Tag: Business advice (page 1 of 3)

Writing a plan – what is the point?

Writing a plan – what is the point?

By the time you have written the plan everything has probably moved on and it is already out of date. Or the process of writing the plan has left you in no fit state to carry on the day job.

Executive coaching BristolOK, a plan will give you something to focus on, if you find yourself with time on your hands. It will also help you to work towards an objective or goal. But with so many areas to consider, so many scenarios to incorporate into the plan to make it worthwhile, one has to ask the question – is it all worth it?

My suggestion. Why not write down a completed actions list?

That is one way I have found of capturing activity to reflect if it is going in the right direction. I know in my own mind what i am heading towards, i did that heavy lifting months ago. All I want to see is how I am progressing towards that goal, not how much still lies ahead.

By writing down the work done and the time, I can then look back with a sense of pride about what has been achieved. I can also change direction much quicker if my goals have changed.

So what do you do – do you take the adage that failing to plan is planning to fail? Or do you record activity and let the future take care of itself?

Let me know.

Social media in a B2B setting doesn’t work

Social media - is there any point?Let me clarify. B2B is business to business where one firm is looking to sell to another firm. B2C is business to consumer where the firm is seeking to engage with a consumer directly.

Social media is any on line promotional platform whereby firms seek to engage with other firms via platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn etc.

The goal in social media is to engage more with the personality than with products or services. It’s all about personal branding, ego and demonstrating who you are and not what you do or the benefit that you offer.

Social media in a B2B setting does not work

Why? Because businesses buy products or services. They are not interested in personality, personal branding or ego. They just want to buy a solution to a problem, to scratch their itch. They seek solutions by looking for the closest thing they can to a solution and then fine tune it when they have a few options. But they certainly wont be buying based on an on line personality.

Only the very smallest firms might buy through social media connections, and one could argue that is more a B2C transaction as they are in essence buying for themselves and not as an officer of the company.

4psSo my view is that if you want to sell to established businesses, focus more promoting what you do in terms that your audience understands. Make it clear what you are selling, the benefit the users get from using you and the process that you will use to make it happen.

Any thoughts?

 

Start with Why

In Start With Why, Simon Sinek say that good business leaders start with ‘why’.

Start with Why

Most of us start with what we do. The service we offer, the products we promote.We spend time polishing it to make it shine brighter in the hope that in doing so it will attract more attention.  We seek external validation via testimonials, likes and so on.

We have to do that. Enhancing the offering is essential. But only after the question why has been answered.

Why why?

Because until we can find why, we are at risk of missing the point. For instance, if train companies understood why people travelled on their trains, they would have understood that there were rivals in the wings. Literally. Planes and cars would change the travel industry for ever. But the train companies saw their mission as selling seats on trains. Most people wanted to get to the their destination quickly.

Top tips

Here are a few questions to get you thinking:

  1. Why do people buy from me
  2. Why do people buy from my competitors
  3. Why don’t people buy more from me
  4. Why are they not willing to pay more for what we do

Have a go.

Ask yourself why do you do what you do and why do they do what they do. It might show a rich stream of innovative thought and release the creative pressure to inspire others.

Coping with the summertime slowdown

sunbizJune is in full swing, and summertime is upon us. Yes, we might look out of the window and see grey skies, or even – dare I say it? – rain! But according to the longer days and impending school holidays, it is definitely summer.

Assuming that your business isn’t seasonal and looking forward to a warm-weather boom, you could face a lull as people start to switch off and get into holiday mode.

So how can you prepare, and what can you do to minimise its impact?

Grow your network (on and offline)

This is a great time to attend as many events as possible and build your network. Attending after-work events on summer evenings is much more appealing than rainy nights when it gets dark early! Be careful though, as some regular events may not take place in summer months, so make sure you check the details before heading out.

Automate what you can

If you and others you work with are going to be away, it’s a better excuse than ever to automate what communications you can. Automate responses to newsletter sign ups, with timed follow-ups if you can, and set out a timetable of social media posts to keep it ticking over while you switch off. Personalised marketing is still essential, but these can be a handy supplement.

Send your staff out for training

This can also be a great time to send staff out for training, and can be a constructive way to keep holiday-headed employees focused while also renewing their enthusiasm.

Take a break

One thing you must do is make sure you take a break yourself, switching off completely. A break where you check your emails and deal with issues is not a break. Make sure you book time off well in advance and make the necessary preparations before you leave to ensure everyone knows you’ll be out of action. This is your reward for being connected for the rest of the year, so don’t feel guilty!

(NB. Make sure your autoresponse message is correct, rather than just setting it off with the same message as your holiday last year, to avoid confusion over when you will return.)

Experiment!

Summer is a brilliant time to try out all of the innovative ideas you have thought of but haven’t had time for. Perhaps it’s a new marketing method or an initiative to increase productivity. Perhaps you want to try an incentive for returning clients. Whatever it is, now is the time to give it a go!

5 questions to ask yourself when creating content

1157699_typewriter_3Creating content on a regular basis can be difficult, and losing momentum can mean you produce content which isn’t up to scratch. Sometimes, inspiration dries up, or we’re not sure that we can create something people really will want to read.

Your outlet for content must be regularly updated, but more than that, it must constantly provide value and engaging content to keep readers coming back.

Here are some questions which will help keep you on the straight and narrow of content creation, and help you provide content which will keep readers coming back for more.

1) Is this relevant to my clients?

Your content needs to be written with someone in mind, and it’s likely that the person you want to be reading your content is a potential client. Don’t start with what you find interesting, but what they’ll feel compelled to read.

2) Have they read this before?

It’s tempting with so much content surrounding us to recycle material. Sometimes, it can seem impossible to create original content, but even if you are taking inspiration from an existing article, allow your own experience and voice to add originality. Don’t be afraid to develop your own voice and put a piece of yourself into your writing.

1186845_pen-friend3) Will it give them value?

It’s important to give your reader something which will be of benefit to them. While doing this, you get to demonstrate your expertise and begin building a relationship. Think about what they will take away from the content; are you giving advice, or perhaps the benefit of your experience? What do you hope they’ll get out of reading your content?

4) Is there an opportunity to engage?

Content without engagement is like bouncing a tennis ball off a wall. There needs to be an opportunity somewhere within your content to create a dialogue. A typical example is to ask a question at the end of the article, but this also goes for the posts you put out on social media to invite people to read what you’ve written. Ask for the views of individuals who you think might be particularly interested, and try to create a conversation.

5) What do I want them to do at the end?

Some content lends itself well to a call to action. Perhaps you have been giving a case study or listing the benefits of your service or point of view. At this point, it seems natural to ask the reader to get in touch with their view, connect with you on social media or simply give you a call if they think you can help. Or, perhaps you want them to pass it on to their colleagues or others who will find it interesting. Whatever it is, ask it in as clear terms as possible, and remind them why it will benefit them.

The conversations you need to be having

It’s impossible to be in business without being in conversation. One person, alone in a room, talking to nobody simply isn’t a business (or at least, it’s not a business yet!)

There are a number of conversations you need to be having on a regular basis to ensure that your business runs as effectively as possible.

Outside of your business:

The most important conversations you need to be having outside of your business are with customers. Whether these are existing customers or potential customers, you need to be talking.

The essential thing here is to be engaged in conversation. Writing a blog or delivering a monthly newsletter isn’t effective if there is no engagement. Encourage discussion about the topics you’re talking about and be a vocal part of the business community.

Make sure you are having new conversations as well as maintaining old ones; it’s important to both maintain and strengthen relationships, and create new ones where there is potential waiting to be discovered.

Within your business:

Inside your business, it’s important that the stakeholders are talking regularly. No matter the size of your business, all parties have to know what they are aiming for and what success looks like for the business. Having regular monthly meetings to catch up on all targets and strategies is an essential part of this. Even if you are a sole trader, you will most likely have suppliers, and making your needs known to them and feeding back how you find their service adds value to the relationship.

Around your business:

It is always useful to find out about the experiences of others, so talking to people in the same industry as you can be valuable. Perhaps there is a shared interest which you can combine forces on, or a relationship which might be useful in the future. Don’t be too focussed on personal gain, and at the very least, you will have reached out to another person who now knows about your skills and can judge when they might be needed.

A blog about conversations wouldn’t be complete without starting one. Do you need to have these conversations more often? Or are there other discussions you feel are more important? Leave us a comment below or email alexh@businesscopilot.co.uk with your views!

Who Moved My Cheese?

A young employee’s perspective

In the past year, I have experienced more change than perhaps at any other point in my life so far. I graduated from University, moved to a new city, started a new job, moved in with people I didn’t know, moved out again, moved in with old friends and started learning to play piano.

Who Moved My Cheese?

So ‘Who Moved My Cheese?’ by Dr Spencer Johnson really struck a chord with me when I read it last week.

‘Who Moved My Cheese?’ is, put simply, a book about change. It’s about how change affects us, or perhaps more accurately, how we let change affect us. The book’s 4 characters (Hem, Haw, Scurry and Sniff) all react differently to their main source of sustenance and happiness, their cheese, being moved. Some move on without thinking, some refuse to accept it and some come round to the idea of looking for something new. It is a business book which isn’t explicitly about business, but whose lessons are particularly relevant to business, especially in the modern market.

The story mostly follows Hem, who at first is crushed by losing his cheese, but comes to learn that finding new cheese will make him stronger, and that he mustn’t take cheese for granted.

The moral is clear: don’t get comfortable. When you begin to rely on cheese, take it for granted and forget that it isn’t yours, you set yourself up for a fall when it is inevitably removed. I can’t help but feel that this book is much more relevant now in a business sense than it would have been when it was published in 1998. People are very rarely employed in a job for life, and the constantly updating digital landscape means things are continually in flux. Nothing stands still.

So, this book may be simple in its message, but it is all the better for it. Do not let yourself be static while the rest of the world moves along. In the book, the metaphor for change-readiness is keeping your running shoes tied at the laces, hung around your neck. This is an invaluable lesson, and one which I intend to follow. Always be ready to move, whether this means learning new skills, crafting new products to meet customers’ needs, rebranding yourself or your company, or just keeping an eye on what’s going on in your industry.

Just make sure that when the cheese moves, you’re ready to get out there and find it again.

Alex, Communications Officer
alexh@businesscopilot.co.uk

Consultancy is cheap when done early

While browsing the website of a contact we met this week, we saw one quote which really stood out.

“Consultancy is cheap when done early.”

The saying ‘prevention is better than cure’ is one that most are familiar with, and consultancy is often seen as a ‘cure’. We choose to see it differently. Enlisting the help of a coach at the beginning of your business can mean avoiding potential pitfalls later on. The key is not to wait for these pitfalls, but to anticipate and circumnavigate them.

While we might wish that we had the benefit of hindsight before a mistake happens, this is usually impossible. But as experienced business coaches, we can give you the benefit of expertise and past experience, which can prove invaluable when faced with a new venture, idea or problem that you’re not sure how to deal with.

We encourage you to think differently about consultancy. To refer to our flight metaphor, when you are ‘in the hangar’, about to take your first flight, it’s important to do the appropriate checks to ensure that all the components fit for purpose. Having a business coach on board at this stage can ensure that robust foundations are laid (see one example of a business we helped take off).

If you are in flight, but want to gain altitude, consultancy can also help. By assessing all aspects of your business, we can find pinch points and areas which are stopping you from breaking through the clouds. The important thing is that you don’t wait until the engines fail to call in an engineer.

Those kinds of repairs can be extremely costly, but with a little work beforehand, many of them could be avoided. One particularly extreme example of advice not followed was the Challenger disaster. Two of NASA’s engineering consultants from Morton Thiokol had spotted a defect in one of the parts of the shuttle, meaning that launching at a low temperature could cause a catastrophe.

Despite their whistleblowing, they were ignored and NASA chose to launch regardless. The result was catastrophe. Had they taken the advice which was readily available, they could have avoided this disastrous outcome.

We are not suggesting that your business will fall foul of such disaster if you don’t enlist a consultant; but the advice and information is available, and it could be the difference between a good business and a great one.

So, consultancy can be cheap – will you choose to spend less now, or more in the long run?

To book a one-to-one with us to find out how your business can gain altitude, call 0117 317 8147 or email us.

Take the lead in your business

Small business owners often find themselves, seemingly by accident, in the role of leader. Having the responsibility for training, motivating, and getting results from a team can seem like an overwhelming task, but leadership is another aspect of business which, although it may not be your natural strength, must be considered and can definitely be improved upon. Leadership

So, here’s our brief guide to leadership in business. What is it, who does it, and how can you be better at it?

What is leadership?
It’s leading a group of people, and having the responsibility of getting the best out of them. Merriam Webster describes it as “the office or position of a leader; capacity to lead”. The word which will ring alarm bells there is most likely ‘capacity.’

It implies that leaders have an innate, natural ‘capacity’ or aptitude for leadership. While it may be the case that some people possess a better foundation of skills for leadership than others, there are still plenty of ways that you can learn to be the best possible leader you can be.

What makes a great leader?
It is important to recognise that there is no one specific leadership style which is universally accepted as the best or most effective. But there are some leadership traits which have been singled out as being helpful.

One desirable leadership quality is emotional intelligence. Being able to identify with team members through empathy, motivation, self-awareness, self-regulation and social skill are important.

Communication is also key. This article, a very useful one about how previously bad leaders have gone about improving, suggests that effective communication is one of the skills which has the biggest payoff for leadership improvement. It is rarely the case that anybody feels that they or their leaders communicate too much.

teamCan you become a great leader?
Some might believe that leaders are born, not made. Well, that’s simply untrue. There are plenty of articles online offering advice on leadership (see below), and many more leadership training courses which will equip you with the tools and information you need to feel confident as a leader.

How can you learn leadership?
The Growth Accelerator programme not only provides funding towards coaching, but also funding towards leadership and management training. Having formal training sessions dedicated to honing the skill of leadership will help identify what you are already doing right and what needs improvement. Contact us to find out more.

Leadership articles: further reading

Harvard Business Review – How Poor Leaders Became Good Leaders

Business Zone – 4 Common Myths About Leadership 

The Fresh Air Learning Company – Forget the Potholes, Lengthen the Road 

Harvard Business Review – Management is (Still) Not Leadership

When to speak – and when to listen

There are plenty of tales out there of sales pitches which for one reason or another, completely bombed. This one from the Harvard Business Review is one such example.

So, what can we learn from it? A quick summary of the situation: a consultant was referred to a potential client. The referrer gave him plenty of background – he felt prepared. The meeting was unexpectedly reduced to 20 minutes. The potential client complimented the consultant on a recent book, boosting his confidence and encouraging him to cut to the chase. The consultant explained what his approach would be and presented his view of the situation.

At first glance, it might not be clear whether this meeting went well or not. However, the consultant didn’t win the work, and the potential client was not impressed. But why?

Knowing when to speak and when to listen is key.

The consultant felt that he had a good grasp on the situation and could appropriately treat the problem. The potential client was not looking for an approximation of possible treatment, but to be listened to and understood, fully. The pitch was centred around “here’s what I can do for you”, rather than “what do you need?”

“I was listening to gather enough information so I could make a case to Dan that I could solve his problem. In other words, I was listening simply to empower my speaking.”

At Business CoPilot, we live by the mantra “treatment without diagnosis is malpractice”. It’s a saying which, had the consultant known it, might have prevented him from failing in the meeting. His was a botched diagnosis, coloured by what he wanted to gain from the meeting, and how he wanted to be perceived. He made no attempts to listen and react to the potential client, or to see things from his point of view.

“What would I do differently next time? I would sit in the chair I was offered and listen to Dan tell his story. Then I would ask him a number of questions to make sure I could see the situation with his eyes, analyze it from his point of view, and feel his emotions.”

And that is exactly what you get from a 1-to-1 with Business CoPilot.

Contact us now if you would like to start the diagnostic process. Call 0117 317 8147 or email alexh@businesscopilot.co.uk.

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