Examples of simplicity in business

Simplicity is so hard.

I spend hours convincing clients that less is more.

Videos need to be shorter not longer.

Corporate messages need to be one sentence, not one paragraph.

It’s not about how much detail you can add, it’s about how much you can take away.

Thermomostats can be made simpler… who’d have thought it? Proves a point.

Blogs can be simple too – 37 Signals are the masters of clearing away clutter.

Even Sky, the giant corporate, have done a great job of keeping things simple on their ‘kit’ page.

We’ve worked hard at it too – our customer satisfaction survey web application, Customer Thermometer asks just one question.

As opposed to 20.

We’re constantly told, do one thing and do it well … keep things simple … walk before you can run

We so often ignore this advice, because it’s the easy way out to make things more complex.

Life has become very complicated. Too many choices and too much clutter.

How refreshing it is when a business does make things simple, removes that clutter.

As a result, you get drawn in, you become engaged. You’ve less to process.

It takes huge amount of effort to get good at it.

Some businesses manage it. Do you?

 

Why I say “It’s not a rehearsal”

I was invited to a conference in New York this coming weekend, which is a lovely thing – however just not practical for me at this moment…

The conference is the first of its kind dedicated to patients and doctors dealing with a disease I’m rather close to – something called Hairy Cell Leukaemia.

Because I was unable to attend, I offered to put together a video of my story – after all, it is what we do most days of the week, except for me, I’m normally the one asking the questions. Last week, I swapped roles and gave some answers.

A big public thank you to my colleague Richard Spindler for putting this together for me.

I thought it might be interesting to share:

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.

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?!

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?

Stop worrying about what other people might think

A colleague of mine, Ian Brodie, writes a good email story. I’d thoroughly recommend checking him out. He sent an email out late last week telling a story which really hit home.

I care passionately about what people think about me and the things I’m associated with, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. However, I think you can worry too much – which is Ian’s story:

So, about 20 minutes or so into a webinar I was running for Momentum Club members yesterday on “How To Win High End Clients” and our doorbell rings…

It’s my parents. They’ve been visiting and have just come back from a vist to the shops. The doorbell rings again. The kids are supposed to answer the door but they don’t. Probably up in the loft on the Xbox. The doorbell rings again. I can’t leave my parents out in the cold so I have to apologise to the webinar attendees and head off to let them in.

A rather quiet 10 seconds later and I’m back on the webinar feeling rather embarrassed.

The idea that you could be perceived as ever so slightly unprofessional, don’t have a butler to answer the door on your behalf or hadn’t arranged for your parents to be more organised would have hurt me too. But guess what, you’re human…So, how did Ian respond?

I quickly realised that nothing bad actually happened. I’m pretty certain that no one on the webinar suddenly started thinking “well, Ian was talking sense about winning high end clients. But now he’s answered the door he doesn’t seem quite so credible”.

Like most people, I worry rather too much about my “image”.  About looking professional. Not having any hiccups. Sometimes caring about our image holds us back. We never finish that great article about a topic we think is important because we’re worried what other people might think.

Ian closes his email with some sage advice.

The truth is that if people like you, you have useful insights to share, and you do your very best to help them; then they won’t really care if you have the odd hiccup. In fact it kind of adds to your appeal. You’re fallible like them. Don’t let wanting to “look professional” hold you back.

My take?

Your Personal Brand is everything – how people perceive you, how they describe you when you’re not there will eventually determine your success as a coach or consultant. However, you can take this to extremes. Being human, is also important. No one likes to work with a robot.

It’s actually OK to tell people, “no – I’m picking my children up from school then”… or “no – I’m afraid I don’t work weekends” or “no – I can’t fit that in (you should have been more organised) I’ve other clients ahead in the queue…” Chances are they will respect you more for being human and for being honest.

It’s good to remind yourself once in a while that you can’t and shouldn’t be looking to please everyone all the time.

Thanks for that reminder Ian.

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 ways to get a business adrenaline rush

I bore myself (and others probably) by saying that ‘It’s not a rehearsal’

Sometimes it’s hard to make every day at work exciting, exhilarating or downright inspiring, however, if you work for yourself (doing what you enjoy and having complete control over your time and resources) means that you can have a damn good try.

Frankly, I feel for the people who go to work and then come home again and their emotional level throughout the day remains at fixed at ‘neutral’. WHERE’S THE FUN IN THAT?!

You’re put on this earth for 80+ years if you’re lucky. Chances are you’ll be working 40+ of those… that’s 90,000 hours of your life (and yes, I removed weekends and holidays). For goodness sake – let’s enjoy it!

It occurred to me yesterday that it is possible to have a business adrenaline rush. You know that feeling… the one where you feel great, feel alive and are so pleased with yourself you don’t want the day to end. This wouldn’t work every day for sure – (or your family would likely disown you on grounds of being unbearable) – but you can plan on making them happen fairly regularly.

Here are ten suggestions to lighting the blue touch paper – it’s fair to say all are based on personal experience.

  • Listen to your heart beating during the ring tone before an important call to someone you’ve never spoken to before.
  • Make an audacious appointment with someone famous, someone you admire, someone who could help you in business. And get it.
  • Make the phone call you’ve been putting off because you’ve been afraid of rejection. Savour the feeling afterwards when it wasn’t as bad as you thought.
  • Get a signature on a month-changing deal.
  • Arrange meetings so close together in a day you have to run between them.
  • Move a step closer to signing a year-changing deal.
  • Stand up and talk to an audience, ever so slightly unprepared and use your experience to get you through.
  • Say no to a client, because you’re right and leave with your head held high.
  • Plan a mini-retirement – and have confidence that your clients will still be there when you get back.
  • Be so inspired by a book, person or idea that you set your alarm even earlier than normal.
  • BONUS: Invite someone, not expecting it, out for dinner and create a new relationship which may just lead places.

Any other suggestions?

 

 

 

Do you just belong?

Saw this poem pinned up the other day on a sports club noticeboard and it resonated with me…

Do you stand on the sidelines looking in or do you participate and get involved? It’s too easy to just watch from afar. Sure, it’s hard putting your head above the parapet – there are trolls and plenty of others to shoot you down, pick holes and generally complain. They’re a minority though.

If you are one of those who ‘just belong’… maybe 2013 is the year to try something different. After all, it’s not a rehearsal.

Are you an active member-
The kind that would be missed
Or are you just contented
That your name is on a list?

Do you attend the functions
And mingle with the crowd
Or do you stay at home
And grumble long and loud?

Do you take an active part
To help the Club along
Or are you satisfied to be
The kind that ‘just belong’?

Do you ever come along
And information seek
Or leave the work to just a few
And talk about a ‘clique’?

There’s quite a programme scheduled
That means success if done
And it can be accomplished
With the help of ‘everyone’.

So why not come along
And help with hand on heart
Don’t be ‘just a member’
But take an active part

Think this over members
Are we right or are we wrong
Are you an ‘active member’
Or do you ‘JUST BELONG’!?

10 things I learnt by watching a top comedian at work

Up close and personal with Dara O’Briain

Recently, I was fortunate enough to see a work in progress and I learnt a lot. Myself, my wife and 58 others crammed into the most gorgeous, tiny theatre on Monday evening to watch a work in progress – it was a warm up gig for one of the UK and Ireland’s top comedians. Being up so close and personal, I learnt a lot. Dara O’Briain, is host of the BBC’s Mock the Week and Stargazing Live, amongst many other things and is about to embark on another sell-out UK tour from January.

Here’s what I learnt:

  1. Even if you’re on top of your game, you’re never too good to test your customer / audience reaction.
  2. Even when you’ve established yourself with a new market, unless you have something interesting to say, you will not engage your audience. Jerry Seinfeld once said he has three minutes where he can rely on his brand and the audience will listen to whatever he has to say. After that, he has to be as funny/engaging as any other comedian. Dara was in the same boat.
  3. You’re only as good as your last gig /communication.
  4. Honesty and transparency will win through every time – Dara explained from the outset that some things may not work. (Most things did).
  5. Practice, practice, practice whatever you do. The 10,000 hours rule applies to so many walks of life. I bet Dara’s done his 10,000 hours – and it shows.
  6. It’s OK to be nervous – it shows you care and are passionate about what you do. It was noticeable he was more nervous at the less tried and tested parts.
  7. I stood up in front of two audiences last week and presented what I do. I stood up and talked for 30 minutes. 20 minutes is the accepted length of time to hold an audience’s attention. Dara stood there for an hour and a half with 60 people hanging on his every word. That’s really tough. Next time you do a business presentation, I don’t recommend you try it.
  8. Stories he told about himself and every day life resonated most. Stories win every time. Audiences love stories. Especially ones that show challenge in the face of adversity and ones that people can relate to.
  9. Audiences / clients generally want you to succeed when you stand up in front of them – start with that mindset and you won’t go far wrong.
  10. Whilst this clearly wasn’t a business event, it amazes me the number of people who don’t get that communications in business can be entertaining too. When you are trying to deliver a message, if you do it with humour and energy, you’ll get a better response every time – because it’ll be memorable.

And for you Dara if you read this – make more the of corporate mockery – it’ll resonate across the country… your Dutch accent sounded French until I prompted you… the Call of Duty stuff was great and do more with the Dad’s late night telly – it makes us squirm and that’s funny.

I now have a new found respect for stand up comedians – you’re very alone on that stage and 90 minutes of saying original, interesting, funny, entertaining stuff with nothing but a mic to hold onto is tough.