5 must have professional skills

Ian Mash of Yeoman Consulting helps us to continue the theme of ‘practical ways to help your business life” by sharing some of his experiences of working at the coalface as a senior manager in one of the UK’s largest companies – BT.

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I’ve had time recently to contemplate things I’ve observed which really don’t do business people justice on a day to day basis. Having the right professional skills is such a simple concept – we only have limited interaction with most people and certainly in new situations people tend to make up their mind in the first 10 seconds. Once that has happened it takes a while to change that view.

1) Returning calls

Many of us have answering messages on the phone or mobile which say that we’ll call back. Or indeed, when it’s not convenient at that exact point to talk we say “I’ll call you back at 4.o0, is that ok?”, and then don’t.  We’re all busy people and respecting other peoples time will result in them respecting yours. If you make a commitment, put it in your calendar and deliver on it.

Mark McCormack in his book  ‘What they don’t teach you at Harvard Business School’ said that he didn’t trust managers who couldn’t take their holiday. In his view, if they couldn’t manage to take their holiday, what else couldn’t they manage to do? I think calling back comes into the same category. If you don’t deliver on that commitment, what else won’t you deliver on?

2) Control your emotion

One of the key professional skills in a close knit office environment is controlling your emotions. When I first stated work an old and wise manager who was my boss sat opposite me. One day I had a run in with a peer and wrote a great letter saying what I really thought of him. I felt a lot better. I showed it to my boss and he said “What a great letter, he’ll really know what you think of him after that!” He also said “I tell you what, put the letter in your drawer and then when you come in tomorrow, if you still feel the same way, send it”.

Naturally when I came in the next day I looked at what I had written, put myself in the other person’s shoes for a moment, then ripped it up and threw it away.  The same applies for e-mails, but it’s tragically easy to press send too quickly. Take my old manager’s advice, save it as a draft until tomorrow, it might save you a lot of humble pie eating.

3) Take pride

I see many, many e-mails these days where basic spelling and grammar have been ignored. It’s to the detriment of the writer I’m afraid, and I bet you notice it when it’s done to you. Whether its lack of knowledge or lack of effort I’m not sure, but the time pressure on us and the proximity of the send button doesn’t help. Use spell check and if you’re not too hot on grammar, then look at Lynne Truss’s book “Eats shoots and leaves” which is great. I’m not suggesting at all that I am perfect and I’m confident that there are plenty of errors in this piece, but it’s something to think about.

4) Bother to follow up

I guess this is very closely linked to my thoughts above. I’m constantly frustrated by people promising in a meeting to send me something or to complete an action and then seeing that promise unfulfilled. Is it me or are people starting to get slightly surprised when people actually do what they say they are going to? This certainly applies in the faceless call centre. I’ve had a couple of experiences recently where an email has been sent to me as promised from a call centre and there was a small part of me which was shocked.

Clearly this isn’t a great reflection on society – but don’t fall into that trap! A tip for you – bother to write down the action, however trivial in your to do list and then actually do it as soon as you are able. You will delight people.

5)  Be helpful

There’s a school of thought which suggests if you constantly go out of your way to help others, then you will be set for life. In the time I’ve had to observe some of these business people traits – I don’t see this helpful behaviour happening too often.

I’m a big believer in what goes around comes around. Go and make an effort to help a colleague today – and I mean really help – spend a couple of hours doing something for them that they aren’t able to do. It will make you feel good if nothing else and over time, it will pay back.

Ian Mash will be back with more pearls of wisdom in the next couple of weeks and can be contacted on +44 7860 621976 and via email at ian dot mash1 at btinternet.com

Create an org chart for a one person startup. Are you serious?

The Being Smarter team has a lot on its plate at the moment and we would all love to read more, but fail dismally. There’s one book however that the whole team has read – it’s almost like our induction course and it’s called the E-Myth. If you are starting or running a small business – it’s a must read.

Today, I wanted to pull one of the key concepts from that book and show how it really can work. It features as #26 in the popular 51 lessons learnt in year 1 as an entrepreneur post.

The book addresses the age old problem of going from startup to 50 person company. How do you as an entrepreneur keep the ethos and style of the business alive whilst expanding? How do you as an entrepreneur let go of responsibility and trust others? How do you as an entrepreneur ensure that letting go does not affect quality of the final output?

Michael E Gerber is a bit of a genius. He’s been there and bought the t-shirt. One of the many excellent tips I’ve taken from this book, which has stayed with me is to create an org chart from the outset. That’s exactly what I’ve done as the founder of Being Smarter Ltd which now has two other businesses under it’s umbrella – The 8.45 Club and TargetstoProspects. I have a very clear idea of how the organisation needs to look and with a £0.5m worth of investment I could fill every position tomorrow and move the company on at great speed, but…

Clearly that’s not a practical solution – and so the second part of his advice is to put YOURSELF into every position in that org chart. Write the manual for every job – document everything – and become expert in every position. Pin it on your wall and stare at it every day.

Your key to success then is slowly back filling those positions using smart recruitment techniques once the cash starts to flow and you can afford to employ people.

At the moment, I’ve got three people on my org chart and about 15 positions with my name on it. That would explain why I don’t sleep a lot – but at least I can see a way forward. Can you?

Smart email marketing – NOT!

We all get frustrated by poorly written emails and poorly executed email marketing. I felt compelled to write about a company which sadly just isn’t joined up. My hope is that they do read this and maybe sort out the left hand and right hand.

Sovereign holidays are a good company. They are part of the TUI Group. They offer luxury holidays, have good customer service staff, who actually answer your tricky hotel questions by email – they actually don’t go into the standard corporate blackhole mailbox. I have no complaints about that side of the business.

Their marketing department however is a different story. They should know they’ve lost a subscriber, due to blanket email blasting like so many other companies.

We booked a holiday on 2nd August and head off later in October. Why then would I receive emails as follows:

  • 21st August – Offer of exception value to Turkey

I’ve just booked a holiday with you – would I really be considering another already?

  • 28th August – Great sale weekend and exclusive offers

Once again – I’m really not in the buying mood – I’m looking forward to my holiday in October with you.

  • 4th September – Luxury All-inclusive etc

Ahem – now I’m getting annoyed – I’ve just parted with a substantial sum of money to travel with you – I don’t want to spend any more money at the moment and you’re annoying me now.

  • 11th September – Enjoy October for less

Err – I’m already going away in October – for goodness sake, how on earth would I take two holidays in October? Do you not know what my schedule is like? You’re now selling double glazing to house which has just had triple glazing installed.

(I’m skipping a couple)

  • 1st October – Book now and save over £2,000!

I’m going away in three weeks’ time with you. UNSUBSCRIBE.

Smart advice

Sovereign holidays – add two fields in your email marketing database which says date of booking and date of travel. Be smart about when people are sent emails. Set a flag to email someone two weeks on their return with relevant, compelling offers.

  • 13th November – Thanks for travelling with Sovereign – special offer inside to loyal customers

It’s not hard.

To get even more sophisticated, personalised emails which are timely and relevant work. 100% click through is possible.

When did you last go the extra mile?

This is just a short post – but hopefully a thought provoking one, based on an experience of mine today.

I had a really great lunch today with a colleague/friend who I have huge amounts in common with. She sorted out the venue – and I’m pleased to announce it here – The Golden Pot, in Hampshire, UK.

It’s a lovely, traditional English Pub, as you’ll see from the photos. My friend goes there a lot – and I could see why.

The owner, who served us went out of his way to help us have an enjoyable meal. He actually asked a question I’ve never heard before in a restaurant when he was seating us – “What time do you need to be away?”.  He knew it was a business lunch – we must have looked busy, and so he wanted to ensure his timings fitted around us. He could hurry things along, or keep things relaxed, depending on the timescales we gave him. Brilliant.

He was a smart guy and I bet he also knew he could maximise the revenue earned from us if he got dessert and coffee served in time. If he delayed – we’d spend less – but I also bet that wasn’t why he was doing it.

Whilst ordering, I mentioned I had to catch a train to London from a small station nearby. I didn’t know the area and he told me I should allow 30 minutes. When we got up to leave (on time) – he was there WITH A MAP – so that he could best direct me to the station.

No one does this stuff… no one. And it’s so simple.

There – go ponder. When did you last go the extra mile?