Tag Archive mentoring

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Growth Accelerator – A Practical Approach to Improved Performance

We all need a virtual or actual boost in our businesses now and again.  It’s too easy to become complacent, comfortable or afraid of making any changes that might make things “different”.

Growth Accelerator

What many successful businesses do is harness a culture of continual evolution never settling for the status quo.  This can be massively helped by recruiting staff who don’t fear change and have their own streak of entrepreneurism.  If this is harnessed to a leadership team with clear goals and a strategy to enable attainment of the objectives the future will look bright.

Unfortunately certain sectors contain more than their fair share of risk averse personalities and they can in turn keep a business locked into a mode that ensures it fails to capitalise on new trends and seek out opportunities.

Smaller organisations can rely on the owners far too much and expect them to feed the company through their efforts to win new customers.  For a large number of proprietors the challenge of running a business alone is enough to fully occupy them and the additional responsibility of bringing in revenue gets consigned to a “to do” list that rarely gets actioned.

So what can be done for these many ambitious but largely stagnant businesses?  How can they rekindle the pioneering, energetic and challenging spirit that formed them?

There are any number of resources available to the average business – but this in itself can prove to be an inhibitor as too many options can prove confusing and ultimately fail to deliver the desired result.

The same may be said of certain third party agencies who approach business owners direct and feed their anxieties.  They make promises to provide the solutions sought but end up costing the company an expensive fee and wasted time in pursuing false hopes.

On a more positive note I’ve recently had the opportunity to work with the Growth Accelerator programme.  The phrase “Growth Accelerator” for some seems to conjure up rather dubious pills that might be promoted via spam e-mail but I can assure you it is no quack solution. This is a well organised and effective initiative for commercial enterprises covering three core areas:

  • Business Development
  • Innovation
  • Leadership and Management Development

Growth Accelerator provides access to finance to assist the companies in achieving their agreed goals.

What is reassuring about this programme is the assessment and selection of coaches and clear focus on quality service and the ultimate delivery for the businesses taking part.

Growth Accelerator is available to businesses registered in the UK who have fewer than 250 staff and a turnover less than £40m.  Essentially they must be looking to grow their business by 20% – turnover or profit.

The Growth Accelerator process uses template guides that are introduced by experienced coaches offering a highly visible and effective tool to help the business see their future growth over a 3 year period.

It’s certainly not the only option but it is currently one of the most popular initiatives sought out by businesses wishing to grow but to do so in a manner that is both practical and sustainable.

If this is something you would like to explore further please feel free to drop me a line and we will put you in touch with your regional Growth Manager.

David Laud

 

Byadmin

Spinning Plates, Juggling Balls & Shot Selection – How to Create an Effective Marketing Strategy

Devising a successful marketing plan hasn’t always been easy but your options were pretty straightforward.  Depending on budget and market your choices were clear and experience along with a good creative agency would go a long way to delivering results.

It's getting harder to keep things from falling down - Multi Channel Marketing Challenge

It’s getting harder to keep things from falling down – Multi Channel Marketing Challenge

Those factors of experience and creativity still exist but in the digital age we’re now confronted by a multitude of potential channels and measurement tools many of which are relatively untried and untested.

The variety of digital channels and the parallel phenomenon of shifting customer behaviours pose new challenges for today’s marketer.  The need for organisations to have digital marketing experience has become increasingly important, almost essential, as we start a new year and many of us look to plan for growing the income and profit of our businesses.

For those who rely on 3rd party agencies for digital channel support it can prove frustrating and expensive especially if their promises fail to deliver the expected results and the rationale for failure is dressed in uber geek jargon.

My advice to any business owner or marketer is to trust their instincts, not to forget the basics of solid marketing principles and not over complicate plans by throwing in every new channel.  If you set up a new social media platform account remember you must be prepared to deliver regular appropriate and original content.  That account management takes time and resource and can detract impact of your marketing efforts from areas that will deliver tangible returns.  It may also damage the brand if the execution misfires.

 Key Tips for Multi-Channel Marketing Plans 

  1. Be clear as to who is responsible for what.  Establish clear roles, responsibilities and set out and communicate expected outputs. Don’t overlook potential internal departmental conflicts such as I.T. v Marketing.
  2. Don’t lose the overarching objective in the mass of opportunities and options. Increasing twitter followers looks good but is it delivering a return for the business.
  3. Put the customer at the centre of your planning and thoughts of how best to engage and enhance brand and convert to sales.  Facebook might offer a rich source of demographic data but may not be the environment where potential or existing customers want to interact with your business.
  4. If you can’t or don’t know how to measure it don’t do it or a better option, find out how to.
  5. Use tools to support your efforts eg Google Analytics, Hootsuite, Followerwonk, AppAnnie
  6. Keep the boss informed. If you’re struggling to keep up with digital trends just imagine the difficulty those who don’t use the platforms on a regular basis will have in understanding what they do.  Consider creating a simple FAQ or SWOT on each marketing channel to share with colleagues and the senior team.
  7. Don’t be afraid to experiment. It can be possible to test channels in a low cost simplified manner to gauge the mechanics and opportunities therein. Be sure you always follow no. 4 in such circumstances.
  8. Don’t see the plethora of choice as a problem but an opportunity. A positive mind-set can free you from debilitating inertia brought on by a lack of decisions.
  9. Keep agencies on a tight brief with clearly defined objectives and review progress regularly (at least monthly).
  10. Keep the radar turned on.  Whilst there’s already an abundance of channels to spend our budget on technology is moving fast. Voice recognition and intelligent interaction with Apple’s Siri and Google’s alternative are just one example of how search technology is developing.
  11. Don’t get lost in the technology.  Traditional marketing channels can and do deliver strong returns with well co-ordinated and executed campaigns.
  12. Don’t be afraid to use your networks to ask for help.  LinkedIn groups and professional bodies can provide very useful intelligence.

Personally I love a challenge but with so much “noise” in the on-line and off-line marketing world it’s often hard deciding on which path to take.  Such difficulties in selecting which channels to invest in is a very common problem, reassure yourself you’re not alone.

Meanwhile I’ll continue spinning, juggling and making those shot selections, doing my best to keep up.

If you have a question or suggestion on this topic please feel free to comment or contact me via twitter @davidlaud or e-mail david.laud@i2isolutions.co.uk

David Laud FCIM, Chartered Marketer

Byadmin

Marketing – It’s a Dirty Word

I still encounter those who see marketing as at best a necessary evil and at worst a practice of smoke and mirrors with no substance.

iStock_000028922460_Small

This unwarranted prejudice is borne out of a lack of understanding of the core principles of marketing.  Sceptics who poke sticks at marketers often suggest that the acquiring of customers is not difficult.  Winning new business is not connected to marketing activity.  They believe that by producing a quality product or service customers will return and promote to others.  That method of gaining customers can often be effective but the marketing element should already be interwoven with production and customer experience and not simply be seen as a blunt instrument of advertising or PR before or after the fact.  Ironically sceptics often employ marketing techniques, unaware of their natural ability to develop the business.  MD’s don’t always connect their activity to marketing which they see as a separate collection of basic promotional actions.

If you were to survey 100 non marketers and ask them for a definition of marketing the chances are over 50% would reference advertising within their response.  The truth is marketing, certainly for me is “The Business of Business” a little more than creating and placing an advert.  To be an effective marketer you must understand all you can about your customers, the financial model that produces the product, where the margins kick in, the mechanisms involved in delivering the product and the experience of customers once purchased.  The entire scope of the company, its infrastructure, inner workings and technical elements must be understood to contextualise a successful approach to develop the brand and thereby grow the business.

All too often when recruiting or appointing a marketing resource business owners go into the process with a narrow pre-determined idea of what the person will add to the mix.  They focus on PR or advertising.  They might also worry about the need for a better online presence rather than consider an opportunity to involve the marketer in helping with business planning and setting a strategy.

Typical Marketing Professionals Skill Set

  • Account Management
  • Administration
  • Advertising
  • Analytical
  • Brand Marketing & Management
  • Business Development
  • Client Relationship/ Customer Care
  • Collaboration
  • Communication
  • Competitive Analysis
  • Content Marketing
  • Contract Negotiation
  • CRM/ Database Management
  • Creative
  • Direct Marketing
  • Displays
  • Event Planning
  • E-mail marketing
  • Financial
  • Interpersonal
  • Leadership
  • List Management
  • Market Analysis & Research
  • Market Strategy
  • Merchandising
  • Mobile Marketing
  • Order Processing
  • Planning & Project Management
  • PPC
  • Presentations
  • Product Research
  • Problem Resolution
  • Product Management
  • Product Promotion
  • Professional
  • Public Relations
  • Purchasing Inventory
  • Quality Control
  • Reporting
  • Sales Tracking
  • SEO
  • Social Media
  • Supplier Management
  • Teaching/ Training
  • Team Player
  • Time Management
  • Troubleshooting

An added challenge for many is the “hobby” marketer boss who believes they can play “the marketing game”.  We all consume so many marketing messages each day it’s not surprising that a boss or client might suggest they have the answer to a new advertising campaign, website or sponsorship deal.  Don’t for one minute think I’m against business owners or bosses getting engaged with the marketing activity.  I’ve spent far too long in my career trying to encourage such interest to fight it; but it can be difficult for junior, less experienced marketers to put a counter view forward when the ultimate decision maker insists on having their way.

Where experienced and effective marketers set themselves apart is in their ability to distinguish “good ideas” from the ego driven project.  They need an ability to swiftly reflect and analyse any newly presented opportunity, establish the potential impact and make recommendations in plain jargon free English.  That particular skill can save organisations a large chunk of their marketing budget.

A very good example of the scale of the challenge for today’s marketer is their need to stay on top of the terabytes of information related to digital marketing.  Without necessarily being an expert the modern marketer must understand the principles of SEO, (search engine optimisation) PPC (pay per click advertising) Social Media, Mobile Technologies, Online Advertising and CRM (Customer Relationship Management).  Interpreting Google Analytics and having the confidence to reject or accept digital agency proposals are also essential attributes of those holding the responsibility for marketing in any organisation.

Yes it’s complicated out there but life is these days.  We can either keep up or give in and outsource management to the wave upon wave of niche agency suppliers promising to deliver success.  Without the confidence borne out of our own knowledge of specific marketing processes we’re left with fingers crossed just hoping that the agency knows what they’re doing with their sizeable budget.  Personally I don’t see it as an option.  We owe it to ourselves, clients and employers to provide the very best level of expertise and professionalism and demonstrate that more than ever we have the knowledge and the spark to drive businesses forward.

Far from being a dirty word marketing is the discipline that business owners need to embrace wholeheartedly.  They need to seek out the very best qualified practitioners to work with, provide resource and trust them to deliver.  David Laud – FCIM Chartered Marketer, consultant.

Byadmin

Is It All Good With You? – Leadership & Self Confidence

Have you ever faced the dilemma of thinking how best to phrase the opening line of an e-mail? The trend appears to be for the “hope all’s good with you” or “hope this finds you well”.  Nothing wrong with this, it’s polite and shows an interest in the well-being of the person you’re engaging with.  But on the receiving end of such an e-mail are we ever tempted to tell it how it really is?

Self ConfidenceImagine the shock if your reply started, “Thanks for your e-mail, in answer to your question I’m extremely anxious, not sleeping well and very concerned about the future of my business.”

That would be rather “awkward” and put the recipient in an uncomfortable spot as to how to answer such a statement.  But in one way this answer to the original e-mail is refreshing as it’s truly honest.

The difficulty of course is that no one wants to admit to fragility or weakness, stress or worries suggest failure.  The reality is at some time or another we all suffer from varying degrees of stress and have genuine doubts over either a business or personal direction and our own capabilities; especially when we’re up against it and under pressure.

The media regularly reports on the trend of business confidence sourced from trade and sector specific surveys.  I’ve always suspected that they are very heavily skewed, with a positive spin put on the answers.  Respondents will want to talk up their own position and only express genuine concern when it is a globally recognised issue such as the height of the recent recession.  After so much gloom we’re desperate for good news and we don’t want to disappoint.  But it’s easier to consider business buoyancy over the rather more personal and potentially painful analysis of our own self-confidence.

So is our level of personal confidence that important?

The answer is clearly “yes” – A leader’s self-confidence is at the heart of business success and growth.  Through the recessionary period many tens of thousands of business owners have faced tough decisions and trading conditions which impact on their personal outlook and mood.  With shoots of recovery appearing there’s an expectation that these entrepreneurs and owners will simply click back into overdrive and quickly return to their super confident persona.

The truth is it is not that easy to turn on confidence, it relies on a number of factors and will differ for each person depending on their own leadership skills, life experience, measure of success and management capability.

Optimism and confidence are crucial attributes for business leaders as those who work for them look to the signals from the boss to determine their own feelings of security.  It’s not hard to see that a forward looking buoyant and confident business owner will engender a positive atmosphere throughout their organisation.  Not that it’s entirely all down to the one individual but if they’re not confident and positive in their communications it will send an uncertain message to others and lead to discontent and discomfort amongst the workforce.

Ironically for certain senior executives their outward view is often believed to be positive whilst the reality is far from that perception.  Body language and tone of voice might seem minor elements compared to the content of any communication but we know that as humans we take in a wide range of signals and are naturally very adept at translating them.

If not sure how you’re perceived ask a few trusted colleagues for their unbiased appraisal, it might be quite an eye opener.

Without a clearly understood vision for the future, business owners will be likely to react to situations as and when they arise leading to “knee jerk” responses.  This will not breed confidence amongst the workforce no matter how well a leader presents their decisions.  A lack of management consistency often creates feelings of uncertainty amongst staff heightened in times of trading difficulties and increased competitive pressures.

At the heart of the corporate confidence issue is the conviction of a clearly articulated and implemented strategy to take the organisation forward.  Whilst insecurities and concern still exists in many sectors those who’ll survive will have calm, assured captains steering the business on a course to deliver a strong and sustainable future.  With plans in place and everyone understanding their role all who share the journey can themselves grow in confidence and far more readily contribute to the success of the business.

Below are 5 suggested tips to assist leaders develop a stronger feeling of self-confidence.

5 Tips to Build Self Confidence

1. Pragmatism over Perfection.  Don’t get hung up on the felling that every decision and act you make must be perfect and borne out of your instinctive powers as a leader.  Making the right decisions can often prove difficult but remember there are frequently situations in business where there is no right or wrong response.  Be logical and gather the data you need to make an informed decision.

2. Commit to your Decisions — Communicate with conviction and provide details of the outputs from the decision.

3. Failure is an Option – Mistakes will happen and that’s life but make sure that lessons are learnt from any failure and not repeated.  The best leaders freely admit to shortcomings and can identify how success was often borne out of projects that didn’t initially deliver.

4. Body Language — We all have moments of fear and trepidation in our lives but if others are looking to you for direction you need to show courage and calmness especially when under pressure.

5. Enjoy the Moment and your WorkWe can spend a great deal of time at work especially if you’re the owner or senior manager of a business.  There will be good and bad moments but make sure you celebrate the successes with your team and be there to pick everyone up when a deal fails to materialise.

David Laud  david.laud@i2isolutions.co.uk    Twitter @davidlaud

 

 

 

 

 

 

Byadmin

Trick or Treat? The Importance of Effective Conflict Management

Won’t be long and the House of Laud’s doorbell will be getting its annual Halloween workout from the local sweet-toothed, short-person, and some not so short invasion squad.  When did we start parading the pumpkin and craving candy?  It’s yet another US import that along with “Prom” has the younger generation hooked.

Trick or Treat

Not that I’m against US imports, I quite like the Apple iPad, a blast of Nirvana always improves my driving and Disney do make great “feel good” movies but not all things US leave me with a warm comfortable feeling.

Politics, now there’s something we shouldn’t import from the US.  Or are we too late?  The personality driven style of campaigning has worryingly been adopted by all parties.  We can only count our blessings that the budgetary decisions are not as the US system and used as an American Football where gaining yards against a team can actually cause global recession part II.

My hope is that those in power and who finally found an answer to America’s “shut-down” will stop playing games in future and find sensible solutions that in some way retain the laudable aims of President Obama’s Health Care Reform Bill.

For the Republicans to be able to wield such a huge political stick and continually seek to beat the President with it is nothing short of a scandal.  Of course these are my own opinions and others may well disagree but the basic position is surely one we cannot support.  If the US “Shut-down” and budgetary stalemate had not been resolved and they were seen to default on their loans it wouldn’t have just been trick or treaters in the good old U.S. of A. crying at their lack of candy….we’d all be left short and can we afford to face such a dilemma just at the point we looked to be turning a corner?

As I write this Obama has announced a settlement and a compromise appears to have been reached.  I applaud his stance with the Health Care Reform but managing a country is really no different to managing a business.  When faced with an inevitable and catastrophic outcome that can be avoided through a mediated solution you need to put ego and personality to one side and negotiate to take matters forward.  It was more than time to lay the cards down and stop playing political poker.

By finding a solution however the political momentum appears now to be firmly with Obama with the US electorate both angry and shocked at the tactics used by the Tea Party representatives and others within the Republican party.

Whilst not pretending to be an expert on US or Global politics it does strike me that the time has come for such activity to be scrutinised under a process similar to the 7 principles of Nolan Group’s suggested approach to public service.

  1. Selflessnes
  2. Integrity
  3. Objectivity
  4. Accountability
  5. Openness
  6. Honesty
  7. Leadership

For me the above are a pretty good rule of thumb for anyone in a public position of authority. From school governor to senate representative to the President himself.

We can all agree to disagree on points of principle but when stubbornness and point scoring prevents progress it’s time to step in.  My preference now would be to undertake a review of the process that led to the crisis to put in place measures to prevent such calamities in future.  Without this we could be back at exactly the same point in just a few months.

Of course I’m all in favour of balanced mediated non confrontational or posturing approaches but…..if any sticky fingered haribo horror tries to mug me for a sugar rush be warned.  I may just say trick… 😉

David Laud Managing Partner – i2i Business Solutions LLP tweet @davidlaud

Byadmin

Have You Lost Your MOJO? 10 Tips to Re-Discover Your Confidence

A few years ago a client turned to me after a meeting and said he would hate to have my job.  At the time and as you might expect this took me by surprise not least because the individual making the statement was himself a very successful lawyer and partner in a successful firm and actually the meeting had been very positive.

Losing Your Mojo - Loss of Confidence

Losing your Mojo can affect your confidence and career prospects

 

When asked to qualify why my role might present as a poisoned chalice to him he referred to the constant pressure to deliver results.  One winning strategy or campaign would never be enough and that there was a constant demand for positive outcomes borne out of successfully winning work from the competition.

That might sound a bit odd certainly now we’re in such a competitive climate and expectations for delivery are not only directed at the marketers but each and every facet of the business.

What’s interesting is that this conversation stuck with me over the years.  The reason is that it made me, for the first time, seriously question my own career path and if indeed the suggestion of unrelenting demand for results would make for a happy working life in the long term.

The reality of course is that there are stresses in everyone’s job from CEO, entrepreneur, director manager, homemaker, carer, doctor, parent, journalist you name it there’s pressure to be found.  We can all question ourselves as to our performance, relationships, success and failures and when times have been tough with the economy many of us have been hard on ourselves or had others make unrealistic demands leading to unnecessary stress.

When I have a bad day and let’s face it we all have them, I revisit that conversation and remind myself why I do what I do and why over the years it’s proven to be a good career choice.  That technique helps keep me focussed on the positives and avoids dwelling on negative thoughts that can seriously damage your working life MOJO.  We all need a healthy dose of self-belief and confidence but it can be a greater challenge when events really turn against us and at those times a little external help might be required.

Questioning our own abilities can be caused by our mood and often the actions of others which can frequently be outside of our control.  That doesn’t stop us worrying and spiralling into a feeding frenzy of stress as we think back to the minutiae of our working days or projects in a negative post match analysis that either finds you coming up short or blaming everyone else for their failures.

How do you overcome these thoughts and loss of confidence?

  1. Accept that there is a problem requiring a solution, don’t bury your head or find alternative releases such as alcohol, arguing with loved ones or pointing the finger at others.
  2. Seek out someone you trust and who understands you but is also capable of being clear and logical of thought and non-judgemental.  Avoid engaging with a friend who will simply reflect what they think you want to hear.
  3. Be honest.
  4. If you can’t source someone consider running a self-diagnosis SWOT by looking at your personal strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.  Be as honest as you can without being too negative or overly positive and glossing over the issues.   The SWOT can be useful if you have someone to help you too by providing structure to your discussion.
  5. Be prepared to be challenged and to challenge yourself.
  6. List the key milestones in your career/ life that have provided the greatest moments of pride and satisfaction, remember the feeling.
  7. Review the current role and identify where positive changes can be made and what you can specifically influence by way of outcomes.
  8. Review relationships at work and how your behaviour may impact on others both positively and negatively.
  9. What are you passionate about, what excites you? Make a list, no matter how short that list may be we all have something that sparks our positivity and passion, remind yourself of yours.
  10. Looking at the working and home life what makes you happy?  Find an activity that’s affordable and makes you smile and allow yourself regular opportunities to enjoy your favourite pastime.

Wherever you are in your career, just starting out, at a mid-point crossroads or towards the end you deserve to be making the very most of that time you spend on it.  Re-discovering your MOJO, the element which drives you, makes you stand out from the crowd and defines who you are can provide the all-important spark to re-ignite your work life.  It can also help you realise your ambitions and life goals by providing a fresh focus to the time you’re spending at work and your priorities and more effectively counteract those negative forces.

If you’re interested in the issues covered in this blog please feel free to contact David via twitter @davidlaud or e-mail david.laud@i2isolutions.co.uk

 

 

Byadmin

Life’s Journey – Don’t Find Yourself Asleep at the Wheel

Are you happy with your role? Content with the position you find yourself in at this point in time? Do you encounter many frustrations in your day to day work and find it difficult to manage them?

Picking Piece of Mind

Picking Piece of Mind

If the answer to the above is yes, yes, no in that order then congratulations but if not or you know someone who isn’t quite so satisfied with their life you might want to consider this short blog on looking at life afresh.
For many of us work is more than a means to an end, it’s a passion and something we take very seriously but all too few of us take the time to review where we are and focus on what we truly want to achieve.

Too many of us find ourselves trapped in careers or situations that limit the scope of achieving our potential. Overlooked for promotion or unable to grow the business; frustration builds until a day arrives when it may be too late to change and the opportunity has passed you by.

But that’s far too depressing and of course it’s never really too late. What’s important is seizing the moment, identifying that you have far more to give and working through the possibilities that could lead to a rejuvenated approach to work and life as a whole.

As part of the human condition we can at times find ourselves drifting through life. Be it our own personal relationships or career, a common failing is that we settle, let things remain unchanged because change represents a challenge and a challenge can make you uncomfortable.

Rather than being caught asleep at the wheel of your life it might be time to turn up the music, open a window and see what is really happening around you.

Make time for reflection and re-assess your priorities. The past 5+ years of recession and painfully slow recovery has led many to take a bunker mentality. Keep the head down and think “hopefully when I look up I’ll still have a job and/or a business”. The risk is that whilst you’re taking this “safe” option life is moving on a pace and others are seeking out opportunities around you.

So what can be done to bring things into sharp focus? Ask yourself these questions and be as honest as you can in answering them.
• Who are the positive influences in your life and why?
• Who are the negative influencers and why?
• What is most important to you, what could you not live without?
• Who do you admire and why?
• What do you like to do? (For work and leisure)
• What don’t you like doing?
• What would you like to achieve from your life? What does success look like for you?
• What is preventing you from achieving this goal?
• What steps could you take in the next 6 months to work towards the goal?

Being surrounded by negativity can be a very draining experience and in time can turn you into a negative force yourself. Identifying positive influences and spending time in their company can be a big step in helping boost your own morale. Finding a suitable mentor to support you in the quest to find the path to your goals can also be hugely rewarding. If you are in danger of waving at life as it passes by, decide to do something and decide to do it this week. You owe it to yourself and those around you to be the best possible version of whoever you are and the positive influence you can bring to bear on others can be infectious.

Good solid support and advice in the shape of an experienced and qualified mentor can be just the sat nav you need to put you back on course.

If any of the above resonates with you and you’d like further information to help move matters forward drop me a line david.laud@i2isolutions.co.uk