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It costs more to get the wrong solution

Cost of not getting the right solution

I had an interesting chat about the cost of services at business networking event. My contact was keen to share how he had met someone who offered him ‘a great deal on some social media marketing‘.  I responded by saying that the cost sounded good but also asking him what the service included and how it benefited his company marketing strategy and business goals?

The silence was deafening, followed by ‘what do you mean by strategy‘!  I was lost for words but quickly realised the reality of the situation i.e. he was totally blinded by ‘the deal‘ and hadn’t even established what he was getting for his money and whether this service was actually what he really needed for his business.

Why Cost Shouldn’t Be The First Question

This bizarre conversation got me thinking about similar situations, not just for business owners like me and him but when potential customers or clients are looking for a suitable company or provider and look to buy from you. How often is the first question ‘how much will it cost?’  Many times, I’m sure you will agree!

By solely focusing on cost often means looking for a quick fix to your problem e.g. we have a problem or need, so what is the cheapest and quickest way to fix it. This might work fine when you are looking for the supermarket who offers your typical weekly shop and you can compare like with like to get the best overall value for your money.

However, more often than not, when comparing  service providers, you are not comparing ‘apples with apples’. If you, as we do, provide a very flexible, bespoke offering, then how much your service costs will depend on a number of factors.   A good example…if my company is approached regarding providing Career Transition (outplacement) to support a programme of re-organisation and redundancies or Coaching services to improve individual or team performance, there are usually many flexible options to solve their problem and provide the best solution. Of course, cost will be a key consideration for most companies, organisations or individuals but just focusing on cost won’t necessarily provide the best solution, will it?

We like to work collaboratively with our clients, so feel it is important to develop the relationship first, by understanding your key requirements, before we start talking money.  There are a number of key questions to consider e.g.

  • What are you looking to achieve / key objectives/outcomes for your project?
  • How many people are involved?
  • Timescales to start and complete the project?
  • Finally …..How much budget do you have for the project?

It Ain’t What You Do, it’s the Way That You do it!

Why ask all these questions first? Because, the answers will determine whether the personal calling or emailing has really thought through how best they want the project or problem resolved, how much say they have in choosing the right provider or understands what they can achieve for their budget. Such questions also open up more meaningful discussions, rather than just focusing on cost, which is no different to my opening example!

Whether you are a company, organisation or individual client, what you get for your money, how and when the service is delivered and how this meets your desired objectives and outcome is surely of the utmost importance, is it not? If you need some building work done on your home, it is likely you will get a few different quotes. However…

As the song goes: “It ain’t what you do it’s the way that you do it” .

So, when making key decisions to determine the right company or provider to deliver the service you require, I’m sure you will want to know the answers to some or all of these questions first, wouldn’t you?

  • What is their pedigree?
  • Do they come recommended?
  • What is their approach?
  • How will they help take away any ‘pain’ or pressure from you?
  • Do they have the right expertise for your project?
  • Do they work collaboratively with you to provide you with the best solution/s for your money to achieve your objective/ outcome/s ?
  • How confident are you about the provider delivering your project in the way you want and when you want?

How much does it cost to get it wrong?  

The cost of not achieving your key objectives or outcomes or receiving bad PR by choosing the wrong company or provider will ultimately cost you much more than spending more time and effort and maybe investing some additional budget to get the outcome/s you want. This is no different to choosing your builder purely on cost and finding you have to get them back to make good the job or worse still, having to find another builder to sort out their mess!

Steve Preston is MD of independent Career & People Development Consultancy SMP Solutions (Career & People Development) Ltd

Outplacement or Career Transition?

Supporting Organisational Change with ‘Outplacement’

You might be working for an organisation that is looking at laying off staff due to the need to cut costs or because you want to become more efficient. If so, what are your thoughts about how you might support the staff who will be leaving as a result of such organisational change? For many people in HR and Operational management roles, aside of ensuring that correct policy and procedures are adopted, to comply with appropriate employment law, the word ‘outplacement’ is likely to spring to mind, when considering both the process for laying off staff and also the support required.

What’s in a name?

I have never liked the term ‘outplacement’. However, here’s the thing…as a company that provides such support, in order to be found on web searches and for marketing of our services, we are arguably obligated to still use this term, if we are to be found by organisations and especially HR managers looking to source providers. SMP Solutions takes great pride in our reputation and caring approach, so we sought the views of a number of our clients and key contacts and took the decision to change of our focus, preferring the term ‘Career Transition‘ instead. Not an easy decision, in view of the comments above. However, as a people focused company we felt this was a positive move.

Why? Because ‘outplacement‘ very definitely has negative overtones i.e. someone is being ‘outplaced’ of their organisation or the organisation is ‘outplacing’ a number of employees. In essence people are having something ‘being done to them’. ‘Career Transition’ by comparison suggests a journey or movement. Yes, it is a time of change but from something to something else, rather than one way enforcement ‘out’. ‘Transition‘, can also certainly be viewed as a positive experience and many people associate this with ‘transformation‘.

You may feel this is all semantics, as whichever way you look at it, the organisation will be laying off employees, so what difference does it make what you call the process or support involved.

But what if it really does make a difference?

Just think about the difference it could make to both the employees affected and the organisational psyche by starting such a difficult organisational change process in a more positive vein? I will be sharing more thoughts about this in future blogs.

Definitions of Outplacement

Knowing that ‘outplacement’ is a term mainly used in HR, operational circles and by people who have been on the receiving end of it, I decided to check out definitions via a Google search. They were easy to find and here is a sample. You can make up your own mind about what message you feel they send out:

  • “Counseling and assistance in finding a new job, provided by a company for an employee who has been or is about to be dismissed
  • “The process of assisting a terminated employee find a new job”
  • “The process of finding new jobs for people in your company who have been forced to leave because their job no longer exists”
  • “A service that offers counselling and careers advice, especially to redundant executives, which is paid for by their previous employer”
  • “Outplacement is the efforts made by a downsizing company to help former employees transition to new jobs and help them re-orient themselves in the job market”

Can you imagine an employee who wants to know more about outplacement and does a similar search as I did? The words above in italics, are some that will clearly rankle with an already distressed employee and could ‘add fuel to the fire’! Whilst some of the text in each comment has merits, the definitions are generally demeaning and inappropriate. Comments about being ‘dismissed’, also ‘former’ or ‘previous’ employer are written in the past context, so are inflammatory and inaccurate.

So, by focusing on offering ‘outplacement support’, although an employer may have the best of intentions, the result could be that the very people who it is aimed at and who will benefit from the support, could turn their back on the opportunity. Unfortunately, the reality is it that the only loser in such acts of defiance are the employees who choose not to  take up the support.

The benefits of a well planned and delivered ‘career transition‘ programme

Managed well, focused ‘career transition‘ support will provide your departing employees with the tools they need to have the best possible chance to find the right next job for them.

For an employer laying off staff, providing a well planned and delivered programme of ‘career transition‘ support, will do much more than help overcome the immediate needs of your departing employees, to find another job. Such an approach can also become be an invaluable source inspiration for those affected to re-evaluate their careers, open up a whole new world of opportunity and possibilities, so they can look forward to the future with confidence.

While cost is a key consideration for most organisations, a ‘one size fits all’ approach, although better than nothing, is unlikely to produce the best results for the affected employees.  Showing a caring attitude and having a programme of career transition support to reflect people’s differing needs, should ensure that employees leave on good terms, whilst also sending out positive signals to the rest of the workforce.

The result…..

A win, win for both the departing employees and for the employer by creating positive PR, which is likely to aid employee engagement, productivity and staff retention.

So, do you now, like me, also think that ‘outplacement’ is an outdated term that should be made redundant and consigned to ‘room 101’?

The jury is out! I would love to hear your views 🙂

Steve Preston is MD of independent Career & People Development Consultancy SMP Solutions (Career & People Development) Ltd and Author of the internationally acclaimed ‘Winning Through Redundancy- Six steps to navigate your way to a brighter future

Why everybody is in Sales, even you

Have you heard the saying that ‘everybody is in sales’? If not, you might be wondering how this can be and where this is going?

Sales Perception

For many people the very mention of ‘sales’ is a dirty word and sends shudders down them, conjuring up visions of pushy double glazing salesmen, estate agents (real estate) annoying spam phone callers or emails.  Does this sound like a familiar perception?

You might also be thinking that in your job or career you have nothing to sell, especially if you work in the public sector/services. However, the reality is that you don’t need to be in a ‘sales job’ or have a product or service to sell. Regardless of whether you are in HR, IT, Finance, Marketing, private, public or charity sector or running your own business, you will need to ‘sell yourself’ in numerous work situations e.g.

  • To win at an interview and get the job
  • Secure a contract or project
  • Gain promotion
  • Get approval for training or development you are aspiring to

Let’s face it, as professionals, we spend our lives ‘selling’ ideas or decisions you want your boss, staff or team to buy into e.g. a better way of doing things, the need for change, who you should hire, fire etc.

Selling Yourself at Events

When you attend conferences, seminars or networking events, depending on your job or situation, you are likely to be selling what you or your company/organisation has to offer and how this benefits others. I’m sure you do this almost as second nature, without thinking about this as selling? I experienced a wonderful example of this at a networking event which I will mention later.

Selling Yourself to Progress Your Career

You might be an aspiring executive or manager in which case you will need to sell yourself in many ways in order to achieve your desired goal by way of:

  • CV/resume
  • Job applications
  • LinkedIn profile
  • Interview/s
  • Networking meetings

Again, the reality is that people who are good at selling themselves, get on in life. I’m sure you know people like this who always seem to get promoted, move into better jobs or be successful in their careers and life. So what do I really mean by ‘sales’? After all ‘selling’, for many people, means forcing people to buy something they don’t really want doesn’t it?

A different take on ‘Sales’

What if I substituted ‘influencing‘ instead of sales’, how would this feel? Quite possibly this might put a different perspective on your views?

But what do all successful sales people have in common? Think about how they make you feel? They make you feel good, don’t they? Why……because of these:

  • Sincere – Great empathy, engaging and no bs!
  • Attitude – Enthusiastic, positive, encouraging, confident, passionate
  • Likeable – People ‘buy’ people or from people they like
  • Energy – Nothing is too much trouble, always going the extra mile
  • Solutions focused- Looking for a win, win e.g. right fit, right product, right answer to the problem or challenge

These are clearly all highly positive personal attributes. Therefore, use this SALES acronym to help you think differently and reframe how you feel about ‘sales’ and selling yourself, your company or organisation.  

What if you had a simple approach to selling yourself in any situation? 

That would be great, wouldn’t it? 

Well, here it is…….practice the ‘RUB’ approach, as a super simple way to influence people and achieve more of what you want and win, win solutions:

  • Rapport –  Learn how to build a bond naturally so you are quickly on the same wavelength to achieve a mutual ‘meeting of minds’
  • USP/s – Your unique selling proposition/s . Might be considered an old hat term but focus on selling what makes you different or better and stand out
  • Benefits – ‘Sell’ what value you can add/ how you can make a difference/ solve the problem or take away their ‘pain’. Get people or prospective clients to imagine how this would look or feel so they almost have to say YES!    

The RUB

Living Proof!

The wonderful example I mentioned earlier, was in fact a young intern who so clearly had all these ‘SALES’ attributes and was unwittingly using the‘RUB’approach to great effect.

Despite their young age, they absolutely stunned me with their rapport building skills, commitment and determination, travelling hours and miles each week for only travel expenses. They were going the extra mile literally! They had also gone to great lengths to research the opportunity, understand what was required and make sure they secured the internship.

They had a great energy about them and enthusiastically ‘told’ me all about the product they were helping to develop and why it was so useful. I was ready to buy it from them if it had been fully developed! Having learnt what I and my company does in the Career and People Development field, they then went onto share great maturity and wisdom about what they wanted to achieve in their future career. Also, why they felt it was important to follow your passions, doing work you love, rather than focusing on purely financial gainThis was clearly from the heart, without any bs as they gave me a brilliant example of how they were making ‘sacrifices’ to be able to save what little money they did have, to be able to create the working lifestyle they wanted. It was evident they hadn’t read my current book either!

I was so impressed I have asked to interview them for my next book project on Portfolio Careers, as they are a great example of a young person with great entrepreneurial skills who is likely to earn a living from multiple talents and multiple income strands. I am sure they will be a great success because they clearly know how to sell themselves and what they believe in, which is great!         

Reframing the sales process

Many sales organisations, courses and business gurus spend much time focusing on ‘closing the sale’. What if you turn this around so your focus becomes that people choose to buy from you instead? How much pressure would this take off you when you are selling yourself at interviews, business meetings etc? There are clearly some key techniques and skills involved such as NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) which can all be learnt and like most things in life practice and persistence pays!

So, you might not have thought about it before but do you now see that you are ‘in sales’? Why is this so important? Because ….The more you develop and hone your influencing skills the better results you will achieve in your career and life!

 

Customer Service Optional – The Computer Says No!

You may well know this brilliant turn of phrase from the infamous Little Britain comedy sketches. However, this is a real life customer service ‘nasty’, albeit in very abbreviated form to be of more general interest with some real learning points!

Does your system drive your people or do your people drive your system?

This is a really fundamental question, don’t you think? Why?…Because….if your company or organisation has this the wrong way round, then your people are forced to behave in a certain way to meet the requirements of your system, rather than your system having to meet the requirements of your people and business. Does this make sense for good customer service? It seems logical to me, so highly illogical that it could take three months to get a new mobile phone upgrade resolved!

Corporate silos

Can you imagine a situation where you find an error on your mobile phone bill and call to discuss which then causes a chain reaction of different departments being unwilling to help? ‘This was the fault of the store, so you will have to go back there to resolve this‘. ‘We can’t help‘, ‘you must‘, ‘we don’t’ and ‘no you can’t speak to a manager, as they will tell you the same thing‘, were responses thrown back at me repeatedly. Are you not one and the same company? The bills say so but the call centre clearly thinks differently, as passing the blame to another part of the company is the way they do things around here!

Reactive and inconsistent customer service

Isn’t it galling that only the threat of making a formal complaint spurs some action in many organisations? All of a sudden the same unhelpful call centre person calls you back immediately with a ‘peace offering and a special upgrade deal’.  Not exactly consistent customer service, is it?

The upgrade department couldn’t have been more helpful and all was looking good until my agreed ongoing loyalty discount was conveniently overlooked. This was finally sorted and I had a potentially excellent new contract lined up, or so I thought! Bad move on my part as I followed the advice and did go back to the store, as I like the human touch, which was why I went there previously and they had been most helpful. Not so this time, as they checked on their computer and ‘couldn’t possibly offer the same deal to me in the store but they could give me a phone to contact the call centre’. Yet again, the computer says ‘no‘ and customer service was ‘optional!’

After a long and heated exchange and finally managing to speak to a ‘supervisor’, I was told that ‘we cannot have made such an offer’, which eventually changed to ‘the upgrade offer was only available from the person you spoke to on the day you originally called’. Was this ever mentioned? Of course not! Still I had their word that they would email the people I had previously spoken with and we agreed a date and time I would receive a call back to resolve things.

And so the days and weeks went by and Christmas came and went. Despite repeated messages and making a formal complaint the call still never came. I am a very patient person and I still had a phone that was working on a good tariff, so it wasn’t critical, just highly frustrating, unnecessary and downright inefficient!

How to get action!

Here’s the thing…. if you want action it appears that you have to make a complaint against how your complaint is being handled! This is now the third example I have come across recently, where action only happened after taking this route faced with problems in large organisations. Remarkable, don’t you think? Whatever happened to the Customer Service department taking your complaint seriously first time round? Do they hope that people will go away if they don’t respond? It would seem so.

Resolution or…...

The day of reckoning finally came and lo and behold a helpful human being who was keen to resolve my crazy saga. I finally received a call to confirm that my original upgrade offer would be honoured and I would be getting my new phone within 48 hours. Progress at last and only three months late! Maybe not …….Three days later and still no phone. Yet another call to the Customer Relations Manager, who I was now on first name terms with and guess what? …..’The computer says no!‘ I was given all sorts of technical reasons why the system wasn’t accepting the dispatch order. Sorry but do I care about this? All I want is my new phone which I was finally promised and now your systems are stopping you sending it to me? Unbelievable, isn’t it? ‘I’m sorry but we will need our IT department to override the system, as we can’t do it’. How long will this take? ‘We can’t say as it could be at least a day or two or longer’. Both the Customer Relations Manager and Dispatch Manager were mystified by the problem. However, I still didn’t have a new phone, as the system still ‘said no‘. Finally, another week later, I received a call and the computer now said ‘yes’ and the phone was on the way to me and this time, duly arrived!

Attention to detail

So, I finally had my phone and thought this was the end of the saga but oh no! Despite numerous emails and texts, the system wasn’t showing the correct tariff, with the agreed discount, which had triggered the saga in the first place! More calls to the Customer Relations Manager, who finally made the changes to the system whilst on the phone to me. Interesting, as if this could be done, why could not all the other much needed changes be made on the system by ‘humans’ right from the start or is it easier to say ‘no’ and blame the system?

Learning Points

It is not my aim to bore you with my unbelievable ordeal, as this is just the tip of the iceberg but more so to highlight what can and is going wrong in so many large organisations. How can such unbelievable inefficiency be allowed to happen? Why don’t different parts of the organisation speak to each other, look to understand and help resolve each others problems? Do you not have forums to encourage working together, rather than in silos? Why is the computer saying ‘no’ all the time? Is the system driving the people and constraining the business or are the people and the business driving the system so customers get what they want when they want it with the minimum of fuss? Clearly so many questions, which cannot possibly be answered when ‘the computer says no’.

Can you now imagine how great things might have been and could be in the future, if the computer said YES first time round? How great would the customer service and this company be, rather than customer service being ‘optional’?

Meetings bloody meetings?

Meetings bloody meetings! The ‘more mature’ readers of this blog will no doubt remember the infamous John Cleese Video Arts training video by this name! How times have changed since, as were are now in the 21st century digital age but how have meetings changed? Let’s take a closer look.

What typical research shows

A recent article on HR Grapevine highlighted that the average British employee will sit through 6,240 meetings in their career. The huge number consists of catch-ups, client meetings and appraisals. Of the 2,000 workers studied six in ten described meetings as “pointless”.

“There is nothing worse than being sat in a meeting that doesn’t really concern you,’ said Charlotte Gaskin, Marketing Manager at Sennheiser Communications, who conducted the study, “So it’s not surprising then that so many people zone out, nod off or doodle. Of the respondents we polled, many said that often a quick and concise conference call was more effective than a lengthy meeting which often resulted in expensive travel expenses,” Gaskin continued.

There must be a better way!

In my ‘previous life’, as a senior manager in a large corporate, I often got the feeling that that departments and functions were in competition to see who could hold the most meetings. When it came to major projects things got even worse, especially when there was a matrix management structure!

In my ‘present life’ as Managing Director of my own Career & People Development Consultancy, I have come across senior executives and CEO’s who have spent almost every hour of every working week in wall to wall meetings. They complained of how stressed out they were and wondered why nothing seemed to get done or it took eternity!

Whatever level you are working at, you need some thinking time in order to be able to plan, prioritise, reflect, make the right decisions, be sharp, focused and possibly creative, rather than thinking about being on time for your next meeting!

The 7 P’s Principle

In my latter employed days, I made it a rule of thumb that I would only run or attend meetings based on what I now call the 7 P’s principle i.e.

  • There was an agreed Purpose – no purpose, no meeting!
  • There was an outlinePlan / timescale agenda – no plan, no meeting!
  • Only the necessaryPeople would attend who could input / add value – no hangers on or wasted productivity
  • What Preparation, if any, was required – to avoid wasted time in the meeting
  • People selected to attend actively Participated 
  • From the agreed outcomes it was clear who had Points to action, why and by when – no opportunity for people to abdicate responsibility!
  • Agreed deadlines were achieved Promptly– no opportunity for slippage through a good follow up process

 Turning meetings bloody meetings into CLEAR Meetings = effective and productive meetings! 

Linked to my 7 P’s principles, here is a really simplistic formula to run effective meetings:

Clarity – Before any meeting consider:

  • Why do we need to meet?
  • How will this help to achieve our business objectives?
  • What do we need to achieve?
  • Who needs to attend and why?
  • What briefing notes / papers need to be sent out in advance?
  • What preparation is required by attendees?

Leadership – At the start of the meeting the Chair or facilitator:

  • Agree any ground rules e.g. desired outcomes, housekeeping, breaks, finish time, break out sessions
  • Give a quick overview of the agreed agenda
  • Allocate specific roles e.g. time keeper, note taker
  • What is required from attendees

Engage – During the meeting the Chair/ facilitator needs to ensure:

  • There is relevant dialogue
  • Active listening and participation of all attendees
  • The meeting is focused and on track to achieve the objectives

Actions – During the meeting:

  • Agree action points, who is responsible and by when
  • Action points are written up clearly for all to see e.g. flip chart, white board or Post It notes to avoid any misinterpretation
  • At the end of the meeting, action list photographed or transposed onto tablets, lap tops etc for circulation

Review – At the end of the meeting:

  • Have we achieved our desired outcomes?
  • What was successful and what was unhelpful?
  • How we can improve next time?
  • All agreed action points to ensure a common understanding
  • Deadlines for circulation of any notes
  • Deadlines for action points to be completed
  • What happens next e.g. follow up

So, instead of meetings bloody meetings, follow the 7 P’s and the CLEAR meetings approach and you might have less meetings, more productive meetings and start to see meetings in a different light and maybe even look forward to them!

Going the extra mile is part of business ethos and can be a key factor in your success

Going the extra mile

Isn’t it remarkable how customer service can vary so dramatically from one company or organisation to another? This applies pretty much regardless of whether in the public sector, private sector or charity sector. Also, whether retail or professional services. Some recent experiences have got me penning this blog!

Having come from a primarily retail travel background, then moved into senior Operations and HR and roles, before setting up my own Career & People Development Consultancy over a decade ago, I have always believed that you ‘live or die by your service and reputation’. Going the extra mile and striving for consistent excellence in customer service has been ingrained into my psyche and are mantras that I drummed into my previous managers and staff and are now a key part of the ethos of my company. However, a number of recent personal experiences have got me questioning how many companies or organisations really do deliver service that both surprises and delights you? More often than not, the surprise is of an unpleasant nature and experience I’m sure you will agree?

The good….

As a soon to be father of the bride, I set about looking for an appropriate wedding suit for the big day in Portugal. I was really dreading this, as I detest shopping. What I really wanted, was someone to take away the pain of the whole experience for me! I made an impromptu visit to an independent suit retailer in the City of London, whilst working in the area, before Christmas. My first experience was highly positive. The owner of the store asked me all the right questions, which would help to narrow down the choice to a quality lightweight suit, which would be ideal for a spring wedding in Portugal that I could also use for business purposes. He was most helpful and left me with his business card and a feeling of confidence for when I was ready to try and buy. As there were also a number of other quality suit retailers in a small radius, this seemed like a good area to make comparisons.

The Bad….

And so I did, with my wife, during the post Christmas sales. After three or four dreadful experiences, ranging from total apathy, I will grudgingly speak to you in between conversations over my Bluetooth earpiece, making immediate totally incorrect assumptions on style and price and the classic ‘we won’t let out of the store until you buy from us today’ look, we ended up at the store I first visited.

Going the extra mile….

Service that surprises and delights and going the extra mile

The owner remembered me and within minutes we had narrowed down the choice to three fabulous suits. If only we had gone there first but you have to humour the wife, don’t you? Within minutes, there was a clear winner for colour, style and fit, except that the trousers were a tad too small on the waist. ‘Not a problem sir, as we can have those taken out in no time’. Great but would they be the perfect fit? Not perturbed the owner pledged to have them ready for me in half an hour, while we went for a coffee and if they didn’t fit right we didn’t need to buy. Now this was going the extra mile and a real surprise! True to his word he called the tailor and when we returned the trousers were a perfect fit, even allowing some extra room for the wedding meal! He also agreed to a special discount on the sale price, including some other minor alterations and the suit would be ready in a few days.

The result….

Returning a couple of weeks later for the final fitting, everything was spot on. Even though we had already paid for the suit, the service was still exemplary. I felt a million dollars and ready to walk our daughter down the isle. We were all delighted, and all my cares were taken away. With the minimum of fuss and even some joviality, I had purchased what is undoubtedly a ‘premiership quality’ suit, altered for me, at about the same price other stores were selling their ‘lower league’ quality equivalents. The store owner had even made the whole experience a pleasant one, so now just to focus on my speech!

What was the difference in customer service?

This store owner was solutions focused and consistent. He asked all the right questions, so drilled down to the nitty gritty in no time at all. He took real pride in the service he offered, remembering people who had previously visited his store and making us feel welcome, rather then treating us an imposition. He also took great pride in the quality of his stock and his knowledge and expertise, which shone through. He clearly had our best interests at heart, which gave my wife and I massive confidence and belief that we were doing the right thing.

Even in the sale, this was an expensive purchase after all. He did not sell or pressurise us at all. So, what was different about his approach? ….this was clearly going the extra mile, wasn’t it? As some of the great sales gurus would say, he did all the right things to let us buy from him! Would I buy from him again and recommend to my friends? Of course I would, without hesitation.

Just think how much this one sale can have influenced a significant amount of further business for the store, as a result of our recommendations? In fact we have already recommended some friends to get their wedding suit from the same store. So why is it so difficult to find consistent customer service like this then? Was it because he was an independent rather than a large chain store retailer that he took more care? You would like to think this might be the case but we had bad experiences at other independent stores.

Business ethos

Going the extra mile is a mindset and can be part of your business ethos. We are justly proud of our SMP Solutions 3 Pillars of Success ethos. ” There are no traffic jams on the extra mile” the saying goes! However, can you imagine how much better would your company or organisation would be if you started to fill it up by surprising and delighting your customers or clients?

 

 

 

SELF EMPLOYMENT – STARTING OVER AGAIN

Self-Starting Again

According to Barclays Bank 81% of entrepreneurs said they are happier now in self employment than when they were employed.  The same survey reveals that 71% were more optimistic, 63% were busier, 54% were more relaxed but that only 30% were better off than when employed.  The remaining 70% were obviously feeling the effects of losing their corporate packages or their businesses are still getting established and maybe in the process of building a business base.

When asked why they wanted to start their own businesses 44% said they wanted to build a big successful business, while 47% wanted to continue earning a living.  The final 9% wanted to either supplement their existing income or wanted to create a secondary income. The source for these figures is from the Barclays Bank website dated of 25 September 2014. 100% chose to start again.  They chose self employment to take control of their own career and life, be in the driving seat and put themselves and their families first. Look again at that impressive 81% who said they are happier now.  Could that be because they have re-modelled their work/life balance themselves?

Become a Free Agent

Maybe you are reading this because you have had enough of the corporate world, working for a large institution, working for other people’s visions and dreams or you might be facing or recently experienced redundancy? Either way, you have decided to take a long hard look at your working life and are keen to make changes. If so, you could become a free agent! With self employment you can be your own boss, take control, and have choice and the final say in what you do for a living, when you do it and how you do it.

Not everyone is an entrepreneur in the Dragons Den sense of the word. Not everyone wants to invent the next generation of vacuum cleaner or start their own airline.  However, self employment allows you to direct your talents to fulfil your life plans.  In the 21st century digital age, many skilled professionals opt for the simplest and most cost effective option of self employment i.e. to sell their expertise to individuals and / or organisations online or develop a service based business from home with a desk, computer and mobile technology. Having minimal overheads and maximum flexibility, rather than expensive office premises when you are starting out, is an attractive proposition. This means you keep the majority of the income you make, so it becomes much easier to start making a profit and a reasonable living.

Self Employment – Success Before You Start Up

Success Before You Start Up Book Cover

Despite all the positive statistics from Barclays, most businesses fail in their first two years of trading. Why is this? Because the business owner hasn’t done their homework. ‘Self employment seemed like a good idea at the time’ doesn’t wash if you haven’t thought things through properly, does it?  It is remarkable how often we come across people who haven’t done the basics such as:

  • Considered why you want to start a business i.e. what is the purpose and what are your goals?
  • Researched the market and the competition
  • Established whether there is a need or demand for your product, service or business idea
  • Developed any sort of business plan
  • Thought about how best to get your product or message across to make sales or earn income
  • Evaluated whether the business can make money

Passion is great but don’t overlook the essentials

It is great to have passion for what you do, as people buy people and your passion can become infectious. However, all too often, new business owners get carried away by the excitement of setting up their business and the passion for their products or services and overlook the reality that passion alone is not enough to create a successful business. Self employment means there is much hard graft to be done to ‘get out there’, network and sell and market yourself and your business like crazy both online and offline! There are many other considerations e.g.

  • Do you want to work alone?
  • In collaboration with others?
  • Employ a small team? If so where will you be based and how much can you afford in salaries, rent, rates and other overheads
  • Have you worked through how much you need to sell or income you need to generate to achieve your desired business and life goals?
  • Who will do the key administration and financial tasks?
  • Should you be vat registered?

Depending on what you do in your business and who you work with, you also have different options for setting up your business as a Sole Trader, Limited Company or Partnership. The first steps in any of these approaches are the same and it is very easy, once you know how to go about this but it makes sense to get good advice before you start trading.

Self Employment – Making it happen

Self-employment or starting up your own company can be hugely rewarding as the Barclays statistics highlight. It has never been easier than now to set up and start a business. If you would like practical help to set you on the right path to becoming self-employed then please contact us as wouldn’t it be great to start off on the right footing, so you really can enjoy the fruits of your labour and become one of the 81% who are happier now than when they were employed?

www.smp-solutions.co.uk

Photo – Everest at dawn courtesy of David Smith

Career over 40 – feeling washed up or thriving?

Do you feel washed up in your career over 40? Many people will have us believe that once you reach the ripe old age of forty that the best of your career is over. You might get passed over for promotion by younger blood, so your career either goes sideways or it is all downhill from now on. Of course much depends on the type of  job you do, industry and sector. Is this really fact or fiction? Isn’t it both interesting and heartwarming that such a myth of your career over 40 was blown away by none other than a mother of two young children, British athlete Jo Pavey. After a long and checkered athletic career, often plagued by injury and near misses and having had her second child at the start of the year, in the space of a few short weeks,  Jo won a bronze medal in the 5,000 meters at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, with a gutsy performance, stopping the Kenyans achieving a clean sweep of the medals. Only a couple of weeks later, Jo won the first gold medal of her international career, winning the 10,000 meters at the European championships in Zurich.

You are what you think and feel

Mindset, is a wonderful thing, isn’t it? If you believe that your career over 40 will be in a downward spiral, then that is probably the way things will turn out. So, what can we learn from Jo Pavey? Aside of being an inspiration to us all, this has been the most successful year of her entire career and she now has her sights on the next big challenge: her fifth Olympics, in Rio in 2016 and competing for a couple more years after that. Jo, by her own admission is feeling good about herself, relaxed and happy in her ‘work’ and her life. She also knows herself and her body better than ever, which means that she is better prepared for the big events, she can set her goals more clearly and is feeling excited and ready, rather than fearful, which may well have been the case at many previous major championships.

Jo Pavey Photograph: Adam Davy/PA

The Importance of doing what you love

Why push her body through all the daily hours of many miles of training for the next two years and beyond? Quite simply because she loves what she does. She also takes great pride in representing her country at major championships and certainly doesn’t consider all her hard graft as a chore or that she should be slowing down because of perceptions of her career over 40. Research consistently shows that around 1 in 2 people are unhappy and unfulfilled in their jobs. This may apply to you but if not, almost certainly someone you know. Another lesson for us all, in that life is too short, so why be unhappy? You do have choice.

Taking positive action

So, why does your career over 40 need to be washed up and negative? Jo Pavey has proven emphatically, in a grueling sport that it doesn’t have to be.  But what are your options, when you reach this stage of your career at life? Whether you still have ambitions to move up the career ladder, change career, develop a portfolio career or become your own boss and set up that business you have been thinking about, nothing will happen unless you take positive action. Too many people moan and groan about their lot and how they hate their job or how they would like to do this or that. Well the reality is that only you can make it happen. You must take responsibility for your career, as nobody else is likely to are they? Taking positive action is Step 6 of the highly acclaimed SMP Career Navigation Cycle process. SMP-Career-Navigation-Cycle

If you follow these 6 steps then you will ensure your career over 40 will not just survive but thrive, like Jo Pavey!

comfort zone

The Cost of Doing Nothing!

The Cost of Doing Nothing!

comfort zone

If you have ever been involved with projects and assessing the options proposed, you will be well aware that there are usually 3 options:

Option a – is likely to be the most radical and biggest change, possibly quite scary
Option b – is usually a middle ground that will champion change but with less radical implications, so not so scary
Option c – this is usually ‘do nothing’, so just staying as things are ‘nicely’ in your comfort zone

When considering the implications to the organisation, if you are forward thinking, are looking to get ahead or keep pace with your competition or it is a technology project to change outdated and inefficient kit, then option c ‘do nothing‘ is clearly NOT an option, is it?

If the project is around behavioral change due to merger, acquisition or a realisation that current practices are outdated and inefficient and unproductive, then likewise option c do nothing is not an option either, is it?

Isn’t it interesting then how many employers are reluctant to invest in developing their teams, managers and executives? In many cases doing nothing has become the norm. So why is this so when doing nothing is clearly a retrograde step?

There is a view that suggests many employers no longer believe that they can get a return on investment for their people development as the life of a typical employee is likely to be only 2-3 years. Whilst this might be true, consider what the true cost of doing nothing might be?

Why?.. Quite simply because any employer not developing their people or teams will more than likely have employees who are not working to their full capabilities as they feel undervalued and therefore disengage and don’t work to anything like their maximum productivity. How much does this lack of productivity and disengagement cost you? The health of your organisation could be at risk! Your customer service may be OK but not be what it should be and you may be losing customers or clients who it can be easy to retain and equally win new ones, with a team who go the extra mile! So, what does doing nothing, in this respect, cost the organisation? A massive amount, I’m sure?

Let’s now look at your career. Are you happy doing what you are currently doing? Great if you are in which case doing nothing might be absolutely the right option for you. However, if you are happy, you are in the minority. So, if you are in the majority who are unhappy and unfulfilled, what is the cost of doing nothing for you? Frustration, anger, lethargy, negativity, demotivation, boredom, reduced performance, lack of focus, absenteeism from illness and health problems, impact on relationships etc! How will you feel if you are in the same position in a years’ time? More than likely, even more frustrated, with an even bigger negative impact on your work, health and relationships, I’m sure? Therefore, do you still want to do nothing and lead a life of compromise?

So, do yourself a favour when considering change in the workplace or in your career, if option a seems too radical then at least take option b, and start to address the problem now before it becomes too serious and all consuming, as option c, the cost of staying in your comfort zone and doing nothing could ultimately be too a serious price to pay!

life begins at the end of your comfort zone