Thursday, 21 January 2016

No one listens – including me!

We are consumed by our mobiles, iPads, social media and all things digital. That in itself is not really news. What I have just realised is how much we don’t actually listen to what others are saying because we are so engrossed in our own digital worlds.

How has this suddenly dawned on me? It was because of a story my mother was telling a friend of mine. She was recanting how if it wasn’t for my aunt intervening she may never have given my father a second chance at the tender age of 16. I thought I knew most things about my parents and I am sure my mother has told that story before but I wasn’t paying attention. With so much on my mind and calls and emails constantly pinging on my devices, I didn’t listen. And now that my mother is elderly and frail, I realise just how important it is to take in all this information.

This isn’t really about just taking in my gorgeous mom’s recollections. It is a sudden lightning bolt that my attention span has been diminishing as time goes by.  How many of you have gone to a lecture or even a meeting and kept an eye on your mobile? How many of you have had lunch with a good friend telling you their problems and your phone was face up on the table? Perhaps you have answered a business call while sitting at your desk with one eye still on your emails or reading Facebook? Is your iPad sitting on your sofa next to you while you watch tv?

There are very few view people I know who couldn’t say ‘yes’ to at least one of those questions. I do know some people who shun mobiles and emails almost completely and happily but they are few and far between. And perhaps to generalise, the younger you are the less you are conditioned to listen well.

Think of how much you are missing out. In an age of information overload, try simply taking in the things your family and friends are telling you. That goes for work colleagues and customers too. Listen well, listen intently and you may just be surprised to hear what you’ve been missing. I’m learning to walk away from my mobile and computers for a number of hours a day. Maybe baby steps but it feels good to realise I haven’t actually missed anything really important in that time. It also means I am starting to slowly absorb the small stuff I have grown to ignore. 

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Must you be Perfect or is Close Good Enough

So what do you think is more important for business? Speed to market or getting everything exactly right before taking action? I wouldn’t proclaim to have the absolute answer but it is something I run across a lot lately.

I do have an opinion. I think, to coin a very old phrase, the early bird catches the worm.  I have yet to find a perfect website, social media campaign or youtube video but so many still hit the spot and get a response and that’s what counts. If you spend so much time looking for the 100% right words or the perfect photo, you will lose time gaining business.

Being in the digital age means everything is manageable. If you aren’t happy with some of the copy, change it. That’s why God invented the CMS. I often tell my clients that 95% is pretty damn good when it comes to getting their new website ready. The rest can be updated as you go so get it out there. If the odd mistake is noticed, then thank the bearer of the news and make the change (you could say they won the prize for first spot). The fact that someone took the time to look at the website in the first place and notice the error means you’ve won. Another old adage – any publicity is good publicity.

I have also spotted many slip ups in Twitter and Facebook. That could be something as simple as sending out publicly what you thought was a DM or private message to just plain bad spelling (the curse of the predictive text – I have done my fair share of funny posts). Well there again the beauty and speed of social media channels means you get a second slice of the pie. You get the chance to update or do a second mea culpa message. You may get noticed but isn’t that really what you want?

There are a few things I do find hard to excuse such as using lower case ‘i’ when referring to yourself or apostrophes where they don’t belong. I slightly despair at what texting and social media has done to our grammar and spelling especially with younger people. I can understand how it happens but wish more care was taken or at least considered.

Overall, my advice is get out there and get selling yourself and your products or services. Spending a lot of time and money for perfection at the beginning of your journey is a luxury few SMEs can afford. There is plenty of time to update. Your website and marketing should be an ever-evolving thing.   

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Saying ‘No’ can be a Good Thing

In my many years of working and being in business, I had always thought that you never say ‘no’ to any customer or potential customers (apart from the most ridiculous requests). I think I married that along with the ‘customers always right whatever’ philosophy in my psyche. Last year, though, I thought I would try a few ‘noes’ and the result was I lost no business but gained a bit of professional happiness and confidence.

Very often the more you give, the more someone takes. I don’t blame anyone for that for it is the person giving that has allowed the situation to happen. If you are worth your weight though then your clients and friends will take whatever you give. I don’t suggest you short change anyone but I think it is fair to set boundaries and keep to them.

Take for instance after hour or weekend calls and emails. I used to jump on all emails no matter when they came in. I always seem to have my mobile or iPad to hand even when I am relaxing in front of the television or reading the newspaper. Last year I decided that my limit to replying was 6pm and anything after that time would get a response in the morning. Lo and behold, no one seemed to mind.

The same goes for meetings. I started telling new clients a few years ago what my hours of availability were and they did not include nights and weekends (without prior agreement for the odd time). That set my boundaries and hasn’t affected business one bit.

One of the hardest ‘noes’ is turning down a new business opportunity. I find saying no to anyone asking for my help very difficult but realistically you do need to understand what business you want to do and what that is worth. I have taken my fair share of work on that just doesn’t pay so I am learning the fine of art of turning down work. It isn’t always easy saying no in this case but when you do, it can be very empowering.  

All this goes a long way to achieving a better work-life balance. We all deserve our own space and me-time as well as contentment for what we do. Clients will understand this as long as it is clear from the outset. And think of it as doing them a favour too as you will be in a better place to help them and not waste time – you might also be teaching them the idea of doing the same.