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.

Do you walk the walk?

How often do you take yourself for a good, long walk?

The reason I ask you this, is that the older I become, the stronger my belief is, that the simple act of walking is a massively valuable asset to your mind and body.

Regular readers will know that I get the ideas for most of my blog posts whilst I am walking and that I record the ideas, using a digital audio recorder.  However, the benefits of walking on my mental and physical health and fitness is even more valuable than that.

Walking the walk

When I first discovered personal development, almost 25 years ago, I noticed that many experts extolled the mental and physical benefits of regular, long walks.  Some suggested that the act of having your left arm and right leg moving together (and then your right arm and left leg moving together), somehow gets both sides of the brain flowing.  I’m not  too sure on the science there, but what I am certain of, is the enormous mental benefit of regular walks on my well-being and creativity.

Why am I sharing this with you today?

Walking for strength

Yesterday, I watched a documentary about Nile Rodgers.  Those of us who follow Nile’s work closely, know that he is also a regular walker and walks for miles most days.  In fact, he uses long walks as training, before taking his band, Chic, on tour.  Anyhow, in the documentary, Nile talks about his life, his music and the challenge of being diagnosed with a very aggressive form of cancer.

At one point, Nile describes how he has used walking as a way to become mentally stronger;

“I walk and I walk and I walk, until I get my strength!”

Walking for ideas

I recently had a problem with pain in my lower back and stopped my daily walk for almost 2 weeks.  In that time, I wrote just 4 blog posts (I usually write at least 1 a day, spread across my 3 blogs.)  This week, I started my walking again and am back to my usual problem of having way, way too many ideas to publish.  Today, I have written 5 good posts and published 2.

Will a program of daily walking encourage the muse to visit you more frequently?  I have no idea.  But as walking is free of charge and even a 30 minute daily walk can be of so much mental benefit, why not give it a try?

The money is not in the list!

The most successful businesses in the world, large and small, have something in common:  They build relationships with their clients on an emotional level and then nurture those relationships.

Many small business owners get this wrong.  They use their marketing channels almost exclusively, to send sales messages to the marketplace.  You are more likely to find them on Twitter sending out links to their sales pages, than reaching out to clients and future clients, with help and ideas.  They are so short-sighted that they see social networks simply as a free way to push sales pitches and broadcast.

The money is in the relationships

The enlightened small business owner has figured out that the money is not in “the list.”  The money is in the relationships.  They know that before they can expect the marketplace to care about them or their business, they must first earn that privilege.

  • This means communicating rather than broadcasting.
  • It means understanding that when you refer to your COMMUNITY as your LIST, you have just transformed them from PEOPLE into ITEMS on some database.
  • It means offering your marketplace independently valuable information (like this brief blog post), rather than sales pitches.
  • It means listening.
  • It means understanding, really understanding, that behind every name, handle, photo and avatar, is a fellow human being.
  • It means understanding that you need to play the longer game, if you want to stay in business long term.
  • It means humanizing what needs to be human and automating what needs to be automated AND knowing the difference.
  • It means understanding that the process of giving and receiving starts with giving.

In short:  Business is all about people, so keep it as human as possible.

Why your hard work isn’t working

One of the hardest things in business, is to accept that your current strategy is taking you nowhere.  When we have invested our time, emotion, money and made a lot of sacrifices in an effort to develop our business, it’s hard to look in the mirror and accept we need a new direction.

The problem with hard work

When we work hard on something, we expect to see results.  With small business owners, if the results are not good enough, the temptation is to work even harder or work longer hours.

In my experience, the reason most small businesses fail is NOT because small business owners are lazy and need to work more and more hours.  The reason they fail, is that they are often working hard, doing the wrong things.

The beauty of gravity

Whether you know what gravity is or not, it still works.  If you flip a coin, it will not hang in mid air, simply because no one explained how gravity works to you.  Those who work hard on developing their business, doing the wrong things, yet expecting to make the progress they desire, may as well wait for a coin to hang in mid air.

Of course, the beauty of gravity is that when we embrace it, we can make it work for us.  By learning how gravity works (like a child learning to walk), we can make progress with it.  Similarly, when you either learn how to improve your strategy or hire someone, who already has the business development answers you need, you can start making the progress you desire.  The biggest challenge, is accepting that your current business development strategy is not working.

The bottom line: If you are not seeing the progress you want from your business and you are already working hard, change your strategy.

Your clients need to hear this!

As a service provider, you have 2 options when it comes to giving the professional advice, which your clients pay you for:

  1. Tell the client what they want to hear.
  2. Tell the client what they need to hear.


When we tell the client what they want to hear, we do them and ourselves a massive disservice.  It may make them feel good momentarily, to be told that their widget is a world beater, but if they hire you for your expertise and you believe their widget is junk, they need to hear it.  Tell them professionally and support your feedback with facts, but tell them.


When we tell the client what they need to hear, we are embracing one of the cornerstones of professionalism; the courage and confidence to communicate what we believe in.  This approach has longevity built into it, because it’s the only way to deliver your true value.  So-called “yes men” and “yes women” have little market value.

As a business owner, when you elect to take the tougher, long term decisions over the easy, short term decisions, you earn the respect and trust of your clients.

Every leader in every field knows this to be true.

Join me for coffee and a chat on Monday 7th November

Would you like to join me for a coffee and a chat?

I will be at Waterstones, Piccadilly, London on the afternoon of Monday, 7th November and I thought it would be a great opportunity to connect with those of you, who are likely to be in the area.  If you follow me on Twitter via @JimConnolly and would like to meet, let me know.

nile rodgersSo, why am I back in London?

My friend; the inspirational, musical genius Nile Rodgers, will be doing a book signing at Waterstones in Piccadilly, London, on the evening of 7th November.  Nile’s book, Le Freak (an upside down story of family, destiny and disco), chronicles his amazing story, the highs and the lows, from wayward teenager, to co-founder of one the bands that defined disco, Chic.

Meet Nile Rodgers

Having just completed Nile’s amazing book, I can not recommend it highly enough.  If you would like to buy a copy and get it signed by Nile, just come along to Waterstones on 7th November at 7pm and join in the fun.

Regular readers will know that Nile is someone I have mentioned many times here on the blog.  He’s a person I respect enormously, for his attitude, courage and his incredible ongoing list of achievements.

As well as achieving international chart success with Chic, through legendary tracks like Good Times, Le Freak and Dance, Dance, Dance, Nile found time to write We are Family for Sister Sledge and produce Madonna’s Like a Virgin album.  Nile also produced David Bowie’s Let’s Dance album and wrote I’m Coming Out for Diana Ross, as well as producing tracks for; Mick Jagger, Duran Duran, Debbie Harry, INXS, The Thompson Twins, The B52’s and many, many more.

I will be at the signing, which starts at 7pm; so if you are coming along, please let me know via @JimConnolly on Twitter; it would be great to meet with as many of you as possible.

Word of Mouth: Why your business needs a story

Word of mouth

Word of mouth is all about story telling.  If people are not talking about you in the marketplace, it’s because you have not given them a story, which is worth sharing.  Today, I am going to recommend you change that!

With hundreds of millions of people connected on social networking sites, it has never been easier for your clients or customers to share how great you are with their friends.

All YOU need to do is give them a story worth sharing and make it easy to share.

Winning stories

When someone has spent a week or 2 being wowed at a Disney resort, they have a story to share, which they tell to anyone who will listen.  When someone has bought a coffee from Starbucks, the people serving them are tasked with the job of ensuring the experience is worth talking about.

The companies with the best stories get the most word of mouth publicity, because people love to share their experiences.

Losing stories

So, the stories that spread are the ones worth repeating.  This is true of negative stories too.  If a service provider in your town has a habit of under delivering on their promises, the story spreads.  Disgruntled former clients or customers will often feel the need to share their disappointment with their friends.  This is especially the case, if their experience of a provider is so poor, that they believe it will stop others from using that provider and suffering the same experience.

Fake stories

A Chinese restaurant close to where I live was the victim of a fake story and now faces going out of business.  Someone decided to start a rumour, which spread on Facebook and resulted in the restaurant losing a lot of money.  The story was short and had a twist at the end, which caused it to spread into the national press in the UK.

The fact it was fake didn’t stop it spreading, because people tend not to fact check, before sharing stories.  Even one as unlikely as a lady going to the restaurant, who gets taken to hospital because of pain in her throat, which was caused by a microchip lodged in her throat that had been in the Chinese food she had eaten.  The twist in the story, is that the microchip gets scanned and turns out to belong to… a missing greyhound dog!  According to this report in the national press, the restaurant is now facing bankruptcy.

Your stories

So, what stories do you have, which your clients or customers can share?  What have you done for your clients, which is so jaw-dropping awesome that they feel compelled to tell everyone they know?

You see, it’s not enough to “just” provide a great service.  People expect great service.  Offering a great service may be enough to retain their custom, but it takes something extra, to get them talking about you.

5 Great questions to massively improve your results

Here are 5 great questions to help your business thrive in any economy:

  1. How many leads am I generating each day from my website / blog?  Our sites should be a constant source of highly targeted sales leads.  If your site is not currently generating as many leads as you can handle, you need to fix that immediately.  I’m constantly amazed how many business owners pester people for leads at networking events, when their website or blog could be generating high quality leads for them every day.
  2. How easy would it be, for someone to write a manual, which explained how to do my job?  Whilst every human being is of equal value, those in business with the highest commercial value do work that matters, which can’t be neatly explained in a manual.
  3. What am I doing, to ensure that the next 12 months will be better than the last 12 months?  If business hasn’t been good over the past year, we need to change our direction.  It’s way too easy to mistake movement for progress and end up working hard, doing the wrong things.  If hard work alone were the secret to success, our grandparents would have been millionaires.
  4. If my business was perfect in every way, what would it look like?  Write your answer down in as much detail as possible.  Include everything, from; the type of projects you would be working on, your profit figure and the length of your working day, to the number of hours you would work each week and the location of your business.  The clearer a picture you can build of your ideal business, the easier it becomes to direct your current business into that image.
  5. If my business were to stop trading on Monday, how easy would it be for my clients or customers to replace me?  This is similar to question 2, but is focused on the unique value of your business.  The easier it is for people to replace us as providers, the more volatile our client list will be and the harder we will find it to attract new clients.

Success, failure and feedback

We can learn from both success and failure.  In fact, I have probably learned as much from studying the failures of others and my own failings, as I have from studying what works.

Success, failure and feedback

Success and failure are simply feedback.  As soon as I figured that out, it changed everything for me.  I became a lot more prepared to fail.  I knew that if I studied the feedback from a failure, there would be a lesson and if I learned from that lesson, it would be a win for me.  This understanding is a foundational element of business success, because if you are afraid to fail, you will stick with what you are comfortable with; those things within your comfort zones. Then, once the best ideas from within your comfort zones have been used, there’s no more room for growth.

The reality is that there is massive value, in learning from failure:

  • If you try an email marketing exercise and it fails, you now have feedback, which you can use to make the next one more effective. #win.
  • If you give a presentation to a prospective client and they decline, ask them if they would be kind enough to tell you why.  This is a super effective way to rapidly improve your presentations or the attractiveness of your products. #win
  • If you start writing a business blog and find that (like most business blogs) it’s attracting readers and shares, but few if any business leads, study the data.  By looking at your analytics and determining what happens when people reach your site, you can make the changes necessary to transform it into a lead generating machine. #win
  • If you exhibit at a trade show and people walk past your booth, rather than stopping at it, observe the booths where they do stop and see what you can learn. #win
  • If you add a new service to your business and find clients are not signing up for it, ask them why.  Learn what it is that’s causing the disconnect between the value YOU see and the value (or lack of value) THEY see. #win

You get the picture: So-called failures, like those above, are required in order to get the feedback we need, to succeed.

Steve Jobs and joining the dots

In his Stanford commencement address, Steve Jobs spoke about what he called joining the dots.  It was a term he used, to describe the way he viewed the value of failure.  He said that when he looked back over his life at his many failures, like being fired from Apple or dropping out of college, he was able to join the dots and see how each failure, led to lessons, which allowed him to succeed.  He believed that so long as we are driven and prepared to learn, that we too would be able to look back and join the dots, to see how each failure led us to success.

It’s time to learn to embrace failure.