Why an investment in knowledge pays dividends

KnowledgeAn investment in knowledge pays the best interest. ~Benjamin Franklin

You don’t get paid for the hour; you get paid for the value you put into the hour. It’s important everyone understands that important distinction dear reader.

You get paid for the value you add.

The more value you can add the more you will get paid.

It’s that simple really.

If you can solve problems for people with the skills you’ve got then you can earn a very good living.

The question is what underpins your skills? The answer to that question would be knowledge of course.

Knowledge comes from learning and learning is a lifelong process.

The quote at the top of this post from the venerable Benjamin Franklin reminds us of the importance of learning. Learning is an investment in ourselves.

We all have enormous capacity to consume and retain knowledge in our heads and that knowledge is then a currency with which we can trade. The more knowledge we have the more value we can add.

When it comes to investing, nothing will pay you a better dividend than making sure you have a good education.

And it’s not about whether or not you go to college or university. Important as they may be, learning can be achieved in many ways.

Knowledge can be gained through reading books; listening to audio and video tutorials; and challenging yourself to master anything that appeals to you. Learning from hands-on experience, making mistakes and learning the lessons you can take from any mistakes you’ve made.

In particular, if you want to master the game of money and all matters financial then you need to become a seeker of financial knowledge and know-how.

You need to become a reader and a keen student of finance. To be successful in investing, of course you really need to know what you’re doing. You need a financial education.

Ignorance can prove to be very costly indeed. And that’s true in every aspect of your life.

Education may seem expensive but it’s nowhere near as expensive as ignorance.

So, if you’re not already, become a reader.

The investment in yourself is well worth the effort and it’ll pay you a handsome dividend.

As the late, great Jim Rohn once said, “Work harder on yourself than you do on your job.”

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We all lead busy lives but can we be too busy?

Beware the barrenness of a busy life. ~Socrates

We all lead very busy lives; often too busy. We run around focused on our work and have little time for family and friends or for a little bit of ‘me’ time.

Work can take up so much of our time and it’s easy to become completely absorbed by it. The problem is when you miss out on stuff, you miss out and it’s gone forever.

If your child is in the school play and you miss it, you can’t go back and catch it some other time, the opportunity has gone.

The years go by all too quickly. Children grow up fast and then suddenly they become independent and, once that happens they don’t need you anymore.

If you don’t have time for family and friends, eventually they won’t need you anymore either.

If you’re not careful you can be left with nothing.

When you’re on your deathbed you’re unlikely to wish you’d spent more time in the office but you may regret not spending more time with your children.

Work is important of course but nothing is more important than the people that matter most to us. Our loved ones. Always there but often neglected. We think we can do stuff with them some other time, someday. But someday never comes.

Wake up and smell the roses. Your life needs balance, if you’re not to have too many regrets later in life. Work hard by all means but not at the expense of your loved ones. Work matters but people matter more.

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Does enjoying your work matter? Here’s why it should.

For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something. ~Steve Jobs

Does enjoying your work matter? Well, here’s why is should in my opinion.

You’ll only have this one life, so you have to make the most of it.

Life is not a rehearsal. Your backstory might be written in indelible ink but your future is a blank sheet and the good news is that you hold the pen.

You don’t have to accept things the way they are, they can be changed with some effort on your part. It’s never easy of course but it can be done. And if you’re not happy with the way things are then why wouldn’t you want to try to improve your life?

Work is an important part of your life and it absorbs a significant amount of your time each week. So you have to enjoy it and you have to get up in the morning and look forward to what you’ll be doing that day.

Yes it’s true that no one’s working life is always perfect. However the good days should outnumber the bad days by a considerable margin.

Enjoy your work and you will do it well. Hate your work and you can never do it well. And it has to be done well if you want to succeed and maximise your earning potential.

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Management: 15 things every first-time CEO should know

So you’ve landed a gig in the management hot seat? They’ve given you a decent office; the key to the executive washroom; and on your office door there’s a polished plate engraved with the words THE BOSS.

It makes you beam with pride, doesn’t it? Well done! Allow me to offer you my congratulations. Your family will be truly very proud of you.

However before you get too comfortable in your high-backed, leather, executive chair let me offer you a word of advice. Enjoy the moment while you can because the honeymoon won’t last long.

You’re there to deliver results consistently and if you fail to deliver, you’ll find the sea in which you’re now swimming will become very unforgiving, very quickly.

Businesses exist to enrich their owners and your job is to deliver profit and growth, year-on-year. No one wants to hear why it can’t be done; or why it hasn’t been done; or that in some way you’ve been unlucky. Excuses count for nothing. Do or die, it’s that simple.

I’ve been in that management hot seat myself, so I speak from experience. Equally I speak with the benefit of hindsight because I’ve certainly made plenty of mistakes along the way. However what I can say is that I did make sure that I always learned the lessons from my mistakes.

Management at the highest level is tough; very, very tough. They pay you well and provide excellent perks for a reason. You never get anything for nothing. They want their pound of flesh in return.

So let me offer you the benefit of my experience now with some observations on things I wish I’d known a lot earlier.

1. Find a decent mentor:

If you’re new to the job then you don’t have to make all the mistakes yourself. It’s a legitimate strategy to learn as much as you can from the experience of others. I wish I’d found myself a decent mentor early on. An experienced, friendly ear with whom problems and their potential solutions can be explored on a regular basis.

Being king or queen of the castle is not easy. Managing people and leading them towards achieving the aims of the business is a difficult task. You might think it’s just a case of issuing orders but it isn’t quite that simple, unfortunately. You must carry people with you. If they’re not working with you then in all probability they’ll be working against you.

So if I was in your position now, I’d find a decent mentor as quickly as possible. Having a mentor is not a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of strength and a sign that you’re willing and able to learn from others.

Learning is a lifelong process. No one starts out as the finished article.

2. Relationships are everything:

When you’re the boss it’s your job to get the most out of every employee. Amongst other things, it’s your job to guide, motivate, encourage, mentor, counsel, discipline and reassure people as and when necessary.

Employees are individuals and different individuals will respond in different ways. Your job is to know the individuals and know which technique to use to get the best out of them as individuals; to get the response that you need at any given time.

In order to know people well you must develop a relationship with them over time. You must care about them and you must take an interest in them and their families.

Employees are much more likely to go the extra mile for you if they really think you care. It’s your job to show them that you care.

That’s not to suggest that you should be a pushover. You must always be firm with people but you should always be fair as well.

3. You can’t be everyone’s friend:

Now having a relationship with individuals in your team doesn’t mean you should try to be their friend.

When you’re the boss there must always be a little bit of distance between you and the people you lead. Your relationship with individuals can be cordial of course. However having close friendships with people who work for you doesn’t work.

There will be times when you have to come down hard on people; push people; and challenge them. There will be times when you have to discipline them too. Individuals must accept that they work for you and you’re in command.

At the risk of sounding a little dated, the relationship between you and the people you lead is essentially one of master-slave. You’re the authority figure and, whilst they’re perfectly entitled to express opinions and make suggestions, you must have the final say. And you must be the disciplinarian whenever necessary too.

By definition friendship is a relationship of equals. So I’m sure you can appreciate that it would be difficult to be switching from equals to master-slave and back again as circumstances dictate. In my experience trying to maintain a close friendship with someone of a junior rank doesn’t work, so don’t try.

Maintain a little distance, always.

4. You get what you tolerate:

If you don’t enforce the rules then the rules will be ignored. If you don’t insist on there being standards then there won’t be any standards. Tolerate behaviour that is less than acceptable and that’s what you’re likely to get, most of the time. Tolerate bad practice and bad practice is what you’ll get, most of the time.

As the boss it’s your job to ensure that your employees are in no doubt as to where the boundaries are and what the consequences will be for any transgression. And in the event of any transgression you must act fairly but firmly. That’s essential.

The transgressor must know that punishment follows overstepping the boundary.

However it is equally important for every other employee to see what happens should someone overstep the boundary as well.

Punishing one individual serves a dual purpose in maintaining discipline.

5. It’s not what you say, it’s what people hear:

Effective communication depends on you making sure that the receiver of your communication fully understands the message as it was intended to be understood.

Whether you communicate verbally or in writing you must ensure that your message is clear. It’s not what you say, it’s what you mean and making sure that meaning is interpreted in the way you intended is a critical skill for the boss to develop.

Just because you said it, doesn’t mean they heard it. It’s not for others to guess what you really meant. Be sure that your real message was heard and fully understood.

Effective communication is very important.

6. If you want to know the truth, walk around:

There are lots of things going on in the business that you won’t know about. There are lots of things going on that plenty of people hope you’ll never find out.

That’s a fact of life in any business but it’s your job to know. Should something go seriously wrong then you’re responsible and saying ‘I didn’t know’ is not an adequate plea when you’re being held to account.

If you spend your life locked away in your office then you’re not going to find out, until it’s too late. So it’s essential that you walk around frequently and ask plenty of questions and awkward questions too.

And when you ask questions, you must ensure that people provide you with proper answers to those questions. Don’t allow yourself to be fobbed off with some polite but meaningless response.

Keep asking questions until you know exactly what’s going on. If something looks odd, then don’t be afraid to challenge it. You’re the boss and you have a right to know.

I will often ask questions to which I already know the answer simply to see what response I get. It often provides me with an indication of whether people are being honest with me or whether they’re trying to cover something up. It provides a gauge as to whether I can trust them too.

7. Doing nothing is doing something:

There are times when doing nothing will prove to be the right strategy. A ‘do nothing’ strategy is fine providing it follows a reasoned analysis and is a decision based on a logical conclusion from your analysis.

However doing nothing due to indecision is incompetence. In these circumstances, in doing nothing you’re actually doing something. That is you’re acting in a completely incompetent fashion and potentially putting your business at risk.

As the boss, you’re the master of the ship. You’re meant to be in control and not simply being driven by events. Allow events to drive you and disaster won’t be too far away.

Indecision and inaction has the potential to damage your business and damage your reputation too.

Indecisiveness will do you no credit at all. In fact it will reflect very badly on you.

8. Hire for character:

Hiring people can be a tricky business. In my experience hiring people is one of the hardest parts of the job of being the boss.

Hire someone dishonest and it can be very damaging for the business. The consequences to the business, and potentially to your own reputation, can be very expensive it you hire the wrong person.

When I’m interviewing someone, I look for integrity first. I look for signs that the individual is honest, has a responsible attitude and has the ability to work effectively within a team. These are vital competencies I think.

Yes of course skills and experience are important. However if people lack certain skills then that gap can be plugged with training. If the candidate doesn’t have every skill you’d like then it’s possible to work around that if necessary. To arrange some training once the individual has settled into the team.

Whereas with good character, usually people have it or they don’t. If they don’t have it, then it might be a bit naïve to assume that they might develop it whilst they’re on your payroll. Better to make sure they have it right from the start.

It’s my opinion that good character is the most important factor to consider during the hiring process and it’s what I always look for first.

9. Do it right first time:

When you’re the boss there are always many demands on your time. Sometimes when you’re very busy it’s easy just to have a stab at a task and then leave the job half done. However if you can’t find the time to do the job right first time; when will you find the time to repeat it such that it’s done properly?

Allowing a bit more time to get it right first time is actually a sensible strategy. Once the job is done, it’s done and you can forget about it.

Not allowing sufficient time to do it properly is a false economy.

Good time management requires you to get it right first time.

10. Delegate wherever possible:

Identify those things which only you can do and which will allow you to make your greatest contribution to the business. It is on those things you should concentrate and into which you should channel all your energy.

Anything that can be done by someone else should be delegated. Don’t be doing what others could be doing for you. That’s not the best use of your time.

However delegation doesn’t mean just giving someone a task and then forgetting about it.

It means giving someone a task with clear deliverables and timescales and then monitoring progress on a regular basis.

Delegated tasks should remain on your ‘radar screen’ and the individual so tasked should be providing you with a regular progress report until the task has been completed.

11. Everyone should know why they’re on the payroll:

Work is just doing stuff for other people in return for money. The stuff being done is an output to be delivered.

Every employee should know exactly what it is they’re meant to deliver. They should know why they’re there and so should you.

The business is not a job creation scheme. People are your biggest cost and costs must be managed if the business is to remain profitable.

Yes, skilled resource must be there to do whatever is necessary of course. However there is a balance to be struck between making sure you’re getting the most out of people and crossing the boundary whereby people are being overworked.

You have a duty to get the most out of people but you also have a duty of care to your employees, obviously.

12. Business is show business:

Business is as much about perception as it is reality. The perception you create for your business really matters.

You have to get noticed too. You can have the best products in the world but if I don’t know you exist then your products can’t be solutions to my problems.

However even if I do know you exist, trust matters too. A good reputation will help you but that must be maintained constantly.

And a good reputation starts with excellent customer-facing systems and a great level of customer service.

13. Adapt or die:

We live in a constantly changing world and businesses must constantly adapt if they are to survive.

Yesterday’s darlings of given business sectors can today be filing for bankruptcy protection. Brands that once dominated an industry sector can tomorrow be nothing more than footnotes in commercial history. Even major corporations can collapse without warning if their executives get their corporate strategy radically wrong.

If you’re business is doing well, that’s great but don’t make the mistake of becoming complacent. A technology change or a new entrant to your sector can suddenly make life very difficult for your business.

You have to be on top of what’s going on and what the implications may be for your business. And you must keep adapting.

Your business cannot afford to stand still. Adapt constantly or your business will die.

14. Make sure there’s a little ‘me time’:

Being in the management hot seat can be all consuming if you’re not careful.

Equally you can burn out very quickly if you’re not careful as well. You’re there to deliver results not to damage your health and well-being or the relationship with your family.

So make sure you factor into your schedule a little ‘me time’ on a regular basis. And make time for your loved ones too.

15. The best leaders are all readers:

All the most successful leaders are readers. Constantly broadening their knowledge and honing their skills by reading the latest books, listening to the latest audiobooks and seeking out information through professional journals and conference papers.

Make sure you spend a minimum of 30 minutes each day reading. If you can get through one book a week then over a year you will have consumed a PhD’s worth of knowledge. Over time you’ll become one of the most informed leaders in your field.

Here are five books you should consider having at the top of your reading list:-

The ONE Thing: The surprisingly simple truth behind extraordinary results by Gary Kemp and Jay Papasan

The premise of this best-selling book is that whilst multitasking may seem like an efficient approach, it is in fact better to focus on one objective at a time as this will boost your productivity and work wonders for your life generally. This book is a best-seller for a reason and you can check it out by clicking on the link.

Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build your routine, Find your focus and Sharpen your creative mind by Jocelyn K Glei

This book will help your get the most from your workday and with input from 20 leaders you’re bound to learn something, so it’s well worth your time. Again, check it out by clicking on the link

Tools of Titans: The tactics, routines and habits of billionaires, icons and world-class performers by Timothy Ferriss

If you want to be successful then identify successful people and copy what they do. This book is a compilation of the best take away points from over 200 hundred interviews carried out by Tim Ferriss with business people, athletes and celebrities. Again you can’t fail to learn something if you read this. So check it out by clicking on the link now.

The 7 habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R Covey

This book has been on the best-seller list for quite a few years now and it’s a best-seller for good reason. Stephen R Covey explains that success is as much an attitude as it is about lifestyle. His themes range from self-mastery to being proactive. This book will mould your attitude and outlook towards achieving success. Check it out by clicking on the link.

Start with Why: How great leaders inspire everyone to take action by Simon Sinek

Challenging your team to achieve their full potential can be a rewarding experience. Simon Sinek studied some of the most influential leaders in the world, looking at what they do, and documented his findings. This is an excellent book and well worth the cover price. Check it out by clicking on the link.

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© Roy J Sutton and Mann Island Media Limited 2018. All Rights Reserved.

Employee Morale: Why employees leave organizations

New job concept.As a business owner or CEO there will be occasions when, despite the business doing well, you discover you’re losing good people. Business performance is good but the same cannot be said for employee morale. So people are leaving your business as a result. In these circumstances, what can you do? Start by taking a close look at their immediate line manager.

Happy and fulfilled employees within a good team will work well and deliver results. Even people of mediocre talent will raise their game in a good team. Line managers play an essential role in creating good, well-bonded teams. So good line managers are the reason why people will stay and thrive within your business or organisation.

However poor line managers are the reason people will leave. If employees are not happy they don’t tend to hang around for long. Employees can feel their performance is being constrained by a poor line manager. They may feel their line manager’s style is preventing them from giving their best.

The problem is when people leave your organization they take knowledge, experience and a network of contacts with them, straight to a competitor. Leavers often take customers with them too. That’s not good for any business, obviously.

People don’t leave companies, they leave teams and it’s usually a bad manager who’s driven them away. Perhaps the line manager has poor people-management skills. Perhaps he or she has a personality that is challenging for employees to deal with. There could be many reasons but, regardless of the reason, that’s no less of a problem for you.

Of all the abuses an employee might experience in the workplace, humiliation is the one which they will find most intolerable. The first time it happens, the employee may not leave but a thought has been planted. The second time it happens that thought gets stronger. When it happens a third time, the employee actively starts to look for another job.

However the problem for you is not just the danger of losing a good employee or the time that could be lost whilst an employee has a job-search mindset. A bad line manager can have a serious impact on the employee’s attitude to his or her work. When people cannot respond openly in anger to a given situation, then they do so by passive aggression. By digging in their heels and being difficult or slowing down. Not going that extra mile to achieve a result, when otherwise they might have done so.

They might just be doing only what they are told to do and no more, when otherwise they might have shown some initiative. They might just conveniently forget to give the boss some crucial information. If you work for a jerk then basically you’ll be happy to see him or her get into trouble with higher management.

Different line managers can stress out employees in different ways. For instance this could be by being too controlling, too suspicious, too pushy, or too critical. Line managers can forget that workers are not fixed assets, they are human beings and they are free agents who can move on if they choose. Often when employees do quit it will be over a trivial issue but the damage has been done over a longer period usually.

As the business owner or CEO you would be wise to remember this saying – talent leaves; dead wood doesn’t. And that’s the problem. Dead wood is just a drain on your business. It will be by having a pool of talent within your business that will allow you to succeed over time.

When people leave your business, don’t ignore it. Ask yourself why.

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© Roy J Sutton and Mann Island Media Limited 2017. All Rights Reserved.

How to add value to your business card

If someone gives you their business card, what do you do with it? Do you file it carefully in a suitable place, so you have it there whenever you might wish to refer back to it? Do you just put it in your pocket or leave to one side on your desk, for immediate reference but with no long term intention of retaining it? Perhaps you just throw in straight into the waste paper basket the minute the person has gone? I am sure your approach will depend on whether you regard the business card you’ve been given as something that might have value to you.

Now think about it from the perspective of you giving your business cards to other people. Why do you give them out? It’s a bit of personal PR of course and you’re providing people with your contact details should they decide they wish to do business with you later. So in that sense business cards are important. They could lead to business later.

Now if you’re a self-employed consultant, like me, then I’m sure you attend plenty of conferences, seminars and exhibitions. That’s the way to network with people and hopefully generate a few business leads or at least build one or two relationships that might pay dividends later. Over coffee, at lunch or over a cold drink in the evening you’ll chat with people and then at the right moment you exchange business cards.

The problem is, how can you be sure that they will retain your business card? Perhaps they were just being polite. Plenty of people give me business cards when I meet them but I retain very few of them. Why? Quite simply because I get thousands of them and I can’t file them all.

So there has to be a good reason why I will retain a business card. If you provide a service that I feel I may need to use then I’ll probably retain your card. Alternatively if there is something on your card that is of value to me, then almost certainly I’ll retain it.

So how do you add value to your business card? How do you make your card memorable?  Interesting question, would you agree?

One way to do that would be to have something printed on your card which represents genuine value to the recipient. For instance, you could have a discount code printed on the card.

As an example, suppose one of your products is a one day training course on a particular topic. You could offer a 10% discount through the discount code printed on your card.

Alternatively you could offer a gift that can be redeemed from your website. This gift could be a free copy of a report or an eBook written by you and intended to showcase your expertise and knowhow.

Another possibility would be a code which qualifies the bearer to a free 30 minute consultation with you or whatever. The possibilities are endless.

The key message here is that you need to think outside the box. Be creative. Your card must be memorable and provide people with a good reason to hold on to it.

In a competitive world you must be different. You must be memorable too. You need a ‘get noticed’ strategy.

Don’t risk your card being binned. Create some stickiness for your business card and give people a reason to retain it.

© Roy J Sutton and Mann Island Media Limited 2017. All Rights Reserved.

How to Get Organized

Get organized - business stress notes, white backgroundWhether you’re an entrepreneur, a business leader or just one of the team, it pays to be organized. If success is your aim, then it cannot be achieved without you being well-organized. Even if you’re willing to plod through life at your current level, being organized will reduce your stress levels and improve your life experiences.

In any job worth having there will always be 1,001 things to do, so you have to work in a systematic way if you’re going to get everything done on time and to the required standard. Now people seem to think that all this is difficult but actually it’s not. In fact if you master just four simple steps you can quickly become a well-organized role model your colleagues will want to follow. And here are those four steps:-

1. Make a List

This one is absolutely essential. You cannot keep everything in your head and hope you won’t forget something. You will, we all do. So better to write it down, ideally is a notebook that is your constant companion. That can of course be an electronic notebook, i.e. your smartphone, it doesn’t have to be the physical variety. Whatever you prefer is fine as long as you record your list.

Actually I always work with two lists; one is my master list, which is all the things I have to do at any given time; and then I have a daily list which contains all the things I plan to do on any given day.

Making lists will help you focus your mind on what needs to be done. And if you write it down it won’t get forgotten.

A key thing to remember here is that many tasks can seem enormous if you’re not careful and that can make them appear to be a bit daunting. The way to get around that is to break big tasks down into a series of smaller tasks.

Remember this; a big task is approached in the same way that you’d eat an elephant; one bite at a time. That way you’ll get through it eventually.

2. Know your priorities

How often do we allow ourselves to be distracted by everything going on around us? A colleague needs this, your boss wants that, and everything is urgent. So you allow yourself to be driven by the expectations of others, rather than focusing on your objectives. It’s a mistake most of us make at times.

The trick is to identify the truly important from the merely urgent. What tasks are important if you are to achieve everything that is expected of you? The tasks that will help you achieve the objectives for which you will be measured?

You must always concentrate on those things that are truly important. It is all about knowing your priorities. You couldn’t possibly do everything at once so you have to start with the things which are the most important.

You start with your highest priority and work down the list through the lesser priorities.

Remember this; the main thing is always to keep the main thing, the main thing.

3. Focus on results

Whether you’re in business for yourself or employed by a company, you are there to deliver results. Business is all about delivering solutions that will solve problems for your customers. Work is all about completing tasks for other people in return for money. We are all paid for doing stuff.

If you’re to be effective, you must be focused on the results expected of you at all times. If you’re painting my house, I will measure you on how well you painted my house, not on how helpful you were to passers-by in the street. Whatever you’re doing, it’s the results that matter most.

Remember this; it is perfectly reasonable to be working to your own agenda. Your success will depend on it.

4. Get your desk organized

How many people work from a desk that is messy and disorganized? Well I must be honest I have been guilty of this particular sin. However good organization always starts with a clear desk where you can work effectively.

This means having a proper filing system. You might choose a paper-based filing system for hard copy, as well as an electronic filing system for email and other soft-copy documents. However even hardcopy these days can be scanned and stored electronically. The advantage of a digital filing system is that it takes up far less space. So if it can be stored electronically then it should be. Space costs money and there is rarely enough of it in a business environment. So an electronic document management system makes a lot of sense.

File everything that needs to be kept; bin anything that really doesn’t need to be kept. And be absolutely ruthless when deciding on what to keep. Ask yourself this question, if I trashed this document what would be the consequences? If not having the document won’t matter then you should trash it.

Beyond the basics

Being disciplined about being organized pays big dividends. If you learn to maintain lists, establish priorities, focus on results and keep your desk organized then that will make you fairly efficient for sure. However going beyond these basic techniques will make you even more productive and efficient.

There are plenty of good books on the subject and it is worth buying some for your own personal reference library. They are not expensive, well-worth the money and buying Kindle editions for your personal iPad or Kindle is a great idea.

So go don’t procrastinate, buy now and you’ll be a productive, efficiency ninja in no time at all. Kindle books are available from Amazon. Click here.

You can read my book review Best Books to Read: Getting Organized by clicking here.

© Roy J Sutton and Mann Island Media Limited 2016. All Rights Reserved.

The Art of Negotiation

Business cloudMany people think that negotiation is all about squeezing the other party as much as you possibly can in order to ensure that you get as much out of the deal as you possibly can. If this is the way you view negotiation dear reader then I think it is unwise. Successful negotiation should result in both parties feeling that the deal meets their needs; that it is a fair deal all round. It is not about screwing your opponent it is all about seeking a win-win position. Negotiators must find the common ground with their opponents such that the deal is as fair as possible to everyone. To put it another way; negotiation is the art of making your opponents think they’ve won whilst you ensure that you get everything you need from the deal.

When entering into negotiation over a deal you will have a series of ‘must haves’ and ‘nice to haves’ and so will your opponents. You need to ensure you get as many of your ‘must haves’ as possible. However in the process you need to let your opponent feel that they’ve won a little too. This might be achieved by conceding one of your ‘nice to haves’ to allow them to have something they really need. So a good start is always to ensure you know what the needs of your opponents are likely to be. Taking time to establish these beforehand will be time well spent.

Having a reputation for being a tough but very fair negotiator is far better than being known as someone who cares little for the needs of other people. In business we tend to do business with people we trust. Get a bad reputation and people won’t want to do business with you. And that will hurt you in the long term. People will respect someone who is ‘tough but fair’ but they’ll have no respect for ‘mean, grasping and insensitive to the needs of others’.

Winning at the expense of others might produce a short-term gain but in the long-term it’s likely to be counter-productive.

© RJ Sutton and Mann Island Media Limited 2014. All Rights Reserved.

6 Tips for Exceptional Customer Service

Fotolia_50378128_XS_3In business you should never underestimate the importance of customer service. Providing exceptional levels of customer service is a very good way to differentiate your business from your competition.I will always do business with a company that provides me with good customer service in preference to one which does not; even if I have to pay a little more for the product that I want.

When I buy something I want to be confident that if I have a problem with it then there will be no problem. All the best companies will take a problem like that and deal with it, making my life as easy as possible for the customer and that’s what I want every time.

So if you’re keen to ensure that your business is providing good customer service, what factors do you need to consider? Well you could start with the following:-

  1. Polite, Courteous and Friendly

Your frontline staff will play a huge part in creating good service. If staff are polite, courteous and friendly to me when I walk into a store then we are off to a very good start and I am much more likely to spend my money in that store.

All customers like to be treated with respect and they like to feel valued. Therefore the message your frontline staff need to convey to customers is that they appreciate the importance of the customer and that they recognize that without customers they wouldn’t have a job. Staff must show customers that they understand that they are there to ensure that the customer has a great experience every time.

So you need to recruit staff with the right attitude and personality and you then have to ensure that they are well trained in the customer service values you want to promote within your business. Get it right and your business will do well; get it wrong and your business will struggle.

  1. Caring

Customers must be in no doubt that your frontline staff care about the in-store experience and making sure it is the best possible experience for customers. If staff show me they care about me then I’m much more likely to spend my money buying your products and services. Give me even a hint that your business doesn’t really care and I am likely to leave the store as quickly as possible without spending a penny. I will then checkout your competition. And of course, once you lose a customer it is very difficult to get that customer back again.

  1. Pleasant and helpful

The customer experience is so much better if the sales assistant or store associate is pleasant and helpful. If it all seems like it’s too much trouble for them then I find that a big turn-off. And if it all seems like too much trouble then I will leave without buying anything. Conversely if I sense that people are keen to ensure my needs are met to my complete satisfaction then I will not only spend but I will return again and again

When my son was a small boy I used to walk him to a local store on a Sunday to buy a newspaper. One Sunday my normal store didn’t have my preferred newspaper. So I went to another store further along the same road. The lady in that store was kind, extremely helpful and she made my son feel very special too. From that point on I bought my newspaper in her store. Then I had to walk past my previous store each week but I valued the higher level of service so I was prepared to do that regardless. Result? She gained a customer and the other store lost a customer.

  1. Responsive

When a customer has a problem with a product or is unhappy in some other way then they expect your staff to respond willingly to their needs. They expect your staff to take their complaint seriously and they want it resolved with the minimum of inconvenience to them.

If you fail to take my complaint seriously I will not only be unhappy and unlikely to do business with you again. I will also broadcast my problem and your lack of a proper response on social media. And that can damage your brand and result in even more lost customers.

However get it right and I will sing your praises on social media. Now tell me, which one of those scenarios do you prefer?

  1. Efficient

If I have a problem I expect it to be dealt with efficiently. That means the problem should be resolved completely to my satisfaction, it should be done quickly and of course with the minimum of inconvenience to me.

  1. Prompt

I hate being kept waiting, particularly in queues which are far too long and moving too slowly. I don’t expect to be seen instantly but I am not prepared to wait more than a few minutes. I will leave very quickly if I think it’s all taking longer than it reasonably should.

So you need to get your staffing levels right and you need to ensure that each customer is dealt with promptly. Mess customers around and make them wait too long and you’ll lose them.

That’s my six tips for today. So are these all the qualities your business will need in order to provide good customer service? Probably not but they would represent a good start if you can get them right.

© RJ Sutton and Mann Island Media Limited 2014. All Rights Reserved.

How to maintain a successful business

Fotolia_64827472_XS_3For a business to be successful you must have an established base of customers who have some reason to love your business and who will keep coming back because they love your business. It may be the great products and services you have to offer or it may be the exceptional customer service and ease with which they can do business with your company. They may like the personality of your company or they may like the well-trained and polite staff you employ. Whatever it is, you should know what it is. And you should always keep your eye on that ball.

If you’re in business you should always remember what it is that you do that your customers love about your company. Don’t lose sight of that magic ingredient that influences customers to do business with you rather than your competitors. Essentially this is your company’s unique selling proposition (USP). It is the factor that differentiates your business from your competition.

The problem is that many businesses start off by doing one thing really well and this attracts loyal customers. Then before too long they turn into something else without ever having made a deliberate decision to do so. These businesses simply evolve into something else. They lose sight of what their customers considered special about them and in the process they throw away their competitive advantage. And of course once it is lost competitive advantage can be very hard to regain.

The trick is to keep asking this question; what do our customers like about us? Why do they keep coming back? What makes us special? Know the answers and make sure you keep giving your customers what they want. Never allow your business to evolve into something that will alienate your loyal customers.

In fact you should never just allow your business to evolve at all. Any change to your business should be on the basis of a reasoned strategy that offers your customers something more than they are being offered now. Even then you should retain that magic ingredient, if that is what is bringing customers to your door. Happy customers will return again and again; unhappy customers will look elsewhere to meet their needs.

© RJ Sutton and Mann Island Media Limited 2014. All Rights Reserved.