Catch a Pike!

At the weekend I was in Ely; the cathedral is beautiful.

I came across a fishing tackle shop, The Tackle Shop Ely, and, as I had some spare time, dropped in for a look.

The man at the main counter, whom I assumed was the owner, looked across to me, so I smiled and asked if it was okay to have a look round.

He replied, ‘Of course, feel free’ and added, ‘What are you looking for?’

That impressed me, because most people in shops ask if they can help you, and it’s easy to say, ‘No, thank you.’

But, with ‘What are you looking for?’ you really need to give an answer. So, I told him nothing really, but that long ago I used to Pike fish and had thought about doing so again. I then added that I found Abu Spoons really good at the time, but couldn’t find any for sale now.

He explained how things had changed and then showed me a feather-like lure for Pike fishing, which was amazingly successful, but incredibly hard to cast. It looked wonderful. He also showed me a Pike-looking lure, which today was a real winner.

We chatted for a fair time and I asked what was selling at the moment and he told me about the Complete Beginner Starter Kit: a big seller at this time of the year (with the new season approaching).

He also explained that he didn’t sell the packaged kits, but instead, talked to the new angler, and put a package together that would really suit them, and for no extra money. How good is that?

You can learn a great deal for your business from this (how to get more good customers that will spend and stay customers for longer), as well as finding a great shop for buying your own fishing tackle.

And, I left with a Pike lure and several wire traces. Pike fishing, here I come!

How to lose business

Last year I decided to get back into the saddle. After much research I found a very interesting riding school to visit.

The horses were great, my teacher very understanding, as I hadn’t ridden for years, and I really enjoyed my weekly lesson. Even in the rain!

Then for a number of unrelated happenings, not planned at all, I had to miss three lessons on the trot.

During those weeks I never received a call, text or email from the stable, and never have since. I’ve not ridden since and sadly, at the moment, don’t think I will.

Bizarrely at the same time, as I missed the riding lessons, I discovered a Shetland pony farm.

As the farm, in Stoke D’Abernon, was close to my home I decided to pay them a visit. My reason being that as Bonzo is a Shetland pony, it might give me some wonderful ideas for my next Bonzo and Her Grace children’s book.

The layout of the farm is dazzling, the owner very welcoming, she introduced me to her lovely staff and, of course, about 20 beautiful Shetland ponies. They were so cute and fun.

When I finally left, I said that it would be great to keep in touch, and gave the owner a copy of Bonzo and Her Grace and my business card. In return she gave me a copy of her children’s horse book.

I left thinking that the farm was very special and that, sometime in the future, I’d love to visit again.

Since my visit I have received lots of emails and one, just last week, started with a lovely video of Shetlands playing and notes about what they had been doing over the winter. I wanted to go and see them.

As it turned out, my wife and I took our 3 year old grandson to see them, and he loved the Shetland ponies. This time as we left, I said that we would see them again soon, and gave the owner two copies of my latest Bonzo and Her Grace book.

So, how can all of this help you?

Well that’s easy. What sort of relationship do you have with your clients and prospective customers?

As, if it’s like the first stable you will be losing business, but if it’s like the Shetland pony farm, you like be gaining business. Exactly where does your customer relationship sit?

Say it with real meaning!

I was taught to ride at 21, by a Mr. Quinn, at the Park Lane Stables. After a few rides he asked me ‘Do you want to be taught how to ride, or, do you want to be taught how to ride?’

He had asked me the same question, but twice. I have to say that the second time he asked, it was with more energy and enthusiasm, so I went for that one.

And it made Mr. Quinn pleased. He explained that there nothing wrong with riding the first way, but that the second way meant that I really wanted to be able to really ride; not just hack.

The following weeks were tough! I came off on 12 rides consecutively. There were two reasons: one, that I was learning fast and, two, the more I improved, the better horse I was given to ride.

Of course it could have been that I was just a bad rider, but from ride 13 I’ve rarely come off again!

When the autumn arrives, and the bad weather, the number of riders really drops off; mainly those that just go out for a nice comfortable hack, don’t like cold, wet rides. And, that is perfectly fine, but the horses still need to be exercised. So they are often led out in a string.

Well, one morning Mr. Quinn offered me a deal. I could ride every day if I liked, as long as I still took my one paid-for lesson.

I jumped at the chance and was soon riding every day. I loved it.

We now jump a lot of years forward. Park Lane Stables was still a stables I thought of, and I loved seeing their horses on the roads, and being ridden in Bushy Park.

Park Lane Stables

Then, one day I heard, they were going to lose their stable and Park Lane Stables might come to an end. I would have hated that.

They needed to raise a million pounds and did everything they could. Not that I could do much, but I shared their Facebook news and popped into see them, and donated some of my Bonzo and Her Grace books, to help raise money. Plus, of course, I told lots of people about what they were hoping to do.

It took a long time, and some incredible support, but finally they made it, and now the stable is safe for life.

Now, what might this have to do with your business?

Well, if Mr. Quinn, and the Park Lane Stable, had not said all things with a real meaning, then they probably wouldn’t exist today.

So, does everything you and your staff say, have a real meaning? As if it does your success will be far greater than if it doesn’t.

Storm Bound!

I was sailing off Corfu (a couple of years ago) when the weather turned rather unpleasant and we got storm bound for a day.  We had made a run for a safe harbour the day before and now sat in a taverna at Sivota (Mourtos) on mainland Greece having breakfast.  Outside there was thunder and lightning, and the rain was being blown sideways across dark, heavy sea.  Our lead skipper confirmed what we already knew: there would be no sailing that day.

It was 9.30am, and at that moment forty plus people sat in the taverna, wondering how they would fill their day.  There were children of all ages and it was pouring with rain outside.

It was then that the owner of the taverna swept into action!  Out he came with trays of fruit juice; one for everyone and free of charge.  Twenty or so minutes later he was back with more trays, this time full of glasses of water.  A little while later he was back again with shot glasses of a coffee-based drink.  Soon after there were bowls full of crisps and other nibbles; all gifts to us.  Then a while later he was back with another ‘round’ of water.

The amazing thing was that most people had stayed in his taverna.  Some had braved the rain outside and come back with books, homework and games.  Everyone was settled in.  And, guess what?  It was now late morning.  The first beers were ordered and then lunches were starting to be ordered.

This taverna owner was a very clever man.  Every twenty minutes or so he gave us a reason to stay in his taverna; there were plenty more outside that we could have gone to.  Each time we got a drink or some nibbles we had a reason to stay in his taverna.  And, most of us stayed.  And, most of us went on to buy drinks and lunch.  Many stayed all day!  We went for a walk.

Come back to your business

So, what can you learn from this?  It’s simple.  What can you offer your clients, which will get them to come back to your business, time and again, rather than try another?

If you need any ideas please give me a call.

A new light!

I love going around Dorking, Surrey, as it has so many things that I enjoy.

Walking to and from on the Surrey Hills is great, Dorking Hall is a great place to go for a concert, the Sports Centre is super and, of course, it’s always fun to see the Dorking Cockerel on the way in (if coming by road in the right direction).

But, what I like the best are the shops. There’s a brilliant model shop, a shop with fishing tackle, lots of antique shops (including Arms & Armour), plus I’ve eaten at a couple of restaurants that I think are excellent.

On my last visit I discovered another exquisite shop; it was full of lamps, plates and bowls. They looked beautiful, so I popped in to see more.

I heard the person running the shop say to the person that they were helping that everything came from Turkey.

When the customer had left I was asked if I could be helped, and I asked where from Turkey the items came. The answer was Istanbul, and in return I said that, ‘I loved Istanbul.’ And, from there, we had a long chat; covering why I had been to Istanbul, what I liked, and of course, about the shop and all of the products.

The business sounded amazing, opening in August 2019, with the online shop opening in June 2020; all of this, of course, during Covid.

There are two things that truly impressed me with Ali’s Emporium; one is that the lamps, textiles, ceramics, and paintings are directly from Turkey (Istanbul) and two, and most important, that the owner is a lovely person to talk to and they will help you choose the perfect thing for you. It’s not just sales.

In business, the right attitude can make a major difference to your success; I have left shops and businesses (without purchasing), when I’ve not been treated well. Business lost – then and for good.

So, something to think about, are you and all of your staff (and I do mean all), thinking about how best to help your customers? Your sales should increase attractively if they all are.

Certainly I will be back to Ali’s Emporium very soon.

The pen is mightier than the email!

Email is now one of the key ways in which we communicate.

It’s the same with the phone: texting has taken over: and that’s without WhatsApp (and more).  Although I often think that by the fifth text exchange it would have been easier and faster to have actually used the phone.

But email, that’s the thing.  We receive hundreds every day and, if not careful, we can lose whole days just sending and answering emails.  We feel we must; we are drawn to them.  They control our lives.  Well, they can do.

We also get spam; so much spam.  I even know people that just delete all of their emails, working on the assumption that if important enough the person sending the message will, having not had a reply, make contact again.

Writing a letter is almost a forgotten art.  Invoices arrive as pdfs.  All sorts of things can be downloaded or done online.  We live in the age of the computer and of the internet.

And this is why the pen can achieve such incredible results!

I’m sure that you must have received a ‘Thank you’ card from someone after they have been round for dinner.  Didn’t you feel great?  And, what about Christmas cards this year. Well, just imagine what your customers would feel like if you sent them a personal card.  How wonderful would they feel?  How would they feel about you?  You took the time to write them a card, which included buying a card, writing a message, putting the card in an envelope, affixing a stamp, and posting it.  What exactly does that say about how much they mean to you?

Fire off a quick email that may never be read, or send a lovely, personal, card.

You only have to ask: which would I like to receive?

So, if you want to make your clients feel really valued don’t always send that email. Send them a beautiful card instead and see your business grow!

Down at the local pub!

I was speaking at the same event as Penny Power and as I was on stage directly after her decided to sit in on her session.  She was talking about social media and how so many people get it wrong, as they just broadcast rather than take part in a conversation.  She likened it to moving in to a new village, popping down to the local pub, opening the door and announcing “I’m an architect” rather than going in and sitting at the bar, buying a drink, getting to know the locals, and then them finding out, in time, that you were an architect.  And, it got me thinking.

So many people do just the same when networking.  You meet some, in fact lots, at every networking event there is, they just introduce themselves and then say, “I’m an architect; here’s my card.” And that’s about it!  You can obviously replace architect with: accountant, solicitor, printer, web designer, business coach, mobile phone supplier.  Need I go on?

Well networking is just like social media; it’s about starting a conversation.  It’s about building a relationship.  It’s certainly not about a quick ‘hit’ and moving on.

If you are going to be a really successful networker, to really benefit from networking, you have to be prepared to make an effort, to really get to know the people you meet, and that takes time.

So, please don’t rush in with “I’m an architect”. Instead ask about the other person, have an interesting question or two to ask, and never ‘push’ your business card.  And when they do ask what you do, because they will (it’s the polite thing to do), please don’t say, “I’m an architect”.  That’s just so boring!  Have something interesting to say, like “I help people to live in the home of their dreams!”.

Start a conversation, agree to meet again, contact each other by email, and build a long term relationship, that if mutually beneficial, will bring far greater rewards than anything a quick ‘hit’ will ever bring.

Earn more just by dressing up!

Making a good profit can be a hard thing to achieve, In fact, at times, any profit is hard to make, but so many business owners make this more difficult than it need be.  There are so many ways to make more profit and one of those is to simply charge more for what you do.  Again there are many reasons for charging more for your service but one of the best is just dressing up!

I will assume that you are very good at what you do and that you give an incredible service.  But now I will give you two examples of how the same business might be sold.  For each I will just concentrate on three areas, but I’m sure that you will get the picture.

Method one:  The owner drives up in a dirty three-year old car, his business card is flimsy and has a number crossed out on it, and, to be honest, he looks like he has been away camping for the last few days.

Method two:  The owner drives up in a beautifully clean three-year old car, his business card is branded and printed on a heavy board, and he looks as if he is going somewhere special.

Now remember they are providing exactly the same service.  Which would you more likely give your business to?  But, more importantly, most people would pay more money for the service provided by the second method.

There is another point to my example: you knew the service was the same in both cases, but what if you didn’t?  Who would you have chosen to buy from?

‘Designer’ goods are all about dressing up: charging more and making more profit.  Okay the quality of a £4 pair of jeans from the supermarket is not the same as that of a ‘designer’ pair, but a great deal of the price paid is for the ‘look’ and not totally the product.

So, if you want to increase your profits, why not just try ‘dressing up’ a little? Believe it or not – it does make a difference.

Your 3 a-day

No I’m not talking about your fruit or vegetable intake or, in fact, your health. However, I am talking about the health of your business.

We hear a great deal about setting goals. Your five-year plan, your three-year plan, one-year, and I myself really promote the one-month plan. Of course you need a long -term plan, something big in the future, but the reason that most long-term plans fail is because there are no one-month plans made in order to reach the bigger plan.

But even if you have your one-month plans in place, they won’t work unless you take some action; actions that will make your plan possible.

Here’s a simple example. Let’s say you want to double your turnover in the next two years. Not a bad plan – just imagine what that would do to your business.

Now at a very simple level, you would know how much business you would need in order to double your turnover. But, assuming you didn’t get any extra business from your existing customers, do you know how many new customers you would need?

Assuming you know that number, how would you go about getting that number of new customers?

How many new customers per month would you need?

Depending on your conversion rate how many customer meetings would you need?

And how many leads do you need to get to a customer meeting?

So far we haven’t even thought about extra staff, resources, cash-flow and a whole host of other things.

But even when you have done all of this work, at the moment it’s still all just theory. And this is when the action comes in. What actions will you need to take in order to make your plan, your goal, a reality? Because without any actions you will never achieve your goal.

So, work out what actions you need to take for your goal to succeed. There will be many of them; and then take three of those actions each and every day. As they say, actions speak louder than words, and in goal achievement this has never been truer.