One of the best questions to ask your clients

I love working with smart people. It’s inspiring.

I’m working with someone at the moment who gets selling. He gets how to get inside buyers’ heads and he gets the concept of talking a buyer’s language and really – I mean – really figuring out what they are looking for in a service.

Adrian Evans is an author, headhunter and career coach and we’re in the middle of building something rather awesome for one of his clients. I know it’s awesome, because it’s going to be solving their problems and is really giving them something which they don’t have today which will move them forwards as a business.

How do I know all of this? Because he has asked just the right question before we even started.

“How will you judge this?”

So simple, yet genius.

He has got his client to lay out to him their success criteria, how they will feel when it’s right, how their senior management will react to something and what they’re expecting from a deliverable in one simple question.

I love it and I will be using it myself in the days and weeks to come.

The screenshot by the way is taken from the ‘thing’ we’re developing (logo blurred). That studio isn’t real by the way – it’s all done using the magic of greenscreen. You’ll find out more here.

If you don’t ask, you don’t get – part 2

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post called if you don’t ask, you don’t get. It contained a bunch of different examples of some surprising cases of people asking, and much to their surprise, getting what they asked for.

I thought it was time to start practicing what I was preaching.

My principle business, 8:45TV is a video production business. Once in a while, I have to get stuck in to an edit, despite having fabulous and far more talented people around me. It was time for an upgrade a couple of weeks ago. I’d had Adobe’s Premiere 5.5 for a couple of years and wanted to treat myself to the upgrade to v6. It seemed to be worth the money.

So – having done my research, I bought the upgrade from the Adobe website.

I own Adobe Premiere Pro 5.5 – therefore an upgrade here in the UK to v6 costs £112.00

Having downloaded the product, I’m prompted to enter the previous serial number, which I do, however it refuses to let me activate the software.

I get on the chat helpdesk, which is pretty good, and after I described the situation, I realised I own the Adobe Production Suite 5.5 (which contains Premiere Pro and is rather an expensive piece of software) however, there is no allowable upgrade path for just one of the products within it.

Really?

Is this licensing gone mad?

Here I am, giving Adobe £112 for a piece of software (incremental revenue with no costs to them) and yet due to a technicality, they won’t license it. The operator said I’d be entitled to a refund and explained how I should go about it.

I was cross.

And so fell back on the “If you don’t ask, you don’t get post“, and decided to test out not only that concept, but Adobe’s responsiveness to customer service – as let’s be honest, most corporates fail dismally.

Adobe does not.

I Tweeted the following…

Within 48 minutes, a very nice lady named Beverley had been in touch. She asked me for the order details and followed up with an email.

Within 15 hours, Adobe had bent their own rules for me. They’d seen sense, and someone somewhere had been empowered to make a customer happy, and importantly, both sides won.

I’m writing this post to firstly thank the nice Adobe people (who do get a bad press around licensing) and to show the proof of my own hypothesis – around the whole asking and getting thing.

The moral of the story is… Don’t get mad – try asking the right question, and you just never know…

Go on – give it a go.

The inspirational pinboard #7 – Winston Churchill

“Success isn’t final, failure isn’t fatal; It is the courage to continue that counts.”

An inspirational Winston Churchill quote.

Have a plan. Have a vision. Have a purpose.

Know where you’re heading and then focus relentlessly on those goals whilst helping others achieve theirs.

Only then, will you more easily be able to face the knockdowns and the hurdles that you will encounter along the way. That ‘courage to continue’ he talks about will then flow naturally through you.

I dare you to give it a go.

Click here to download the A4 pinboard poster.

Original photograph and words by Mark Copeman

Do one thing, and do it well

Last Wednesday night was pretty special. My wife and I headed up to London, on a school night, children kindly looked after, to attend a rather emotional awards ceremony.

After the ceremony, to say we needed food would be an understatement and we were fortunate enough to stumble across a very nice looking restaurant, just round from Farringdon station in Central London. It’s called Byron Hamburgers.

Until that point, we’d never heard of it, yet it turns out to be a rather successful chain of restaurants, and from what I can see is only available in rather well to do (Kings Road, Oxford, Putney) places. And why not – I think it’s to do with knowing your market.

I absolutely loved this place. It looked stunning, the staff were great and the food was excellent. It also turned out to be their very first night of opening – 2 nights before their official opening night on the Friday. We lucked out in a big way – we were presented the bill and the food was free. That was a surprise – and I’d hereby love to thank the Byron team for that unexpected and rather wonderful surprise, but that’s not the reason I’m writing this post.

photo(1)

The reason I’m writing it is because of the final reason I loved the place.

The marketing.

Like all the best things in life – it was simple and straightforward:

“Do one thing and do it well.”

Possibly my single biggest challenge in life.

If they had said, “Put your eggs in multiple baskets and spread yourself so thin it hurts”, I wouldn’t have written this post, instead I would have smiled and barely noticed it – because it would have been a little too close to the truth for comfort.

Instead, it resonated somewhat.

Byron Hamburgers have grown from zero to 29 restaurants in 5 years.

How have they done it? By focusing on one thing, and doing it well.

I’m going to start taking a leaf out of their book. It won’t be easy – but I have a plan.

Do you?

PS Their video is rather awesome too – check it out below.

Byron_film from Byron Hamburgers on Vimeo.

Do the right thing

It’s been a strange week for me. So many different things have happened which I won’t bore you with.

At 8pm on Monday I got a phonecall which changed my week somewhat. One of my biggest clients of our video production business, 2e2, was going into administration the next day. It was likely 100s of people would lose their jobs and my business had some exposure.

As it turned out the following morning, 319 people were asked to leave immediately and wouldn’t be paid for their January employment. Shocking mismanagement in my book.

This is a multimillion pound business, which had grown exponentially over the previous years through acquisition.

Last night I was invited to the Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research annual awards ceremony because of our recent fund raising activities, where I stood with my wife, tears rolling down cheeks as we listened in awe to stories of triumph over adversity… of people giving back… being selfless and doing amazing things.

My point today is a simple one.

There are plenty of people in business out to make a quick buck, who would sell their own grandmother and trample over anything and anyone to make a few quid.

Don’t be one of them.

Have some morals. Treat people right… treat people fairly… look after those who have helped you… give something back.

After all, it’s not a rehearsal.

 

10 apps and websites to increase productivity in 2013

I’ve learnt over the last few years to get more than most people out of their day, and no, not just by working 15 hour days – by being organised, by using the right technology and by being disciplined in my use of it.

Software is just software at the end of the day. The key to success is about how you use each piece available to you and how you weave it into your workflow to best effect. Tinkering with a new tool and not properly adopting it, is just a distraction. Trialing a new tool and then figuring out how it can help you in the long run, is smart.

Some of my personal recommendations and thoughts on how to increase productivity in 2013 are listed below. Feel free to add your suggestions in the comments.

1.) www.xobni.com

Xobni

Inbox spelt backwards and is the greatest plugin ever made for Outlook which will save you hours… honestly. There is a free version I’ve been using for the last 2 years – and an upgrade path for enhanced functionality. You won’t regret downloading it.

2.) www.horsesmouth.co.uk

Horses MouthNo one can work in complete isolation – yes even you, the lone consultant or coach – you need a team around you – a mentor, peers, industry groups and people to bounce ideas off. Get mentoring advice from people who’ve been there and bought the t-shirt.

3.) www.firefox.com

Firefox

Hands up if you still use Internet Explorer? Shame on you. Get hold of Mozilla’s Firefox. And take advantage of the amazing ‘Awesome Bar’… find URL’s you’d completely forgotten about and take advantage of add ins to enhance your workflow, such as managing Amazon S3 files or snipping images.

4.) Catch.com

Catch

Share to do lists with your colleagues and family – because productivity doesn’t stop at work. My wife and I use this. She sends me jobs, I add to shopping lists. And no, it’s not always that sterotypical in our family – I can assure you!

5.) www.stress.org.uk

Stress

You can’t work to your full potential when you’re stressed. Whilst the number of days lost through stress (in the UK at least) have fallen in the last decade, you are an individual and you need to recognise when to get professional help.

6.) www.walkjogrun.net

WalkJogRun

A fit body, leads to a fit mind – you probably know that already – but are you doing something about it? Are you exercising regularly? Are you challenging your self? This is a great Google Maps style resource for planning training routes around the office. Schedule in time to run – because what’s more important to productivity than your health?

7.) www.icloud.com

iCloud

Synchronising files, calendars, contacts etc isn’t always the most straightforward things to do initially, however once you’re set, have learned to get round the various hurdles, you’ll never look back. There’s nothing more satisfying than accessing files and data from wherever you are, with any device.

8.) www.rememberthemilk.com

RTM

Remember The Milk has become one of the industry standards for to do lists. It was pretty much the original online application and has developed over the last 9 years into a free App
too. If you like ‘electronic’ to do lists – this is the one to try.

9.) www.evernote.com

Evernote

If ever there was an app or website I couldn’t personally do without, it’s this one. I’d be surprised if you’d not heard of it – but are you using it as part of your workflow and are you getting the most from it? Evernote pretty much runs my business and personal life – it stops me from becoming distracted, provides an ongoing flow of ideas and inspiration when I need it and

10.) www.bubbletimer.com

Bubble Timer2013-01-29_09h55_38

You need to be brave to use this app… use it to track how you spend your time in front of your computer… what are you really doing? I tried this last year and the results can be quite scary if you’re not careful. It helps you to focus on what’s actually really important and get more done.

11) www.screenpresso.com

Screenpresso

A bonus website / application for you. How often do you need to grab a screenshot? If you’re anything like me – then the answer is, a LOT. I’ve tried a dozen screenshot tools over the last couple of years. This is the one I’ve settled on. It can screenshot to a network drive, can annotate quickly and can share in a heartbeat. It works and it works fast. Just what I need.

Image courtesy of Desktopped

7 things to do when you can’t concentrate

No one can work to their full potential all the time.

Depending on what’s happening in your business or personal life, you will perform at different levels. Sometimes you’ll be working away, but just can’t concentrate – and you’re just not getting anything done, or not doing it well enough. It might just be time to do something different and face the fact you’re not working to your full potential.

The list below reflects my personal experiences. Number 7 is very dear to my heart.

1) Tackle a different task

Chances are if you’re floundering at one type of task – perhaps writing a proposal, then if you move onto what I’d call ‘light duties’ and tackle simpler to do items on the list, you might well find yourself gathering momentum again. It’s OK to have to be ‘in the mood’ for writing… If you’re not – there’s little point in continuing.

2) Walk around

Anywhere will do. Walk around your office or get outside – take time to walk around the block or jump in the car and treat yourself to a Skinnylattecappucinofrappe at your overpriced cafe round the corner – a change of environment is a good thing. Try looking for something positive you have never seen. Let your mind wander. Life is going on in the world around you. You just need to notice it.

3) Set an alarm

Work on just one thing for a period of time. Maybe it’s just 5, 10 or 20 minutes. Maybe it’s two minutes. But at the end of the time, you will notice what’s it’s like to experience real focus. And if you complete the task, you’ll feel good about yourself. I do this when ‘supervising’ my son doing his homework. Set the iPhone timer and let him here it ringing…

4) Open a business book

Flick open a dusty one from your shelves to a random page and read for five minutes. Let your mind apply whatever you’re reading to whatever you are working on. Randomness is a great thing and inspiration comes in many ways.

5) Plan something fun

Sometimes, just knowing you’ve got something to look forward to in a week or a month can be a real driver. Pick up the phone, make a reservation for dinner at somewhere you can’t afford. Then look at your day differently – you need to sell, you need to deliver, you need to achieve.

6) Figure out if you’re being distracted

Look at your office environment. Is this lack of concentration happening a lot? Maybe it’s time to revisit how you work. Are you working form one 12″ laptop screen with no mouse? because that’s not condusive to being productive! Is your office cluttered? Do you have alerts coming in from all angles and children running around you? All bad.

I’ve talked about my ideal consultant office setup here.

7) Revisit the plan

Sometimes when you can’t concentrate on a task there’s an underlying lack of motivation lurking behind the scenes. Close down what you’re doing and get the plan out. The 2 year plan – the one which ties your business to your personal dreams and take a look at it. Does it need revising? Is what you’re struggling to work on fitting in with it, or does the plan need to change.

If you find the plan is still good, then maybe the task you’re stuggling with isn’t helping with your goals?

What? You don’t have a plan? We need to talk…

Image courtesy of massdistraction

The inspirational pinboard #6 – Jeff Bezos

“What’s not going to change over the next 10 years?”

A simple but ‘makes you think’ Jeff Bezos quote.

When you’re setting out in business as a consultant or coach – ask this question. Has what you’re about to embark on got longevity? Sure it’s likely to change – but are the fundamentals here to stay?

People will still be drinking beer in 10 years, but their tastes might change. People will still need help selling their products, but the audiences and techniques will change. Will people still need to be trained on a specific piece of software though?

Invest in opportunities that’ll pay off over a long time. Rarely is the ‘quick buck’ the right answer.

Click here to download the A4 pinboard poster.

Original photograph and words by Mark Copeman

How to create product screenshots without Photoshop

The product screenshot you see in this post has been generated without Photoshop or any other form of image manipulation software. It was also produced in approximately 15 seconds!

In the video below, I show you how to do it, including how to take a screenshot from your iPhone or iPad, if you’ve always wondered how.

I honestly believe it’s one of the coolest shortcut techniques I’ve ever discovered.