A thought for June

June already. Where is the year going? Lots of young people taking exams, poor things. Lots of hay fever about and at the other extreme; thunder storms and horrible humidity. Some people made the half term holiday into a proper holiday and everyone else is looking forward to their annual pilgrimage to the sun.

That is the upside. A couple of days ago I was shelling out huge sums of money for some root canal work. It got me thinking about how we purchase. There are 3 types:

  1. The basic stuff we have to have on a day to day basis like food and underwear. It is not optional, and it is not much fun to buy.
  2. The exciting stuff like clothes, shoes, a new guitar or a gig ticket. These purchases give us a boost and we love them.
  3. Then there are grudge purchases like my dental work. We do not want it. We did not budget for it and we do not feel the benefit. These simply take us back to the status quo.

If you sell the basic stuff then it has to be a stunning transaction for people to keep coming back otherwise they might just go on price. Stunning customer service is the way to get loyalty.

Exciting stuff can sell itself if we make the product or service enticing. Building the dream of ownership is how we sell it.

When it comes to a grudge purchase we want it done properly and as economically as possible. I deliberately did not say cheaply because we want it done once and we want it done properly.

It got me thinking about training, development and experience. We do our initial training and professional qualifications where they are appropriate and then we spend time on continuous professional development. We learn new skills either because we want to become more specialist or because the world we are in is changing and we want to keep up. We seek out experience to complement the training and we become increasingly worth our hire. My dentist is particularly skilled in root canals and his equipment is state of the art and that meant my time in the dentist’s chair was comfortable and as short as possible. He did a great job and although I am poorer I am now pain free and I still have the tooth.

I paid for the training, development and the experience and it has to be remembered: his years of preparation meant I was only in the chair for two hours and the pain was gone. However, there is something else. Anyone can make a job look difficult, it takes talent, real skill and lots of experience to make a job look easy. The ease gives the customer confidence both in the immediate job and its longevity. However, there is a danger because someone makes something look easy we may take the work for granted and forget that it is excellent workmanship. His trick was to take an X-ray before hand and talk about what he could see for five minutes before the work started. He made it clear what he would do and the chances of success. After the work was complete there was another X-ray and he explained what he had done.

My dental work is an obvious success (no pain and no hole) but it has made me think about my day job. Mentoring is all about drawing out the issues from the client and then in some suitable way asking them what the feasible solutions might be. I say “drawing out” because how I do this varies from personality to personality and can take lots of time and skill. I need to read the person and decide on the correct route to take; crafting a plan is the easy bit. For some people they realise that they would not have moved from the starting dilemma on their own and certainly would not have committed to a solution without intervention. Others do not always appreciate that I need forty years of experience and honed skills to get them to that point. Using intuition, reading body language, listening to what is said, hearing what is unsaid and then putting the findings to the person in an acceptable way, this is what I do. Helping them examine these findings and then using them as a starting point for developing some new thinking, this is what I do. Sometimes there is confusion that lifts, sometimes clarity emerges and sometimes the penny drops with a resounding clang. This is the equivalent to the toothache going away. Mostly people know it would not have happened if they were left to their own devices. However, there are days when I need to remember my input. After my visit to the dentist I am thinking what my equivalent of the pre and post X-rays might be. However, sometimes a wonderful, unsolicited testimonial arrives, like this one from Anna Botsford:

If you’re looking for a business mentor………look no further! I can highly recommend Liz, she has given me a safe, non-judgmental space to air my business and personal concerns, issues and goals. She has helped and continues to help me understand more about the way I work and how I can change it to be more productive and effective………. thank you, Liz.

It was good to be reminded that money spent with a mentor offers life time value. And it made me grateful that I had thanked the dentist for his work.

None of this is original. But think about how you demonstrate your talent, skills and experience and remember good work is always good value.

If this has been interesting, please share it. If you are thinking of working with a mentor, please chat with me about what you are hoping to achieve. I might be the right person for you or I can help you find someone who is. In the meantime, life is good; let’s live it to the full and be the best we can be.

In the meantime I am also taken up with the Inspire Initiative. It is out on the street now; please take a look at www.theinspireinitiative.co.uk

If you are a woman associated with Bedfordshire in some way and not in full time education you are eligible. There are two prizes of one to one mentoring. What is stopping you from applying?

Working smarter not harder

As a business mentor I work with all sorts of people who want to improve their business performance and go from just being good to being great. The question I am most often asked is “please can you help me work smarter? I am working lots of hours, am permanently tired, know I am not as organised as I could be and do not know where to start. Help!”

Working smarter means very different things for different people but usually comes out of one of the three areas of your business life:

  • How you develop your business skills
  • How you use your management skills
  • How you manage yourself

Or maybe it is some mixture of all three?

I am going to give you my top tip in each area – not necessarily the tip that will make most difference in the long run but the tip that will give you an immediate result:

Business skills – successful business is selling something someone else wants at a price that makes you a profit. – simple. Except it isn’t because people often do not know what price to charge. Pricing is based on four factors:

  1. What is your skill level and what equipment do you need; therefore, how much should you charge for it? Remember it is the plumbing apprenticeship you pay for, not the five minutes to fix the leak.
  2. What do the competition charge and why? This will be one of the influencers in deciding where to buy. There is a market out there.
  3. What does the customer expect to pay and why? If you charge too little you will not be taken seriously and too much you will be viewed with suspicion.
  4. Having the confidence to charge the right figure. Good work is not expensive it is good value. You need to learn how to ask for the business at the price you have determined.

Get all this together and you will make a profit and probably work fewer hours!

Management skills – whether we have employees or not we need to learn how to manage others. It could be to achieve what we want from our clients, suppliers or contacts. We must rely on other people to achieve tasks for us and so the top skill is how to delegate properly.

Most people are afraid to delegate because they fear the other person will not do the job the way it should be done (that is the way you would do it!). The truth is that most people want to do a good job but they do not always have enough information to do it well and so they improvise. Before you ask anyone to do anything ask yourself: what do I want done exactly? What is the outcome I want? When do I need it done by? Do I need reports as the task goes on to let me know how it is going? What freedoms does the person have to complete the task? Once you have answered these questions you are in a good place to brief someone to do the job.

The communication needs to be two-way: you explain and ask questions to check out what the person has heard you say. These are not always the same thing! And don’t forget the most important question of all is “is there anything else you want to know?” and the most important statement is “come back to me at any stage if you have any questions”.

Personal skills: are we doing what we are good at as effectively as possible? This includes your admin! None of us likes doing this stuff, we prefer to do the things we started the business to do. This means we need to accomplish the other work as quickly and competently as possible, so we can get back to the more interesting stuff. It also goes without saying that there are never enough hours in any day to do all we want.

The key is to be doing the right thing at the right time.

My top tip is spending some time working out all that must be done and then organising it. Set aside some time to list everything that is on your plate right now. This should include work things, family things and personal things. Add to this over a few days as your brain reminds you of stuff you overlooked in the first sweep. Then:

  • Note against each task the optimum time by which it should be done; not the last minute but a comfortable time AND work out how long it will take to complete.
  • Find a bring forward system that you like.
  • Note each task separately and file it on the date you must start it to have it finished at the right moment.
  • Each week look at the days ahead and the work to be done and decide what must be done first.
  • Stick with your work schedule!

All this sounds easy and obvious. In many ways it is at an intellectual level. However, it is not easy to change habits, new habits need to become ingrained. It could easily be that you need support. That is where someone like me – a mentor – may come in. If so, please contact me for a free chat about what your unique needs might be and how we might meet them.