Approaching 40 part 1: The day my life changed forever

I’ve been wanting to write this story for a long time. I turn 40 in 6 days’ time and it seemed like the right time to do it. If you’re having a bad day, I hope it raises your spirits. If you’re having a bad time generally, I hope it helps you to put things into perspective. If you’re having a good time, I hope it helps you be thankful for what you have. 

The story is a three parter. There’s a lot to say.

13th February 1997

My girlfriend (now wife) and I packed our bags, left our jobs, jumped on a plane and moved in together, 11,500 miles away from everything we owned and knew. Living in Sydney, Australia had been a dream for ages and we’d spent over a year making the dream come alive. I’d even flown out there the year before, looking for a job. The plan had worked. We were over the moon.

I had a medical through my sponsoring company – BT (British Telecom) a couple of days before we left the country. The HR dept weren’t overly organised, which in a funny way worked to my advantage. If they had have been, we would never have even left the country.

We landed and set up base in a hotel until we found our feet. A couple of days into the trip I received a fax (remember them?) asking me to call the doctor who’d carried out my medical. I called and he told me, “it’s probably a mistake, but your blood counts are a bit low, you should probably get them checked out…”

I put the phone down and did exactly what any perfectly healthy 27 year old who’d just landed in Sydney would do.

Ignore him completely.

There was no urgency attached to the conversation and I felt I had more important things to worry about at the time.

Fast forward to July 1997

I woke up one morning with a pain in my buttock. No sniggering… I was struggling to walk which was pretty odd, not to mention uncomfortable. This then forced me to register with a local doctor (I had to remind myself what the inside of a surgery looked like) and asked her to take a look. After much prodding from not one, but two doctors, I was about to be sent away with some anti-inflammatory pills. Before I left though, the wise doctor suggested she took some blood from me, just to be on the safe side. I then remembered the BT doctor’s phone call.

A couple of days later the pain had gone, but I went back to the surgery anyway as she’d asked me to report back that all was well.

I walked in smiling and she told me to sit down.

It turns out all wasn’t well.

It was around midday and anyone who had an appointment after me was going to be kept waiting for a while.

In the space of 30 seconds, my life turned on a sixpence.

It turns out the pain in the buttock was an infection. The reason it was unusual was because my blood should have been capable of fighting such things with ease. It seems my BT doctor should have made a little more of a fuss about the blood test I had back in February.

She proceeded to say sentences with words in that no one wants to hear in a doctor’s surgery which involved  “10% of normal levels”…. “blood transfusion”… “haematologist and “leukaemia”….

My girlfriend was called from work.

I had tunnel vision and my life flashed before me. The invincible, 27 year old, healthy, fit, Asia-Pac travelling, young man, was no longer invincible.

Considering it was 13 years ago, I remember the next few weeks vividly.

I was with a specialist haematologist within about 2 hours.

He and I sat stony faced across his desk and after some initial introductions, I asked the very simple question anyone reading this would have asked, because it’s the only thing that matters at that time.

“Am I going to die?”

“I don’t know”, was the reply. “We need to do some tests to find out what’s wrong.”

Later that afternoon, I had dozens of viles of blood taken, a bone marrow scrape (which is the most unpleasant thing I’ve ever had happen to me) and various other scans over the space of 2 hours.

Our walk back through the station at Town Hall in Sydney I remember so clearly – it was like one of those sequences in the movies – where they put a mist round you and everyone else is slightly blurred out… “Why me?” is all I remember asking time and time again.

We then went home to call our respective mum and dads. Not the call they were expecting. Not easy calls to make.

For the next two weeks I had lots more tests scheduled in. The doctors and nurses were incredible and the private health insurance I was given 24 hours before I left the country was a godsend. For those two weeks I had no idea if I was going to have my life shortened to just 27 years or whether I would be OK, or something in between.

I drove a lot, for some reason. I remember heading out into the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney and sitting and looking at the view. I also remember taking great comfort from knowing that I had lived my life to the max. I wouldn’t have changed anything. I have to say that was very comforting. The biggest battle in my head was coming to terms with not being with Suzanne any more – that was hurting me in a big way and there was nothing I could do about it.

I went back to the consultant for the diagnosis a couple of weeks later. By now it was the middle of August and a beautiful Sydney winter. The sky was so blue as we went in to the consulting rooms – I remember looking up at it before I went in, unsure of how I would be feeling like when I came out. As moments go in life – this was a moment.

Narrowing it down

They’d narrowed it down to three possible causes – one very bad, one bad and one not too bad. In order to complete the diagnosis, I had to have my spleen removed. It was three times the size it should have been, as it had been filtering pretty rubbish blood for who knows how many months or years. Removing it would help with treating me, as well as helping to absolutely diagnose the problem.

We left and called my parents. It was news… it wasn’t great news, but it could have been worse. There was hope and things were starting to happen. Everything is so much easier when things start to happen. It’s probably one of the reasons for me being obsessed with taking action today. Sometimes pausing is a better solution.

A week or so later I went into hospital to say goodbye to my spleen. My days as a sixpack model were numbered, and trips to Malarial countries were now out the window, however it was a small price to pay.

The operation was on 28th August 1997.

Three days later on 31st August 1997, as I was recovering from the operation and the morphine had been taken away 🙁 the doctor came to see me. My spleen had been whisked off to the lab and chopped into tiny pieces and put under a microscope. They could finally see what had been going on over the last few months and probably years.

They had narrowed it down to one of the three possibilities on a day where history was being made for all the wrong reasons back in the UK.

I’ll publish part 2 on Friday. (Part 2 is now live – here!)

[box type=”note” style=”rounded” border=”full”]Have you seen what I’m doing for our charity challenge later in 2012?

CLICK HERE to find out and please DONATE something small if you can.
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A review of Putler – the best Paypal app ever

If you use Paypal for your online transactions, and chances are you do, then you’re going to thank yourself for reading this review.

For years people selling services online have used Paypal, but have struggled with their website. It’s slow, it’s clunky and it’s NOT intuitive at all. Processing refunds and analysing data are a nightmare and it should be a dream.

It now is.

With this revolutionary new Adobe Air desktop app for Mac or PC, the Putler team have created an interface into your Paypal account. It has dashboards, it is fast, it provides automatic analysis on how your business is doing.

In short, it is totally awesome and life changing if you deal with Paypal every day.

You can download Putler right here for FREE to get you going.

Enjoy.

Personalized URL marketing really works

For the last 8 years I’ve been using a technique inside my businesses to get noticed and win new business from both completely cold approaches as well as with referrals. In the last week my success rate has been amazing and I thought it was worth sharing.

Personalized URL marketing works when selling B2B services, software, high value physical goods, consulting services – pretty much anything in fact.

I start from the premise of:

        • Most marketers and people who compete in the areas I work in are lazy and so with a bit of thought, you can easily stand out from the crowd
        • Email marketing in the B2B world is all but dead. When people get excited about a 3% open rate, you’ve got to worry
        • The word “boilerplate” should be removed from the Oxford English Dictionary. Serious business people can spot cut and paste a mile off
        • No one has time any more.

Mix that lot together and you can cross off cold calling, spammy email marketing and direct mail as sensible techniques to win business in today’s day and age.

This technique works like this.

      • Research your target – find out something you can create a rapport with
      • Write a very short conversational email
      • Generate a personal URL such as http://845tv.com/vip/richard-fox/ and include that link in the email (that’s a real live landing page example)
      • Sit back and wait for them to click

Let’s look at this in more detail.

1) Research your target.

Stand out from the crowd by knowing something about the person you’re about to approach. If you were at a party and you saw someone across a room you wanted to talk to – you’d possibly have done your research first. If not, you’d open the conversation by finding something out about them wouldn’t you? You wouldn’t just jump in shouting, “Buy this!”.

2) Write a short conversational email

I’ve found over the years people respond well to these. A few lines. Make the URL you’re about to add stand out – put space around it. Make sure you link the research to the email… “I noticed your presentation at XYZ seminar last week and really enjoyed it…” That’s a good starting point – you’ve hooked them in. Get the subject line right too – “Introduction” is a good one – it has a double meaning and tends to get opened because of that.

3) Generate a personalized URL

This is the real secret to snaring a target. Personalized URL marketing relies on the fact that people are naturally curious / vain / intrigued. www.acmewidgetcompany.com is boring. It’s for anyone. www.acmewidgetcompanyshowcase.com/richard-fox is for me… they’ve done something specifically for me. They’ve taken the time to prepare something? They’ve bothered to find out something about me? I’ll click the link. We use a custom system to generate this link, landing page and reporting.

4) Sit back and wait

Our targets then click the links we prepare – it’s not some scammy redirect for tracking purposes – they see a unique landing page, with the same look and feel as the main product / service. There’s a greeting to them “Hi Richard” (in big font to capture attention), a short, personalized piece of text (can you see there’s theme there?) and then a video. A short video – either one we’ve prepared earlier OR a unique voiced-over screencam (a video proposal in fact – and more on that in another post).

Recent results

  • I work with Ed Dale, the founder of The Challenge. We produce Internet marketing courses together. Our relationship started with me using this process with him. I got noticed. Ed loved the link and the video and called me 24 hours after I sent it.
  • Yesterday, I sent a personalized URL landing page to a target in San Fransisco. I lucked out here – it’s a world record for me. He clicked the link and emailed me back (using the word ‘Awesome”) inside 6 minutes. He is now a prospect.
  • Earlier this week I sent another personal link to a company about a subscription service we run. They’d clicked the link AND signed up to the service within… drum roll… 3 minutes.

And finally

Not everyone clicks. And I take that personally! I keep refining the process and when an email style or subject line works, I keep using it.

However the click through rate for me personally over the last 3 years is over 70%. My job going forwards is to use the system more.

As ever with Newton’s 3rd law – if you take action, you get a reaction. People who have become clients (or have been targeted) loved the concept so much, we delivered their own branded system which we now call Targets to Prospects and we now sell it as a service. We have a reseller scheme too so that video companies and consultants can bundle it with their services. Click the links if you’d like to find out more.

A final point – you need a sales process. It needs to be consistent. Personalized URL marketing works for my businesses. What works for yours?

 

You can be creative. With ANYTHING

In honour of the awesome six weeks ahead of us, with the first match of the Rugby World Cup starting at the time this post was published, I thought it would be a good moment to dig out this video – which you may have seen before.

Safety videos on airplanes have always fascinated me. No one watches them, everyone knows how to put on a seatbelt and a lifejacket, yet the law dictates they have to be shown.

So – airlines have a problem – how do they engage passengers who’ve seen these things a hundred times?

If you’re British Airways – you go totally bog standard and dull.

If you’re Virgin – you introduce cartoons with cool looking characters and moments to make you smile, whilst still conveying a serious message.

If you’re Qantas, you employ the services of the well known pilot John Travolta to grab your attention (yes he really does introduce their safety video in a pilot’s uniform).

If you’re Air New Zealand – you go for all out awesomeness and use the one thing which unites all New Zealanders and ranks as more important than friends, family, wealth and health – and that’s the All Black rugby team.

There’s a serious point here – using just the right amount of humour really works to teach and communicate and audience. The reason for that is simple – the audience is totally engaged with what they’re watching. It’s also not what they’re expecting – another reason why they become engaged – they’re intrigued and want to watch the story to the end.

There’s a message there somewhere!

If you’ve not seen this before – watch it and marvel. When you’ve finished watching it – figure out how you could be more creative in your consulting business to help you get noticed, to engage your customers and to make them smile.

Who says business has to be boring?!

Oh and C’mon England…!

It’s time to get personal with your marketing

I have to say – and I’ve been saying it for a while, the days of mass marketing, mass email, impersonal communications, lazy database segmentation and time consuming communications are over.

There’s two very clear trends emerging:

1) No one has time any more.
2) If you want to get noticed, you’ve got to be personal.

People need quick, simple communications, applications, services and products which are uncomplicated, which can be clicked once, which are streamlined and which are easy to use. If your email asks someone to do two or more things, it’ll be ignored – people are lazy and easily distracted. If your consultant website is confusing and doesn’t have a compelling action on each page, people will not click where you want them to.

If you expect to sell your consulting services to a senior employee of a large multinational by sending them boilerplate – you are wasting your time.

Keep it simple, create personalised communications and make it easier for your targets and customers to do business with you.

If you don’t believe me, believe Gary Vaynerchuck, talking about the next couple of years in Social Media and how people and companies should and will be interacting with one another.

Hat tip to @davidjenyns and @preneur for this video.

50 things I learnt by taking a 6 week mini-retirement

A personal account of my summer

A year in the making, my wife, 7 year old son and 4 year old daughter headed off for the whole of the UK’s school summer holidays on a round the world trip, inspired by my co-founder of Customer Thermometer and Tim Ferris’s concept of the mini-retirement

It was a summer I’ll never forget and one I wanted to record for posterity.

To quote Tim Ferris:

  • A sabbatical is a one-time event. Mini-retirements are meant to recur throughout a lifetime.
  • A vacation is short, and often involves a tourist lifestyle with little immersion in a new way of life. A mini-retirement is long (one to six months), and allows one to fully participate in his new environment.

My wife and I have worked hard; really hard for the last three years, and decided that it was time to reward ourselves. We left on 22nd July and returned on 1 September and visited Las Vegas, The Grand Canyon, San Diego, Carlsbad, Disneyland, Brisbane, Cairns, The Barrier Reef, Palm Cove, Sydney and finished in Ko Samui in Thailand.

I learnt such a lot – about life and business from both people I met and things I read and have written this as a record of the trip, in the hope others might be inspired by my observations:

  1. Doing truly memorable things requires big decisions – little ones just don’t cut it. We didn’t just stumble upon this trip – it was a year in the making.
  2. I’ve discovered my love of creating a vision for something and seeing it through. It will be important to develop another one when we get home.
  3. Seeing your children’s faces when they meet Mickey Mouse at Disneyland is quite special.
  4. Descending in a helicopter from ground level, into the Grand Canyon rendered me speechless. Those of you who know me will realise that’s quite impressive. It made me remember the inscription that will be on my tombstone – “It’s not a rehearsal”.
  5. It’s a big gamble taking 6 weeks off when you work for yourself and I don’t yet know what will happen when I get back to my desk. Nothing is certain, but what I do know is that I focused on building a platform and pipeline for the three months before I left and so I will arrive home with confidence.
  6. Disney is the master of creating the total experience. You can absolutely apply this to your consulting business. Perhaps not with water shows and fireworks, but by adding value to clients in ways they wouldn’t expect.
  7. Watching different attitudes towards customer service around the world has been fascinating. In Thailand, we were greeted at breakfast for the first time as “Mr Mark – welcome – we have the soya milk for your daughter as requested.” I hadn’t even given them my name. My daughter was also presented with a Mickey Mouse cup for her juice. Tiny amounts of effort, massive amounts of added value. Would it surprise you to know this same hotel responded to every email politely and promptly too?
  8. Mini-retirements give you time to read all those things you don’t have time to read.
  9. Tripadvisor.com and crowdsourced reviews are making and breaking hotel and restaurant businesses around the world. The iPhone and Android apps are must have travel companions. It’s the difference between an average and amazing experience. Because of Tripadvisor, we walked 500m to a restaurant in San Diego when standing outside a perfectly good looking one and didn’t regret it. The same will apply to your customers when looking for consultants too. Reviews, ratings and testimonials are so important, regardless of industry.
  10. I was taught about the power of networking years ago. It should be taught at school as an essential life skill. If you’re travelling, even in your own country, take the opportunity to meet people you know along the way. To my Australian colleagues – it was a pleasure.
  11. Going out of your way to create something different reaps dividends. Think Purple Cow.
  12. The Joe’s Crab Shack restaurant chain is a shining example of a superb customer experience – balloon sculptors at tables, waiters dancing to random tunes during your meal, a brand which makes you want to buy a t-shirt on the way out (they’ve sold several million already) and competitions while you eat – “first diner to provide a non-digital photograph gets a free entrée”. What are you doing to set yourself and your business apart?
  13. Hotel reception staff: don’t reel off memorized scripted greetings and farewells – be human for goodness sake.
  14. If you’re providing reporting instructions for an event / meeting / venue – put down all the information you think might be necessary. Think about how to make your customers’ lives easier, not harder. Small things like airport terminal names or numbers are actually rather helpful.
  15. If you move from Ethiopia to Las Vegas and become a taxi driver – I take my hat off to you. That’s a big decision. Big decisions are good.
  16. Ethiopian taxi drivers taking your first ever fare, learn where the airport is before you start your newly chosen career. Particularly when it’s 10 minutes away and you can practically see it from your pickup location. What basics do you not have a handle on, to do your job?
  17. We met friends along the way and it made us both realise that really good friends will always be really good friends, regardless of how far apart you live and how often you see each other. In my experience, the same is true of good customers. Even if they’ve not bought from you for a while – it doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t in the future.
  18. RANT: Many Americans (particularly in Disneyland) need to take a good hard look at themselves as they won’t live long enough to see their children grow up. I’m talking about obesity here and it made me REALLY cross. Also, it’s one thing to jeopardise your own health – but please don’t inflict the same terrible values and habits on your children. A final point, I’d suggest if you can’t see your feet whilst standing up, it’s probably a good idea not to be eating the giant ice cream sundae. Seriously.
  19. There has to be a better way of enjoying yourself than looking thoroughly miserable, sitting in front of a slot machine in a casino, with a cigarette, at 7am.
  20. Have a place for everything – it speeds up your day and makes you less stressed when you can’t find it. How many hours do you (I) spend looking for stuff? Even more important when you’re travelling.
  21. It’s OK to tell your kids they can’t have the plastic junk they make you buy in gift shops. Maybe we’ll stop producing it eventually and save a little landfill space? And no, I’m not Scrooge.
  22. Australians are totally nuts for top quality coffee.
  23. Deep fried ice cream should be made illegal.
  24. “You can stroll 100m to find a well OR you can run 10km and not find one.” – Freedom Ocean #ep18. Or in other words, I should pause sometimes and think before taking action.
  25. It is possible to get an apartment like this for just over £100/night inc breakfast.  A few minutes of research online can save you $00(0)’s. Visit www.agoda.com (but keep it under your hat.)
  26. Don’t get to 70 and claim you’re getting too old to do stuff, when you’re actually fighting fit… Try stuff, you might surprise yourself.
  27. Take time to listen to others’ opinions. You may not agree, but you’ll learn something.
  28. Don’t say “Have a nice day” whilst mumbling, looking in the other direction, being insincere, not quite finishing the phrase, after you’ve heard a complaint or late at night. It makes you look ridiculous.
  29. Got someone important arriving at your office? Make them feel welcome – have everything ready way in advance – boil the kettle before they arrive if you have to. Don’t run around in a flap after they arrive. (And don’t send up rollaway beds and make them up at midnight when the request was made 6 weeks before).
  30. Make your emails and written instructions clear and concise. Read them back to yourself. Make sure there’s no ambiguity. The same applies to requests made over the phone – it’s always a good idea to request a taxi big enough for your luggage 😉
  31. When someone buys from your business – don’t forget to remind them of the other things you do along the way. Gold star to the fabulous servers at http://www.bucadibeppo.com/ who tell you about the function rooms and specials… whilst showing you to your table.
  32. Smile, make conversation and ask questions to strangers around a pool from time to time – you just might just learn something and you never know where it may lead.
  33. Surprise your customers once in a while, even when they’re already delighted with you. Offering free beer and food at 5pm works a treat – especially when it’s a surprise. Hilton Homewood suites – you’ve a fabulous model there – thank you for a great stay.
  34. Airlines – it’s time you started innovating. You’re all the same. Virgin is still the only one to set itself apart from the crowd, and that was years ago. It just can’t be that hard. Ever thought of a free flight lottery for a random seat number to create some excitement? Ever thought of stewards occasionally breaking out into a dance routine, or smiling (sorry)? Ever thought of addressing customers by their names (like Singapore Airlines do)? Try something please – in the last 20 years, you’ve gone backwards.
  35. Don’t be scared of taking a 4 year old with a peanut allergy and a 7 year old around the world – they adapt very quickly.
  36. What has my 7 year old learnt? “I learnt that when a blue whale jumps out of the sea it’s called breaching” (we saw one), “how to say “hello” in Thai and that I don’t like the taste of beer.” Yet.
  37. It’s probably not a surprise that I learnt 4 year olds say the funniest things. When sitting in a boat at the bottom of the Grand Canyon after the most memorable helicopter trip of my life we ask “Lucy, what can you see”. She replied… “Nothing.” Well worth the £300 round trip for her don’t you think?
  38. Most emails aren’t particularly urgent after all so it seems – people really can wait.
  39. Accept you will lose quick turnaround project-based opportunities if you’re the face of a small business and go away for 6 weeks – it’s the nature of the beast. Be polite and follow up appropriately, be honest and they will come back another day. I hope.
  40. You can make money while you’re on a six week holiday. Next time we do it, it will cover my salary. It’s good to have a vision.
  41. I’ve learnt I don’t really need to run from the house screaming for air after three days’ looking after my children – I’ve not felt like that once since I’ve been away and they’ve been with me for 42 days!
  42. There are a LOT of people with iPads and Kindles sat by swimming pools around the world and it’s noticeable that Wifi in resorts is no longer a nice to have for geeks – it’s pretty much essential for normal people too.
  43. Be consistent with your customers. Set expectations and meet them. Don’t give a goody bag of snacks and drinks to your customers on one 10 hour flight and not another because you’ll disappoint. Don’t give children a funpack thingy on one flight and not another, because you then fall short of expectations and children notice stuff like that. MacDonalds I’m sad to say are one of the best models of consistency, because they have a system and follow a process.
  44. If you open a folder ready to drop in everything you’d like to read, watch and listen to a couple of months before you embark on a big trip, you can get through a lot of material. Just make sure you’ve a notebook to hand. And it doesn’t get drenched by the pool.
  45. I don’t know about you, but I get quite disillusioned with my country and where you live. Travelling opens your eyes to other countries, how other people approach things and can go a long way to restoring your faith in human nature. It also helps if a few thousand people don’t try to set fire to the UK for the sake of a few plasma TVs and pairs of trainers while you’re away.
  46. It’s OK to be sad returning home and coming to the end of a break, but it’s also good to return full of optimism, thanks to the effort you put in place before you left and the plans you’ve made while you’ve been away.
  47. Commit to recording memories of your experiences for your children – they will love looking at photos and videos of themselves growing up. We’ve already paid for our Albelli photobook to archive our story. The 2,200 photos will need to be thinned down a little though!
  48. Review your life once in a while and commit to making small changes – implementing big change is harder. Mini-retirements help you to see the wood from the trees.
  49. Embrace change. Embrace your constraints. Doing both will make you A LOT happier.
  50. Has 6 weeks away been life changing? Not quite. Has it changed our outlook on life, seeing us and our children grow? Yes. Are we already thinking about our next mini-retirement? Yes, absolutely. It’s like everything in life – if you do it enough, it becomes a habit, whether that’s good or bad.

I hope you pick up a nugget or two from the observations and if you are going to embark on a mini-retirement – I’d love to hear where you’re going below…

It’s OK to change direction

As I say to my children, “Go with what you DON’T know”

So many people start a business and continue with the same proposition, despite changes in the market and what their customers are telling them.

As the old adage says, there are two things which are certain in life. Death and Taxes. I’d like to add a third and that is Change.

Change is all around us and it’s a good thing. If your consulting business doesn’t adapt and change it won’t grow. If your consulting business doesn’t grow, it’s dead. That’s a proven fact.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently, as one of my businesses, The 8.45 Club turns 3 in September and it’s come a long way since the outset and the original concept.

It was always going to be about video and then initially training. The original idea was a course on 100 video lessons to change your business. That was it. Nothing more, nothing less.

I then listened to feedback and decided that it was too bigger production task… I hadn’t tested the market and that smaller courses would be a better way to start. So that’s what I did.

I then listened to feedback and decided that getting traffic to those courses was going to be hard. I sold a few – but testing and gut instinct told me there was a better way.

So I started to partner with subject matter experts who already had audiences. They needed content and production skills and we were gaining those – but they already had an audience, so a partner programme began.

The 8.45 Club

The 8.45 Club – our first website and proposition

I then listened to feedback and decided that the techniques we were getting good at with green screen video production could apply in many different ways and so the focus of the marketing site and proposition wasn’t about selling training courses, but instead providing online video production services.

I then listened to feedback and decided that if we were to stand out from the crowd, to brand ourselves as a ‘bog-standard’ video production agency wouldn’t be the way to go, so we continued with the brand and adapted it, identifying 6 key propositions which our audiences can relate to. We changed the strap from “Learn from the experts… in 10 mins” to

“Bite-sized online video from experts”

…and I hope you get the double meaning there.

Things look and feel quite different now.

The 8.45 Club today

The 8.45 Club today – green screen video and training video production

Our core ideas – bite sized chunks of video (because no one has time any more) and high production values (because people need to be engaged) have remained throughout. Our proposition to the market has grown and changed dramatically. And do you know what? Google UK gave us a pilot Business TV programme last week – so it must be working…

Are you changing your business? Let us know what you think below.

Richard Branson talks about being an entrepreneur

The awesome folks at the I Love Marketing podcast team have managed to record this excellent video with Sir Richard. They film him on his Necker Island retreat and ask him a whole bunch of different questions.

One of my favourites is at 3’48” – What advice do you wish you had when you were starting your first business?

It’s 40 mins. There are some real gems in here.

Coffee time…

Get it right on paper

My most prized tool is shown above. I’m “Mr Digital” according to my friends, however the power of pen and paper should never be forgotten.

“Get it right on paper first”

I used this phrase four times yesterday with different clients and I realised just how important and fundamental this process is to what we do, but in fact to what most people do.

If you create / plan / deliver / sell / market / manufacture / write – anything in fact, there will always be a point in the process where you have to stop and think and not just at the beginning.

I enjoyed this conversation with a lady on top of her game yesterday – one of the leading lights in the UK’s training industry – Julie Wedgwood. It seems we both storyboard a lot in our day jobs. It turns out she learnt the art from the set of the Who Framed Roger Rabbit movie (ground breaking). I learnt my trade through trial and error sadly, but I’m still glad I learnt it…

Do yourself a favour and grab a piece of paper and a pen today. It might just get you to where you want to go.

Four ways to take the initiative

When I first started work 17 years ago (gulp), I had a great first boss in a very large corporate and to this day, I remember in my first week, he gave me a particular task to do – which took a couple of days. Once I’d completed it I presented it back to him and asked him what I should do next…

He looked puzzled. He then explained to me that was up to me… I knew what my role was – I had an idea of what needed to be done – so I should go and figure it out. That was literally on day 3 of my business career and if I’m honest, it’s shaped what I do today.

This last few weeks have been an amazing time in many ways and there have been so many examples of where I’ve had to take the initiative with a client, for a client or for a project and not once has anyone said – “you shouldn’t have done that!” because I’d like to think I’ve done it in the right way.

[box type=”info”]Ask for forgiveness rather than permission.[/box]

This is a phrase I thoroughly believe in and with a few years of working under my belt, I now feel confident enough to act on it. I appreciate in the early days of a career it’s not so easy and in a large corporate environment, it’s a scary thing to do – but if you can, then you should, as early as possible in your career – because it will get you noticed.

What happens when you take the initiative is that you start thinking and acting as if you were the client. Over time, the client starts to rely on you, you start to become part of their virtual team and what happens in the long run? They keep asking you back AND they recommend you to others.

[box type=”info”]Don’t wait to be asked – just do it.[/box]

Often by the time you’ve waited for the response, it’s too late to do what you knew what was needed. So much in life is about timing. Take calculated risks – ask yourself what’s the worst that could happen. You’ll be amazed by the response you’ll get. If 1 in 100 times you get reprimanded in some way – has it been worth the risk? Of course!

Bearing this all in mind – there are four phrases you might want to try with your clients. They work either written of verbal.

  • I though it made sense to [put X into action] – I hope this is OK with you – if not, then let me know and I’ll [switch it off.]
  • I wanted to seize the initiative and get [X on board]. If I don’t hear back from you in [the next 24 hours] – I’ll go ahead with that plan and make it happen for you.
  • As time is so critical on this project – I needed to [do something in particular] which I know may not have been ideal – but it was the best way of ensuring [we continue to deliver]. Hope that’s OK with you.
  • I wanted to make a suggestion – I thought would really help [generate more sales] and so we’ve mocked up an example we thought you might like to see – if you like it, we can have it up and running in [an hour/day/week/month].

Describing a concept leaves many people cold, and so that last example is brilliant – clients and targets so often DO NOT like clean sheets of paper. If you can explain something visually for little effort then do it, and put it in front of them.

Now, stop reading and go and take the initiative!