Despite your skill or diligence or ability to do the job, an enterprise must take into account the surrounding things that do not apparently relate specifically to the core skill. Rich people are usually rich because they’re often very shrewd and I find they indulge in a secret practice of developing “little treasures.” Being rich and clever, unlike the majority of the public, they do value core skills and realise that their prey, who are incompetent at professionalism but are brilliant at the core skill, can be had on the cheap and will become “little treasures.”
“I have a man who does my gardening, he’s a bit smelly but he’s a little treasure. I can’t remember the last time we paid him!”
“She is a bit odd, but she does all my dressmaking by hand, we pay her pennies. She is a little treasure.”
Do you want to be a “little treasure”? No? Then shape up!
“I bet I can get that coat off him” the wind declared.
“You’re on!” said the sun, “A tenner says you can’t.”
The wind gathered up all its force and howled down from the sky and it hit the man at full power. He ended up tumbling down the road like an Autumn leaf but with every blast he pulled the coat tighter and tighter around him. In the end the wind gave up exhausted.
“OK” he admitted to the sun, “You win, the guy will never let that coat go.”
“I can get it off him” grinned the sun. “Want to get your money back double or quits?”
The sun rose majestically into the sky where he smiled and shone and blazed. The flowers opened, the puddles dried, the birds began to sing. The man mopped his sweating brow, smiled and of course took off his coat (whilst singing, I’m sure, zipidee doo dah).
Will your customers be singing zipidee doo dah once you have finished with them?
I am sure that you are mentally fit, eager and raring to go (you better be). The battle will be fierce and you will fight it every minute of every day, moving products, being aware of trends, spotting people who may be sharper, quicker, and more competitive than you. This is all about speed. The fast win, the fast win more, the fastest win it all. I do it. I fight fast and hard, but it is like swimming in a fierce current. It is tiring but your life depends upon it. I should imagine that those who drown must be almost relieved to be able to stop struggling, but there is an alternative.
The squirrel population of the UK was once red. Red squirrels are gentle, uncompetitive, relaxed little creatures, so when the ferociously competitive grey squirrels were introduced they drove the red squirrels out. They competed for food, habitat, and space. The battle was totally onesided but not a tragedy. Rather than fighting to the death or being subjugated by the grey squirrels, the red squirrels just buggered off. No hassle, no worries, or bitterness. “You want it that much, you have it.” They can be found on secluded islands and in isolated woods doing their gentle squirrely things.
As the pressure builds and you count the scars you picked up fighting for every nut or acorn, consider the red squirrel alternative. Of course you will have made your pile, the bank balance will be healthy, but before you consider next year’s expansion plans, go to a Mediterranean harbour and look at the middle aged couple on the wooden schooner. They both have skins like crocodile-hide handbags and are discussing the winter voyage to Tobago. Or look at that Harley mounted Hells Angel floating across Arizona with his entire belongings strapped to his rack and a terrier wearing a flying helmet sitting on the petrol tank. The shock when he takes off his crash helmet to reveal the grey hair. The pair of Budhist beach bums on Lantau Island in Hong Kong who strangely arrive at the beach each day in a vintage Rolls Royce. These are the red squirrels, not drowned but just living elsewhere. Why be in the rat race if you’re not a rat.
I have been pouring my sweat, tears and efforts, into writing a new book and because of my inability to use a computer and the tight deadlines, my wife has locked me in an attic room with a pile of coloured paper and a mug full of crayons. I have been in there, tongue lolling, with a thread of drool hanging off my chin for quite a few months but its finished! The book is called Self Made Me and its all about getting what we are worth. Look out for it – it should be available in the later part of the year. I would love to know what you all think of it.
The good news is, I’ve got a bestseller on my hands. The strange news is that it is not the book I expected. My new book Irresistible Persuasion is doing very nicely thank you, particularly in the USA (thank you all my nice visitors from the US). The surprise hit has been my book The Way of the Dog and the reason it is doing so well is that Amazon are now offering it as a Kindle edition, in other words an e.book. I was very sceptical when somebody suggested that up to 70% of the business books in the US are now e.books but this is proving to be the case.
For those of you reading this who are fans of the e.book can I point out to you that not only can you purchase The Way of the Dog as a Kindle book from Amazon, but you can, for free, download the Lite version of Go It Alone off this site. Of course if it gives you a taste for the book we would love you to buy the full edition, also from this site!
Go It Alone remains the book that always seems to be growing in demand because people – particularly in these tough times – dream of owning and running their own enterprise and it makes me really chirpy when people have read, enjoyed and feel inspired by the book. But do remember, if you are a Go It Aloner, you can always drop me an email if there are any pointers you feel I may be able to help you with.
If you had been paddling in the great green greasy Limpopo river and a crocodile had grabbed your ankle, you would be yelling “Let Go! Let Go!” This means that you wished to be released to enjoy the rest of your life free from the digestive activities of a large carniverous reptile.
In this world of political correctness no employer wants to be seen to fire people or sack them, so euphemisms are developed such as ‘outplacement’ and ‘reassignment’ and for many years the favourite has been to ‘let people go’. Yep, that’s right, just like the crocodile lets us go. Yet when it happens to us we don’t seem to show the same joy and relief – this is one crocodile we want to stay with, but is that right?
In the bad old days of slavery, colonial or Roman, if a slave was faithful or heroic, perhaps saving the owner’s family from a blazing house, what was the biggest reward we could give them? Why, their freedom of course. We would strike off their chains and declare them a ‘freeman’ or ‘freewoman’ (some families still proudly carry the name, Freeman), but now we call that being made redundant.
Someone clever once said, “We are born individuals but we die clones”. I help large companies to get optimum performance from their teams. What they want is consistency. When people become unique or indispensible they get expensive and troublesome. If the position of departmental head became vacant in your company and HR said that the core competancies were to juggle cabbages, knit a cardigan and sing all the verses of All Things Bright and Beautiful, about 40 people would master those skills, giving the employer plenty to choose from. Even time is a constrict of work. When a huge cotton mill was driven by one steam engine, everyone had to be there at the same time. The single weaver in his cottage would weave when it suited him and he probably didn’t even own a clock.
There are going to be loads of people ‘let go’ in these troubled times. If it’s you, don’t panic – see it as being set free. Your value comes from being unique. To quote one of my book covers about self employment, “Come in, the water’s lovely!” In these blogs and in my books (particularly Go It Alone – you can download a lite version free from this website) I will try to coach and guide you. If there is any subject you would like me to cover, just drop me an email.
Be free! Be happy!
I have just finished writing my new book, dotted the i’s crossed the t’s or is it crossed the i’s and brewed the t’s, but in any event I have approved the cover and see that it is already advertised on Amazon (it’s also on this site!) The book is called Irresistible Persuasion and the idea is to give the reader the power to persuade anyone to do anything. In a business environment I suppose that skill is best applied to sales.
While researching the book I revisited all the old sales books – some that went back before the second world war. One of those came up with the three key tips which were, 1) always remove your hat before addressing a buyer, 2) always retain your bus tickets to show your manager, 3) never try to sell to women as they are governed by their emotions. Hopefully things may have moved on a bit from there, but as I revisited the old sales techniques and delved into the sophisticated sales systems I started to realise that it is the simple stuff that really pays dividends. When I talk to established salespeople they raise their eyebrows at “open questions” “benefits” and “closing the sale”. “We have done that!” they say and then go on to demand more challenging new and sophisticated techniques. If they were to sit an exam on sales techniques I bet they could answer every question, yet when I watch them in a real interaction with the customer it all goes out of the window. If you doubt me, when was the last time that anyone asked you to buy anything or to give them a firm decision of any kind?
If you are reading this and you are a well established pro, I bet you could improve your hit rate by going back to the good old days and asking for the order. From my point of view as an adviser to business, my biggest successes have been with the simple stuff. Whatever our position within the company every customer contact can be turned into a sale or an increase in sales.
“Some one rang when you was out”
“Who was it?”
“Where were they ringing from?”
“What did they want?”
“Any clues at all?”
“Yes, they were furious.”
Even when everyone has decided to be cheery and helpful it doesn’t mean that they are sales aware. Time after time oh so simple sales tips have resulted in returns of millions to our clients. For instance, to a chain of garden stores the before example was, “Hello, thank you for calling Happy Gardens, I’m Brian, how can I help?” ”Do you still have the bargain patio set?” “Yes we do, Sir, stacks of them.” “Thank you” “No problem Sir.”
And now the new way… “Hello, thank you for calling Happy Gardens, I’m Brian, how can I help you?” “Do you still have the bargain patio sets?” “Oh, they have been selling really well, I’m not sure that we have, I will have to check. May I take a name, Sir, and do you have a number where we can contact you?” After the replies… “Thank you for that, Mr Smith, I will just go and check. Did you want the brown or the white?” “The white, please.” “If we have got a set I will put it to one side for you. When can we expect to see you?”
I have shortened that exchange a lot but you can see how this is turning into a sale using classics like, shortage creates demand, get obligation, and the alternative close. Techniques so old that the Pharaohs used them to sell their mummies, but if it works don’t knock it. What about the restaurant where we got the friendly helpful staff to stop saying “Did you enjoy your meal? Will there be anything else?” There are two choices and one of those is “No thank you.” So we got them to say, “Did you enjoy your meal? Would you like sweet or coffee?” A sale from both choices (and they sold some pretty fancy coffee). The supermarket team where we discovered that when a customer asks for something, instead of pointing in its general direction, go and fetch the goods – that obligation made the customers buy. Then we discovered that if you fetched two of what they asked for, over fifty percent of the customers took both. Then there was the fish and chip shop where we got every member of staff to smile and say, as they wrapped the food, “Shall I pop in a pickled onion?” In one year that shop sold £15,000 worth of pickled onions. All simple stuff. All you need to do is to develop an indefatigable intention to sell. SIMPLE.
At sometime or another everyone has a crisis in their life. These dramas are often career or business related, in fact it can often be the trigger for a new business to start. “I couldn’t get a proper job so I decided to start my own business.” Even in established businesses the helter skelter of world events can cause a few unpleasant surprises with slumps, downturns, financial troubles and even weird plagues all impacting on our business.
I am often asked to speak on ‘change’ and how to survive it. I even try to apply my thoughts to my own business but I think to describe what is happening now as change would be like coming home to find your house has been turned into an igloo, that your dog had sprouted wings and was gliding amongst the trees, and your children had become raspberry blancmanges. The comment, “Hmm, things have changed a bit round here” would somehow seem inadequate.
So, how do we gain from such events? The answer is, stuckness. Stuckness is a Buddhist, sixties, hippy sort of thing. As an ageing (or aged) hippy myself, I am a big fan of a book called Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig and it is where I first encountered stuckness. Let me explain it for you. Imagine you enter a room, a room you often enter and leave without too much thought. Then one day, as you start to leave, the door handle comes off in your hand. Now you are stuck and you can indulge in some stuckness thinking. Do it with questions: what do door handles do? By revolving the handle, some machinery in the door converts rotary motion in the linear sliding of the bolt. Can I find a way of moving that bolt? Is the handle still attached on the other side? Is there someone I can communicate with who could release me? Can I leave by another route, the window perhaps? Why do I want to leave the room anyway?
Can you see what is happening? From a thoughtless routine visit we have developed alternative gameplay, mechanical understanding and new co-operative personal relationships.
When people talk to me about starting a business they tend to focus on their core skills, be it electrician, writer, hairdresser, or cook. Imagine an employee sitting in a room with a hatch in the left wall and a hatch in the right wall. The work comes through the left hand hatch, they apply their core skill to it (they write on it, wire it up, or cook it) and then pass it through the right hatch. They care little what is beyond those hatches, that outside the left hatch are design, sales and marketing, and outside the right hatch are packing, distribution and accounts. Now things are getting tougher we have a great chance to enhance our personal skill base and value by a bit of stuckness thinking. Where is the work going to come from, how can I tell more people about me, who can I team up with to move things forward, how can we make these things cheaper, how can we make a bigger margin, and how do I get paid quicker?
Stuckness – try it, you could end up stronger.
What can make an enterprise successful? One of the key things, I believe, is having the ability to sell. I can hear the clamour now as you all call out, “It’s about the product”, “No, it’s customer focus”, “No, it’s about quality”, “It’s the offer”, “It’s the unique skill”, “It’s sharp pricing.”
I’m sure it is all of those things and more but in our town we have a smelly young tramp who offers nothing apart from a bit of a pong. He sits on a piece of cardboard with his hairy dog and says to everybody, “Spare any change, please.” The local newspaper analysed his earnings and to my horror discovered he had an income of around £30,000 a year. No product, no service, and yet financially he is doing better than a lot of small businesses I know. How? He literally just asks for it. Do you go out and simply ask for the business you need?
When I write my books, I am trying to share some ideas that can help everyone become more confident with the skills that could help them succeed. In The Way of the Dog, I was inspired by watching a sheepdog take sheep from where they were, through a series of obstacles, to where the dog wanted them to be. The sheep are where they are – the dog never appeals for easier sheep and he never gives up, despite the obstacles, until the sheep are safely in the pen. This is of course an analogy about how we can find prospective customers – however distant or difficult – and guide them to our ‘pen’.
When my publisher commissioned a new book, I decided to take the journey idea further and attempt to set the persuasion process down as a road map that, if followed, should guarantee success. The new book is called ‘Irresistible Persuasion’ for a very good reason, because I have revealed the closely guarded secrets that are used by professional persuaders to get them what they want. If used responsibly, this book could get you what you want.
As you can see, we have redesigned the website and I am very excited about our new bookshop because like all good bookshops you can amble in and flick through a few pages to see what you think. So, have a look at ‘Resistance is Useless‘, ‘The Way of the Dog’ and the other books and hopefully you will soon be the first ever to have a taste of ‘Irresistible Persuasion’.
I cheerfully describe myself as a pessimist – if I smell flowers I look for a funeral! So as the credit crunch started to bite I am sure everybody expected me to do the full Eyore misery bit about it, but apart from capering about saying “I told you so”, believe it or not I can see some grounds for optimism and hope amongst the gloom.
Firstly, over the last ten or twelve years or so, we were gripped with a kind of madness where people saw their houses earn more than they did and where the whole country stopped making things because they could get them made in the Far East for a tenth of the price. That was a bubble and it went off with a whacking great bang. Now as we clamber out of the rubble we may find an opportunity. Whilst the money poured in and the house prices soared, it was very difficult to find any genuine happiness – had the guy next door got a bigger car? Why not take even more hours at work so you can have an even bigger one than him! Or, perhaps your partner could work even harder then they already do so you could get a huge mortgage which could buy a house with land and your kids could then have a pony to compensate for never seeing you. So now what? What about owning a house just to live in? Now you are on a four day week, what about taking the old banger full of happy kids for a picnic on Weston beach? Perhaps your partner finds being at home more fulfilling than that 9 – 5 job? Perhaps, just perhaps, we can swap the striving for simple happiness.
What about business? As the pound sinks through the floor, it suddenly seems like a good idea to start making things in the UK again. I recently presented an eight-part television show about small business and everyone seems to think that they are the most exposed, but…in the jungle it is not the big that eat the small, but the fast that eat the slow. Small companies can be so much more agile than the big ones. I should imagine the big high street retailers are already committed to next winter’s stock but Fred’s Fashions have barely thought about next week let alone next winter – which is a weakness that can swiftly be turned into a strength.
The Titanic saw that iceberg about two miles before the hit it, but if you were in the ‘small business