17 things I’ve learnt between Christmas and Easter 2013

Since 7th January 2013 when I started back at work after Christmas, a LOT has happened. Not all of it good, but mostly. I’ve learnt, rediscovered and been reminded of a lot of things. 79 days is a very long time in business these days – at a guess I’d reckon it’s the equivalent of about 300 days in 1995. The pace of life and business is relentless and it’s not slowing any time soon.

I run two businesses – a video production business and a customer satisfaction application as well as blogging for fun here. The old adage of focusing on one thing has passed me by. Instead, I’ve actively chosen ‘variation’, which means I jump out of bed in the morning – for me the ultimate test of happiness. One day I’m driving clients around Milan, coming face to face with trams. Other days I’m working with programmers to add new functionality to Customer Thermometer. Other days I’m actively managing the cashflow.

I have two children, a house which needs constant attention and an amazing group of friends with an active social life. Life is not dull. I rarely spend time collapsed in a heap watching TV in the evening – there’s always something to do.

As a result of this madness, I’m exposed to a lot of situations and I find myself constantly learning, which I love. This post is pure self-indulgence. It’s a reminder to me of what’s happened in this last quarter and I’m going to tweak what I’m doing based on what I now know.

I hope you pick out a couple of things from it and I hope you disagree with some too.

1)    People buy from people, not ‘salespeople’.

2)    Having read WOMBAT selling (free download here), it was great to able to ratify that people cannot be sold to, nor ‘closed’. Prospects will move at their pace. All you can do is to help them to buy.

3)    One bad day or week doesn’t mean you don’t have a business and you should be throwing in the towel.

4)    I am constantly reminded of the effects of implementing Newton’s 3rd Law. If you take action, stuff happens. The great thing about life in business is that you don’t always know what the ‘stuff’ will turn out to be. If you sit around waiting for ‘stuff’ to happen, it won’t.

5)    It’s amazing to hear someone telling you how your web application has changed their business. Makes the late nights all worthwhile.

6)    Victory boards are cool… write down a list of week’s achievements at the end of the week, and consider what you’re going to be adding to it during the week. They give you focus.

7)    If you don’t have a plan, you’ve no idea where you are heading.

8)    Plans can be changed.

9)    If you’re in a services business, go beyond the call of duty for your clients. It pays off. ‘Over deliver and under promise’ is a cliché, but it’s one of the best ones out there.

10)   Writing a book is hard and I’m currently failing at it, because it’s not a priority. I’ll be back though.

11)   Patience can be a virtue, but know when to give up and know when someone is wasting your time, or is never going to deliver – stop kidding yourself.

12)   Celebrate success. Curry and Champagne on a Wednesday night is totally acceptable.

13)   ‘Networking’ isn’t something you do once a month with a warm glass of white wine in a room full of strangers. The ability to connect, communicate and introduce people I’m starting to think is a naturally occurring phenomenon. I’m not convinced it can be taught, but I’m sure some would disagree. Whatever your take, it’s an essential part of business and I strive to get better at it, daily.

14)   Never, ever, ever, ever, ever ignore a gut feeling. Act on it, or you’ll regret it.

15)   Trust your instincts.

16)   Always be testing.

17)   Be honest and say ‘no’ when the deal isn’t right. You’ll be thanked for your honesty and you’ll be remembered when the time is right.

The inspirational pinboard #8 – Walt Disney

“The way to get started is to quit talking, and get doing.”

An inspirational Walt Disney quote.

It’s so easy to talk about ‘doing’ stuff. We all do it.

Ideas are easy, talk is cheap. Execution, discipline and focus is what sets out the men from the boys.

There is a balance – ‘talk’ is important, with peers, mentors and employees – hiding behind email is a terrible trait… however there comes a point where getting on with it has to be the focus.

What will you stop procrastinating on today?

Click here to download the A4 pinboard poster.

Original photograph and words by Mark Copeman

It’s OK to stay small

Last week, I arranged a few drinks with some friends. In a brewery. Yes, we went to the absolute source of the beer and tasted it, whilst new batches were being fermented all around us. Of course, it was a great night – we learnt a huge amount about how to make beer, agreed and disagreed on the various tastes and all in all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, as you might expect.

What I hadn’t banked on however, was a lesson in business alongside the fun and frolics.

The Windsor and Eton brewery was set up 3 years ago. It’s one of over 1,000 microbreweries here in the UK now – and so it’s a competitive business. It was set up by 4 partners, and interestingly, one of them, Bob Morrison, is a marketing expert. It’s interesting – because, whilst of course you need to be able to brew great tasting beer, with competition all around, it’s how you differentiate, which gets you noticed and is one of the reasons they chose Windsor as its base – and leveraged its already amazing brand.

The Windsor and Eton brewery's beersThey set up their brewery from scratch in 7 weeks, without borrowings and their ambition is simple:

“to make Windsor famous again as a brewer of some of the finest and most talked about beers in the country.”

Note they use the word ‘ambition’ and there is no mention of growth by 10% year on year within that phrase.

I spent a while talking with Bob and became fascinated.

They’ve grown tremendously in the last 3 years – have doubled their brewing capacity and are bursting the seams of their backstreet warehouse, nestled amongst the terraced houses of Windsor. When we talked about their plans for the coming years, it was simple –

“we want to stay small”.

How refreshing.

How great to hear that a thriving business has an ambition to stay small, to keep niche, to retain quality, to excel at customer service, to not borrow and to stay true to their core values.

The conversation continued.

Staying small doesn’t mean you can’t grow of course. You can still grow (because, if you don’t grow, you die) – but in different ways, to keep their own personal interests high and to challenge them individually. In my world – it’s adding new features. In their world, they’d like to bottle their own beer and they’d like to move to kegs as well as barrels (oh yes – I know all the lingo now).

I related to this concept and it gave me great confidence. My video production business is going really well. I have a great team of people around me – but I made a conscious decision last year that I don’t want to walk into an office full of people (again) and feel the pressure of paying multiple salaries and mortgages. I want to stay small, but develop an amazing trusted virtual team who experience other projects, outside of my business, to keep them fully rounded and the pressure off all of us.

I want to say thanks to The Windsor and Eton brewery guys who have helped me to ratify my vision.

It really is OK to stay small, but please, be perfectly formed.

If you’re in the area – book on a tour will you?!

How I earned £300 cashback in 6 months (without trying)

[For UK readers only.]

I buy a lot of ‘stuff’ online, mainly because it’s a) cheaper and b) saves me time and c) why leave the house when I don’t have to?! I have huge sympathy for the UK High St, however, as I’m often told, business is business.

About a year ago I was told about the TopCashback site by a friend of mine. He runs his own IT business, buys IT equipment on behalf of his clients regularly, and had made thousands just by buying the ‘stuff’ via a cashback site.

Before you take a look – let me describe it.

1) You need to buy something online and either already know which website to buy from OR you’d like some help in finding somewhere.

2) You visit the TopCashback site.

3) Type in the name of the retailer or item you’re looking for. (Examples include Apple, Insurance, ISAs, Sky, Vodafone, Ebuyer, Dell, PC World…) It’s brilliant when you’re looking to change car / house insurance for example.

TopCashback search

4) It’ll list the retailer (they have 100’s) and make some recommendations too.

5) Next to each one, they’ll then list the amount of cashback you’ll receive if you click their link. PC World is currently at 7%, Vodafone currently offering £151 cashback on a 12 month contract. Legal and General – £60 cashback on home insurance.

TopCashback - Apple cashback

6) You’ll then be taken to that retailer to search and buy what you’re after

7) Days, weeks or sometimes months later – you will receive that %age back in cold, hard cash or topped up Amazon vouchers.

Hotels.com cashback

There are no catches, it truly is that simple and frankly, if you don’t use it when you buy online, you are losing money.

How does it work?

When things sound too good to be true, they often are – so let me explain their business model.

I’m sure you’re aware of the concept of affiliate marketing. If you click on a banner or link which eventually leads you to make a purchase from that advertiser, the person hosting that banner or link gets a %age payment. This cashback site is an affiliate and has affiliate relationships with 100’s of retailers. Here’s the clever bit. Rather than collecting the affiliate revenue themselves, they pass it back to the ‘clicker’ – ie you. They make their money through the advertising on their site. They are currently Alexa ranked 9,166 and so get thousands of visitors/day – making their business model viable.

So – it’s a no brainer isn’t it?

Go take a look. It has genuinely made me £300 in Amazon vouchers in the last few months – simply by remembering to click their bookmark first AND it’s also given me some great retailers I wouldn’t have visited without their help.

It’s good to be transparent – and so if you do visit the site, sign up and make your first purchase through them – I will be ‘thanked’ by them and £10 will be added to my account. It’s called viral marketing – and you could do the same with your friends.

Hopefully if you like what I’ve been up to on this site over the last few years – you’ll be happy to see me earning 3.21 tall,skinny, decaf mochaccinos.


Philippe Dubost interview – how to get 1 million web visits in 8 days

Chances are you’ve possibly heard of Philippe Dubost. A couple of weeks ago, he was taking the Internet by storm, pretty much from nowhere.

Philippe was looking for a job, was sick of having to fire off his CV and be another ‘number’ on someone’s desk, and so he decided to go about things differently… got a little creative… thought outside the box.

And boy, has it paid off.

I’m personally fascinated by the concept of things going viral. A colleague of mine, David Meerman Scott, got me hooked on the concept a few years ago, thanks to his (now free) book, World Wide Rave – well worth a read.

When I heard about Philippe’s achievements, I got in touch and asked him for an interview and he was all too happy to give me some time.

I asked Philippe about his situation late last year,  what drove him to coming up with this idea, the sequence of events on how it went viral, about some of the incredible metrics over the course of the mad couple of weeks… and, of course, the question on everyone’s mind – has he got himself a new role yet?

Click here to see his online CV which has turned him into an overnight star. It’s simplicity personified – which for me, is why it has worked so well for him.

Get the full Philippe Dubost interview in the video below. He was a delight to talk to and gives some great insight.

When you’ve seen it – why not take a moment to figure out how you might think a little differently to get noticed by your next client?