Workplace Design: ‘Home Office’ = Employee Wellbeing

Workplace Design: ‘Home Office’ = Employee Wellbeing

When we go to work something happens and we rarely notice, it’s a subconscious event that happens, a self-preservation thing. It would take an awful lot of effort, not to mention training & practice to stop, change or control. But, it’s the source of much low-level stress; not a ‘good stress’ type (although I’ve never really believed there is such a thing).

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How to increase Sales, Profits & Shareholder Value

How to increase Sales, Profits & Shareholder Value

Mention Trend Forecasting to most people and the majority are unsure what it’s about; and those that have heard of it, well they mostly associate it with color forecasting.

In reality, there are very few business tools/support services available that, if used well, will improve your company’s results quite so much and in a sustainable way. The more broadly that Trend Intelligence is integrated into a company’s business strategy, the greater the improvements will be. Uplift can be achieved in production efficiency, sales revenues & profits increase, creativity, PR success, product ranges can be smaller, the number of ‘slow-moving lines’ reduces and overall relative costs go down. All this because insights & Intelligence about future consumer and design trends for the interiors sector can ensure your product & service developments match the wants, needs & desires of your customers. Ultimately leading to better profits and more shareholder value.

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How to see the Future Employing Millennials

They’re Humans, Yes – “But not as we know them”!

Are we about to witness a ‘generation gap’ that’s just too big to bridge?

There’s a generation in the workplace that’s been there for quite a while. Let’s call it the Over 40’s club, or maybe the ‘Over 45’s Club’, whichever is right, the group are around that age. Now this large group of people has an awful lot of experience of business, they have gained a huge depth of knowledge about business and developed high skill levels.

They’ve all been trained, conditioned or educated (I’m not sure which and maybe it’s a mix of all 3) to do things in a certain way. This has come from the fact that the vast majority of this group of people have been through the corporate mill. The older they are (45+, 50+, 60+) then the higher their degree of formality in business (maybe life) and the stronger their belief in ‘the right way’. They’ve all picked up the ‘right way to do things’, the right language to use. Now, time to reveal, that I am in this club (Even if you chose to call it the ‘0ver 45 Club!) and I too went through corporate life experience.

zarabotat-na-bloge-livejournal-3047However, in my view, business methodologies & processes haven’t really changed since the 1970’s. Technology has made everything faster, go to a few more decimal places, and facilitate deeper analysis. I guess, doing more efficiently and to a higher degree of complexity all the things that were done in the 70’s and 80’s, but not significantly different; not much genuinely new. Whenever I read yet another business book on ‘How to…..’ it’s nearly always possible to say “good luck to the author I hope they make some money from this, but you know, putting aside the fancy words, we used to do that at (in my case Mars) back in the ‘whatevers‘ but we called it xyz!”

Recently I came across a discussion, on a social network for business, that in one guise or another, I’ve seen a number of times in different discussion groups. But, always started by someone who is a member of the above club! It’s usually about spelling, grammar, planning etc.

Do you believe that ‘failing to plan is planning to fail’ or do you think spontaneity creates more opportunity?

Now my first response was gentle enough I merely wanted to point out that the UK has become a nation of micro-business owners. Primarily driven by the fact that many people have lost their work and many young people haven’t ever been able to find any. So starting up your own and finding your own way has to a large degree been forced upon thousands. I contributed this to the discussion……

I believe that there are times when ‘getting on with things’ is best and times when a detailed activity plan assessing risks and result projections is necessary. 

For many micro-business owners, it’s best to just get going, get a little experience, and get a customer or two before you plan too much. After all, if you don’t have a customer, surely you don’t yet have a business? Unfortunately, our tired, traditional and out-dated Banks still think they know best (if it ever did) and forces ‘start-ups’ to produce a detail business plan (that most will never refer to again) in order to gain financial support. One issue with this, is that if nothing else, they drive out of the people they think they’re helping, a lot of respect for the benefits of producing a plan. 

Essential-attributes-of-a-successful-small-business-owner-256x300Of course, I understand and agree that if we’d been talking about Small to Medium Enterprises and/or larger companies, planning is essential; it ensures good communication, along with a common understanding & purpose in the company.

The first response to my comment was this…..

I see the government start-up loan scheme for young people attracting budding entrepreneurs in to business who have not thought beyond ‘I set out my stall and I will make lots of money’. Even for start-ups there are some benefits to business plan if only to get them to think about cash flow, resource planning, costing, etc. They don’t listen or bother.

Can you see how, whilst being correct as a statement looking through the eyes of the group we’ve been discussing; it may not be correct if looking through the eyes of ‘young people’?

There is a change coming. Not an evolvement, not ‘a development of’ and not a shift.

There is a significant change coming.

It’s taking longer than we trend forecasters thought it might, because the ‘over 45 club’, the banks, the corporate world is resisting it well and more strongly than we expected them to. This club is insisting on trying to re-educate, re-shape ‘the change’ into the way it should be, has always been and even the ‘right way’.

That change is being driven by the under 25’s, in fact it is the under 25’s. Things will change even more rapidly and more radical when the current under 18’s come through. You see they think differently, I mean, radically differently. Their values are very different to anything we’ve experienced before; for the first time we have a generation coming through that is REALLY something new. They won’t be forced to do things ‘the right way’, they will do things their way because it fits their ethics, values and desires.

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This group of young people value ‘owning things’ very little; they share and support each other significantly more than we ever did, or do. They consider the virtual world as real as the offline world. They ‘do’ things, review things, change and then ‘do’. Their style of communication frustrates the hell out of the ‘over 45’s club’ I’ve watched this happen in discussion groups time and time again. They speak, write & spell differently and don’t worry about things they don’t consider important.

I won’t go on; but ‘Business Planning’ as we know it is on its way out because …….. so is that ‘older persons club’! Business financing, ideas sharing/protection, work methods are all being completely re-invented. We just haven’t seen enough of it yet to realise it. But it’s happening and the over 30’s need to be aware of it and adapt to it – otherwise the market of the near future (the under 25’s now) won’t be trading with us, they’ll simply trade with each other………………….

Let me know your thoughts on this subject, your experiences and how your business is handling the prospect leave a comment. If you have any specific questions you can email me directly and now.

How to be a Good Communicator

The title of this posting has, I now realise, put me under pressure to get my opinion across in a coherent way; how stupid was that!

How we communicate with each other has been at the front of my mind over the past few months.  For example, do you ever think about, or get surprised at, networking events, by how few people seem to have taken the time to think about why they are there, what they are going to say and how to say it?  And even fewer people keep quiet as a result of their lack of preparation but rather, spend the event practising and honing their ‘elevator pitch’.  Might just be me, but isn’t their timing a little out!

Have you recently noticed our written communication?  Dickens would despair and ask what have we done with our language skills?  Modernisation and evolvement are good and new words should be adopted; but some of the emails and letters (do you still receive this ancient method of keeping in touch?!) coming across our desks leave a lot to be desired.

Text language seems to have permeated all written forms of communication and in itself is not the problem; our main concern should be that it appears to have not only made the hand lazy, but the mind as well.

When I began my working life fortune gave me a mentor (from about age 18) called Graham Petty – a communication genius.  In those days (the 20th century!) text and email were but a candle flicker in the mind of their inventor.  Letters were the leading method of communication in business, followed closely by the telephone.  (As an aside, an article in a business journal I read regularly online, referred to a survey claiming that 55% of communication made with a mobile/smart phone is text, 35% is email … and 10% is speech.)  These then (letters and phone remember) were the tools that one had to learn how to use well.  To actually practise using a phone and constructing letters was a part of everyone’s early work life.  Graham taught me that to write a good letter, you must write from the reader‘s viewpoint all of the time.  In this way you will keep the reader interested, pleased that you have thought so much of him/her; and because you do this you are much more likely to get what you are seeking.

To demonstrate his teaching Graham drew this for me:

This pearl of wisdom ensures that whatever you are writing about is made interesting to the reader by virtue of the fact that it is written with the reader at the forefront of everything.  Forcing you to consider, what about your subject is of value to the reader?  There seems to me to be no reason why emails could not be written using the same great lesson and good manners.

One of the biggest saboteurs of good communication is that foe of the ages – ‘in-house’, ‘professional’, ‘industry’ jargon.  If we don’t take the trouble to use the same language as the person(s) we are communicating with, then why would they leave with a complete understanding (or at least the same understanding) of what has been said and what is expected next?

3 Examples

1. You visit a carpet shop and you are not a carpet expert.  The salesperson (unfortunately mostly men – sorry guys its true) tells you about the weight (in something referred to as ounces) of the carpet, the pile height, the tufting, the brand name, and that it costs a unit of your local currency per square yard/metre.  You wanted to know how does it feel under bare feet, does the colour go with your scheme, is the quality good enough for use in the room being re-carpeted, and how much will it cost to have the chosen carpet in the room you want it in. Although one is speaking ‘jargon’, and the other the more common local language, the answers fit the questions … But who would know?!

2. I (excuse me!) used to sell canopies to filling station owners, both independent and Oil companies.  The canopies stood on stanchions, had overhangs and underlining.  I knew all that there was to know about the product I was trained well to sell.  When speaking to an architect or oil company engineer we had no problems with the above.  However, when speaking to the filling station owner with 30 years’ experience retailing, and zip in steelwork construction, care had to be taken to talk about: the roof that would go over his forecourt to keep the rain off his customers and give them light in darkness whilst putting fuel in their cars; that the legs would go between his petrol pumps; the roof would extend far out from the pumps; and the underside of the roof would be white to reflect the light down!

3. And finally for fun: A friend of mine told me how she had recently fallen foul of the use of  jargon and acronyms.  To her severe embarrassment she had shocked a doctor on a train when asked what work she did.  Karen (real name Ellie!) said, “I do PR”.  In medicine PR stands for ‘per rectum’ – a very personal examination!

So take care to remember the language you ‘pick-up’ at work is not impressive language to anyone who has no clue what you mean.

 

I could carry on for pages about this subject as it holds a high degree of interest for me, and what it is supposed to do is?  That’s right!  Hold a high degree of interest for YOU!  So, the following few points that have been good to me will, I hope, be of interest to you.

To help you be a better communicator:

  • Always think about what you are going to say.
  • Write, read, review, re-write, and re-read before hitting ‘send’ or letting go at the post box!
  • Write using everyday language, avoid the pitfall of writing as policemen speak.
  • Use language common to you and the reader/listener.
  • In conversation, constantly check that what you have said is understood as you meant it; this can be done by asking, “so what I mean is…”, or, “what do you think of that…?”
  • Always listen more than you speak and know when it is time to listen and when to talk.
  • Do your best to keep emails and letters to no more than one side of A4 paper in length.
  • Remember life’s common courtesies.  It’s always nicer to communicate with a person who is polite and courteous.
  • Observe the communication style of others and adapt your’s to connect with them.
  • Be honest, open, and transparent.
  • Know that the phone is an interruption to the receiver, so ask if it is a convenient time (as you would do knocking on someone’s office door).  Time on the phone is exaggerated if you pause as your facial expressions are not visible, smile, it shows in your voice.  Prepare a phone call thoroughly.

I’d love to hear your views and learnings on improving communication so please leave a comment or send them to me at phil@scarletopus.com

 

How to Sell for the non-Salesperson

Being in business often involves the need for someone to take on the role of salesperson, at some stage. This often falls on a person who didn’t sign up for it, doesn’t want to do it and possibly has all sorts of misconceptions about what it is and who can do it.

This post WILL HELP YOU. A lot of complete ‘rubbish’ is spoken about the subject and some (not all by any means) people are actually in business to make it seem like a complex, difficult task and one that needs lots of training, perfecting, processes, procedures, etc etc. And, there is a place for all of this; but this place in not in a small business full of creatives, technologists, engineers.

You are building up contacts, making appointments and getting close to the point of having to carry out that most frightening of all steps – Selling. It’s easy for those of us with the ‘gift of the gab’ and even simpler for those of us referred to as ‘natural salespeople.’

Sit down & pin back your ears for some really great news – there is no such thing as a natural salesperson and neither is being thought of as having ‘ the gift of the gab’ a good thing. It’s better expressed in my view as being ‘gobby, full of yourself and generally being an idiot!’

Each one of us can win new business from new customers, or from existing customers in other words – SELL.  How so I hear you ask? Absolute gem coming up so pay attention.  This is why:

‘People do business with people they like’

Now, unfortunately, I am able to claim to have been a ‘salesperson’ for more than 30 years – which does not necessarily make me good at it but, it means that for 30 years I have been reading books about how to sell, attending seminars being told how to sell, being put on training courses to be shown how to sell and I’ve spent thousands of hours with ‘professional’ salespeople. After an extraordinary amount of money has been spent on me do you know what I have learnt?

‘People do business with people they like’

Learn how to be liked (yes this is something you can learn) and you will never look back. Don’t switch off now, stick with me and you will see that it is not about being the centre of attention, nor is it about being the life and soul of anything, or being in the limelight. Here is the second absolute gem:

‘Be genuinely interested in the people you meet’

However we were created, the end result was that we have two ears and a single, solitary mouth; you must practise to make sure that you always, without fail and never forget, to use this equipment proportionally to the numbers in which you own each then you will have taken a huge step toward being a very successful winner of business.

I mean, speak for no more than 1/3rd of the time and listen for the rest – in fact if you can get this to an 80 / 20 split you will be flying!  However, when you are doing this it is essential that you use your ears to LISTEN and not to hear. It is just as important that in your early client meetings you use your mouth to ask questions about the person, their business and their problems. Do not use your mouth (until much later in the process) for speaking too much about yourself, your business and your product or, service.  This is because in very simple terms – no one is interested.

The key to being liked is very simply:

‘Be genuinely interested in the people you meet’

Altogether there are 6 basic principles that if you put into action you will be liked by most people who meet you and you will therefore become hugely successful at winning business. It might surprise you to know that – again my personal opinion – a huge proportion of ‘salespeople’ are actually not very good at it. They’ve read too many poor books, been got at by too many people making a living out of training salespeople or, have had the dubious benefit of learning from experienced salespeople who weren’t very good to begin with. Imagine that, a whole bunch of salespeople who think they Can, but actually Can’t. This leaves the field wide open for any of you reading this and willing to put the preparation and effort in. Selling is all about preparation and hard work – along with being liked.

So back to those 6 points for you to put into action – I should say that they are not my words of wisdom because if they were I would have no need to be sat here this morning writing this for you. The cool fact about these wise, wise words is that they were written in 1935 by a guy called Dale Carnegie – and I can confidently tell you, despite many attempts to find one, nothing better has been written since. I attend colleges, universities and seminars to listen to how selling is taught. In modern, fancy language, supported by theories for this and that; they all basically say what Dale said more than 70 years ago!

P1: Become genuinely interested in other people.

P2: Smile.

P3: Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest & most important sound in any language.

P4: Be a good listener and encourage others to talk about themselves.

P5: Talk in terms of the other person’s interests.

P6: Make the other person feel important – but do it with sincerity.

Now is that simple or what!

As I mentioned earlier, many thousands of pounds have been spent on building me into the salesperson I am today and I can with all honesty say to you; the best money ever spent on making me into anything was the £3 my then boss, Graham Petty, spent in 1983 when he made a present of Dale Carnegie’s ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’ book to me. Sadly, I can’t make a present of the actual book to each of you lovely readers, but I can make a gift of the knowledge and suggest that you rush out as soon as possible to get yourself a copy and read it cover to cover – to read it will take you less than a day and yet the knowledge will last you a lifetime.

To buy the book for under £7 or $10 visit: http://www.amazon.co.uk/How-Win-Friends-Influence-People/dp/0091906814/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1254819555&sr=1-1

Let me know how it goes for you and what successes you gain from it, or feel free to ask me any questions that still remain about ‘Selling’ phil@scarletopus.com