Fame and Fortune

Why do people start their own businesses? The trite answer of course is that they are seeking fame and fortune – most of the businesses I speak to would deny that fairly emphatically but before we dismiss the statement let’s look at it in more detail.

The dictionary defines fame as:

The state of being famous; renown or recognition

Well, let’s leave aside the state of being famous – not least because I personally despise the current trend for programs like the X-Factor which seem to me to foster the concept that anyone can  become famous (and by so doing become rich) by making an idiot of themselves on primetime television for three or four minutes. I despise it because it implies that there’s something wrong with getting where you want to be by the application of planning, determination and sheer hard work.

Let’s consider the definitions renown or recognition. Most of the businesses I speak to would wish to be renowned for the quality of their product or service and do look for ways they can achieve this. Most of them also would wish to be recognised for what they do and this is one of the areas where I can often help them.

One of the exercises I often do with my clients is to look at their advertising and marketing efforts; things like classified adverts and business cards.

I’d suggest that if someone who requires their product or services just happens to pick up one of their business cards or looks at one of their classified adverts, would they immediately know what the business did; would they be able to find out more about the business (perhaps by visiting the web site); would they immediately perceive the business as being professional; would they be able to find the business easily (if they wanted to visit it) or contact it?

I’d suggest that they try to think of their business cards or adverts as unpaid salespeople – they need to be smart, eloquent, knowledgeable and, most important, out there selling. There is absolutely no point in printing hundreds of business cards and then keeping them in their box. Hand them out at every opportunity; send them with every letter, invoice or any other business communication; leave them in appropriate places; pin them to notice boards – make them work.

I think that the acid test is this. Imagine for a moment that you are in need of a specific product or service. You are walking down the street when you notice, on the ground in front of you, a business card. You pick it up and look at it and immediately realise that it belongs to a supplier of the product or service that you are in need of. Your most likely reaction is that you would bless the luck that made you pick up the card and you would immediately call or visit the owner of the card to see if you could get what you wanted.

Of course, if you had picked up the card and not realised that the owner of the card was a provider of the product or service that you needed because the card didn’t make it clear then you would probably just throw it away!

Looking at the fortune part of fame and fortune

The dictionary definition of fortune is:

A large quantity of money or possessions

Luck, destiny or fate

The experiences, good or bad, that a person undergoes

Do most business owners start off with the concept of earning a large quantity of money or possessions? My experience is that whilst many would jokingly say that they did, the reality is that it is seldom the main motivator for starting a small business – which is just as well because not that many small business owners do end up earning a large quantity of money or possessions!

How about luck, destiny or fate? I have to say that I’m not a great believer in destiny or fate but I do think that luck can have a great bearing on a small business – on the other hand I also think that there’s a whole lot we can do to influence our luck.

For example it would be easy to say “gosh that’s really bad luck” when a lightning strike hits the company computer and wipes the hard disk destroying all the company records, all the marketing materials and all the customer information. On the other hand if the business owner had planned for just such an eventuality and had regularly backed-up the computer and, furthermore, had a planned recovery process in place then it would go from being really bad luck to a minor inconvenience. Once again, this is an area that I look at with my clients – disaster planning and where the potential vulnerabilities of the business lie.

Actually, I would say that one of the main areas where I work with my clients is planning – looking at where there business is at present; discussing where the business owner wants to take the business and planning a route to get from one place to another. Hence the name of course – Charting Success – setting out a route for success.

And that just leaves the final part of the definition of fortune; the experiences, good or bad, that a person undergoes.

Speaking as someone who has run his own businesses for over 20 years I can attest to the fact that, at times, it can be a lonely, stressful and unpopular position to be in. On the other hand it can be rewarding (both emotionally and financially), satisfying and tremendous fun. On balance I would highly recommend the experience but I would also say that it can be made a lot less stressful if you relax, get a business coach (well I would say that wouldn’t I?) get some helpful tips (and by pure coincidence I have a really useful book of hints and tips to help your business that is available from this website – yet another coincidence) and generally exercise a huge amount of common sense.

And if you know of any other business owners who would like some guidance on their road to fame and fortune please do give them my details – thank you.

Seeing the Bigger Picture

My wife and I went to New Zealand a couple of years ago and I took over 500 digital photos of our holiday. We’ve looked through those photos and put them in scrap books to remind us, but of course, each individual photo just gives us a small window on the view that we were seeing at the time.

Recently I purchased some really whizzy software that takes digital photos that overlap slightly in their view and stitches them together as panoramas, and the difference is quite astounding. All of a sudden we are seeing again the complete views that so amazed us on holiday.

So what’s the connection with business coaching? Well I work with my clients and help them to stand back and piece together an overall view of their respective businesses through looking at all the individual aspects separately – things like sales, marketing, systems and people – and then put them together as a single, bigger picture. It’s amazing the difference it makes in terms of understanding where they are and deciding where they really want to be.

If you know any small businesses that could benefit from seeing the wider view of their business please refer them to me.

Killing Frogs

There is an urban myth that states that to kill a frog you just need to put it in boiling water – it isn’t true; the frog would just jump out!

If you want to kill a frog you put it in cool water and then very gradually increase the temperature of the water until it boils. The frog will adjust to the changes up to the point where the water is too hot; at which time it just gives up and dies.

So what’s the point I’m making? Well, small businesses are a bit like that frog; they adjust to the small changes around them; they put up with minor problems and inconveniences; they get used to things being wrong – until at some point everything reaches a crisis… and the business just dies.

As a business coach, I help business owners to understand their current situation and to be aware of how it is changing over time. I help them to predict the metaphorical boiling water – well before it boils!

So…if you know a business owner who wants to stay cool then give them my contact details; we can have an introductory chat over a nice cup of tea – a far better use for hot water

(No frogs were harmed in the making of this short blog!)

What is Success Anyway

One of the most important things I need to establish with my clients is their definition of success because I can’t help them achieve success if I, or they, don’t know what they mean by it.

I did hear an amusing definition of success the other day which was: success is the happy feeling you get between the time you do something and the time you tell a woman what you did … well I thought it was amusing!

From the point of view of my existing clients, success could be defined as: more sales, more profit, more ideas, more time or sometimes, less stress, fewer problems, or lower expenses. Whatever my clients decide is their definition of success I will work with them, on a regular monthly basis to achieve their ideal.

A final key point here is that once you have defined what success actually does mean for you then it’s far easier to recognise it once you have achieved it and then you can celebrate it… before moving on to decide what the next definition of success (for you) will be

Anyway, if you know the owner of a small business who wants to become more successful, then please refer them to me and I’ll help them to both define it and achieve it.

Making The Right Decision

An employee was talking to his somewhat taciturn boss and asked:

“Sir, what is the secret of your success?”
“Right decisions” his boss replied.
“But sir, how do you make the right decisions?”
“Experience” was the reply.
“And sir, how do you get experience?”
“Wrong decisions” came the answer!

It’s true though – to become successful you do have to make some wrong decisions and learn from them.

A business coach won’t know all the right answers and won’t necessarily be able to help a business owner from making wrong decisions but a good, experienced business coach will be able to help the business owner to measure what is happening with their business and then make qualified and, hopefully, right decisions for the future. And if some of those decisions do turn out to be wrong for the business, then the business coach is there to ensure that the business owner actually does benefit from the experience.

A Quick Guide to Coaching Acronyms

I was doing some research reading over the weekend and was struck by just how many acronyms that seem to have been created for business coaching.

We have GROW models – that’s Goals, Reality, Options and What, Who or When (depending upon which one you choose).

We speak of IDEAL’s – that’s Identify, Define, Explore, Action and Lookback – and KASH which is Knowledge, Attitude, Skills and Habits. And then we’re surprised if our clients exhibit CRAFT – that’s Can’t Remember A Flipping Thing!

Wherever possible I try to avoid these acronyms when talking to clients but if any of you know someone who could do with a BOOSTER session – that’s Balanced, Observed, Objective, Specific, Timely, Enhancing and Relevant then please refer them to me.

I’m DAVE Baker (that’s Diligent, Affordable, Vital and Enthusiastic) from Charting Success and I’m a business coach. (By the way, I originally wrote Desirable, Attractive Virile and Entertaining but I thought that might be pushing it a bit!!)

The two essential qualifications for a business coach?

I was reading a rather scathing article about business coaching the other day. It gave the author’s opinion of what the two most important qualifications were for a business coach – and according to those standards I’m only half qualified.

Now, my personal opinion is that I believe a good business coach should have experience of business – it’s all very well having text book qualifications but I really believe that a good coach has to have sampled some of the success and learnt from some of the failures.

Secondly, I think that a good business coach must be a good listener; one who actually hears what their clients are really saying rather than just picking out a few words here and there and filling in the blanks with assumptions.

So what were the qualifications referred to in the article? Grey hair and haemorrhoids. The grey hair to make you look distinguished and the haemorrhoids to make you look concerned

Oh, and in case you were wondering, I’ve got grey hair!

Which Road Should I Take?

In the book Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Caroll, there’s a lovely quote that goes something like this.

Alice, coming to a fork in the road asks; “Which road should I take?”

“Where do you want to go?” responds the Cheshire cat.

“I don’t know,” Alice answers.

“Then,” says the cat, “it really doesn’t matter.”

 It’s just like in business; if you don’t know where you want to go then it doesn’t matter which way you turn because any way could be right or wrong for the business.

 Could you have a successful business without the vision of where you want to go? Quite possibly… but then how would you know?

Invest it Wisely

If, on the day you left school or college to start work for the first time, someone had presented you with a cheque for £12,000 and told you to invest it wisely because that was the only investment you would ever get for the rest of your working life then, without a doubt, some people would use it wisely and some would just fritter it away – after all, £12,000 is not really a lot of money for your whole working life is it?

Well, think on this. If you start work at 17 years old, retire at 66, work an average 5 day week with an average of 4 weeks total holiday per year then the total number of working days in your whole working life is 11,760 days.

Not a lot really is it? Make sure that you invest your time wisely!

February and March Events in Suffolk

A couple of events worth considering for this month and next
“Show Your Business Some Love (and Love the Results)” an FSB event at University Campus Waterfront Building Thursday Feb 17th at 6:30 for 7pm – this event is being organised by UCS 3rd year students sponsored by the FSB and has a couple of good speakers (Andy Wood of Adnams and motivational speaker Robert Snow). Contact tplummer@fsbsuffolk.org to book (£10 for non FSB members)

and

Great practical workshop on social networking for business being run by Ian McKendrick (www.markandian.com) Thurston Grange Hotel near Bury St Edmunds on Tuesday 22nd March 9:30 start see FSB web site for more details when available (www.fsbsuffolk.org)