How The Collapse Of Thomas Cook Affects Your Business

How The Collapse Of Thomas Cook Affects Your Business

This week has seen the very sad news of Thomas Cook going into administration.

And let me tell you if a long-standing firm of 178 years in business can collapse, then we should all sit up and take notice.

Why?

Because if it can happen to a household name paying directors huge sums of money, it can happen to ‘amateurs’ like you and me.

In my humble opinion, there are two key reasons for the collapse of Thomas Cook.  And they can both easily happen to you.

They didn’t manage the money

The first and most easily identifiable reason is they simply didn’t manage the money.  End of!  A business is only successful if it is profitable, and Thomas Cook wasn’t.

Yes, that is a hugely simplistic statement to make but I see all too many small businesses go under for the same reason.

They forget to review their outgoings and make changes or cuts where needed such as Thomas Cook keeping over 500 high street outlets when other travel companies moved solely online.  They make investments that haven’t been researched thoroughly enough and which don’t give a return on investment.  Thomas Cook merged with a company that had only ever once made a profit itself.

This causes the business to sink deeper and deeper into debt and take riskier gambles to try and recoup their losses.  It’s a road to disaster.

Cashflow isn’t planned such as with Thomas Cook taking booking payments in the first part of the year but then having huge costs going out in the latter part of the year when income was low.

And owners keep paying themselves even when the business is in financial trouble.  Thomas Cook continued to pay dividends right up to last November even though they had been in serious trouble for some time.  If the profits aren’t there, stop paying yourself until they are!

They didn’t keep up with the changing needs of customers

The holiday choices of Thomas Cook customers have changed, but they didn’t identify this and react quickly enough.

As already mentioned, Thomas Cook kept 500 outlets on the high street with high rental and staffing costs where most people started to book online.
The holiday choices of their customers changed.  Rather than the traditional beach holiday, customers started to book more city breaks.  Thomas Cook failed to react to this and other travel agents picked up the city break business.

And of course, the B-word had an impact.  Brexit!  With the uncertainty of the British population not knowing what was going to happen economically, many decided to stay put in the UK to take their holiday.  Thomas Cook didn’t take advantage of that.

Harsh lessons here and it is terribly sad that such a long-standing company is no more.

But whatever the size of your company, the basics are the same for all.

  1. Constantly track the finances.  The essentials are to track money coming in and money going out.  You need to look at ways to make more money and save more money if things are tight.  Don’t stick your head in the sand.
  2. Keep up to date with the changing needs of your customers.  Trends come and go.  Changes happen to your industry.  Economic pressures change consumer spending.  You need to keep on top of this.

P.S.  If you want help to track your finances and to keep up with the changing needs of customers, come join the members club.  Don’t get left behind.

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How To Know If You Have A Business Or A Hobby

How To Know If You Have A Business Or A Hobby

Are you running a business or hobby?

Are you showing up in your business the way you would show up for a ‘real’ job working for someone else?

What I mean is… are you completing your money-making and key tasks daily? Even when you’re tired and don’t feel like it.

When we work for someone else, we always show up.  We drag ourselves to work even when we don’t feel like it.  We might be feeling de-motivated or stayed out too late the night before, but we still show up.

But so many times we give ourselves excuses in our businesses and the work that matters never actually gets done.

  • “I’m tired today. I’ll do it tomorrow.”
  • “The sun is shining.  I’m off to the beach for the day.”
  • “There’s a sale on in my favourite shop.  I think I’ll skip work and go to that.”

Yes, we work for ourselves to give ourselves the flexibility that a 9 – 5 job doesn’t allow.  Yes, there are times when you should take a day out and do some self-care or indulge yourself.

But, if you truly want a successful business for the long term, you must stop the half-hearted excuses and step up to create that future you so badly want.

Think of yourself as an employee of your business.  Would your boss allow you the number of excuses you are coming up with on a regular basis such as showing up late, leaving early or procrastinating over key activities?

If you are not working to the same conditions that you would for someone else in your business, you are giving excuses!

This is the difference between having a business or a hobby.

I see a lot of people with hobbies. And it’s because they aren’t focused on doing the work that matters.

Write yourself a contract of employment.  Set out your responsibilities and set your working hours.  Factor in how many days off you will have.  Set yourself targets and what reward you will have for achieving these.

It’s your business on your terms.  But treat it as a business and not a hobby if you truly want a different life than you have now.

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How To Deal With A Customer Complaint

How To Deal With A Customer Complaint

The thing we all hate happens. We get a customer complaint. It is inevitable that we will all get an unhappy customer at times but it is how we deal with them that matters.

We have two choices. We can either go on the defensive and potentially make matters worse, or we can use the opportunity to learn and improve our business for the future.

Problems are pregnant with possibilities

Generally, unless there is a fundamental fault with the product or service you are providing (and which you need to acknowledge and fix immediately), complaints arise from a misunderstanding between parties.

It may something as simple as an order arriving on a date that the customer believes is late but you believe is on time.  This will lead to you needing to set out your delivery policy in a more clear way.

It may be you supply a product such as a handbag and a customer complaint is the bag is not as large as shown in the picture.  This leads to more details needed with your images. Put the bag against something for scale in pictures or quote measurements.

But whatever the complaint, most can be resolved if dealt with in the right manner.

I met a client recently who had received a complaint and her reaction was to say ‘how dare he?’ and tell me how she was going to phone him and tell him in no uncertain terms how unhappy she was with him.  I can just about guarantee 100% with this attitude that this customer will never do business with my client again and will more than likely tell friends and family never to deal with her again either.

I sat her down and asked her to put herself in the customer’s shoes.  Something had happened that caused him to be unhappy and less than satisfied.  Finding out what this was and how to avoid the situation again in the future was imperative.  She needed to look upon this complaint as an opportunity to improve her business so that she did not find herself in the same situation again in the future and to help her improve customer satisfaction to retain other clients.

And again, very recently, I had someone who lost their key client. Why? Because he dared to complain about the standard of work and she took umbrage at this and had an argument with him over it. She is now left struggling to replace the income he took elsewhere.

How to deal with a customer complaint

Stay calm

The first thing to do is to stay calm and try not to take the complaint personally.  The complainant is usually dissatisfied with the product or service and not you personally.  Try to distance yourself and your feelings and put things into perspective.  Taking things personally will only lead to an emotional response that is likely to make matters worse.

Acknowledge the complaint

You then need to acknowledge the customer complaint and apologise for how the complainant is feeling.  This is not accepting responsibility but is showing empathy for how the other person feels and letting them know you wish to help.

Get the complaint in writing

Wherever possible, ask for the complaint in writing.  Or if the person is complaining to you verbally, let them know you are going to write everything down so you can ensure you have all the facts and do not forget anything.  This can help as when someone starts to write, they can realise how unreasonable they may be or how they may have overreacted somewhat.  Also, if they are in front of you and angry, they will see that you cannot write as fast as they speak and so will have to slow down, which in return will give them more time to breathe and calm down.

Take time to review

You do not need to give a solution immediately if you do not want to.  You can let them know that you are going to review the complaint, look into what has happened and will get them back to them with a response in a specified timescale.

This both gives the complainant the satisfaction that you have listened and something is being done and also gives you the time to consider what has happened and what you will do to resolve the situation.

Decide upon a solution or response

Now you need to get on and look into the situation and decide what you are going to do.  This will depend entirely upon your business and what the complaint relates to.  It could be a refund, a product replacement or simply an apology and assurance it won’t happen again if relevant.

If however, you find the complaint to be unfounded, be careful with your response.  Be clear that you have investigated the matter, fully understand their frustration but then explain why you feel there is not a complaint to answer.

Respond to the complainant

Do make sure you feedback to the customer within the timescale given or be prepared for the complaint to be escalated upon.

Always stay calm, speak slowly if talking to the customer, and assure them you are taking the complaint seriously as you value their custom.

Even if you cannot come to an amicable solution, they will hopefully appreciate that you have taken the time and trouble to listen and try to do something for them.

Document every customer complaint

Now document everything.  Just in case this complaint does not get resolved and is taken further, or resurrects its ugly head in the future, make sure you have all conversations and facts documented with dates and time.

The exception to the rule

There is always the exception to the rule of course and you may have the misfortune to come across someone who complains just for the fun of it.  This person is just out to cause trouble and the best thing to do is to apologise for the way they are feeling and state that you are not a good fit for each other and therefore it will be best to not deal with each other again.  Do not let these people bully you or get you to cave in to unreasonable demands.

Mary Angelou

Just remember, the customer will not so much remember what you said, but more how you made them feel.  Do your best to leave them feeling you took the time to take them seriously and valued their custom.  You may not do business with them again, but it may a good case of damage limitation as if they know you genuinely cared, they are less likely to bad mouth you to future prospects.

Hopefully, by using this method, any customer complaint you have will be dealt with amicably and gain you a reputation for excellent customer care.

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What to do when you’re feeling exhausted

What to do when you’re feeling exhausted

Now then, quite a few women I have spoken with recently have told me they are feeling exhausted (and I include myself in that group)

When we feel tired and exhausted, the immediate tendency is to rest. We take time out.  We sleep, meditate, take a bath, have a massage etc.

Yes, these things are important and you do need to rest but something I have learned along the way is that rest must be interspersed with activity.  Sometimes, particularly when we are feeling low, continual resting can exacerbate the situation.  The less we do, the less energy we have.

It really can help to beat exhaustion by getting up and do something active. This doesn’t have to be a 10-mile run.  It could be something as simple as putting on your favourite upbeat music and having a boogie around the kitchen.  Ok, you don’t have to go quite as far as the picture below but you get my drift.

What to do when you are feeling exhausted

But I’m simply too tired I hear you say.  Yes, it can be incredibly hard to get up and move when you are feeling drained and exhausted but just take it in tiny steps. 

Rather than thinking you have to go for a run, just put on your running gear and decide to go for a 10-minute walk.  Once you are out the door you may just find that you want to jog for a minute or two.  Don’t plan to dance.  Just put the music on and see what happens.  Do 10-star jumps.  Or 5 if 10 seem too much.  Or even 2.  Something is better than nothing.  It’s usually that initial moment of action is all that is needed to help change our mindset and get us moving.

Movement can help release energy and endorphins which in turn make us feel better.  Getting the balance of rest and activity is key when we are feeling low. Try it for yourself and let me know in the comments below if it works for you.

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What to do when the money runs out?

What to do when the money runs out?

Everyone tells you to visualise and focus on what you want to achieve and it will come but try as you may, when the chips are down and you don’t know how you are going to pay the mortgage this month, staying positive and seeing a wealthy future is nigh on impossible.

You try to focus but every thought is consumed by the blinding panic of knowing the money has run out. Your chest feels like it is being crushed and you struggle to control the rising panic.

But it will be ok. Just read another self-help book and manifest the money.

Here’s the flaw in the plan.

Manifestation gurus tell you what to do but then also include their disclaimer that things don’t happen overnight. But you need the money now!! You don’t have time to let the manifestation work its magic. Time has run out.

What can you do to stem the rising panic that is threatening to engulf you and suck you in into its dark depths forever, never to return?

Get some perspective.

This will not kill you. There are others who have gone before you and will follow. They have survived and will continue to do so.

Take control.

Sit down and look at your exact financial situation. Do a cash flow spreadsheet. You now know exactly where you are and can now plan to bridge the gap of where you need to be.

Cut costs.

Look at your cash flow and cut out the luxuries. Don’t despair. This is a short term solution until you are back on track. Cancel sky tv. Change your mobile contract to the cheapest available. Cancel subscriptions. You can survive without all these things. Just take a look at those in third world countries. Life doesn’t end when you don’t have 100 tv channels to choose from. And you may just find your life feels freer without them.

Increase income.

Can you take a part time job. Sod losing face. This is about survival! What can you sell? All those clothes you have sat at the back of the wardrobe .. sell them on eBay. Do you have a spare room? List it on Air B&B. 

Talk to someone.

One of the worst things is trying to remain looking super successful to the outside world and bottling everything up inside. This is like a pressure cooker. You will explode. Find someone to confide in. Someone you can be honest with and have a breakdown in front of. Sometimes jut having a bloody good cry and letting it all out can work wonders. It lets off all that steam and allows you to see clearly again

 

Whatever you do, don’t just bury your head in the sand.  Take control and get the help you need.

 

 

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How To Deal With The “Grab A Coffee” Request

How To Deal With The “Grab A Coffee” Request

How often do you hear ‘let’s meet for a coffee and a chat’?

Now then, I am more than happy to give an initial free consultation to anyone who needs help.  We all need a helping hand at times.  But what rankles me are those that you have this chat with who then want to follow it up in more detail over a coffee.  They know you can help them but they don’t want to pay.

These people are those that I know personally and because of this connection, they seem to think they can use my services and not have to pay.  (The strange thing is that they never offer me free products or services that they sell).

I wrote an article ‘Can I Pick Your Brain’ a while ago now but thought it would be useful to come up with a few more answers to those who don’t value your time or expertise.

For those who think you are dumb and will fall for the coffee invite just for them to bombard you with questions.

“I would love to meet for coffee.  It would great to get away from the office and have a break from the business talk for an hour.”

People who are in the frame of mind that they want everything for free, usually don’t want to meet in their social time.

Say ‘how about we meet for a drink. You could pop over to (somewhere close to you as they usually also want you to go where it’s convenient for them) when I finish work on (insert day).  It would a lovely way to wind down after a busy day.”

Both these responses make it clear that you are NOT going to be talking business.  It’s quite satisfying when you hear the person on the other end stumbling for a response.

For those that have made it clear they want to pick your brains for nothing

Don’t be afraid of offending these people.  They aren’t worried about offending you.

“I’d love to take you up coffee but unfortunately coffee doesn’t pay my bills”

“I’ve never found that discussing business over coffee is the most effective way of giving advice.  I’d be more than happy to book you in for an appointment.  I’ll email you the details to get you booked in.” Then send them your paid booking link.  I promise you won’t hear from them again.

These two responses are more direct but very effective.

Alternatively, “I don’t have time for coffee but more than happy to book you an appointment in my office”.  This is slightly softer and keeps the channels of communication open.

An even more softly, softly catch-all answer would be “I’d love to but I’m currently snowed under”.

Ultimately, just be straight with them.

Tell them “If it’s a coffee and a chat I would love to meet up but being open and honest here, if you are just trying to use it as an excuse for free advice, I’ll be a tad offended”.  Now let them squirm with embarrassment.

And don’t feel guilty.  Remember, if you did all of these free coffee requests, your business would rapidly go downhill and your paying clients would get to hear and get pretty pissed off.

Your business.  Your rules.

And just for fun.  After initially writing this post, I was sent this which I think is just brilliant!

Can I pick your brain

Do you have any responses you would like to share?  Leave them in the comments box below.

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