Thursday, 12 September 2013

Jimmy Griffin & The Wonderful World of Social Media

From the 'Drop the Monkey Business' column in The Galway Advertiser 12/09/2013 P.111

All the different social media sites can be daunting places to be when you’re in business, however when used right it can generate great outcomes. Most businesses struggle to use it to their benefit as they base all their posts on products that they sell and very little focus on customer’s needs outside the scope of what they want the customer to buy. It’s a voice not just for your business and products, but also for your customers and community. In the wonderful world called social media, on the different platforms and the endless stream of social sites bidding for your attention to join and partake in a sometimes addictive environment where you can tell everybody about everything and have nothing to show for your efforts and nobody interacting with you, it can be hard to get excited. However the opposite is also true. You can talk to an engaged and interested audience about one important item that generates lots of interest and activity, both online and offline. Using social media at it’s best comes when we take the words ‘Social’ and ‘Media’ and apply the literal meaning of the words like a winning formula that can’t be any other way but successful. Think about what you’d talk about over a pint or a coffee. You keep it social and interesting. In many ways what it amounts to is good conversation by somebody who is impassioned about something that affects the masses.  A great local example of this is when Jimmy Griffin from Griffins bakery started the online Facebook page: Galway City Car Parking Information from Griffins Bakery, a community page talking about Galway city car parking charges and sharing ideas and discussions about a better approach to the subject. Jimmy is harnessing the voice of the people for fair car parking charges. 
On meeting Jimmy upstairs in the bakery I quickly learned why he is so good at social media. Jimmy is good at social. He’s good with customers. He knows them all by name and he takes time to connect and say hello to everybody. He is passionate about his customers, passionate about his business and passionate about getting a solution to a problem that is of no help to his business, his customers or the local community. By creating a platform and communicating to a engaged audience on that platform gives both the creator and the participants a voice that can not be ignored. Jimmy’s car park campaign has been the subject of much radio and print media (including this article), which can create discussion and evoking change. What Jimmy is doing is using his expertise online and his brand to channel the concerns of his customers and potential customers, which otherwise go unheard. Social media gives power to the people. Responses happen faster and the conversations are more heartfelt and honest. When I asked Jimmy his take on social media in business, he said “Social media offers businesses immediate one to one communication with people. It has life and is happening in real time allowing people to communicate their thoughts there and then creating more honest and direct measurable dialogue that is instant.” This is very true on Facebook and Twitter where if you don’t respond or get a response to a post while it is sitting in your newsfeed it fades away; you are only as good as yesterday’s bread. (Excuse the pun!) Jimmy added “It has the power to create anticipation and debate when used in the right way, at the right time and for the right reason when looking to get the right result.”  When approaching Social Media ask how you can use the space as a voice for you and for others? How can you respond and get a response that will get people talking? Speak about the things that matter most to your customers and as much as you may like to believe they want to talk about the products you sell, more than likely it’s far from that. At the end of the day, it is all in the name: ‘Social’. Be Social. Nobody wants Spam. Another great plus ‘You get the opportunity to connect with a different audience. If you’re going to be on Facebook or any other social media site, be sure to be social and engaging, just as if you were going to go into a bakery you’d be sure to come out with something sweet!

Sunday, 30 June 2013

Dealing With Distractions In Business

From the 'Drop the Monkey Business' column in The Galway Advertiser 27/06/2013 P.115

Driving home from beautiful Connemara in the west of Ireland last week when the sun was giving us one of our rare summer moments I came across a wonderful business. This commercial creation had a very interesting, successful and, I would imagine seldomly used trade model. When I asked the lovely lady who was working there for a business card as I wished to look them up online and email them thinking I may wish to make an order at a later date I was told, ‘No that’s not possible”.  She continued to tell me how they have no phone, no email, no website, no business cards and they have been running a successful business for over 20 years. What a story.  I was intrigued and continued to dig a little deeper. “These are all distractions that keep us from doing what we do well. Working.” said the lady with a big smile full of pride and rightly so, as she is spending 100 percent of her day doing what she loves doing with little or no disruptions.

Mastering the art of avoiding distractions can prove very difficult in today’s world of information overload. So many people have direct access to you via your smart phone and Internet. How do you filter out the noise and separate the unneeded distractions from the useful distractions so you can dedicate more focused time to tasks that will help you reach your goals quicker? I believe you need to reprogram your mind. Of course the above mentioned model is not for all, however it is good food for thought and a great starting point to ask: If we could start over with a blank canvas and use only what’s needed, how would we go about doing it? What would we do different? What is really needed?

The biggest distraction in the work place use to be: conducting personal business, daydreaming, running errands, and making personal phone calls. These are all distractions that you must go out of the way to do or engage with others. Now the Technology is getting really good at getting into peoples lives to distract and zap precious time, for example; the use of smart phones sending push notifications from the one of 100’s of apps that sit on your phone. You don’t have to go out of your way to find a distraction anymore; now the distraction will come and find you. How many times have you started your day fully committed to putting in a full 8 to 10 hours of work and then wondered why so little work actually got done? If you’re like me, the answer is "too many times!" You can talk all you want about using great selling techniques, having a brilliant business idea, how you are good at networking, good at planning, how you aim to boost your business, but all the technique in the world will add up to zero if you don’t disciple yourself to be selective with the incoming noise of the new generation technology. You need to apply some self-control and decide for yourself who you choose to communicate with and what you aim to get done on a daily bases. You must decide and be choosy about who is going to interrupt your space. If you find yourself giving too much time to Mark Zuckerberg, just remember, Facebook is a business who’s main ambition is to keep you on their site for as long as possible and they don’t pay you a wage. Okay, Facebook isn’t everybody’s distraction but is a solid example of what I am talking about. Identify what stops your focus and look for ways to overcome it. Take responsibility for what steals your time, be it apps or people. No one else can tell you what you need to do. How will you handle the distractions that keep you from accomplishing what you want to achieve in business and life?

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Back To Basics

From the 'Drop the Monkey Business' column in The Galway Advertiser 13/06/2013 P.95

With so much to do, to start, to join, to begin, to become and to be good at in today’s fast hitting, individually targeted and continually evolving world of constant overload of information, clubs, hobbies, be part of this and be a part of that for a better life, sometimes a great thing to actually do is to STOP, to slow down and take stock of everything in your life. A bit of self-love to focus your mind, wants and needs. See what needs to go, what needs to stay and what you need to start to make the journey that is life a little easier and a bit more enjoyable. Call it spring cleaning (which is not exclusive to spring!) detoxing, clearing out, getting rid of the old and making room for the new, it all comes down to one word. Change. I once heard a quote “Change nothing and nothing changes”. This is so true in every part of your life, be it business or otherwise. Einstein called the opposite a definition of insanity: Doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results. Yet, that’s where the majority of people seem to be most content.

If you wish to attract new passions and innovative ideas into the small space that you call yours it can be a great ritual to look at what no longer works and do a clear out.  Look at the old habits that you started years ago. When you really look at what you get out of that particular routine you may realize that it’s original benefits and needs have been fulfilled long ago and you no longer need to carry that thing. When you scale back all the noise that you identity as life you give yourself an opportunity to reengage with what matters most. You get back to basics. Back to the family, the people around you that matter most. Back to the hobby that really makes your heart skip a beat. You go back to doing the tiny tasks that may have been irrelevant once yet when you allow yourself to get stuck in the moment they indeed can put a smile on your face that goes from the left ear to the right. And it might be something as simple as cutting the grass, washing the dishes, enjoying every sip of your well earned cup of warm tea, helping your elderly neighbour take out the rubbish bins, or simply being on your own and taking time out for yourself. We do all have a pause button that we should press a little more often. It’s good to stop, to reflect and to change where change is needed. Like the sun when it does come out to stay, you have to allow the brilliant bits of you to shine. You can do this by removing all the unneeded surplus activities and hours of well-practiced procrastination.  You can do this by being comfortable in your own skin, being yourself and not what you think others want you to be. Where do you start? Just take one step at a time. Even the good things are habits too. Make the habit to stop doing the actions that don’t help you achieve your goals. Make it habit to try one new thing every so often, Maybe it’s only to go for that 20 minute daily walk that you don’t go for but know if you did it would make you feel a lot better than watching TV. Maybe it’s to pick up the phone and contact an old friend; maybe it’s to push your business to the next level. Maybe it’s just to get back to basics so you can build or rebuild. I am not a huge fan of the Nike Sportswear brand, but I must say they really have a slogan that can be applied to anything you wish to start, stop or when you want to put a little fire in the belly. Just do it!

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Stand Out From The Noise & Sell Smart!

From the 'Drop the Monkey Business' column in The Galway Advertiser 02/05/2013 P.110

Selling has become a dirty word as every home receives more junk mail, more cold calls, and more spam in their email inbox. Many years ago the salesman was a well received friendly person in the family home. I remember being a very young boy and watching, as my father would greet the insurance man by first name and invite him in for a tea and a biscuit. My father would give the same warm welcome to the sales person that we bought the encyclopedias from.  Times have changed. And it sure is a tough job to be a sales man going door to door.  People are now receiving offers from every possible outlet that they tune it to. You have junk mail in the letterbox. You get spam when you go to check your email and with so many companies looking to ring your doorbell I think there is little chance of tea and biscuits. Yesterday I got my fair share of people and companies wanting me to know what they have to offer.  Between the early hours of 7 and 8 I received 5 different pieces of mail through the letterbox. I thought on each occasion ‘great, the postman has arrived, let’s see if he has anything special for me!’ It wasn’t to be. Out of the five items of mail that I received not one was addressed for me. Holding back the tears I looked at each one. A leaflet from a supermarket, another from a hairdresser, two food takeaways and finally a hand written note from a young neighbour offering to cut my grass, to, which I was very impressed and took up his offer! At lunchtime, the doorbell rang when I happened to be at home sampling the wonderful baking of my wife’s homemade brown bread, which I topped up with some tasty avocado & beetroot. I answered the door to find a well-dressed and smiling sales representative asking me to change my utility company. As I was having one of my treasured moments with food and my family I asked the lovely young sales person if they would call back in the evening. They didn’t. That day I received ten spam and subscription emails in my email inbox. These were all companies offering me deals and telling me about the their latest products. I wasn’t too interested. Before the close of day I had received two phone calls from companies whose services I already use offering me different subscription plans.  I love business and I always do my best to give some attention to offers that pass by me, but today’s many leaflets, post, emails, doorbell rings and phone calls left me with one question. Why was the grass cutter the only sales approach that got my attention? I believe it was because there was an effort to stand out. This is what businesses and entrepreneurs have to do. The grass cutter’s timing was perfect as the grass is starting to grow. His prices were clearly outlined and were cheap. He is local and stated this. His note started out with the line ‘Today I want to introduce myself. My name is Sam and I cut grass. The note was clear and handwritten, which added a nice personal touch.  It was different then all the rest.  Sometimes, it’s a good idea to see what every other business is doing and do the opposite. If everybody is printing leaflets, have yours hand written just like Sam. Be distinctive. Maybe it wasn’t Sam’s intention to be different. More so, I believe it was a question of cost, however Sam replaced cost with the value of time and creativity and the result has been good for Sam as my neigbours are now asking me who did I get to cut the grass and if I’d pass them the number! Way to go Sam! In Business it pays to be unique.  Call to new prospects, send emails, print and post leaflets, but before you do, just spend a little time on being creative, different , standing out from the noise and sell smart.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Plan To Prosper

From the 'Drop the Monkey Business' column in The Galway Advertiser 18/4/2013 P.105

Preparation is key to succeeding in business, yet not enough is done on a regular bases when it comes to business planning. With so little time to work on the business, most business owners are only working in the business and in turn they lose sight of why they started in the first place. They often wonder why it’s not going to plan.  A very common reason is that there was no plan to begin with.  Many businesses start out as an idea, growing their commercial outings on a wing and a prayer without ever writing a business plan. These businesses, although they may do well, may never meet their true potential as they drive their business without knowing exactly where they are going. When you write a business plan for your future or current business you set precise intentions in place that allow you to track your progress and follow up on goals. You need to establish what's going to happen? When it’s going to happen? How it’s going to happen? And why should it happen?  In truth, you're really just expanding on the ideas in your head, putting them in logical form on paper and making a commitment to work hard on that idea. If you plan to succeed you need to write a business plan and plan to prosper. With so many businesses opening and closing today it’s very important to forecast your desired outcome and get it as near to a real estimate as possible. You need to know exactly where you intend to be with you business when entering the exciting and tough world of commerce, selling, buying, customers, lack of customers, profits and the reality of being responsible for others.
Your business plan is the foundation of your business that will give support and energy to your original idea. It will give you clarity on how you aim to grow the business, how many staff you intend to hire, what kind of assets you’ll need, how much capital you’ll want to raise, who you key customers will be, how you’ll serve them and why you want to be in business. You can use a business plan to grow your existing business and establish a strategy that will allow that plan to move forward at a measureable pace.
As your business grows you need to organise and plan in a professional and fast thinking manner; be strategic. When you think of a new business idea or if you simply wish to focus on your existing business use a plan to establish the right steps to take when starting. Think about what you need to do, what resources you will need, and what you expect to achieve. Develop a plan; don't do it on a wing and a prayer. Do it with the confidence of knowing every single angle has been covered and all foreseeable pitfalls have been accounted for. A business plan is of vital importance if you're going to start a business of any type. It is also an essential tool for established businesses that wish to grow and keep the business in great shape. Great businesses are dynamic; they change and grow. The company's original business plan needs to be revised, as new plans are made. Reassessing the business plan can also help you see what plans have been successfully accomplished, what parts of the plan need tweaking, or what plans should be stopped so that the energy of the company can be refocused on what is actually working. The business plan allows you to put your long term and short-term goals for your business at the best viewpoint so your can achieve attainable objectives and reach your desired outcome. It's not always the plan that’s important; it's the pre-planning, the planning, and re-planning, which all happens in a continuous loop that feeds into the flow of success.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Customer Service & Social Media

From the 'Drop the Monkey Business' column in The Galway Advertiser 04/4/2013 P.81

Many customers, especially younger people, don't want to sit on the phone with a company's customer service representative to get an issue resolved when they can post their questions or problems directly to the company’s Facebook page for all to see. With the increasing popularity of social media, more people are veering away from traditional ways of contacting businesses and using sites like Facebook and Twitter instead. Are you 100% providing customer service in the social media space?
Customers are now controlling where they will do business with you. Not long ago, the customer use to come to the shop to make a purchase. Things have changed and now it’s the shop that goes to the customer via online e-commerce and social media. How do you bring customer service and social media together? Nowadays, a lot of businesses are providing a more responsive customer service on the social media networks, as they know everybody is watching.  Consumers are making decisions every day based on social media interactions. Facebook and Twitter aren’t just for business brand exposure or product marketing.  These are more and more becoming two-way communication tools, just like you’d send an email or make a telephone call. Now the customer has another way to contact you and your business. Social media is fast becoming the channel of choice for customers who have issues or questions. The difference is that everybody can see your interaction, comment on it and have an opinion on what was once deem a private engagement between the business and the client. To provide a good service in this area you need to understand what customer service means to you and how you can apply your philosophy to the growing world of social media.

We all know and would say that the businesses we run and are involved in have some level of customer service. In fact, most business owners will claim to have customer service to some degree. From one extreme of you ‘call, we’ll put you on hold and we will never answer’ to the other extreme of ‘order today and get it yesterday’. Have you ever asked yourself if you deliver good customer service online? Have you ever measured it? Would you say you have systems in place that allow your customers to have great customer experiences when they interact with your business on the Internet. It doesn’t leave a great impression when a potential customer arrives at your social media site and sees that your profile picture isn’t very professional and that the last comment you answered was two weeks ago. People will perceive your level of customer service off-line by how you engage and respond online; therefore it’s important to cross over your level of customer service to your social media platforms. Why? So you can be everywhere your customer and potential customer is, so to give customer service. To be active where your customers are active, so you can engage and give customer service. To be a fly on the wall when your customers are talking about your business. Years ago, before the time of the internet a lot of businesses would have paid a lot of money to be a fly on the wall when customers were talking about them or their products outside the walls of the shop. Now you can do that with social media. You can create that space. It empowers you to be active in reaching out to customers and answer feedback, negative or positive. Customer service is about meeting expectations, engaging and communicating with customers wherever they are looking for you, be it online or off-line. Engage with your customers online in the same way that you would if they rang you or came to your store to make a purchase. There is nothing more frustrating than being in a queue that doesn’t move or phoning a number that doesn’t get answered. It’s no different online, so pimp up your social media sites and invite your customers to participate with you in these spaces. Get active and responsive to meet the expectations of your customers on social media.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

The Best Business Position

From the 'Drop the Monkey Business' column in The Galway Advertiser 21/3/2013 P.96

How do you use your time in your business? Are you trying to grow your business, but spending too much time in the business as appose to on the business? How can you free up some time to do the real work you need to do to make your business the dream it was meant to be? Business can be a very lonely and slow paced venture. It can be very different to where it all started when you had an enthusiastic quest to be king of your own empire. The reality is that it can feel like you will end up being a Jack-of-all-trades, and everything that you never thought you would be. Yes, you become a superhero to countless customers; yet everyday you lock the doors and walk home alone only to repeat the same storyboard again and again wondering why nothing is moving or growing. To grow your business you need to put yourself in the best place for you, where you work at your best and your best skills are used the most. You need to be continuously planning your future, changing your game and moving the pieces. And when there is something that you can’t manage or that gives you a sense of overload, there is no shame in asking for some support or assistance. No shame in change. Financially, it maybe impossible to give a second thought to taken on extra staff and understandably so, however, there maybe one or two small changes that can be delegated that could free up time for you to do the things that you are really super at and who knows, maybe because of a change in your actions and habits you will eventually be in a better position to hire more staff and grow your business. So many business people are stressed to the hill not because they are doing too much, but because they are doing too much of the wrong thing. They are doing too many tasks that they dislike. When you do a task that you don’t like to do, the likelihood of it taking you longer to do and making a mess of it is quiet high. You won’t give the task your full attention. You’ll put it off until the last minute and you won’t do a great job because it’s not your field of expertise. I’m talking about the jobs that you hate to face such as your annual accounts, marketing, stock control or social media. I’m talking about the area of your business that you can’t stand and that take up too much of your time. The job that takes you a day, may take a trained expert one-hour. When you delegate or outsource these small jobs to trained professionals or others, you immediately free up valuable time for you to channel your skills where you know you have a high degree of self-confidence and where you will work to your full potential. You will become more relaxed and less stressed in the knowledge that the work that you hated to do is done professionally and quicker. You may have to pay a small fee, but nothing in comparison to the money you will save and the time you will gain. A business is only as good as the people behind it, meaning you need to change the focus to where your skills are strong and delegate or outsource the jobs that you long not to do where possible.  When you keep doing the same things over and over, you will get the same results. To change the results, change the game. A wise man once said ‘If you don’t change nothing, nothing changes’. Change position. Get into the best business position for you. There's only a limited amount of work you can do in a day, therefore you must up your game, position yourself in the best spot on the playing field, so that you will be the best player on your team, so that others will follow.