How optimistic should you be about your business in 2012?

How do you feel, about the future of your business?

Most business owners are pretty optimistic and will say that they are looking to 2012 with optimism.  This is great.  You can achieve a lot more with optimism, than with pessimism.  Pessimists seldom create anything.

Generally, there are 2 types of optimism:

Fact based optimism

This is where you can see the plans you have made coming into fruition.  It’s where you look at the strategies you have in place and genuinely feel confident that next year will be better than last year.  Every year, I work with people who see their businesses and their lives transformed, through doing the right things correctly.

False optimism

This is where you want things to be better next year, so you keep telling yourself that everything will be fine, but you have not improved your strategy.  The reality is that if we keep on doing what we have been doing, we will keep on getting what we have been getting.  Nothing improves, until we do.  If we want better results, we need to take better action.

In short: Look to 2012 and beyond with optimism, based on the fact that you will be doing the right things, correctly.  Things don’t just get better by themselves.

Don’t expect top end results using a butt end strategy

There are many ways to gain the attention of a prospective client or customer.  In business, it seems there are 2 ends of the scale:

The top end of the scale: Attracting attention and earning interest

This is rare and is based around doing work that matters.  It’s about standing out for all the right reasons, so people want to follow you, subscribe to your blog or newsletter or connect with you at events.  It’s about a commitment to delivering value.  It’s about applying your craft, rather than being generic.  It’s about understanding the importance of permission.

When this approach is applied correctly, the results are amazing.  In my case, they were life changing.

The butt end of the scale: Pestering people for their attention & irritating the crap out of them

This is a common approach and is based around interrupting people, without permission, to push a message at them that they never asked for.  We see it every day in our email inbox, on our voice mail and across our social networking accounts.  It’s all about pestering people.  It’s the approach that says it’s fine to piss off 999 people with unsolicited junk, if 1 person clicks through.

In summary

You can’t expect to get top end results, using a butt end strategy!

This is because the way we attract the interest of others has a massive impact, on how they feel about us.  For example, if you walk up to people in the street and poke them in the chest, you WILL get their attention – But you don’t need that kind of attention!

The big secret behind successful blogs

blogging tips, blogs, content marketing

One of the most common questions people ask me, is: “What laptop / notebook is best for blogging?”  As I get asked this so often, I decided to answer it here AND share the big secret behind this blog with you.

First things first:

  • Using Rafael Nadal’s tennis racket will not make you a Grand Slam winner.
  • Using a top of the range MacBook Pro, probably won’t improve your blogging.

That’s because those items are simply tools.  They are beautifully designed tools, but tools nonetheless.  It’s what we do with them, which counts.

I fully understand the value of using great tools.  However, when I write a blog post using my Mac, Samsung or Dell, the reader can’t tell the difference.  Similarly, if Seth Godin wrote his posts using a 5 year old Toshiba laptop, he’d still be successful.

Here’s my secret blogging sauce!

If you really want to massively increase the value of your blog, (and your business too) you need to embrace your inner freak!  THAT’S what makes the difference.

Do you talk to people or speak with people?

Here’s how to talk to a tree, in 2 simple steps:

  1. Find a tree.
  2. Talk to the tree.

Listen. Think. Respond.

When communicating with people, we need to use a very different approach.  Rather than talking to them (or at them), we need to speak with them.  This means listening, thinking and then responding.

It’s the difference between a conversation and a broadcast.

Who are you?

As far as the marketplace is concerned, who are you?

I mean, if I were to read the information about you on your website, blog and social networks, what would I know about you?  Typically, people share very little of their uniqueness and instead, use generic drivel to describe who they are and what their business is all about.  They lack the kind of narrative that inspires people, then wonder why prospective clients aren’t motivated enough to contact them!

As your prospective client, I need you to show some passion.  Some energy.  Some creativity.  I need you to tell me what sets you apart from the thousands of others in your industry.  If you can’t do that, you will really struggle to attract clients; let alone high quality clients.

Keeping it human

Take a look at the areas of your marketing, where you describe who you are and what your business does.  Remove any references to “providing client focused solutions” or “strategic implementation.”  Talk to people like humans and tell them what value YOU and YOUR business bring, in real, quantifiable terms.

You see, if you don’t give people enough information about you and your business, you will have no outsiders.  That may sound like a good thing, until you realise that you can’t have insiders, without outsiders.  These insiders are the ones you need, in order to grow your business.  (NB: I wrote all about this in detail, in this post.)

In short: The less you sound like everyone else, the easier you will find it to capture the marketplace’s attention and earn their custom.

My name is Jim Connolly and I am a freak!

It’s true: I am a freak!

Having now outed myself as a freak, I’d like to explain why you too should embrace your inner freak, if you want to achieve the potential you are capable of.

I want to begin with the man in the photo on the right.  He is an amazing artist I met this week.  His name is Ben Wilson and I have followed his work for years.  Ben makes art from the pieces of gum stuck to the street; transferring each one from an eyesore into a unique piece of art.

Ironically, I took this photo of Ben on Monday; outside The Royal Academy of Arts, London.  Of course, Ben is as much an artist as those whose work is displayed within those rather grand walls.  Indeed, his own work is regularly covered on TV and he has exhibited (inside) galleries all over the world.  What you may not know until you meet him “at work” creating, is that huge numbers of people stop and look at his art and talk to him, film him and take photos of him and his art.  That connection itself, is part of his art.  It’s beautiful.  He loves what he does and BOY does it show.

Defining freaks

Jim connolly, Nile Rodgers
Nile Rodgers and me in London.

I discovered Ben creating his art, as I walked from the train to meet with another amazing artist, my client, friend and inspiration, Nile Rodgers (that’s us on the right.)

What struck me, was that these 2 unconnected people are both similarly passionate about their art, because it matters so much to them.  To coin a term Nile is famous for, I believe that people who are driven to create and share in this way, are freaks.

When I say freaks, I am referring to those rare people who embrace their difference, rather than fight it and conform.  When Ben transforms gum into art, he’s not doing it for the money.  When Nile gets on stage and performs, he’s not doing it for the money either; with an estimated fortune of $40million, Nile’s doing OK, financially.  They are both doing it because it matters so much to them.  Freaks are the type of people Steve Jobs referred to as “The crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels.” in Apple’s 1990’s Think Different ad campaign.

Embracing YOUR inner freak

It isn’t just painters and musicians who match this definition of freaks.  We have them in every industry and profession, delivering their unique style of; web design, school teaching, marketing, legal representation, cooking, training, team building, medical care, circus skills, consulting, etc.  In fact, you see them every time you witness a person applying their craft to work that matters.

I wrote about this in detail in the following 2 posts, which are among the most popular pieces I have ever written:

  1. What you need to know about Work That Matters.
  2. Discover the key element that’s missing from 99% of businesses!


Yes, it’s perfectly fine to get your head down and do what’s expected of you.  However, it’s far more rewarding in every way to raise your head, raise your expectations and embrace YOUR inner freak!

Make it incredible today!

In times of struggle and adversity, we focus our mind and find that we are capable of incredible things.

Here’s a suggestion: Don’t wait for disaster to strike before you tap into your full potential.  Go and do something incredible today!

Where is the freaking proof?

It has never been easier for anyone to claim anything, now that we can publish whatever we wish on a website or blog.  As a result, our prospective clients want to know if we truly are as good as we say we are.  They want to know if our product will genuinely do what we say it will.  In short, our prospective clients and customers are, quite rightly, looking for proof.

I personally experienced something a couple of days ago, which demonstrates both the importance of proof and the power of an influential person, in changing how people feel about us.

Freaked out!

On Monday, after an evening with Nile Rodgers, I decided to get one of my copies of his autobiography, “Le Freak“, signed.  So, I stood in line with lots of other fans of Nile’s work at his book signing.

Whilst standing in line, a lady from the book store was handing out pieces of paper, so we could write our names down and make it easier for Nile to ensure he didn’t misspell anyone’s name.  When she reached me, I explained that I didn’t need the piece of paper, as I know Nile.  Her look suggested that she wasn’t convinced.  She was, let’s say, a little suspicious.

As I made my way slowly to the front of the line, the lady approached Nile and said; “Apparently you already know this gentleman?”

Nile replied; “Of course I do.  We work together!”

I later discovered that it’s not uncommon for people at events like that, to pretend they know celebrities or industry leaders.  They do it, knowing they will get found out as soon as they get face to face with the famous person, who obviously has no idea who they are.

That’s a huge risk to take, which begs the question…

Why do people fake endorsements from influential people?

It’s simple:  These endorsements are extremely powerful!  People use endorsements from industry leaders or celebrities as a short-cut in their decision making process.  As soon as people believe that you are endorsed by someone they admire and respect, it immediately, massively changes how they feel about you, your product or service.

For instance, when I was stood in line with Nile’s other fans, no one knew who I was because I’m not famous.  As soon as Nile publicly acknowledged me with a hug and a handshake, the people around me started talking to me.  I had strangers asking me what line of work I was in (I don’t look much like a rock star!)  I had strangers asking for my email address and my Twitter name.  Even the lady from the book store, who was so cautious of me earlier, seemed fine as soon as Nile connected with me.

Claims without proof can be toxic!

The power of influence only ignites, when it is verified.  In the above example, not only was the lady from the book store not impressed when I said I knew Nile, it actually put her on guard until she saw proof!  So, if you use testimonials or endorsements in your marketing, especially from influential people or organizations, be prepared to back them up or risk them having the wrong impact.

Quick Tip: One idea I have for proving an endorsement, which I believe could be extremely effective, is for the person offering you the endorsement, to include it on THEIR website, which you link to from your own site.  The endorsement could be on a “hidden but available” page.

A change for the better?

How do you feel about change?

I spent a lot of time walking around the centre of London today.  It’s an area I knew like the back of my hand, before I left to live in the countryside, a decade ago.  Today, I felt like a tourist, in the city where I was born and raised. 

It was a perfect, powerful example of the unstoppable nature of change.

In my experience, we have just 2 options, when it comes to dealing with change:

  1. We can embrace change and work with it, so that the direction of change is predominantly positive and progressive.
  2. We can cling onto the past or at least try to, so that we become a victim of change.  A dinosaur, if you will.

The trouble with change

The status quo is comfortable.  It may not be productive, progressive or exciting, but it is comfortable.  However, I believe that business owners today are experiencing a period, where the pace of change is faster than ever before and it’s still accelerating.  Clinging onto the status quo is no longer a realistic option; if indeed it ever was!

Unless we want to see our client / customer base leave us for more agile competitors, we need to remain relevant.  That means keeping an open mind to new ideas and new opportunities. It means avoiding change just for the sake of change, but accepting that as with life, business is a journey and not a destination.

Talk is cheap in the theatre of business

In the theatre of business, talk is cheap.

I was listening to the radio earlier and heard an online security expert, discussing what he called the theatre of security.  He used the term, to refer to the grand posturing some organisations indulge in regarding online security, without them actually rolling their sleeves up and making their security rock solid.

The theatre of business

That got me thinking about the theatre of business we see every day, where business owners postulate about how amazing they are, with no sign of them actually practising what they preach.

We have all seen them:

  • The SEO experts who have to use email marketing to reach you, because their own SEO doesn’t attract enough inquiries.
  • The company that greets your customer service call, with a string of recorded messages, assuring you “we are doing everything possible to answer your call” – Yeah, other than picking the phone up!
  • The self proclaimed marketing experts, who are so clueless themselves about attracting business inquiries, that they need to pester people for leads at networking events.

Talk is cheap, which is why we need to be mindful of 2 things.

  1. We need to examine the deeds behind a person’s words, before we decide whether to hire them or partner with them, etc.
  2. We need to ensure that our own deeds meet and surpass our words.

Whilst talk is cheap in the theatre of business, intelligent activity can be priceless, because it’s so rare.