Archive for January, 2008

Internet selling/ buying: This one is purely for laughs

I don’t know who found this one or who wrote it but it encompasses every trick you’re likely to come across and explains them all. I think it’s hilarious!

Warning: It’s very “in your face”! Check it out when you have a minute and enjoy…

How to start sharing business skills in practice

We’ll take a really simple example:

  • I give solid ways and techniques to a tax advisor (who doesn’t have the greatest communication skills) on how to gently and successfully prospect for business – I help him tailor them and explain how he can use each within his specific industry
  • My partner designs and produces the letterhead and business cards for him and keeps him supplied with them*
  • In return the tax advisor advised us on the best accounts software, oversees our accounts and advises us on financial matters, any alterations and innovations, etc. in general (that we’d never follow or keep up with)

There are four main points about the arrangement within this deliberately small group:

  1. The demands on our free time reciprocal and limited (we all need to run our businesses profitably!)
  2. The principle within this group is, wherever and whenever possible, pass the more practical day-to-day skills on so we each gradually “learn how to fish” the different functions for ourselves
  3. Requirements outside of the agreed give-and-take arrangements are fee-based
  4. There is much greater mutual trust and inter-dependency in this group than you will find between most businesses

I’ve deliberately kept this example simple with logical skills exchanges. Once we’re happy with each other, know and respect each other’s competences, we can extend this group to include someone, for example, with Internet marketing skills and another IT and support services expertise.

Why not try it yourself? You have absolutely nothing to lose and plenty to gain!

Business Growing Pains – An Everyday Horror Story

About 70% of businesses in the UK are described as one-man bands/ sole traders/ individual consultants (depending on their trade or profession ;)).

There’s a particularly scary time for most people who “run a business” and that’s the transition period when they are moving from being the business to doing just that: Running it.

It starts harmlessly enough but often just seems to gain downhill momentum:

Those that take on staff usually do so because they’ve reached the stage where, despite at times working 14-hour days, 6 days a week, they’re at the limit of the amount of work they can handle on their own.

So they bite the first bullet and hire someone to provide more of the core business offering – a hairdresser, driver, plumber, electrician, web designer, engineer, therapist, trainer, etc. That’s normally quite straightforward, after all, that’s the job the business owner knows inside out. S/he knows what to look for, what questions to ask, what answers to expect, qualifications to check and what (if any) practical tests to give.

The owner is now a Boss, albeit a “hands on” one, still very much part of the core business. And, as the company consistently does good work, its reputation gradually grows and more work comes in. As it does so, there’s more money, so more technicians can be taken on plus a part time office manager/ bookkeeper who frees up more of the Boss’s time to do what s/he’s good at.

Then, after a while, business goes a bit quiet: A major customer is taken over and must now use another supplier, a competitor has set up in the area and is undercutting, whatever the reason the company is no longer working to capacity.

It’s okay: There’s plenty of slack so the Boss hires a salesman or a marketing outfit (or both). S/he realises s/he can’t expect instant results and is prepared to give it three to six months to start showing return on the considerable investment.

Only it doesn’t.

And, what’s more, some of the existing customers are querying invoices and paying slowly. This has never happened before!

Why are things suddenly going pear shaped?

Michael E Gerber’s book, The E-Myth Revisited – Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work And What To Do! – goes into this syndrome in depth.

But in brief, in our scenario:

Our Boss hasn’t ensured excellence within the individuals hired to take responsibility for three key support areas:

  • Management
  • Finance
  • Sales

S/he hasn’t retained control – not kept an eye on customer service or satisfaction, the invoicing, or asked for a breakdown of the salesman’s activities – for months. S/he just let the two individuals get on with their jobs and assumed everything that should be done was being done in the best interests of the company. And now:

  • The salesman has cost £10,000 with nothing to show for it to date
  • The office manager/ bookkeeper, whilst on the face of it costing a lot less, has done untold damage to customer happiness and cash flow

Our Boss hasn’t actually been running the business so much as playing technician and doing the fun bits. S/he now has a big headache:

How to get rid of these two without more money going down the drain and get the business back on track?

And the really, really scary bit is: This Horror Story is more common than you would think.

But all is not doom and gloom! We’re going to move on next to look at ways that can help avoid these kinds of growing pains.

Let’s make 2008 great for all of us!

Happy New Year

Those of you who have been with us for a while will (hopefully) have realised that we’re specialists in sales and marketing communications training for b2b companies.

That’s because we’ve learned just how much

  • Asking the right questions
  • Of the right people
  • In the right companies
  • At the right time and
  • Listening to and acting on the answers

all combine to play a big part in the success of any business.

Not exactly an Einstein breakthrough.

The points above are all pretty straightforward and you’d think that they’d be addressed within a much broader business basis where common sense would figure strongly, too. Yet, for some strange reason that nobody’s come up with a credible theory for, and I’ve certainly not so far fathomed, common sense sometimes goes right out the window just when it could do most good.

So we’re going to start off this year with a bit of navel gazing and a series of questions, ideas and suggestions to check out ways we can use our some common sense to move our businesses forward if we just stopped to think for a moment. Then we could prioritise our time, energy and efforts to produce best results in our businesses.

Sound like a good idea? To start us off we’ll have:

Decide what skills are essential to the success of your business

Whatever the core nature of your business let’s take it as read that you strive to provide the best products, services or solutions you can. And you’re bound to have additional support skills you’ve picked up along the way to help you.

Yet, no matter how capable at multi-tasking you are, you’re unlikely to possess all of the skills or have the time needed to run your business smoothly and successfully on all fronts without some additional help. And, in the early days of a business especially, there often isn’t much spare money around to pay for it.

But let’s not think about the money side for now. Just to get the little grey cells working after the festive break, why don’t you list the skill sets you believe to be essential to the success of your business.

Then across the top have 3 columns: “Excellent”, “Competent-ish” or “Useless” and put your tick under each to indicate your assessment of your ability in each as a really rough and ready start point.

That should begin identifying your prime focus areas, the ones that are causing you heartache and that need to be addressed and propped up. You’re not taking part in a test – this is purely to help you focus your time, attention and energies. Throw everything you can think of into the mix.

I’ll put together a list of the areas where existing skill sets (or lack) have proven to have a strong impact on the health of any business in our next blog. Some may make you think about things in a slightly different perspective – Let’s wait and see!

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