For those of you already following our #ADDAZERO story, today is all about FAILURE!
The moment I use that word, some will ‘switch off’, ‘move on’, ‘disengage’. And I get it. Why would anyone want to spend any time, thought or energy talking about failure?
Well, because you can learn so much more from failure than you ever will from success. And yet, so many show up on socials to talk about their success!
“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
“Success is a failure in progress.”
“It’s fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.”
So many of the world’s most recognised successes of all time, all speak of failure positively. As a means of lessons, learning, and opportunity.
And so, for 4 years, I headed up a team of MBA Business Analysts to really study what causes good businesses to fail! We looked deep into some of the biggest brands in the country (Woolworths, Blockbuster, Toys R Us) we wanted to understand not what caused them to fail (Most would argue all business failures are either because they go or grow broke!) But what did they not have in place that would have prevented it?
We discovered in al 153 studies 3 fundamental flaws that once all three were present, it was a case of when they will fail not if.
We then turned our attention to SME businesses, to establish when these first evolve, and what needs to be done to avert them. It took us to survey more than 117K businesses before we began devising a set of principles to apply to mitigate/avert these outcomes.
It was only when we began to apply these to our own business and to share them with others, that we began to realise “Success & Failure, are two sides of the same coin” and so if we teach people how not to fail. They are left with winning.
Since then we’ve supported more than 8,000 businesses to apply this methodology, and continue to see both significant and sustainable growth.
In order to meet our mission to eradicate unemployment in the UK we have to deliver this to more and more businesses. This has led us to have the programme ‘mapped’ against the National Skills Framework, become independently accredited, and now license the methodology for others to learn, apply and teach also.
In the last few months, I’ve quit, two different business activities. Even though, both were serving me and my business well!
In the summer, I quit attending a series of trainings I had signed up for and was learning much from. Then last week, I quit a networking group I have attended for well over a year.
On both occasions, what I signed up for was being delivered, and both I (personally) and we (professionally) benefited.
However, I became aware, of a significant and jarring difference in the standards by which we operate. And it eventually resulted in no longer being aligned!
Whilst, in modern-day purely ceremonial functions, as far back as Roman warfare and medieval warfare the standard-bearer had an important role on the battlefield. The standard-bearer acted as an indicator of where the position of a military unit was, with the bright, colourful standard or flag acting as a strong visual beacon to surrounding soldiers. Soldiers were typically ordered to follow and stay close to the standard or flag in order to maintain unit cohesion, and for a single commander to easily position his troops by only positioning his standard-bearer, typically with the aid of musical cues or loud verbal commands. It was and remains an incredibly honourable position. And one carrying a considerable risk, as a standard-bearer would be a major target for the opposing side’s troops seeking to capture the standard or pull it down.
This is also reflected in the context of the Olympic Games. The flagbearer is the athlete who has been chosen to represent their country at the opening and closing ceremonies by carrying the flag of their country and leading their country’s athletes, coaches, and aides.
So what are business standards?
Company standards refer to a set of values, performance benchmarks, and beliefs. All of these components make up the character of the business. Look at it much like you would the personality of a person. They are a significant determinant of how other people view or form an opinion about your brand.
Management standards are a critical component of running a business. It determines the level of trust and credibility amongst different stakeholders. Such include customers, employees, suppliers, and the public at large. They are also business guidelines that determine every process you make in the company.
Management standards cover a wide area. You look at performance, quality standards, safety, and testing, to name a few. The entrepreneur must come up with a set of rules that everyone must follow.
There are two facets to setting up business management standards.
The first is how you, as an individual, want to run your company. It is voluntary but goes towards establishing greater confidence amongst customers. Deciding to use local ingredients in a restaurant is a personal decision. The law cannot come after you if you decide to source your ingredients elsewhere, including internationally.
The second complies with regulatory authority guidelines. If you are in the medical field, it is a rule that practitioners have the relevant certification. It is a regulatory requirement and breaching such can result in legal repercussions.
Values/Standards – what’s the difference?
Values help us live with direction and purpose – like a guiding compass. Whatever is going on in our lives, our values can show us a path forward, and help us make better choices. Values are also intimately linked to our sense of self, and they’re essential for our mental health.
Values may be expressed as a stand-alone statement and form part of an authority’s code of conduct. Standards describe acceptable workplace behaviour and help guide the practical application of values. Standards are usually set in a code of conduct or similar.
The British Army Leadership Code is founded on Values. To them: Courage, Discipline, Respect for Others, Integrity, Loyalty, and Selfless Commitment are much more than words on a page, they are what the British Army stands for, and what sets us apart from society at large.
I may no longer be a serving soldier, but forever a veteran. I was introduced to, engaged with, accepted, and now live by a set of standards to which all future decisions are made. Based on Ethics, Sustainable growth, Active Listening, and Win | Win | Win outcomes.
So, why did I quit?
Well, because despite benefiting from their services, once we had learnt about HOW they do business, I realised this doesn’t align with our values of how WE do business.
You may ask: But surely as long as they are living within THEIR values, why does that matter? Surely. YOUR values are for you, not to ‘cast’ on all others?
Well, that may be true, until it’s not! You see, Like attracts Like. We ultimately want to do business with people like us! And, once you have learnt something that doesn’t meet the same standard/values match as yourself, it begins to bring into question your belief in that value, how important it is to you, and whether are you compromising on it, by continuing to ‘support’ someone else with differing views of the world?
Trust me, I’m not saying we are always right. And it’s important we use these opportunities to reflect, go back to our own standards, principles, and values and centre check to determine why we believe what we believe.
But, once you have done so, ACTION is required. Either to review and revise your own beliefs (and understand what caused a change in them) or to DEMONSTRATE your own values by living by them – ALWAYS.
My final comment here is regarding 9-5…
We may (I chose not to) dress in a certain way “For work” we may choose to act (I also chose not to) in a certain way “whilst at work” we may (accidentally or purposefully) create a WORK persona. Something we ‘step into’ as we leave the front door, and leave outside as we return home.
I know, that as a serving soldier it was imperative for me to be able to do this effectively. My wife and son didn’t require the skills, mannerisms, and behaviours of a Rapid Deployment Soldier around the home. Likewise, my deployment team didn’t require a husband or father. There was a need, to ‘switch on’ and ‘switch off’ the various attributes of each role. But, one thing that remained constant throughout was my attitudes and behaviours. My VALUES towards Courage, Discipline, Respect for Others, Integrity, Loyalty, and Selfless Commitment remained (and remain) constant.
What Standards / Values does your business uphold? and how do you demonstrate this to others?
We’ve all heard the expression “Cash is king” But you’ll find, that ‘cash’ in the hands of a customer, and so surely the real expression is (or at least should be) The Customer is King (or Queen).
With that in mind, I wonder:
Do you provide 5-Star Service?
Does your team?
To every Customer / Client / Enquiry, everytime?
I know we don’t go out there with the intention of offering a poor service, but for a multiple of reasons, we do.
It might be, you had a bad nights sleep, and woke tired, frustrated, late?
It could be, you got cut up on the way to work, and the red-mist hasn’t yet fully settled?
It could be, you ate something that didn’t agree with you, and feeling rather ‘icky’?
And, through no fault of your own, the experience the end user receives is less than they expected!
What is poor customer service?
Poor customer service happens anytime your business fails to meet a customer’s expectations. It could be the quality of service your customer received, how long it takes for you to answer their phone call or just their overall experience with your brand.
It doesn’t have to be huge, (in fact it rarely is), but it’s just enough for the customer to feel less about you and the brand than they did before their latest experience.
What is the cost of poor customer service?
Poor customer service will reduce the number of customers interacting with a business.
Fewer customers will cause a loss in profit for any business.
Loss of business may also force a company to attempt to save money (often through reduced staff training, lower salaries, and fewer incentives) Creating an ever-decreasing spiral which eventually leads to closure!
Consumer surveys consistently show that complaints are on the rise with customers becoming increasingly fickle in the face of a bad experience.
The Ombudsman Services report last year estimated that UK businesses lose about £37 billion every year due to bad customer service. When customers have a bad experience, around a third will respond by spending less on that brand and are more likely to switch to a rival. They are also more likely to complain to their friends, tweet, or leave bad online reviews. The report revealed that the most complained about the industry are retail, followed by telecommunications, with energy, transport, and banking coming in equal third.
Poor customer service not only affects the consumer but is also demoralising for the staff on the other end. Systems that leave the customer on hold or require them to repeat information many times over mean that instead of helping serve customers, call centre staff spend most of their time apologising to irate callers and directing complaints. This isn’t helpful and is extremely costly, especially taking into account that many of these customers will not be coming back.
There is plenty of evidence to show that customers value a product more if it’s accompanied by a positive customer experience. This is a trend that will continue and industry analysts say that spending on customer engagement projects is forecast to increase significantly as its influence and value become increasingly obvious.
Is poor customer service common?
It’s a lot more common than you might think! And, with competition being so fierce it has never been more important to recognise it, challenge it, and resolve it.
A customer is often far more educated, well informed, and knowledgeable about what they want, than the person selling it to them! Gone are the days when a salesperson is required to share all the features and benefits of the product/service. The customer has often done all the research online before even making the enquiry. Therefore the role of sales is no longer to sell! But data collection. In order to understand context, intention, and purpose, in order to offer the right solution, in the right timeframe, for the right quality and investment!
How do you stack up?
Do you survey your customers? Do you invite them to offer feedback on their experience with you and the company? Do you actively pursue comments/suggestions, and actively show that you are responding to the ongoing and changing needs of the consumer?
A recent study (2018) of more than 27,000 consumers, found that 72% voted their most recent experience with the brand 7/10.
7 isn’t so bad is it?
7 is terrible!
1-4 you’ve blown it, they are never likely to return. (Evidence shows, that if a customer has a bad experience with a brand, it can take up to 11 years before they are willing to return and ‘try again)
5-6 it’s not good, but it’s something you can work with. Taking fast remedial action, could well win customers over and give you a ‘2nd chance’ because you have demonstrated you are listening to the needs of the consumer.
9-10 GREAT. You’ve got some advocates, some loyal fans. These are the few, that will not only walk past the compeititon to return to you, but gladly tell their friends, family and connections why they do so.
8 You are on the edge! – Yes 8 and you are already not safe. This customer is happy (for now) but not happy enough to be loyal!
7 DANGER. This is the most dangerous number you could be awarded! Better than a 6 and so you think you’re doing a good job! Not quite an 8, 9, 10 room for improvement, but nothing to worry about!
You may have a fantastic product, but if your customer service is unhelpful, unreliable, or just plain hard to get in touch with, folks will hear about it, and you’ll lose customers over it.
That’s one big reason why investing in customer service is key to long-term business success.
But what does it mean to provide great customer service, and how can you ensure that every customer has a great experience with your company when they reach out for help?
Good customer service means consistently not just meeting but exceeding customers’ expectations.
Great customer service is quick, easy, personalized, and empathetic. Companies that deliver excellent customer service take the time needed to understand the needs of their unique customer base, and provide the help, support, products/services their customers/consumers need/want.
Here are 10 ways to deliver excellent customer service
Know your product/service
Expansive knowledge of your product(s)/Service(s) is an essential customer service skill. Ideally, you should believe in your product(s)/Service(s), be able to discuss features and use cases in an insightful way, and show your customers how the product/service can benefit them — not to mention troubleshoot anything that’s not working right!
Your job is to help your customers get the most out of their investment and feel like they have true value for their money. Make it your goal to learn everything there is to know about your product(s)/Service(s) so you can amaze your customers with timely recommendations for using new features and services.
2. Maintain a positive attitude
Attitude is everything, and a positive attitude goes a long way in providing excellent customer service.
“The right attitude changes negative customer experiences into positive customer experiences”.
Since many customer interactions are no longer face-to-face, your attitude should be reflected in your language and tone of voice as much as (if not more than) the words you use.
It’s easy to misinterpret the tone of written communication, and email or live chat can come across as cold. The brain uses multiple signals to interpret someone else’s emotional tone, including body language and facial expression, many of which are absent online.
If I can’t be face to face, I still find LIVE video THE best method of communication. Followed by the telephone, and the use of voice notes. Don’t be afraid to use emojis to convey warmth and good humour, and personalisation.
3. Creatively problem-solve
Over 80% of customers have churned because they experienced bad customer service. That’s why you must thrive on solving problems for your customers and make it a central part of your support role — and there will always be problems to solve.
Have you heard of the legendary customer service at Zappos?
For example, they once sent a best man free shoes the night before the wedding after his order was sent to the wrong location due to a mistake by the delivery company. Zappos solved a problem and exemplified excellent customer service — they won a customer for life and gave the man a story that he couldn’t wait to share.
Don’t be afraid to wow your customers as you seek to problem-solve for them. You could just fix the issue and be on your way, but by creatively meeting their needs in ways that go above and beyond, you’ll create customers that are committed to you and your product.
4. Respond quickly
66% of people believe that valuing their time is the most important thing in any online customer experience. Resolving customer queries as quickly as possible is a cornerstone of good customer service. Speed should be of the essence — especially for smaller issues that don’t take much time to solve.
That being said — great customer service beats speed every time.
Customers understand that more complex queries take time to resolve. There’s a difference between the time it takes you to respond and the speed at which you resolve their problems. Customers don’t want to languish in a ticket queue, but they’ll spend as much time as it takes to resolve their issue. You should, too.
Get back to your customers as quickly as possible, but don’t be in a rush to get them off the phone or close the ticket without resolving the issue completely.
5. Personalize your service
40% of customers say they want better human service. That means they want to feel like more than just a ticket number. They get angry when they’re not being treated like an individual person, receiving boilerplate responses, or being batted like a tennis ball to different people.
Customers want to interact with a person — not a company. It’s part of the reason why many businesses send gifts to their customers on their birthdays.
Do you know not only your customers’ names, but also their birthdays?
How about their interests or hobbies?
Can you make them laugh?
It’s obviously not possible to do this for everyone, but going off script and giving the personal touch when you can is an important way to show your customers you know them and you care.
6. Help customers help themselves
That said, customers don’t always want to talk to someone to get their problem solved — often, they want to quickly resolve their issues themselves. Among consumers, 81% attempt to take care of matters themselves before reaching out for help from another. Further research shows that 71% want the ability to solve most customer service issues on their own.
Self-service is a scalable, cost-effective way to make customers happy — that’s the thinking that led us to invest more and more time and energy into our FAQs, which puts help content front and centre so consumers can find answers right where they are without having to either email, or book a call. Then if they’re unable to answer their own question, help from a real person is just a couple of clicks away.
7. Focus support on the customer
Your customers are the most integral part of your business, and they come before products or profit. Treat them like they are the centre of your world — because they are.
According to Kristin Smaby in “Being Human is Good Business,” It’s time to consider an entirely different approach: Building human-centric customer service through great people and clever technology. So, get to know your customers. Humanize them. Humanize yourself. It’s worth it.
8. Actively listen
Paying attention to customer feedback includes looking back over the data, as well as listening in real-time. Show your customers you hear them when they take the time to speak to you. Listening increases the chances that you’ll hear your customers’ real problems and can effectively solve them, resulting in happier customers.
Listen to what they have to say without pushing your own agenda.
Don’t assume that you know what your customer is going to say.
Demonstrate active listening skills; when you’re on the phone or live chat, use phrases like:
“It sounds like … ”
“Do you mean … ?”
“Let me make sure I’ve got this right.”
Make sure you repeat the problem back to them in your own words to show you’ve heard them.
Active listening also means you are mindful of your customer’s unique personality and current emotional state so you can tailor your response to fit the situation. Customer service is not one-size-fits-all.
9. Keep your word
If you promise something, making sure you deliver on it is common-sense customer service. Don’t let your customers down. Keeping your word is about respect and trust.
For example, if you promise an SLA uptime of 99%, make sure you keep to that standard. If you promise to develop a certain feature in your software in a particular time frame, make sure you deliver on that. If you offer a loyalty bonus stick to it
If you ever break your word, like saying you’ll get back to a customer within 24 hours and you don’t, offer something to make up for it. If your customer’s delivery goes awry, offer to replace it and refund their money for their trouble. You might lose some money in the short term, but you’ll gain a loyal customer.
Interestingly, customers do not feel extra grateful when you deliver more than you promised. They do, however, feel angry if you break a promise. It’s still better to under-promise and over-deliver so you can make sure you never break this important social contract.
10. Be proactively helpful
Going the extra mile is one of the most important things you can do to deliver great customer service. This is when you have ticked all the boxes, yet you still want to do more.
Sometimes being helpful means anticipating your customers’ needs before they even have to articulate them. In fact, sometimes customers may ask for one thing without realizing that they really need another. It’s your job to anticipate their needs and provide for them.
When customers feel like you value them — like they’re truly special to you — they’ll keep coming back. This may be linked with the phenomenon of reciprocity in social psychology:
If you do something nice for your customers, they will want to do something in return
like, buy your products!
Sending them a small gift “just because,” or giving them a rare promotional code, will speak to your customers’ egos and demonstrate your genuine appreciation of their business.
What are the differences between customer service and customer experience?
Customer service is just one part of the entire customer journey, while customer experience encompasses all the interactions between your brand and a customer.
Is customer service part of the customer experience? Or is customer experience what happens when someone receives customer service? Are they the same thing?
The terms “customer service” and “customer experience” are often confused or used interchangeably. They’re not the same thing, but they are related.
The difference between customer service and customer experience is that while customer service is one piece of the puzzle — focused on human interaction and directly supporting customers — customer experience is the sum of the entire customer journey with your business.
Let’s take a look at customer service vs. customer experience in more detail.
Customer service is probably a more familiar term — it’s also the more narrowly scoped of the two.
Customer service is the assistance and advice provided to a customer for your product or service as needed.
Customer service requires your customer-facing team to possess a particular set of skills, including patience, product knowledge, and tenacity, so they can provide the answers and assistance a customer needs. It’s the human element in the customer journey and the voice your customer will recognize as representative of your organization.
What is Customer Experience?
Customer Experience, or CX, refers to the broader customer journey across the organization and includes every interaction between the customer and the business.
CX involves all the ways your business interacts with a customer, including and outside of traditional direct, customer-facing service. CX captures how the customer uses your product or service, their interactions with self-service support options, the feeling of walking into your retail store, customer service interactions with the team, and more.
Customer experience includes three main components:
Customer Service: This includes Customer Support, Customer Success, and self-service support — the points at which your customer interacts with your team.
Technology: This is the product itself — how it works and the interactivity points.
Design: This is the brand touchpoint — the marketing, the design, and the feelings your brand creates for your customer.
While those three areas are quite distinct, there are no hard lines between them. All of the pieces combine and work together to make up the customer experience.
Customer Service Vs. Customer Experience
The key difference between customer service and customer experience is that customer experience involves the whole customer journey, including customer service.
Customer service is limited to the interactions a customer has when seeking advice or assistance on a product or service. Understanding the customer experience, on the other hand, can involve analyzing data from non-customer-facing teams who contribute to a customer’s overall experience with a product or service.
Customer service and customer experience are both important pieces to an organization’s success, yet it’s not possible (or necessary) to draw hard lines between them. The line between how customers use a product and how they interact with the people supporting it are more blurred than ever. Customers consider the whole picture when thinking about your offerings, and you should, too.
A great example
In May 2021, I made the decision we needed a new printer. Our previous printer was several years old, and whilst it worked, it was ‘tired’ and not always offering the best print quality. Beyond this, printers have moved on significantly in what they can do, and our print requirements determined it would be more cost-effective to upgrade and continue ‘in-house’ than ‘out-source’ various print requirements outside the scope of our current machine.
I had planned to scour the internet, for all the latest models/reviews recommendations etc. But found Printerland had already done all that for me. Completely independent from any particular brand, they have both an impressive selection and offer a comparison service.
Using this, I was able to determine my requirements, and make recommendations as to which printers met/superseded those requirements, and for what level of investment. By using this free-to-use tool, I was able to make my selection, make payment, and receive the new printer the very next day.
Within the packaging were instructions for use, and the all-important warranty instruction.
Following the warranty guidelines, I visited Xerox website, to input the required data to register the product, only to find the purchase date was already entered, was grossly incorrect (01/01/1901) and unable to be changed! Uncertain how to overcome this, I dialled the number on the screen for their “Helpful customer service department” only to find the number had been discontinued!
Uncertain how to proceed, I called Printerland customer service to enquire how best to proceed. And was immediately offered an alternative number to speak with Xerox. Finally able to speak to the manufacturer, and they advised if there was a ‘glitch’ with the website, I should continue to complete the form, but also email in proof of purchase, that they would then amend the purchase date.
Some months passed, before the printer offered an ink low warning, and time to purchase new toners. – Naturally, I returned to Printerland, as not only had their service been exceptional, but were most cost effective also.
On receiving the toners, across the receipt, was a promotional offer:
“By purchasing original toners within this qualifying period, you are able to extend the products warranty. Click here to extend your warranty”
Fabulous. Not only did I have new toners, but also able to double the length of the manufacturers warranty – Or so I thought!
Visiting the website to enter the details, the website declared “Unable to extend the warranty, as original warranty already expired – (01/01/1902)”
Oh no. Despite having spoken to Xerox at the time of purchase, and being assured they would update the system, this had not been done, and showing my warranty expired 5 years before the company was even formed! Thankfully, the advice given by Printerland was to take screenshots of the website with the ‘glitch’ and I was able to share this with them, for them to acknowledge the problem and agree to extend the warranty.
3 months later, and the printer develops a power failure fault! (These things can happen, I get that)
But thankfully, we have that extended warranty, right?
Mmmmm, on contacting Xerox (using the phone number given to me by Printerland, as the one on their own website is still wrong) I’m greeted with: Your warranty has expired, there is nothing more we can do!
Despite sending emails, screenshots, and recorded conversations to the contrary, the ‘customer services representative‘ has a script. And my problem falls outside of the remit of their script. So round and round we go, not making any progress!
An email from Matthew at Printerland…
“We notice you currently own a Xerox ***** and haven’t purchased toners recently. We currently have a *% discount on toners, and wondered if your ready for a top up?”
What a great email. Not too pushy or salesy. But saying we know you own the machine, and that it has consumables. We’ve got an offer on those right now, is this something you may wish to benefit from?
Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how you look at life) this email landed as I was still on the phone playing merry-go-round with the Xerox ‘Custoemr Services Rep’ and getting nowhere fast. And so, my reply to ‘Matthew’ wasn’t as professional or polite as it perhaps should have been:
“Thanks, Matthew. However, as the printer has been inoperative for the last 3 weeks, and I’m struggling to get Xerox to honour the warranty they offered. I’m not ready to spend any more money on toner I can’t use”
What happened next was a miracle
Moments later, my office phone rang:
“Mr Allen, it’s Matthew from Printerland. I understand your having a problem with your printer?“
OMG – My email hadn’t just landed, but Matthew (busy trying to sell me some ink) was now on the phone enquiring what the problem was and as to how he could help.
I quickly recited the above, and he advised he would contact Xerox on my behalf and see how best to resolve this.
Within the hour, he called back, advising a Xerox engineer would attend to assess the machine the next working day. And that if there were any further hold ups, to call him back.
Said engineer arrived, and spent over 2 hours uploading software updates, and testing parts, before determining it requires both a new power unit and motherboard. However, “As this is a courtesy visit, outside of warranty, these parts are billable, and not that cheap!” He shared that to purchase the parts, have a xerox engineer come back, strip the machine down to fit them, then rebuild and test is likely to cost several hundred pounds, and therefore ‘might be the more cost-effective to buy a new machine‘. Shocked 😮, as the printer is only 15 months old, and hasn’t yet finished its 1 set of toners.
However, Matthew called back to see if the engineer had been.
Yes, but it’s going to be more expensive to repair than replace. I replied.
“Leave it with me“. And off he went again.
An hour later, having escalated this to the highest levels within both Printerland and Xerox he assures me the problem will be resolved without charge within the next 24 hours!
My point for sharing this in quite so much detail is:
It wasn’t a Printerland problem! I may have bought the unit from them (15 months ago) but the warranty is issued (and should be serviced) by the manufacturer. And yet the moment, Matthew heard I was having a problem, he has gone above and beyond in order to assist me in resolving this.
He’s lived up to the Printerland promise of Exceptional Customer Service
Now that is an exceptional customer experience.
You can find a wide range of printers and consumables on the Printerland website: www.printerland.co.uk where I can guarantee you’ll get some exceptional customer service.
One of the things I’ve observed in the last 18 months or so, is how more and more people are telling white lies!
I’m not calling people liars – we’ve all been guilty of not wanting to admit the real reason we are late to attend the endless zoom meetings was “I needed the loo”. But there appears to be a growing urge to tell everyone “everything’s fine” when clearly it’s not!
Social media (and people’s addiction to it) has seen endless scrolling of “Success stories” with people draped over expensive cars, scantily clad exotic holiday pics, and sumptuous surroundings whilst out for dinner. Viewers see this as a personal challenge against their own microwave tea, and a race to do better!
And so, the lies begin. It’s not intentional, but a ‘social necessity‘ to fit in, to be someone to be accepted!
However, what is even worse than this, is the lies we are told and those we tell ourselves!
Meaning, mastery and money are all essential in today’s business environment. Meaning and mastery will lead to more money. Many small business owners instinctively do these things, but most business advisers only focus on the money. They tell their clients to make the money first, then they can invest in mastering their business and making meaning in their community and life. Unfortunately, that sets up a cycle that never gets them there. Instead, business owners need to be encouraged to invest in meaning and mastery from the beginning.
Most small business owners are very good at the work of their business. As Michael Gerber says, “they are technicians who get an entrepreneurial twitch”. Usually in response to working for another technician who had an entrepreneurial twitch. This means they are not clear on what it means to run a business.
In reality, most small business owners are freelancers, (or as Gerber refers) Business Operators not owners of businesses. And yet so many Business Advisors are pushing them to act like a business?
Let’s have a look at these pervasive lies
You have to wear many hats
This perpetuates the myth that business owners have to do it all. Even worse is the myth that they have to know and understand it all. Who can possibly know all that? This is the single worst bit of advice ever given and it is what makes small business owners feel inadequate.
The most important hat a small business owner needs to wear is the sales hat. Making sales is what defines a business. Making sales will pull a struggling business into the black. Making sales is the crucial first step to everything else that follows. The best advice to give small business owners is to go make sales.
After they are making sales, teach them the strategy of the business and how to lead a team, not how to do everything in business. Offering ‘all you need to know workshops’ on how to do bookkeeping, marketing, project planning, hiring/firing etc, lull our business owners into thinking that all they have to do is execute on the tactics properly in order to succeed. We should be telling our business owners to get help as often and as early as possible.
Yes, it’s good to know what needs to be done, but not to know every last detail of how to do it. To move from Business Operator to Business Owner we must know enough to find the right person to do it!
The worst ways a beginning business owner can be spending their days is in designing their business cards or a poster or trying to set up their bookkeeping.
“Only once the owner has made the physical, mental and emotional switch from operator to the owner can the business thrive”
Starting business owners don’t have enough money to invest in themselves or their business
So advisors touting for clients, give them yet another free 101 workshop. Telling them a million and one things that they must do in order to grow their business. Whereas the reality is it is keeping them central to the business and forcing them back into a JOB.
The most successful small business owners I meet are the ones who invest in themselves early and often. They understand their strengths and they outsource the rest. They know the highest and best use of their time is in talking to and serving customers.
And advisors often tell them, “by the way your time isn’t worth very much”. A good friend who runs a bookkeeping business, tells people directly: They can do your bookkeeping faster than you can worry about it. And It is true. Yet Eventbrite is full of Advisors and Accountants giving Business Owners 3-hour workshops on how to do their bookkeeping, then expect them to take a couple of Sunday afternoons a month to do it.
Or they could outsource it to a bookkeeper for around £100pm And it would be right. Plus they got advice from a professional who does bookkeeping for a living.
Instead, so many still do an inferior job, that takes them three times longer and often leads to either the wrong or poor results WHILST keeping them away from customers/prospects and earning more money! Because they went on a course!
Finally, that’s assuming they need bookkeeping done on a regular basis, which most didn’t.
Most Advisors don’t teach them how to engage professionals early. Instead, they suggest that when they get big enough, they can hire a marketing expert to take care of their marketing. What they really need, is to hire a professional to help them refine their message. A professional has the experience to tease out the words and message that matters. Never mind about flyers, radio or podcasts. Get the message right first.
Marketing, finance, operations, and HR are the fundamentals of business
Maybe. If you have a big business with a division of people with expertise to take on each functional area. Again, no one person can master all of these. These are functional areas of business, the understanding and management of which makes the running of the company work better. but they come after, much after the customer is clearly defined, the problem your offer is solving is nailed and you are ready to scale up in a big way. Having all of these perfectly in place will give you a well-run company, not necessarily a successful one.
Business development takes several years of talking to customers, testing offers and making sales. Until then, the focus is on doing the work of the business, not managing a company.
During the first couple of years, bookkeeping and financial information are only needed to file taxes. It’s more important for our business owners to be agile, to experiment and always be testing. Financial Statements are backwards looking documents and they only track money. For instance, it’s not enough to know the impact on revenue of changing prices. It’s more important to know who the new pricing attracts and repels, the cost of delivering on the new pricing and the change in expectations.
The message, loud and clear is, that you must learn this stuff and do it yourself FIRST. It’s good for you because then you get to understand your business from the ground up. The truth is that struggling to do a bad job at a task you are not suited to is not good for you. Doing a bad job at copywriting doesn’t help you understand your marketing message. We should encourage our business owners to hire professional help, so they get a professional result.
Profit is the most important number
Big business uses many metrics, not just profit, to run their business and yet we tell small businesspeople that if they do their bookkeeping, they have their numbers covered. The most important metrics to track may not be on the financial statements.
For the first couple of years, spending is going to be distorted towards start-up costs. Every available penny is put back into the business to help it grow. A true picture of the financial health of the company won’t emerge for a few years, yet. As a Coach, my job is to help the business owner manage their money and their cash flow and in giving them tools to evaluate the opportunities that will help them grow their business.
The business won’t settle enough to show trends emerging out of the noise until several years in. Focus on what’s really important like landing another £5000 a year customer, not saving £20 a month on the phone.
A business plan is crucial before you start a business
We’ve all said it “Fail to plan and you plan to fail.” What about “No plan survives first contact with customers”?
Creating a business plan is premature before a single sale is made. It can’t be done until customers are identified, what they want and how they want it. These questions can’t be answered at a desk. They can only be answered by talking to customers. When that step is done properly, the business is up and running and the business owner’s time is best spent on making sales, delivering, and testing.
For instance, Ben comes to you wanting to open a pet store. The first task you set him should be to send him out to find his first 5 customers to find out what they really need and want. If Ben can’t do that or isn’t willing to do that, then all the ‘entrepreneurial traits’ tests won’t help, and the best-laid business plans won’t make the business a success.
That goes double for marketing plans. The first year should be devoted to sales and not marketing. We all know 100 people, who know 100 people, etc. Fifty pet owners spending £50/ month will give Ben a base upon which to build. That takes sales, not marketing. Those sales should be well underway before signing a lease and paying for inventory.
The business plan focuses on financial projections, market analysis and demographic customer analysis. That’s great if you know who your customers are, which you can’t know if you don’t have any. The best way to do a market analysis is to spend a week selling into that marketplace, not a week spent searching statistics and playing with spreadsheets.
We should encourage a focus on business models, feedback loops and pivots. Then on customer engagement, automation rollouts or scaling. When our business owner is ready for scaling up, hiring and financing, then that’s when an executable business plan should be written.
They attend workshops on how to be more productive and on time management, but not on courage. Any person having procrastination issues is dealing with fear, not the wrong method for managing to do’s. The greatest service we can give our business owners is to name it and help them deal with fear and courage.
Most teach business owners how to do all the work of running a business instead:
We should be helping them focus on what not to do as much as what to do. On causing things to get done rather than doing them. The “Really busy” answer to the question, “How are you doing?” has become a badge of honour. We let them get away with that. We tell them we appreciate them taking time away from their busy day to meet with us.
We should demand, not just encourage our business owners to take time away, time to think every day. We should make it clear that they are the most important piece of their starting business and therefore looking after themselves is vital to business success. We should encourage them to meet for coffee and masterminding regularly.
Working harder on the wrong things won’t get better results, it will only get our business owners to burn out!
But even worse, here are the top 6 lies Business Owners tell themselves
“I can’t afford it….”
As in, “I can’t afford to pay someone £20-30 per hour on this task.” While on the surface this lie sounds like you are concerned about your budget and their bottom line. What it really means is that they aren’t confident enough in your ability to create higher-value items/services. This could be because they feel that you lack the skills to do anything of higher value or it could be a cry for help time management-wise, as they don’t then know what they would do with the time they have gained back!
“I don’t have the time…”
They spend their day putting out fires and handling other people’s tasks. Is it any wonder that they don’t have time to grow your business? Business owners have to Stop telling themselves that they don’t have time and start looking at exactly what they are spending their time on. Are they high-value tasks or are you putting out fires?
“No one can do it as well as I can…”
This lie is code for: “I can’t delegate that kind of authority, what if they make a bad decision? What if they mess up a client relationship?” Of course, there are different levels of delegation based on the experience set and abilities of a team member, but business owners who instinctively hold tight to the reins of all decisions and authority in their business end up being owned by their businesses.
“Let me check my diary and get back to you…”.
This is the lie we tell ourselves instead of facing the harsh reality of our dependent relationship with our business. Whereas what they are actually saying is: “I want to sound busy, but the reality is I’m not confident to move forward yet!”
“I’ll just wait and see what happens…”
As in, “I know I have a real staff issue, but I’ll just wait and see if things straighten out on their own first because I don’t have the competence or confidence to address it.” When you have a real issue, deal with it. Immediately. Don’t let it linger or fester while you “hope” it will resolve itself. Why do so many entrepreneurs do this? Because they are not willing to face the temporary discomfort, usually emotional discomfort, of meeting the moment directly.
“I am not making any progress….”
If the first five lies weren’t bad enough, perhaps the worst lie of all is when you tell yourself that you aren’t making any progress in your business. You find yourself saying “Argh well. Next time….” Stop and celebrate your victories. Don’t deny the results or downplay your successes. Savour the moment and take in your progress.
What’s The Answer
The sooner business owners get out of the building’, talk to customers and make sales, the sooner they will get over the fear. The sooner they understand their role is not to know everything, but to find and partner/recruit/JV with those who do. The sooner they begin sharing not only the successes but the problems they face and ASK FOR HELP. The sooner they will make REAL and LASTING progress.
Yes, it’s hard and yes, there will be resistance, for which every coach must be ready and prepared. However, by working with a coach to overcome these, you will be stronger, more capable, and more resilient it.
One of the very best ways of achieving this is through Mastermind.
At the time of recording this, I’ve had the privilege of being involved in Mastermind for 17 years and now host mastermind groups both on and offline. They truly are a most remarkable and unique place, where magic happens.
When ego is left at the door, and innocents enters. When bravado and BS are left at home, and vulnerability takes a seat. When every individual present recognises that Together Everyone Achieve More. It enables owners to ask, share, learn together and benefit from each other’s knowledge, experience, qualification, and strengths. In every mastermind, business owners encourage, support, and hold to account for each other for the progress and direction each is taking.
We all know business is changing – the way customers engage, the way it’s delivered, and even the way people pay. Shouldn’t the support you access change too?
Here at My TrueNORTH, The Ethical Coaching Company, we support Business Owners to Significantly and Sustainable grow both themselves and their businesses, by hosting a series of Mastermind Groups.
Hosted both online and in person, these groups are the catalyst for more and more business owners to #addazero. Whether it is the mindset/motivation or vision of the business owner, through to the systems, processes and people required to run the business. From marketing management to sales certainty, our proven 8 elements are fundamental to the ongoing growth and success of all those who attend.
The most popular answer I hear when I ask this question is FREEDOM!
Freedom to do what they want, when they want. And not to have to worry about work, or money in order to be able to do whatever it is they want to do.
So why is it, so few have ever really planned for what that might look like!
Sure, we all have a vague notion of “life after work” or “retirement” but how much time, effort, and consideration have you put into determining exactly what that will look like, and when you wish to achieve that?
One of the ‘4 Killer Questions’ I ask every client is:
“One what date are you going to successfully sell your current business? and be able to retire?”
Now, to be clear; I’ve not SAID retire, I’ve simply asked BE ABLE TO retire?
In response, I often hear people frantically working out in which year they are going to turn 65. And then shaving a few years off, to ‘reward’ themselves for having owned their own business! So they are somewhat taken aback when I ask “And what would you do in the interim if you were able to achieve that in the next 5 years?”
You see, once you have achieved your ENOUGH? number, and have the ABILITY to retire – Everything changes.
Working because you WANT to, not because you HAVE to
Doing WHAT you want, not what OTHERS want of you
Being, doing, having, all becomes possible
And all of that is possible in a far shorter timeframe than you may first think possible – Through the application of a different mindset and beliefs!
I’m a firm subscriber to the concept:
Your future shall ultimately be determined, by the quality of questions, you learn to ask, of yourself.
Therefore, if you want a better future, it starts by learning to ask better questions.
Our ethical business mastermind groups, are specifically designed and managed to ensure bigger, bolder, brighter, more challenging questions are asked AND ANSWERED, not only to change but transform you and your business, the perception of what is possible and the means to achieve it.
In today’s video, I’ll pose the 4 most DIFFICULT questions you are ever likely to have to answer! But in doing so, will fundamentally change the way you think about, work and operate within your business!
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.
Any cookies that may not be particularly necessary for the website to function and is used specifically to collect user personal data via analytics, ads, other embedded contents are termed as non-necessary cookies. It is mandatory to procure user consent prior to running these cookies on your website.