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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© Roy Joseph Sutton and Mann Island Media Limited 2019. All Rights Reserved.

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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© 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.

5 Fundamental Rules of Business

Business cloudAsk any successful entrepreneur for their top five fundamental rules of business and I am sure you will get a different list each time. I was asked this question recently, so here is the response I gave my inquisitor at the time:-

1. If you don’t look after the customer, someone else will.

2. Nothing is gained by winning an argument but losing a customer.

3. Always deliver what you promise. If in doubt, under-promise and over-deliver.

4. Always treat customers as you would like to be treated.

5. Your brand is important. It is your reputation as much as anything else. And the reputation of the whole company is in the hands of each individual. You must ensure they know this, constantly.

If I were to give one piece of advice you should take away from this post it would be; the customer should be at the centre of everything you do. Always, always, always think customer!

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

How to Manage in Business

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How to Manage in BusinessIs it your job to manage a business? I am sure what follows may seem obvious to experienced business managers but I will say it anyway. If you’re the boss then there will be lots of things going on in your business that you don’t know about. There will also be plenty of people who will be trying very hard to ensure that you don’t find out. However it’s your job to know what’s going on. Remember, you are there to manage, are you not? That’s what you’re being paid to do.

It is difficult to manage anything if you are ignorant of the facts. Obviously, if something goes wrong in the business the buck stops at your desk. Excuses based on being unaware of the facts are never acceptable and they only serve to make you look completely out of touch with what’s going on. In fact let’s be truthful, they make you look incompetent.

Your job is to know the business inside out. Therefore you must ensure that you make every effort to know what’s going on. That means putting yourself about a bit every single day. You manage by walking around, talking to people and asking awkward questions. If you walk around asking questions then you’ll have a better chance of knowing what’s going on and finding out things others would prefer you not to know.

It is true that most people are honest and they just want to do a decent job. However if people think no one is looking and/or no one cares, then temptation can lead people to acts of dishonesty. Whether that’s stealing your time for which they are being paid or stealing money or your stock, even good people can yield to temptation.

And then of course there could be other dubious practices going on. How about people cutting corners leading to poor quality products? Poor quality leads to lost customers. How about poor customer service? That would lead to even more lost customers. Lose too many customers and you won’t have a business to manage. You’ll be out of a job and so will many other good people too.

The bottom line is that if you don’t take great care in looking after your interests and those of the business then it is only a matter of time before someone will decide to take advantage of the situation. So walk around; ask questions and don’t allow yourself to be fobbed off with meaningless responses to your questions. Keep probing until you are satisfied that you understand what’s going on.

Keep your eye on the ball or pretty soon there won’t be a ball. Someone will have run off with it. Sad but true I’m afraid.

If walking around is not currently part of your routine, when will you start to make it a daily habit?

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