“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”
This is a quote in Stephen Covey’s book The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People that I’m currently reading.
When I read this, a memory immediately came to mind that happened about 20 years ago. It was when I was in a meeting which was getting rather heated. I was one of the vocal ones (surprise surprise!) and when one of the other people in the room was in the middle of arguing with me, I was eagerly leaning forward attempting to jump in with my response.
Suddenly, the chair of the group stopped us. She turned to us both and said “I want you to both stop and listen to each other rather than waiting for your turn to reply. And I mean really listen!”
This stopped us both in our tracks. Well, it certainly stopped me. I realised instantly that I hadn’t really listened to anything the other person was saying as I was so intent in listening for a gap in the conversation to jump into and take over.
I have never forgotten this moment and when I have a strong opinion on something and want to get my point across, I now have a totally different stance. I now sit back. And listen.
Because I may just hear a different perspective that I hadn’t considered before, and this may just change my viewpoint. And if not, I can honestly and calmly say when I get the chance that I have listened carefully to all views put forward and would now like to put forward my own. This commands much more respect than being the one who shouts the loudest.
If you really want to get your point across, take a tip from Stephen Covey. Seek first to understand and then to be understood. It makes a huge difference, I promise you.
If you want to read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People you can buy it here on Amazon.
12 months ago, my daughter got engaged and this past weekend, she finally tied the knot with the man of her dreams.
When they got engaged, I had a vision of how the day would go and the décor that would suit her relaxed style. I knew it wouldn’t be easy to pull off so I spent a lot of time researching and planning to see if I could get together everything I needed.
It was stressful at times, there were tears, but I persevered and cannot tell you how happy I was the day was simply beautiful. From the trees I hired in and had lit up, to the festival style food and the exquisite decorations, everything was perfect.
But why am I telling you this?
Fail to plan, plan to fail.
Because the same principle applies to building a successful business.
- Research and planning are critical.
- Having a timeline in place and constantly working towards that is what turns dreams into reality.
- Not giving up when the going gets tough or when someone tells you what you want isn’t possible.
Only this week, yet another new business in the town where I live closed its doors after just a few short months. Everyone blames the locals for not supporting it but I have to disagree.
I put it down to bad planning. When building a business, you cannot expect to open your doors and have a flood of people come running through to spend their money with you.
- You have to plan for the long term.
- You have to work out your finances to see you through the early days.
- You need to build trust and rapport with your ideal clients which is going to take time.
Blaming others for the failure of your business is burying your head in the sand. If your business fails, I’m sorry, but it’s down to you! Harsh but fair! Yes, external factors come into play, but I have yet to see a business fail where the owner has planned, researched and stuck with it through thick and thin.
I know my thoughts may jar with some and await the replies with reasons beyond control why businesses failed. And I’m looking forward to them. Tell me if you agree or disagree in the comments box below.
Do you have terms and conditions for your business?
If not, go sort them out now!
Not only will this help protect you in the future in case of any dispute but they make you look more professional and can help you gain business. Your clients need to know exactly what they are getting and feel protected from their end also.
Today, I was in the process of booking a photo shoot with a photographer who asked for a deposit up front. I was more than happy to pay this but requested T’s and C’s with contract first. And then came the silence …….
They didn’t have any! This made me feel very aware that I was handing over my money with no protection on my side. What if I needed to change the date or cancel? How long would it take to get the photos after the shoot? What if the photos weren’t good enough?
Hasten to say, I didn’t pay the deposit and cancelled the shoot.
As a bare minimum, your terms and conditions should include:
- The scope of the work with a clear definition of what products and services will be provided.
- Timelines for the work to be completed,
- What it is going to cost and your payment terms
- What happens if either party is unhappy and/or wishes to cancel.
Without clear terms and conditions, confusion can occur with the client thinking they may be able to pay at the end of a service but you need payment up front. Or it may be that they think the service will be delivered to a different timescale than you can work to.
Have you ever encountered any problems with clients in the past? What was that problem? Think how to incorporate terms and conditions that will stop this scenario happening in the future such as a client having to supply you with information required within a given period (this is a huge problem for web designers where they are sat waiting for info before they can complete the project and get paid!).
There are plenty of templates online to use such as at SQL Legal but do make sure that you read them carefully to ensure they cover all you need for your specific business.
What to do when you wake up and realise you are going in the wrong direction and need to get your business back on track
Yesterday during another fabulous business group get together, more than one lady in the group had the same feelings. They were feeling uneasy because their businesses weren’t fulfilling them as much as they had expected.
They weren’t full of excitement when they thought of doing what they are doing now in 10 years time.
They had come to the realisation that rather than following their absolute true passion, they had taken the easy option of doing something they were good at and brought the money in quickly.
Whilst this could be viewed a sensible option to start with, it’s just not sustainable.
Two particular ladies were going through difficult times and had lost all excitement and enthusiasm for their business. They just felt as though they had fallen off track.
“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.” Charles Darwin
What you need to learn in building a successful business, is to be adaptable.
You need to be prepared to amend your success plan and goals subject to mitigating circumstances. We never know what is around the corner and how our plans may have to change. If you aren’t where you want to be, you need to find a way to get your business back on track.
It is rare for a business to end up as it was first planned. A fact that I heard personally from an ex-Dragon of Dragon’s Den fame is that nearly every business that starts out does not end up as initially thought.
And when I did a survey a few years back, this was the case in 100% of people that I spoke to. You may find that you enjoy one particular part of your business more than another and so start to work in a specific niche area.
This is exactly what has happened to me. I set up my business consultancy to support local independent businesses face to face in the North Devon area.
Slowly it transpired that I was working with a lot of women who found they were struggling in business due to external influences such as confidence, family commitments etc. So, I adapted my business to just work with women and to incorporate lifestyle coaching. I then started to get enquiries from outside of the North Devon area so set up online support and workshops for those who couldn’t get to me in person. Hence, The Small Business Kit was born.
Luckily, the ladies yesterday had the support of the group and both left feeling motivated and inspired to move forward with some changes to their existing businesses.
If you aren’t feeling the love for your business anymore, dig deep to find out what your passion truly is and look for what changes you can make to keep your passion, and business, alive long term.
I fully believe that any woman with a passion and a commitment to succeed can achieve anything they wish to.
But saying that, you have to make your own opportunities.
I have met and worked with women who have homeless drug addicts, who when given an opportunity, have grabbed it with both hands and built the most amazing businesses.
And I have also met with incredible women who had an amazing talent and everything they needed to create something wonderful, but they just didn’t follow through due to a lack of confidence and a fear of failure.
Confidence and a determination to do whatever it takes is the key to success. And a lack of confidence can be a real killer as can be the fear of the unknown. That’s why I always start off any work with clients, whether in person or one of my online courses building their confidence and self-belief. After all, if you don’t believe in yourself, why should anyone else?
You can have the best product or service out there, you can know everything there is to know about how to market it to your ideal client, but if you don’t have the right mindset, you just won’t have the confidence to go out there and go after those paying clients.
You may well dabble a little here and there, but you will get sporadic results. You will stumble when asked for a discount and may well end up giving one! You may start to lose motivation when you get rejected by someone and you find out they buy elsewhere.
Getting in the right mindset is critical and the very first thing you need to before anything else when building a business in my opinion. Forget reading up and watching more webinars on how to grow sales through Facebook until you truly believe in yourself and your product and are prepared to stand up and shout it out from the rooftops how fabulous you are.
And once you have that cracked, as fired up and enthused as you may be about creating your own business, it will take hard work, commitment and personal investment on your own part along with self-responsibility for making things happen. It’s quite simply not going to happen overnight.
You will hit hurdles. The unexpected will happen. You won’t always get what you want.
The time will never be right and nothing will ever be perfect.
And this is where the determination and the right attitude will be the difference between winners and losers.
You can sit back, feel that life is unfair and ultimately give up. Or you can decide that you will get up off your backside and keep battling forward.
Putting it quite simply …
The action takers win
And that’s where I come in. I will keep you motivated and inspired to keep taking those small steps forward that lead to great results.
I know how hard it can be when you are starting out and struggling against one hurdle after another. I will be there when you need me, so you need never feel alone again.
If you have a dream, if you have a burning passion, get in touch. You have nothing to fear and everything to gain.
Sometimes, when you realise your industry is becoming saturated with competitors, stop trying to fight against them and think how you can turn this into an opportunity.
I always remember meeting the founders of The Soap Kitchen many years ago when the husband and wife team were starting up from their dining table. Over the years, their business grew as did their competitors.
Instead of fighting against them and getting consumed with worry, they looked at the opportunity this presented. They decided to adapt their business model. Rather than continuing to just making soap, they started running workshops teaching their competitors how to make soap. But taking it further, they also started supplying them with the raw materials.
The business exploded and four years ago they moved from their beautiful, but humble dining table to a shop and separate large warehouse with more than 20 staff. It is now the leading DIY soap making supplier in the UK and Europe.
Today I met a lady who offers a service and has been met with a similar problem. She is in the holistic health and wellness industry and it seems like every other person and their dog is now entering this. Her competitors are growing daily.
She recognised she was having to work harder but not seeing any increase in profits so came to see me. Rather than getting in a fluster, she went through everything with me and we soon realised a golden opportunity right under her nose where she could help others entering her profession. She could teach courses on how to get the level that she had reached.
Create opportunities out of problems
Rather than looking at helping her competition adversely affecting her, she saw the opportunity to create more income. This would also raise her profile in the industry giving her business visibility. She would now be integrating with competitors rather than trying to avoid them.
If you’re struggling with competitors, consider what hidden opportunities are out there for you. Don’t let your initial panic make your blind to these. If you’ve been in business for a while, and other new faces are appearing, take advantage of this . See how you can help them whilst creating a new income stream for yourself.
You might surprise yourself and find you enjoy it whilst significantly increasing your profits.