Category Archives: Local business

The GlosBiz® story: learning the lesson of keeping things simple!

Can you believe the GlosBiz® initiative started 7 years ago with a simple, rather random tweet?

It was the first time the #GlosBiz hashtag had been used, and the rest, as they say, is history (well, sort of, anyway).

From that ‘standing start’, it has grown into Gloucestershire’s largest business network, with its networking breakfasts and business lunches consistently rated “the best business events in the county”.

But, I am often asked what has made it so popular, so successful, so well-known?

So, here are just three ‘principles’ that I always try to apply in business, and especially to the GlosBiz® initiative.

 

1) Customers want what they want – so give it to them!

For me, this goes back to Stan Davis’ great book “Future Perfect”, which I first read around 25 years ago. Since then, I have firmly believed that main ‘rule’ of worthwhile customer service is simple – give them exactly what they want!

When it comes to business networking, by far the most valuable thing I have learned is to give people the chance to build relationships, to be themselves, and to get to genuinely know others.

They do not want to be told what to do, where to sit, when to swap business cards, and so on, for the simple reason that they are perfectly capable of doing those things for themselves!

2) Treat everyone you meet equally (no matter how hard it is, sometimes)!

As I am sure you can understand, I meet many, many business people, and one key element of the GlosBiz® success story is that no matter who they are, what they do, or what size their company, I always try to treat them all the same.

Needless to say, when I’m wearing my ‘GlosBiz® hat’, I don’t always get it ‘right’ – but I am only human!

It can also be quite a challenge to do this consistently…and I’m sure you know what I mean?

3) Stubbornly resist temptation!

However hard you try, there will always be things that get you attention and tempt you to alter the ‘winning formula’ you have worked so hard to build.

Don’t do it!

No doubt, you have heard the adages, “think twice, act once”, and , ”if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”?

Always, always, always stick to what you know works best, keep it as simple as possible, and remind yourself to think clearly at all times.

GlosBiz® is a registered trademark.

 

To find out more about how I work with business executives, leaders and owners to maximise their potential and success, and the benefits of professional executive coaching and mentoring, particularly in developing leadership, strategy and growing a successful business, please contact me:

t: 01242-672440

e: click here

© Adrian Malpass 2017. All rights reserved.

Worried about ‘Brexit’? Read this first!

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So Thursday 23 June, 2016 will certainly be remembered for at least one thing – the day the UK voted to leave the EU.

Now, since then I have had many calls from businesses of all sizes, who have been tying themselves in knots over what happens next, and convincing themselves they have to rush into ‘doing something’ because of the Referendum outcome.

Well, first of all, let’s look at the facts of what has happened since the result was announced:

  • the sun is still coming up in the mornings, the world is still turning, the grass is still green, and Wimbledon is still being held in the wettest two weeks of the British summer – no change there whatsoever!
  • yes, the stock and currency markets have been up and down like the proverbial yo-yo, but there are already signs they are stabilising, even rising, so things are nowhere near as bad here as was widely predicted – remember the markets have a tendency to seek an opportunity for profit ahead of reflecting economic reality
  • interest rates have not changed, neither have tax rates, nor have most of the other key fiscal influences of our economy

So, broadly speaking, things are just the same now as they were a month, or six months, or even a year ago.

As for the next few months, here’s a simple plan of action:

  1. DO NOT PANIC! This will only introduce significant risks where previously there were none
  2. contact your business advisers, coaches and mentors (you do have a business coach or mentor, don’t you?), and begin assessing the ‘big picture’, how it specifically affects you and your business (if at all), and begin planning for the next steps
  3. reassure your team, your suppliers and your customers that it really is ‘business as usual’ until we have the actual hard facts to prove otherwise

There you go – simple!

Keep calm and carry on, as the infamous poster says.

Still not sure what to do next?

Then please feel free to give me a call on 01242-672440, click here to email me.

© Adrian Malpass 2016. All rights reserved.

The BHS tale: are YOU the best person to run your business?

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So…one of the high street’s best known brands, BHS, is no more. 11,000 people have lost their jobs, with many more effected in supporting businesses, and the mutual dislike between those responsible for owning and running the company has become rather distasteful, to say the least, and aired in public.

The previous owner, the most recent owner, and the accountants and lawyers involved in the administration process seem to be the few that have received anything from this sorry mess. But so many have suffered unnecessarily.

So, what can we learn from this sorry tale?

For me, the most obvious lesson is the reminder that owning a business does not automatically mean you are the best person to be leading and running it. Far from it.

In fact, in my experience, this is an error that too many business owners make – often they are not the best people to be running their businesses.

Yet, they diligently risk their and their employees’ livelihoods, or, at least, they restrict the performance and stability of the business by persisting with the view that they should have the ‘top’ job.

To use a sporting analogy, what they’re effectively saying is, “It’s my bat and my ball. Therefore, I automatically make the best captain.”

Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!

Think about it. Most business owners first started their companies because they’re either good at something, or they had a really good business idea. They didn’t start a business because they’re good at running businesses. (By the way, the single biggest reason for business failure in the UK is because of poor leadership and management…just as it was with BHS).

Why do you think so many highly successful businesses of all sizes aren’t led and run by the people that own them? (Of course, there are exceptions). For the simple reason that successful business leadership and management requires a very particular set of skills and experience.

Allowing someone else to run your business will also have one vital benefit (at least): it will allow you to do what you do best, which provides most benefit to the company (and, therefore, you), and is what is most likely to contribute to its future success.

If this short article does one thing, let it be that it encourages you to ask, “Am I the very best person possible to lead and run this business?”

But please don’t try to answer it on your own – you’re biased!

Ask it of all those around you, especially your employees, but also your friends, family, accountant, business adviser (you do have a business adviser, don’t you!)…and insist they give you their honest opinion and reasons.

Don’t be offended if they say you’re not the best person – trust me, it will be for the best in the end.

But, either way, act now with the information you have gained. It’s gold dust!

Good luck!

To find out more about how I can help you improve how your business is led and managed, and ensure it is more resilient and more profitable, please get in touch:

t: 01242-672440

e: click here

© Adrian Malpass 2016. All rights reserved.

What ‘science’ knows, and what business does, are not the same thing!

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Now, this might all sound a bit illogical, but there is so much high quality and, importantly, highly relevant data freely available ‘out there’ to business people, that it seems strange, to say the least, that so much of it is completely ignored by them.

This is not a new, or recent trend, but is something that

Let me give you a few, very basic examples:

  • 80% of start-up SME owners have no experience of running a business.
  • 80% of SME business owners agree they “can run the business”.
  • 80% of business owners never, and I mean never undertake any business management or leadership skills development.
  • Yet 80% of SMEs close before they reach their 5th birthday (long-term average)*.

Spot the link?

(* = the average closure rate in the last ten years is slightly higher!)

(Sources: ONS, HMRC, The Economist)

 

On a similar theme:

  • 80% of start-up SMEs who work with a professional coach/mentor will successfully reach their fifth birthday.
  • 80% of those that don’t, won’t.

(Sources: ICF, EMCC, LSE, and others)

 

When it comes to communication:

  • At least two-thirds of business readers of SME websites just want to find the phone number.
  • If your contact number is a mobile or 08- number, two-thirds of website readers will go elsewhere before they contact you.
  • It is estimated that 30%-40% of website views will be on a mobile device by the end of 2016, and this is expected to peak at 80% by the end of 2019.
  • Approximately 40% of SME websites don’t even have their phone number on their homepage, and/or do not have it visible on ‘first view’ using a mobile device.
  • Over half of SMEs agree that their websites “don’t generate enough enquiries”.

(Sources: Google, ONS, LSE, DBIS, BT)

 

When it comes to how our decisions are influenced by the options we have:

In 2009, the eminent behavioural economist Dan Ariely conducted a study of 100 MIT students by asking them to choose one of the following newspaper subscription options:

Option 1: paper only subscription $59 (16% chose this option)

Option 2: web only subscription $125 (0%)

Option 3: print and web subscription $125 (84% chose this option)

Option 3 is most popular.

 

He then took away Option 2 and asked them to choose again. This time:

68% chose Option 1

32% chose Option 3

Note how the least popular option has become the most popular, and vice versa, simply because the list of options has changed.

How could this influence how you communicate with others?

 

He (and fellow MIT colleagues) also conducted a number of studies in the fields of motivation, including this one in 2003:

Three groups were given a selection of games that involved creativity, motor skills, and concentration.

They were each offered one of three levels of performance based rewards (low, medium, high).

The result?

When the task involved just mechanical skills, the rewards worked as expected.

However, when the task involved even rudimentary cognitive skill, a larger reward led to poorer performance. Yes, really!

However, when this same exercise was repeated in a remote village in India, people offered the medium level of reward did no better than those offered the lowest level of reward.

But, and this is a big ‘but’, those that were offered the highest level of reward….did worst of all!

In 8 of the 9 tasks in these experiments, higher incentives led to worse performance!

 

So, what science knows, and what business does are not the same thing.

The point I’m making is the same as that old adage: if you do what you have always done, you will get what you have always got.

  • If people want to contact you quickly and easily, make it easy for them to pick up the phone to you (remember using email takes twice as long as using the phone (source: Harvard Business Review)).
  • If one of your USPs is that you’re a local business, then make sure your phone number is identifiable as a local (not an 0845) number.
  • If you give people too many choices, one of the options may get zero responses, but it might also serve to help the reader to make a decision that is better for them and for you.
  • Take care how you incentivise your teams – higher performance doesn’t necessarily come from higher rewards.

 

To find out more about how science can help your business, and how I can help you build a better, more resilient and more profitable business, please get in touch:

t: 01242-672440

e: click here

© Adrian Malpass 2016. All rights reserved.

Drop your obsession with ‘being in busYness’!

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Have you noticed there’s something of an obsession among ‘business people’ to be seen as constantly, and dare I say chaotically busy?

There seems to be an almost unwritten ‘law’ that telling everyone you meet how excessively busy you are is somehow good for their business.

But what does it actually do for their business? What messages does it send out? Is it really what current and potential customers want to hear?

Most importantly, are these people just busy being busy, or are they actually busy being productive? There is a huge difference!

I’ve made a study of over 100 micro businesses over the last 2 years, and here are the conclusions.

Unsurprisingly, the people who are busy being productive are very much in the minority – typically just 1 in 10 at best.

The remainder are, quite literally, busying themselves with what they consider is ‘being busy’, yet have very little output to show for their efforts.

In many of these cases, they have a firm belief that filling their time with what they consider to be “essential” or “important” tasks is good for their businesses, sends out a positive message, and as a result they are “too busy” to do other things (which would improve their productivity).

But what are the causes of this obsession with busyness?

Well, from the businesses I have looked at, it’s fundamentally about being disorganised – poor diary/time management, not prioritising the necessary tasks, not thinking clearly about being productive instead of just being busy, and consistently not understanding the full requirements of each task (including what they would deliver, how long they would take to complete, what the whole task requires, and so on).

So, how can you improve your productivity and free-up more of your time in the process?

Try these 3 steps:

  1. Make a list of your essential tasks first. Then note down everything you need to complete each task (and I do mean everything): whose help/input you will need, what materials and other resources you need, deadlines, etc, then work out how long it will take to complete fully.
  2. Prioritise these tasks – simply compare each task with all the others, and decide which task in each comparison is most important. The number of ‘wins’ from each comparison that each task gets, gives you your prioritised list – the more ‘wins’, the higher the priority.
  3. Give yourself feedback on how successfully you increase your productivity – do you estimate enough time, do you remember everything that each task requires, how is it benefiting your customers and your business, and so on?

To find out more about how I work with business executives, leaders and owners to maximise their potential and success, and the benefits of professional executive coaching and mentoring, particularly in developing leadership, strategy and growing a business, please contact me:

t: 01242-672440

e: click here

© Adrian Malpass 2015-17. All rights reserved.

What Makes Customer Service So Difficult (for so many)?

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How many organisations, not least the ones we all have to deal with (e.g.: utilities, local councils, etc), just can’t wait to tell us how good their customer service is?

Or should that be how good they think their customer service is?

In reality, just how good is it?

Remember – the most important ‘rule’ of customer service is simply…give your customers exactly what they want.

Because? Because they want what they want!

I know that sounds obvious, but how many companies (of all descriptions) actually do that?

Answer: not enough!

Achieving genuine excellence in the field of customer service really is not difficult.

It may be an old, and well-worn adage, but little things really do make the difference. Solid, simple, clear thinking is vital to success – one of the easiest things to do, and yet is so often not done!

No doubt you remember K.I.S.S.? Keep It Simple (Stupid)!

Some years ago I was being spurred on to create a new attitudes, behaviours and skills development programme simply called ‘Customer Connected®’ – driven by my frequent poor experiences, as a customer, when dealing with all sorts of organisations.

Here’s an example of poor service I received recently:

I am a member of a certain health and fitness organisation (yes, tough to understand I know!).

As always, they let me know, in a letter in the post (!) a few weeks in advance of when my membership is up for renewal. Thanks for the reminder. Well done.

Now, you would think that letter would let me know the best membership deal available for my needs and, just for a bit of further information, what other membership options are available, wouldn’t you?

After all, it’s a great opportunity to grab a bit of ‘one-to-one’ with the customer and show them how much you want to meet their needs, and is so easy to do.

But no!

Firstly, the letter contained two spelling mistakes, four simple grammatical errors (commas and apostrophes in the wrong place/missing, etc). Inexcusable!

But even worse was that the letter contained absolutely no information about what my membership renewal options were, didn’t actually tell me when my current membership expired, and then asked me to contact them to discuss it!!

In other words, the emphasis was on me, the customer, to do their work for them to get what they should be providing me with in the first place!

Appalling! Bad move on the customer service front! Very bad!

Important: the company failed the simplicity test – as one deal runs out, letting the customer know of the best deal they can provide, rather than writing to them with no information at all, takes exactly the same amount of effort! So do it!

So, I checked the company’s website, only to find I cannot renew my membership online! This is 2015! The world is online! By now I, as a customer, am distinctly unimpressed!

So I grab the phone. After a few minutes of being ‘held’ in a telephonic abyss, I eventually get to speak to a human being. Who promptly enters into a written ‘script’, and tries to explain all sorts to me, absolutely none of which was of any relevance, instead of actually listening to what I wanted! Dear, oh dear!

It turns out that the staff who are directly interfacing with their customers cannot, repeat CANNOT attend to anything that the customers might want if it doesn’t fit with the very limited range of services that are available on their computer.

Yet two-thirds of customers ask for something different!

To cut this story short, it turns out that the ‘best’ membership deal is actually one of their standard products. Great. So why doesn’t your website and your letter say that?

Another addition to my poor customer experience!

Can my membership be renewed there and then? Yes. Great! At last!

So, what infathomable reasons are there for me being forced to experience this level of poor service when providing all of the information in the letter would have made me a happy customer straightaway?

Goodness knows what the real answers are to that question, but, in essence, they missed a major and so simple an opportunity to deliver great service.

Somebody, somewhere in that organisation approved the letter, designed the website (or, rather, didn’t design it), purchased and configured the telephone system, employed the customer ‘service’ personnel, and trained them not to serve the customer – all of which costs considerable amounts of money!

Or, to put it another way, adds enormous cost to the business. Cost which has to be recovered through their charges to customers, let alone the frustrations inflicted on the customers themselves.

So, if the original letter had simply advised me of their best deal, instead of nothing at all, quite a few of those additional costs could be avoided, allowing lower charges for customers or more money for investment, and, most importantly of all, much happier customers.

The lesson from all this?

However much your customer spends with you, however much interaction you have with them, and however valuable they are to you and your business, keeping them happy really isn’t difficult! Just think clearly from their position and give them exactly what they want!

For some reason, so many organisations have an overwhelming and inexplicable desire to take something really simple and make it as complicated as they possibly can. Madness!

If you really value keeping your customers happy (and happy customers tend to be profitable ones) – please, please, please don’t do it!

To find out more about how I work with business executives, leaders and owners to maximise their potential and success, and the benefits of professional executive coaching and mentoring, particularly in developing leadership, strategy and growing a business, please contact me:

t: 01242-672440

e: click here

© Adrian Malpass 2015-17. All rights reserved.

Networking: the centre of the onion!

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I am often asked what networking is ‘about’.

Needless to say, there are as many views on networking as there are networking events,  just about everyone wants to get more from their networking, and those who say it ‘isn’t working’ for them are usually the ones who go about it the wrong way.

So, here is a very quick selection of hints and tips I have picked up over the last 28 years…

Firstly, let’s look at how networking goes wrong.

Networking is NOT:

  • About collecting as many business cards as you can
  • About selling there and then!
  • About constantly blowing your own trumpet
  • About dominating conversations
  • About being a robot

 

Now, the simple, easy things you can do to get your networking right!

Networking IS:

  • About building mutually effective, productive relationships
  • About listening and being genuinely interested in the people you meet!
  • About reminding people you exist (N.B.: they WILL forget from time to time!)
  • About getting to know others and letting others get to know you
  • About being ‘real’

 

The most effective networks contain these (at least) – which ones are you?:

  • Highly respected, well-connected, pro-active referrers
  • Regular, repeat customers
  • Great value, reliable suppliers

Remember, building a great network that works for you and those that are connected to you is like being in the centre of an onion. Try to build layers of people you know – get to know 10 people well, and let them get to know you well too, and they will each remember you to 10 others as they network.

So spending the time and effort to build 10 really good relationships, could increase your network by 100 connections.

Especially remember most of all that networking isn’t all about you! Refer and connect those in your network who you have good reason to.

Good luck!

To find out more about how I work with business executives, leaders and owners to maximise their potential and success, and the benefits of professional executive coaching and mentoring, particularly in developing leadership, strategy and growing a business, please contact me:

t: 01242-672440

e: click here

© Adrian Malpass 2015-17. All rights reserved.

Business alphabet: N is for…saying ‘No’ (occasionally)!

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When was the last time, in business, that you said, “No!”, and meant it?

It doesn’t happen very often, does it? Not least because we have all been led to believe that saying ‘no’ at any time in business is a bad thing.

Wrong! Wrong! WRONG!

Saying no can have a number of beneficial effects for both you and your ‘customer’ (the person you are saying it to). Here are just a few:

  • it has the effect of ‘re-setting’ your thought processes, typically allowing you to reconsider the situation from a different perspective
  • the ‘customer’ will usually not be expecting it, and they, too, will think more comprehensively about the situation, and
  • sometimes, it is simply the right answer, so say it!

New thinking = new results!

Business alphabet: M is for…Management!

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So when was the last time you heard, “I’m in management” and didn’t secretly just want to roll your eyes?

The word ‘management’ can tend to have that effect, can’t it?

Yet, in any business, particularly a growing business, it is essential that the management earns and sustains the respect of those all around, simply by doing what management should do – manage!

The challenge is that the term ‘management’ has come to mean so many things to so many people.

Fundamentally, anyone in management can only manage properly if they are given the right guidance and decisions from the organisation’s leadership.

Managers are there to implement those decisions and engage those in the wider business, and almost all of the managers I meet are perfectly capable of doing that brilliantly.

However, managers also need to be aware of their responsibility not just to manage ‘downwards’ to those they have direct responsibility for, but also ‘upwards’ to the business leadership not least if they are not providing sufficient information for effective management to take place, and also ‘sideways’ with their fellow peers within the management structure.

By doing this, a good manager both gives and receives a much wider understanding of what is required of them and how to be more effective in the business.

Give it a try if you’re not doing it already – you might well be surprised by the difference it makes.

To find out how I can help you build a better business, call 01242-672440.

Business alphabet: I is for…Interesting!

Have you noticed how some messages, emails, posts or documents get far more attention than others? What makes them so interesting?

Actually the more interesting any document or message the more likely it is to have one particular quality about it – it makes the communication ‘human’.

The key is that a huge majority of ‘readers’, especially in a business context, want to feel assured they’re connecting with another human being, not a ‘robot’ or faceless entity.

So give your messages, posts, emails, etc, a ‘human’ element, let them know it really is YOU writing it, and they’ll be more interesting to more people.

To find out how I can help you deliver sustainable growth for your business, please call 01242-672440.