Do you run your day or does the day run you?
Scan through this simple list of symptoms and see which apply to you;
If you answered yes to any of the above the chances are you’re suffering with a level of stress that is having a negative impact on your quality of life. We actually need a certain level of stress in our lives otherwise we’d not get much done. Positive stress, also called eustress, gets the deadline met, the presentation delivered and you on board the right train at the right time. It delivers adrenalin, excitement tends to be short term but can improve our performance.
Negative stress is where the mind starts to introduce anxious irrational thoughts that appear to be beyond our ability to manage. It makes us feel bad, it can be both short and long term, has a direct impact on performance and if left unchecked can lead to unwanted mental and physical symptoms.
There are very many causes of negative stress. It can be a relationship breakdown, new boss, new neighbourhood, too much work, not enough work, starting a family, financial worries, illness or losing someone close to you.
The fact is we ALL face these bumps and hurdles in our lives and for most of us, most of the time we can deal with them without any difficulty. Unfortunately, the statistics seem to suggest that an increasing number of us are not coping so well. As many as 12 million adults in the UK will consult their GP about mental health issues each year. Diagnosed with anxiety or depression typically caused by stress this results in 13.3 million working days lost each year. It’s a sizeable and growing problem.
Here’s the disclaimer…I’m no GP, psychologist, counsellor or psychotherapist but I, like many others have had my moments with this increasingly common problem. First and foremost, I would suggest that if you are worried about stress and its effect on you make an appointment to see your GP. If you can sense that there are one or two warning signs and you want to find a way to improve the way you feel I would strongly suggest taking back control of your life.
Of course “taking back control” can be easier said than done but often we fall into patterns of behaviour which help propagate feelings of negative stress. The result is that we lose control of our time, others fill it all too quickly and with that loss of control comes added anxiety. The answer is to evaluate those things we are doing that are causing angst and
My “self-help” route was helped enormously by an old friend who I’d overlooked for too many years. The “friend” is in the shape of a number of tried and tested time management principles that I had learnt as a young manager at Thomas Cook and carried with me or so I thought through my career. What happens over time and new challenges is that we adapt and grow and learn but often let key nuggets of working practice slip through our minds.
I have a theory. Actually I have lots of theories but this one is relevant to our 21st Century dilemma. Once upon a time, long ago in the 90’s, talk of computers, online business and e-mail suggested we would have more leisure time. Thanks to the advent of this fabulous technological era we would all be “chilled to the max” reclining on Ikea furniture and enjoying our newly won down time supping on Sunny D or Sprite.
Fast forward to today and that pipe dream of a technological Nirvana is about as far away as anyone could possibly have imagined. Smartphones, social media, the Internet of Things and now robotics, VR, AR and AI…are you keeping up? All these new wonderful innovations are not going to create time for us they’re going to squeeze into whatever time we have, competing with the multitude of tasks expected of us. As life moved faster so did expectations. News used to arrive via a broadsheet paper stuffed through the letterbox by a schoolboy on a Raleigh 5 speed. Now it’s instantly delivered in our hands via Twitter and we know about a Japanese tsunami before the BBC news team can brief Hugh Edwards.
So with steely determination I attacked the bookshelf in my office, being self-aware enough to know “Googling” the subject would result in momentary success followed by a likely hour of distraction. I found notes in an old Filofax, yes do you remember those? I also found a previous blog on the subject and arrived at the following list.
If you’ve experienced problems with stress and/or or time management drop us a line today.
I’m not the first to write on this topic nor the last but it’s the subject of today’s blog because I feel quite strongly about this growing phenomenon.
There are an estimated 1.8 billion of us using smartphones and this year alone will see a further 25% increase in ownership. By 2017 a third of the World’s population will be glued to their touch screen devices.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m someone with a long record of smartphone ownership from early HTC varieties through to iPhone but I’m not such a fan as I was.
Millions of us are struggling with an addiction to the smartphone. The proliferation of these super slim, super smart devices gives us a look of that 24th Century imagined world of Gene Roddenberry. How long before we’re moving from “hang outs” to “beam ups”?
So what of this reference to making us stupid and why am I not such the fan that I once was?
It’s not that your smartphone contains anything other than a deep pool of wonderful treasures. We have ready access to apps that can help with every single facet of our lives. They keep us fit, healthy, on time, up to date with international, national, local and personal news and entertained with games, TV, radio and our favourite songs.
We can’t hold back progress with technology and let’s face it we’re pretty insatiable when it comes to the fast moving consumer gizmology but I do think we’re struggling to keep up.
As humans we are undeniably an adaptive species. Evolving from hunter gatherers to hot shot gamers with each generation bringing their own unique code of knowledge and rules factoring the software into their lives so that it becomes intertwined with everyday living.
It’s this interdependence of human and technology that is starting to bother me. It’s also a reason why primary schools are starting to build lessons into the curriculum to help explain how these instruments work.
Our recent trip to the USA was great save the occasions the location visited either A) didn’t supply wifi or B) did supply wifi but at such a poor level that it brought immediate frustrations. I even went to the trouble of buying a portable wifi hotspot so we could retain connectivity whilst traveling up the coast from LA to San Francisco. It cost a few dollars but nothing compared to the potential costs if we’d relied on the local networks for our downloads. We ALL had smartphones and we used them, pretty much constantly.
At work they can be a real boon, mobile access to e-mail, online searches on the move and that feeling that “you’re always in touch”. Trouble is, I’m not so sure that’s a good thing. Here are a few of the issues I have with how we are currently using our smartphones;
Selfie time. No please, don’t take another profile pic for Facebook, instead take a look at yourself properly. When was the last time you truly studied how you’re running your life. Heads up from the screen and take pen and paper to write a list of positive actions that can help you take back control.
Last year for the whole month of October I ran my #Offtober experiment. I turned off my smartphone at 8pm each evening and didn’t switch it back on until 8am.
The result of this simple step was improved sleep it also had a positive impact on mood and overall well-being. Like many of us I’ve since drifted back into bad habits but rather than wait for October to come around I’m going to set myself clear rules so I can get the benefits of the tech without the downside.
No doubt many smug readers, my wife included will nod sagely and say, I told you this ages ago. Well yes, you probably did but I was face deep in technology at the time.
Preparing for a presentation I found myself reflecting on the seismic global events of the recent weeks.
Once untouchable monoliths of the corporate World, the oil corporations were running scared, BP setting aside £1bn just to cover their restructuring costs. Others pulling back from investing in new fields as the costs would not be covered by the sub $50 a barrel price point.
Then there’s the supermarkets, another fall from a significant height for Tescos as the new CEO serves up the trimmings, 43 store closures, 2000 job losses and that’s just for starters. Morrisons are also re-thinking their store strategy and withdrawing from projects that now look to be wholly unprofitable.
It’s funny, an election in full swing and of course the incumbent leadership is talking up an economic recovery the opposition shouting this down as hugely overplaying the dire position we’re all in. The reality is, as always, somewhere between the two but one thing is for sure….unlike the Aldi bear, we’re not quite out of the woods.
Just hopping back into the international events of 2015. Just when you thought bankers were back in their box, up pops the Swiss with an unexpected decision to drop the Euro cap. No it doesn’t mean that their international footballers have failed to qualify for the European Championship finals. Just a small matter of the bankers deciding that the Euro currency was no longer a safe bet and they’d be better off taking their chances letting their friend Franc free to find his own rate. And find his rate he did…settling about 15% higher than the Euro which had immediate and for many devastating consequences. Don’t be rushing to buy your great Aunt that original Swiss made cuckoo clock, it will now cost you 15% more, as will army knives and of course heartbreakingly… Swiss chocolate.
The financial markets took the Swiss roll (sorry!) and then went into round two, following the Greek election results and the success of the anti-austerity party Syriza. A good deal of uncertainty surrounds the Euro and the future of the Eurozone especially as the answer to recent difficulties appeared to be Mario Draghi’s 60bn a month bond buying programme, a variety of quantitative easing.
Before you start throwing your Euro coins in my direction in despair there was of course good news from certain fruity businesses. Well…one in particular.
Apple’s record $18bn profit for a quarter was nothing short of staggering and a clear indication of the World’s obsession with smartphone technology. It also demonstrated the power of the brand and lack of concern over the pricing of the new IPhone 6. This result was swiftly followed by news of the corporations’ reserves – some $143bn, a figure so staggeringly huge it could fund the R&D and delivery of a manned trip to Mars or buy Lithuania 3 times over. Unbelievable!
All of this massive news and yet it’s happened within just a few weeks of 2015 emerging into the light. If anyone thought the pace of change was slowing or we were returning to a more stable economic climate these first few weeks of the year have proved if anything things are heating up.
But what’s that got to do with marketing?
Pretty much everything in my view.
When there is so much negativity, uncertainty, financial pressure and posting of big success we can become disorientated within our own business. What does the future hold? Should we invest or just stick as we are? Can we afford to hire new staff, move premises or give bonuses?
In addition to the worries there’s the added concern of planning to grow the business through proactive marketing. In my experience the greatest success of a business often coincides with a flush of confidence, borne from belief in the team, products and/or service offering. With so much going on we can hardly find time to catch breath let alone plan the next 12 months. But that is exactly what you should be doing.
Look at where you want to be, hold on to the vision and harness the resources of your business to a set of clear objectives that take you towards your long term goals. Don’t be swayed by politics, rhetoric, negativity of other business leaders and those who would rather head for the bunker.
Now is a time for cool heads and clear thinking and as a leader in your business you need to show how it’s done. If all else fails quote a little Kipling to ease the furrowed brows and inspire others to rise above the negativity.
“If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs…” If by Rudyard Kipling
If you are looking for help in planning the growth of your business please drop me a line, I’d love to hear from you.
David – follow me on twitter @davidlaud
It’s surprising how many times we can make assumptions of others in the workplace and often underestimate the workload and stresses those in senior roles deal with. As a junior and middle manager I too fell into the trap of thinking the “boss” was not always engaged with the important stuff and didn’t understand what it was like at the coalface. Of course the chances were that not only was the boss aware of the issues they too were under enormous pressure and keeping many plates spinning on may poles, your universe of interest being just one.
The need is as great now as it’s ever been for business owners, directors and senior managers to understand how they can best inspire, motivate and manage the human resources around them.
The “boss” today has to look at markets that are increasingly competitive. There are very real pressures on expenditure and real need to maximise returns whilst customers are expecting “more for less” and the opportunities for growth harder to define and find.
Having recently worked with a number of clients with similar issues I thought it timely to look at some ideas to help better manage the essential asset of most businesses, their people.
• Time Management
How many times do you find your blood pressure rising when a member of staff saunters in at 9.15 a.m.? The fact is, strict times for starting and finishing a job may apply to specific jobs that require production schedules or the presence of those offering direct customer engagement. For many others, especially those in technical or creative roles, a 9 to 5 doesn’t really apply. What we should look at is not the hours spent sat at a desk but what was produced in the time they were at work. You could have the most punctual person in the world working for you but that doesn’t automatically make them better than someone who might arrive a little later. To overcome stresses and possible squabbles amongst staff offer a flexible working schedule and consider working from home as a genuine option. Remember to measure and manage what’s produced in that flexi time.
• Match roles and tasks to those best suited
Square pegs and round holes, yes it’s a very real problem for many businesses. Here’s a “for instance” – Derek’s worked in sales administration for years but is actually far better suited to working in IT and training others on how to get the most out of the software used in the company. How do you work this out? Talk to staff, make an appraisal a proper appraisal and assess real strengths and weaknesses and personal aspirations and likes. Quite often a secret interest or passion can become incredibly useful to a business. It helps to know what those special interests and skills are and to keep an ongoing dialogue with staff as things rarely remain static.
• Bright stars should work on the biggest opportunities
The high flyers in a business need sufficient air space to demonstrate their skills and offer the greatest return for your organisation. Too often talent is held back or restricted through traditional hierarchical structures and/or short sighted managers. The outcome? The talent leaves for a job where they can truly realise their ambitions. If you want to keep the best and get the most from them allow a little latitude, remove the shackles and allow them to take responsibility for their own projects. Building experience in such a way is invaluable and often rewarded by increased loyalty and performance.
• Set stretching but achievable goals
No one should suggest that we avoid measuring performance, quite the contrary but at the same time we shouldn’t become overzealous with our expectation and demands. Realistic, stretching but manageable objectives shared and understood by the team will provide the motivation to reach for the target. Too tough and it quickly becomes a disincentive to try and too soft and staff may believe they’re on easy street and get distracted with other non-essential matters.
• Put your trust in the team and let them know you trust them
Without a fundamental level of trust between business owners and staff, conflict, stress and aggravation often follows. People like to know that they are valued. Demonstrating trust through allowing self-control of their tasks, time management, resources required and engagement with goal setting can prove immensely motivational.
• When things go wrong don’t seek out someone to hang it on
Things will and often do go wrong. The way in which you handle the failures marks out the culture of the business. By way of comparison our own true character is often shown in adversity. It’s all too easy to find and single out the cause if it’s an individual, they may well admit to their part in the process. Remember Alan Sugar is playing a role in a TV show on the Apprentice and it bears very little relevance to the day to day running of a company. Be positive in the analysis and just ensure that the team understands where things went wrong to avoid the same mistakes happening again. In the same regard don’t desperately hang on to a failing project, be brave, assess the prospects and if the expected outcome looks unlikely to materialise, provide a positive review and close it down. It’s pretty de-motivating working on a project that just isn’t delivering, better to re-focus efforts on more positive opportunities.
• You’re the boss but you don’t have to have all the answers
All too often I meet with business owners who shoulder an enormous level of responsibility and in their minds the expectations of the workforce. Often they themselves apply the added pressure assuming staff are looking to the owners for the answers to every strategic and operational issue. This again reflects the culture of an organisation and if a “control freak” management style permeates the business, employees will sit back and expect that controller to manage them and make any major or even minor decision. That weight of expectation can be lifted by getting staff to think for themselves, make their own decisions and participate in planning.
• Give staff credit for successes
Don’t forget we all like to receive positive feedback and know we’re good at our jobs. Recognition and rewards are a very important factor in building and maintaining positive team spirit and momentum.
• Managing Change
In my experience the vast majority of employees can cope with and manage changes in their working patterns very well. A lack of communication however can seriously jeopardise the chances of capitalising on a change in business direction or move to new markets/ products. The more you involve staff at the earliest juncture and keep them updated the better the chances of success. Change can be worrying for some, so avoid big surprises by communicating as outlined above and cut off any negative rumours or grapevine that left unchecked may undermine your best efforts.
It’s true to say that managing people is one of the toughest aspects of running a business. Get it right and it not only has the prospect of providing a turbo boost to hit targets but also make the owners lives far less lonely and stressful.
David Laud – follow me on twitter @davidlaud
Back in the early 1980’s a US sit com hit our screens and almost immediately became a hit. Centred on a small bar in Boston the show introduced us to a series of characters who were the regulars and staff of “Cheers”. The theme song was catchy and used the phrase “Where everyone knows your name”. One character personified this tagline more than any other. A large chap with ill-fitting suits, tie almost always askew and mop of curly hair, his name was Norm Peterson an *accountant played by the wonderful actor George Wendt. *In later episodes Norm becomes a house painter.
Each time Wendt’s burly frame stepped down the stairs and came into view he was met with a chorus of welcoming voices “Norm!”
That friendly welcome became one of the most popular aspects of this hugely successful show which ran continuously from 1982 to 1993 and produced a number of spin offs including Kelsey Grammer’s “Frasier”.
But rather than offer up a history of popular US sit coms I’m highlighting this specific element as an example of how we should be looking after customers.
Business owners and managers in the hospitality sector appreciate all too well the importance of knowing the customer and making a personal connection. Restaurants, bars, hotels, clubs they all rely very heavily on the power of personal recommendation and with the advent and growth of TripAdvisor they know they cannot afford to let standards slip.
Just for a moment put yourself in the role of a customer looking to use your business to buy or enquire about a product or service. If you’re a first time customer it’s highly unlikely that the communication is going to be as warm and familiar as that enjoyed by Norm but the objective should be to get to that level. Who wouldn’t want to feel that they’re recognised, remembered and ultimately valued by the establishments they frequent?
At a time when business is becoming ever more competitive and the winning of new customers more complex and costly, it’s logical to invest time to understand their experience, their needs and without being too intrusive more about them as individuals.
Starbucks are a great example of a business that invests in exactly that element of their marketing. You can buy a decent coffee in any one of a number of nationally branded and local establishments in most towns and cities. Why would you choose one shop over another? Some may genuinely prefer the taste of Costa coffee but the vast majority of us weigh up the overall experience.
The simple task of taking your name for the cup makes you feel as though the staff are taking a personal interest in you, yes it has a functional purpose but I suspect it was introduced for more reasons than you may think. Trying to remember hundreds of regular daily customers by face for the average person is quite a task but if you take their names you are adding a neat memory aiding process to the task and chances are they’ll not need to ask after one or two visits. Then how good do you feel when your name is remembered? Would you want to return to such a store? Of course you would.
Keeping with Starbucks their attention to customer’s behaviours extends to the queues waiting to place their orders. Ever noticed what most of us do when we’re waiting to be served? We reach for our smartphones, check our social media accounts, e-mail and then when we’re ready to place that order we scrabble for a wallet or purse. Noting this behaviour Starbucks developed a function of their smartphone App which enables customers to not only earn rewards and get free food and drinks but essentially pay using those phones they already have in their hand. Just look around at your average Starbucks and count the Apple Macs and smartphone usage, they understand their market and how best to engage with them. What I like about the Starbucks example is that they took the time to consider the customer experience and find a way to improve it. I also like the fact that it’s a great combination of offline and online but at the heart is the desire to make that trip to buy your coffee and snack that much easier. Of course it doesn’t hurt Starbucks to have an app that requires your personal details to register and use it but by now you’ve built a level of trust having been a “regular” and happy to share a little personal data.
For those of you now complaining that you don’t have “Star-bucks” to throw at such projects (see what I did there) don’t worry it doesn’t need to be expensive.
The best marketing and customer service solutions are often simple, common sense and can be implemented without breaking the bank. The essential part of this process is to initiate direct action and start taking a greater interest in that over used phrase the “customer experience”.
Here are 10 suggested steps to get things underway
1. Take time to stand back and become a customer of your own company, be honest and objective.
2. Look at what you’re delivering, break down the elements into stages.
3. How are customers responding?
4. Become more familiar with competitor approaches but avoid following their lead.
5. Build on the positives of the current offering.
6. Address the negatives.
7. Adapt to take advantage of the intelligence gained from the exercise.
8. Train staff to become more aware and develop empathy with the customer.
9. Introduce communication channels to keep feedback flowing.
10. Review and refresh regularly.
If this is an area that interests you or you would like more information please feel free to drop me a line.
Last week proved to be an example of what life can deliver if you just say “yes” rather than look at the diary and excuse yourself. Like many I have a busy schedule but as you know “busy” doesn’t always translate to productive or necessarily interesting. So why do we stick with the mundane routine? It’s safe, familiar and something we’re comfortable with but are we denying ourselves experiences that may not only help us but also the business to grow?
This image is my son who bravely donned a pair of high heels in a school fashion show, literally stepping out of his comfort zone. Thanks Bob for letting me use this perfect example.
What happens when the boss asks you to prepare a presentation for a forthcoming meeting or you’re sent on a residential training course by HR? Or if you are the boss and you get an opportunity to attend an engagement that requires a little extra preparation, above and beyond your usual workload?
You might be aware of the often quoted, bizarre but apparently true statistic. We actually fear public speaking over our own deaths? Yes, I know hard to believe but for many the thought of giving a presentation can genuinely put them under so much stress that no other single meaningful act can be achieved until the event passes. It demonstrates how much we can worry about such things and for that read most “new” experiences either within your job or socially.
The question we should be asking ourselves is this. What is the worst that can happen if I do this? What are the likely benefits and potential pitfalls? Noting those worrisome factors work on eliminating them through gaining a better understanding of what you’re going to be doing, those who will be there and if presenting rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. A polished performance comes from practice and the confidence in your own ability as a result of putting in sufficient preparation time. Even if it’s simply being somewhere to attend a meeting, dinner or networking event try and gather as much intelligence as you can beforehand.
Of course sometimes an opportunity presents itself that doesn’t afford the luxury of hours of preparation. In those circumstances it’s important that your decision factors in the likely outcomes and a polite “no” may well prove to be the right response, after all you may be asked as an after-thought, late replacement (something that has happened to me). However, being a 2nd or 3rd choice shouldn’t be a dent to the ego but a potential challenge to prove that you should’ve been their natural first on the list. [NB] It’s still important to retain a clear objective and thoughts on its likely achievement given the short notice period.
Just by taking simple steps and allowing yourself to be in unfamiliar territory you become an explorer and collector of experiences that broaden your horizons.
Last week I presented at a national forum for law firm leaders. Despite having presented more times than I can care to remember I still experience the adrenalin and anxiety of making that public appearance. That critical moment all eyes fall on you and they expect to be entertained and learn something at the same time can be quite nerve wracking even for the most experienced presenters. That very same week I also made a successful application to be in the audience of BBC Question Time, again taking myself out of the usual comfort of watching the show on the sofa and instead taking part in the programme.
What did I do to make the experience more rewarding?
At the leadership forum I primarily went to learn and connect with others who are leaders in a sector I have a great interest in. I made copious notes and really gained a better insight into factors that impact my business. For my presentation I requested, in advance, a list of the attendees from the organisers and spent an hour googling various names to see who would be in the room with me. This creates familiarity. One of the great benefits of our “connected” World is that it can be relatively easy to find useful facts and information on senior business figures, some perhaps share a little too much but that’s for another blog.
With BBC Question Time I made an even greater effort to track the week’s political news and also researched the panel – sending a tweet of introduction a couple of days before the show. I was prepared with my question, rehearsed it several times but as luck would have it we ran out of time for me to pose my query.
These are 2 examples of events both of which required a decision, personal commitment a step outside of a comfort zone and break from the routine. They also required an investment in time to gain a tangible benefit. OK the BBC show was more pleasure for me than a business opportunity but having met so many very interesting people at the venue I wouldn’t hesitate in going again if the opportunity arose.
I appreciate many readers will have examples of their own no doubt far more entertaining and interesting but the point I’m hoping to make is that the simple step to participate is one we should take more often. Escape the routine and find a challenge that will stretch or stimulate.
Our lives can become too full of tasks, others problems and “stuff” that makes us weary and unable to commit to extra curricula activities. In my experience the simple act of participating in “out of the norm” activities provides the spark and stimulation to re-invigorate our lives back at the coalface.
Meeting new people in new surroundings and entering into these situations with an open and challenging mind is a way to bring real value back to what you do during a “normal” day. Perhaps we just shouldn’t have standard days, ideally we should engineer something unique. If not each day certainly once a week challenge yourself to be somewhere new and make connections.
So the next time you receive an invitation or have a fleeting thought of attending a show or event that interests you don’t let it escape, step outside the comfort zone and say yes, you never know where it might lead.
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”.
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:
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.
Having just returned from a trip to California I’m inspired to write about customer service. Not that we encountered the very best at every turn, yes it was mostly very good but my TripAdvisor reviews did include the odd horror.
Yes, even the great land of “awesomeness” and “super excitement” didn’t get it right all the time. Anyone who’s visited the USA will know that the policy of tipping can be delivered in a variety of ways depending on who, where and sometimes when you’re visiting. What you quickly realise is that “service” is very often included and if not added automatically you’re strongly encouraged by guideline % figures.
But if you don’t feel the service matches the promise it can get very interesting, almost as if the business refuses to accept they could get anything wrong.
On the downside we found attitudes were at times curt and clippy in certain establishments. The approach to customers tired and cynical. Service in a couple of restaurants started well but quickly fell away as other patrons arrived and their well of goodwill and friendliness quickly dried up as visible stress levels increased. One hotel in particular responded so poorly to my observations of their hotel on Trip Advisor that it will only serve to generate poor review number two. If a customer is not happy don’t poke them with a sharp stick. I was rather astonished at the arrogant dismissive response. If you’re running a business you need to take all feedback on board and respond in a balanced sensible way, even if you do think their experience somewhat far away from reality. The fact is it was their reality and their shoes you need to stand in.
On the upside we encountered many excellent examples of good service. The Café Los Feliz lived up to their Instagram presentation with the delivery of an outstanding breakfast. The Arch Rock restaurant in Santa Barbara who’s superb food was only matched by the excellent chat we had with the waiter and the Italian Seafood restaurant in San Francisco – Cioppinos so good we went back for more on another day. Their promise of finding a table for us in 20 minutes evaporated to 5 when the maitre d came to us whilst we were ordering drinks at their bar to say she’d loved the way we’d been so happy and polite and offered to jump us forward to the next available table.
So the US are not, in my view, the custodians of all that is “excellent” in customer service. Of course they’re still very good in so many areas but to my surprise there are a number who are clearly not as good as they should be. Not a perfect piece of research, we were on holiday after all and not handing out questionnaires or interrogating staff and fellow customers. Our perception however is real and nevertheless valid. Perhaps the recession has had its impact and service levels have as a result been adversely affected as profits became harder to find.
We did all love our Californian excursion a truly memorable experience but it’s clear you don’t have to travel so far to see excellence in customer service. This weekend we took our dog to the nearby beach at Saltburn. We stopped off for a cuppa and a bite to eat at a small café near the beach and noticed the many purple blankets at each table. The owners had considered the experience of their clientele, the UK climate and possibility of children and adults who’d taken a recent dip shivering as others decide to have a pit stop before heading home.
The blankets were a small but very important touch, showing that the Café understood its customers and cared enough to keep them comfortable whilst sipping tea and eating scones or ice cream. When it comes to customer service Camfields Espresso Bar in Saltburn have got it well and truly covered.
It’s the little touches that can make such a big difference and that’s true of any business. The result you want is a happy customer and for them to spread the word like warm butter on those Yorkshire scones.