price and service, they’re likely to keep coming back with corrections and changes. Eventually, you end up with a customer who is much more trouble than they are worth. If you hadn’t had the right conversation, if you had just rushed to get the outcome you wanted, the quick sale might have ended up causing problems in your business.

Another alternative is that you ask an employee to do something, to change a process or respond to a piece of work. If you have the right conversation with them they may come up a better alternative, they might have an idea that you haven’t thought of. They might not do what you want but they will do something better, something that gets you better results in the end. If you don’t take the time to have the right conversation you may get what you want, it just won’t be as good as you could’ve had. Worse than that you don’t build employee engagement and loyalty.

Sometimes getting what you want means that you get stuck in a situation that you regret later or worse you miss out on an opportunity that is better than you could have imagined in the beginning. Sometimes getting what you want can be overrated. Having the right conversation might not always get you what you want but it will give you the right outcome, the outcome that can help you achieve the right kind of growth in your business, but that’s a different conversation.

So, if you want to know what a right conversation is, then check out some of my other posts or get in touch for a chat.

Encouragement not feedback

encouragement not feedback

Encouragement not feedback

Now I know that encouragement is a form of feedback but for most people when they hear the word feedback what they think of is criticism. And to be fair we all like to put our tuppence in when we see someone do something that we think should be better; myself included. So why encouragement not feedback?

The problem is that what we hope to achieve and what we actually achieve tend to be far removed. Now there are normally two reasons why you give someone feedback, particularly unsolicited feedback. The first, and more charitable, reason is that we actually want them to do better, we want them to improve their skills and the outcomes they get from doing whatever it is that they do.

Great idea just not great in practice

Now this is a great motivation for giving feedback but the problem is that more often than not we don’t actually achieve this. In the first instance if we haven’t been asked for feedback then what we actually do is alienate people. When we do something new, we naturally feel nervous about doing it. We get concerned that we might make a fool of ourselves and damage our reputation and what we are expecting from someone giving us feedback is confirmation that we have done exactly that. Public speaking is a great example: when we first stand in front of a group of people we assume that everyone will think we are rubbish at what we do. If the first thing that you says to someone afterwards is critical then their viewpoint is reinforced. Now people try and cheat by saying something nice to start with and then lay in with the criticism, the problem here is that we only hear the criticism because it reinforces what we were already thinking.

The same is true if we have actually asked people for feedback after the event. So this ultimately has the same effect of reinforcing the negative view that we might have and makes us even more reticent to do that activity again.

Not such a great idea, for anyone

The other reason why people give feedback is to make themselves seem more important, intelligent, generally better than the other person. Now if this is your aim then again you fail, you may make the other person think less of themselves but all they are left thinking of you is resentment. they won’t think of you as a wise teacher, they’ll think of you as an arse because at the end of the day that’s what you are being.

So why encouragement?

So how can you do encouragement whilst at the same time being sincere and actually helping people improve? We have to slightly change our approach to improvement, most people learn to be better at doing something by actually doing it. So our motivation for feedback should be that the person actually wants to do that thing again. In the example of public speaking our aim is that the person wants to speak in public again. This has two benefits: one being that the through preparing to speak again they will learn new things that will help them be better, without you having to say anything specific at all. The other is that once a person has changed their mindset going into an activity the more they are open to suggestions afterwards.

This is where language comes in.

I posted a video on my website a while ago about your ‘but getting in the way’. In it, I talked about how when you use the word ‘but’ in feedback, it negates everything you said before so instead use the word ‘and’ to build upon what someone has done not to demolish what someone has achieved.

So next time you feel tempted to give someone some feedback, think again and think about how you can encourage them instead. Remember it’s about encouragement, not feedback.

Should you be ditching your customers?

Should you be ditching your customers?

Should you be ditching your customers?

I was having a conversation the other day with one of my clients and they were moaning about one of their customers. This person was never happy with what they did for them, they always haggled over price and were more demanding that anyone else they worked with. Now I wouldn’t normally encourage people to moan about their customers but I sensed they just needed to blow off some steam. Once he was done I felt that I needed to ask him why he was still working for them and I wasn’t surprised by the answer; he needed the money. So many of our bad decisions get made by false economies, we trade our long-term happiness and success for short term cash.

You have to put food on the table

Now I can get that, after all, we all have to put food on the table but consider the most likely outcome. However hard you try, the work you produce for the pain-in-the-arse client is never going to be your best work. You won’t be able to do it as quickly or as easily as you should, you’ll always end up putting on the bottom of the pile. So what ends up happening is the clients ditch us, they don’t come back for further work and they certainly don’t recommend us to other people. So all that work and stress actually puts our business in a worse place in the end. It’s ok though because you’ve earned a few quid.

Missing out

Next, because we are working on the negative piece of business we miss out on other opportunities to work with the clients who do love what we do, are prepared to pay full price and ultimately will recommend us to other people. Either because we don’t have the time or energy to recognise these opportunities or because we are in such a bad mood that we drive these people away. This is the bigger problem because this is where the real growth opportunities within our business lie.

So what else stops us doing it?

It reminds me a little bit of me as a young teenage boy dating, in fact, it’s similar to the way that so many of us may have approached dating when we were younger. You go out with someone for a little while and realise that it’s not really working, rather than have an honest conversation about it, we start acting in a way that that will annoy the other person. Why because we want the other person to do the break-up, we can then be the victim; the one whose been let down. We can court the sympathy of others and feel like we’ve won the moral battle. Mainly it stops us having to initiate a difficult conversation, you don’t have to take responsibility for ditching the other person.

It’s so easy to act this way with our customers as well. If we don’t want to do the work we leave it to the last minute, we rush the work, we delay in phoning people back or responding to emails, we make up excuses for things rather than fixing them. Generally, we act like a bad boyfriend (or girlfriend) just so we don’t have to deal with the conversation, you don’t have to take responsibility for ditching your customers.

What you should do

If you’ve got a customer (and I’ll bet you’ll have several) who don’t get you, don’t appreciate what you do and aren’t happy paying you then ditch them. Have that difficult conversation to saying that it’s not working out, admit that you won’t be able to help them the way they want. The least that will happen is that you stop wasting your time but you might find the respect you more for it. If you have the right connections you might know someone who would love to have that person as a client and that way you can do everyone a favour.


Why your business coach isn’t your boss

Your Business Coach isn't your boss

Why your business coach isn’t your boss

I see an increasing trend of people who have started their business after many years of working for a large organisation. Ex-corporates who have either been made redundant one too many times or have left the rat race to get a better balance in their life (I’m one myself). In my experience, those who want to do well tend to seek the advice of professional business advisors. Whether a business coach or mentor or maybe even your accountant, they look for someone who can help them develop a better business. This is often where things can start to go wrong.

Filling the void

When you spend a long time in a particular situation it can be very easy to get comfortable with it. Whilst your boss can often be on the top of your list of reasons why you left work, having a boss can seem like an attractive idea. Particularly when that boss is an idealised version of what a boss should be. We convince ourselves that a boss who we’ve hired and who we pay could be a great solution. This is where so many business coaches come in. We are offered accountability, advice, support, knowledge, experience and so many other things that we need when starting and running a successful business, so we put that advisor or coach in the role of our new boss. We just need to be careful that this doesn’t come at a price.

Independence Day

The day that you start your own business is your independence day, the start of something new that you control, something that you are in charge of and you own. So no matter what happens in your business this is the one thing that you should never give up. Having a boss is exactly that, it’s giving up your ability to make your own decisions, it’s giving up your ability to control your own destiny. So you might wonder why anyone in this situation would want a boss or why anyone would accept this kind of working relationship.

So who fault is that?

The answer is that fault lies on both sides of the relationship. The reason why people relinquish control to someone else for the decisions is that in doing so we have a safety net in place, we have someone to blame if things don’t go the way that we want. We want someone to lead us because it is a lot more challenging to lead ourselves

The other side of the coin is that many business coaches and advisors are ex-corporates themselves. They have spent years managing staff as well as fulfilling their own job role and expertise. So when faced with someone who wants/needs their help they fall back into the leader/manager role, one in which they have been comfortable for so long.

So what’s the solution?

Whether you’re a business advisor or someone who is looking for support in developing your business, it is still important to seek advice and support but to do so you have to forge a new kind of relationship. It’s not about boss and employee, nor is it about expert and novice, it is two individuals coming together to create something that neither of them could on their own. The act of co-creation makes every business interaction unique and every relationship unique. This is how we can develop a business relationship where both parties are equal and both get the true benefit from working with each other.

If you’ve just hired a business coach and realised that you got another boss then sack this one as well and hire yourself a co-creator. Someone who views you as an equal in the relationship and will let you stay in charge of your own business.

Every day is a school day

Every day is a school day, find out who to make the most of the valuable trying opportunities that happen every day.

Every day is a school day

I’m sure you’ve heard the expression that ‘every day is a school day’, well I was having a conversation the other day with someone who was feeling frustrated that they never had enough time for training. They knew that they needed to learn new skills, to pick up new ideas and techniques but they just didn’t have enough time. They kept seeing training courses that they wanted to go on but couldn’t spare the time out of their business. Whilst it was only a day here and there it was just too much time for them to be not earning money.

“You just need to prioritise” (?)

Now most people’s first response to this would be that you need to prioritise your own development, you need to make sure that you’re paying as much attention to yourself as you do to your customers and staff. In one sense I completely agree, we should prioritise ourselves. Without us, there wouldn’t be a business. Without our own development, you limit the opportunity for business development. So yes you need to find the time for self-improvement, yes you need to take the time to go on courses, webinars and training programmes.

Missing the point

In another sense though it completely misses the point and means that you will miss out on loads of opportunities. Over 90% of our learning takes place outside of a formal training environment, outside of a classroom or training event. Those opportunities lie in the people that you meet and the conversations that you have. Every day we have the opportunity to talk to other business owners, other people who are going through and have already gone through the very same issues that each one of us faces in our business. The great thing about talking to other people is that every person you meet will know something that you don’t. There is every chance that they will have tried things that we haven’t thought of and found solutions to problems that we may not have even experienced yet.

Greatest source of learning

Our greatest source of learning exists in the everyday moments, the interactions that we have with our customers, the conversations we have when we are out networking and the experiences that we have when going about our daily business. It’s these opportunities that we need to make sure that we are making the most of, these opportunities that we need to make sure we do not miss. They do not take us out of our business, they do not take us away from where we feel we should really be, in fact, they ground us in our business and ensure that every opportunity helps our business at every stage.

So the next time you’re worried that you don’t have enough time during the week for training, enough time to develop yourself, remember that every day is a school day. Every day is full of opportunities to learn something new.

Be Yourself

Be Yourself - Probably the most and least helpful advice ever.

“Be Yourself”

‘Be Yourself’ This is probably one of the most and least helpful pieces of advice that anyone can ever give you and one which is bandied about more than any other. You see it plastered over Facebook and Twitter; people offer it up as the answer to all your problems. For most people it’s just not that easy. A while ago people used the term authentic to describe everything from their brand, their leadership behaviour to their shoes or jeans. Now people talk about ‘being yourself’. Be yourself; in your job, your business, your relationships and practically every other part of your life. So why is it so unhelpful? Why do we struggle to follow what seems like the most simple piece of advice?

Lack of Awareness

As individuals, we all lack a good level of self-awareness; most of us aren’t born with a clear sense of who we are and what our purpose is in life. Furthermore, only a little amount of time is spent schools and society helping people to answer these two questions. Much of our life is about trying to get us to conform to be like everyone else; we can so easily lose sight of what makes us an individual, what makes us special and unique.

And if you don’t know who you truly are, then how will you know what to be like.

We don’t like what we see

The second thing is that what little we do know about ourselves includes lots of things that we don’t like. Whether it is the way that we look, the way that we sound or even our skills and abilities, there are always areas in which we wished we were better. There is also the problem of feeling like we don’t fit in. Through learning more about ourselves, we realise that we are different from those around us. Rather than delighting in this, it can so easily make us feel that we need to change to be like other people. So we may want to love ourselves but we want to love a better version of ourselves, a version that is more like those around us. Therefore, until we improve we find it hard to love ourselves as we are.

And when you don’t love yourself, it is almost impossible to be yourself.

So how can you do it?

Knowing yourself

Firstly you need to find out more about yourself. Take every opportunity to develop your self-awareness, to learn more about your strengths, abilities and the things that you like. We can do this in so many ways; through personality and strength-based tests, through coaching and mentoring programmes or simply by asking people whom you trust for feedback. Over time, you will build up a picture of how other people see you and what your true capabilities are. You can test each of the things that you discover against your own experiences so you continue to develop and ever increasing knowledge of who you truly are.

Loving yourself

Secondly, you need to learn to love yourself as you are. I’m not saying that it’s not important to try and improved yourself, to learn new things and new skills. Loving yourself is different from being satisfied with yourself. What’s important is to accept that at any particular moment you are who you are, that you will always make mistakes and you cannot be perfect all the time. What’s interesting about this, is that it is true for everyone else as well. Accept yourself as a work in progress, as a person who is getting there but is on a journey. Forgive yourself when things do go wrong and when you have made a mistake. Commit yourself to constantly improving, to learning from each of your experiences whether good or bad.

So next time someone tells you to ‘be yourself’, think about how you can know yourself more and how you can love who you are more.

(PS the next time you feel tempted to tell some someone else to ‘be themselves’, think how you can help them to know themselves more or love who they are more)

Lazy Conversations

Lazy Conversations - Have you ever been in a conversation when the other person just isn't trying?

Have you ever been in lazy conversation? Lazy conversations are ones where you realise the other person just isn’t trying, they’re just going through the motions and are not really interested in what the other person is saying. Even worse is one where neither of you is trying.

We have lazy conversations all the time with dentists, people randomly on a train; people who we have no real connection with but we feel we need to fill the awkward silence. It’s fine to do that if you want, the problem comes when you find you’re doing this in a situation where it actually matters.

What do lazy conversations look like?

So what does it actually look like in practice, well image you are talking to someone and they are asking you a series of questions about what you do, where you live or are from. These are exploratory questions where most people are looking for something that means that they can talk more about themselves. A way of turning the conversation onto themselves and what is important to them.

To stop lazy conversations from happening you need to go deeper into a topic or subject, allow the person to share more about themselves. Rather than looking for an opportunity to talk about yourself, look for opportunities to help other people talk more about themselves. Look for the tell-tale signs that let you know you have hit a topic of interest for that person and go with that, even if it means that you don’t get to share the interesting story about yourself or the witty insightful comment. Remember sometimes it’s not about you.

Why should you avoid lazy conversations?

Now the are lots of selfish reason why you should do this, the main one being that they become a much easier prospect to sell to when the time is right. However, the most important reason for acting this way is that you might actually make a genuine connection.

When you are self-employed it’s not always easy to make genuine connections, we spend most of our time working alone. The people that we meet we keep at arms length to protect ourselves and our business. We don’t easily make allies in what we do because we are fearful of making perceived enemies. I can understand that but sometimes you just have to take a risk.

So next time you are having a conversation with someone stop trying to find ways in which you can talk more but find ways in which you can listen better.

Giving feedback, then don’t let your ‘but’ get in the way

Giving Feedback? Have you ever wondered why when you go out of your way to give someone feedback they don’t thank you for it or act on it? In fact, they may even seem upset with you that you said anything in the first place. Well, maybe your ‘but’ is getting in the way of what you are trying to say.

Manifesto of Me

What's your manifesto? Do you know what you stand for?

Have you ever thought about what your manifesto is? It’s not a word we tend to use much in business, we tend to associate it with politics and political parties, particularly on the run up to elections. Put simply, a manifesto is a public declaration of your intentions, opinions, objectives and motives. Now you might be wondering ‘why would I want to do that’

The answer is simple

Firstly by stating what you believe and what you intend to do you can engage better with your potential customers, suppliers, and partners. Whether it’s through your website or other information you include in your marketing material sharing your manifesto help you connect with the types of customers that you want to. In small business people buy from people and publicly sharing your manifesto helps people to work out whether they can like and trust you enough to do business with you.

The second reason is that it helps keep you honest and helps you to stay true to what you’re trying to achieve. I’ve heard it said before that ‘if you don’t stand for something then you’ll fall for anything’. When doing business it’s so easy to make compromises on what you value and what you want to be in order to get new customers. Whilst this may help in the short term it tends to actually eat away at a business and can easily destroy it in the long term. If you end up spending your time working with people you don’t connect with, doing stuff you don’t enjoy; it won’t matter how much money you are making eventually you’ll want to ditch it.

So make it a priority to work out what your manifesto is. So you can you connect with people who share your values and agree with your mission.  This will help you to resist compromising on your business. Then you can keep running the business you want and be successful at you what want to do.

I’m going to be sharing mine on here over the next few months so why not check back and see what I stand for.

If it’s not good marketing then you might be wasting your time!

Want to know what I think good marketing is? Well watch the video and find out.

I’d love to hear from you what you think good marketing is, so leave a comment below.

What’s in a business name?

A good business names sums up who you are not just what you call yourself

I was having a conversation the other day with a customer about their business name. They were frustrated that they couldn’t come up with a good name. They’d spent ages looking at website domains and twitter handles but couldn’t find a business name that they liked.

Now I don’t how long you’ve been running your business or how long it took you come up with your business name but for so many business owners it can take ages to come up with one that they feel happy with.

I started running my own business five years ago and have used a couple of business names and various job titles in that time.

This business name took me five years to come up with not because the words are particularly difficult to come up with, after all, they’re both everyday words. What took the time was working out what I really wanted to do and being able to articulate my vision. The strange thing is that if I had spent more time focussing on my vision and values I probably would have come up with the business name ages ago.

When you really understand what it is that you want to do, how you want to work and the things that you really value within your business then it becomes really easy to communicate your vision and your values to others. When you can do both of these, coming up with a business name is much easier and at the same time a little bit less important. In most cases people don’t care what your business name is, they care about what you do and how you do it, after all, a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

Why people fail?

Why people fail? Well failure is like darkness, it just doesn't exist.

I was having a conversation with someone the other day and they were asking me why people fail. Now you could come up with lots of reasons for this but in the end, for me there is only really one reason why people fail and that is because they themselves decide that they have failed.

I know this sounds ridiculous but until you make the decision to give up then you’ve not really failed.

It a bit like running a marathon, while you’re still running and still moving forward you’ve not failed. It may take you longer than you expected, it may be harder than you thought it would be but whilst you continue to still have a chance of succeeding.

Failure doesn’t really exist it’s just the absence of success. So as soon as you achieve your goal all past failure disappears. It’s a bit like darkness, as soon as you turn the light on it’s like it never existed.

So as long as you don’t give up then you’ll never fail.

Can’t have it all?

Who says you can't have it all

Think that you can’t have it all. I was having a conversation the other day with someone at a networking meeting and they were frustrated that whatever they tried to do they couldn’t have it all. I asked them what they meant and they told me that of they tried to have a good work-life balance or be flexible about how much they worked then their business suffered. If they just focussed on their business then their personal life suffered. They even sighed and said, “I suppose you can’t have it all”.

For many people this can be a real problem, we start a business in order to have more but so often end up with less.

Well, I think you can have it all.

The problem often comes when we try to run our businesses just like we were an employee and not and entrepreneur. If you look at the most successful business owners then they definitely have it all. It often starts with having the mindset that not only can you have it all that in fact you deserve it as well. Until you get passed this point it’s only you who is stopping you.

In many cases, it is because we don’t value what we do. Each of us has a unique set of talents, skills and abilities but because we are good at them we can easily forget how valuable they are. We forget that what may be easy for us is often quite difficult for other people. Truly understanding your worth in the market you are working in is one of the first steps of having the business you want. Not only that it can help you achieve the life that you want as well. It can be the first step in having it all.

So who says you can’t have it all? Not me.

Sales tricks, conversations from hell

Sales tricks are what people use to sell something to someone who doesn't want it

I was having a conversation with someone the other day and they were asking me if I knew any good sales tricks. Now I don’t know about you but sales tricks or techniques generally get my back up, partly because I fall for them too often but mainly because I just don’t think they’re the way run a business.

In fact, in my opinion, sales tricks are what people use when they are trying to sell you stuff that you don’t want.

Now you might feel that as long as people are buying then who cares, and for some people maybe it doesn’t matter.

For me though I want my business to be about more than just making sales at any cost. For me, I only want people to buy from me things that they actually want. Not just so I don’t have to use dodgy sales tricks but also so they are delighted with what they buy, come back to buy more and recommend me to others. Surely this is a better way to run a business.

How to get everyone to like you

Why people like you? It is our uniqueness that us valuable to our clients.

I was having a conversation the other day with a customer, I’d just given a talk about why you should only work with people you like and who like you, and they asked me “how do I get everyone to like me?”.

So many of us want to be able to do business with everyone, that we try and make products and services that all would want and worse than that, ones that all can afford. The problem with this is that in trying to appeal to everyone we end up appealing to no one.

It is our uniqueness that makes us valuable to our clients. Whether it is our unique point of view, our personal connections with our networks, or some other aspect of our business that sets us apart from everyone else. It is because of these things that we can and should charge a premium to those who really relate to what we do, those who like you.

More importantly, if everyone did want to do business with us then we couldn’t cope with the amount of work that we would have. So rather than fighting over prices with the masses, be more select and charge a premium to the few. The few yo really like you.

Funnily enough, not only will your clients thank you for it, they’ll also pay you for it too.

(Also, you’ll be happier as well)