Business lessons from running

Land’s End

A brief introduction then I get to the business bit.

A few weeks ago, I volunteered as support crew on the Endurancelife Classic Quarter, a race that takes runners from Lizard Point to Land’s End. So, from the most southerly point of the UK mainland to the most westerly; one quarter of the compass hence the name. The race consists of a tough 44 miles on the coastal path, my water station was in Penzance about 28 miles into the event. Previously I have worked at some stunning locations, Church Cove and Minack Theatre, now I ask for the uninspiring spot in Penzance. I went car free at the beginning of 2019 (check out my blog) and Penzance is the easiest place to get to by public transport.

When the runners leave the water point they pass through a gap in the wall (not the sea wall thankfully) then head across the car park to cut behind the harbour and on to Newlyn. They could turn left which would take them along a dead end on the left of the harbour or right through the bus station, which is effectively going back in the direction they have come. I keep an eye out to make sure they go the right way; surprisingly, some don’t despite there being a sign pointing the way a little way ahead. Okay it is only the size of a postcard, but it does have two bright red chevrons on and you would have thought that after 28 miles runners would have got used to spotting them.

I have never got lost on an Endurancelife event and I have run plenty of them. I think that is because I run a lot on poorly defined routes in training. In Cornwall (it is probably the same elsewhere) the council grades footpaths Gold, Silver and Bronze, Gold paths, because they are popular, are well defined, well signposted and regularly maintained, Silver get less attention and Bronze virtually none. Being a ‘path less well travelled’ type of person I seek out Bronze routes, which means when I enter a field, I have a vague idea where the path goes but have to look into the distance to spot a gap in the fence or other indication of which way I should head across the field, and of course I have done my homework and studied the map before I set out.  When it comes to races it is in my DNA to be alert when there is a choice of directions, even when it is not obvious there is a choice, and I am tuned in to seeing signs. It’s likely that the runners who miss the signs and go the wrong way are not used to off-road running or are only used to running on well-defined routes.

Now to the business bit. A lot of business owners do not see the signs and take the wrong path. Many have their heads down working in the business and they do not see that they are at a junction and need to work on the business to take it in a different direction. They do not see changes in customer or competitor behaviour, new entrants into the market or advances in technology. Be like a savvy trail runner, keep your head up, look around and see the signs.

There is something else businesses can learn from runners. Like other sportspeople runners train all the time to perform at their best. It’s strange that businesspeople think they can be at the top of their game all of the time without training. Wisdoms123 Chats are a great way to train your brain and stay sharp. I pop across to South Africa (virtually) every weekday morning to discuss business topics with a diverse group of people for 30 to 40 minutes. Thinking about what I’m going to contribute on the subject that has been set is good training; however, I get the greatest benefit from listening to others that have different options from me.  The South African chats are at 7 am UK time (8 am in South Africa), if that is too early or too much of a commitment drop into the UK ones on a Wednesday at 8 am UK time. It’s not networking, there is no selling, it’s just getting those little grey cells in your brain in great shape. Sign up here for free then you can use the link you are sent to attend any of the chats.

Honesty Box

The seed of an idea for these business blogs has to grow and I nurture it until it is ready to harvest, then I prepare it so you can digest it. If you found the content useful please consider popping some money into the honesty box. Unlike buying eggs at the farm gate, you cannot put the cash in a box because you are reading this online. You can click on the Buy Me a Coffee link below which will take you to a page where by magic (nifty software) a small amount of money will disappear from your account and appear in mine. Don’t worry you are in control all the time. If the post wasn’t helpful, please leave a comment suggesting how it can be improved.

If you like what I say you can buy me a coffee if you want to.

The business ideas hatchery.

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Feedback the oxygen of success

Below is a copy of a blog post I wrote a few years ago about running. The principles about the benefits of getting feedback, particularly from someone outside of the situation, apply to businesses. If you are a sole trader, you may want to get the view of a mentor or business consultant.

I was having supper with my younger daughter, Charlotte, at the Bay View Inn a few weeks ago and was surprised by what she said. Now that I live at the other end of Cornwall from her, we do not see each other as often as we used to. This was the first time I had seen her since completing the Kalahari Augrabies Extreme Marathon in October.

We chatted and caught up with each other’s news and then inevitably the conversation turned to the Kalahari event. Charlotte is very knowledgeable about it; she has crewed on it three times and grown up listening to her father talk about it. I said that I had struggled this year and thought it was my slowest ever. “No, it wasn’t Dad” she immediately replied, “I was following your progress via the website and there are a couple of years that you were slower”. I was aware that she knew how I was doing because she had sent me a lovely email of support during the event, which I got on the rest day. The organisers print emails out and deliver them to the overnight camps the following day. What I had not realised was the depth of her interest and that she would look back at the history to see how I was doing compared with previous years. It gave me a nice warm feeling inside.

Our conversation was interrupted by the start of the pub quiz on gin. The Bay View Inn has a good range of speciality gins; many of them from Cornwall. We did not do very well in the quiz, but we didn’t come last. Just before we left Charlotte asked if I was going back in 2019. I replied that I wasn’t sure. Completing 10 was my big aim and I achieved this in 2016. I had always planned a year off after that. Going back in 2018 had been wonderful, but I now felt that I could pick and choose when I go back. Charlotte, who is always direct said “Don’t be too picky, if you want to do another 10 you haven’t got a lot of time to play with.” (I am 64).

Later, when I was lying in bed and reflecting on the evening, still enjoying the rosy glow from the fact that Charlotte had shown so much interest in what her Dad was doing, I thought about how useful her feedback was. She had observed what was happening and looked at the data, so knew it wasn’t my slowest performance. I had been relying on emotion and been subjective about my performance labelling it my worst. Charlotte helped me put it in context. And when it came to thinking of the future, I was looking at it from an internal perspective, I would pick and choose. She had an external view and saw the whole picture; I do have limited time. If I do not miss a year, I will be 73 when I complete my 20th, not a too ambitious a goal as the oldest finisher so far is Harry Hunter aged 70. But miss a few years and the goal will become much tougher and possibly out of reach.

Thank you, Charlotte, for providing clarity.

Feedback should always be about behaviour not personality, I know that Charlotte loves me and would never personally criticise me. We had some moments during her teenage years, and I remember her turning around one day and say, “Dad, you irritate the hell out of me, I know it is because you care, but it’s still bloody irritating.” Get feedback from someone you have a good relationship with, and it will be focused on helping you. Charlotte knows how important the Kalahari Augrabies Extreme Marathon is to me so is prepared to point out that I am getting on a bit and need to get a move on achieving my goal. I know that she cares so I take heed of what she says.

If you don’t have someone you have an exceptionally good relationship with who can comment knowledgeably on your business find someone you have no relationship with i.e., an external consultant.  

Honesty Box

The seed of an idea for these business blogs has to grow and I nurture it until it is ready to harvest, then I prepare it so you can digest it. If you found the content useful please consider popping some money into the honesty box. Unlike buying eggs at the farm gate, you cannot put the cash in a box because you are reading this online. You can click on the Buy Me a Coffee link below which will take you to a page where by magic (nifty software) a small amount of money will disappear from your account and appear in mine. Don’t worry you are in control all the time. If the post wasn’t helpful, please leave a comment suggesting how it can be improved.

If you like what I say you can buy me a coffee if you want to.

The business ideas hatchery

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Yes you can

Minimum Viable Product

Every weekday morning at 7.00am I pop across to South Africa (thanks to the wonders of Zoom and the internet) to take part in Wisdoms123 Chats. These last for about 30 to 40 minutes and are conversations about business, sometimes life, topics. Great training for the mind. It’s interesting that sports people train to keep their bodies fit and ready to compete, yet businesspeople, competing in the marketplace, seldom train their minds.

At the beginning of the week, I was impressed by what a young South African, Thabiso, said. He wanted to make a record but did not know anyone in the music business and could not afford to hire a recording studio. Thabiso concentrated on what he had and what he could do, not on what he didn’t have and what he couldn’t do. He found some software for his mobile phone that would allow him to create a soundtrack and then allow him to record voice onto it. Where he lived was always noisy, so he went to Sandton an affluent area of Johannesburg to find a quiet spot.

A local park looked like the perfect spot as it was virtually deserted; however, when he started recording there was a problem, there was a breeze, and this was affecting the microphone. I’m sure you know what this sounds like from receiving mobile phone calls from people standing in a windy spot. He started to think about where else he could go when he spotted the solution, a portable toilet. He would be out of the wind there, so he went inside and started recording. About halfway through he was interrupted by a knocking on the door. Someone wanted to use the facilities for something more basic than laying down some tracks. Thabiso waited patiently outside until he was able to go back inside and finish the recordings.

The next stage was to head off to find somewhere with free Wi-Fi so he could upload everything to SoundCloud, which is where you can hear the recordings, just search using antakalipa. You will know you are in the right place when you see the photo of the portable toilet.

What a great example, creating the Minimum Viable Product to get his music to the public and not being put off by a lack of facilities.

Remember

If it is important, you will find a way

If it is not, you will find an excuse

Honesty Box

The seed of an idea for these business blogs has to grow and I nurture it until it is ready to harvest, then I prepare it so you can digest it. If you found the content useful please consider popping some money into the honesty box. Unlike buying eggs at the farm gate, you cannot put the cash in a box because you are reading this online. You can click on the Buy Me a Coffee link below which will take you to a page where by magic (nifty software) a small amount of money will disappear from your account and appear in mine. Don’t worry you are in control all the time. If the post wasn’t helpful, please leave a comment suggesting how it can be improved.

If you like what I say you can buy me a coffee if you want to.

The business ideas hatchery

Make time

When I say make time, I don’t mean manufacture the currency of the Grim Reaper, that isn’t possible. We all get 86,400 seconds each day, no more, no less, and there is no carrying over unused seconds to the next day. Life is not a mobile phone contract where unused minutes or data can be taken forward to the next period. No what I mean is make space in your busy schedule for important stuff, important to you.

What planted the seed for this blog post was a comment during a networking event. It’s an event where we all know each other so instead of pitching for business we have a chat about success, problems, frustrations, concerns and anything else that people want to talk about. One of the participants, who pops in when she can, and often only for part of the meeting because she is so busy, normally talks about how busy and stressed she is. This time she was stressed because she had no work and now, she was going to have to work on a marketing plan to try an attract customers. The nature of the business is such that once a contract is complete her services are no longer needed by that particular company. She had been so busy working in the business she had not devoted any time to working on the business. Had she allocated say 10% of her time to gaining new customers, planning for new contracts to start when others were finishing, there would be a steady flow of work and overall, there would be more income than under her flat out then nothing approach; feast and famine, boom and bust – I’m sure you can think of more.

Big lesson – marketing is important all of the time. You might do less during some periods, but it is always important.

Many small business owners, and the self-employed, often fall into the trap of being too busy working in the business to have time to work on the business. Too often they have their noses to the grindstone and fail to spot that they are about to hit a brick wall, or worse fall, off a cliff. They fail to spot opportunities or to realise that the world has changed and what they are doing is not the most efficient way, or worse, what their customers really want.


Lego Serious Play

Recently I took time out of my business to attend a workshop facilitated by someone from the University of Exeter using the Lego Serious Play method. Building models to depict circumstances, thinking and plans helped me view things differently. I spotted a left field opportunity that had previously be out of my sightline. I don’t always have my nose to the grindstone; however, I am probably guilty of always looking in the same direction and am perhaps a little short-sighted. Just like in a pantomime that good idea might be behind you.

Take time out, do something different and improve your business performance.


Honesty Box

The seed of an idea for these business blogs has to grow and I nurture it until it is ready to harvest, then I prepare it so you can digest it. If you found the content useful please consider popping some money into the honesty box. Unlike buying eggs at the farm gate, you cannot put the cash in a box because you are reading this online. You can click on the Buy Me a Coffee link below which will take you to a page where by magic (nifty software) a small amount of money will disappear from your account and appear in mine. Don’t worry you are in control all the time. If the post wasn’t helpful, please leave a comment suggesting how it can be improved.

If you like what I say you can buy me a coffee if you want to.

Business ideas hatchery

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You don’t need to read business blogs.

The title might seem to be shooting myself in the foot; however, I believe honesty is important. If you keep reading you will find that reading blogs can be a good thing.

Reading business blogs is good for business, unfortunately it is not always your business that benefits and if you follow advice without thinking it will also usually be to your detriment. I searched on ‘business blogs’ and this was one of the results that search returned; 100 business blogs that you need to start reading”. What! Who has the time to follow one hundred blogs? At five minutes a blog that’s eight hours and twenty minutes – a whole day out of the week if they post weekly. Some I checked out posted daily.

The link took me to an article on the resources page of the Quickbooks website which was headed, “ Starting up – 100 business blogs that you need to start reading”. Now you might think Quickbooks would know what they are talking about, but I was thinking far from quick, more like bogged down in blogs. The article did recover some credibility when it said “No matter where you are in your business journey, there’s a business blog for you. Instead of scouring search engines for the best blogs, we compiled our picks for today’s 100 best business blogs” Ah, so when they say 100 business blogs you should start reading, they actually mean here is a list, pick a few. They very helpfully list them by category, Starting up, Sales, Marketing, etc.

The article is on the Quickbooks USA website, so the blogs recommended are American and tend to be prolific. This is the listing for one blog in the Marketing section: Appcues – “Their blog is loaded with hundreds of posts on the nuances of onboarding new customers, which every entrepreneur knows is a real challenge. Let Appcues fill you in on the nuts and bolts of making your customers happy and successful.” I think many small businesses wouldn’t have enough customers to need hundreds of nuanced onboarding techniques.

No, you don’t need to read business blogs, especially when you first start in business. It is a good idea to read some basic business guides. There are plenty available from trade bodies like the Federation of Small Businesses, the Government, or your bank. Then get on and work on your business.

The time for reading blogs is after you have had plenty of experiences, then you can blogs for inspiration, getting confirmation you are going in the right direction, having a different perspective and for firing up the creative process. One of the 100 blogs, James Clear’s Blog, has a post about this, drawing on the small, but exceptionally good 1965 book,  A Technique for Producing Ideas which says:

“creative thinking is not about generating something new from a blank slate, but rather about taking what is already present and combining those bits and pieces in a way that has not been done previously”

So, you combine your experience with stuff in blogs and hey presto up pop some great new ideas.

There are some useful articles on the James Clear website neatly arranged in the following categories.

  • Creativity
  • Decision making
  • Focus
  • Habits
  • Life Lessons
  • Motivation
  • Productivity
  • Self-improvement

Some of the articles, for example ‘For a More Creative Brain Follow These 5 Steps’, appear in more than one category. My favourite one so far is The Ultimate Productivity Hack is Saying No.

Honesty Box

The seed of an idea for these business blogs has to grow and I nurture it until it is ready to harvest, then I prepare it so you can digest it. If you found the content useful please consider popping some money into the honesty box. Unlike buying eggs at the farm gate, you cannot put the cash in a box because you are reading this online. You can click on the Buy Me a Coffee link below which will take you to a page where by magic (nifty software) a small amount of money will disappear from your account and appear in mine. Don’t worry you are in control all the time. If the post wasn’t helpful, please leave a comment suggesting how it can be improved.

If you like what I say you can buy me a coffee if you want to.

Business ideas hatchery

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IYMC

You probably have no idea what the title of this blog post means; that was the intention. Is Your Message Clear? (IYMC) This post is about how the thoughtless use of initialisations can have a negative impact on the impression you are trying to make or the message you are delivering. My post on 21st March was in a similar vein dealing with acronyms, this post focusses on two letter initialisations. Think of it as reinforcement rather than repetition.

There are two recent examples that stand out. The first was during an international Zoom meeting. One of the attendees was referring to the challenges her business had faced at the beginning of coronavirus restrictions imposed in South Africa. She had just said that she was not very PC when her video froze. I was relieved that I was going to escape hearing some blunt inappropriate comments. Political Correctness has a bad reputation; however, I often find that when people say they are not very PC it is an excuse to say unpleasant things. Her video then restarted without any loss of content, so I heard “…literate. I struggled with the move to online meetings and having to get to grips with things like Zoom and Microsoft Teams”. I now felt sympathetic to her situation, picturing her stressed sitting in front of her Personal Computer. Had the video not restarted and we moved on to the next person I may have left that meeting with completely the wrong impression of her.

I could only think of three meanings of PC, the third being Police Constable. I did a little bit of research and was amazed to find there are 325 listed meanings. I should have been able to think of some of those: Parish Council, Privy Council, Public Convenience and Petty Cash.

The second example is from a few hours later during an online networking meeting based in the UK. A new attendee was giving his 1-minute presentation explaining what he did and that he was also setting up another business with a focus on training covering PM …. I have no idea what he said next as I was wondering whether he was going to only do the training in the afternoon or whether he had a different meaning of PM. Through my brain fog I heard him talk about Project Management, could that be what he meant by PM? I missed the rest of the of what he was saying as I was trying to remember if I had ever heard Project Management referred to as PM. I have not, but this sent me off thinking about the project management methodology PRINCE which was wonderfully renamed in a Civil Service acronym competition from PRINCE to PRINCE. I should explain that originally it meant PROMPT II IN the CCTA Environment after the competition it meant PRojects IN Controlled Environments. Civil Servants certainly know how to have fun. By the time I returned my attention back to the meeting he had finished speaking so I missed his message and have no idea what he did. My research discovered that there are 195 different meaning of PM and Project Management was not listed as one of them.  

Hopefully, that illustrates the damage that careless use of initialisations can cause. If you want to know what PROMPT and CCTA (used above) stand for use GOOGLE, which is not an acronym. The origin of the name is however interesting.

Finally, a word of warning, do not use initials when talking to a farmer about Artificial Intelligence or a nurse about Public Relations, you may see them reaching for gloves.

Honesty Box

The seed of an idea for these business blogs has to grow and I nurture it until it is ready to harvest, then I prepare it so you can digest it. If you found the content useful please consider popping some money into the honesty box. Unlike buying eggs at the farm gate, you cannot put the cash in a box because you are reading this online. You can click on the Buy Me a Coffee link below which will take you to a page where by magic (nifty software) a small amount of money will disappear from your account and appear in mine. Don’t worry you are in control all the time. If the post wasn’t helpful, please leave a comment suggesting how it can be improved.

If you like what I say you can buy me a coffee if you want to.

Business ideas hatchery

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Is your efficiency effective?

In the interests of efficiency, I am keeping this post short; however, it will be effective.

Some definitions will start the process of deciding if your efficiency is effective.

Efficiency: noun – the state or quality of being efficient.

Efficient: adjective – working in a well-organized and competent way.

Effective: adjective – successful in producing a desired or intended result.

It’s entirely possible to work in a well organised and competent way without producing the desired result for all sorts of reasons. Bing Crosby sung about being busy; the first two and last two lines are particularly relevant.

We’re busy doin’ nothin’

Workin’ the whole day through

Never do, never do, never do have the time

Never do have the time

Being busy and being efficient isn’t the most important thing in business, being effective is. Being lazy and doing things in a very roundabout way will not generate great results, so busy and efficient are important, but they are trumped by effective.

To be effective (producing a desired result) obviously requires you to know what result you want and how to get there, and that is where things get tricky. You need to know what is important and what measures to use.

Here is a theoretical example: A meal delivery service launched having done plenty of research and found that the key elements customers wanted were consistently high-quality food and reliable delivery. Testing with customers showed that the meals rated highly for quality. The company invested in software to calculate the optimum route and sequence for deliveries. The delivery system was super-efficient. The drivers were happy, as they were paid per item delivered and could deliver lots of items in a day, and the customers received their meals on time. Initially everything went well then, the company started to loose customers. There were no complaints about quality, price or delivery and surveys show these were not issues. The company arranged some focus groups to see what was going on. “Your food is just as good as xxxxxx and so is the delivery, I prefer xxxxxx because Andre the driver always asks how I am, and we have a little chat”. The drive for efficiency had driven that ‘nice’ part of the customer experience out of the equation compromising effectiveness. Slack in the delivery process was a necessary element of providing an effective solution; happy customers.

Honesty Box

The seed of an idea for these business blogs has to grow and I nurture it until it is ready to harvest, then I prepare it so you can digest it. If you found the content useful please consider popping some money into the honesty box. Unlike buying eggs at the farm gate, you cannot put the cash in a box because you are reading this online. You can click on the Buy Me a Coffee link below which will take you to a page where by magic (nifty software) a small amount of money will disappear from your account and appear in mine. Don’t worry you are in control all the time. If the post wasn’t helpful, please leave a comment suggesting how it can be improved.

If you like what I say you can buy me a coffee if you want to.

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Is your thinking on point?

I have some great discussions on business topics during Wisdoms123 Chats, on Wednesday we considered the ‘Trolley Problem’, a series of thought experiments in ethics and psychology. What has that got to do with business I hear you ask (or would do if it were not for the wonders of technology that allows you to read this hundreds of miles out of earshot). It has a lot to do with business, especially small businesses.

The essence of the problem is:

There is a runaway trolley barrelling down the railway tracks. Ahead, on the tracks, there are five people tied up and unable to move. The trolley is headed straight for them. You are standing some distance off in the train yard, next to a lever. If you pull this lever, the trolley will switch to a different set of tracks. However, you notice that there is one person on the side track. You have two options:

  • Do nothing and allow the trolley to kill the five people on the main track.
  • Pull the lever, diverting the trolley onto the side track where it will kill one person.

The trolley problem has been the subject of many surveys in which about 90% of respondents have chosen to kill the one and save the five.

There is a variant involving a fat man:

As before, a trolley is hurtling down a track towards five people. You are on a bridge under which it will pass, and you can stop it by putting something very heavy in front of it. As it happens, there is a very fat man standing next to you – your only way to stop the trolley is to push him over the bridge and onto the track, killing him to save five. Should you proceed?

Resistance to this course of action seems strong; when asked, a majority of people will approve of pulling the switch to save a net of four lives but will disapprove of pushing the fat man to save a net of four lives.

I wonder what an outside observer would think the man on the bridge should do, I imagine they will be much more for pushing the fat man off the bridge to save a net of four lives.

You can see that where you are, and what you are doing, affects the decisions you make; remote and pulling levers leads to one decision, up close and involved in the action (pushing the man off the bridge) results in a different decision and being an outsider observer with no ‘skin in the game’ provides another view.

Small business owners are so involved in the business that they often make decisions that are not optimal, working hard at stuff without producing great results. Sometimes they are so busy they do not see the problems; they do not lift their heads up and see what is coming down the track. Business is not a series of thought experiments in ethics and psychology, if you want to succeed you are going to have to push the fat man off the bridge, metaphorically not literally, that is illegal. It can be useful to get the help of an outside observer who can take the emotion out of the decision making and view things differently.

Then:

“I’ve got a great product, I’m just not good at selling”

becomes

“I don’t really believe that my product is that great”

“I cannot afford to outsource time-draining admin tasks e.g., bookkeeping.”

becomes

“If I had extra time in the business I wouldn’t be able to generate much income, it would certainly be less than a bookkeeper earns” – Probably time to retrain as a bookkeeper.

Step away and be the observer watching the drama unfold on the bridge and you may be prepared to take some drastic action. Perhaps pushing the product you love off a hypothetical bridge because it doesn’t earn its keep. Or giving a few of your customers a shove because they are more trouble than they are worth; sales are vanity, it’s profit that matters.  Some of your processes might need an elbow, often things are done because we like doing them or because we have always done them rather than because it’s the most efficient way. 

Thought experiments can be very practical and profitable.

Functional magnetic resonance imaging has demonstrated that “personal” dilemmas (like pushing a man off a footbridge) preferentially engage brain regions associated with emotion, whereas “impersonal” dilemmas (like diverting the trolley by flipping a switch) preferentially engaged regions associated with controlled reasoning. Now I’m not suggesting we should all be like Mr Spock from Star Trek (devoid of emotion); however, I’m sure a preponderance of controlled reasoning is best in business, although not good for the fat man.

Honesty Box

The seed of an idea for these business blogs has to grow and I nurture it until it is ready to harvest, then I prepare it so you can digest it. If you found the content useful please consider popping some money into the honesty box. Unlike buying eggs at the farm gate, you cannot put the cash in a box because you are reading this online. You can click on the Buy Me a Coffee link below which will take you to a page where by magic (nifty software) a small amount of money will disappear from your account and appear in mine. Don’t worry you are in control all the time. If the post wasn’t helpful, please leave a comment suggesting how it can be improved.

If you like what I say you can buy me a coffee if you want to.

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Networking is about connecting

Networking done well is about connecting and that means active listening, finding common ground and building rapport. If you are not familiar with active listening, or not good at it, there is some useful information here.  With active listening you will soon understand someone’s ‘map of the world’ and be able to meet them there. The following example should help.

I was on a networking meeting recently and it followed the normal pattern; about half the attendees mentally switched off after they had given their pitch and about half were listening to the others. As I was speaking, I noticed one person in particular nodding at some of the things I said, a physical sign that she was actively listening. I was therefore not surprised when, shortly after the meeting, she connected with me on LinkedIn and suggested a Zoom one-to-one.  Once we had settled on a day and time, she came back with “Your Zoom or Mine?” Humour is a good way to build rapport.

When we had our online meeting, we soon established that a concern for the environment was the biggest thing we had in common. I explained that my approach was to try to influence how people thought about climate change and biodiversity loss, I was not one for direct action and was unsure whether some of Extinction Rebellion’s actions damaged the cause more than helped it. However, I do agree that some dramatic action was needed to wake up politicians and other world leaders who are sleepwalking into a climate change nightmare. She told me that her sister was a member of Extinction Rebellion and in the April 2019, London protest she had glued her breasts to the floor outside the Goldman Sachs office in Fleet Street. She said it in a tone, and with a look on her face, which said she admired her sister’s commitment to her beliefs, but was not keen on her tactics and all that was wrapped in sisterly love. We were both now on the same map of the world. I was also in awe of her sister. I don’t normally agree with sexual exploitation; however, on this occasion I couldn’t stop myself admiring how this spirited lady had used her assets to exploit gullible men, Sun readers. Climate change became a big story in the Sun “BOOBY TRAP Eco-warrior glues her BREASTS to the road in most bizarre Extinction Rebellion stunt yet”.

We continued chatting learning more about each other, her husband was keen on taking on big physical challenges so more common ground. I was able to suggest some useful contacts for her and after the meeting she sent me some helpful information. It was a productive and enjoyable meeting; she did not try to sell me anything and I did not try to sell her anything; however, I know our businesses will benefit from the connection.

Rather than sell, sell, sell and tell, tell, tell actively listen, build rapport, have great conversations and create beautiful networks.

Honesty Box

The seed of an idea for these business blogs has to grow and I nurture it until it is ready to harvest, then I prepare it so you can digest it. If you found the content useful please consider popping some money into the honesty box. Unlike buying eggs at the farm gate, you cannot put the cash in a box because you are reading this online. You can click on the Buy Me a Coffee link below which will take you to a page where by magic (nifty software) a small amount of money will disappear from your account and appear in mine. Don’t worry you are in control all the time. If the post wasn’t helpful, please leave a comment suggesting how it can be improved.

If you like what I say you can buy me a coffee if you want to.

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Less is more, more or less

Very often when I talk to new business owners and, more worryingly, established businesses owners about what the target market is for their products the answer is everyone. It’s nice if everyone buys what you are selling, but it is not a good idea to sell to everyone, one because that is a crowded market with lots of people trying to sell into it and two, believe me on this, not everyone wants your shiny new product or service.

If you are a crisp seller with this attitude it may be tempting to advertise in ‘Health & Fitness Nut Weekly’* due to its cheap rates and rocketing circulation figures, but sales will be disappointing. A high fat, high salt snack will not be appealing to goji berry munching fitness fanatics. If you are still convinced your product will be bought by everyone fine, I will not try to persuade you otherwise; however, I am absolutely convinced that you do not want to market to everyone. Marketing involves time and money so you will want to get the best return possible. Some people will buy more than others and some people will be sold to less by your competitors, so these are the people to target, and this is where segmentation, personas and less comes in. Think in terms of planting seeds in drills, or even singly in holes, rather than scattering them all over the place. Less seeds, but more harvestable plants.

Personas are a representation of the goals and behaviours of a hypothesized group of customers. They are not a single customer. Getting enough detail, but not too much is key. Georgina having two children, Imogen and Tarquin, driving a blue Volvo and owning a Bichon Frise, called Fluffy, might be starting to be too specific; however, differentiating between a lapdog or a larger breed might be useful and is that Volvo an estate or a sporty model and how old is it?

It is not about dreaming up a fictitious character, it is a personalised composite sketch of the information you know about segments of your target market. Creating one needs data and research. Start with some quantitative analysis of your customer database, this will at least give you some basic demographic information, buying frequency, order value and may indicate seasonal trends.

Next you need to fill in the gaps with some qualitative research and analysis. The best way to do that is to talk to customers and prospective customers. Radical and scary I know, but it will give you a wealth of useful information. You are then ready to build the persona or personas. When you have done that perform a reality check; do your products or services match what the personas would want or need.

Now comes the fun part – using the persona. You would be amazed how many people generate a persona, including a nice stock image, stick it on the wall then forget about it. Use it every time you generate anything aimed at a customer and make sure anyone (internal or external) who is writing copy, managing social media, etc. has a copy of each persona and understands them.

If you perform an internet search you will find plenty of information about creating personas and templates you can use. Some of it is good, some is not so good, just remember the principles above and that less is more until you have reach the optimum point then less is less. Oh and one last thing not everyone will be your customer.

Honesty Box

The seed of an idea for these business blogs has to grow and I nurture it until it is ready to harvest, then I prepare it so you can digest it. If you found it useful please consider popping some money into the honesty box. Unlike buying eggs at the farm gate you cannot put the cash in a box because you are reading this online. You can click on the Buy Me a Coffee link below which will take you to a page where by magic (nifty software) a small amount of money will disappear from your account and appear in mine. Don’t worry you are in control all the time. If the post wasn’t helpful please leave a comment suggesting how it can be improved.

If you like what I say you can buy me a coffee if you want to.

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* ‘Health & Fitness Nut Weekly’ – this is a fictitious publication